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35 9 Levi and his friend reported for The Chariot Inquirer, the only daily in the town. The former had been with the paper for eight years, the latter for slightly more, maybe nine. Shechem had no formal training as a journalist; rather, he was what one could term a jack. He’d joined the paper from three years of street life after a B.Sc. degree in sociology and anthropology from a Nigerian university, and two months after Bertha gave him Kunsona, his first and to this day only child. His family occupied a three-bedroom plank bungalow on Tabi Lane, a middle-income neighbourhood situated on the southside of Tole, one hour’s walk from The Chariot offices. His was a very small family, composed only of Bertha, Kunsona and himself. But if you were not told of the tiny number of inhabitants of the home, you would think after five or so minutes in front of the house on a normal evening that you were in front of a football stadium hosting a cup final. Kunsona for one was a boisterous little being in whose presence all household utensils and moveable furniture transformed into ufos. The only furniture piece that had stood up to her King Kong sprees was the 1936 radiogram he’d acquired at an auction and had stowed away on the wall unit, within sight quite all right, but out of reach. Several times she’d contrived a babelian ladder to reach it but had given up after three successive crashes, each of which had earned her only a “serves you right” compliment from her mother. Kunsona’s liveliness of limb met an equal match in her mother’s own chaotic liveliness of voice. Bertha took triumphant pride in her gifts as a singer, and made a proud show of them. She sang in the kitchen, sang in the bathroom, sang in the yard, sang in the living room, sang most joyously in the bedroom; and when she was not singing - which happened very rarely while she was awake - she was yelling at Kunsona- which was quite often given the frequency with which she and Kunsona’s ufos made encounters of the third order. It was always his favourite philosophy that habit, especially when driven by genuine affection, transformed fortitude into pleasure. And it worked well with him. By nature he was taciturn and more of a recluse. Those who knew him even complained of his exaggerated taste for loneliness. Many said he and Bertha were too disparate to live under one roof, let alone as man and wife, and saw in their wedding the celebration of difference, not the cementing of harmony. But the 36 predicted rocks never solidified. Instead, he grew so used to her ways that if you took her away from him you also took away his life force. The birth of Kunsona and the hilarious pleasure he derived watching her grow up, this coupled with his wife’s place in his life, had been the biggest reward he’d received from God. The paper and his home were the two extremities between which his life radiated. If he was not in one he was in the other and both procured him comparable even if different sweeps of joy. Every day of the week the paper sent out reporters and investigators to comb the main streets and back streets of Tole for news items, by which was meant anything worth talking about. And a town like this one whose rhythm was dictated by the shoe factory, the bank and the many drinking spots gave any reporter worth his salt a permanent professional field day. At first the townspeople balked at so much scrutiny, but gently and as time passed they grew used to it and finally accepted it. But far from being a welcome, that acceptance was resignation to a practice they could not change or halt. General opinion in Tole had held it for quite a time that the two young man were taking the law a bit too much into their hands by digging up spicy happenings, with little or no regard for how their acts affected people’s standing in the town. The truth is that they considered no man too big, no incident too insignificant to be reported on; that being their business - reporting. That was how, quite naturally, when news started reaching them that the foundation of the Beautyful Ones was beginning to develop cracks...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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