My day began on a dismal note as I watched neighbours go out to earn a living while I stayed back, yet again, hoping for the lucky break. Whenever I left the house, it was to search for a personal space in the vast hunting ground out there. Each time, I returned home dejected like a little wolf that had strayed from its pack. Like a lonely and disadvantaged jackal trying to hunt in a lion-infested jungle, potential employers spurned me repeatedly.

I had looked far and wide; searched long and hard! Fresh from school and brimming over with ideas, the desire to show off my journalistic skills drove me. I wondered why employers did not appear as excited as I was.

This Friday morning, I sat at my desk, head in hands, contemplating my next move when the call came through.

“Mr Daisi Joseph?” Though I did not know who it was, the sound of her voice warmed my heart.

“Speaking …,” I responded, curious to know what she looked like.

“Mr Daisi, your appointment has been confirmed by the Board of the HPC Newspapers. Accept my congratulations!”

“Hello! Hello!!” I stood up, dazed and uncomprehending.

“Mr Daisi?” It was the secretary of the newspaper company where, three weeks earlier, I had interviewed for a job.

“Yes … em … yes … thank you. Did you say I have a job with HPC?”

“That’s right, Mr Daisi. I will send a provisional letter of appointment to your inbox shortly. Do let me know soon if you will accept the offer.” It sounded like a joke when she asked if I wanted the job.

“Yes, of course, of course! Thank you.”

“Congratulations again!” she said, ending the call.

Forgetting to move, I stood fixed in the centre of my room, mobile phone glued still to my left ear several seconds after the call ended. I had so longed to hear this sort of news that when it finally came, I was stupefied.

In my response to the mail, I indicated my willingness to begin work immediately. The next day or even on Sunday was fine with me but the secretary of the Herald Publishing Consortium, HPC, said no. As I waited for the weekend to end, my anxiety grew and sleep was scarce.

Monday morning, I awoke with a vacuous feeling which, before long, blossomed into nervousness. As dawn peeked into the day and the morning grey faded out, I was out of the house, caffeine-driven and restless, reaching the HPC premises a full hour too early. So I passed the time at the gatehouse.

The secretary’s office was not hard to find. Well-organized with moderate decorations, her office was cosy. Books were shelved; no papers strewed the room or sprawled from a pile.

“Good morning. How may I help you?” the secretary’s teeth flashed in warm reception. Her nameplate showed Laide Thomas. Mrs or Miss?

“My name is Joseph Daisi. I …”

“Oh, Mr Daisi!” she cut in, adding, “Please take a seat.”

She spoke softly into the phone for a few seconds.

“The Chief will see you now,” Ms Thomas said, motioning with her hand to indicate the Chief’s office.

I smiled and gently nodded my appreciation.

A quarter hour later, I came back to the secretary’s office where contract papers were ready for me to sign. Done with that, an office assistant showed me to my workstation.

My office turned out to be the entire newsroom—a massive warehouse of people and instruments. I was totally disoriented by the sight that assailed me.

At home, when a piece of paper grew restless and littered my reading desk, I got it back in its place at once. With disorder, and especially noise, in my surroundings my mind shut down.

Myoffice at HPC swarmed with people and hummed with industry. I stood in shocked silence, working hard to rally my stunned faculties. Bedlam of high degree possessed the room! The disarray of furniture and equipment was choking; the lack of symmetry, distressing!

I turned to my guide for consolation but she was no longer with me. I hadn’t noticed her leave. Presently, she materialized from among the crowd; close on her tail was a gangly man in a poorly tucked-in shirt and a dangling tie.

Introductions over, my guide said, “Mr Aremu will take over from here.”

Mr Aremu was the Features Editor. He and I meandered through the room until we reached a desk.

“This will be your workstation,” the editor shouted out.

“Thank you.”

Before I could sit, he gestured that I come with him. We reached his waist-level, frosted glass cubicle in a quieter corner of the newsroom.

“Should I call you Joseph or Daisi?” Mr Aremu asked as he settled into his seat.

“Joseph is fine.”

“So, Joseph, every morning, you’ll receive instructions for the day’s work from me. Your type-written report must pass through my desk before going to print.”

I stared at his huge desk, which was heavily cluttered with no space to spare. A cream-coloured cathode ray TV rendering dull grainy pictures sat someplace in the junk. His desk seemed the perfect place to lose typed reports.

“Any questions?” his voice broke through to me.

I looked up. “No; not at the moment.”

After a little more talk, we walked back to the racket in the newsroom to meet my co-workers. The dim prospect of working under these unseemly conditions made me dizzy. Though my first day at work was hardly half-spent, I felt stressed already.

In a sense, routine in a workplace would pass for order. The news studio at the Herald Publishing Consortium suffered from utter dissonance and disorderliness. But it also reeked of sameness in duties and the comatose dictates of procedures. This condition, markedly, made it doubly tragic for me!

As if he read that I feared for my mental wellbeing, the Features Editor assured me that I would get used to my work environment in under a week.

It was habitual for me to seek changes to my surroundings. Every now and then, overcome by a compulsive desire to rearrange, I delved into moving things around in my one-room apartment located in a mundane part of town. The different look would give me impetus and sustained inspiration.

My space in the newsroom was closely fitted with a desk, a straight-backed wooden chair, and just enough room to wriggle between the furniture. The desk featured my laptop, a daily HPC Newspaper rolled into a quarter, and a small area for my phone or a teacup. I had to force creativity from this one and only possible arrangement of my workstation.

Granted, its drudgery bored me to stupor already but now I had a job just like I had always wanted. Learning to minimize the impending occupational hazard of a nervous breakdown became an associated imperative. Perhaps the company of a Laide Thomas, Mrs or Miss, would serve to be therapeutic.

Posted by Lucky James

Lucky James Evbouan is a lover of stories, and his writings are imaginative and entertaining. His first collection of short stories, 'Tales from Our Past', received an honorable mention in the 2017 Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) literary competition. In 2020, he published the digital edition of 'Tales from Our Past' as well as another short story collection titled 'The Red Octopus' on OkadaBooks. Forthcoming is a digital version of 'Pieceful Life', a revised edition of his poetry formerly titled ‘Song of a Baby’. Lucky James works at the American Christian Academy in Ibadan.

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