In the heart of The Central Business District, sandwiched between two major highways, is a yellowish vintage building that seems to have been painted last in the 1900s. The structure of the building is quite aesthetically pleasing if you choose to overlook all other factors. Architecture is out of this world. From the outside, the storeys of the building look like a flight of stairs, with each ascending one smaller in size than the former. Inside it looks like it was once a church, with the outline of many curvilinear triangles that open up to a large hollow space.
The building has two main entrances. If you walk past either, you can be sure that at least two men will surround you asking “mami fish leo? Niko na fresh sana” which loosely translates to “Maam, would you like fish today? I have very fresh fish.”
Ade had worked there for over three years as a butcher and become accustomed to the day-to-day shenanigans. It was quite a noisy place. The cutting of meat, price bargains, people playing different music at different volumes, arguments between the salesmen and luring customers to buy. All at the same time. In short, if he were to describe the ambience of this place in one word, that word would be ‘headache.’
That notwithstanding, all these years he still hadn’t become accustomed to the stench in and around the building. It was putrid. He had always wondered if he was the only one disturbed by it. One night, his Indian boss came in a sour mood and gave him five extra hours of work but it was paid overtime. He weighed his options, and seeing as Christmas was here and he knew there would be many demands from his family, he decided to stay. On top of that, he was short two months’ rent and his landlord had threatened to throw him out.
As if on impulse, he quickly put on his earphones and played Mose Fan Fan’s “Papa Lolo” as loud as he possibly could and got to work. But about twenty minutes after he had begun his work, there was an extremely loud bang that he couldn’t ignore and that instinctively made him scream.
Ade tiptoed his way to the stall’s locked door and peeped through, and what he saw made his pupils dilate in a petrifying way. A man was carrying five live monkeys by the tail. He transferred them to a fridge by the corner of his stall. He could see the monkeys fidgeting and trying to fight for their dear lives. Ade thought twice and decided to hide from the man. He watched quietly through the keyhole as he tried to put two and two together.
He noticed the extremely unfriendly man, by the name Amadou who worked there. The man wore black on most days and spoke to no one. This was rather peculiar in a market such as this, and Ade had always wondered what the problem was. But now he had a theory, that the store sold monkey meat to its customers.
Just thinking about this made him want to throw up. He watched as Amadou put the monkeys in the fridge and bring them out one by one and hit them on the head until they were dead. Ade then heard a few footsteps coming from the opposite end of the building. The man was extremely tall. He wore a grey jacket and white khaki pants.
“Amadou!” The man shouted out loud in excitement.
Amadou turned around quickly, scared. Akanni had been the owner of the building for the last thirty years.
“Akanni, long time” Amadou responded.
Ade couldn’t help but notice that he had never heard Amadou speaking that loud. This man appeared to be quite two-faced.
“How is the business doing? It has been so long since I last saw you.”
Akanni went ahead to open the fridge. Ade thought for a while that he would be surprised by what he saw but what he heard next surprised him.
“Ah, I can see you have very healthy ones here today. I actually wanted to speak to you about this. I have just killed very many stray cats and was hoping that you could join me in starting this other venture.”
Ade couldn’t help but make a loud sound. He threw up a little on the floor. Amadou and Akanni, hearing the sound looked around fearfully. Amadou walked around suspiciously wondering if someone had overheard their conversation. It then dawned on Ade that this business had been kept a secret between the two parties for years.
“Do you think someone heard us?” asked Akanni.
“There is nobody here,” said Amadou.
The two paused for a while and then carried on with the conversation.
“I have noticed, there’s no need stocking beef in this economy. The people don’t know the difference. A skinned cat and a skinned cow taste exactly the same.” Amadou responded in a lower tone.
Ade had two options; to speak out about what he had seen and risk losing his job seeing as Akanni owned the entire building, or to remain quiet and continue earning his daily bread. He went home in a sombre mood, and couldn’t help but think about all the people who had eaten monkey meat thinking it was cow’s meat.
He tried to speak about it with his wife but couldn’t get words out of his mouth. When dinner was served, Ade ran to the bathroom to release all the contents of his stomach. He could hardly even stand the smell of food by this time.
Morning came, and against his wife’s will, Ade was back to work. He stood at the main entrance next to Amadou, persuading customers to buy from the respective butcheries. “Mami fish?” The customer chose to go with Amadou, and Ade was fine with that. He chose to be quiet about the entire ordeal.
It was a new day, a fresh start, and a chance to secure some few coins to feed his family.
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