Hands Across the Water

Dear Howard,

I hope this letter finds you in good health and cheerful spirits. I was most happy to learn of your daughter’s successful performance in her school play. I would have given anything to have been there with you in the front row. Please congratulate her for me. And my best wishes to Kyle on his 13th birthday and entry into manhood.

And thanks for those pix of your new car. Needless to say, I am quite envious. Even though I bear the title ‘Senior Executive Director of Extraneous Accounts’ at my bank I still transport myself to work on a rusty old bicycle. Can you imagine? But I am familiar with the Audi Q5. Twelve-way power front seats and rain sensing windshield wipers — very impressive! Congratulations on an excellent choice, Howard.

You are kind to enquire about the health and welfare of my family and I am going to be frank and divulge that things are not going as smoothly as they could be. I’m afraid the Good Lord has seen fit to bestow his graces elsewhere in our hour of need. More about that further on — let’s first take a look at the bright side of things.

Our enterprise is proceeding according to plan. The Anglo-Bauchi Petroleum, Gas & Mineral Company residue assets are now safely deposited in the vault of Van der Kamp Securities, Intl. in Amsterdam. All the modalities and bureaucratic red tape that we have struggled with over these past months are behind us. My solicitors are still waiting for your final instalment of the pre-agreed pro forma transaction fees to show up in our account at the Fortuna Banque s.c. in Luxembourg — but with the exception of that minor detail all that remains is the arrangement of your flight and rendezvous with Mr. Carogan, B.L., S.A.N, in Amsterdam.

Once the final instalment of pro forma transaction fees arrives at the Fortuna Banque s.c., Mr Carogan, B.L., S.A.N., will be given the go-ahead to hand over the codes and necessary affidavits for access to the Van der Kamp vault. Nsido mfinna mfo? It is still not clear to me what sort of problems you are experiencing in the execution of the transfer. Once again, I profusely apologise for the last minute switch of receiving banks — this was an unforeseeable technicality I had no control over, but the Fortuna Banque s.c. is a highly respected financial institution that your U.S. bank should have no difficulty transacting with.

Now, I promised to tell you what is happening on our side of the Atlantic. Laila’s trypanosomiasis has not released its grip on her frail body in spite of the medicines you helped us obtain. (We thank you and your family every night in our prayers for the gift of those medicines.) Laila spends most of her days in bed now, and I am tending to her needs best I can short of jeopardising my position at the bank. Both my job, and the domestic duties I have shouldered on account of my wife’s illness, suffer from the problem with my eyes, which has exacerbated considerably since I last wrote to you. Though I do my best to hide this infirmity at work, I think my secretary is on to me, as the other day she witnessed my mistaking a stack of one-thousand naira notes for five-hundreds.

I realize that if I am to keep my sight an operation is inevitable and if I am to hope for a halfway decent chance of success it must be done at a private clinic. Public healthcare is not up to spiff here. Nevertheless, my primary concern now is to make my wife’s situation as comfortable and painless as possible. My ailments, which are trivial in comparison with Laila’s, can be addressed at a later date.

But, enough said about these misfortunes. God works his wonders in strange ways. It is not for us, his children, to understand, but to keep the faith, no matter where our shepherd leads us. And as he taketh with one hand he givith with the other. For surely it is the Lord’s intervention that has guided your goodself and I to the mutual providences of our enterprise. And as we give thanks to our maker for his bounty, we may also most rightfully congratulate ourselves on a mission well accomplished. God helps those who help themselves.

Howard, in a world of no few crooks, thieves and disreputable characters in general, it is inspiring and heartwarming to think that two strangers from lands and cultures so far removed despite the enormous imbalance in our economic situations, living conditions, child mortality rates, predicted life-spans, etc. and so on, can connect with one another aided by trust, discretion, and mutual respect.

And just imagine what future has in store. With the vast Anglo-Bauchi Petroleum, Gas & Mineral Company residue assets in your safekeeping you will be able to multiply your already substantial philanthropic activities. (Have I told you that these activities were the deciding factor in my choosing you as a partner?) Keep it up, Howard, but by all means, do not neglect to simultaneously invest in the greater comforts and luxuries you and your dear family so richly deserve.

In your last letter you expressed embarrassment over my mistaking the background of your family portrait to be a public sports facility or perhaps a commercial theme park. Don’t be silly. I would be the last person to resent you having an olympic-sized swimming pool and what appears to be a massive collection of mechanized toys and aquatic sporting equipment. Please, no guilt, Howard! You are not personally to blame for the poverty and devastation here in my part of the world caused first. by our previous colonial masters, and now, by our own greedy civil servants. It is not your fault that Laila and I have lost two children to dysentery inflicted by polluted drinking water, or that the air we breathe is contaminated with chemical waste from industries run by criminals. You can not singlehandedly save the entire planet, my friend. Take comfort in the noble deeds you already perform. And remember the words of your great prophet, Mr. Milton Friedman: Wealthy neighbors make us all wealthier — poor neighbors cement us in poverty.

Now, may I say a few words about this Mr. FitzPatrick, who has butted into our collaboration with wild, erroneous and libelous attacks on my honor and my integrity. I must say, Howard, I am somewhat astounded that you would lend an ear to his prevarications and falsification of the facts at hand: facts that I have laid out for you with irrefutable references, verifications and substantiations backed with authentic historical documents.

I am even more shocked that Mr. FitzPatrick was granted admission to your home. I have lived a tougher life than you, Howard. I’ve seen people like Mr. FitzPatrick in action. I know their types. I assure you he has an agenda of his own. He smells money and influence. He is scandalizing me in an attempt to worm his way into your confidence. Don’t let him pull the wool over your eyes, Howard. Don’t let him sabotage — at this penultimate moment, as we teeter on the threshold of success — the mutual trust and friendship we have established.

Howard. I am wiser than you in these matters. You are too kind and too naive. You lead a sheltered life, while we live by the laws of the jungle here (no pun intended). Keep Mr. FitzPatrick away from your lovely wife and daughter. Don’t let him enter your house again! Let him take his devious schemes elsewhere. Shame on him!

Enough of that. Mr. Carogan B.L., S.A.N., tells me the weather is unexpectedly nippy for this time of year in Amsterdam, and suggests that you pack a warm sweater or two. How unfortunate that my difficulties here prevent me from meeting you in person. But there will be ample opportunities in the future. Rest assured.

Laila sends her love and prayers. It was tenderly endearing to see her leave her bed and dress and groom herself for the pictures I am enclosing here. She wanted to look her best for you, Howard. You mean so much to her.

Your most dedicated and humble servant,

P.S. Laila says that if she could wish for anything it would be that you could visit us in our humble abode while she is still strong enough to prepare you a traditional Ibibio dinner. The pictures of your lovely family adorn a spot of honor on the night table beside her sickbed which we have drawn out onto the porch of our house to take advantage of the cool evening breezes.

P.S.S. Please let me know right away if you are still experiencing difficulties with the Fortuna Banque s.c. in Luxembourg! Do you have the correct SWIFT? FOTNLUL1. If problems persist, don’t dilly-dally, but send me your own complete account information, and I will see what I can do from my end. We are so close to our goal, Howard, let us not falter at the finish line.

P.S.S.S. Father Charles thanks you for your concern as to the welfare of his parishioners, but would have me inform you that the fighting between Muslims and Christians which has erupted in other parts of our country has not raised his ugly head here. Not yet, in any case. If you, despite this lack of immediate danger, would still like to make a contribution towards the heightened security of our church. Father Charles would be most appreciative. He has asked me to act as a fiduciary go-between in the event you feel inclined to get involved. As you may gather from what I have already written, I have my hands full, but when it comes to matters of the church, I really can’t say no, and you already have my Western Union bank deposit details.

One last minute observation: I was astonished to learn that you are an Arsenal supporter, seeing as how you are an American and all. I too mourn the loss of Fabregas and Nasri, but Wenger will always make the best of what he has and let’s just hope that Van Persie doesn’t desert us as well.

One thought on “Hands Across the Water

  1. Pingback: Addendum to Hands Across the Water | Greg FitzPatrick's Short Fiction

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