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Sunday, March 27, 2011

I WANT MY WRITING GROOVE BACK!



Sometimes I just don’t feel like writing, and for a long time now I’ve been feeling that way. It gets me wondering if I’m the same person that wrote the likes of ‘Pet Peeves' and 'Pet Peeves II’, ‘Blame it on a Yellow Dress’ and ‘The Quarry’. What magic formula did I use then? There were times when I’d wake up in the middle of the night with something in my head that I just had to put down. What was the secret? Was there even a secret? If I ever find out, I’ll let you know.

But I do realize that my writing is not about feelings – it’s mostly about discipline and the ability to just do it, feelings or no feelings. Having recently decided that I want to turn my writing into something more than just a hobby, I know that I should write something every day. And that is what this here is: my work for today. I know that I won’t write something absolutely fantastic every time (you can consider this post proof), but I’ll write anyway.

Most times, I don’t remember how I got to write something I wrote. I usually cannot trace the train of thought or the process that culminated in a particular work (if I could, then I’d have the formula). Writing, for me, is almost like an out of body experience, and so when people ask: “How did you think of that?” I tell them the truth: I don’t know. Very little of what I write comes from my personal experience (I guess that’s what the imagination is for). I haven’t drawn much from my own life in my writing, though there has been much to draw from.

Can I stop now? I don’t feel like writing anymore.

The question is this: how do I get my writing groove back? Inspiration is a fickle little *$!"%…, and considering I don’t know what moves mine to come, I might be waiting till I’m seventy if I choose to sit and twiddle my thumbs till it comes knocking! I started Pet Peeves III this week, but right now I think it’s crap not very good. I should just keep writing, abi. But apart from that…anything else? Help, anybody? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

STOLEN DREAMS III

Nneka ran all the way from the bus stop to the hospital. She reached the hospital’s waiting room and grabbed the nearest nurse.

“Please, where is Doctor Michael?”

“I’ll go and look for him,” the nurse said, shrugging Nneka's hand off as she hurried away.

Nneka’s heart pounded and she struggled to catch her breath. She tried sitting down but couldn’t stay still for long. The past hour with Otunba had been even more gruesome than she’d expected. The important thing, though, was that she now had the money. She said a silent prayer of gratitude for the good doctor who had allowed her to go and get the money while he treated Ginika. She would give him some extra money for the trouble. She saw the doctor and immediately seized his arm.
            
“Thank you, Doctor. Thank you so much. God will bless you and your family,” she gushed.
            
“Madam…”

Nneka went on her knees, still thanking the doctor . He managed to convince her to stand up again.
            
“See, Doctor, I have the money now,” she said. Smiling with triumph, she opened her handbag to reveal the crisp one thousand naira notes Otunba had given her. She continued quickly.
            
“See...eighty thousand naira. I even got more than that, just in case. And see...I brought you extra five thousand naira for yourself, for helping us.” She started to remove the money from her bag.
            
“Madam, that won’t be necessary,” Doctor Michael said.
            
“No, no, take it!”

Nneka took hold of the doctor’s hand and tried to stuff the money in it. He withdrew his hand sharply. Only then did she see the look on his face.
            
“Doctor, take it now! I’ve brought the money. Take it, and take your own five thousand for helping me,” she said, her eyes begging him to deny what she already knew was coming.
            
“Madam, I’m sorry. It’s the hospital’s policy. We cannot start treatment on any patient without the payment of the proper fees.”
            
A feeling of dread crept up Nneka’s spine as she looked at the doctor’s apologetic face. The truth was slowly dawning on her, but she would not accept it.
            
“Doctor, I said I have the money now! Take it. Take it!” Nneka was screaming now.
            
“Madam, you have to understand that my hands were tied. I’m sorry, but your daughter passed away some minutes ago.”
            
“Nooooo!”

In a violent motion, Nneka turned her bag over, spilling the naira notes on the floor. The people in the waiting room watched with interest. Nneka grabbed the doctor by the neck and, with superhuman strength, began choking him.
            
“I’ve brought your money now. Take it and give me my Ginika!” she screamed over and over as she shook him, tightening her grip.
            
The people rushed to intervene. It took five men to get Nneka off, and by then the doctor was barely conscious.
           
“Ginikaaaaa!” she roared.

Forcing her way out of the men’s grip, Nneka ran out of the hospital before anyone could stop her.

                                                            *****

            
It was a typical weekday. The bright afternoon sun beat down on the street with its scorching fury. Traffic moved in a slow crawl as hawkers manoeuvred their way around the vehiches, occasionally stopping to pitch their goods to motorists. The roadside was crowded with traders selling an array of goods. The street was a wild splash of colours as school students made their way home in noisy groups. Coker Street was alive with its usual actors: the beggars, pickpockets, hawkers and everyday people.
            
The woman marched forward in her blackened, tattered clothes. Her long hair was in untidy tangles and her face was covered with sores. Her bare feet had several cuts, in which layers of dirt had been long embedded. She threw back her head and laughed out loud. She said something, and then nodded in agreement with her unseen companions. Stopping suddenly, she looked right across the street and into the eyes of Iya Tope.
            
“Em, Iya Bose. See as that mad woman dey look me.” Iya Tope whispered, her lips barely moving, to her neighbor in the shed beside her. She didn't want to attract the mad woman's attention by making her think they were interested in her.

Iya Bose looked up and saw the mad woman. She recognized her immediately. Before she could say anything, the woman dashed across the street.
            
“Give me my boli!” she screamed.

She got to Iya Tope’s shed, before the women could react, and grabbed four well-roasted plantains. Then she ran off as quickly as she had come as Iya Tope screamed after her.
            
Fi le, jo! Do you want to chase a mad woman? Leave it o jare!” Iya Bose said.

Iya Tope cursed and muttered under her breath, mentally calculating the loss from the stolen plantains.
            
“See as the woman dey look me sef. Like say she don see me before,” Iya Tope hissed.
            
“Eh, this your shed, na she dey stay here before,” Iya Bose said, turning over the corn she was roasting.
            
“Ah, no wonder!” Iya Tope exclaimed. “So wetin happen to am?”

Iya Bose was quiet for a moment. She had never liked that woman. Her husband had been one of the woman’s more ardent admirers, and she had hated her for it.
            
“God don dey punish am.”
            
“Wetin she do?” Iya Tope asked, her ears perking up.
            
“She be prostitute, ashewo. She don steal plenty people husband?” Iya Bose said.
            
Iro ni! Na lie!”
            
“Na true! I say she wan steal Papa Bose one time, but trust me now, I no gree,” Iya Bose said. She continued vehemently, “Yes now! She get one bastard child now. Na only God know which person husband get dat one. The girl die, na im she come crase.”
            
“Oluwa o!” Iya Bose sighed. "Olorun maje."
            
“Dat woman na very wicked woman! She don spoil many people marriage,” Iya Tope said.

There was a thoughtful silence between the women.
            
“Dis life eh,” Iya Tope sighed. “Na person don go put epe, swear, for her head. See am now. The evil wey she don do dey follow am. We no fit play wayo for dis life o! God dey look.”
             
The women watched Nneka’s retreating figure in silence, each with her own thoughts.




THE END

Monday, March 7, 2011

STOLEN DREAMS II

“Madam, are you okay?”

Nneka opened her eyes to see the doctor’s concerned face peering into hers. She hadn’t heard him come in. Nneka took her seat as the doctor went around to his side of the table and sat down.

“Doctor, how is my daughter?” Nneka asked, her voice hoarse with anxiety.

“Not very good, I’m afraid,” the doctor said, shaking his head.

“But you are treating her?”

“No, madam, I was coming to that. You have to pay a deposit of eighty thousand naira before we can start anything on her.”

“Ah-ah! But what of the five thousand I paid before?” Nneka screamed.

“Madam, that was only to get her registered as a patient. That was not for her treatment,” the doctor said.

“But doctor, what is wrong with her? She just collapsed when she came back from school. What is wrong with my child? She has never been sick before!”

“We don’t know yet, madam. We haven’t done a proper diagnosis yet. We need your deposit before we can do anything more. But whatever it is, it looks serious. I suspect there’s a problem with her heart.”
            
“Jesus Christ! Heart problem?” Nneka screamed as she shot up from the chair.
            
“Calm down, madam.”

Ignoring the doctor, Nneka paced the office, deep in thought. She could think of only one way to get the money fast enough. She steeled herself and made up her mind.
            
“Doctor, I promise, I will bring the money today. Just give me a few hours, but please, start treating my daughter. I beg you in the name of God.”

She dashed out of the office without waiting for the doctor’s reply.


                                                            *****
           
Nneka could barely conceal her disgust as she watched Otunba greedily devour the mountain of food before him.
           
“Ineka, Ineka, so you have finally come to Otunba. Yes, I knew you would come one day, and I have been waiting patiently for you.”

He laughed, and Nneka forced a smile as she watched him stuff a huge ball of pounded yam into the black hole that was his mouth. Nneka looked away so he would not see the nauseated look on her face. He ate like a pig. She looked around Otunba’s richly furnished dining room. She had come through the living room to get here, and the only other room she’d been in that could compare with Otunba’s living room was that of Daniel’s parents. And now, like then, Ginika was at the centre of it all. The thought brought tears of regret to Nneka’s eyes.
            
“Ah-ah! Ineka, wa je now! Come and eat with me. This is Iyan and Efo. I know you Omo Ibos don’t like Amala, but this is Iyan, pounded yam. you people eat that one.”

He smiled, showing the pieces of vegetable that clung to his yellow teeth.
            
“Thank you, sir. But I’m not hungry.”
            
“My dear,, what is all this 'sir' business? Cheer up,” he said, reaching over to pat her shoulder with his clean hand. “We have made our arrangement. I will give you the money. One hundred and fifty thousand for you to be at my service for three months, abi?”
           
“Yes, sir.”
            
“Ehem, so cheer up. But Ineka, let me warn you now o; I intend to make you work for every kobo…you know what I mean.”

He winked, and then grinned lecherously, pointing in the general area of her crotch. Nneka looked away. 

“So Ineka, let me tell you of how I managed to steal this my new cook from those people at the Hilton. He is very good o.
            
Nneka started at Otunba as he droned on about his cook. She shuddered with repulsion. This would not be easy at all. But then she remembered Ginika, and that gave her the strength to suppress her own feelings. Otunba was huge in a bear-like way, and his skin was black as midnight. He had fat hands, with short, stubby fingers and blunt nails. His face was unattractive; he had red, beady eyes, a large, bulbous nose, and a big, black hole for a mouth. His lips were black from years and years of tobacco smoking. Rumour had it that he’d been an agbero at the Mile II park years ago, and had used his wife and four children for money making rituals.
            
Nneka sighed. She knew very little about this man; only that he was rich, and very persistent. After that first time she’d sold boli to him at her shed on Coker Street, he’d kept coming back. She had assumed that he liked her boli so much, until he’d told her he was interested in her.
            
“Just let Otunba into your life, and you will see how good he can be. You won’t regret it o! You are a very beautiful woman you know. You need a correct man that can take care of you. I’m thinking of buying you from your hushand,” he’d said to her on many occasions.
            
Nneka did not think of herself as beautiful. Maybe she had, at one time. But now she was too busy taking care of Ginika to think of herself. She was oblivious to the look of quiet longing in the eyes of the men around her; of her aloof, unreachable aura that attracted and maddened them at the same time. Ginika was all she cared about.
            
Nneka often smiled at Otunba’s assumption that she had a husband. For her, there had been no man after Daniel. His betrayal had left her with an intense fear of, and aversion to men. Her experience with Daniel had robbed her of her one chance to get into the university. When Nneka’s mother had died five years after Ginika’s birth of high blood pressure, Nneka had moved to Coker Street, Orile, to continue her life. She’d decided that Ginika would have the life that she had missed due to her own foolishness. Ginika was in J.S.S. 2, and she was an excellent student. She’d taken after her mother.
      
Oya, mo ti je tan. I have finished eating. It is now time to satisfy another type of hunger. Let us go inside,” Otunba said, rising.
            
Nneka felt a sudden surge of courage. Her daughter’s life would not be cut short, no matter what. She would save Ginika, and in doing so, she would save herself.     

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