SHORT STORY: Don't let them get away with it

Friday May 14 2021

Carol physically resisted shouting out. She fixed a painful looking smile on her face and inwardly kicked herself for having started this. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


Carol sighed under her breath and rolled her eyes for what felt like the millionth time, except this time it was caught by her husband, Jim, sitting adjacent from her on the plush couch, sipping a cup of tea. They’d just finished having dinner and now it was time for the nightly news, a ritual they’d slipped into years before; one he loved and one she couldn’t stand.

“Really? Why would you have to be so negative dear?” Jim asked exasperatedly, “I mean, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Carol resisted the urge to roll her eyes again at his antiquated sayings that were mostly used to cover up his deficiency in defending his arguments. He was stubbornly foolish when it came to these things, and she wasn’t sure whether it stemmed from an unshakeable faith in the establishment or a fear that if what he held true wasn’t true, then what was truth at all… She inhaled deeply and calmed her voice, she was irritated, not angry.

“Yes honey,” she gave him a small smile, “I know you can’t build things like that,” she snapped her fingers to show what she meant, “But at the same time, it doesn’t take ten years to build a road, they’re obviously lying!”

“Okay, okay, let’s just hear what they’re saying.”

Jim held his hand up, he wasn’t in the mood for his wife’s long, winding, philosophical arguments. Besides, the reporter was speaking again.


“…The contractor has ensured the project will be completed this year, as soon as extra funds are made available by the government…”

“Ha!” Carol exclaimed, unable to hold herself, “More funds?! Like they haven’t sunk billions into it already? This country is a joke and they are taking us for fools,” she was flustered now, her irritation slowly bubbling over as the news continued on, flowing hot and burning and turning into the first stirrings of anger.

Jim waved her down again as he leaned forward to catch the reporters words, reaching over across the couch to pat her hand as he did.

“…It will be the first express highway of its kind in Africa, and is projected to inject some five billion into the economy once completed…”

“See?” Jim was euphoric as he turned to face a sullen Carol, “See dear? They say it’ll be good for the economy! You know, you have to spend money to make money,” he added, a sage look coming over his round cheeked face.

Carol physically resisted shouting out. She fixed a painful looking smile on her face and inwardly kicked herself for having started this.

“So,” she took a deep breath, “We should allow them to spend over eight billion of our tax money,” she held up her hand to silence him as he opened his mouth to interject, “Four billion which is unaccounted for by the way,” she glared at him as he started to protest.

“And then allow them to ask for more money, all because we might get five billion back in the end?” she was breathing heavily and a light sweat was dampening the underarms of her silk pyjamas.

“But my dear,” Jim started to reach for her then thought better of it and pulled back, she didn’t look like she wanted to be appeased, “You know the president promised that if any funds were actually looted, the culprits will be held accountable. He said they’ll face the full wrath of…”

“And just how many times have we heard that one before?” Carol’s eyes rolled of their own accord, “We hear of lots of prosecutions, but where are the convictions?”

Jim shook his head slowly, at a loss for words and a counter argument, but still unwilling to accept the administration he’d supported and voted for could be so wrong.

He raised his arm again, gently hushing her and returning his focus to the young, tired looking reporter standing now on the side of a forested cliff, looking down into a beautiful, deep valley dotted with miniscule trees.

“…The contractor has now petitioned the government to extend the timeline for the dam’s completion, as it awaits a parliamentary decision to award it an extra three billion…”

Carols mouth fell open.

“…Money it says is necessary due to unexpected engineering issues. It should be noted that this is the same contractor responsible for the stalled highway project…”

Carol leaped up, stuttering, her eyes bulging. It really was too much. But Jim had already swooped to his governments rescue.

“Carol,” he began, assuming a tone one would use on an irate toddler, “Carol dear, engineering issues are serous,” his kind eyes grew wide, “if they don’t make sure the dam is structurally sound, then…”

But Carol had her head thrown back now and she was laughing, hard, at the absurdity of it all. How could she be mad? What would her anger do?

“Sure Jim,” she paused in the midst of her hilarity, “I’m sure they need the extra funds for exactly that,” she was sure he wouldn’t notice her sarcasm, he was too relieved the argument was seemingly over.

“…Thank you Alfred for that feature. Now in other news…” the young reporter had disappeared and the news cut back to the studio, where an even younger lady with perfectly coiffed hair sat, shuffling papers before her, languidly staring into the screen, “…there are reports that new chairs ordered for parliament will each cost seventy thousand…”

Carol inhaled so sharply that the air she sucked through her clenched teeth made a shrill whistling sound. Jim froze.