The Call . The adventures of jobless doctors

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Doctor John

“VVOOOMP!”

“TAKKA TAKKA!! TAKKA TAKKA!!!”

The sound of gunshots sent us crashing into
Arrow’s room. We had no time to knock. Shouts and cries erupted all of a sudden
from a distance, becoming louder by the second. My heart skipped a beat as
Evelyn jumped on me out of fright.  In
reflex, I spun out of her reach as I made for the door, jamming my body against
it while I fumbled for the keys to lock it with.

“Lie down! Lie down!!” I shouted at an
almost paralysed Evelyn, dragging her down with me as I dove for the floor.

Hearts in our mouths, we listened to the
incessant reports of machine guns, boastful shouts and cries growing louder
while the pounding of our hearts was even more deafening.

“Jesus!Jesus!!Jesus!!!” Evelyn kept
shouting while I struggled not to get choked from her tight grip.

My initial guess was that it was probably a
gang of robbers at work again but I wasn’t convinced. Nothing was worth the
trouble of armed robbery here in Bori village, besides the whole of Yteghe  was known to be very peaceful as compared to
other areas where the creek boys inhabited. Yes, the creek boys. It would have
to be the creek boys but what was the trouble again? Arrow, told me that he
heard, it’s been years since they last had a conflict here. The last conflict
happened long ago, before the government’s amnesty programme.

It was in these fearful thoughts that I
noticed my phone for the first time since we barged into the room. It was
ringing and from where we lay trembling, I could see his name on the screen.
Arrow was calling. With tremendous effort to free myself from Evelyn’s grip, I
crawled towards the phone.

“Guy, where you dey? Where you dey?!”  my friend was shouting over the phone.

“Your house! Your house!!” I shouted back
in reply.

“Stay there O! Stay there!!No try come out
OO!!!”

It was a command that was certainly going
to be obeyed.  Arrow was at the hospital
where we both worked. He said all he knew for now was that it was a clash between
the creek boys and some other gang, yet to be identified. He was also
suspecting it had to do with the abduction of one of the prominent political
party’s candidate for the forthcoming elections by the boys of the other party,
yesterday. I shivered as I got this information above the noise of gun battle
from a distance that didn’t sound too far. Some people had warned about
reprisal attacks when we heard about the politician that was kidnapped
yesterday, but I could bet that none of us expected it this soon and in this
manner.

After the first call from Arrow, I and
Evelyn clung tightly to each other, trembling and muttering prayers under our
breaths as we listened to the continues rumbling outside. I was trying to be
strong for her but I guess it wasn’t working. I too was too scared to offer
much succour to anyone.

In what seemed like eternity but was only
about two hours in reality, the gun shots started to fade farther and farther
away. It would take another hour for a tensed kind of quiet to return around
us. This time I managed to call Arrow. It rang twice without answer and fear
was beginning to creep in when he finally answered the call on the third ring.
He was fine, he reported in bated breath. He was still at the hospital with the
nurses on duty. Those at the hospital were now calling everyone they knew within
Yteghe, to confirm if they were safe. I could hear shouts in the background and
he explained it was a patient’s relative who was yet to know the whereabouts of
her son and was refusing to be quietened by the nurses. He said all the staffs
of the hospital have been accounted for except Evelyn, the new nurse. I told
him not to worry that she was with me, half expecting his teasing. He was
rather relieved to hear it and was grateful he had decided to leave the door to
his apartment open for me, as I forgot the spare key he had given when I first
arrived. Doctor Enem, which was Arrow’s real name, being the only doctor at the
hospital as at that time, had a lot on his plate. Knowing this, I tried to make
the conversation brief, promising him I would take care of Evelyn but he
wouldn’t get off the phone until I promised him that we wouldn’t leave the
house until he came back or at least until we heard from him that the coast was
clear.

That night we couldn’t sleep. Despite it
being about four hours since we heard the last gunshot neither of us felt safe.
A quick glance through the window revealed a dark and empty street with only a
few houses barely lit. Evelyn was now curled up in foetal position with her
head on my thighs while I just sat there with my back against the wall, staring
into the darkness. Except when we wanted to reassure ourselves that we were not
alone, otherwise we barely spoke to each other. We were both lost in our
thoughts. It has just been two weeks since she started working at Inland
Hospital and right from the very first day, I’ve been attracted to her and had
done so much to woe her and now, this? I wondered what she was thinking of the
whole situation as I absentmindedly stroked her hair.  What had earlier looked like a promising
evening for us had now turned out to be a nightmare.

“John”, she called my name.

It was no longer Doctor John, I managed to
notice. Perhaps, we had achieved intimacy in a weird kind of way.

“Yes”

“When will they stop? When can I go home?”

“Soon”, I replied for want of something to
say.

We both knew she would have to spend the
night here. It was already eleven anyway and more importantly, it wasn’t safe
out there. I could empathize with her desire to be home as I too was feeling
the same way. I remembered my uncle’s opposition to my coming down to Yteghe
for work and now it seemed that he was right after all. I could picture him
gloating and I resented him the more for it. He had done nothing to help me
secure the much needed housemanship and when I told him of this job, all he had
done was to oppose it without any reason and without proffering any
alternative. He should go to blazes for all I care. It was eighteen months
without a job that led me to this village in Ogoni land.  Eighteen months of parading as a doctor unable
to take care of myself let alone my family. Eighteen months of the title
“doctor” gradually losing its meaning to me.

The drudgery of the number of years we
spent in medical school was often cushioned by the promise of a job as soon as
we finished. I remembered how I, Arrow and our other friends in school used to
encourage ourselves to push on despite the challenges we faced then in school
with the hope that securing the prerequisite house job we needed for our full
qualification as medical doctors wouldn’t be a problem upon graduation. At
least, that was how easy it was a few years ago. Today, I was in a village I
had never heard about until two months ago, working for a paltry sum to avoid
being a burden to my aging mother who struggled to see me through school upon
father’s death and still I had no idea when I would get this so called house
job with my practicing licence set to expire in a few months.  I thought of how I had gone from one
interview to another full of hope only to have my hopes dashed brutally against
the wall. I recall a particular hospital that published the list of successful
candidates just as we were leaving the interview hall with the publishing date
being two days before interview. I remember the mirthless laughter most of us
shared that day. We were getting used to the corrupt system and most of us were
ready to join the band wagon, if we could. We were running out of options. You
either coughed up a sizable chunk of money to pay for house job or you had
connections in high places. It was no longer a secret amongst us. We even
shared stories amongst ourselves of already employed house officers switching
from one job to a better paying one just by paying for it. Well, they had the
money to pay and we, the unfortunate ones could only grumble and curse. It was
frustrating to still be dependent on a struggling parent with four other
children, after eight years of medical school and almost two years
post-graduation.

It was this frustration that made me jump
at the offer when Dr Enem called me concerning an opening where he was also
working while waiting for house job too. I didn’t think twice as I hurriedly
left home, enticed more by the idea of escaping the hardship at home than by
the idea of actually working for peanuts. So, here I was scared out of my wits
by a gunfight, alone with a young lady a little more familiar than a stranger
right in the middle of nowhere.

Her snoring jerked me out of my revelry,
startling me a bit. I’ve often heard of girls that snored but this was the
first time I was witnessing such.The dim light from my phone showed the time to
be three thirty am.  I couldn’t wait for
dawn. Gently,I lifted Evelyn’ head off my thighs and placed a pillow
underneath. She muttered something incomprehensible in her sleep before she
continued snoring. On tiptoes, still scared to make any noise, I found my way
to the bathroom with the aid of my phone’s dim light.  It was just as I finished relieving myself
that we heard the shots again.

Evelyn woke up with a scream that pierced
the darkness as I rushed back stumbling into the room. It had started again,
the gun shots and the shouts. It was far from being over.

To be
continued….

Eleonu Uchechukwu N.

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