*Recounted “off-the-record” by Personal Secretary Bugga to our intrepid correspondent, Farhan Faltoo.
HOURS BEFORE THE PRESSER:
Karachiites must be Allah’s chosen people.
Noah got one chance to save himself and his kin from the Great Flood, but here these cockroaches survive year after year. But God also gave them the brains of amnesic bovine and Judases for public officials. So, as clockwork, here we are again.
A soupy sea of monsoonal rain the yuckiest shade of muck had swept over the city’s potholed roads. As a bonus, clumps of feces and dead rodents filmed its surface and stank like Satan’s armpits.
And beyond what was yesterday the curb painted as a hornet’s abdomen, someone’s dinky red hatchback submerged up to its sewage-stained door handles.
Atop the hatchback’s humped roof, Mayor Akhtar posed as a reptilian Cleopatra: one forearm propping his torso above the slick surface, while his chicken legs outspread to the windscreen.
His soppy head tipped toward the funeral-gray heavens that grumbled and speared him with silvery bullets.
Some twenty feet away, squatting on the blessedly elevated sidewalk, I wrestled on my galoshes and slipped the raincoat’s hood snug over my greasy hair.
Why’s this fool out there? Bah, the only upside of working for antique politicians is their gift for finding lucrative gigs after leaving office.
It’s a Faustian bargain, but there’s no other deal in town. Otherwise, I would’ve shoved him before a speeding train years ago. Probably earned a medal for heroism, too.
Within eyeshot, an assortment of cars like grim islands drifted over the ignoble sea. Their destination was doubtless the great nullah (storm drain) at the edge of town where the dreams of middle-class vehicle owners went to die.
As they passed, the row of beige shopping plazas bordering the sidewalk resounded with angry chatter and mournful wails. It had to be the owners of said dreams witnessing their accursed luck.
Welcome to Pakistan.
Drip-dripping from the drizzle, I waddled toward Mayor Akhtar through the liquid filth. I could’ve sworn a massive beaky jaw chomped on a bag of trash up the road and pulled it under. Shuddering, I soldiered on.
“Congratulations, boss,” I said with fake cheer. “Now we can go lynch some peasants in Dadu.”
His permanently harried eyes glanced at me sidelong, and his bowlike lips parted as if he’d kissed a poisonous toad.
“The chief minister refused to deal,” he said dully and returned to sky gazing.
My mouth scrunched up at the news. Goddammit, what did he say to piss off that loon?
“But I thought the fiefdom was yours for staying mum about corruption?” I asked in an unexpected tenor.
He scrubbed his cheeks and with a spindly knuckle rapped the roof. “The party’s cross dresser-in-chief must be behind this. They won’t take the fall for Karachi this time.”
My bowels gurgled from the lunchtime plate of kebab fried rice and I held my gut. Crap, what if this moron returns to the family business? I can’t wield a pistol right, much less accept contract kills.
“Can’t you coerce them somehow?” I asked insistently.
He lay back; his hands braided behind his nape. “I’d love to dangle him off the Icon Tower in his birthday suit, but the sacred cows are everywhere and…”
At once he rolled onto his side and with pop-eyes, shushed me. “Secret agents,” he muttered.
A small procession of hangdog locals waded by us; their heads loaded with tinware and earthenware that must total their personal fortunes.
Shamefaced, I looked away and suspired. If these wretches are secret agents, then I'm Superman. But as always, they’ll forget their woes in a month and return to merrymaking. No wonder politics is such a profitable business.
“What now?” I asked as their outlines grew smaller.
His Ned Flanders mustache twitched and a loud sob escaped him. “That’s not the worse part. The fiends took Peaches hostage to ensure I exit without a fuss.”
“Huh? Your wife’s named Peaches?”
“No, you cretin," he spat. “The love of my life, my beloved husky.”
I checked my explosive urge to face-palm. He’s done for. I should set up a kebab stall or something before he lands us both in prison.
Mayor Akhtar sprawled onto his back, covered his weepy face with an arm, and noisily sniffled.
I raised a weak thumbs-up. “Good luck, boss. I best clear out my office then.” I wheeled round and plodded toward the sidewalk.
“You’re leaving?” he asked, surprised.
I glimpsed over the shoulder and threw him a curt, two-fingered salute.
He instantly sat up and gobbled his dissent. “No, no, you can’t go anywhere. You’re going to jail.”
I missed a step and nearly gulped a mouthful of slime. “What?”
His head bobbed on repeat. “I agreed to trade you for my beloved. And I still get to slam them at the farewell presser!”
The drizzle, like my luck, dwindled. I scowled at him; my balled fists quaking. “Why should I go to jail?”
He gaped as if I'd missed the bleeding obvious. “Someone must take responsibility for this mess,” he said, gesturing about him with a hand.
I snorted and jabbed my finger at him. “Yes, you! I’m not the mayor.”
He flinched for a beat and then solemnly shook his head. “That’s not how it works, sonny. We cannot weaken our hard-won democracy.”
Why, this mother-loving ingrate! Years of loyal service and he sells me down the river for a stupid pooch. Good thing I know mules who’ll smuggle me across the border into Iran.
I backed away from him while eyeing the road for cops and aquatic carnivores.
He made a sturgeon face and shrugged. “NAB already has the forged evidence. Look, I’ll employ you with better pay after you’re paroled in a decade, okay?”
A DECADE? @#$$^&**!!
A circle of cartoony cuckoos began the cha-cha before my bleary eyes. I slumped into the floodwater, punch-drunk.
“Think I’ll go for a swim,” I said, weakly treading water.
“Bugga,” he hollered, getting to his feet and waving his arms. “There might be crocs round here.”
“They got nothing on you treacherous snakes.”
THE HEADLINE NEXT MORNING:
KARACHI: Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar, in his farewell speech on Monday, said he remained under stress during his entire tenure due to the Sindh government as it did not cooperate with him in the city’s development.
“They want to destroy and plunder the city. They could not make Larkana, Sehwan and Dadu. [They] ruined Mirpurkhas. Now they are here to destroy the city,” said the disgruntled mayor.
He further said that he has been “working hard” for the last four years but the provincial government never gave him any funds.
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