Musa was a security guard who had been cooking beans on his stove in the gate house where he lived, when he noticed that the flames of the stove were dying out. With the stove still on and with the boiling pot atop it, he shook the stove slightly to help confirm his suspicion. The bare swish of liquid inside the bottom compartment was the confirmation that the kerosene was all but finished. He was wondering how he was going to finish preparing the meal when he remembered that he had some petrol left.
Some caution jumped into Musa’s mind the moment the thought about putting petrol into a lit stove crept in, but he quieted the voice by reminding himself that he had done this before and that the only consequence had been a sweet pot of beans.
And truly, nothing happened after he tipped some petrol into the stove – at least, not immediately.
A while later, Musa’s attention was again drawn to the stove after he noticed that some of the petrol that had spilled on the stove’s metallic body had ignited and was burning as a lazy flame. It was then that he grabbed a rag, lifted the pot off of the stove and stowed it away in a safe place, before taking up the now-flaming stove and proceeded to throw it in his small bathtub. He immediately shit the door and fled from the area out of a fear of an explosion.
But there was no explosion, and moments later, a surprised but grateful Musa returned to the bathroom with a sigh of relief. He went to turn on the tap so water could cascade over the burning stove to quench the flames.
There was no gush of water. Instead, air pumped out through the spout and – BOOM! The explosion happened.
That was the last thing Musa would remember.
Xavier could not believe what he was hearing as he got the details of his newest patient from Chukwudi, the House Officer who clerked Musa in. The security man had been brought in with burns on his neck, hands, chest and back. Xavier always thought he’d been on this job long enough for little or nothing to surprise him anymore. But this case neither little nor nothing; Xavier, even with all that he had seen and heard, had never encountered such carelessness and, in his opinion, downright stupidity.
“This will make for an interesting presentation at the morning review tomorrow,” he said to Chukwudi, who was as equally as fascinated by the case as he was.
Just then, he felt a vibration in his pocket. He took the phone out and smiled at the screen.
The text read:
“Tick tock, tick tock,” sings the hand of the wall clock
Some more tick and some more tock
And I shall be in luck
For all the while, I shall be but a sitting duck
Sitting through the tick and the tock of my wall clock
Waiting for the moment I shall have thee in my arms again
To kiss those lips and in thine embrace remain
For lying with you in a deep cuddle
I feel at peace afloat a blissful puddle
“Just a little more tick and a little more tock
And it shall be time,” sings my wall clock.
Xavier was beaming at his screen by the time he got to the end of the message. And he quickly typed out a reply about how he was also looking forward to seeing Ehis. He had earlier told Ehis that he would take him out for dinner at Ocean Basket, after which they would go back to his place, where he planned to officially ask him out.
It had been almost a month since they decided to “see how things go”, and boy, did he love how things were going. Ehis had taken to sending him poems and small letters, at times at night or first thing in the morning or as a sporadic message within the day.
He was such a romantic, which was one of the things Xavier loved about him.
“Chief, can I go and prep Mrs Bako for her surgery tomorrow?” Chukwudi asked, his voice jolting Xavier back to the present.
“What? Er, yes you can do that. Thank you, Chukwudi,” Xavier said to Chukwudi, who gave him a knowing smile and a nod at his phone before going on his way.
Xavier was certain Chukwudi must be thinking he’d been distracted by a text from a lady love. No doubt he would soon add that to the rumour mill that churned in the hospital about his love life. Most of the hospital staff had taken to wondering, sometimes directly and coyly to him, why the handsome Doctor Xavier Udeme didn’t have a girlfriend occasionally dropping by to check in on him.
As he walked through the ward, Xavier entertained some pleasure that he was done with his clinical activities for the day, and his mind went back to the plans he had for the evening.
He knew he was already in love with Ehis. He’d been able to tell from the way he always wanted to be with Ehis, to the way he always found Ehis’s calm and thoughtful demeanor to be so reassuring. Ehis’s smile was one of the most beautiful things he ever saw, and the brilliance of it never failed to thrill and warm him at the same time.
Xavier was now in the parking lot, having walked past the ward area. He planned on running a few errands before going home to rest and wait for Ehis to call him because, house officers in the Surgery Department, like Ehis, did not usually have a closing time. Those who were not on call closed when their share of the day’s work was done.
So, he would have to wait for Ehis’s call. He was really looking forward to hearing him say “yes” to his proposal that evening.
Ehis tried as much as possible to breeze through his work for the day. He was not on call but it was a Clinic Day for his unit. So, once he was done from the clinic, he went back to the ward, saw his patients, carried out his ward work, and at a few minutes past 4pm, he was on his way back to his lodge.
He got to his room, had his bath and pranced around his room naked while getting ready, a luxury he could now afford since he had moved out of David’s place to his own space. It’d been nearly a month since he had that uncomfortable confrontation with his friend and former roommate, a situation that forced him to start looking for his own place. And in the two weeks since he moved out, he’d barely spoken to nor seen David at all.
He went through his underwear drawer and found a nice pair of jockstraps, one of the cheap but sexy ones he had ordered from Ali Express, and then he put on a black turtleneck, long-sleeved shirt with a pair of jet black skinny ripped jeans.
Then he dialed Xavier’s number to let him know that he could come pick him up, while he attempted to put on his blue contact lenses. It always took him a while to get his contacts on, what with all the eye poking and all what not.
After several attempts at getting through to Xavier, who was not picking up, he decided to take a cab over to his place.
“He never picks his phone,” Ehis muttered to himself in a slightly exasperated manner.
On his way to Xavier’s place, his phone rang. It was Doctor Adeoye. Ehis rolled his eyes and for a moment as he entertained the thought of ignoring the call, especially since it was Doctor Yvonne, and not him, who was on call that day. But then, he knew how irrational his superior could be and he remembered the orientation that they were given about how their phones should always be reachable. So, he reluctantly answered the call.
“Hello, Chief,” he said into the phone.
“Doctor Ufuah, where are you?” an agitated voice asked over the phone.
For a second, Ehis did a double take as he thought that the voice couldn’t be Doctor Adeoye’s. He was so used to the brusque tone of the older man’s voice, that hearing this agitation felt alien to him.
Before he could ask who this was, Doctor Adeoye continued, the tone of his voice now bordering on hysteria: “There has been a mass casualty in the hospital. There was a gas leak in the Burns ICU and there was an explosion. Please head to the hospital immediately. We need all hands on deck!”
And then, the line went dead.
Written by Bryan Peters