Something for Nothing – Nyasili Atetwe
Kasha had not had enough sleep the previous night. He was taking a nap when Linda knocked at his office door. He didn’t answer so she pushed the door and sauntered in. He lay loosely, his back bending the swivel chair precariously. He looked dead with hands hanging limply at his sides. Linda smiled at his snoring figure even as she wondered what she would do to wake him. But he soon readjusted himself on the chair, flipping open his eyes in the process. He wiped the edges of his mouth and sat up. He then quickly grabbed the mouse of his laptop and went back to the press release he was writing. The screen of his laptop blinked on, opening a half-written page. He gazed at the last sentence he had written before he acknowledged the presence of his equally embarrassed assistant.
“I called the reporters and they have begun arriving.”
“Oh, about that,” he said, drumming letters into his laptop, “I had forgotten. You know, I didn’t sleep last night.”
Linda pitied him. He looked raddled. His eyes were bloodshot and the usual sheen on his face was absent. He too had forgotten to shave, something she noted he did severally every week. Now, a beard rose around his mouth like a swarm of bees. She wondered what poor representation he would be to the company before all those cameras. The stress on his shoulders was taking its toll.
“What do I tell them?” She asked.
“I will be there in a minute. I have not even finished with this press release though.”
“Today, you will be on TV,” Linda said to lighten him up.
It was the only positive that would come off it. A tiny positive considering the lives he would destroy by lying to defend his company. He felt horrible for failing to convince his bosses to let the company take responsibility. Their driver, Mr. Sunji, had confessed that Mabulonga’s death was his fault. If he had not picked a call, the van would not have veered out of the road, knocking Mabulonga down. He had died on spot.
Kasha’s bosses had dismissed his suggestion with the firmness of an adult denying a child a razor. They would not confess culpability as that would drag their reputation into the mud and burn a deep hole in their pocket. It was cheaper to keep the police narrative that Mabulonga was drunk when the accident occurred, which was bizarre because his widow insisted that he was a teetotaler. But money was already walking and Kasha’s ideas could not be allowed to stand in the way.
“My mind is stuck on the jobless widow, you know.”
“What options do you have?” Linda said.
“I can fall sick – collapse, you know!” Kasha chuckled. “God! I cannot have this thing on my conscience. It is evil.”
“But they would know you have refused. Will you risk your family’s livelihood to save the widow?”
“I don’t know!” He shrugged.
He needed the job even as much as he desired justice for Mabulonga. In short years, the job had given him new shoes and he had risen some good rungs up the social ladder. He now lived in a gated community. He drove a BMW and was building his mansion at a plot he had bought on the outskirts of Nairobi. With his pay, he was also able to comfortably cater for his ailing mother’s monthly dialysis.
Linda gazed at him and couldn’t understand him anymore. He recalled the evening they had worked late, editing the company’s feature on its social responsibility programs. The feature was due for press the next day. He had grabbed her by the waist as they were leaving for home and swore his deepest love for her. At first, she didn’t know what to do but she quickly regained her presence of mind and grabbed his hand as he slid it up her left breast.
“No!” She said. “Don’t!”
Linda knew then and there that she would lose her job. There was no way he would approve her stay beyond the probation. But she was wrong. Kasha positively appraised her performance and recommended the company to make her his assistant. He never touched her again. He never cast a leery eye on her again.
Someone knocked at the door and startled them out of the pool of silence that had swallowed them.
“Are you ready?” Linda asked, starting out.
“Wait, I don’t even have the press release ready.”
“We can send it later,” she said, reaching for the knob.
“Damn!” Kasha cursed.
As Linda left, Mr. Kubasu, the marketing manager, strolled in. Kubasu should have been the synonym for thin. Mr. Kubasu was too thin to be anyone’s boss. And he was as pesky as a mosquito with a thin loud voice of a woman. His juniors fled at his sight because he could pick on them about anything; sometimes even about their dressing code. He scolded them even at the company café during break time. When he entered, Kasha’s fuse blew up because he knew what was coming.
“You have not held the press conference yet? Why? Reporters are all over here nosing around. Do you want them to see something else that they shouldn’t?”
“No! I was just leaving when you entered.” Kasha said, standing up.
“Why has it taken you so long? You are still on the widow’s side, huh?”
“I was finishing up with the press release!”
“Mr! We want these people out of here very fast.” He glared at Kasha. “Can I have a copy of the press release.” He proffered his hand.
“I have not finished yet.”
“Are you serious!” Mr. Kubasu snarled and glanced at his wristwatch. It was almost four in the afternoon. “Since morning?”
“Sir!” Kasha said, grinding his teeth. “If this was about a new product we are launching in the market, who would be holding this press conference? You!” He pointed at him. “Why? Because it is some fancy thing that the company is proud of. I only prepare the speeches and you go and meet the cameras. But now that it has to do with a scandal I am the one to clean up for you.”
Mr. Kubasu glared at him and he glared back, not understanding how fast those words had come out and how stupid it was to direct them at such an unforgiving person.
“Good.” Mr. Kubasu said, with a slight jerk of his head. “If that is what you feel then don’t bother holding the press conference. I will do it myself.”
He turned around and left.