Short Story: The SMS, Part (IV) – By Francis Doku
While Jacob was talking on the phone with his wife the policeman took the key of the vehicle from Akomea and moved further away from the car. After he had cut the line, Jacob opened the car door, got down and walked to the policeman who held his clipboard and was thinking about stopping another vehicle.
“Boss can I talk to you please?” he asked the policeman when he got close enough.
“What about? That you encouraged the young man to drive without a driving license?” the policeman snapped back.
“Well, sir, pardon me but I didn’t encourage him, I didn’t even know he didn’t have a lic…”
“Well then that is stupid ignorance,” the policeman told him.
“Excuse me sir, what do you mean?”
“I mean that if an elderly man like you sits in a car with this young man for him to drive you and you didn’t check if he had a driving license or not then you have shown gross stupidity and ignorance.”
“Sir I concede that I may have shown ignorance by not asking for his license but I am definitely not stupid,” Jacob tried to explain. “In addition to that the young man has a license but forgot to pick it when he was leaving home.”
“Okay then that makes my work even easier,” said the policeman. “I am going to keep this vehicle with me, he can go home and bring his license and I will give him the keys. If he comes here and he doesn’t meet me and the car he can come over to the Madina Police Station.
If by the close of today he doesn’t present the license we shall process him for court tomorrow. Deal?”
“But the law says a person has to produce his license in forty-eight hours…”
“That law was made probably when my father was in class one. Do you know how many cars were in Ghana at the time? Or do you know the population of Ghana at the time? We have a directive to arrest those who drive without their license and let them present it and take their cars,” he explained.
“Are you suggesting that the law is obsolete?” Jacob asked.
“I am suggesting that the law is absolutely obsolete and it would not help the course of policing. No wonder we have so many accidents on the road these days.”
“So why don’t you advocate for it to be changed.”
“That is not my job, you have parliament to do that. In any case I am keeping the key so you can go now because I have work to do. Stop a cab and go with it.”
“Please sir, please I beg you I am late for a very important meeting and I need to be on my way right now I am going far that is why I didn’t come in a cab. It’s a matter of life and death. I am begging you,” Jacob pleaded. “Can I see you, please?”
“Am I invisible now?”
“I didn’t mean it in that way. Wanted to know if I could offer you lunch,” he clarified.
“I don’t think you can cook better than my wife,” the police man teased.
“What I mean, sir, is that can I give you something so you can let us go so I can make it in time for my meeting?”
“Do I sense that you are trying to bribe me? Have you heard of the name Rose Atinga Bio?”
“No…yes…I mean I am not trying to bribe you, but I have heard the name,” he struggled to explain. “This is just from a brother to another brother, please.”
The policeman’s superior, an inspector, standing a few metres away beckoned him over.
He told Jacob he would be back and left to where the inspector was standing.
“Constable, what’s the matter over there?” the inspector asked in Twi.
“Is it not this guy who allowed this fitter or welder boy to drive him without a licence and now he is talking a lot of legalities.”
“And what are you doing with them?”
“I told him he would have to leave the key and the car and present the licence at the station today or would be processed for court tomorrow.”
“Process for court tomorrow? I think you people have still not understood this job,” the inspector blurted. “What will you get from that?”
“Well sir I thought the directive issued by the Regional Commander said…”
“I know what the regional commander said. You can go perfectly with that and let your children go to the DA JSS or you can think wisely and ensure that you educate them at the best schools and I will say this for the very last time. I am almost due for pension,” the inspector advised.
“So what do I do,” the befuddled rookie asked.
“Use your head my son. Does he seem to be in a hurry?”
“Yes, he said he had to get to a very important meeting.”
“Good. That means he won’t have much time to delay and so would not go into extensive negotiation.”
“He offered to give me something.”
“He is not in the position to determine what he wants to give, you determine that.”
“So let him know how much he would pay at the court and get half of that…he is coming towards us go and meet him.”
The constable walked towards Jacob and met him halfway through.
“My superior was insisting that I keep the key. But I told him you were in a hurry and that you seem to be a jolly good fellow.
“That’s very kind of you. Thank you,” Jacob offered.
“What did you say you had for me,” the corporal enquired.
“I have GH50.00 to buy you lunch,” Jacob told him.
“Massa do you think we are joking here?”
“How do you mean, sir?”
“I mean you have no idea what it would cost the young man for driving without a licence and how much it would cost you for aiding and abetting should this case go to court, do you?”
“So how much do I have to give you officer?” Jacob asked almost pleadingly. “I am in a hurry to make it to the meeting, please.”
“You know what let’s not drag this matter, you are likely to pay a minimum of GHC600 at the court so just give me half of that and go your…
“Stop shouting. Yes GHC300 and I will even write a note for him to use till he gets his licence.”
“But that’s too much officer. Please come down.”
“Well, you probably would like to go to court. Do you have a lawyer?”
“My wife is a lawyer but let’s not get into that…”
“So you can come with her.”
“Let’s not get into that. You know what all the money I have on me now is GHC200 please take it so I go. Please don’t say anything again, just take it.”
Jacob went to the car looked for his jacket and inserted his hand into the inside pocket and brought out a wad of cash. He surreptitiously counted GHC200 from the stash. The police man was standing right behind him when he turned. He handed the money to him and took the key and a note he had written on a folded piece of paper.
The police constable walked to his inspector to let him know what had happened.
“I have really drained the guy,” he announced.
“How much did you get from him?” the inspector asked.
“I got GHC200 from him.”
“That’s not bad for a Monday afternoon. You are beginning to learn that in the police service you make your own fortune or you retire a pauper.”
“I will remember that.”
Meanwhile, Jacob handed the key to Akomea whereupon they both entered the vehicle. Akomea inserted the key and kicked the vehicle to life.
Akomea tried to apologize “Massa, I am really so…”
“Please Akomea don’t talk now, okay?” Jacob cut him. He took a look at his watch and the time read 1:48.
Akomea drove to the junction and took the right turn went straight and took the turn at the Accra Training College to Madina Estates through Madina Social Welfare towards Ashaley and then took the left turn that led to Adenta Housing.
He took the right turn at the main road towards the old Adenta Barrier and veered to the left on the Y shaped junction towards Oyarifa. A few metres after the Pantang junction Jacob thought he smelt something coming from the engine.
“Do you smell something?” he asked Akomea.
“Yes I do, I think…” before Akomea could finish talking they heard a mild noise then the vehicle slowed down for a few metres and came to a screeching stop. The engine died in the middle of the road.
“What’s that?” Jacob screamed at Akomea.
“I don’t know,” the younger man said as he kept turning the key to try to kick start the engine.
“Blistering blue balling barnacles! What am I to do now?” Jacob said to no one in particular.
“We may have to push it to the side and take a look at what the problem could be,” Akomea suggested.
Jacob was beside himself with grief, despair and surprise. “How do we do it?” he managed to ask.
“I will put the gear at neutral and then we can push it to the side of the road,” he said.
Akomea moved the gear to neutral. Jacob got down and went to the back of the vehicle. Akomea got down and stood by the side of the vehicle with one hand on the opened door and the other on the steering wheel to control it. Thankfully the vehicle was on a little hill hence after a little nudge it moved. Akomea controlled it till they were on the side then he asked Jacob to stop pushing and stepping on the breaks he brought it to a stop.
He pulled the bonnet opening lever from the front of the vehicle, closed the door and went to the front. He lifted the bonnet cover and hooked it. He brought his nose closer to the engine to smell what could be the problem.
Jacob who had moved to join Akomea at the front asked him what the problem was. “I don’t know yet,” Akomea said. He pulled the engine oil gauge, cleaned with a rag he was holding and inserted it back and pulled it out again only to realize that there was not a drop of oil on it! He put it back and pulled it out again. Same result.
“We have run out of engine oil,” Akomea declared and it sounded to Jacob like his death sentence had just been announced.
“We cannot run out of engine oil by this time Akomea,” Jacob said very calmly.
“I need to go get some engine oil,” Akomea said.
“We are in the middle of nowhere,” Jacob seems to have given up.
“There is a Shell station at the barrier where we just came from. I will stop a cab, hop in and go get some oil, please,” said the younger man who realised that he ought to take charge as Jacob had given up entirely.
“Okay. How much will you need?” Jacob asked meekly.
“I think GHC20 will do for both the oil and the taxi fare,” he said.
Jacob put his hand in his trouser pocket, brought out two GHC10 notes and gave them to Akomea.
“I will be back soon,” Akomea told Jacob as he crossed the road to the opposite side to hail a cab.
Jacob saw some shrubs a few metres away that had provided some modicum level of shade. He walked towards the shade and luckily he saw a small brick lying in the shade and sat on it facing the main road. He took another look at his watch and it was 2:30pm.
He thought about how he was going to get to the house, pick the phone, delete the message, put the phone back, get to the office to have the meeting with the CEO, go pick his wife and get back home. “This would be one of the longest days in my life,” he soliloquized.
One thing that would complicate issues is when he gets home to meet his daughter and the house help. Either one of them would end up telling his wife that he came home during the day. “That must be avoided and the reason I need to get home now.”
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