Sentinel Literary Quarterly

Vol.2 No.3, April 2009. ISSN 1753-6499 (Online).

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Abayomi O. Zuma
Akinlabi Peter
Angela Nwosu
Ashley Capes
Benjamin Beresford
Gregory A Lawson
Lola Shoneyin
Matthew Coombe
Nnorom Azuonye
Nnorom Azuonye (2)
Simon Green
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The Interesting Case of

Joseph Sangala


by Gregory Akinbowale Lawson


Joseph Sangala had always considered himself to be a lucky man. In fact he considered himself to be probably one of the luckiest people in the world. He was born on the day the pipe-borne water was introduced into his village of Tompiko. As a result, he was the first baby to benefit from the joys of adequate water supply at child birth. What nobody told us was the fact that he was also the first baby to be afflicted with the water borne rash which accompanied the introduction of the pipe borne system. Being the only child born on that fateful day, all the villagers knew and associated him with the introduction of better things to come to Tompiko. He crawled, walked and ran in the comfort of villagers who revered him and who looked to him for good luck while some even prayed for his type of luck. True to the circumstances surrounding his birth Joseph Sangala went through life based on luck.


He was a happy, jovial fellow who walked through life with the ease of one who had never known any worries. On his first day at the local village school which could only accommodate one hundred and fifty students per class, Joseph got enrolled as the one hundred and fiftieth student for that class. He went through his primary school more or less guessing his way through exams and on the day of his national common entrance exam into secondary school, he was given the answers to all his questions by a man he was sure he had never seen before. What Joseph did not know was that the answers were meant to be for Aliki the son of the village chief who had paid for the answers to be delivered to him so that his son may be accepted to the City Secondary School. As luck would have it Aliki was wearing the same type of striped blue jacket Joseph was wearing. Needless to say, Joseph got accepted to the city secondary school on merit and on scholarship no less, to become the first indigene of Tompiko to go to Secondary school. This of course added to the legend that was fast becoming Joseph Sangala.


The news of Joseph’s imminent move to the city was met with great joy and celebrations by the villagers as it was believed that, just as his luck had brought water to the village of Tompiko, it was just a matter of time before his luck (and of course his intelligence) brought higher education to its people. So as not to be denied the chance of being part of the village history, most of the villagers brought in what they could, from pieces of banana so that he would not starve, to their youngest daughters (which his parents humbly declined). A few weeks later, Joseph packed his bags and belongings and donning his striped blue jacket (the same one), headed for the nearest bus park which was many miles away. With his leisurely pace and happy smile, greeting all and everyone, he got to the bus park and headed to the bus going to the city. As he got into the bus he couldn’t help noticing that he took the last available seat. The bus conductor also noted that, had not the poor lady who got off the bus a few minutes earlier not realised that she may have left the stove in her house burning, he would not have been able to get to the city for another 4 weeks when the next bus to the city was leaving. ‘Ah’ said Joseph, ‘I guess I am just lucky’ he continued, with a wink.


The seventeen-hour long journey to the city began with all the passengers chatting and making merry. Gradually they all calmed down and after a couple of hours, most were dozing. When the bus made a temporary stop, one of many, most passengers got off to ease themselves the various way they knew how to but not Joseph. In all his excitement he did not want to get off until he reached he city. Unfortunately, he did not know his physiology as much as he thought he did, for some minutes after the bus resumed its journey, Joseph felt the need to ease himself rather urgently. After three hours, with the need so bad, he was sure his bladder would explode. He begged the bus driver to make an unscheduled stop so he could get off but the driver adamantly refused. Had the driver known the legend of Joseph Sangala he might have reconsidered. With the next scheduled stop not for another 45 minutes, he almost began to weep. As soon as the bus stopped for its next break, Joseph was out in flash and running into the woods before the driver had even shut the engine. He ran into the wood and did his business. After about 10 minutes, Joseph Sangala returned to the bus grinning and back to his happy self. The moment he got on to the bus he knew something was wrong. The bus conductor (the same) explained to him that a few moments after the bus stopped (and of course after Joseph left) they were attacked by a group of armed robbers who robbed everyone on the bus and took all their money and jewellery and left just a few moments before Joseph returned from the bushes. Had the passengers not known how pressed Joseph was, they would have thought he had orchestrated the whole thing.


As Joseph’s luck was in the village, so it was in the city and virtually on everything. In school Joseph would only study a few hours prior to the time of any of his tests and examinations. And to the surprise of all his friends, the preset questions would almost revolve around the little bit he had studied. Even in his social life, circumstances always made him meet the most attractive women and his confidence grew in multiple folds, which did not hurt his appeal in any case. These things happened so often that he was given the nickname ‘Lucky Joe’. Lucky Joe was so lucky that he was never challenged to games of chance because the outcome was always predictable. At the age when he considered himself a man, Lucky Joe decided that the city was too small for him and the world was his to conquer. After watching a series of movies in the city cinema, he decided that America was his destination and was determined to continue his life there. He decided to take part in the city lottery which for some reason he never did before, but maybe the magnitude of his ambition eventually convinced him, or the fact that he did not really have any money to his name.


He won the city lottery he played for which though, was not a great amount, but enough. He went to the American consulate to request a visa and there he met the consular who issued him a limited stay tourist visa without much ado. What he did not know was that the night before, the consul’s wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, the couple’s first child. A child they had been expecting for 9 years since their marriage. The consul was in such in a good mood that he failed to notice (or if he did, did not seem to mind) that lucky Joe was unemployed, had no significant ties to his home country and indeed applied for an indefinite stay in America.  Had conditions been otherwise he would have been rejected a visa without much thought. Lucky Joe went back to his home and called all his friends to tell them the good news. 


The news of lucky Joe’s imminent move to America was met with great joy and celebration by his city friends, in part due to genuine affection, and in part due to the sheer joy that the guy who they believed might be taking off their portion of luck is leaving to a distant land and maybe they would be relatively lucky in his absence. As a show of goodwill his friends contributed and bought him a card. On his way to the airport, they handed it to him and said ‘this is something for good luck’. Lucky Joe took the card, still in the envelop, tossed it in his handbag and said ‘boys, of all people, you should know that I do not need luck, in fact luck needs me’ and with his happy face left to the airport in his blue stripped jacket.


On his way to the airport Lucky Joe met with one of the worst traffics of the day. However great the cab driver tried to wriggle in between lanes, they always seemed to get into the slow lane. Finally, they got to the airport and as Joe was running to the check in desk, the strap of his hand bag cut loose. He managed to gather all his things together and ran to the desk and to his dismay it was closed. The lady in a blue uniform informed him that he just missed the check in attendants by seconds and he would have to catch another flight. For the first time in his life, Lucky Joe cursed his luck. He bought another ticket leaving that day.


Joseph arrived in America in a foul mood clutching his bag very closely to his chest seeing as it had no functioning strap added to the fact that his funds were massively depleted by the purchase of another ticket. After about 45minutes of queuing on the line in passport control, he finally got to the immigration officer. One look at a frowning, obviously distressed Joseph Sangala, the immigration officer decided this was going to be the object of frustration. The frustration caused by the divorce papers he received from his wife’s lawyer earlier in the day. He asked Joseph about his employment status, social status and reason for visit. Joseph duly answered unemployed, single and no specific reason respectively. Not surprisingly, he was recommended to more officials for further questioning. There he was searched and during the course of the search the unscrupulous James Smith, who was known to have no sense of people’s privacy came across the card that Joseph’s friend gave him. Mr Sangala, he said, ‘may I?’ and without waiting for a response proceeded to reading the card. Boldly written on the card were the words. ‘Best of Luck Joseph Sangala as you Conquer America


Lucky Joe was refused entry into the United States of America.


The End.


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Gregory A Lawson writes short stories as well as poetry. He is a Medical Doctor and Public health officer. He has lived most of his adult life in Budapest, Hungary and currently writes from London. Hobbies include playing and watching football and chess.



Sentinel Literary Quarterly

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