ITCHES (short story)

He looked at his watch as he drove into the shady driveway at the Somare Foundation Building, Port Moresby. He wondered if the air condition was working and if repairs were being carried out. He wouldn’t mind a whole day off work. It was a quarter past 10 he noted.

“Late again” he said to himself without much regret knowing very well there was no one to report him for this offence. In fact nobody ever kept track of his work like in the old days when he was just a junior officer. He was still recovering from that major morning shock at the Pokis Ples. He should have collected when the credits were high. At least he would have collected half of the two hundred he gambled away at the Islander this morning.
What would his “wife” call him this time? On Wednesday, it was ‘blari useless bum.’ Thursday she game him the B word. Today it would probably be something worse. Her dictionary of obscenities never seemed to be exhausted. And when it seemed to be running out, she always found a fresh reservoir hidden somewhere in that mind of hers. He tried to remember where he had met her after his first wife left him for that non-gambling what’s-his-name. It must have been at the Sports Inn. Or Granville. No it was three months now. It was definitely the Holiday Inn. Pah! He couldn’t remember. He was too drunk to remember anyway. And did they really get married like she said. She reckoned they did. She even showed him the wedding ring the last time he wanted kick her out. He roused himself got out of the car. Slamming the door carelessly, he walked down the pathway to the office. If his memory was not too bad, she had asked him the day before to teach her to drive in this car. You know, one that had a number plate with the red ‘Z’ in front of the other letters and numbers.
He pushed open the door and nearly tripped on paper basket. Glaring at his secretary, he pushed on towards his office. He hated it when his secretary was in the ‘cleanup mode.’ Not that he minded a clean office but objects like the paper basket and boxes of stationary were always in the aisles waiting to be bumped into. He opened his office, sat down and placed his feet on the untidy desk. He opened the morning paper hoping to see something different.
“Same old stuff” he muttered to himself. “Let’s see……Prime ministerial mudslinging…. Government instability…. Political defections… Why couldn’t they pay attention to the real issues like lack of funding or public servant pay rise…” He was about to flip the page when he was interrupted by the phone.
“Mr. Pokis….It’s your wife on the line…” said his secretary daring not to mention which one.
“Number one or number two?” he asked trying his best to mask the embarrassment.
“Um.. It your second wife sir… She…” The secretary was about to complete the sentence when he lost his temper.
“I thought I told you not to let that b**ch call me at the office!…Put her through!” he said as he waited.
“Hello? Hello? Anton yu stap a?” He heard her voice on the other end. He hated that faked sophistication in her ‘hellos.’
“Maria what do you want this time? Mi tokim yu pinis lo’ noken ringim mi long opis…”
“Aya Anton…plis…” She began. “I saw this nice make up set and lipstick and this sexy-looking black skirt and….”
“Enough!” he screamed over the phone too scared to hear what more would come out of her mouth.
“How much do you want?”
“Five hundred and fifty tasol bai inap” He could imagine her ‘do it or else’ smile on the other end. She was always very polite when she wanted something. But he knew it was the only way to get her off his back. He wondered where she got the money for the bus fare to Town and Boroko.
“Go and get it from the ATM,” he said, “Yu save lo PIN number.”
“Aya, lewa, Anton. Keke lewa blo yu ya, mi tok!… yu kam long haus bai mi no nap belhat lo’ yu pilai pokis” she said as she hung up. He thought of how foolish he was to give his PIN number to her. He couldn’t remember even how she had gotten it out of him. It must have been Tuesday when he came home drunk. Of course! She was an expert at squeezing secrets out of him when he was drunk.
He lingered on the phone for a few seconds listening to the tone and then hung up the phone. He itched to get back in front of that colored screen now that he had bought his afternoon’s peace. He glanced at his watch as he resumed his reading. 11:45 it said. Fifteen minutes before the unofficial knock off time. He opened to the crosswords and filled in a few boxes. Outside he could hear the lunch hour traffic. He glanced one more time at his watch. 11: 55. Good enough, he thought as he grabbed his car keys and briefcase and made for the door.
“Angela…” he called back to his secretary. “To anyone who calls, tell them I’m in a very important meeting. And cancel all the scheduled media conferences.”
“Yes boss,” Angela replied knowing very well that the ‘meeting’ meant another session at the poker machines. Slave driver she thought. Expecting us to do the dirty work for you. She noticed he was unshaven and probably unwashed for god-knows-how-long judging by the smell. He noticed that too.. But there was nobody to give him a hard time about being untidy since his wife left him. His first wife hated it when he looked this way. But this one didn’t mind at all. In fact she didn’t mind about anything so long as she had her regular supply of ready cash, makeup and clothes courtesy of Anton.
It was now spot on midday as he got in and started his car. His destination: The Crown for rest and recreation at the Pokies.

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