Writers have many a manuscript whose only purpose was practice. They were started with the loftiest of intentions, but when completed – or abandoned – their place in the scheme of things becomes clear and they are dragged over to the recycle bin. Or the shredder. The Corpse’s Complaint was one such. But here are a couple of paragraphs in the voice of the cantankerous character, Chizoba, to say I Once Was Here….

‘Look, what I am trying to say is that anybody can buy a 13-year-old Mercedes, but before you call yourself a rich man, please put aside the money to repair it, you hear? It is really irritating to attend somebody’s car warming party today and then next Monday you see him on the danfo queue. At first you keep quiet. After all, it is not your business if his battery doesn’t wake up after the long weekend. Or if his wife woke up first and left for Ketu Market with their pride and joy. But 2 weeks? And the worst part is how he swings his Mercedes key fob round and round his finger to show everybody in the bus that he is not in their category. So eventually I asked him what happened to the fine car that we ‘washed’ the other day, and what does he say? ‘The ball joint is bad.’ The ball joint! Look, there’s a street I can take you to, not even ten minutes from here, where the Igbo boys will chase you down the streets with football joints and basketball joints and all you have to do is pull out your wallet and settle them. Yet this attempted rich man is calling ‘ball joint’, as if it is something we bus-jumpers have never heard about. As if it is something you have to order from Stuttgart. But I will keep quiet, me. If I say anything now, they will say that Chizoba is jealous.’

‘Listen, my dear relative, if you die tomorrow, we are going to sell everything you have and buy you a decent coffin. Have you ever had a facial makeover? Well, we will get you one. You will look better than you have ever looked in your life. We are going to buy you your first brand new suit. We will give your old house a make over, fresh paint and everything. And we are going to take a collection to make sure it happens. So go out and get yourself a shave, you hear? Stop looking like a ghost, you’re still alive. Buy a decent bed. Why should your coffin be more expensive than your bed? Paint your car. Give yourself – and us your relations – a treat. Beg us for money if you need some help. We are going to give it to your corpse anyway. Let’s live a decent life before we get ourselves a decent burial.’

From The unpublishable Corpse’s Complaint.

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