[I first wrote this story in February 2017. It was titled “The Ego of a Self-made Man”. I have decided to re-write it and turn i into a novella.]
Sam and his wife Jane are eating silently. The clicking sounds of the cutlery are the only noises in the room. Sam looks up to see his wife studying him carefully.
“What?” he asks defensively.
“Don’t you think you are being too hard on yourself?”
He does not reply immediately. He scoops another spoonful of the pilau and puts it into his mouth. He chews slowly while avoiding eye contact with his wife. Jane continues eating as she awaits his reply. But Sam doesn’t even know what to say in reply.
They live in a beautiful two storey house that sits on an acre of land in Messa. Sam and Jane have been married for 10 years now, and they do not have a child. For nine years, they prayed and waited. But nothing happened. Then early this year Jane decided to seek medical help. She has seen all manner of specialists, and they have all assured her that she is biologically fine. The latest specialist, Dr. Nasri Onyango, told her to come with her husband. Dr. Onyango works at Beeline Hospital, but he has a private clinic in Shava. While Jane and Sam are wealthy, they cannot get admission at Beeline. The hospital only admits the super rich or the poorest of the poor.
Sam accompanied Jane to the clinic, and today they got the results of the tests that the doctor ran a few days ago. It turns that Sam is impotent. The results have made him very gloomy. He has not said a word since they left Dr. Onyango’s clinic. Jane doesn’t know what to say to cheer him up.
Inability to sire children is not the only problem dogging Sam. Until recently, Sam was the owner of two establishments, a three star hotel in Shava and a restaurant in Messa. Then, three years ago, the hotel caught fire, and that was the beginning of his problems. The hotel had 50 rooms, 5 Executive suites, a VIP suite and two restaurants. The fire razed down the entire hotel: two towers in Shava’s central business district.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. A few people sustained minor bruises but that was it. But Sam obviously lost millions of shillings worth of investment. He had just purchased the twin towers the year before, as his business grew, moving the hotel from the rented three storey building to its new home. He had not yet even finished paying off the loan he had taken to purchase the buildings.
Worse, the insurance company refused to pay, claiming the fire was not accidental. The police report was inconclusive, although it cited probable arson. Sam sued the insurance company. The High Court ruled in favour of the insurance company. Sam was devastated. During the one year that the court battle had lasted, he had been under intense financial strain. His lawyer, James Kimeria, had been gobbling up hundreds of thousands “to enable us (him) proceed with this matter”. Suppliers were on his back, some refusing to supply the restaurant in Messa until he paid for the goods supplied to the Shava hotel on credit. The bank was on his neck over the loan he had taken to buy the buildings. And the rumours, fueled by bloggers, that the fire was caused by the majini that he had used to get wealthy did not help the restaurant in Messa either. Customers in Messa significantly reduced. And by now the legal system had failed him.
Kimeria advised him to appeal. He convinced him that the High Court had misinterpreted the facts of the case. He really wanted to believe that, because if the decision stood he would go bankrupt. And the truth is, he knew nothing about the fire, and was shocked like everyone else. He had suspected electrical failure, but the guys from Kenya Power ruled that out. So he appealed the decision as advised by Kimeria.
The insurance company began to throw every delay tactic at him. Application after application. Adjournments every time their lawyer sneezed. But the learned judges of Appeal were no nonsense adjudicators and they soon grew weary of the delay tactics and refused to grant more adjournments. To Sam’s relief, the Court of Appeal ruled in his favour. The company was ordered to pay him 550 million shillings, plus costs of the suit. He was jubilant. He thought that life would finally go back to normal.
He was wrong. In a way he would never have expected, Kimeria disappeared without a trace, right after the insurance company deposited the money in his firm’s account. The insurance company had copied him in the email confirming the payment. But when he called Kimeria, he did not pick his phone. This did not worry Sam at first. But when he still could not get him on phone two weeks later, he decided to visit his office. Kimeria had moved. In other words, Sam’s money had vamoosed. That was a month ago.
The last one month has been tough on Sam. Auctioneers came calling. The land on which the hotel stood in Shava was the first to go. It had been held by the bank as security for the loan. His car was also taken. And as suppliers descended on him, he was forced to shut down the Messa restaurant. But creditors are still on his case. They want to auction the premises that housed the restaurant in Messa as well as his house. But Jane has fought them valiantly by going to court. The house, she argued, belonged to her, not her husband. It is, after all, registered in her name. She has obtained a temporary injunction, although the suit is still pending in court. So they have a roof over their heads. At least for now.
But the creditors filed bankruptcy proceedings against Sam. Jane has hired another lawyer for him. The same lawyer she used to block the auction of the house. Her name is Janis, and she has an office in Shava. Her office is the biggest in Shava, but Sam initially thought that a lawyer from Nairobi would be better. That is how he ended up with Kimeria, who has since disappeared with his money. Jane has been very supportive throughout. She has kept the home running.
Sam swallows and sips the water from the glass next to his plate.
“I am a self-made man, Jane. I built the business myself. Yet a criminal runs away with my money. ”
“But if you are a self-made man, you can make yourself again.”
“How? I am forty four. I do not have the savings I had when I resigned from my job eight years ago. So how do you suggest I start again?”
“But you are a self-made man Sam. You should know how to make yourself again,”
“Are you mocking me? You do not think it is enough that I am eating your food? Living in your house? Driving your car?” Sam rages.
It is the first time he is raising his voice against his wife. They have disagreed in the past, but he has always checked his temper. But right now he is agitated. And Jane can see that, so she chooses her words carefully.
“A small detail Sam. I am your wife. So this is also your house. It is your food. And your car. The same way your hotel was my hotel. They are our things,”
Sam looks at his wife. Sometimes he does not understand this woman.
“Sam, we could start all over again. We could sell this house and move to a smaller house. Then you could use the money to restart your business,” she continues.
“Then we will be the laughing stock of the country. Journalists and bloggers will have a field day.”
“Does it matter?”
“Of course it does!”
“I think I know your problem Sam. Your problem is not losing your property. Your problem is pride. You have been calling yourself a self-made man until it got into your head. Sam, you did not make yourself. God did. When your father died, your mum stepped up, did odd jobs to ensure you stayed in school. When she died, your uncle took you in. He was not rich, but he fended for you like he did his own sons. Yet he did not have to. And when you graduated with your degree in soil science and could not find a job, Mr. Kimani believed in you and gave you a job to manage his hotels. Yet you had zero experience in hotel management. And when you told him you wanted to start your own hotel, he did not hold it against you. Instead, he encouraged you and mentored you. God used these people to bless you. Yet you keep throwing that phrase self-made man around. Get off your high horse Sam. You lost everything, so what? At least you still have a family that loves you…”
“Family? What family? I am impotent Jane. I cannot sire children. And I am an orphan. So what family do I have?”
“I am your family, Sam. Am I not?”
“You have always wanted children; three to be precise. Now you know for a fact that you are not going to get any, unless you choose another husband. You are just saying that now. But when the reality that you cannot have children of your own hits you, you will regret and might start resenting me.”
“Were you resenting all this time that we thought that I was barren?”
“Then why do you think I would resent you? You are my husband Sam, with or without children.”
“You don’t get it Jane. I cannot provide for you because I lost my business. I cannot give you children. Of what good am I to you?”
Jane is getting irritated.
“I don’t care about wealth Sam, and you know that. And we can adopt children. But I do care about your attitude. I don’t think our marriage will continue being a happy one if you keep being grumpy and full of self pity.”
Sam pushes his plate aside.
“See what I am talking about? Go and find yourself a husband with a better attitude,” he says then storms out of the room.
Image by Richkat from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/strong-married-wedding-couples-2364465/
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