Smiled once again…


I receive more than 1,000 letters and mails every month, at the office. All of these letters and mails pass through my own hands. I stay up all nights reading and responding.

After my promotion, I had to move into a new office and take over some special duties, coupled with the ones I had already. I saw written letters that were dumped somewhere inside the new office which no one had opened nor touched. I wondered how the letters got there. The envelopes used for the letters were very dusty. About nineteen letters from the same person. It had the same name, phone number, address — same request. When our cleaner wanted to dispose them, I told him to bring them to me. I opened and read one. It was a letter written to the accounts and finance department of our company by a laborer in November 2006. He was humbly requesting the head of accounts department to pay him, that he is critically sick and needs the money for urgent treatment. In the letter, he stated that he had hepatitis which affected his liver. I read the second letter. It was the same request. Looking at the letter, one could tell that it was written in tears. The drops of tears were still visible on it, since the letter was inserted in an envelope. I read the third and fourth letters and they were still the same request. Apparently, he had been writing and sending in letters since November 2005 and the last letter there was written on 10th August 2008, which the writer stated that the accounts department should have mercy on him and his family and unblock his line and answer his calls.

It was confusing. “Who blocks people’s lines here?” I thought aloud. I decided to call, so I dialed the number on one of the letters I was holding, which was the last letter written in August 2008. It rang, no one picked, and then – again, someone picked this time; I spoke first. “Hello…,” I said, “Good afternoon.” “Good afternoon.” a female voice answered. It was the voice of a middle aged woman. I told her my name and where I was calling from. She kept quiet. I told her that I am calling to speak with the person who bears the name on the letters. She started sobbing over the phone. “He is lying down here.” She cried. “Who?” I asked to reaffirm. “The person you want to speak with.” “Can I speak with him, please?” “He can’t talk again. He is only breathing. He can’t move. He doesn’t even know that someone is sitting beside him. I am his wife. We have been writing letters and calling but you people said we should not disturb you people again. Our line was blocked. His money was withheld. We sent people to your office but they came back with nothing.” She cried, “We are just waiting for him to go and rest.” She said. I felt momentarily dumb and speechless. From the way she spoke, one could tell she was ‘semi-educated’. She continued.   “He is dying day by day. The person receiving our calls and letters threatened us not to write nor call again. My husband has been a worker in you people’s company for more than seven years. He laboured there. He worked as if the work was his life. He didn’t miss any day even when he was sick. But see how you people abandoned him… What has he done to deserve this kind of treatment? God sees everything. We have been going around to ask for money but no one wants to help. We had to leave town and return to the village. No money to treat him. No money to eat. No money to pay rent. I have spent all my business money and nothing…” She sobbed. I guess there was a mix-up somewhere. Maybe something I am not aware of was or is happening. The company I work for is not known for this. I asked her their village and home address and I decided to go there. A village between Kano and Kaduna. I lost my way a couple of times before getting to their house.

I saw the man. He was lying down on a mat in front of their house. His wife was sitting next to him – chasing flies around him. She had just finished cleaning him up in front of that place (I guess). He  appeared shrunken, tired — famished. No emotions, no movement, speechless- I wondered if he could even hear me… His eyes were wide open. A middle aged man in his fifties. The sickness seemed to have taken the greater part of him and had left him constantly tearing up which his wife continually cleaned. I guess he noticed that an external body was there. I don’t know him nor when he was working with us. I don’t also think it was only the sickness the wife told me that brought him down to that state. What I saw was more than a liver disease!

His wife and I spoke – she couldn’t hold back her tears… “Even if he dies today, I am already comforted. He needs to go and rest. He has suffered a lot. Maybe, I will join him later. I have nothing else. I just came to this world to bury people I love.” She sobbed.

When I got home, I sent foodstuffs and beverages from my house to them and some money too. I also met the head of accounts department who has been approving the man’s salary every month. Apparently, the accountant in charge has not been sending it down to him, since he noticed the man was not coming to ask for it. He was taking it! He was close to the man, so the letters and calls were going directly to him. The man was using him as a middle man to reach the head of accounts. My anger aggravated when I found out they were both from the same community! He has been signing and collecting the man’s money for years now — He was arrested and charged. He paid off the money from his life savings. He was also sacked from work. But I had made an enemy for myself — an enemy that doesn’t know that he is an enemy…

Two of our Directors visited the man and his wife. He was admitted into the hospital last weekend.

This morning, I received a call. It was the man’s wife. Her voice shook on the phone. “Thank you so much… Thank you so much for fighting for my husband. Thank you so much for your efforts. At least I heard his voice again. He smiled at me. He has gone to be with the Lord. God bless you, Sir.” She said amidst sobs…









About the author

Uchechi Ikpe

A Creative Writer - A 1st person fictioneer (stories told are works of fiction)

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