GHANA INTERNATIONAL GOJUFIST ARENA
Rupert is driving. Eyram is sitting by his side. In the back seat is Chris.
Rupert is wearing an excellently-tailored black suit, white shirt and maroon tie. Eyram is in a dark green dress that shows off her stunning beauty. Chris is making do with one of the black jeans Eyram has bought for him and blue Yves Laurent Polo T-Shirt. It is fight night, and Rupert has picked them up.
The Ghana International GojuFist Arena, GIGA, is filled to capacity. The brutal mixed martial arts called GojuFist has come to stay in the country. It provides more excitement, blood and violence than boxing, and so it has become very popular on the continent, and in the country.
Sitting in the backseat, Chris marvels at how the sport has become so huge now. Eight years ago Chris had been a GojuFist fighter, winning all his ten professional fights and the topmost belt: GojuFist Grandmaster.
Effe had not wanted him to fight, and so Chris has established FINE GOJU DOJO, a GojuFist promoting company.
Later he has brought in his friend Jonathan Afful as a partner.
Jonathan had been in charge of administration whilst Chris, who didn’t care much about business luncheons and official bureaucracies, had concerned himself with finding GojuFist talents and training them.
Their fighters had been one of the best bunch in the country, winning belts in the country and beyond.
And then, of course, tragedy had struck, and Chris had found himself in prison. Now he is out, and this is his first night out.
Rupert is directed to the VVIP Car Park. He picks a billing ticket from the automated ticket dispenser at the entrance, drives in, and parks his car.
He gets down and quickly goes round to open Eyram’s door for her. Chris also gets out and stands surveying his surroundings calmly. A lot really has changed.
They walk to the elevator banks, get into one, and rides to the Arena Area. They pass through glass booths, had their fight tickets punched, and then they enter the fully air-conditioned VVIP stand. The stand is taken up by the most popular and wealthy personalities in the country, all of them dressed in striking suits and expensive dresses. Chris hesitates as Rupert leads them to the front row seats. Eyram stops and looks at him with raised eyebrows.
Aren’t you sitting down, Chris?
Chris shakes his head and smiles wanly. Down in the ring a GojuFist Purple Master tournament is going on. It is on the undercard before the main event of the night.
I’ll be with you shortly, Eyram. Something I need to check out.
Please don’t take long.
Chris nods, turns and quickly goes back to the exit. Eyram stares after him, and then Rupert tentatively touches her arm, and she comes back to the present with a start.
Hey, beautiful lady, let’s sit.
He leads her to the seat and sits down beside her.
Thank you, Rupe.
Welcome, my dear. Listen, can I ask you an awkward question?
(turning to him)
Of course, Rupe. What is it?
He looks into her eyes earnestly.
Well, it’s no secret that I’ve admired you for a long time, Eyram, and of course you know just how much I adore you. I’ve made my honourable intentions known to you, of my love for you and my wish to marry you. You told me to wait a little bit, and of course I did. I’ve never had occasion to worry, because you’ve never looked at another man twice. However, with the arrival of your brother-in-law, I’ve been getting some strange vibes from you. Do I have to get worried about you and Mr. Bawa? She forces out a laugh and reaches out and touches his right cheek tenderly.
It is his directness, more than anything else, that she finds so endearing about him. His question throws her, but she smiles in a way she hopes is uncaring enough and which will reassure him. It is a question she has been afraid to ask herself, and the only sane way to answer it is to tread it underfoot.
Oh, Rupe! Don’t be silly! Of course not! He was married to my twin sister, for crissakes! We Africans are not like Whites. Our culture frowns on such relationships, and it would never cross my mind. He’s been through a lot, and I just feel pity for him, nothing else. Get that silliness out of your head, please.
He smiles broadly, and she sees the relief in the depths of his eyes.
Thank you, Eyram. You don’t know just how happy that answer makes me. I was beginning to sweat a little.
She smiles reassuringly at him, and even leans forward and brushes his lips with hers, but inwardly she trembles, because she knows she has just avoided a question she must face head-on.
Meanwhile Chris finds himself on the restricted Warriors’ Wing. It is where the GojuFist fighters and their trainers wait and get ready for their fights. There are two huge Security Enforcers at the entrance. One moves to bar his way, but the other holds his friend’s arm and drag him back, saying something to him. They now regard Chris with huge grins.
Wow! Just been told you’re Chris Bawa, former undefeated Grandmaster!
(extending his hand)
I watched your fight with that Brazilian, Sam Breeze! Finest skills I ever saw, Mr. Bawa! You were in a class of your own!
Chris smiles and shakes their hands.
Coming back to the ring, Mr. Bawa?
No. Retired permanently. Listen guys, is Mr. Jonathan Afful in there? Wanted a word with him. They stand aside and usher him in.
Go right ahead, Mr. Bawa.
Chris murmurs his thanks and passes through the door. He finds himself on a luxurious corridor.
Glass doors open to executive loungers on each side, all of them labelled. He continues down the corridor until he comes to an L-shaped bend, and arrows indicating DRESSING ROOMS.
He turns right and find himself facing a row of closed glass doors, and just as he is debating where to go one of them at the far end opens, and a group of men come out. There are about six of them, and leading them is the short muscular Jonathan Afful, and just behind him is Steve Hollison.
They see Chris, and Afful stops, and raises a tall tumbler to his mouth and drinks. He smirks, and then he walks jauntily towards Chris.
Well, well, well, well! Look what the cat dragged in… a stinking piece of shit! Look, guys, here’s the beast!
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That’s quite a welcome, Jon, considering.
Afful drains his glass and hands it to one of the men. He is impeccably dressed, and the budget on his clothing alone could have fed an entire village. He is that rich.
(with a mock bow)
Considering what, Chris, my boy? Are we talking about paybacks and calling in favours here? I am going to assume you’re not here looking for me.
Actually I am. I’m back, and I’m broke, and I need a job. GojuFist is my passion, and I’m here to re-join the company.
Steve snorts and gives a bark of a laugh.
Dear goodness, Chris. I can’t believe this! Have you no shame, man?
Steve is in an excellent tuxedo, and he looks extremely well-groomed.
(shaking his head)
Re-join the company? Did I hear re-join? Goddamn it, man! Hey, fellas, look at this man. Now, if you want a picture of a failure, he is this man! Look at him, go on, look at him!
The other men with them chuckle.
Those who don’t know Chris are laughing, but a couple of them know Chris, and they didn’t laugh.
Now, don’t think I’m bragging. This man here started FINE GOJU DOJO. He was a Grandmaster Goju title holder. But what did he do? He stopped fighting and gave it all away because of a p****!
The other men laugh. Steve chuckles.
Watch it, Jon, motherf***er. That woman is going to be my wife!
Yeah, yeah, fine piece of a**, I must admit. Now, where was I? Yes, this man, Chris Bawa, now called the Beast, what did he do next? He brought me in as his partner, and just as the business was taking off, he sold it! For no reason at all he sold it! I went to the bank, raised a loan, and bought the Company. And what did he do with all that money? He took it to prison!
Now everybody is laughing. Afful walks forward until he is standing very close to Chris.
And this man, this Beast, has the audacity to come here, stand in front of me, after I have built up the Company from scratch, to ask for a job? And oh, I forgot, this bastard raped my wife! Well, at that time she was not my wife, just a girlfriend, but I was f***ing her anyway!
There is more laughter. Steve glances at a giant television screen on the wall.
Leave this loser, Jon. We’re on. Time for Mikey to earn some money.
Afful glares at Chris, and his face is filled with hatred, and venom spill out of his mouth.
f*** you, Chris. f*** you, motherf***er! There’s no job for you here. Now get the f*** out of my face before I have you arrested! This section is for authorized people only, not for mad beasts like you!
He steps past Chris, and the other men follow him. Steve makes to follow, and then he too stops near Chris and then laughs.
Don’t be mean, Jon. The man is having a hard time. He’s a jailbird and he ain’t got a pesewa. Mad dog he is, but he deserves some crumbs, abi?
He doesn’t deserve shit!
C’mon, nigger, didn’t I hear you lost one of your cleaners?
Afful stops and turns round. He holds up a stiff forefinger as he walks back towards Chris.
Yeah, yeah! I forgot! Chris, the man who cleans the toilets at the Company died. You might remember him… Adobah Sowu. His toilet cleaning position is vacant, Chris. Good salary. You want it, it’s yours. We can rename it Washroom Perfumery or Sanitary Executive or something like that, if you want, but it still will be toilet cleaning because, let’s face it, shit is shit. So, you want the job? It’s the best I can do.
Chris stares at the man who had been his friend at one time, and then he smiles calmly, and his eyes are sad.
Thanks, man, but no. I won’t mind cleaning toilets, but I’m not gonna clean your toilets. See, there’s a saying that no matter how hard the economy of the jungle, the lion will never eat grass. It’s not pride, man, but it’s just how he is, just how I am.
Afful gapes at him, and then he bursts out laughing uproariously.
My God, prison turned you into a philosopher! Well, my paddy, eat shit!
Steve looks at Chris with pity.
Listen, dude, I feel sorry for you, I do. You know me, I’ve got some business deals going. I might be able to sort you out, lucratively, if you’ll use your damn head. Listen, if you sign Effe’s divorce papers, I’ll convince her to let you have your brat of a son. I’ll marry her, and I’ll give you a job. Think about it.
Take it, Chris! It’s a good deal. I don’t know why you f***ing won’t sign the divorce papers. Have you no pride, man? Steve has been shagging Effe for about three years now, dude, so whether you sign or not, your woman is gone. So better make it official.
Yeah, I’ve been having her anytime I want, man. Fine beautiful body, and she’s absolutely fabulous! You should see her straddling my-
The rage is uncontrollable.
They all see the terrible glint in Chris’ eyes, and the way his muscles seem to spring up in his body.
His pain is almost physical, and as he begins to move Steve steps back with a little wail of fear, crashing into Afful, who in turn crashes into a man behind him, and they all fall in a crash on the floor .
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JAILBIRD continues on Monday….Watch out for our weekend story