Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mister Rufus: alias Chief

Draught players

Adjacently third from Pharmacie Du Rail, towards Hotel Arista in Koulouloun; Douala, Cameroon, sat a small ramshackle house owned by a Nigerian called Rufus: a man in his 50s who perched always in front of his house. He has lived in Cameroon long before I was born. He greeted only those who greeted him, but he despised those who didn’t. Greeting him without his title of Chief would embrace snobbery. Many neighbors did not even know his real name, except ironically those he judged with good behavior.

When on holidays, I spent some time with Chief playing draught. People always gathered there to watch us in recreation. He melded himself Maître (Master). He wasn’t the best player, but his mouth made him the greatest. We had players like Cadavere (corpse), Jeune Maître (Young Master-myself), Sawasawa (sour), Accident, Kill Man Pay, Dirty Bird and Chief who were regulars. The rest were passersby. When chief was winning a game, he elbow lengthily pulled up his shirt’s left sleeve and showed the spectators to affirm that draught was running in his veins. He wore mockery as a frontlet. Seeing a loophole where he will eat three or more seeds, he called aloud one of his houseboys or wives for a glass of water, telling  them that he was about to eat lots of food and did not want to choke. You smile; don’t you?

In the evening, most seniors came to watch us amuse ourselves. Oftentimes, we were ten, and the first person to win two games unseated the opponent. During the day, the Etis (learners) had the board. Jeune Maître, though the best was not always there because he was where his mother; a petty trader sold bushmeat pepper soup. If a strong man came and troubled them, they sent for him immediately. He too was a slender university student who won his games with songs of mockery that he composed according to the opponent. Chief didn’t go to work, but he made more money than anyone coming there did because he had stores all over the place.

His first wife; Mami Chioma (it means good God, called after their first and only daughter Chioma) went and brought a handmaid called Ngozi to help them. When she turned 16, Chief ascertained her soup, it tasted good, and he took it wholesale in marriage. Sarah and Hagar drama was re-enacted. She too went and brought her own biddy called Akudo. When Akudo reached 16, chief tasted hers and married her too. Now, chief had three wives and five houseboys who all went to trade and bring him the money. They handed him the money before they entered into the house. Wonders shall never end! What happens in the house of the fowl will happen in the house of the duck. Don’t forget that the evil that women do live with and after them. When you sleep with another woman’s husband, another lady will sleep with yours. That is just the law of nature; you may call it karma or the Law of Retribution!

When Chioma turned 16, Chief Ndubisie; a 45-year-old man too discovered her innocent soup. It almost stuck in his throat because chief was rich and wanted to serve him justice. Chief Ndubisie was a rock that the sea manhandled, but it could not carry away. He fended chief’s micrurgy and served chief  with the adage “the evil that men do live with and after them”. Nature did not end there. Chief’s business went bankrupt. The second wife accused the first, and he divorced her. The third indicted the second, and he divorced the second. Akudo had no one to blame, so she absconded.

There is a rule that nature scrupulously fulfills and upholds: "do unto others what you want them do unto you”. If you cheat someone, you will be cheated too, one day. If you play a girl, another girl will play you too,or someone will play your daughter. Players beware! If you ignore someone, you will be ignored too. Snobs beware! Whatever evil you do, you will be repaid one way or the other; directly or indirectly. If it is not on earth, at least it will be in heaven or in the world to come. In short, whatever you sow, you shall reap! Jesus reminds us to “do unto others what we want them do unto us” (Mt 5:12). Therefore, my friend watch your ways!

Until then, keep playing people!

Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk

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