What It Feels Like To Die

lonely beach

Before you begin, be informed this story was written over two weeks past, entered for an impromptu competition which it won. It’s the last story I’ve written. When you are done, kindly read the postscript. Gracias.

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“He’s dead,” Kemi says.

We take even strides, kicking dust and disproportioned stones, noting the houses with mallams and the ones secured by German Shepherds, counting the palm trees sprouting along the road, saying a thousand things without saying anything. Gray clouds scud along the sky.

“What does it feel like to die?” Kemi asks.

I stop and look up just as the sun reveals itself.

“Look up.”

She angles her view.

“What do you see?”

“Huh, depends.”

“Look at it, whatever you see,” I say. I watch as her eyes twitch at the heat. “How does it feel?”

“Like embers,” she says. “Like pepper and fire.” She looks away. “What was that for?”

I start walking. “That’s what it feels like to die. Like pepper and fire. Peppery fire.”

She spots a stone sends it sailing down the road. We arrive at the house, typical to all the other big houses in the street. A black gate, coiled wire chiseled into the fence, a guard with accent as thick as suya, tiles running up to the entrance, a woolen carpet with an animal stitched into it – this one’s lion.

Kemi taps me. She points her gaze to a stool, a wooden stool with a framed picture, a note with two pages open, a flower vase, a pen. I stare at the flowers stuck into the vase, at the dried up petals. Sometimes recently, the flower was vibrant and drew butterflies. It was alive. Breathing.

It is dead now.

I tell Kemi I do not want to write my name. I idle at the entrance till she’s done and we step in. Inside, a woman slouches on the largest sofa, her arms set on her thighs in a way that makes me wonder if the arms have blood in them. Her eyes are closed, her lips sag below her jaw. She’s flanked by two women. They wear black too. Their eyes are partly open like they’re afraid a kid would sneak in and pilfer money off the bowl on the center table.

“Good afternoon ma,” I say.

“We are sorry about the loss,” Kemi says. Her voice cracks as if she’s afraid of pressing further, as if the tiles on which she stands have suddenly become ice and an extra syllable would cave her in.

The woman, Jide’s mother, nods. She does not see us. One of the women calls Jide’s brother.

A minute later, we stand in the compound. I look at Martin and he looks at me and we begin to cry. I look at Kemi and she looks at me and she joins. Soft balls of tears travel down our faces, towards our lips, staining our shirts. I reach for Martin’s palm and press. Kemi takes the other.

“He shouldn’t have,” Martin says. His voice is blunt, like the blades of a machete from the Civil War. “He wouldn’t have died if we’d left,” Martin says.

I nod and Kemi nods because we know what he means. Martin nods along, and his neck bobs as if it would rather be severed. And then, I remember Jide and his severed arm and cry again.

.

This is how Jide died. The eyewitness – a man who wore kaftan seven days a week, whose beard was long enough to sweep the street – said Jide was returning with a friend, a backpack on his bag. They were talking and laughing with their lips curved. He heard them make comments about the Social Studies assignment and how they didn’t care if Nigeria was celebrating independence or if the President wasn’t in the country and how the teacher was simply punishing them.

The murderers came from nowhere, Eyewitness told us. E be like those things for naija movies, he said, wey person go just appear. Jide’s friend saw them first. He’d yelled before he ran. He hadn’t been too fast, Eyewitness said, not fast enough for him to escape anyway, but the murderers had not come from him. They cornered Jide to a dustbin, said something in thick Hausa, and swung the cutlass.

The Eyewitness recalled seeing the arm fly away like a limb snagged off by a ferocious lion. He was running before his legs lifted.

.

“I don’t believe it,” Kemi says. The gates shut behind us. “The eyewitness account.”

We start walking again. The sun settles on the house, and for a moment, I imagine it spitting fire at the occupants, at Martin and at Jide’s mother and at the two women who came to mourn. I imagine the flowers cracking up in intense heat, imagine Jide’s picture weeping as it was reduced to ashes.

He was in jeans in the picture, Jide. I was there then. I, Kemi, Martin, Jide, and a few other friends, teasing the sands bordering a beach, throwing handful of sands at one another, laughing at the funny lines the writer in me conjured about our visit to the beach.

“Say cheese,” Martin had said, just as Jide lunged himself at me. Later, Martin told me, “He’s a naughty boy.”

I imagine now, how Martin would say, “He was a naughty boy.”

Holding back the urge to cry, I fumble for Kemi’s arms, link fingers with her, ignoring her surprise.

“Would you write about it?” Kemi asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t know what I want to do or what I feel right now.”

“I understand.”

“You can’t.”

“I do,” she says.

I let her hand slip away. Her face twitches in a frown.

“You are angry now. I can’t say, ‘I know how you feel when your boyfriend stops holding you.’ I’m not you. I can’t be you. I can’t have your experiences or feel your pain.”

We link fingers.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

“Jide. Was one good chap. Clean ambitions. Gentle kid. Loved Port Harcourt. Do you know he was the first person I heard use the word, pogrom? He was reading up the Civil War and spotted it. Pogrom.”

Kemi nods. She knows, of course. I’ve told the story before. Only then, I said, “Jide is a good chap.”

A bicycle trots past us. A scar curves towards the rider’s left chin. I nod at him and he dips his head and in the brief moment, I feel a spark, a strange familiarity, like he’s Jide’s reincarnation and the scar on his face means he survived.

“He’s going to pay his condolence,” Kemi says.

“What? Why?”

“They were friends.”

“The rider’s over forty years.”

“They were friends,” Kemi says again. “Used to tell Jide about the war and about the fact that the Igbos attacked first, killing five leaders, known as the Coup of the Five Majors. Most of it was second-hand memory though. Things his parents had told him, told he Jide.”

“He would have been a kid then,” I say.

“Yes.”

“No wonder Martin always thought another war was impending and that it was better for them to leave Port Harcourt.”

“It’s too late now,” Kemi says.

And because I am in complete agreement, I say nothing.

.

At home, I listen to Yanni’s tracks. Nightingale. I search Civil War on Google and read the Wikipedia account. Twice, I cough and make mental notes. Under a section, Persecution of Igbos, one Charles Keil recounts – Col. Gowon could be heard over the radio issuing ‘guarantees of safety’ to all Easterners, all citizens of Nigeria.

I push the chair back and walk to the door, phone in hand. Guarantees of safety. Suddenly, I feel a twitch in my stomach, as if by blaming the Igbos for starting the war, I joined in the emboweling of the tribe. As if I once lifted a cutlass too. As if my name, Demola, means – come with a sword. As if Jide’s massacre is justifiable action.

I pick my phone and dial Kemi.

“Go outside,” I say.

“I’m outside,” she snaps back.

“Look at the sun. Please.”

I hear a heave, static air filling the background. I lift the phone off my face and stare at the sun.

“How does it feel?”

“Hot. Blandly hot,” she says.

“That’s how it feels when someone dies.” I tell her about Civil War – “No, it’s not Captain America’s Civil War” – and how it’s easy to identify with the death of the Majors because of tribal relations and silently approve the death of the Igbos and how it is all mistakes.

“So, no one knows,” she says.

“No one knows how death feels.”

“I’m sorry,” she says. I know she means the deaths. Jide’s. The Majors. Everyone.

“I’m sorry too,” I say.

We begin to cry.

P.S: What do you think about the story? The dialogue, pace, setting, and the story itself. Writing that was a bit tedious because the plot had to grow from real life events and had to be as living as possible, hence the pidgin English. Did I try? Did I not? Thank you for reading.

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Playing with Oxymoron

Introductory Epilogue:

I recall with precision the first time I met Debbie. I was in my hostel room, a laptop balanced on my taps – despite the advise not to expose the cooling fan to my legs. I stared at the screen for three, four minutes, thinking of something, anything, to pen. The blankness greeting me was not a stranger, having courted my yard for two weeks counting.

And then, she came. Not fully made or with a smile or with a list of do’s and don’ts. Yet, she came. And I started to talk to her. And here she goes, her fourth feature in a blog post. Read the story. Then share comments later.

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“It’s your job to figure that out,” she tells me. She taps a button, minimizing the document, and hands over the phone. I stare at the device, her face, the device.

“You could be a little nicer.”

She walks ahead. “Nice isn’t for writers.”

“Who says we don’t need to be treated nicely?”

“Well,” she glances around, “when you decided to delve neck-deep into this path, no one promised you a couch of hibiscus.”

I breathe. I consider informing her it wasn’t exactly a decision. More like a call – the type that comes softly, softly, like a mockingbird’s whisper, until one day, it settles in your heart with the weight of a mountain.

“Besides, when the royalty starts flowing in, you wouldn’t remember people who cheered you on when your legs weakened. People like us.” She winks.

“Not if we are married, Debbie.”

Her lips part. I braze my mind for the worst, the ‘It’s over, dude. Who even told you we would be a thing.’ Instead, she smiles, complete set of teeth beaming in the early morning sun, her hair draping down her shoulder like twigs sloping down a wet hill, her cheeks dimpling, her eyes warming the freckles of my heart.

She steps close. “Convince my dad first.”

“Oh,” I say. “Him.”

“Yes, Him.” She studies me until it clicks. Not her dad, like dad. But Father.

“Oh, Him?”

“Yes, Him, Elohim.”

It strikes me then how intonation and punctuation really matter to sentence, speech, dialogue. A story forms in my head – not powerful enough to make me go Eureka, but something still, like a fragment of a fragment of a bestseller.

We resume our walk. A zephyr drifts pass us, disturbing the hem of her skirt. She wears a yellow skirt today, with flowers dotted in no regular pattern. A white blouse hugs her skin, tucked into the waist of her skirt. She carries her favorite bag, the one with long leather straps.

“You are beautiful,” I say. She strides on, like I just said, “It is morning.”

We arrive at the shop. An older woman’s engaged with the boss, haggling the price of a cloth material sliding down her arms. “Mama Deborah, Ko gba iye ti mo so ni,” the woman is saying. The boss shakes her head, then adds no, like the shaking of head isn’t a strong enough response. Said buyer eyes the cloth once more, then flings it against the pile, hisses, steps out, brushing us aside. “They don’t know how much it takes to run this business,” the boss says, in Yoruba.

She spots us and, just as I start to greet, says, “You look like them.”

“Ma?”

“You look like a writer.”

“Mother,” Debbie quips.

The boss smiles. “Ki ni? What? Should I not speak what I see?” I blush. “See, I was right. You people like to blush.” She eyes Debbie. “Invite him in nah.”

Debbie climbs the step of stairs spitting into the shop. “You don’t have to come in,” she says over her shoulder.

I enter. The air is warm, a different warm; clothes arranged in different patterns across wooden shelves, racks, and hangers; native materials clog the west side of the rectangular office, making everything look like a Beethoven’s orchestra.

“The arrangement is beautiful ma,” I say.

“I heard you observe a lot, writers.” I look away, at her. “So, you want to marry my daughter.”

Debbie’s lips fly open, in shock this time. “Mother!”

“Let the man speak for himself,” her mother says.

“Ha, no. That wasn’t my intent for coming ma.” She nudges her brow. “I simply wanted to meet the woman who was strong enough to survive a bout of sickness and still meet the payment of the rent of both shop and house whilst keeping in touch with her daughter.”

“Humph,” Debbie’s mum says. “And here I was, thinking you would dazzle me with some pun, metaphor, oxymoron.” Pause for effect. “Smart moron.”

“Wealthy paupers,” I quip.

“Quick snails.”

“Rhythmic free verses.”

The scalp on her forehead furrows as she considers. “Dull yellow.”

“That doesn’t count,” Debbie says. Her mother shoots her a look. “Who sought your opinion?” to which Debbie responds, “Yellow could be dull. It’s not an oxymoron.”

“Open secret,” I say.

“Cliché,” the woman says.

“Dry mists,” Debbie comments, saving me.

“Perfect flaws,” her mum retorts.

“Lengthy micro fictions,” I say.

We continue, serving one oxymoron after the other, like rallies in a tennis match.

“Serious gabs.”

I pause. Debbie pause. We exchange a look. She reaches for her phone and punches the word. “Gab,” she reads, “is a light informal conversation for social occasions. Also means chit-chat?”

“Whoa,” I say.

“Who’s the boss?” the woman winks.

Debbie pockets her phone and closes the space between us, sort of segmenting the winner and the others.

“Anyone could have done that,” she says. She faces Debbie and I. “Anyone who’s a buddy of the dictionary is capable of stringing oxymoronic phrases. So, why do you write? If your intention for writing is not to communicate a message, a belief, your belief, you should really drop your pen and come work in my shop.”

“Oh,” Debbie says, eyes swarming with pity, as if I’ve considered the option and consented to it.

“My point,” her mum says, “is that God has a reason for prompting you to be a writer. You should sell out, but not to God. To the world, to your self. Let your writing exhale God’s breath, sing Jesus.” She locks stares with Debbie. “Hope your boyfriend prays often in the spirit.”

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

She ignores Debbie. “You speak in tongues, don’t you?”

“By God’s grace ma.”

“Yes is yes. E ma tan rayin je. Don’t deceive yourselves.” She mimics Debbie. “He’s not my boyfriend. So, what is he then? Your friend that is a boy. Maybe guy-friend?”

I don’t hold back the smile.

A rap jerks us out of the moment. A Generation X man lumbers at the entrance, fingers balled. The boss stands. “Think on these things.”

Debbie says, “Now, that’s some story prompt.”

“It is,” I say.

“It is,” she says, again. And then, we say nothing.

*******

P.S: I enjoyed writing this scene, mainly because of the oxymoron. Tasked my brain a bit. Did you notice this – introductory epilogues? Oxymoronic. So, here’s one more for meditation – perfect blemishes. Add yours. Gracias.

The Little Things

Hello. It’s been a while. Thirteen days. I’ve been a bit lazy, I admit. But then, the one constant thing about life is that it changes. While I was preparing for this next post, I visited Brittle Paper and saw that, surprise, surprise, a story I sent in three months ago had been published. Perfect timing. You can read the story here. So, as you read the story I put up here, do well to visit the Brittle Paper story too. Two birds in one swing. Enjoy.

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I.

“You are not writing,” she says. I tilt my soles. “Again.”

“I am,” I say.

“Then you aren’t sharing.”

“They’re not shareable.”

Her eyebrows twitch. “Hmm.”

We walk down the lane, legs at a steady rhythm, arms swinging by our sides. We love swinging our arms.

“So…”

“No,” I say.

“Yes,” she says.

“I can’t,” I say.

She hits me in the tummy and jogs off before I can react. I pause, smiling, before racing after her. I notice the awkward stares of passersby. “It’s weird,” I want to say. The way we talk is weird. But I love the weirdness.

I catch up with her just at the end of the lane and pull her by the arm.

“Stop, before I do something that’d hurt you.”

“You won’t,” she says. She stops all the same and turns, such that her torso is steadied by my arms. Sort of romantic, except that I don’t like thinking of our relationship as romantic, but as something more.

“Don’t place a bet on it.”

She winks her left eye. “I know you won’t. You won’t,” she says. She hits me and starts running again.

I smile and shake my head. I run after her.

II.

We sit opposite each other in the café. An off-beat song blares from the TV. The artiste’s voice is like a toad’s; to say he’s an artiste is to abuse the noun. The table beside houses a group of freshmen – it is easy to identify them, the way they talk in mumbles, each unable to keep his grandiose idea to himself. The chairs are arranged in a hexagon round a round table. There are six of those tables, thirty chairs.

“I love the arrangement,” I tell her.

“Makes thirteen,” she says.

“I know,” I tell her. We’ve been here thirteen times, and I compliment the sitting arrangement each visit.

The freshmen are arguing about a question. A question in MTS 101, under a topic called Mathematical Induction.

“Mathematics should not even be induced,” one says.

“I agree,” another responds.

One small boy, so small you’d think he was a bagboy, raises his finger, raining silence upon the group.

I turn to my partner. She’s as shocked as I. I hear the boy say, “Our purpose here isn’t to argue about the validity or illogicality of induction under Math, but to determine if the equation –” reads off the equation – “holds when m is 2k and when m is 2k+1.”

Hardly does the boy wraps his non-Nobel winning speech when his peers descend upon him like a pack of wolfs attacking a stray lamb.

“He’s right.”

“He’s wrong.”

“I’m not doing the assignment until I know the concept behind MI.”

“And the man who thought of Mathematical Induction.”

I exchange a smile with my partner. “Get ready to sleep,” I say in response to the last comment.

My partner shakes her head. “They don’t know the water in which they’re swimming.” Her eyes are soft as she speaks, as if she would go over and talk wisdom into their heads, as if it’s her kids arguing over a stupid point.

“I should write about this,” I say.

“Yes,” she says.

I draw my pen and pad. Open. See my last story. Didn’t do so well with me, huh. I shut my eyes, take a breath, part them. I begin to scribble. My partner engages herself in a book, New Creation Realities. Minutes later, or maybe it’s half an hour, but long enough for the newbies to have quieted, I lift my head and close the pad.

I shake my head.

“Nothing?”

I slip her the pad. I haven’t counted sixty when the sound of pages ruffling against one another reaches me.

“This is beautiful,” she says.

“They are,” I say. “They aren’t.”

“Now, you are confusing me.”

I breathe. “Let’s walk.”

III.

The room is quiet when I enter. I catch a roommate sleeping, his mouth gaping like a ready-to-bite whale. I edge towards him and touch his face. He slaps the nothingness away, correcting his posture in the process. I turn around, unhook the strap of my bag and place it on the bed. I flop on the lower bunk, close my eyes, and whisper.

Then I call her. The phone rings. Rings. Rings. I toss it aside and walk to my closet. I reach for my wallet, unzip, produce a single brass key and insert it into the keyhole. Turning the key, I tap my feet softly against the tiled floor and wait for the crack. I pull the closet door back and wait for the creak.

I notice a thousand other feelings – the faint tap, tap emanating from the back of my block, the puff in the air as I inhale a breath, the growl of a body as my roommate turns in his sleep, the indistinct sound that comes just before some books clatter from my closet. Making a mental note to arrange them properly, I take a new breath. It feels so good, to finally be able to notice these little things.

My phone chirps.

“Hello,” she says.

I hear the sound in the background, like metal grinding against metal.

“Are you in a workshop?”

“Nope,” she says. “Grating pepper.”

Yes. Pepper. The grater. Metal against metal.

“Wow,” I say. I give her a rundown. “You know, over the last two months, I’ve had this feeling that everything I write isn’t good enough. It’s like I’ve set a standard for myself, and anything that doesn’t meet it, not minding the beauty, is not good.” I pause, letting her catch a breath. A door opens.

“Gimme a minute,” she says. Her voice mellows as she addressed the visitant. Seconds later, “Hey.”

“Still here,” I reply.

“You deserve a flogging.”

“But you won’t.”

“No,” she says. The softness of her voice, barely noticeable, pricks my heart. It’s refreshing, scary, intimate. Yes. That’s the word for our relationship. Intimate. “Who cares about standards? What matters is that the story transforms. Are you happy when you write it? Does it resonate? Do you shed tiny drops of tears?” She pauses. “These are the things that matter.”

“The little things,” I say.

“Yeah, like the sound of metal grinding against metal, like the flapping of a bird’s wing, like the color of the sky just before sunrise.”

“Hmm.”

“Now, if you don’t mind, I have a freshman to attend to.”

I know immediately it’s from the group in the café.

“That’s a story you have to share,” I quip.

“Not if you can write it first,” she tells me.

“I take that as a challenge.”

“And don’t forget –”

“The little things,” I say.

“The little things,” she says.

P.S: When I wrote the first draft, my characters dictated some conversations into my head (e.g. “So…”, “No,” I say). At the editing phase, I had forgotten my intentions for including the dialogue, but I decided to leave it anyway. Though I did not entirely understand it. If you don’t also, just… Pardon!

How You Know You Are Busy – 2

There’s a way every human knows something. Intuition. It’s like when Bode sneaks out to call his sister and says, “Dad’s mistress is around again,” and she says, “Why do you think so?” and he says, “Because I can hear sounds from upstairs,” and she says, “And you’re certain it ain’t mum?” and he says, “Well, it isn’t mum. I just know.”

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I.

It is eleven in the morning. You know this not because you are looking at the time on your laptop screen, but because you know. There’s a way every human knows something. Intuition. It’s like when Bode sneaks out to call his sister and says, “Dad’s mistress is around again,” and she says, “Why do you think so?” and he says, “Because I can hear sounds from upstairs,” and she says, “And you’re certain it ain’t mum?” and he says, “Well, it isn’t mum. I just know.”

You pause and think about the ‘sounds from upstairs’. A smile forms on your cheek, but it lasts only a seconds – all it takes for you to remember the class by twelve and the fact that you’re sending the document to your father by six. The staidness comes upon you again.

You complete the paragraph and save, then exit. You haven’t forgotten the last time you assumed you saved. That day, you should have submitted two designs. You completed them. You absently pressed no when the software asked if you wanted to save. You had to spend a thousand naira on call cards.

And you lost the next job too, because your client spread the bad news.

You close the lid and place the laptop in your bag. Your gaze drifts to the hooker in your wardrobe. The hooker is simply a nail – a piece of nail you hammered into the graffiti-ed wall for hanging your ID card. The hooker is empty presently because your card is missing. But you know you would find it. You just know.

And it isn’t intuition. It is faith.

II.

You are early to class, because the girl you’ve been running from closes her note and moves towards you as you enter. She does that only when you are early.

The lecturer is teaching on Mollusca and Annelida, how the latter evolved rapidly and became the first coelomates. Or is it acoelomates? Your head begins to buzz. You drop your torso on the table and press a finger against your temple. A chair folds and another slams open. You blink your eyes wide.

The girl is next to you.

“Have you found it?”

“No,” you whisper.

“Don’t let it get to you,” she says. She isn’t wearing makeup today. Her lips are baby pink and soft. You entertain a fleeting image of your lips on her lips. Immediately, something whips your heart. You shut your eyes and pray.

When you look again, your rep has his neck turned backwards. “Emmanuel, your assignment.”

You hear a bang. You know it’s your head again. The ringing persists, bang, bang, bang. It’s your phone, not your head. The lecturer has drawn a hiatus on his teaching. His eyes are trained in your direction now. He starts climbing, one step after the other, his gaze inscrutable, his steps not tentative, like a gladiator going for the final kill.

“Let me have it,” the lecturer says.

You draw one hand over your lap. Your body feels like it’s on Mercury.

“It was me,” someone says. You know the voice. It’s the girl. She looks past you towards the lecturer, “My phone rang sir. I’m sorry sir.”

A harrumph comes from nowhere. The lecturer looks at the girl, shakes his head in the manner of, “I don’t believe you,” and returns to his post.

You look at the girl. You say nothing, but your mind thinks, Why would you do a thing as such? What if he’d seized your phone?

She says nothing, but her face reads, You know what I want.

III.

Your phone rings. It’s your Unit Head. Not the one in fellowship, but the one at home. You let the six bangs fade, then lock the phone.

“You should change your ringtone.”

You look at the girl. She’s been with you three hours counting. Spread before you is the complete material for PHY 102. You’ve been pursuing the handout with the zeal of a slave seeking freedom, and here it is before you, like wine brought to the king. But this wine has a condition. The girl.

“Should we continue tomorrow?”

She shakes her head. “Saved you in class, remember?”

And so what! But, you recall the chat she showed you – the lecturer had told her to keep an eye on you. He didn’t like you, and he would be glad to throw you out of his class, and possibly, out of his GP system.

Your hands shoot up. “Alright,” you say. “One more hour.” You breathe.

“One hour,” she says, “then we’ll see.”

Your phone rings again.

IV.

It’s eleven pm. The wristwatch says so. Your Bible is opened to Exodus, the twenty-first chapter. You consider your study rate. You’ve been on the book for twenty-eight days, averaging three-quarter of a chapter per day. That’s like taking one cup of flakes every day. Your spirit must be crying.

You bow your head and pray, then move to open the Amplified version on your phone when the beast in it comes alive. It’s your class rep calling this time. He doesn’t call you except to pass information or demand help.

You slide the green receive button.

“Emmanuel –”

“The assignment,” you say. “I’d submit tomorrow.”

“It’s not the assignment, guy. We have a test by 8.”

And your heart goes, bang.

“Hello?”

“I’d call back,” you say. You end the call and collapse on the bed. The foam feels like hardwood. You can feel tears tease your eyes. You sniff. You sniff again.

The phone rings again.

“I said I would call –”

You choke on the last word as your head comes to its senses. Your class rep isn’t the caller. Your father is.

 

P.S 1: I have really been busy. I’m not liking it again. I think I should just forget everything and sit with the laptop all day, crafting out characters. Maybe I should, err, elope? What! I’m not a bride. Anyway, I’d be putting up short stories here soon.

P.S 2: The image before the post is a work some freshmen in Industrial Design did. Took the picture in the dark, plus my camera was blurry, hence the quality. But then, it had me stop and stare. Model of a fountain was what they call it. I still can’t loop my head around the thought.

P.S 3: Thank you very much for reading. I mean, with my inconsistencies, you still read. So, thank you. Thank you for being a part of this community.

They Never Came… 

Your phone rang again. Again, you let the tone fade. You knew what Mother would say. Rent was almost up. She cooked the last pack of spaghetti. The soap you brought the last time was cheap. Sometimes, you wondered if she kept a list of complaints. 

Having successfully mastered the temptation to put up a rushed writing in the bid to blog, I have finally found the perfect post. 

Or maybe not. That’s a debate for another occasion. 

The last few days, I’ve – read stories, written a handful, read Scriptures, watched one movie (not more), added another year and, slept. 

Today, I’m blogging fiction. It’s a first for this year. Hint me on your thoughts when you are done. Thank you for stopping by. 

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II. 

He called on Monday. 

“Mr Cooke?”

“Wale,” he said, his voice thick, as if it was plucked from a bass guitar. “Good morning.”

“Morning. Is it ready yet?”

“Patience, Wale.” Your name came out as way-lay, like his tongue was pegged back. “Did you register the names?”

“Yes,” you said. Your heartbeat sounded behind your ear. 

“Perfect. All that’s left is the transfer.”

“Okay.”

“You have the details?”

“Sure.” Your head began to spin.

“I’d be expecting the cash.”

“Okay.” You set the phone down. You closed your eyes. Calm down. Calm it, Wale. One more step. Just one. You were so close now. 

The clock ticked 8. You snapped awake. Your eyes danced to the souvenir timepiece. You’d change the clock first. Then the velvet couch, the set of pots bent at the edges. So many things. 

You took another breath. 
III. 

The cashier stared at you like you spoke a French dialect. The thick frames of her glasses enlarged her black eyeballs, transforming her into a village witch. Those witches. You were escaping their clutches today. Not one more day. 

“I want to transfer via… No, I need to transfer via Moneygram.”

“And I said the network is teetering over the edge.”

“You don’t understand,” you said, barely keeping your curled fists under control. “I need to do this within the hour.”

She shrugged. Nothing. No seductive smile. No sorry from those full lips. You didn’t think. Your hand shot off, flew over the slab, cracked her lower lip. 

Only it wasn’t a lip, but a strong hand. The cashier squealed. Your senses came back. You stared into the face of a bouncer. 
IV. 

“Take two lefts, walk straight ahead, until you arrive at a pawn shop. The bank is a couple buildings away.”

You thanked the bouncer and hurried off, grateful your eyes were still in their sockets, grateful you only had to part with your hand-me-downs Rolex. Your head was throbbing. A wave of heat slapped your left wrist. It felt naked, that spot on the wrist where a watch once abode , like a celeb feels when paparazzi gets a picture of her in the tub. Naturally, she wouldn’t feel anything. But when she stumbles upon the front-page of Entertainment Today and is greeted by her nude torso, she realizes she, like every other species, goes naked. 

You found the bank, a tall building masked by red glasses. You heaved once and go in. 
I. 

One day earlier. 
You sat behind the laptop, your chins propped up on both wrists. The screen shuffled pages, displaying ads and stupid pop-ups. Stupid because you’d click on one and it’d automatically expand into six tabs, all repeating the same monotonous information. You stared for ten minutes, twice checking the time at the bottom right corner of the screen

Your phone rang again. Again, you let the tone fade. You knew what Mother would say. Rent was almost up. She cooked the last pack of spaghetti. The soap you brought the last time was cheap. Sometimes, you wondered if she kept a list of complaints. 

You ran your finger slowly across the screen, across the invitation link flashing twice in three seconds. 500k, ten days, eighty percent profit. It was risky, but heck, everything worthwhile was. 

The phone rang again. You opened the link. 
V. 

You called Mother. 

“Hello?”

“Mum, are you home?”

“Why do you ask?”

You stifled a laugh. “Had breakfast yet?”

“Warmed the rice from yesterday’s party.”

Bitter air seeped into your mouth. No more of that. “I’m coming over,” you said. 

A grunt filled your ear, then a tone that sounded like a warning signal. But you did not heed the warning. Instead, you bought wheat bread, two sardines, half a dozen tins of milk. She met you at the gate, as you alighted from the bike. The milk worked magic, her sour greeting instantly replaced by…

“My son, you didn’t tell me God had done it.”

“Cooke, not God. Cooke did it.”

You sat her on a wooden chair and explained. You were a bit afraid, yes, but all would pull through. 

Definitely, she said. She’d even fast if necessary. Everyone took risks, she said. 

You needed cold water. You dipped your hand into the fridge and brought out a glass. The water burnt your tongue. You spat into the sink and flushed, watching it go in a swirl. You arranged a mental list of things to change, starting with the fridge. 
VI. 

The sun stung your cheeks. You blinked and held its gaze, oblivious to the track of tears crawling down your face. A Camry honked and drifted by. Two joggers in waist-tight pants slowed and exchanged mumbles. They stayed for thirty seconds, then resumed. The female did not look away until she rounded the corner.

The sun grew hotter. The joggers completed three runs. The kiosk inches away opened and welcomed customers. Some of them greeted you with suspicious smiles, their noses folded over cheekbones. 

But you did not budge. You wouldn’t budge.

It’s been ten days, you’d told Mother. Ten days since your fat investment should yield. 

Your phone rang. You snatched it.

“Cooke?”

“Wale,” he said. 
VII. 

“Good evening and thank you for joining us on News at nine…”

The reporter’s words slipped from hearing range. You stared at the phone. At the laptop. One million and sixty thousand, your balance read. But that was on paper. Really, you had nothing. Nothing. 

The noodles you ate for dinner was from a neighbor. She wouldn’t give you anymore, she’d said. The phone rang. It wasn’t Cooke or Mother. It was the agent from the loan bank. You did not pick. It was a matter of decisions, you knew, and they’d be at your door. 

You dropped the phone and picked the Bible. Ecclesiastes. You picked the words one after the other, as if doing so would somehow dump a million in your account. 

“Cast thy bread upon the waters, for after many days, you shall find it again.”

You’d wait. You’d wait for the many days. Hopefully, you wouldn’t be six feet under by then. 

You slapped the Bible close and slumped on the couch, the same one you should have changed. You closed your eyes and waited for sleep, for death. 

But they, like the money, did not come. They never would. 

In Dependence and Other Things 

Vanessa existed in the way Oliver Twist did, the way Shakespeare defined love for us.

​  All fact is fiction, and all fiction is fact. It is a mystery the individual can, and should, never unravel, much less, understand. 
  I accept the above statement, and rather unwittingly, live by it. I think I’d have preferred to say, I find myself living by it – like a student finds herself bored in a French class she’s forced to attend. In retrospect, she realizes she’s not just bored of the class, a seed of boredom for the lecturer has brewed into a cauldron, therefore controlling her subconscious self. In like manner, we find ourselves in a habit, while, really, we’ve allowed the roots of that habit plant foot. 
  But, we aren’t talking about these things today. It’s fact and fiction, and the fuzzy line between. Hear this: I fell in love with Vanessa while I squatted on my decrepit bed. She was comely, and with a plaid shirt, appeared to be a character cut from Miss World. She held my stare such that I felt a breeze of comfort, even if I was being defiant. I strolled up and saluted. She smiled, the smile that says, “He’s actually interested in me. Me. Oh my gosh, like really!” We talked for a few minutes, and as I turned to depart, I requested her number. 
  Her response was a knockout. 
  “You’ve got none?”


  She grinned, clear blue eyes misted. “Dude, I don’t exist. I’m just a means to an end, not the end itself. Sort of…”
  Something in me snapped, like a ram pushed to the edge of the cliff. I lifted my head as the door swung inside, spewing an athletic young man. He approached me and took the book. It was then, when he sniffed the purple cover, that it came in clear words. 
  Vanessa existed in the way Oliver Twist did, the way Shakespeare defined love for us. Thrice, I had become enamored of a character. A mere character. 
  Maybe they are not mere characters. Maybe the people we read in magazines and fiction are as real as the lanky girl who hawks dried fish past our gate. Maybe Oliver Twist was once a young boy and not Dickens’s brainchild. Maybe Ishmael was in all forms aboard the ship hunting Moby Dick as there were captains steering the wheel of Titanic. I’m not much into folklore, but what if the stories we heard by the moonlight were events in some people’s lives. 
  And, how about facts being fiction? Would it be awesome if Trump being president was an upcoming writer’s imagination. What would your response be if you learnt your spouse was your spouse because a crazy writer wrote it at such? Or that the child who laughs at every tickle happened to be your son because it raised the stakes of a bestselling novel. 
  A glum stare fills my face as I imagine the story in Showdown playing itself out – kids who have been schooled on good and evil being able to write events into reality, then watching these realities spiral out of control (purchase the novel to enjoy the juice). 
  See, it’s back at takeoff. We can not separate fact from fiction. We can not hate one because of the other. And we cannot understand it either. It’s like Ted Dekker said, “The questions shouldn’t matter. It’s about loving as Jesus loves us, and knowing He does.” Amen? 
  Vanessa is the heroine in In Dependence, a novel by Sarah Ladipo. She’s British, unlike the one before her, an American detective. You, as I did, may peruse how I came to like a detective. It’s the magic of books, good books, great books. They slip into our world – the one built on facts – and swoosh their wands. Out it goes, through the window, and we are immersed in fiction. Until we get jerked out of the ‘fictive bubble’ (Dekker’s words). Do we for these purpose dump books in a bonfire? By all means, no. 
  No, we read. We accept. We let these things shape us, not too much or too little. Enough to make us understand who we really are. Whose we really are. 
  For that is the greatest quest, the most noble of all. 
Here’s an excerpt:

“Care for a drink?” someone asked. 

“Would love one.” She took the glass and drank the wine quickly. 

“I’m Charlie,” he smiled, “and you?”

“Tired.”
P.S: Miriam was her name, the first lady I loved. She was cultured in Saudi Arabia and fled to America, falling in love with a Clairvoyant geek, while on the run with the same man. Of course, she’s Muslim, and I thought it so real I nursed the idea of marrying a Muslim for a week. Is that fiction? Or is it fact? 

What Happened On Saturday?

Hello.

I have been away for so long, so long blogging feels odd, like a beginner taking the first strokes in a swimming pool. I intended to break the silence with a post entirely different from what you are seeing, but it is. And what can the petite me do to twist the fingers of fate?

Well, today’s Saturday, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Makes it a special Saturday. And I’ve written about this Saturday. What exactly went down on Saturday? That Saturday?

Please, this is entirely fiction. Do not draw historical conclusions. Thank you very much. Soon, I’d get back to blogging, and stating the reasons for the absence. Enjoy.

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“Saturday was smack-down. Right before the smash, no one predicted the outcome. It was unprecedented, yet predestined.”

The boy giggles. “Father, you’re speaking literature.”

Josiah smiles. “Forgive me.” He sips from the bowl on the table. The boy turns ever briefly to consider the trembling water. It is calm after a few seconds, as if it was never disturbed, much like the sea of Galilee responded when Christ gave the command.

Josiah walks to the shelf pushed against the north wall of the room. “Samuel, come.” He’s speaking the boy’s name for the first time, and it tastes sweet. Honey

“You have a kid story on this festival?”

Samuel stretches his fingers to the second row and runs them along five, ten books, stopping on a hardcover. The book is coated in dust as expected, a problem Josiah handles with a rag. He moves to the table and shifts the bowl of water.

He raises his head to find Sam by his side. Hunger bites the kid’s smile.

“See, Good Friday. Enough historical research and opinions. Ashterah, Easter eggs, buns, blah, blah, blah.” Josiah feels the anger in his tone before he looks at the boy. “Sorry.”

Sam shrugs.

He turns two leaves. “And the resurrection, which occurred on Sunday.” Three pages were dedicated to the happenings on that day – the attire Mary had on while she approached the tomb, how she could have observed the angels with naked eyes, debates ranging from what Peter said to how John reacted.

“What do you want me to see, father?”

“This.” Josiah jabs a finger at a page filled to the half with words. Saturday. “Nothing much is said of Saturday, except that it had to pass.”

“But…”

“But showdown occurred on Saturday. The devil thought he was winning, and the next snap, he was under Christ’s feet. Christ had won. He was raised by His Father. It’s like having a two wrestlers tug, with one bound for defeat. In a thunderbolt, the condemned has forever knocked his opponent out.” Josiah exchanges a glance with Samuel. “How does that sound?”

“Surreal.”

“It was real.”

“Yes, Father. It was.” Samuel watches the grandmother clock nailed adjacent the doorpost. A quarter before seven pm. Almost dinnertime. He turns slowly. “Father, why did Jesus not rise on Saturday? Why Sunday?”

“Why not Monday?” Josiah asks. “Did the Lord require forty-eight hours before the resurrection could take place?”

Samuel stares.

“No, don’t answer. As you know, son, the details of his death, burial, and resurrection, were recorded to the details by the prophets.”

“And by the psalmist.”

The passage came to Josiah as if he were just reviewing it. I am poured out like water… My bones are out of joints… They pierced My joints and feet…

“The twenty-second psalm,” Samuel says.

“The twenty-second psalm,” Josiah says. Hence, The Lord is my shepherd. Because he rose… the twenty-third psalm.

“He rose on Sunday.”

“Oh, He did.” There’s a gurgle in Josiah’s throat, like wine signaling to burst. “He did, so we live.”

There’s a knock at the door. “Mother,” Sam whispers.

Josiah, leaning on the wall such that his view is to the window, nods and shuts his eyes. Footsteps fade.

“What happened on Sunday?” Sam asks.

“Rejoicing. Rejoicing in heaven, rejoicing that’s not an everyday occurrence.” There’s a steep silence, then a soft whoosh.

“Rejoicing,” Josiah whispers again, eyes unopened. He sings into the darkness.