One Pound Sterling
An Essayby Bill Barich
I’d only been at St. Andrew’s College, Nnewi, for a few weeks when Paul Monike, my Nigerian friend, came down with a fever he couldn’t shake. At first he suspected malaria, but when a dose of quinine failed to cure him, he changed his mind and blamed his lover, the one he’d been seeing on the sly. She was rumored to practice juju, he told me, and there were any number of ways she could have made him sick, all to punish him for his refusal to marry her. But marriage was impossible, really. She still lived on her family’s yam farm, while Paul held an important post as a teacher of English. He couldn’t yield to her wishes, any more than she could give up on her dream.
I held the same post as Paul, in fact, although I valued it a little less, partly because of G. B. Okoye, our headmaster. Okoye was a blustery type, loud and aggressive, who banged the ground with his walking stick and barked out orders. He considered himself an oga, or a man of power, and went to absurd lengths to prove it, driving his luxury sedan through the village at maniacal speeds. Paul couldn’t help making fun of him. It was only a matter of time, he swore, until Okoye crashed into a herd of the scrawny cattle that Fulani nomads, barefoot and in rags, guided to our abattoir from the northern plateau, hundreds of miles away.