Monday, November 21, 2011


Image from here

Mama Bose chased the flies from her ground melon seed with the napkin she used to dust the shelves in her stall. They went away and quickly found a place among her dried peppers. She sighed as she flipped over another page. Stupid flies. 

“Mummy,” she heard her daughter call.

“What is it?” She grunted, without looking up from the book she’d been frowning into.  

“Mummy Caro said you should give her crayfish two hundred naira, that she will bring money tomorrow.”

Mama Bose looked up, her face dangerously calm. “Bose.”

“Ma?” Bose said, taking a small step back even though she was already beyond her mother’s reach.

“Have you gone to where I sent you?”

“Em… no, Ma. It is when I was going that Mummy Caro called me to…”

“So, your name is now Caro?”


“Ehn now, your name is Caro, and Mummy Caro is your mother. That is why you will go on her errand before my own, not so?”

“Ah! No, Ma,” Bose said, bending her knees over and over in apology.

“My friend, will you get out and go where I sent you!”

Bose started to run off but stopped when her mother called again.

“Come back here! The palm oil she collected last week, has she given you the money?”

“Em… no, Ma.”

“Idiot!” Bose barely had time to jump out of harm’s way as her mother’s slipper went flying in the direction of her face.

“It is you and people like Mummy Caro that want to destroy my business. But God will not allow you people. Come back here and let me help you twist that your mouth!” Mama Bose screamed at her daughter’s retreating figure. “It’s not only crayfish two hundred naira. Come and carry my whole stall! Nonsense.”

Mama Bose went to retrieve her slipper and, still huffing, settled down again with her accounts book. Her creditors were getting too many, owing too much, and she didn’t have the mind to chase them. At this rate she wouldn’t have enough to replenish her stock next week. Christmas was coming and the children needed new clothes. She had to send money to her parents; they had been complaining too much of late. She prayed her husband would find a job soon. Things had gotten so hard since he’d been laid off.

“Mama Bose. Mama Bose! You no dey hear?”

Mama Bose looked up to find Kemi, who lived across the street, peering at her.

“Ah, hope no problem o. It’s like you’re not here at all,” Kemi said.

“No, my sister. No problem. How is the family?”

“Everybody is fine o. Your people nko?”

“They are there jo. So what do you want to buy?”

Kemi reeled of a long list of items and Mama Bose rushed to get each one, her heart racing with the thought that maybe she would be able to stock up after all. If she got more customers like Kemi that week. After she had packaged everything nicely, she handed the bulging bags to the customer with a smile.

“Everything is five thousand seven-fifty.”

“No problem,” Kemi said as she turned to leave. “My brother will bring the money on Monday.”

The smile froze on Mama Bose’s face as she stared after Kemi. She managed to call out a cheery “No problem” through her clenched teeth.

There are times when I should have said no to things and people, sometimes with a dirty slap just to avoid any confusion. But I didn’t always. I think I’ve gotten better at saying no, though I’m still not where I should be. Are you able to say no when you know you should, or are you the smile-and-clench-your-teeth type?   


  1. Definitely smile and clench teeth type especially when the person is not family. I am working on changing that though cos why should family always get the worse end of the stick?
    It is really tough must I am making progress, poco-a-poco!

  2. @HoneyDame: Thanks for reading. More progress.

  3. I think it's best to not leave yourself room if you choose the no route. Say no to everything and it becomes a habit. :)I feel sorry for poor Mama Bose.

  4. i would say both , but more of the smile and clench your teeth type, i find it hard to say no, am almost a door mat because of my hate of confrontation or hurting peoples feelings sigh.....but when i have been pushed to the wall, i no dey look face o..i actually do have a mean side, am complex like that so i guess i am both..sigh

  5. @Lauri: Saying no all the time would definitely be going to the other extreme. We just need to know when to say no. Thanks for reading.

    @Jemima: Most people tend to have a breaking point, even yes people. Thanks.

  6. I used to be like that. Still am sometimes.

  7. I have found myself in Mama Bose's shoes a few times and it's not a nice place to be. Good story.

  8. Nice story. For me (Analytical me)saying NO is not difficult (It never really was)
    The few times WHEN i say yes when i ought to have said NO (cos i have weaknesses too!)
    I ALWAYS remind myself of the consequences of not being REAL to myself and to the other Person

  9. Saying no depends on the situation for i get older i realized that saying no is not really difficult as long as you have counted the cost(consequences) of your actions... be it a yes or a no.