Get Print Edition of African Writing Home Page
HomeAbout UssNewsinterviewsProfiles of Emergent African WritersFictionPoetryCultureArtReviews

  Femi Osofisan
  Tanure Ojaide
  Brian Chikwava
  Hugh Hodge
  Helon Habila
  Muhammad Jalal A. Hashim
  Ogaga Ifowodo
  Edwin Gaarder
  Harry Garuba
  Toyin Adewale-Gabriel
  Zukiswa Wanner
  Ike Okonta
  Maxim Uzoatu
  George Ngwane
  Ike Anya
  E. E. Sule
  Beverley Nambozo
  Obi Nwakanma
  Matthew Dodwell
  Ikhide Ikheloa
  Afam Akeh
  Femi Oyebode
  Chika Unigwe
  Linda Chase
  Mohamed Bushara
  Wale Okediran
  Niran Ok
  Remi Raji
  Ahmed Maiwada

  Laura King

  Chuma Nwokolo


Chuma Nwokolo

Accounting for Drunks

Chuma Nwokolo, Jr., is a writer, advocate, and publisher of . Accounting for Drunks is short fiction from the series Tales by Conversation.




photocredit: Andrew Ogilvy


Are you using the rest of that beer?


The remaining beer in your bottle. You look like a weight-watcher — and me, I don’t mind the pot-belly.

Ah... I can buy you a fresh bottle, if that is what you want...

God bless you!


Call him Sule and the beer comes faster.
      ' Scuse the embarrassment, that’s just me.

That’s okay; I get broke myself, now and again,

As for! Me, I'm broke again and again. Don’t work anymore you see, I pay for my drinks with stories. Now where shall I start?

Actually... I don’t... have that much time; I just wanted to…

I know the feeling exactly: you enter a bar like this and the music is twenty years old, not so? The girls are twice as old, besides which they’re all either too short or too tall, barely worth the chatting up, really. Not so? So you quench a bottle or four, and you turn around to sneer some more — and suddenly... they're looking ... barely teenage... aren't they? Not all that tall or all that short, come to look at them, eh?

Ah... that’s not really what I had in mind at all...

Stop me if I’m getting rude, but you’re the quiet type, aren’t you. I know your type very well. You nurse your one bottle of beer and all around you everybody is getting drunk and stupid. Come, drink five bottles with me today! And we’ll see what is really going on inside that quiet head of yours!

No, thanks. I never cross the two bottle limit, myself. I was just thinking...

I know what you’re really thinking — thanks Sule, mortuary-cold as usual! — You’re thinking: another burnt-out tramp looking to stub out another evening of his life on your beer and your time...

Not really that, but actually, yes, I just came for a quiet drink... I had a busy day... and tomorrow is...

Exactly, so what’s wrong with a tale or two while you’re having a quiet drink? You’re a stranger to Abuja, I can tell from the handbag you‘re carrying like a woman; — please stop me if I’m rude — men don’t carry handbags here anymore, not after what happened to poor Alkali. Oh, I can stretch you some useful yarns. — The things I’ve seen... I didn’t just get drunk overnight and end up here, you know, a fifty-six year old tramp with no fixed address. Ha! It took many bottles, my brother. It was a long and difficult road, really hard and painful work. At this very bar alone, I’ve put in four or five years' overtime with my green bottle here... ‘scuse me...

Wha...what happened to Alkali?

Ah, brilliant beer. in one Benin bar like that...

About Alkali...

That idiot? He had a handbag like yours, only it was black. Black and really, really bulging. There were fifteen men in this very room and thirty eyes followed him like flies following a sore. Then he flashed his money when he bought his beer. Within ten minutes it was all over.

They stole the bag?

Stole the bag? I said the reverend died in a fire and you’re asking if his beard was burnt! The man that broke Alkali’s head with a bottle of Double Three and the man that snatched the bag were from different gangs entirely. In ten minutes there was such a fight in here… but no, things have cooled down since then; you really don’t need to sit on your handbag, really.

Actually, I... like to sit on my bag. It’s just the way I like it...

I see. By the way, ‘scuse the embarrassment, but can you pass me that ashtray?

...But they are…

...only stubs? I know. As for me, I believe in recycling; it’s good for the environment.

Ah... I can buy you a fresh pack... if you want...

God bless you. I didn’t use to smoke at all, you know, till I broke my metatarsal.

Is that not the bone those footballers are always breaking?

Exactly. You guessed I was a footballer didn’t you? Remove my potbelly and my limp and the physique is still there, isn‘t it?

Which division did you play?

Division one of course. Oh yes! Stationery Stores FC. Mark you, that was in those days when Stationery Stores was Stationery Stores.

Ah... what’s that your name again?

Felele. That was what they used to call me back in those days.

Felele... never heard of you… and I used to watch....

You’re a young man, this was way before your time. Player of the year, twice in a row, that was me. Then I broke my leg the week before the cup finals. This very leg! Worst day of my life, oh yes. I watched the cup finals from my hospital bed. My substitute scored a hat trick, imagine that. That very week he was scouted by Real Madrid. That would have been me, of course. The story of my life! That was the day I started smoking. It was my metatarsal that did it...

...Excuse me; I need to use the toilet.


What sort of life is this? Do they read a sign on my forehead or what? I’ve grown a beard my children hate and it doesn’t change a thing. Let there be five hundred people on the street, I’m the one the beggar with the sad story will pick! I’m the one who will miss his plane while listening to the man who lost his bus fare and needed a bail-out. Why can’t I kill an hour at the bar without the club drunk harrassing me? Look at this slob! Stationery Stores indeed! What sort of life is this? A thirty-year old chartered accountant, and I don't even have the guts to tell a tramp to piss off and leave me alone. There's nothing more to it. I’ll just have to try another bar. This is ridiculous. The sort of inconvenience I suffer for want of a small bottle of spunk! This is just ridiculous!


Why I’m looking so shocked? Well, people always tell me, ‘scuse me, toilet’; and they never come back.


I knew you were not like that. There’s honour in your eyes. I have that gift of reading people, you know.

Is that so?

Oh yes. — You’re a politician, not so? I can tell. It’s the cut of your babanriga, the way you spend money without counting...

I’m not a politician.

Eh...? Of course you’re not. I forgot the cross-examinational way you use your eyes: saving your expensive voice for judges...

I’m not a lawyer.

You’re not?
      So what are you actually?

A chartered accountant.

Of course! It was obvious, the way you talk as if you are auditing every word you speak. I’m a chartered accountant myself, although I haven’t practised for almost thirty years.

Is that the famous accountant, Felele, of Stationery Stores’ fame...

You quiet types are the most dangerous. You do sarcasm very well, you know. Don’t vex with me; that Felele story is the entertainment I give the tomdickandharrys.


I’m not that kind of drunk that gives his true life story to every tomdickandharry. I’ve got to think of the honour of our profession, you see? No sense pulling the profession down with me, is there? It’s different with a professional colleague like you. I mean, we can level with each other, can’t we?

So you once worked as an accounts clerk?

I said I am a chartered accountant. I'm not drunk yet, I know what I said.

Is that like... your praise name at this bar... as in 'Accountaaant!'

Stop me if I’m getting rude, but I'm fifty-six years. When I passed my ACA you were probably in primary school.

Stop me if I’m getting really sarcastic, but if you are a chartered accountant then I’m the president of the United States of Africa.

Well, good evening Mister President!

Okay; so were you struck off? Was it drugs? Embezzlement of clients’ funds? Not that I buy this tale, you understand...

You’re no longer Mister Quiet, are you? I can hear your beer talking now.

Don’t change the subject now, what is a chartered accountant doing in your shoes?

Drinking a beer kindly bought by a professional colleague.

You’re obviously dodging the question, Mr. Felele, ACA, — excuse my sarcasm.

My real name is Korba. And forget the initials. It doesn’t put beer on my table. Anymore, that is.

Okay, Mr. Korba. How did you move from the practice of the profession of accountancy to your permanent residency at John Thomas Bar?
I'm on the last inch of my beer. It’s terrible, how the best things in life finish so quickly. Are you into audit or consultancy?

I can see that your own speciality is the Airy Yarn. You’re short on facts and long on–

–You must be into audit, from your looks. I have a gift for things like that. This is the busy season for auditors, the weeks and months after the end of the financial year, eh? You see, I speak the accountancy language.

Really? Okay, what is an 'Ordinary Asset' - in accounting language.

‘Scuse my rudeness, but that question is an insult to a chartered accountant.

If you are in fact a chartered accountant. What does ‘Ordinary Asset’ mean?

You haven’t asked me the meaning of an 'Asset Revaluation Reserve'; you haven’t even asked me to explain 'Equity to Assets Ratio'...

No! All I asked is the meaning of an Ordinary Asset!

It’s an insult to me, to the profession, for me to sit here and define...
      ...You‘re frowning...

It’s nothing, just a headache. Look, forget about Ordinary Assets, okay, let me just drink my beer in peace... Imagine me, shouting in a bar. God-deliver-me!

It’s alcohol on an empty stomach. Bad combination. They do a wicked plate of fried meat here. That’s the best thing. If you wink and tell Sule you’re really hungry, he’ll double the fried meat, but you must tip him well. That’s how it works.

I can afford to pay the right price for what I eat, thank you.

No point getting moralistic on me, I was just trying to be helpful. I’ll have a plate myself, if you don’t mind... ‘Scuse the embarrassment, but that’s just me...
      Thank you Sule, — and God bless you mighty plenty, Chief...

No need to give me a chieftaincy because I buy you meat. My name is C.Y. Udensi. And I can't buy you any more beer. Now, if you don’t mind...

... Mister Udensi... I’ve known a couple of Udensis in my Public Service years. One was a hard working messenger. He was two months from promotion to clerk when he was sacked for stealing paper - two reams, as I remember.

I see. Now if you don’t mind...

The second Udensi was too sly to be caught. There’s an interesting story here. A really interesting story. He was a prof, you see. I met him during my annual audit of the government commission where he was Director General. I was lodged in the commission’s guest house, and one night I found a bundle of cash inside my pillow! A lawyer friend later told me that technically a 'find' is not a 'bribe'. There was no ‘briber’ and no ‘bribee’ you see, two necessary legal ingredients for a conviction. Besides, Udensi had no reason to bribe me - I never saw any holes in his accounts. Of course after my pillowcase find I didn't scrutinse his accounts with the thoroughness I was capable of, if you know what I mean. Ha ha.
      You’re really looking very... sick... is it the meat?

What was the name of your Udensi’s commission?

AWMI - Agric Waste Management Institute - that was more than thirty years ago...

...My father was a professor of Crop Science. His last job was DG of AWMI.

Prof. Udensi was your father? No, that is just crazy. ‘Scuse me, oops. I finished my glass. Must run now...

Sule! Two more beers, please!

You really don’t have to... you’re so kind - make it a Gulder this time, Sule, poisonously cold as usual — your father? Now, that is just crazy... em, did I call him sly? The accurate word is shy. Not sly, shy. He was a shy briber, that Prof. Udensi. Could never look his bribee in the face...

You’ve met Pa? No! Impossible. There’s something funny going here. I smell 419 here; you’re trying to set me up for a scam aren’t you?

Set you up for a what? Are you drunk already?

Wait-wait-wait! My head is going round in circles and it’s not the beer. What’s going on here? Because if you are a chartered accountant then I am the President of the United States of Africa...

If you’re so keen to become President you’ve got to wait for the country to be created.

If this is a scam, then you’re good, you’re damn good. God-deliver-me-from-Satan! What’s your angle? How did you find out about my father’s history...?

Because I audited him, bonehead, stop me if I’m rude, but if I want your money I’ll hit you over the head with a bottle. That’s the method that works at John Thomas bar...

Did you know he‘s dead? My father?

Sorry. And just forget I mentioned this story, okay? I tell professionals the tale of Udensi and the Money Pillowcase to pay for my beers. If I meet a tomdickandharry I tell them the Felele tale. It's just harmless entertainment...

Did you know he was murdered?

‘Scuse my rudeness, but I’ve already said Sorry, okay? Am I supposed to cry or what? He was not exactly my friend, I audited his institute’s accounts was all I did, I found two thousand five hundred naira in my pillowcase, then I packed my bags and files and left...

Did you know that his murder was never solved by the police? That the case-file is still open.

That is sad. Very, very sad. Well, I will leave you to your quiet drink now. Many thanks for the drinks and the cigarettes and the meat...

Sit down, Korba. This is just half-a-tale you've told me. You haven't quite paid for your beers. Tell me about that audit.

Audit? What audit? Me, a chartered accountant? I failed your Ordinary Assets test, have you forgotten? I was a tramp from my mother’s womb...

Don’t play the idiot, Korba...

How dare you call me idiot! I’m fifty-six...

Some self-respect at last! If you are the man you say you are, your name is not Korba. It is Clement... no Claver! Claver Kobina!


Aha. Now, who's looking sick now? How long have you been running Claver? Or is it Clement? Thirty-two years? Thirty-three?

I didn’t kill your father.

I know. But you knew something about his death. Else you won’t have disappeared into thin air. Come on, all I wanted was a quiet drink and you insisted on stretching me a good yarn. Go on, tell me your tale and we can keep all this between us. No need for the Police to reopen their files.

I have never told any soul the truth of my fall from grace. It is just too painful...

This won't be as painful as a Police interrogation, Remember they don’t stock beer in police stations. Why did my father die of an assassin’s bullet right inside his own office?

How did you know my name?

Is it Claver or Clement?

Claver. Claver Kobina. I haven’t heard that name in years.

Ah. Claver Kobina. I like it when my memory scales a test. I have a photocopy of the police case-file and I’ve read it two or three hundred times. Claver Kobina was the mysterious witness. He wasn’t a prime suspect, because he was eating lunch at a hotel in front of two stewards when Pa was killed. But he had seen Pa a few hours before the murder and the police wanted to question him. Yet he disappeared on the night of the murder. He never reported back to his office in the Ministry of Environmental Affairs. Everybody assumed he had been kidnapped and murdered as well. Like my father’s aide, who was found dead in a street corner the day after Pa died.

Can I have another beer?

Are you trying to pass out on me? Is that your strategy?
      Sule! Another beer please!
      Are you really a chartered accountant, Claver? The case-file just said you were an employee of the Ministry of Environmental Affairs.

I was In the Internal Audit department. By the way an Ordinary Asset is a non-capital asset in a business, okay? A twenty-year hangover doesn’t erase that.

So why did you disappear? It had something to do with Pa’s death, didn’t it?

Whenever I tell the story of the findee bribe in the pillowcase, I always say that it was two thousand five hundred naira. It was rather more, actually.

Twenty-five thousand naira?

Rather more. It was so much money that I couldn’t remain an auditor any longer. All sorts of things were going through my head. It was more money that I could have earned in a career of public service.

A hundred thousand naira? Twenty-five years ago? That's rather far-fetched for the seventies!

It was five hundred thousand naira, Mr. Udensi. It came in several pillow cases.

You’re lying again, Claver! Half a million! That’s like millions and millions in today's money. That's like a chunk of Pa’s total budget at AWMI, that’s like...

Exactly... Do you remember the name of the other lodger at the Institute’s guest house?

After twenty-five years?

You remembered my name!

You were the mystery witness! There was a big search for you! I knew that you were linked to the truth...

Does the name Otunba Wura ring a bell?

Oh yes. The late Industrialist. It’s coming back now. He was the second lodger in the guest house, wasn't he, a contractor to the commission. He volunteered a police statement, but he was always above suspi...
     ...Mr. Kobina, are you quite okay?

>>>>> Next

  Go to Top  
Copyright © Fonthouse Ltd & respective copyright owners. Enquiries to