In Ignorant Bliss

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Everyday for the Thief

Talk of a moonless sky. Plainly put, the night was pitch dark. It had a terrifying hue that meshed in one inspiring watercolor with Obidike’s skin color as he strutted along under its cover. Given the purpose of his mission, he needed no other camouflage. Given his unique occupation, he awaited the reign of such nights with a heightened expectation. Being his own weatherman, he scarcely troubled his brain much these days to predict its accent. As the night took over, he just peered up at the sky to notice which stars were in the sky and at once knew whether to grimace or sneer at what their positions portended.

Tonight all the indices were in place. As usual he had to wait for that point in the night when the spirits of holiness opened shop; when no living soul but him and his cohorts were bound to be out and about. Given that each in the ignoble calling had his own speciality, he was sure he was the only one that operated now. The stakes being the highest possible, he knew no one else would dare. The more so since he had done the needful to consolidate his monopoly.

In spite of his many years in the profession, he still carried his robust frame with enough ease to perpetrate his wiles. His advance in age bordered him the least as with each year he keeps amassing more experience that tide him through better than when he had been athletic and novice. All the reassurance he needed was more circumspection and maximum quality control. Thus though now it would seem that he was no longer as daring as he had been, inwardly he knew he still could catch a tiger by the tail without losing a bead of sweat.

He slithered on in the pitch-black night till he zeroed in his target spot for the night. Assurance at this unholy hour of the night could never be doubled with the eyes. Not when you could hardly see your very nose. He had ever since arrived the knowledge that on such occasions the visual organs loaned their diminished powers to the organs of smell and hearing. His olfactory organs then could smell out scents and odors from habitations as far away as the farthest homestead in the land. His ears too; they could even overhear the snoring from as far away as the neighboring town’s king’s palace whose queen was a notable exponent of the art.

Thinking back as he moved on, he could still recall how he had come to acquire this self-taught lesson. In fact, had he not, it would have meant a most sudden end to a career he had been the sole practitioner of in the town now going to two decades. On the occasion in question, he had trusted his eyes solely and had almost bumped into Atakata, that foolhardy son of a bitch who way back then had thought that the terrain was too vast to be left for him alone. This turned out an advantage to him though; buoying his stranglehold on the territory till date. Following information supplied by him, the interloper was ignominiously banishment from Hometown, serving to firm his people’s resolve that at last the notorious perpetrator of the repeated acts of thievery had met his comeuppance.

Though known to him that none in Hometown had slept with two eyes closed since these acts kept repeating, he still trusted his powers. Which proved true as, though the soothsayers, medicine men and seers of the land kept doing their all, they could not unravel the mystery.

Meanwhile tonight, Obidike kept on his prowl borne on the wings of his experience. Presently, appropriate precautions taken, he entered the farm he had been targeting for some time now. Everything was progressing like clockwork. He paused yet again to listen to the sounds of the unique night. As he held his breadth, they came floating by like the Niger under its present bridge at Onitsha. With the depth of his rapt concentration, he overheard every sound that floated in the nocturnal quietude that hung over him. By the hamlet to the left of where he squatted in wait came the undiluted sounds of love been made for the repeated time.

The first effort would have been fleeted at to the repeated thrust of an overexcited pestle; the second some more, while the third – where possible – provided the thrill to behold. The one he was overhearing must be the fifth to be so ferocious, he reasoned. There was no mistaking the long-drawn-out soprano whines of the insatiable latest wife of the village head hunter who lived in the general demesne from which the caterwaul was coming from. He had heard it on many a previous night out on the job and not given it an ear. But not presently; tonight’s song seemed to stir him like no other. In erotic jargon worthy of repetition only by an over-trained coloratura, the wily temptress urged the latest man in her life on like she had the two before him to an early grave – the last one right there on her very top. She was rumored to have even pushed the dead man away like a log to call passersby to be witness the prowess between her loins.

But the man of the moment appeared equal to the task. He knew what was at stake well before investing on her dowry. While she ululated on in celebration of the unique music of the pestle and mortar, Obidike unlike before had progressed to stroking himself in sympathy to the song he was overhearing. Then he was distracted by the inimitable rustle of a twig. But he had gotten to the point in his latest distraction when even the threat of death could not bid him stop. As the heightened action courtesy of the emergency, the minor crackle echoed all around him in a reverberation of encirclement.

There and then it dawned on him that the game was up. That was the point he saw himself and his extended family leaving their town of birth for one unknown in a former life. But even then he was thankful that but for the advent of civilization that even punishment past would have been worse. Way back, it would even have translated to that his reincarnation in that earlier life being dragged by a rope around the entire town in expiation; his head in the end sacrificed to the gods he defied in propitiation.

As he waited to be picked up by the encircling vigilantes, the shame of the seminal liquid spattered on the ground appeared to overshadow that of his original crime.

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