Category Archives: Creative Writing
Busayo, a light skinned heavily breasted lady, packed into the room next to mine at a very strange time. She was dripping wet; her two leather bags clung to her hands.
The rain of August in Ibadan is not one to be joked with. It trots and tramples on lands, causing erosion, and breaks into softly nailed roofs giving those domiciled in the uncompleted building a thorough bath.
University of Ibadan had just resumed from a long vacation caused by incessant ASUU and NASU strike actions and students, some of us, had resorted to face me I face you apartments scattered all over Agbowo. I was one.
‘Are you a fresher?’ I asked Busayo, as I helped her with one of her luggage. She looked at me and shook her head here and there.
‘Oh. Sorry. Thought you were fresh,’ that was how the words snailed out of my mouth.
‘I am in my second year. You?’ she asked, as her left hand softly wipes her face.
‘I am a finalist.’
‘Seriously? What are you doing here? You should be in the hostel. D block.’I chuckled and sat on one of the two wooden chairs in her one wooden window room and uttered, ‘You know all those politics, now? I can’t lick the ass of somebody because of one tiny room. I am not complaining here, jare.’
Silence stood between us for some seconds. She was standing opposite where I sat, the rays of the sun that comes after the August rain glittering on the clothed mounds on her chest.
‘Why are you staring in that kind of manner?’ she said, puts on a smile, strained, and sits on my armchair.
‘What is the name?’ I asked her
‘Busayo,’ she replied and stands to take a walk around her new room.’
‘I am Akin. Are you sleeping here today?’
‘Depends. I am not even here with my mattress.’
I walked towards the window and smelt the fresh icy air. The rain has started again, this time less aggressive.
‘You may use my umbrella, when you are ready to go.’
‘Okay. Thanks. For the hospatility,’ Busayo said and sees me off to the door.
BEFORE THE RAIN
It was one of those evenings in November, ushering the second semester examination. Hours ago, I had left Blessing in Kenneth Dike Library.
‘Are you fucking Blessing?’ Ola, my friend since hundred levels, once challenged me.
‘Don’t be raw, Ola. I and Blessing? We are just friends, jare.’
AFTER THE RAIN
Busayo, the girl next door to mine, popped up the same question after her usual looking through my window and sitting her buttocks on my armchair, I kept mute for some seconds.
‘I don’t trust you guys. A girl sleeps over in your place and goes the next day with her thighs as dry as before? Unimaginable.’
‘You know I am a seminarian?’
‘Don’t give me thatbullshit, boy. A seminarian studying Economics, when Religious studies and Philosophy are next door?’
I laughed out loud, from the depth of my stomach, and drew my eyes towards her chest. She caught my glance and shook her head here and there.
‘I am going to my hole,’ she said and walks towards the door, but stops halfway and utters, ‘Are you impotent?’
Do not ask me to produce a fake laughter that is spiced with mockery
my laughter is pregnant with sorrows
and my moon has a cobweb
with a dangling skeleton
death calls when the blood is congealed with uncertainty
why should the cold shadow of death
tug at the hearts of precious ones without permission?
death hugged friends and loved ones with violence
death is a thug and a thief!
Death is heartless and homeless;
it roams the world looking for whom to devour
a soul was slapped in the face
she only suffered in silence
but we,whose hearts were punched with the elbow of pain,
heard her outcry in that heartless grave
while some begged for your roses,
you slapped others heartlessly
with the roses of hopelessness
DEATH is a misery knocking at doors
leaving mysteries that craves to be unraveled
The evening began when the light seemed to fade with each passing minute and all the sounds of a busy working day toned down to just an occasional spurt of a lonely engine set to work overnight on its own. It was only six o’clock but all the men, women and children were already behind closed doors, in the warmth of their tiny square houses where the only light came from a lantern, manufactured just a short distance away. Looking from a distance, the houses appeared like a pattern, having the same structure and the same kind of light shining from within.
Eight factories stood in a crooked row parallel to the railway line, which represented the only means of transport in that area. The last train passed by at six o’clock, its windows shaking against their frames as if a mini-earthquake confined to the train alone was taking place. The train itself was old, the paintwork was coming off and most of the seats inside were either broken or bent out of shape. Maybe that was why the passengers preferred to stand instead of sitting and that would also explain why the train seemed to hold more people than it was designed for. When it stood to let out its passengers, “a throng of humanity” was the best description of the sight that met the eyes. For the next half hour or so, there was a lot of noise and activity as the inhabitants of that small valley exchanged news, narrated events of the day and encouraged one another to continue pursuing their dreams, no matter what they went through in life.
It was now 6.45pm. The smell of food cooking began to waft across the valley as each home prepared their evening meal. Children played their usual naughty games as they waited for their supper, but none could be heard anywhere outside. Actually, one would have thought that no children existed in this community. They had all been taught to keep themselves indoors and play as quietly as possible, especially as dusk approached.
The reason behind this caution was the story of the “night of shadows,” a very spine-chilling account of how, two years earlier, a ten- year old boy was murdered as he played outside just next to his home, at around 7pm. There was never any trace of evidence how he was killed; just a limp body with a deep wound on his back and blood gushing out. He had bled to death before he was found and the murderer was never discovered. The chilling part of the story came from the boy’s father, who was sitting at the doorstep watching his son playing. He kept drifting in and out of sleep as he relaxed in an armchair after a hard day’s work at the factory. His head was tilted backwards comfortably and his eyes began to close in sleep but not before he saw something that made him sit up quickly. It was not yet completely dark but shadows were beginning to form across the landscape and it was becoming hard to distinguish between what was really there and what was not.
It was more like a shadow, a few feet away near the spot where he had last seen his son playing. The shadow was that of a human being. He called out his son’s name and asked him whether he was okay. The boy stepped out from behind a cluster of bushes growing unhindered at the side of the house. He simply replied, “I am fine” and quickly disappeared behind those bushes again. He was crouched low, drawing something on the soft earth with a stick. His dad was satisfied with the reply and reclined once again in his chair. This time, sleep took over completely and when he woke up, it was to the shrieking voice of a woman bereaved of her beloved last-born son. The father was horrified, speechless and numbed with shock. Words could not describe the scene of mourning that followed. Suffice it to say, that event left a permanent effect on the whole community, not just the boy’s family. Children could no longer play outside freely and the events of that fateful night were rumored abroad by everyone who heard it. Of course, given human error, it kept changing over time and came to be known as the story of the night of shadows. Perhaps, when a strange occurrence like that takes place and no one can explain how it happened, it becomes very easy for people to fill in the ‘missing information’ so to speak. Nature abhors any vacuum, even an information vacuum.
It was now 7.30 pm and everything was still. The sound of that lonely engine could still be heard but all else was quiet. Most people were either eating or listening to their battery-powered radios before going to bed. Some of the lanterns were out but a few remained lit, still patterning the landscape. At the home of Mzee Lobo, activity had died down to only a murmuring sound coming from his bedroom as he related events of the day to his wife. He held her close to his chest as he had always done; always, even on that night two years ago when they lost their youngest son, Mtadi, and he had to comfort her throughout till morning. She had cried painfully that night, but this time she was laughing at some of the jokes he cracked about his boss. Time had healed their wound somewhat, together with the fact that they had grown even closer as a couple as they tried to console one another after the loss.
At around nine o’clock, the stillness was broken by the sound of shuffling feet on the verandah just outside the window of their bedroom. It was the wife’s sharp ears that caught the sound and she suddenly stiffened. She wanted to jump out of bed but her husband held her arms and told her to be still. They listened again, and this time he heard it. It was like someone walking slowly, making noise with their feet. Being a wise man, Mzee Lobo decided to check first before venturing outside the house. Slowly, he pulled back the frail curtain and peeped outside. There was a full moon now, casting various shadows here and there. A slight wind rustled a few papers strewn along the path beside the house. He looked carefully from side to side, but saw nothing. He listened a little more and heard nothing either. He returned the curtain and turned to his wife who was staring wide-eyed in fear.
“Oh, don’t worry anymore. It was nothing, probably just the wind blowing. Let’s get back to bed.”
Outside, the wind increased and everything loose was being blown here and there. A light bulb also swayed to the wind as it hang loosely above the front door of the house. This was the security light that Mrs. Lobo insisted must stay on throughout the night, to deter would -be intruders. However, it did not deter any shadows. A particular one appeared at the doorstep and seemed to linger on the door itself but quickly disappeared. Seconds, later another shadow appeared, this time larger than the first. It was directly opposite the door and was not going away. It was there to stay.
At around 10 o’clock, Mzee Lobo stirred in his sleep and felt an urge to answer the call of nature. Unfortunately, water in this valley was very scarce and so each family collected their own water either from rain or from the City Council lorry, whenever it passed by. Mzee Lobo’s family had their water stored in big tanks outside the house and since he would need to use some, he was forced to go outside. His wife felt him leaving the bed but hardly opened her eyes, as she felt she knew where he was going.
Mzee Lobo opened the front door and stepped outside with a bucket for water. As he bent over the tank to collect water, he saw a moving shadow from the corner of his eye. Suddenly, he remembered the shadow he had seen on the night his son died and was alarmed that it appeared similar. He turned in the direction of what he saw, or thought he saw, but never got to see anything after that. Everything went black.
Ten minutes later, Mrs. Lobo stirred from her sleep and felt the empty space on the bed next to her. She was surprised that her husband had not yet come back from the toilet and wondered what had happened.
Outside, more shadows appeared and seemed to move towards the door that was left ajar by Mzee Lobo. The light bulb hanging above the door made the shadows to stand out more clearly as they moved into the house. Mrs. Lobo drifted back to sleep and did not see a shadow that was cast across her bed. The wind blew strongly and the curtain on the window moved a little, allowing the moonlight into the room. Indeed, there was a shadow on her bed, in the shape of a human being.
Edna Rosemary Aluoch is a Kenyan freelance writer with a passion for mentoring young writers. To accomplish this she runs a mentoring program for young writers as well as a business that offers various writing solutions for both individuals and organizations. She loves writing blogs, short articles, stories, and poems. I have three blogs to my credit:
a) YWWSCRIBE: dedicated to helping writers become better at their craft. http://ywwscribe.wordpress.com
b) Talk To The Youth: dedicated to helping youth understand the importance of being mentored. http://talktotheyouth.wordpress.com
c) Write With God: dedicated to Christian writers. http://writingwithgod.wordpress.com
Her first publication was a short story in an anthology entitled Fresh Paint. This was in 2011.
My first e-book published in May entitled Why You Need A Writing Mentor.
In an effort to harness and promote creative works of Young Writers in the Country, the Society of Young Nigerian Writers sent out a notice in the month of May 2012, inviting Young Nigerian Writers irrespective of colour, race, tribe and religion to send in their entries for the proposed free creative writing correspondence course geared toward mentoring, educating and enhancing the literary proficiency of young Nigerian Writers. Numerous entries were entered for submission but only 15 entries scaled through for the proposed course. The works of those selected for the course are:
NEVER OUT OF MIND
THE RETURN OF CIVILIZATION
Ezefekwuaba Tochwuckwu Benedict
COLORS OF DREAM
PADDLING WITH THE DEVIL
FOR TAYO OMONIYI
(Leave that withered before dry season)
By Razaq Malik
(A Popular market in Ibadan City)
By Nathaniel Soonest
.…AND THAT NAME DIED
By Emmanuel Ugokwe
ME IN MUMMY’S ROOM
By Uche Uwadinachi
LETTER TO AMERIKA
Bakare Islamiyat Kemi
TO QUESTION GOD
Momodu Ehizua Innocent
SENIOR PANGOLO, MR. JOHN BULL AND US
Bada, Yusuf Amoo
SAY IT, ITS REAL
Bada, Yusuf Amoo
The correspondence course which is available in softcopy and hardcopies respectively comprises mainly of upcoming and aspiring young Nigerian Writers works. We hereby urge people to put in for the course as the course will sharpen and improve the literary skills of the individual participants.
For more information about this, please contact:
Mr. Wole Adedoyin
Behold the stars, single in the heavens,
Wishful thinking came into me,
When I learnt I should count the stars,
And I would that my tongue could utter the thought that rises in me,
Counting the stars, I need to be laughed at,
But as a child that bath on the belly,
I made myself a watchmaker,
Stopped at the sought and raised my eyes high up to see these stars,
I started counting the stars,
But these stars are very reliable in their movement,
Just the precious timepiece, the night used,
But cannot get a star, I was told they have names,
When I raise my eyes to point the stars,
They laugh at me and move.
The painting is actually an original by an old and late hand in the industry, Wassily Kandisky (1866- 1944). It consists of three rows and four columns of concentric circles beautifully done in a watercolour wash and pencil with a dimension of 28.3 by 31.5cm. It is aptly titled ‘Colour Study: Square and Concentric Circles’ 1913. The glass frame is almost two inches thick and makes the painting weighs about ten times its original lean weight. I had got my hands on it on one of my solicitous visits to Ibanga’s gallery in the Garden City of Port-Harcourt. Although I live in Lagos, Port-Harcourt is my second home because I had schooled there and had made a considerable amount of friends that would warrant me to still go back and check on from time to time. One of these friends is Ibanga. Ibanga is a painter as well as a collector of art.
Ibanga’s generosity was induced by my awe at the simplicity of the painting; that someone can actually do a study on circles and square; make a big show out of it and take time just to paint circles. Circles done and painted in watercolours in a manner a toddler would normally in art class. I had told him that the painting was too simple. He had replied that it was an abstract painting.
“What could be abstract about circles?” I had asked with an ‘I bet you don’t know’ look and a ‘got you this time cockiness in my stance.’
He had smiled back in reply. I have always wanted to impress this enigmatic friend of mine ever since we were introduced to each other. I want him to consider me worthy of his friendship for two obvious reasons. He is older than me by at least ten years and a master in what he does while I am a novice. I think I fall short of being called his friend, so I try to make an impression on him every time we are alone together. The best way to do that is by picking unnecessary arguments with him and nit-picking at every tiny detail in his works or collection of arts. And so I became an arm-chair critic of his works even though I know that he is a natural and am just a green-horn in art.
I had met Ibanga at his solo exhibition some two years back in Port-Harcourt. He had given four invitations to a bookshop I usually frequent and the owner of the bookshop, Mercy; a good friend of Ibanga gave me one invitation. Mercy and I had attended the exhibition together and she had introduced me to Ibanga. Ibanga is by far one of the best indigenous artists I have ever seen; both in character and in his works. He prides himself in the fact that he didn’t go to school to study art. He would tell anyone who cared to listen that his illiterate late grandfather taught him how to paint. He is a medical doctor by profession but his veins flow with the pure blood of a natural impressionist. He later told me that he had failed his final medical exams twice before finally making it the third time; only after he had taken a forced one-year break from medicine to take his final art exam with his dying grandfather. That art exam was more important to him, he had confided in me.
During the last years of his late tutor, Ibanga had learnt all he needed to know in art to convince himself that his hands were made to touch paints. Apart from his own works which totalled an impressive amount, he has in his collection an amount of artworks and paintings from renowned masters. Some of these paintings like ‘Colour Study: Squares and Concentric Circles’ are actually original prints. He refuses to tell me how he got his hands on them.
“It is because of its simplicity.” I remembered him telling me after he had finished smiling at me. “You can make anything out of it. That is why it is abstract. You find it simple because you think you can ascribe no serious meanings to it. Think of it like this. What could be going on in the mind of an artist when he painted this about ninety-five year ago? Do you think the same thing is going on now in your mind when you look at the painting?”
He had then showed me another painting. This one was made by him and it consisted only of a bunch of metallic keys with a very bright background.
“This titled ‘Keys to Manhood.’ one of my first paintings. To you, it is just a bunch of keys that anybody can paint. It is really. But look at it closely and count the number of keys.”
I did. They were three.
He continued his lecture. “When my father died, I became a man. I took stock of the few things I had in my life as a man. I had a job, a flat and a car. I represented these things with keys in this simple painting. “The bright background represents a bright future when a man has these keys. Yes the painting is simple. I couldn’t agree more. But what was going on in my mind then was anything but simplicity. I was scared. I had lost the closest person to me in life and in panic had asked myself if I could go on without him. You know I lost my parents at a very tender age and my grandfather had raised me. I was devastated when he died. But I had a job in what he taught me, I had a roof over my head which he willed to me and his car, which though he didn’t will to me, I took by right. With a firm resolve to forget him and move on and still remember him by what I had inherited from him, I painted ‘Keys to Manhood.’”
I understood then that his grandfather had given him all he needed to go on in life and achieve whatever it is he wanted to achieve. He was well equipped to face the future alone.
He had then told me I could have the ‘Colour Study: Squares and Concentric Circles.’ He asked for only one simple thing in return for the original painting. He set me the task of figuring out what was going on in the mind Wassily Kandisky at that time that he painted his circles. I had replied that it was not too much to ask for in return for an original painting. I had never owned a painting before, there was nearly nothing I wouldn’t have done to own this and this was another opportunity for me to prove my worthiness to him. We laughed over some bottles of beer and I had been just sober enough to take home my priceless ninety-five year old painting in one piece. It is the oldest thing I have ever owned.
I checked the glass for the hundredth time in my bus seat headed for Lagos, petrified of breaking it. As far as am concerned, the glass frame is an original too and changing it would somehow diminish the original thoughts of Kandinsky. A journey on our roads can be likened to mountaineering. The only difference is that while mountaineering can be defined with time, travelling on our roads cannot. With the pathetic state of the roads and the unreliability of the transport system, you dare not define your journey by time. You are lucky enough just to get to your destination. You will be greatly pushing your luck if you want to get there on time. A journey that started at seven in the morning ended at nine in the evening and we were lucky we- my painting and I- got there in one piece.
My mum had been ill for some weeks now and was beginning to lose grip on her zeal for life. A ounce feisty woman, she looked lean and pale when I got to the hospital a day after I got back from Port-Harcourt. She was a tireless woman. We would pick fights that centred on her restlessness when she was still healthy. She was concerned about her seven children who were all married with kids and one of her grand-daughter had already given her a great-grand son. When would she stop worrying about people who obviously don’t have much to worry about? Albeit she religiously ate only what her doctors had recommended for her, her condition nonetheless deteriorated mysteriously. High blood pressure, the doctors said. A devout Muslim, she would attend all of the prayer-meetings her numerous religious groups organised even when she was ill. I looked at my ounce feisty mother lying powerless on the hospital bed and cried. The doctor told us that she worried too much; her blood pressure was getting too high and that somehow her heart was failing.
My three elder sisters, Khadija, Hafiza and Maria with my two younger sisters, Kemi and Sumbo and my immediate elder brother, Jaffar and I gathered at her bedside. We had planned to meet there and discuss with the doctors whether we should take her to another hospital. Surely high blood pressure was not that hard to take care of, we had assured ourselves. She could barely recognise us as we all jostled for her attention to announce our presence in a bid to cheer her up. Of course, her current doctors had reassured us that we needn’t take her to another hospital. She kept looking at us with a weak knowing smile on her face. It was as if she knew something we didn’t know.
“Alhaja, emi ni, Tunde.” I announced my presence to her in our native language, Yoruba, meaning ‘It is me,Tunde.’ She turned her face with difficulty at me and tried to call my name in reply in what took her like eternity.
“Tunnndeeee…” She said at me. And I wept. I wept because at that point I could almost feel her slipping out of this world into the other unknown world. Her voice sounded way out of this life. She was slipping out of this world and there was nothing we could do to stop her. Each one of her children had a go at the name-calling trick but she responded like she was just then learning to talk. I told Jaffar later that night as we left the hospital that our mother was dying but he wouldn’t buy into it, denial written clear on his face. Being our mother’s first son after three daughters, he was clearly her favourite and the closest to her. To Jaffar, to accept that fact would mean betrayal.
She died in her sleep that very night and we returned to the hospital the next morning to claim her corpse. I hoped she died peacefully. She was buried that same day at about 2pm according to Islamic rites besides her husband. I prayed that Allah reunite them even in death and grant them paradise. I kept wondering what could have been her major concern in life. She worried too much, that was what the doctors said. All of her children were grown, married and had children. She had led a life of piety as much as she could, lived in peace with all and died at the tender age of 65.
After the burial, I asked the presiding Imam who had led the prayer we did for her as was customary in Islam what could have been her worry. He was the Chief Imam of the mosque she prayed at when she was alive and they had been good friends. He told me that it was normal for parents, especially mothers to worry about the ones they are leaving behind even if they are strong enough to look after themselves and are probably doing well.
“They are usually worried about the cycles of life. They are worried that the ones they are leaving behind might not be strong or wise enough to carry on without them. It is imperative that the cycle continues. That could have been her major worry. You know mothers never stop worrying about their children. To them, they will always be kids in their eyes even when these children are fully grown.” Thus the Chief Imam answered my question in a way that made have gone me realise why mum kept fretting over us even when it seemed there was no need. We were babies to her until she died and she had protected us like a mother hen would her chicks. She worried about us when we should have been the ones worried about her. She was a true mother.
When I went upstairs to my room that night after all our sympathisers have gone, my favourite niece, Mariam, was already there, waiting for me. She was barely three years old, and one look at her pretty face now crumpled in a mask of sadness told me she had done something wrong. I bent down and scooped her up into my arms. She and the other kids in the house had been forgotten since morning because of the burial.
“It fell from my hands. It fell from my hands.” She said twice in her tiny voice laced with fear. I looked down at what fell from her hands. Shattered on the floor was the thick glass that had housed Kandisky’s Colour Study. The painting itself had been carefully removed from the debris of shattered glass. My pretty niece had salvaged the only thing she could from the accident and had placed the bare painting on my reading table. I put her down gently on the table and picked up the painting. Then it came to me, I saw the cycles of life within it as clearly as if I was seeing the painting for the first time and the words of the Imam came back to me. I looked at my niece with a smile on my face and she opened her mouth in laughter.
“Do you know what these are?” I asked her with a smile, pointing at the painting and running my fingers over it.
“Circles!” She shouted in her tiny voice now laced with joy.
“Yes, you are right. They are cycles of life.” I kissed her on the cheeks, though I prayed she wouldn’t go about breaking glass frames of paintings thinking she would be kissed for it.
My favourite niece, Mariam, helped me find out what was going on in the mind of Kandinsky on the day we buried my mum.
I think I am now a man albeit my keys are not complete yet.
About Muyis Adepoju
White Bungalow by Folarin Olaniyi
‘Pull off your pant!’ Obong shouted at me.
‘No, I won’t_!’ he caught me abruptly with a slap. The hot fire igniting slap landed on my face, and then punches rained on my left and right cheek and on the sofa where my body was forcefully rested.
When Mama brought a dark balloon cheek boy to our white bungalow, his thick hands trailing the way to our sitting room where Papa was mightily sited awaiting our first houseboy, I knew things will change here.
‘Don’t stain the wall!’ Papa shouted at Obong. The boy shook in fear and his cheek blew up like balloon.
‘He is a young boy,’ Mama said to Papa.
‘What is his name?’ Papa asks.
‘Obong,’ the boy replied from behind.
‘You go to school?’ Papa questioned, surprised at the boy’s grasp of the language.
Mama chuckled and said, ‘Two times, Baba Basirat.’
‘You mean, he repeated the class?’
‘Beeni, sir,’ Obong replied.
‘You speak Yoruba?!’ Papa shouted, amazed again.
Mother let out her tongue-in-the-cheek smile, looked at me positioned by Papa, and uttered, ‘Look at her, is she not beautiful?’
Obong shook his head in agreement and Mama continues.
‘That is my one and only Basirat. She is your sister. She is in S.S.1 and will write Jamb in two years. Two years! University! Is that not wonderful, Obong?’
‘Obong welcome to the white bungalow. Iya Basirat, my stomach is grumbling.’ Papa said.
‘Basira, take your brother to his room,’ mother said.
Obong loves Supersport and Aljazeera. After Papa and Mama would have gone to bed, their snoring evading the white bungalow, Obong would come closer to me where I sat watching Ice Prince’s Oleku on Soundcity and whisper to my ear drum, ‘Aljaze-e-rah!’
My breasts will heave with laughter, faint, provoked by the stimulating touch of Obong’s thick whispering ear drum.
After we had watched the News on Aljazeera and argued about the highlights on Supersport, Obong will slip in to his room for the day’s rest. I would then expel this strange smile at the white decking sheltering me.
‘Why are they laughing like that?’ I asked Obong
‘Because he is putting it inside. Very fast.’ Obong replied.
‘What is Papa putting inside Mama?’ I asked terrified.
Obong let out a smile, wicked, at me.
‘You are still a small girl.’
‘Is that how to talk to one’s senior?’
‘You are just fortunate that my mother is a Garri seller and your mother, a Garri distributor. You are just fourteen. I am far older than you.’
‘Are you abusing me?’ my right hand was by now feverishly holding my right ear.
‘You want to know what Papa is putting inside Mama, ehn?’
He let loose of his trousers and shove his manhood at my now irritated face. He was indeed Obong, oblong and intimidating.
In minutes, Mama’s laughter had subsided for Papa’s whisper. When they both came out, Obong and I were busy watching the football highlights on Super sport.
‘Brother and sister,’ mother said as she crosses to the toilet opposite the Master room. The night came; I knew he would go to sleep in minutes. Two minutes. Obong stood up and rose to go.
‘How does that thing enter Mama?’ I uttered, my words wrapped up with timidity. Obong turned back at once and replied, ‘You will know.’
He tore out of the bushy pathway like a wild animal; eyes bloodshot, nostrils flared and teeth clenched. His clothes were torn in several places and dusty as if he had been rolling in the dirt. His lips moved fastidiously as if he was reciting something like a prayer or an incantation. But it was a silent whisper as no sound of words came out of his mouth. He jerked his head as if in sudden comprehension of his environment. He started walking across the road and stood rock still when he got to the center. With his head sunk deep into his chest, he looked like a lifeless statue.
A taxi with tires screeching grounded to a halt before him with the driver screaming obscenities – “Mad man, if you wan die no be me go kill you! I beg comot for road jo!” He just stared ahead with vacant eyes and made no move to leave the road. The driver got out of his taxi and pushed him roughly to the side of the road but he struggled and went back to stay in the middle of the road. By now, a line of cars had gathered and they blared their horns in anger.
A respectable-looking middle-aged man alighted from his car and walked up to him. He placed his hand on his shoulder – “My dear friend, looking at you closely, I can see you’re disturbed and you’re going through a lot of pain. I want to help you. I want to listen to you. I am a doctor. I treat people with mind problems. Will you come with me?” The roadman looked at the mind doctor for some seconds and then looked around. He held out his hand like a child to the mind doctor and a tear rolled down his cheek.
Shouts of ‘Where are you taking him?’, ‘He is a ritual killer,’ rented the air. The mind doctor calmly addressed the people – ‘He is my friend and I’m going to take care of him.’ Is it not funny that the same people who had been previously belligerent towards the roadman should care about his fate?
They rode silently in the car and the roadman became somewhat relaxed. He released his clenched fist, closed his eyes and was soon fast asleep. The mind doctor smiled at him.
The mind doctor gently prodded him awake when he got to his house. For a moment, the roadman looked confused but when he heard the reassuring voice of the mind doctor, he relaxed. He took him inside his home.
“We need to clean the outside first. Although the mind is more important, as you can see, the state of your mind has resulted in your drab outward appearance.” The mind doctor led him into the bathroom and showed him the soap and sponge. The roadman came out minutes later clean and sweet-smelling.
The mind doctor smiled and thought to himself – “At least, he understands what I’m telling him.”
“Good, now we can work on the inside.”
He led the roadman to the dining table which were displayed in abundance, fried rice, chicken and even a bottle of wine. At the sight of the food, the roadman burst into tears and ran outside the
“Torture”, that was the first word the roadman uttered. “Pain”, he continued as he wrinkled his face and touched his heart. “Heavy”, he said holding his head between his hands. “Light”, he said bending to touch his legs. “My life”, he said wringing his hands at the empty space of air. The roadman collapsed at the mind doctor’s feet.
The mind doctor brought him back to the house. He stretched him on a sofa. He looked lifeless in his lying position on the sofa and the mind doctor placed his hand on his chest to check if he was still breathing. His heartbeat was slow but regular resembling the tick-tock of a clock.
The mind doctor switched on the T.V to listen to the news. He turned the volume down so as not to disturb the roadman. The roadman suddenly sat upright and fixed his eyes on the T.V, He shouted – “Murderer, thief, they took everything from me.” His eyeballs were dilated and his fingers quivered as he pointed to the governor on the T.V screen. The wild look left his eyes as suddenly as it had entered and he lay back on the sofa, closing his eyes.
The mind doctor went to his side and placed a hand on his forehead. It was cool; a contrast to the obvious raging fire that was ignited in the man’s brain. He placed his mouth close to the roadman’s ear and whispered into it – “who did he kill?”, “what did take from you?”
At first, it seemed as if the roadman was asleep again. But, he suddenly opened his mouth and began to speak as if in a trance:
That day when I got to the office, the letter was already on my table. I used to arrive early so when I checked the other offices, most of them had not yet resumed. I went back to my office and stared sightlessly at the paper in my hands. It was almost a page long but all the words just swam before my eyes and the only word that kept resurfacing on the paper was ‘retrenchment’. That was the only word that mattered at the moment. The long explanation of the statistics of the loss and profit in the company and the need to cut down on the quota did not make much sense to me. I would have continued staring into space the whole day but I was jarred back into the present with a knock on the door.
“The director wants you to hand over all company’s property in your care before leaving, to the appropriate departments,” the director’s secretary recited, avoiding looking into my eyes. I finished writing my hand-over notes and putting everything in order at exactly a minute to 12 noon. The timing seemed significant as my life had just slipped into its noon status and I silently wondered when it will degenerate into night for me.
I walked home that afternoon as my car; the company’s car had also been taken away from me. My wife saw me approaching from her shop in front of the house and she rushed out to meet me. “What happened? What are you doing at home at this time of the day? Did your car develop a fault? Are you sick?” She went on and on with her barrage of questions. I just stared at her without opening my mouth. But as the days went by and she saw me waking up and staring out of the window, she began to understand my malaise.
My wife was very nice at first and she carefully stepped around me in the house as if she was afraid of breaking my shell. But my apathy soon got to her and she began making hammered knocks on my protective shell.
“Are you the first person to lose a job in the world? Ehn! You just sit there day after day not talking and doing nothing. You are scaring me to death and you had better start talking or I will just take you to your family house in the village. Who knows, maybe this is a spiritual attack!” she berated.
Then my daughter started swelling up. It started with her feet. Some people first thought it was elephantiasis but her face soon started swelling. People looked at her strangely and my wife quickly explained to them that she was adding weight. Adding weight! What a twist of irony! How can she be gaining weight when our main meal in a day consisted of soaked gaari and groundnuts.
My wife applied hot compresses on our daughter’s body every night. She said it will help melt the fat in her body. Then one day, my daughter could not urinate and by the next morning, her screams of pain could be heard three houses away. Our neighbours started trooping in, offering different solutions but none worked and as a last resort; we took her to the hospital.
That was the day I awoke from my stupor. The doctor took one look at my girl and reprimanded us for having kept her at home for so long. He told us that he would have to run some tests to know the extent of damage on her kidneys. I started running around to get money and I went back to the hospital with just enough money borrowed from my friends to pay for the tests. The doctor gave us the results some hours later and pronounced that our daughter had suffered a kidney failure and she would need a transplant to function well in life. In the meantime, he said she would have to undergo dialysis twice a week to remove wastes from her body.
Our world came crashing, the dialysis will cost about twenty thousand naira and the transplant will cost millions of naira. My daughter lay there in agony because the hospital would not treat her without payment. My wife wept copiously for days. I felt crippled and castrated. I started doing odd jobs around. I even cut grass for some people. My wife also went around begging for help and she eventually got a Good Samaritan that was paying for the dialysis. We heaved a sigh of relief and for three months, our daughter received good medical care.
However, our reprieve was short-lived as the doctor called us into his office one day and told us the sad news that a transplant was needed urgently or our daughter will die in some weeks’ time. We tried everything possible. The hospital staff even helped us to get on air; on the radio and TV but the weeks passed by and the money was just coming in slow trickles. On a dark moonless night, our daughter heaved her last breath. Dried eyed, my wife packed her little belongings from the hospital and we went home.
I couldn’t stop crying. Each morning, I woke up and thought of my failure as a man. Then, I noticed my wife had stopped talking. It was not exactly that she didn’t respond when talked to but she stopped making sense.
One day, I asked her where she put the keg of drinking water because I wanted to check if it was empty. She looked at me and said, “I am floating in it. There is water everywhere in the house. Don’t go and look for it anywhere.” Then she burst into a deranged cackle of laughter. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I looked at her far-away eyes and heard the sound of her dry laughter. She moved around the house as if she was automated and she started nursing our ten-year-old son like a baby. She will hold him on her lap and try to breastfeed him and when he scuttled away, she will burst into tears. So, I thought if she had a new baby, she might come back to life.
As she lay asleep in bed that night, I reached over and loosened her wrapper. I caressed the flaccid flesh in my hand. Her skin seemed to have shrivelled since the last time I had touched her. She moaned softly and encouraged by her response, I mounted her. She reacted viciously like a tigress; screaming and tearing at me with her nails. I quickly got off the bed to my feet and watched in amazement as she tore at her hair and body, muttering gibberish words.
The next morning she woke up with bruises all over her face and all day long, she complained that she was attacked in her sleep by a witch who was killing her children. She said she was going to kill the witch herself that night. I just looked on; nonplussed.
One day, my son went to school and did not come back when the other school children had already returned. My wife became hysterical; saying that the witch must have caught him on his way back home. I went out to look for him and I kept looking for six months. My son had disappeared into thin air.
I started forgetting small simple things. I forgot to take my bath, to eat and even to button my shirt. I started talking to myself on the streets and I saw people pointing at me and shaking their heads in pity.
One evening, I came back from work. I was working as a carrier at a building site carrying water, sand and cement. I met the house empty. It wasn’t as if this was strange because the house had always been empty even though my wife was there. This time, it also smelt empty. It smelt like a garment that had been kept in a wardrobe for so long without being worn. It was stale. I didn’t bother to look for her. I just sat down in the dark room without moving.
The next morning, I woke up to loud knocks on the door. As I opened up, I saw a little crowd of people clasping their hands on their heads and hissing with dismay. I saw her lying on the floor with a piece of white cloth wrapped around her. I looked up at the man talking to me – “We found her floating in the Obokun River this morning and one woman recognised her as your wife.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but no sound came out. I left it open and continued to widen my lips; shining my teeth.
The smile became laughter. I laughed out loud in a ringing tone and the crowd scattered in fright. Then, I broke into a run; running to complete the cycle of my fate.
I saw the woman carrying the child on her back. I saw the girl lifting a tray of plantains on her head. I saw the boy playing football with his friends. I saw the man picking a man’s pocket on the street but I couldn’t see myself on the road. I started looking into the faces of people, some trembled in fear and some grimaced in anger. I have looked everywhere and I will continue looking till I find…
The roadman’s lips snapped shut and his teeth in a spasm crunched against each other as if he was having an epileptic fit. The mind doctor wiped tears from his eyes. He now knew what the others on the road did not know – The roadman was not a mad man, he was an everyman.
My full names are Ifeoluwa Omolara Watson but I write under the name; Ife Watson. I see myself as a writer enclosed in a cocoon but I believe I’m emerging day by day. I discovered my flair for writing since my stint in Junior Secondary School with the Press club and my love for creating tales in my head which I told to my friends and family members. I’m a graduate of Literature-in-English and at present, I’m pursuing a Masters Degree in the same field. I believe writing and writers fill in the blanks of the silent, unheard and forgotten history of a people.
CULLED FROM WWW.REMIRAJI.COM
|Gather to reclaim ANA|
Bose noticed that Emma, her two week old baby was not feeding well. Three days later, his body temperature was so hot that it seems like his blood was boiling. Agitated and confused, she rushes the baby to the clinic seeking redemption from the medical doctor. Countless prescriptions and diagnoses later, alas Emma dies. The family is distraught. What must have happened to their new found love? How could life be this cruel? Not satisfied that his death is ‘ordinary’, they decided to consult a native doctor whom her friend introduced her to. The native doctor, blessed with the gift of ‘seeing’ after much incantation, libations and exultations with his ancestors, releases the bombshell. Bose’s step mother far away in the village (Bose resides in the city) is the one responsible for the untimely death of her baby. According to the native doctor, she nailed a piece of rag to a cherry tree in her
backyard. That was what killed the baby.
The script narrated above is a replica of storylines in Nigerian movies and fiction books. Some like the ‘mirror boy,'(a cheap imitation of Onyeka Nwelue’s Abyssinian boy) has taken mysticism to a new dimension. Magical reality/mysticism is the strongest voice in Nigerian creativity. Our stories portray voodoism, mysticism, magic et al.s’
Overly dependence on magic realism and mysticism is nothing short of a cheap shot at creativity. Writers hide behind the cloak of magical reality to make up for their inadequacy in producing creative stories that would stimulate the mind. Most pundits are quick to assert that this is a reflection of our culture and traditions. This is a fact. You can’t separate the African man from mysticism. The tenets of African culture evolve around superstition and mystical affiliations. All facets of African society are influenced directly or indirectly by superstitious and spiritual beliefs. Ours is a society where the priest is the king and the king is the priest. Little wonder this attribute is flaunted in African literature and movies. But is that all there is in Africa and its creativity? Is the fate of the African man always predetermined by some cosmological forces that he has no power over? It seems absurd seeing Nigerian creative writers propagating
‘magical’ solutions to questions that are scientifically answerable. This is the bane of not only the Nigerian creative industry, but also the Nigerian society at large. Such attributes are the reasons why Nigerians and Africans are yet to come to terms with their existential realities. We chose to leave everything to fate, mumbling ‘it’s the will of the gods’. We spend more time on trying to solve religious equations than tackling the problem headlong. There is a dearth of the acceptance of responsibility on individual and societal levels. Concisely put, the Nigerian creative industry is a reflection of the Nigerian society. But need it so? Europe was in the same precarious state as Nigerian and African societies. In the ‘dark ages’, superstitions held sway. The occurrence of phenomena was explained in supernatural terms and man was thought incapable of achieving much. The result? Europe ushered in the most backward era of civilization in history.
There were no innovations or landmark achievements. There was a perpetual dearth of human creativity. It was not until the renaissance which heralded intellectual thinkers and groups such as the philosophers, Johannes Kepler, Galileo etc who challenged these religious dogmas and beliefs, that man began to realize his optimum potential. Mysticism was replaced with scientific inquiries and analysis. This gave birth to scientific and technological innovations, and subsequently the industrial revolution which has transformed the world.
Juxtaposing this to the Nigerian scenario, Nigerian writers and creative artists have to jettison their mystical appendages in contemporary works. This is not an advocacy for rejecting our roots and beliefs. Writers and artistes remind us of our history, portray the challenges of the present, but more importantly create a future for generations yet unborn. Creative writers channel the thought pattern of society. What type of future are we creating? What type of picture are we painting presently? One shrouded in magic, mystical forces and superstitions. Do we choose to remain at the lowest rungs of societal development? The answer lies in the way we use our pens.