Hi, this is my contribution to a Short Story Day Africa prompt.
Zaina glanced at her sleeping husband and then at the bulky belt she was to wear to Jumat prayers, eyes closed, praying seemed futile and sleep wouldn’t come, it was as if sleep knew that something was going down today.
Adamu began to stir, he always woke up a few minutes before the muezzin called the prayer, sixteen months old and his body seemed in tune with life in the bush, she smiled at him as she pushed his thumb back into his puckered mouth. The one good thing to come out of this mess. Gosh, she thought, I’m a 15 year old mother, what are the odds? That was her father’s favourite phrase, said solemnly when anyone was fretting about anything. When mama thought the rains wouldn’t come, “what are the odds that we’ll all starve?” he said. When her sister Felicia had refused an arranged marriage and mama began to wail, throwing herself on the floor as if someone had died. Papa calmly said “what are the odds that her life is over? I’m sure they’ll be others.
Husband was awake.
“Make we do am one last time before you go see your friends for Janaa” he said chuckling.
“Yes sir,” she said fingering the object concealed beneath her hijab.
It went in like a hot knife in soft shea butter, he let out a gurgle as life and air rushed out of him.
What are the odds that I’ll make it home? She thought strapping Adamu to her back.
Hi there, this is a story I posted as part of a short story day Africa prompt of an owl in flight.
Bobby hoped every night would be his last. Mama twins, his father’s second wife had threatened to leave him in the forest, she said he was a bad omen.
She blamed him for everything, his mother’s death, Taiwo’s convulsions and his father’s latest bout of malaria. He didn’t have the guts to tell her that his mother had sickle cell disease and his father was drunk. How was he going to convince her that at nine years old he couldn’t be held responsible for the family’s misfortunes?
He would have pointed out that her twins were the strange ones. Four years old, they spoke a mixture of English, some secret language that no one could understand and baby babble. He’d seen them talking to the blue eyed owl, it always seemed to be perched on the bougainvillea tree outside their bedroom window. The tree shed every day, he got a beating if a single leaf was found under the tree, blue eyes laughed at every stroke.
As he swept up the leaves for the nth time he noticed the twins playing catch with a stick. Old blue eyes began to flap and hoot. It swooped down and grabbed the snake as it leaned in to take a bite of a small chubby leg.
Kenny began to cry,
‘Where sticky gone?’
Taiwo joined in.
‘Wetin you dey do to my picken?’ mama twins growled.
‘Nothing oh!’ said Bobby as the owl flew off with its prey.
Bobby sighed, ‘thank you mama’.
Hi, I have met a number of church leaders that are so inspirational that I could listen to the word all day long and a few that have the gift of the gab – saying what you want to hear and behaving totally different in private, I know that they are just people and people are fallible, but the hypocrisy of some church leaders really gets on my nerves.
This post is a slice of pure fiction.
‘No perfect people allowed’ – screamed the inscription above the church door, it seemed to mock him, he was not perfect, he was flawed, and defective and yeah he knew it.
How did he become someone he despised? did he really have an alter ego? was his mad bad self a figment of his imagination? Did he have some mental block? when did he became so unrecognisable from the cool Mr Do-good exterior he portrayed to the world?, was it being an only child? a high achieving only child whose parents gave in to his every whim, or was it his good looks? well that wasn’t his fault? but it very much to his advantage, a combination of German and African genes had given him a six foot frame, caramel skin, a perfect nose and green eyes – yes, it was his eyes that did it, they got him everything he wanted, the eyes definitely have it!
He got our of his car and walked the short distance to the church, a few of the regulars had arrived and were chatting about football as usual, they turned to welcome him.
“Good morning pastor Martyn” they chorused, like little children saying good morning to the head teacher, he grinned “Good morning, what a lovely day, made even lovelier by seeing you all here so early to hear God’s word!”
She walked in, she had worn the long sleeve blouse he had laid out for her, it would cover the bruises, it was her fault, she asked too many questions; where was he going? Why did he always have to solve other people’s problems? He was a pastor not a member of a peace keeping force, she went on and on until he snapped. She nodded at him, he could see the hurt quickly replaced by disgust and then the calm, welcoming face of a pastor’s wife.
“Good morning, welcome to Baruwa Baptist church, how are you?” she turned to welcome a group of over dressed women.
“Fine thanks” said the lady in the tight yellow dress.
She had worn it, perfect, he thought – things were looking up.
A little bit of fiction on a grey afternoon in London.
Three o’clock in the afternoon, Nira stood outside the Holloway prison waiting for her to come out, she had had to park a least a mile away, the 30 or so visitor parking spaces had been taken, 30 spaces! What a joke, the prison had probably been built in a time when no one had cars! She read the plaque on the wall, built in 1852 as a correction facility for women of disrepute and then rebuilt in 1971, surely they had cars then.
Harry and Rabi had refused to come, Rabi mentioned something about a bad hair day and Harry said he had to study for his exams, as if one day away from his books would diminish his chances of getting an A * in whatever subjects he was studying. Nira had lost track of who was doing what, it wasn’t easy paying the bills and making sure her siblings were fed and watered.
Muma – as they all called their mother – had been in lock-up for four years, aunty Sheila had moved in with them for two years – then on her 18th birthday, she declared:
“Nira, it’s time for you to step up, your useless father is nowhere to be seen, but your mother has taught you well, it’s time for me to go.”
And with that she handed everything over, made sure they had enough money for the next three months and said good bye – and that is how 18 year old Nira became the lady in charge of a household with two sulky teenagers, it seemed great at first, but then reality began to bite.
Nira checked her grey suit again, as she knew Muma’s first comment would be about her clothes.
Muma was always done up, Papa used to joke that when she was expecting and her ‘water’ broke, the first thing she asked for was her lipstick and then the hospital bag, “One must look good no matter what the situation is!” Yes oh, Muma always looked good, it was her reason for being, looking good, but never actually doing any good, or caring about the 3 children she left behind in her quest for fast money and a fast life.
She was supposed to be let out at 15:30, thirty minutes more to wait, people were looking around but not at each other, it seemed that everybody was trying to avoid looking at the other person, who wants to run into an old friend at the prison gates and admit that you’re here to pick your mum up. The whole neighbourhood probably knew what she was in for, people had often asked what her parents did for a living, some kind of business she would say, something in import and export she’d quickly add when she got a funny look.
“You’re a bit young to be a solicitor, said the lady at the reception.
“She’s not, this is my daughter”
“Hi Muma, you look well”
“What are you wearing? How many times have I told you to wear more colour?
“Grey on a grey rainy afternoon is just too much, let’s go shopping”.
Ten o’clock on a Friday morning and Balogun Market was teeming as usual, there were hordes of people in every direction moving like worker ants on a mission.
Nearly every 5 seconds someone would thrust something in your face.
A boy of about 10 who should have been in school showed me an array of phones attached to his clothing.
“Sister, make you look, I get latest design iPhone” he pointed to an iPhone 4
Another teenage lad came up: “Sister, make you watch ya bag, professional people dey operate for this area oh, pounds dey, dollars dey, I give you good price.”
And on it went, the hustle to make a buck amidst the chaos that is, and will always be Balogun market, Lagos Island. You either loved it or hated it; it was the only place to get everything you needed at a good price.
As a child, I’d fake an illness to get out of going – in the rainy season especially, the market would be dotted with the pot holes of rain, mixed with the contents of the overflowing gutters whilst the smell of the open sewers wrestled with barbecue beef and chicken.The aroma of fried bean cakes and plantain would make your stomach rumble – although common sense told you it was not the place to eat, your stomach thought otherwise. Mum would feel my sticky, sweat-slicked forehead and declaring that I had malaria, would promptly prescribe chloroquine – I’d pretend to swallow and spit it out as soon as her back was turned – anything to get of trudging pot-holed roads when I could be watching MTV.
“Sister, you want buy brassiere?” said another and shoved a few undergarments in my face, bringing me back down to earth, I stared.
“I get Wonderbra, latest design, make I bring size 36 for you?”
He/she was clearly a man in a dress and a push-up bra that would have made Eva Herzigova jealous.
“Wow,” I said. “Are you for real?
“Yes oh, dem dey call me Jordan”
Gosh, this is progress I thought, a man dressed as a woman walking the streets of Lagos Island and no-one bats an eyelid.
It’s a marketing ploy, my cynical self said.
It’s a jolly good one, thought my optimistic self and promptly bought two brassieres from Jordan.
She thanked me and sashayed away, jumping over potholes as you do in Balogun market.
I did it, I cut it all off! Me and my teeny weeny afro will be going walkabout with Storm Katie!
I put on my hoop earrings, did my make-up and headed to work.
‘What happened to your hair?’
‘G’morning Mark,’ I said.
‘No, really what happened?’
‘Nothing!’ I said – and hurried away before he asked to touch it!
Why, you might ask? Well, I thought I’d get there before the chemo does, I’d show it who’s boss and I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about the fact that I have spent a fortune buying someone else’s hair.
Smile, it’s selfie time for me and my teeny weeny afro.
They were arguing again, papa shouted and paced, mama cowered in the corner, watching, ready to run if he moved an inch closer, he slapped her and said she deserved it.
Papa thought it was time, mama didn’t agree, so she said I was 12, I was 14, she said I was yet to be circumcised, she had promised me she wouldn’t, she said I was too skinny, I needed to be fattened up, there was no way I was going to be kept in a room, pampered day and night and fed cholesterol inducing foods just to up my bride price.
Another slap, mama began to cry, ‘get her ready, you have two years from today’
‘Sidi – come here! Write this down – Sidi will be married two years from today’
‘Yes sir’, I said, as I hurriedly wrote down the date.
I silently thanked my mum, she had just bought me two years and a stint in the fattening room, I hear things have changed and they teach girls how to cook and please their husbands, maybe it won’t be so bad after all, maybe we’ll get a good price and my mother’s pain won’t be for nothing
Mad John the traffic man
If you ever walked down Bode Thomas street, Suru-lere, in the late seventies, you’d see a man in rags, a bit mad directing the traffic, nothing new about this, there are many lost souls walking the streets of Lagos, some madder than most, some high on something or the other , some had just lost the plot and taken to rambling and hassling people to get a bite to eat, some were said to be cursed by someone or had drunk a poisonous concoction of herbs and stuff!, some were just pretending and preying on the sympathy of people, But this one was different , very different, he was sun burnt beyond recognition and his once blond hair was more dreadlock than a Rastafarian, he chewed a pipe, his clothes were torn and dirty, he wore shoes fashioned out of car tyres caked in mud, he wore what had once been some unnamed army clothes and some occasions he would wear an Agbada and stroll around, on the Agbada days he did not direct the traffic, but weaved in and out of the cars, saluting and praising the Shell club lot as we called them, the ones who were in the with in crowd, the occupants in cars with the tinted windows were mostly likely to take pity on a mad white man, they would wind down slightly and toss a few Naira. And the other white folk in their 4 by 4 and SUVs, well, they would stare straight ahead or read the paper –who would want to be associated with the crazy white man directing the traffic in 82 degrees heat, not many! but I was curious.
He was quite good at what he did, cars never bumped into each on the Mad John days, the go –slow that Lagos is famous for seemed to melt away when he was in charge. We named him Mad John the traffic man – it had a ring to it!
No-one knew where he came from or what Nationality he was; he spoke French, English and Italian! He was so good at fooling the various officials that came from the Embassies, rumour has it that when people from the UK high commission came he spoke Italian, when the Italians came he spoke French and when the French came – he decided on Finnish and claimed he was from Belgium, so they all left claiming that they could not take responsibility for him as he was not one of theirs, where in the world did he come from , how did he get there and why did no-one care?
No one did until me and my two brothers decided life in Suru-lere Baptist school was getting a little tedious and we needed some excitement, the teachers were more interested in their little side gigs, selling one thing or the other or arguing over whose turn it was to get the money from the current pardner scheme they were operating. Well we needed a project our own side gig, why? I hear you say, didn’t we have anything to learn in the 70s school system in Lagos, were we also a little mad? Well may be, we were bored, mad and in search of Adventure and a money making venture. We came up with the idea that if we could find out who mad john was, his family would give us a reward, we might even get a trip to wherever he was from.
‘London, USA or America’ said Bode the youngest of my brother, ‘stupid said the other, USA and America are the same place!
May be letting 7 year bode was a bit foolish, Taiwo and I would just have to find out who mad – John was
back in the day there were two school sessions, morning and afternoon, we were in the morning session and finished school around 13:00, just in time to see Mad John the traffic man direct the afternoon rush. kids from the Baptist school on Modupe Johnson just stood and looked at we’d ask him questions about his day,