“Over my dead body!” the young lady declared as she took the first sip of what proved to be a very cold beer, the perfect tonic for her thirst on what was a warm Friday night in Wandegeya. Freddie, may have well been the highly regarded security agent that he was, impressing his superiors and therefore rising rapidly through the ranks of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). But he was not making any impression whatsoever, on the fair lady, who had told him she was Barbara. It was one thing to be a great military strategist, and a completely different kettle of fish to be a charming lover-boy, his good looks notwithstanding. He was losing the battle.
After her second beer, Freddie tried again, in a voice anywhere along the timid-tenderly continuum, telling her he hoped she’d agree to spend the weekend with him, since she wouldn’t have lectures all weekend anyway. She was a student at Makerere University, a stone’s throw away.
“Don’t even think about it!” she replied firmly, even though she continued chatting on, like a happy rabbit, about how she was enjoying her second year in law school.
At the height of the bomb blasts around Kampala, security agencies had deployed heavily to prevent terrorist activity, and prevent disruption of normal life around the capital. The apple of Wandegeya’s eye – before Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Executive Director came along and spoilt it with huge new structures in the name of ‘modernising’ – was a little disorganized and poorly planned, but enjoyed good patronage every evening. This was the “living room” of many bachelors around town. “Wandegs” [as the university kids fondly christened it] never went to sleep. Thousands enjoyed music, fast food, roast chicken or drinks – or all of them put together – till early morning, when the radicals staggered to their homes. Or offices.
Deployed here, Freddie, a bachelor boy through and through, had been concentrating on security concerns when he noticed Barbara, seated alone and looking like she could use company. Matters terrorism took a back seat as Freddie decided a warm weekend wouldn’t be such a bad idea. A little stand-offish at first, Barbara had finally agreed to let him sit across the table. And 10 minutes later she had agreed to a drink stronger than the Fanta he’d found her sipping on slowly, hoping itc): would not get finished too soon, as she clearly was running a low budget.
On the whole, Freddie felt the evening was going considerably well; even though he thought he could have felt better if only she could stop pronouncing ‘problem’ as ‘porobulem’. But then again he decided that was not fatal to the proceedings, as he was looking for a weekend date, not an English language tutor. In fact once or twice he caught himself just in time, almost calling it ‘porobulem’ too.
After the third beer, she still declined to go to his home.
My friends are picking me up to go clubbing,” she repeated.
“And if they don’t show up?” he ventured, hopefully.
“Same thing; I am going nowhere with a stranger.”
After the fourth beer Barbara, tongue a little heavy, she said she could go with him on condition he dropped her at her Africa Hall first thing in the morning. Halfway the fifth beer (Freddie hadn’t touched his first, beyond the initial sip or two) she announced early Monday morning wouldn’t be so bad, if she could keep time for her land law class, eight o’clock.
Freddie needed no further prompting. He swiftly paid the bill, left the waitress a hefty tip and walked Barbara to his car, an arm around her, not just to show some affection, but also to keep her steady on her two feet, a ‘porobulem’ that in all likelihood did not stem from her sipping the Fanta he’d found her with.
Presently, Freddie got disturbed that although Barbara was now nicely seated in the car – a white pickup truck – there was a Mark II that was parked right across their flight path. The parking attendant went to ask the owner of the Mark II to come and move it, and he returned three minutes later (what seemed like half an hour to the anxious agent) to announce that the owner was having none of it.
Agitated, Freddie moved over to the man and politely besought his indulgence; only to get an angry (and arrogant) response telling him to go to hell.
Although he was inwardly raging, Freddie patiently explained to the man that he had a fresh date who was unpredictable and could easily change her mind ruin the weekend. Freddie said he hoped that as a fellow man, no doubt familiar with such tricky situations, the Mark II owner would understand and oblige.
“You heard me the first time,”came the reply. “Go to hell!”
Freddie, whose military training had taught him to be calm under pressure, looked down a while, thought for a minute or two and then quietly walked away.
Nobody was prepared for what happened next.
Freddie got into his car, fastened Barbara’s belt and told her to be calm; then he started the engine, reversed slightly behind, revved the engine and then rammed the truck into the Mark II, smashing into it with an almighty crash on the passenger side.
People looked up from their bottles, paused their conversations mid-sentence, before deciding it was just another accident. The owners of the vehicles would sort themselves out.
They were getting back into their conversations when Freddie reversed his car a little, before smashing into the Mark II again. This time everyone stood up. This was no accident. And it was no drunko, as the barman swore Freddie hadn’t even drunk half his first bottle. His only bottle, he corrected himself.
Everybody now gathered to witness the drama that had transformed a routine and boring Wandegeya night into an action-packed movie.
Freddie, it turned out, still had plenty of sting left in his tail. With one final hurrah, he smashed into the Mark II a third time with such vengeance, the owner, once loud and arrogant, showed up, now completely sober. And whimpering like a puppy freshly slapped into sense. His mountain-size ego had been sufficiently cut down to size; now no match for a mole hill.
The special hire drivers quickly gathered around Freddie demanding to know why he was acting stupid. They were loud. They were angry. Very angry.
The only calm head belonged to Freddie. He moved out of the truck.
“Why are you guys all getting excited?” he asked, coolly. “I thought I was dealing with only one person; so, exactly how many of you people own this car?” he asked, pointing to the Mark II.
The first special hire driver – the loudest – came forth to demand sanity from Freddie, but just then he looked into the car, whose door was strategically open and saw a revolver on the driver’s seat. He backed off and walked away without another word. Whichever of them would come forward to confront Freddie, would see the gun and do what wise men do.
Within a short time the entire area had cleared, everyone back to their seats; quiet and orderly. Only the Mark II owner was left.
Freddie turned to him and pointed across the road junction, one hundred metres away.
“That, over there, is Wandegeya Police Station,” Freddie quietly advised the man. “You go and file your complaint if you wish.”
The poor man, well chastised and in no mood to stir up further trouble, managed (with quite a bit of trouble) to get into his wreck of a car and drive – more like limp – away (again with even more difficulty). He wasn’t going to the Police; if it was dying, he wanted to die at home. The beginning of a bad weekend.
Freddie fired up the pick-up truck and quietly drove away. He gave Barbara (who was also shaken up in no small way by the entire drama) a reassuring hug. The beginning of a great weekend.