Taba and Tomos, who were allies and bitter enemies, were working together by themselves on a plot at Marioka’s house in Catford, South London. They could never meet up for a humane activity. Abetting, not cooperation, brought them together. Marioka had a sudden emergency to attend in Southgate, North London. It was an imposing, well-decorated three-bedroom house with a grey brick facade overlooking the leafy Mountsfield Park. They were in the computer room upstairs working on their gentleman’s club server. Tomos was gradual in his disdain towards anyone he considered beneath him, yet again. Wearing a smart suit as ever, Tomos was smug in taking ever bold verbal jabs at Taba. He bragged about his father’s exploits as a notable architect and his birth in the UK. His dismissal of Taba as a person descended from peasants and obsessed with social-climbing was harsh and unnecessary. Tomos went further to inform Taba, one is well-born or not. Self-made men without pedigree are usually “one generation wonders.” The limit came when Taba was told living in England could never elevate his type.
The irony here, Tomos was freely smoking Taba’s cigarettes, eating his Munchies snacks, and drinking his brandy. Taba was wearing his trademark leather jacket, polo shirt and jeans, which always looked cool on him, but his passive mood soon became agitated.
Tomos, intent on provoking Taba, went as far as saying the man was ultra-aware of his [humble] position in society and pitied his untiring obsequiousness to get ahead; Tomos himself was a gopher for hire. He asked Taba if he knew the long-term cost of ambitiously pursuing relationships with people he was clearly beneath in all regards. Taba had taken enough put-downs from Tomos and became irate. He slapped Tomos, but the slap did not land well enough. He had miscalculated his angle of attack. If the slap had landed four to six inches lower, it would have stunned Tomos. Big talk somehow made these small men look bigger; Taba was neither that much taller nor bigger.
Tomos wanted to get Taba angry and self-pity, not receive a slap from him. Tomos reacted by challenging Taba to a fight in the garden. Taba accepted the challenge. In mutually separate assessments, each man convinced himself he would win the fight. A win for Tomos would stoke his pride while for Taba, it was justice. As they both hastily shuffled down the staircase, along the passageway, through the kitchen into the garden, it was unclear if pride or justice would win the fight.
Both men stripped to the waist, and the brawl began. Tomos showed fine boxing skills dancing much, weaving and bobbing stylishly, using clever feints effectively, punching craftily and leaving his opponent with little space to manoeuvre, forcing Taba ever backwards. His unexpected skills were most impressive. Just watching Tomos move and box was a delight. Taba’s approach was much slower and linear. Still, he delivered well-aimed and solid punches, mostly to the mid-section of Tomos’ body, and his highly efficient strikes compensated for the few blows he threw. Taba also looked deadlier. As the fight progressed, the punches to Tomos’ body had made him fight with more caution, and a surprise head-butt from Taba temporarily slowed his pace to a standstill.
The contrasting fighting styles of both men made the fight exciting. A brief stoppage occurred as if mutually agreed by instinct. Both fighters had facial injuries and were bleeding, but the contest had to continue to its logical conclusion. It had been brewing for ages and today was the inescapable opportunity. Taba wanted to punish Tomos for insulting his family, for that, to him, was justice. Pride was precious to Tomos. He always nurtured a perverse sense of entitlement and dignity.
The second phase of a fight was a shocking. Tomos delivered a well-aimed kick to the crotch of Taba, who yelled a strange sound of distress. Taba’s holler was not of pain but a bitter expression of pain defiance. Tomos could not decipher Taba’s unarticulated message and delighted in the fight-changing strike he had scored against his opponent. Taba unexpectedly stopped fighting and began biting hard on the lowest part of his left thumb. Any of Taba’s childhood or teenage friends would have told Tomos he was in danger. Taba only resorted to biting his hand when bullied by much bigger boys decades ago, and the bullies caught violent hell afterwards. It was a case of ‘demon activation.’
Taba stopped biting his thumb and his face transformed, resembling a sci-fi alien facially. His eyes seemed much bigger but blank, his face looked more triangular, and his mouth became half the usual size. Taba could have been in a trance. Tomos noticed this change in Taba, but made little of it bouncing and dancing, waiting for Taba to recover so he could finish him with a stunning knockout. The smile on Tomos’ face was a celebration of the mangled testicles of Taba. If not for hubris, Taba’s facial and dispositional changes should have worried Tomos. In a befuddled manner, Taba took eleven quick steps backwards, then with lightning speed took three steps forward and with his fist struck Tomos in the chest, stunning him. Taba repeated the move, and the second strike made Tomos to cough.
Now it was time to see Taba’s edge of skill. Eleven short sluggish steps backwards, then three steps forward, one, two, three, vaulting on the right leg’s toes to deliver the strike invoked memories of handball and cricket. The punch delivery looked like a handball penalty taken. Tomos’ received the punch like the inescapable ball of a fast-bowler to a batsman in a cricket match. The third time Taba executed the move, Tomos tried to avoid it, but Taba aimed with success for the stomach. He used his left hand, revealing himself as a natural southpaw. As Tomos was going down, Taba landed a dirty facial slap, ending any sense of pride he had left. The slap of life, “Gbokhra,” the sound that makes fools of men had landed. Tomos down on the grass, Taba spat pasty sputum in his face. Taba’s lips had formed a tight protrusion with flared nostrils and his eyes were swivelling. He looked uglier and predatory.
As Tomos lay down facing upwards, his stomach rumbled with a loudness and violence that would make witnesses laugh while his anus sounded like a hybrid between a talking drum and a boiling thick fluid. “Phuun phuun, pretu pretu” with various permutations were the sounds he produced bum-wise. In a sad, vain attempt, Tomos tried to cover his ignominious helplessness by shouting, “My tummy has been running since yesterday, O!” No one was listening.
Tomos’ intestines and person were to lose all respectability. He became what was happening in the arena of his colon and rectum. The smell coming from him was torturous. Eating what you can find, stale bread and tomato ketchup or white rice and salted peanuts or garri sandwiches. Alongside of plenty of alcohol, Tomos was not kind to his stomach’s health. How Tomos managed much deprivation with a high-minded sense of pride was evidence of either mental disturbances or extreme denial.
In retrospect, with the third punch of the move, Taba had inflicted “Ubituevu” on Tomos, a “diarrhoea punch” but literally “the punch that makes the victim suffer instant defecation”. Pre-1970, many communities along the River Ethiope had an unusual way of determining victor and vanquished in a fight. It was not a knockout, surrender or injury. The victor would ensure he incapacitated his opponent sufficiently to stamp on his stomach with his heel hard enough to cause the loser instant, uncontrollable defecation. Men disposed to fighting in such communities habitually walked as if digging holes in the ground with their heels. People admired the manliness of such a walk and girls found it sexy. Most will admit such a fighting practice was questionable, primitive, and wicked. Ubituevu was its refinement back then in punch-form. To see it in the UK in 2015 was sheer “bad cultural retro.”
Taba was now cooling down from his bout of ‘demon activation.’ Demon activation differs from demon possession in a clear sense. A demon possessed person has no control over the timing, manifestations, and actions of the demon within. Demon activation is the wilful summoning of the inner demon in response to pain, self-harm, or distress. Once the host cools down, the demon becomes instantly dormant again. Taba’s alien features were now reverting to normal. When Taba realised what he has done to Tomos, he simply left the house, got in his car, and drove away without a qualm.
As Tomos lay flattened, he was unsure if he would live or die. There was much blood in his poop, looking at his checking hand. The growing pain a ruptured entrail. Tomos tried hard with only partial success to blame his defeat by Taba on black magic. He then blamed himself for liberally giving Taba the time to recover after ramming his testicles. The side of his face stung. He considered slap and spitting excessive of Taba. Tomos could not rationalise his way out of his calumny. He passed out with no help in sight. Tomos by slipped into an out-of-body experience.
Will Tomos make it? Cockroaches don’t die so easily.
Be Good, Not Lucky
Please take a look at my other short story, The Near Death experience of a Petite Man. Cheers