CHINEDU’S GRANDFATHER’S CLOCK
In a thousand years to come, if he was still to be alive, Tommy would never believe that he could be looking for something that would lead him back to his village. In a thousand years to come, he would never dream of stepping his foot on the soil of his forefathers, if he was to be alive. His generation was that e-generation that came close to what is attainable in paradise. This generation never had any reason to go back ‘home’ as their elders called it. Going back to the village was exclusively reserved for festive periods like Christmas and New Year celebrations. Everything they ever needed was in the city. Even at these festive periods, they would find excuses not to go. There was virtually nothing out there in the village to make life any better than what technology had already given to the cities. Villages were relics of the past and technology was already thinking of how to put the whole living and dead generations of villagers in new museums that could be viewed at the click of a button on any smart phone or electronic storage device. Villages happened in the past. Their place was in history books.
Now in the tastefully furnished apartment on the Island which he shared with his two business partners, Tommy tried to convince himself that the only thing to do in this situation was to go to his grandparents’ house in the village. He mused to himself about the circumstances that led to this impromptu journey.
Tommy, Kenny and Richard were professional hustlers. They started their hustling way back when they were in the university. They did anything that fetched them money back then from arranging protesters for politicians and academic unions to bribing policemen that would come and put a stop to these same protests. They would arrange girls for rich married men that would come to the campus in the dead of night. They had their own quota of first year entry-level students that would be given automatic admission into the university. They simply represented that dark part of the higher institution of learning that was controlled by the ‘owners’ of the school. Because they were untouchable, they also made sure their students that got into the university through them had the same academic and extra-curricular protection they enjoyed for a token per-semester pay. It was just natural that they would be in the service of die-hard politicians when they graduated. Their reputations preceded them and it wasn’t long before they got called up for different odd jobs that would require no witnesses and no identifications. They got along well and were in the good books of their patrons. Each had six different passports that would take them out of the country in twenty-four hours flat if they felt the heat around the corner. They were living the lives they had always wanted.
This issue of having to travel to the village didn’t mean they were desperate for more cash. It was just another thing to hustle for. It was the next thing in town. He could picture some vivid scenes in his mind when he was still a kid and his parents would take them back home during the festive periods. They would go a week before Christmas and stay till two weeks after the New Year. It was pure bliss back then. They actually looked forward to it. They were treated like kings by other children that were unfortunate enough to have to spend the rest of their lives in the village. He was barely five years old then and the highlight of most of his holidays was in the evenings when his aged grandfather would tease him about his knowledge about a wide range of things after he might have told him beautiful stories that his teachers in the city didn’t know existed.
“Can you tell the time now, Chinedu?” His grandfather never called him Tommy. He would jokingly tell him that lazy boys were called Tommy in the village.
There was this big wall clock that hung on the wall directly opposite where his grandfather sat in his rickety armchair. It was a very old wall clock that had all the makings of an antique. It was exquisite and always in a polished form. Because his grandfather’s sitting room was sparsely furnished, the wall clock was very conspicuous in all of its glory. You couldn’t help but notice its presence when you entered the sparsely furnished room. It was big. Even Tommy could swear now that it was bigger than him then. And when it chimed to announce the hour of the day, its loud ‘gbaun’ would echo throughout the whole building and reach out to passersby on the quite street outside. It was needless to say that the activities of the house revolved around the big wall clock. It woke them up in the mornings and ushered them into the sitting room for their early morning mass service. Even Tommy’s storytelling time was announced by the clock and he would hear its loud ‘gbaun’ six times to signal six o’clock in the evening wherever he was in the house at that time. He would then rush with the other kids in the house to sit at his grandfather’s feet. They wouldn’t miss that time for all the adventures in the village; Tommy especially.
Tommy smiled to himself as he began to pack his bag. The stories were classic. His grandfather never repeated a story, he remembered. The kids would reel over with laughter at the special way he ended each story just to make them laugh. He would sit back after the story time while the other kids would go about some other duties before the wall clock chimed bedtime.
“Yes, I can, grandpa. But not everyone oooh…” Tommy would trail in his reply shyly. And his grandfather would proceed to give him a crash programme on how to read the time on the big wall clock.
Now he was thirty-two years old and he had to go and ‘steal’ his late grandfather’s wall clock because their foreign contact had informed them that wall clocks like that contained mercury which could be used to conjure different currencies of the world. That was the latest hustle in town. And he should know because he had an ear to the ground. The details were sketchy. According to the source, the tiny battery in the clock was made of pure mercury although its use had been banned a long time ago because of its hazardous nature. Mercury had been used in the times of the Mayas for divinatory purposes. They had also used it to conjure rare commodities. Their contact however gave them names of other contacts in Nigeria who testified to the efficacy of the arrangement. And no, though it was somehow a ‘spiritual something’, it would not require blood. Thank God for that, he said silently to himself because contrary to what most people believed, they were not murderers. They were just ordinary hustlers who would do anything but kill for money. He imagined how the house would be now ten years after the last occupant, his tireless grandmother, had passed on. His father, uncles and aunts had decided that they would not sell the property but instead use it as their country home whenever they had any need to go to the village even though they hardly went. Surely nobody would miss the big ‘grandfather’ clock. He wished he could keep it though instead of having to part with it. A lot of childhood memories lurked in that silent wall clock. His heart wept as he reminisced about the timeless time he had spent with his grandfather while the big clock silently tick-tocked.
Tommy instinctively looked at his left wrist and somewhere, simultaneously, in an abandoned building in the heart of Owaza, Abia state, a big clock announced the time of the day by sounding its characteristic ‘gbaun’ ten times.