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Thursday, October 27, 2011

THE PINK CHICK: MOMODU

Image from here

If you haven't read the previous Pink Chick stories, you can find them here, here and here. The idea was to tell one story from the perspective of four different characters, and this is the last of the series. Thanks for reading.

Momodu was king of the world, or at least king of the roads. Who did that mumu in the old Mercedes think she was, trying to overtake his tipper? He bared his teeth in a parody of a smile as he pushed down hard on the accelerator. The new truck gave a healthy groan and shot forward. Momodu sneered at the ugly girl in the Mercedes as he passed; she thrust her middle finger up and at him. He laughed. Whoever had taught her to curse must have forgotten to tell her that she was supposed to use all five fingers. Or was this a new style that small children had devised. Pity, these children had no appreciation for the finer things in life.

Speaking of life’s finer things, this new tipper was definitely one of them. He loved the easy way the engine rumbled to life with the slightest twist of his wrist, loved the smell of new that welcomed him whenever he climbed up inside it, loved the look of envy in the other drivers’ eyes, loved the shiny blue colour of it. When Oga Paulinus had given him the keys last week for the first time, he had pulled his own ears—like they weren’t long enough as they were!—and warned him. “If anything happens to this tipper eh… if you do mistake crash this tipper, you better crash yourself join.”

Momodu smiled at the memory. But then he saw something that quickly turned his smile into a frown: traffic lights. Yellow. Momodu gunned the accelerator and felt the adrenalin high as he raced to beat the light. A few seconds before he got to the intersection, the light turned red. Momodu clenched his teeth. It was too late to use the brakes now, so he let the tipper go on ahead, almost running into the jeep that had dared to venture out of Ogidi Road. He threw back his head and roared his laughter. The idiot should have passed, so Momodu could help him remodel his car. He looked in his rear view mirror to see the man’s five fingers pointing at him through the driver’s window. Now that was how you said waka. Another driver might have been bothered about the stickers, prominently displayed on his tailgate, that said “If I drive rough call 08022365780.” Let them call; it wouldn’t be the first time. The ogas never bothered him because he was always several minutes early offloading his consignments, and he’d never been involved in an accident in his two years driving tippers.

Momodu swerved into George Street without slowing down for the turn, running into the potholes at the beginning of the street and causing clumps of sand to fall from the back of the tipper. As he sped down the street he glanced at the clock on the dashboard: three fifty-seven. He was early. He would have more than enough time to visit Solo, maybe have a drink or two with him, and then head off to Eden Hotel, where he would meet Silver. Ah, Silver… that one knew how to make a man feel like a man. Of all the girls at Eden she was the best—he should know; he’d sampled them all at one time or the other. And to think she was only new to the pleasure business. She must have been born with the talent of pleasing men. Ever since that first night with her he’d been begging Madam Abeni to put Silver on exclusive, for him. But she insisted he could not afford Silver on exclusive and she was right, whether Momodu liked it or not. So he had to manage whatever time he could get with Silver, and that was why he needed to get to Eden on time, before anyone could call and order her. After having had her, sleeping with any of the other prostitutes at Eden would be like going back to the rubbish truck he’d been driving before this new one. Unthinkable!

As Momodu sped down George Street his phone started to ring. He took it out from his shirt pocket and looked at the screen. His blood pressure shot up. He put the phone back in his pocket and tried to ignore the ringing, the vibrating against his chest. He sighed as he took it out again. He knew that woman; she would keep calling forever. He pressed the answer button and put the phone to his ear.

“Wetin!”

“Momodu, abeg call me back. I no get cre…”

“My friend, you better talk wetin you wan talk. I no dey call you back anything.”

“Momodu, you sef! Eh, na Beke school uniform. The one wen im get don tear finish. We get to buy another one.”

Momodu hissed.

“Abeg I no get money! You no fit take money from your market buy the uniform? No be you born am?”

“Ehn, na only me born am! If you like stay for PH there dey carry woman. No come Yenagoa come see your pikin. At your old age…”

“See dis one o! You think say because you manage born pikin for me I don become your boy-boy. I fit just…”

The words died in Momodu’s throat as he realized that he had gone off the road and was going to run into the red Kia parked on the shoulder. He let the phone fall from his hand as he slammed on the brakes, too late. He heard glass breaking and metal crunching; felt himself thrown forward, saw the airbag explode to envelope his face, knocking the breath out of him. The airbag deflated, leaving him with a sore face, a pounding head and a nasty smell in his lungs. But he felt fine otherwise. He clambered out of the truck to find a small group of people standing by, ogling his truck and the car it had squashed. He looked at his poor baby. The crash was bad, and it would take a lot to get the new truck to look new again. His ogas would not be pleased. Across the road he saw two women on the ground, one wailing like a police siren. At first he thought they were fighting and he felt a little spark of excitement, but a closer look told him that one was in distress and the other was trying to comfort her. The police siren should be the owner of the red Kia; she looked like she had money. She should take it easy now, Momodu thought. Was it not just a car? At least nobody had died.

“Bros, were you drunk or what?” one of the watchers, a young dark skinned man, said to Momodu.

“No o! I neva drink today,” he quickly replied.

“Whether you are drunk or not, you have killed somebody’s child. All you tipper drivers that behave like mad people! Don’t think you will go anywhere o. We are taking you to the police.” This was from an elderly man in faded Ankara. Momodu was about to tell him to go prepare to meet his ancestors—at his age they must be eagerly awaiting him—instead of helping the living to mind their business.

“Yes, una hol’ am!” A fat woman screamed, and the dark skinned man and a few others gathered around him.

“But nobody bin dey inside the car now…” Momodu protested as they grasped his shoulders.

“Shut up! You no see dat woman for there. Na im pikin…”

The speaker was interrupted by the sudden silence. Momodu and the crowd turned as one to see why the wailing woman had suddenly gone quiet. They followed her eyes and her smile to the young boy running across the street to her, his hands raised heavenward. What miracle was this?

Momodu didn’t need anybody to tell him. He shook off the hands of his distracted captors and took off down the street. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

THE PINK CHICK: MAMA TAMUNO


Image from here

The boli seller wiped her forehead with the corner of her wrapper and turned over the plantains roasting over the coal fire. The plantains were hot, but the calluses on her hands did a good job of protecting her from the heat. She wondered where all her customers were today. It was getting to evening and she had sold less than half of her stock for the day. And it wasn’t even a rainy day.

She thought of Tamuno, who was staying with her mother in Diobu for a few days. At that very moment they would be at Mile I park, at the stall where her mother sold local gin and ‘man power’. Tamuno would be helping his grandmother serve the touts and bus drivers that frequented the stall. Mama Tamuno frowned. She didn’t like her son mixing with those kinds of people, didn’t want them influencing his five-year-old mind. She needed her customers to show up so she could make enough money for him to start school next session. His mates were ahead of him as it was. She would have been able to send Tamuno to school last year if his no-good father hadn’t kept stealing all the money she’d been making and spending it on gin and prostitutes. As if that wasn’t enough, he would come home drunk and try out his favourite boxing moves on her. Sometimes he would force himself on her, bathing her face with saliva and stale gin breath; but that only happened when he’d run out of her money so he couldn’t afford even the most desperate of prostitutes. She sighed. Her mother would be returning Tamuno tomorrow, and along with him she would bring the condemnation and I-told-you-so look she had worn ever since things had started to go exactly as she had predicted, after a pregnant Mama Tamuno had married the father of her child.

Mama Tamuno heard footsteps and looked up to see an answer to her prayer. She smiled a welcome at her favourite customer. Mummy Soji wasn’t carrying any bags today, like she usually did when she brought old clothes and toys for Tamuno, but she didn’t mind. Mummy Soji never haggled, and she always let Mama Tamuno keep the change. And when there was no change would just give her extra money, saying, “This one na tip.” Always with a smile. Mama Tamuno watched as she ran to her stand, admiring her in her jeans and T-shirt and no make up. 

“Ah, Mummy Soji. Welcome o. Long time. Which one you want?”

Mummy Soji chose four large plantains and a few pieces of yam, and Mama Tamuno started to scrape the blackened parts off the yam with her trusty knife.

“How Soji?”

“He’s fine. He dey for car. School don close so I get to carry am go market because nobody dey house.”

She looked up from the yams to glance at the car. She wasn’t bothered that the car looked empty from where she stood. Maybe Soji was playing with something on the floor of the car.

“Papa Soji nko?”

Mummy Soji started to answer and Mama Tamuno was still smiling when she saw, from the corner of her eyes, a tipper, loaded with red sand, start to run off the road at full speed. The smile died on her face. It was headed straight for her customer’s car, parked across the road from them. She screamed just as the tipper crashed into Mummy Soji’s car from behind, crushing it into a lump of red metal and shimmering glass, spilling red sand everywhere. Mummy Soji spun around to investigate. In the few seconds that followed, the world—or George Street, at least—was still. Legs were leaden, hands and mouths hung limp, eyes watered, hearts stopped. Mama Tamuno did not look at the people who had stopped in their tracks on the street and now stood staring at the crash. She looked at Mummy Soji’s back and waited for it. When Mummy Soji flew up in the air Mama Tamuno was almost quick enough to catch her. Almost. She hit the floor with a force that made Mama Tamuno wince, but she knew Mummy Soji wouldn’t feel any pain, at least not from the fall. It had been the same for her when she’d lost her second child.

The erstwhile immobile watchers were eventually able to move again; some shuffled away, shaking their heads but going about the business they were about before, others moved to the crash site to have a closer look. A few stood around, staring at the grieving mother and making sympathetic noises. Mama Tamuno struggled to get a hold of the hysterical woman rolling in the sand and screaming unintelligible sounds, but Mummy Soji’s energy seemed boundless. It was while she was looking around, about to ask for help to restrain her customer, that she saw the smiling boy run across the street and toward her stand. His hands were raised in the air and she could make out something pink in them.  

Mama Tamuno managed to grip Mummy Soji’s shoulders, and she shook her hard. Then she used all her energy to raise the uncooperative body into a sitting position. Using her body to hold Mummy Soji up, she pointed towards the boy.

“See Soji! See am for there! See am!

She screamed this over and over, and Mummy Soji must have finally heard her because she grew quiet and followed her pointing hand. Mama Soji felt the tension drain out of her customer’s body as the realization came to her; felt the smile she gave through her tears; heard the collective sigh of relief of the watchers. She smiled, too, as Soji came closer. She saw the painted chick in his hands, but she didn’t bother to wonder.
 




"THE QUARRY" ON ETHER BOOKS

My flash fiction piece, "The Quarry", will be published on Ether Books today. Here's the cover:



It's available as a free download as well, but unfortunately the Ether Books app works only on iPhones (and other i-stuff) for now. 

Please give it a read and a rating if you can. You can also give it a review here.

Write short fiction and poetry? You might want to give Ether Books a look.
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