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Monday, December 27, 2010

LASMOCK TIMES: INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING


“That’s my letter! He’s reading my letter!”

My frenzied whispers were drawing glances from the students sitting on the floor around me. I should have cared about the attention I was attracting, but I didn’t. Bizzo was reading my letter! To the whole school!

It was Tuesday, and it was time for another Hour of Doom: that weekly gathering where the names of the 'doomed' for the week were read out while the students waited with bated breaths. Hour of Doom was Bizzo’s brainchild, and the relieved sighs of the students who escaped punishment at the end of every week – for offences ranging from dropping litter on the school grounds to 'pooping' in unauthorized spots – was enough testimony as to its effectiveness. Mr. Adenaya, a.k.a. Bizzo, senior boarding house master, and master of all he surveyed, stood before the gathering of subdued students that Tuesday wearing his trademark scowl that could reduce even the boldest of students to scurrying mice. Bizzo could never be accused of sparing the rod but he did have a sense of fairness that we the students could see, though we would never admit to this. Feared as much as he was respected, it was Bizzo who had taught the litter-happy Kankonians to dispose waste properly, such that six years after leaving Lagos State Model College, Kankon, I still feel guilty when I drop litter anywhere other than in a waste bin.

The Discipline Keeping Organization, DIKOR for short, was another one of Bizzo’s inventions. DIKOR was for the most part a network of student spies whose membership was mostly secret, and whose job it was to report the happenings in school to Bizzo. They were also the ones mainly responsible for getting the names of the weekly doomed.


It was a rare thing for the students to burst into laughter during Hour of Doom, but it happened that Tuesday. Bizzo himself was not left out; he managed an indulgent chuckle. I smiled. He had gotten to my drama sketches. My opening preamble was an appeal for action on the issue I was raising: senior students and their cruelty to the juniors. That done with, Bizzo was reading one of the few short drama pieces I’d added for effect. Having long discovered that I had the gift for wielding a pen, I’d thought it a social responsibility of mine to use that gift to address an issue dear to my heart, and that of my fellow sufferers.

Anyone who is familiar with the Nigerian public boarding school experience knows that the JSS 1 student is on the lowest possible level of the food chain – the ultimate prey. I belonged to this unfortunate group as at when I wrote my letter, and though I was somewhat protected by a popular school mother in SS 2, I couldn’t help but feel the plight of my less privileged colleagues. We were kindred spirits after all.

Bizzo finished reading my drama pieces and once again the air became charged with the apprehensive silence of the students. I knew what would come next, and I knew it would not be funny. Along with my drama pieces, I’d also attached a list of guilty senior students I'd got from my ‘investigations’. Bizzo started to call out the names, each name drawing whispered reactions from the students. The list and my letter done with, Bizzo declared that he would meet with those seniors whose names I’d written, and that pending his own investigations he would take action. He thanked the anonymous writer.

As hour of doom drew to a close, and for the next few days, I was in a euphoric state. I was a modern day Esther, come to save junior students in my school from annihilation. It wasn’t long before my bubble burst and I came crashing back down to earth. The senior students I’d named had finished serving their punishments, and next, they’d set their bloodied sights on whoever the sorry soul was that had written that letter. I can imagine them now as they must have been, swinging cutlasses and hoes at the grass, their anger giving them superhuman strength as they cursed at the faceless, but soon to be dead junior, who had ratted them out.

I’d had the common sense to send in my letter anonymously and that should have given me some comfort. But my excitement at having my letter read, and the manner in which I’d carried out my ‘investigations’, made it such that it was only a matter of time before I was found out. With the blessed benefit of hindsight, I know that I could have done a better job of getting the names I needed without exposing myself. But green JSS 1 student that I was, I’d gone about asking my classmates in other hostels to give me the names of the troublesome seniors in their hostels. I believe the scenes in the various hostels that day would have played out something like this: the seniors get back to their hostels after their punishment, red eyed, seething with fury. The juniors scramble to get out of their way, but the seniors would have none of that. They round up the juniors and start making threatening noises, and before long the juniors who know anything about the letter start to crack.

Soon my name was on the lips of every female senior in the school. I became a wanted girl. I went into hiding, but I couldn’t stay away from the hostels for long. I was caught and delivered into the hands of the furious seniors. My school mother washed her hands off me. I would bear the consequences of my 'I too know' alone. Transferred from hostel to hostel, room to room, I fetched countless buckets of water, swept entire hostels, washed the 'convenience' (the euphemism for our nausea-inducing pit latrines) and went on endless errands. For a while I was something of a pariah, and there was a lot of name calling and finger pointing. And though I got some sympathy (thanks to my 'innocent' face) it was the lowest point of my time at Kankon. But it did learn how not to be an investigative reporter, and so the experience was worth it.

     

Sunday, December 19, 2010

THE QUARRY

My heart starts to race as I spot him across the room. Our eyes lock for a second and I wonder if he feels it too – that jolt of pure electricity. He looks away, his gaze drawn to the woman petulantly tugging at the sleeve of the tux that barely hides the raw masculinity he exudes. As would be expected, there is – besides Miss Needy – a throng of people around him. A man like him could easily pull a crowd on a desert island, so a Lagos bar on a Friday night would pose little challenge. One of his admirers must have said something funny because he suddenly throws back his head and laughs. The rich, throaty sound carries across the room, above the subdued music from the hidden speakers, and sets my toes tingling in my Gucci’s.
There is something about him. Usually I would gag at the thought of using such a cliché, but this time it is true. Maybe it’s that tall, lithe body and the way he carries it. Or perhaps it’s his dark chocolate skin and the way it glows under the lights. It could be that face, which had surely been carved by the hands of angels; those full, sensuous lips that hold promises of secret pleasures. If nothing else, it surely has something to do with the daredevil I sense him to be – that and his aloofness, that unreachable something that is both maddening and enthralling. I glance at Miss Needy beside him and see – along with the adoration in her eyes – the anxiety that she would never be more to him than an irksome distraction. I am too busy plotting my own strategy to feel much sympathy for her, though. She is, after all,  a rival. But from the look of things she would not be one for long.
Sorry, lady. It’s get on or get gone. Ha-ha! 
My mind churns as I nurse my drink, trying not to stare too hard. My eyes glaze over as I picture him naked. Ah, yes…. He works out, so those dark chocolate arms are strong; well toned but not too muscular. He has broad, do-lean-on-me shoulders, a smooth, hairless chest, and shiny pecs. He has a glorious six pack, and a trim waist that tapers down to strong, muscled thighs. And nestled between them…
Damn it.
I wake up in time to see the object of my fantasy lean down and brush his lips lightly against the disappointed Miss Needy’s cheek, shake hands with some guys and head for the door. I quickly signal the bartender to put the drink on my tab as I hurry after him.
As usual I am slightly nervous as I approach my quarry, and I wonder – would he find my strong, overt approach off-putting? Would he hate that I am white? Would he mind that I am a man?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

NOSTALGIA



Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. Think about it – what else can make you look back on the worst of times with something close to fondness? What else can give those past memories, good bad or ugly, that bitter-sweet taste, that subtle rose tint? It is a strange thing, nostalgia, and stranger still what it does to us, making us long for a past that we cannot go back to, and no matter how hard we try to recreate that past in the present it’s never quite the same.

But maybe that’s all part of the beauty of nostalgia. The past would not be the past if we could so easily recreate it; that’s what memories are for. We remember the bad so we do not make the same mistakes, and so we can try to keep others from making our mistakes. Our scars serve as the necessary reminder. We remember the good in our lives too, and if they do nothing else these memories remind us that there is joy in living. They give us a reason to smile, and they may make us want to put smiles on the faces of others.

Nostalgia, for all its charm, is something we do not want to indulge too much in. It is a dangerous thing to dwell on the past. We should remember it but not live in it, for being consumed with a past that we cannot change or relive will only keep us from seeing all the beauty that the future holds for us. Life carries on and so should we, with our memories – pleasant or otherwise – serving not as dead weight, but as the spur that will keep us going strong.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

PET PEEVES II


Don’t believe the hype; being a ghost is no fun. You can’t read minds, you can’t possess people or influence their thoughts or actions, you can’t reach anyone or anything physically, and you can’t move things with your mind. Nobody can see you, nobody can reach you, and worst of all, nobody cares, cos – guess what – you’re supposed to be dead, stupid! You are completely cut off, condemned to remain a powerless, pitiful spectator. I should know.

My name is Femi, and I’m a ghost.

Well, maybe not a ghost…not exactly, cos I don’t remember dying. I don’t think I’m actually dead. But whatever I am now it’s close enough so I can say I’m speaking from personal experience. Read my lips – if you can see them – ghosts aren’t superhuman. They’re actually sub-human. Or what else would you call this miserable state of being? Sub-sub-human? Then you’d be right. Even Brandy is better off!

Brandy.

I guess I should be thankful that he can see me. It’s not like that has done me any good so far, but at least he’s not taken in by that thing that has my wife under its spell. This is worse than death. If I were dead I wouldn’t have to watch this other being take over my life, with my wife gladly obliging. One other ghost myth, by the way: they say ghosts don’t feel pain. That’s the biggest myth of all. I know because now every time I see her I ache all over. This is all Shola’s fault, though I had said I hated my life and wanted out of the whole thing. And I did use those exact words. Only, I hadn’t known I was saying them to someone, or something, who could make it happen.

The night I left the house Shola and I had fought – this time about my newest assistant, Nikki. She’d always said Nikki was after me; said she could see it in her scheming eyes. That night, I came home late from a business dinner which Nikki, as my assistant, had attended with me. I came straight home from there but Shola had insisted that Nikki had something to do with my ‘constant’ late nights. I said there was nothing between Nikki and I.

“Really?”

I nodded.

“Then fire her. Immediately,” Shola had said.

“What?”

“I said fire her. And then hire someone not so single and not so attractive. Better yet, hire a man!”

I struggled to keep my voice patient. Shola had an explosive temper and I could see she was reaching her boiling point.

“Shola, I have no good reason to…”

“Since when do you need a good reason, Femi, you own the bloody company!”

“…she’s very professional, very efficient. She’s been nothing but an asset since she joined us.” 

I was about to add that she had a great ass too, but somehow I doubted Shola would appreciate the humour. It wouldn’t have been all joke, though, cos Nikki was very attractive. And she did have the hots for me. Contrary to what men might say or what women might think, a man can always tell. We men are really not as dumb as we pretend to be. We only make you ladies think we’re dumb so that when we mess up we can get away with you shaking your heads and calling us mumus under your breath.

Anyway, I said I wouldn’t fire Nikki and Shola got mad and started calling me names. I told her to shut the hell up. That was when she really lost it and started throwing things at me. I tried to stop her but she slapped me so hard that for a moment the whole world went still. When I could move again I picked my keys from the table where I’d left them minutes ago and walked out of the house, ignoring her screamed threats. We’d had several fights but before that night Shola had never hit me.

After driving around for a while, with my windows down and the wind blowing in my face, my amazement had turned into anger. Who the hell did she think she was, hitting me like that? If my mother hadn’t raised a gentleman I would have given it right back to her. Shola had always been a bit protective of her turf but I’d never seen her act like she had that night. Granted, Nikki was a hottie, but I hadn’t married no Ugly Betty either, trust me. Shola had always been too insecure for her own good. It had taken a whole lot for me to keep her from driving away all my female friends. I’d cut down my interaction with them just to make Shola happy, and they’d never stopped complaining and yabbing me about it. But nothing was ever good enough for Shola. Well she could go screw herself to a pole. And she could take her stupid paranoia with her!

I found a bar so I could drown myself in alcohol. Stalking to the bar, I growled my order at the barman. I took a stool and sat staring at the marble countertop, wishing the past five or six years of my life had never happened. I thought back to the day I first met Shola. It was at my cousins wedding and she’d been the planner. Weddings were not my favourite social gatherings but I’d stuck around longer than I would normally have just so I could talk to the lady in the blue dress that lovingly clung to every contour of her glorious body. Watching her take charge of the event without breaking a sweat, I could easily imagine her taking charge of me, in certain…situations. And I would let her. Gladly. What can I say, I like a woman who can handle her business. It wasn’t until after I’d married her that I saw her for what she really was: a bloody control freak!

“Is this seat taken?”

I was well into my third drink when I heard the voice and was only too eager to give a smart-ass answer. Then I looked up. Even the poor lighting in the bar could not hide her stunning looks. She was wearing a shimmery silver dress that had surely been painted on her coke-bottle body. The dress stopped way above her knees, giving me room to appreciate her endless legs. At the risk of sounding like a pig, I will also mention that her breasts looked like they were eager to leave the confines of that dress. Her eyes had worn a bemused look as she took the stool beside me. I stared at the shimmery fabric of her dress, and at that moment I would have given anything to be that dress.

I offered to pay for her drink and she graciously accepted. We chatted aimlessly for a while, me enjoying the fact that she didn’t mind that I was talking to the freedom-fighting boobs.

“So how’s married life treating you?” she asked.

Taking a sip from my glass, I replied, “Marriage is overrated.”

She made a sexy pout.

“Awww, you poor baby,” she cooed, reaching out to pull my chin playfully.

“You should know,” I said, nodding at her wedding band.

She looked at it like she was seeing it for the first time.

“I guess I should know, shouldn’t I,” she said, with a smile I couldn’t help but return.

“You know, I never saw myself as the punching-bag type, but my wife obviously sees me differently,” I said, staring into my glass.

“Your wife beats you?” she sounded like was trying to suppress her laughter.

“Well not ‘beat’ ‘beat’ like that sha. She just likes to slap me around a bit…”

She threw back her head and laughed like a banshee. The whole bar turned to stare but I didn’t mind. She was smoking hot. And I’d made her laugh. That underdog stuff really worked.

“Well, I’m sure you could show her, if you wanted to,” she said eventually.

Then she leaned over to press and prod my biceps for emphasis. The freedom fighters grazed my arm and I flexed my muscles to keep them there a little longer. I raised my glass when she was done. She raised hers too, her eyes questioning.

“A toast…to say…to hell with marriage, joint accounts and bitch-slapping wives,” I said. She did her banshee laugh again.

“But seriously,” I said after her laughter had died down, “I hate my life right now. I just want out of this whole bloody marriage business. I feel like I’ve fallen victim to the oldest con in the book.”

She started at me until I raised my eyes to meet hers.

“You really mean that?”

“I’ve never meant anything more in my life. I wish I could change everything.”

She smiled slowly. Then she stood and held out her hand to me. I stood and took her hand.

“There’s nothing better than a ‘to hell with marriage’ gesture to lift your mood. I know a place where we can be alone.”

I started to protest.

“Shhh. Look, it doesn’t have to be one long thing. It’ll just be a way to give your wife the finger, you know. Trust me, it always works. I know. You’ll feel much better when we’re done. And you don’t even have to call me unless you want to. We don’t even know each others’ names…you see?”

Now I’m not trying to make excuses for my behavior but I tell you, there’s no man on earth who would have passed that up, not with the way she’d held me with those eyes; not with that body and that dress; not with that body in that dress. Besides Shola had always been convinced I was a no-good cheat. It would be great to live down to her expectations for once.

We took her car and she drove to some small, but surprisingly, classy hotel. She booked the room while I tried to blend in with the furniture in the lobby. She took my hand as we made our way to the room, squeezing it intermittently. Despite my discomfort, I was looking forward to unwrapping her. And no strings attached sounded really good to me.

We grabbed each other as soon as the door shut behind us. Our lips glued together, we struggled to get each other out of our clothes. I heard a loud ripping sound and stopped long enough to notice the long, vertical tear I'd made in her dress. I was about to apologize but she clearly didn’t minded cos she just grabbed me again. Having successfully rid each other of our clothing, we stumbled onto the bed. I initially heard warning voices in my head, but my lust quickly silenced them.

Just when I could wait no longer, she stopped me. Our eyes met and held.

“So you’re sure you’re ready for a change?” she asked.

 At that moment, I would have said my name was Rumpelstiltskin – and given enough evidence to prove it in a court of law too – if she'd asked me to.

“I’m so ready.”

She smiled into my eyes.

“Then welcome to change, Mister.”

And then she let me take her.







   

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

PET PEEVES


Now her head was tilted back, her neck exposed, awaiting the kisses that she always said took her to heavenly places – her words, not mine. The man obliged her slowly, as if to heighten her anticipation, touching those bright pink lips to the pulse that throbbed madly at the base of her neck. She moaned. His hands travelled down from her chest where they had been busy with her breasts; they roamed down her hips and then paused to grab her ass. I felt my hackles rising where I sat. Their mouths disengaged as they came up, gasping, for air.
“Oh God, Femi… I’ve missed you so much,” she panted through lips that were three times their normal size.
“I missed you too,” he answered.
She gazed deep into his eyes and my heart started to race with the hope that she was finally seeing something. She wasn’t.
“When you left and I couldn’t reach you, I was such a wreck. I couldn’t eat or sleep, I couldn’t function at work… I thought I’d lost you.”
He smiled into her eyes.
“I’m back now,” he said.
She was quiet for a moment.
“But what happened? Why did you leave like that? And for three days! I mean, it’s not like we haven’t had fights before. Where were you?”
He shook his head as he shushed her. His voice was gentle when he spoke.
“I was just… let’s just call it a case of temporary insanity. But I’m home now, and I’ll never leave you again. I promise.”
That I couldn’t take. My mode of protest was a low growl from my throat. They turned to look at me.
“Shola, what’s wrong with him?” he asked, his eyebrows raised.
“I don’t know,” she said. She was wearing her puzzled face. “You know, he’s been acting funny since you got back yesterday.”
She made as if to walk towards me, but he held her fast.
“Leave him; he’ll get over it, whatever ‘it’ is. There’s more… interesting things we can do,” his voice had become a raspy whisper.
Her eyes lit up and she turned to him and promptly forgot I existed. So much for loving devotion. I was obviously no match for Mr. Magic Stick.
“More still?” she shivered her delight. “Ooh, I can’t wait.”
He took her hand and quickly led her towards the bedroom. I followed as fast as my short legs would carry me, pissed that my heated protests were being completely ignored.  It wasn’t until I ran into the door that had been shut in my face that I accepted I’d failed again.
With my head down and my tail between my legs, I walked into the kitchen to find the now familiar figure sitting – no, hovering – where I had left it. No, him. He raised his head to look at me, and I could see my disappointment mirrored in his eyes.
Hey, don’t blame me; you heard how loud I barked out there. Try being a miniature dachshund trying to send a message to a human, particularly that human. I don’t speak humanese!
“It’s okay, Brandy, I know you tried. You’re still the best.”
I grinned up at him. He’d been good at reading me, even before he’d become like this. Shola, unfortunately, was a different story. I saw him rise and glide towards me. Then he squatted beside me and scratched me behind my ears like he used to. Only, his hand went right through me; I felt nothing. I looked up into his translucent eyes and whimpered. He tried a reassuring smile but didn’t quite get it. He stayed that way for a while, and I could tell that, like me, he was picturing the scene now unfolding in his bedroom, with his wife and – as far as she knew – himself in it.
I raised my head to search his face for the answers he wouldn’t or couldn’t give, but I could see nothing but the desperation in his eyes.
The minute Other Femi had walked into the house yesterday, I had known something was very wrong; I had smelt it. I hadn’t been able to place my paw on it immediately, but that hadn’t kept me from barking and nipping at his heels for all I was worth. The moment it had become obvious to Shola that my excitement hadn’t been borne out of joy, she’d tried to keep Other Femi out of my way. Luckily for me, she’d never gotten round to buying me a cage. Bet she regretted that now, he-he! I shouldn’t push it, though. She was probably now considering taking me to an animal shrink to have my head examined.
Four days ago, Shola and Femi, my owners, had had another one of their legendary fights, complete with screaming, hysteria, and identifiable flying objects. I’d observed them from the relative safety of the floor under the sofa. I am a very small dog. Femi had stormed out of the house at some point, and had only returned yesterday. But the Femi getting frisky with Madam in the bedroom was Other Femi. This I’d finally been able to tell for sure when Real Femi had literally walked through the door minutes later, while Shola and Other Femi had been busy playing let’s make up. Real Femi had looked at me and seen that I could see him. He’d looked so relieved, but now I doubt that there’s any way I can help. He’d bent to greet me like he always did, and I’d run to meet him. Don’t get the wrong impression here, I actually am a smart dog, but I hadn’t quite gotten the picture just then. It had therefore come as a surprise to me when I’d hurled myself at him, as usual, only to find myself going right through him and slamming into the door behind him. My head had cleared eventually, and it had finally registered that he was… well… see-through. And so now, even though I don’t know how some other… being… has managed to expel Real Femi from his own body, or why, we are both trying to get Shola to notice that her ‘husband’ is not her husband. However, judging from the sounds of commotion we can hear coming from the bedroom – even with the doors closed – you can tell we haven’t made much progress.
Yeah, they could build planes and get on the moon, but humans were still quite dumb. I’m just a dog, but I could tell as soon as I’d seen Other Femi that he was an impostor. You would think that his wife of five years would have some inkling, at least. But no! She was too busy getting busy with Other Femi.
Humans.
My ears perked up as the bedroom door came open. Real Femi became still. Shola walked into the kitchen, as you humans say, in her birthday suit, which was slick with sweat. She pulled open the door to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water. Arching her neck, she emptied the bottle in quick gulps. Then she leaned against the open door of the fridge and closed her eyes, running one hand through her now disheveled hair. Now, I love Real Femi, but I must admit I’ve never seen him induce this sort of reaction from her. No wonder she couldn’t tell something was wrong – he was keeping her too occupied to think!
He walked in too, Other Femi, and yes, he was naked. I stood and snarled at him. He glanced at me, and though I was making my ferocious face, he walked – apparently unperturbed – to Shola, and put his arms around her. She took out another bottle of water and handed it to him. The water disappeared down his throat. They dropped the bottles on the kitchen counter and stood looking at each other. Shola’s eyes were glazed, reminding me of the way the bitch three doors down kept looking at me. I should look into that when this gets over.
“There’s something… different about you,” Shola purred, trailing a finger down his chest. “You’ve changed a bit.”
I thought I saw a panicked look cross his face, and then he smiled.
“There’s a lot about me that has changed, Shola. But you like what you see?”
“And what I feel,” she gave a laugh that male humans might call sexy. “Especially what I feel.”
They kissed. I looked at Real Femi. He turned to stare out the window.
“And there’s more where that came from,” Other Femi said.
“Wow… you never used to have this much… stamina,” Shola said, her voice thick with admiration.
“I told you – I’ve changed.”
“Good. I like this new version,” she said.
“So do I.”
She looked uncertain for a moment.
“And you’ll never leave me again?”
“Never ever.”
Uh-oh.
Shola smiled. His hands stayed on her hips as they waltzed out of the kitchen, Other Femi taking up the rear. I gave one last growl for his benefit. He turned and winked at me as they walked through the doorway, closing the door before I could follow. I lay down on the floor, placed my head between my two front paws, and whimpered. Real Femi was still staring out the window.
“Don’t worry, Brandy, there’s always a way. We’ll find a way to tell her…”
He sounded as helpless as I felt.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

THE GAP

Two faces close together,
Almost touching, but not just yet.
There’s a space between,
Narrow like a needle’s eye,
Wide as the universe.
The world is still around them,
Bearing witness to every bated breath,
To every solemn sigh.
Eyes closed in innocent expectation,
They revel in the thrill of the forbidden.
When their eyes come open again,
Wonder will give way to knowing,
And the knowing that still more bounds exist
To be broken.
But see them now,
Suspended in the limbo;
In that place of hesitation
That soon becomes the peak of anticipation.
So with hearts racing to worlds untold,
The only wonder yet to unfold
Is who will reach across this void,
Break the spell, close the gap?





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