Finally, we enter the voting phase of Write Right Two. Remember, you can vote once for your favorite story by following the CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE VOTING PAGE link at the bottom of the page. I’ll be posting the stories in a random order over the 4-weeks they will run to ensure that you read them before voting. Also, we’ll be hiding some freebies within the stories for the readers, so make sure you read all the stories before voting. Voting for each set of episodes lasts for one week from the date of posting. Writers can campaign for votes. All the best, and see you at the other end of the contest.
FATE’S STORE BY MIRACLE ADEBAYO
CENTRAL AREA, ABUJA
“Congratulations ma’am, you have a baby boy!” I plastered a smile on my face as I handed the baby to the nurse for clean-up. I had been so many years at his that it wasn’t difficult to infuse the joy in my voice while my heart was wrenching with pain.
There was a time delivering a baby brought immeasurable joy to me, times when I longed for the sheer joy of holding a new born in my hand but now holding a child in my arms, brought nothing but tears to my eyes. It reminded me of my own inability, my years of childlessness.
The new mother burst into tears of joy as she gushed over her baby. I felt the intense throbbing in my heart as I looked at the olive skinned baby.
“Congrats doc, your third baby in twenty-four hours. Smooth delivery, sef.”Nurse Jemima beamed at me as I peeled the gloves off my hand.
My shift was supposed to have ended four hours ago but as I made plans to leave, Mrs Haruna was brought in with her contractions few minutes apart and I had to attend to her.
“Ma, your phone has been ringing ooh.” Nurse Kemi informed me as I entered my office.
I guessed it was my husband. I just remembered that we’d made an appointment to see our Pastor this evening.
I scrolled through the missed calls. A chill settled on me as I saw seven missed calls. All from Tade. Oh Lord!
My husband was the kindest man I’ve ever met, so gentle and understanding but even I knew that there was a limit to a man’s patience. Lately, I’d noticed that things between us had been strained and we snapped at each other every opportunity we got.
I couldn’t blame him. I hadn’t given him a child in the nine years of our marriage. These things take a toll on couples. I recalled all those nights I’d sneaked away from our matrimonial bed to sleep in the guest bedroom. I’d been so laden with heartache that I’d snuckaway to cry.
“Are you still going home tonight?” Nurse Kemi asked, as I stacked my files together.
“I have to. I didn’t tell my husband I was spending the night in the hospital.”
“But ma, it’s past eleven. I don’t think it’s safe to drive to Lugbe this night.”
“Kemi, thanks for worrying about me but I’m not new to Abuja. Haba mana!”
I picked up my hand bag and made my way to the door. “Besides, this is not the first time I’m driving home at this time.”
“If you say so ma.”
“Goodnight. Please get Mrs Haruna’s file ready by tomorrow, ok? You’re on night shift abi?”
“Yes ma, I am. See you tomorrow”
Being alone in my car had always been one of my best times, I had time alone to myself to think, to picture myself in my imaginary world with my kids running around me in circles. My thoughts this night however, were not that favourable.
I couldn’t get the picture of Mrs Haruna’s baby out of my head. It was at times like this that my childlessness got to me. Why would life be so unfair? Why would God not want to reward me with a child? What had I done to deserve this?
As I drove down the nearly empty road, I felt my car lurch forward and begin to crawl.
I checked my gas gauge. It was full, so it couldn’t be fuel.
Oh no. Not today. Not now. Not here. I tried to look outside my window, it was pitch black. I glanced at my watch. 11:16pm. almost midnight.
I slowed the car down turned the ignition off. As I got down from the car, I was very aware of the empty road. The weather was cold and the wind tooted in my ears.
I should have spent the night in the hospital. I thought.
The trip from Central Area to Lugbe was a risky one especially at this time of the night.
I spotted the problem. A flat tire. Damn.
Immediately, I took out my cell phone and dialled Tade’s number. It rang.
“Baby, it’s me.”
“Yes. Where are you? You forgot we were to visit Pastor this evening abi? I thought your shift was to end by 8pm”
I sighed; Pastor was the least of my problems now. Sometimes it irked me to know that after nine years of marriage, Tade wasn’t still used to my routine.
“Honey, I’ll explain when I get home. Something came up…”
“What excuse do you have this time eh? Two days in a row, Bukky! In fact I don’t want to hear what you have to say. I’ll talk to you when you get home.”
“Tade, Tade…listen to me. I’m sorry. I had an emergency delivery.”
“I’m stuck somewhere now. I just had a flat tyre; I…I don’t know what to do.” Since I’d been standing beside my car I’d only noticed two cars pass by.
“You should have stayed at the hospital. It’s too late to be driving now. So what do you want to do?” His voice had mellowed considerably.
“I don’t know. That’s why I called you. And I didn’t stay at the hospital because I knew you won’t like it.”
“Leave the car there. Get a cab or you want me to come and get you?” I heard the irritation in his voice.
“I’m sorry Tade. But yes please…this place is so lonely”
I’ve never really been one to fear but this particular night I was jumpy, I’d never been in a situation like this before; with an empty road on the one side and a scary forest on the other. My imagination began running wild. What if ritual killers jumped out of the bushes now? Or kidnappers? Or thieves?
“You’ll have to wait then.”
I was nigh tears but I bit down on my lips to avoid screaming at him. “Okay dear. I’ll wait but please don’t take time.”
It was when we’d hung up that I remembered that he hadn’t asked exactly where I was.
Just as I decided to call back, I heard a grunt behind me and I spun round.
“Madam wetin happen na?”
He was a big man clad in a brown singlet that showed off his muscular arms; in the darkness I couldn’t see his face clearly.
“Er…nothing. I just get flat tyre,” I replied in pidgin, taking a step back.
“We fit help you ooh.”
We? That was when I noticed the other man standing behind him; he was in the shadows.
I was suddenly conscious of the bushes around and the darkness that enveloped us. There were no streetlights on this particular road which made things worse.
“No thank you. My husband is coming already.”
“Haba na, madam.” The muscular one stepped closer to me and let his hand inadvertently brush my boobs.
My first instinct was to reprimand him and maybe even slap him; under other circumstances I definitely would, but this was different. It occurred to me that I was at the mercy of these men.
Instead I turned away and shielded myself from them. His touch had sent shivers down my spine. Scary shivers…
“Please,” the word escaped my lips and I didn’t know why.
I was aware of my phone which I still held in my hands and I wondered what they’ll do if I decided to make a call.
“Er…let me call my husband.”
From then on, everything happened in a flash; out of nowhere, a hand snatched the phone out of my hand and another pair of hands grabbed me by the shoulders and I found myself leaning against the hard body of a man.
ORDERED CHAOS BY JEREMIAH NZERE
University of Ibadan Senior Staff Quarters, Ibadan.
Omawunmi sat at her dresser, facing the mirror. She was lost in thought. How could one day equally be the happiest and saddest of her life? If only Rotimi was here, her joy would have been complete. After eight years, the pain of losing him returned on occasions like these. When she was appointed a professor three years ago, she wished he was by her side. It had been incomplete without him. He had been the one encouraging her research work. When Tamilore had graduated top of her class, and best in her faculty, they had longed to share the joy with him. She remembered how he made it a point of duty to personally coach Tamilore every day, when she had difficulty understanding mathematics back in secondary school.
Now, their baby, Tamilore was getting married today, and Rotimi wasn’t here. Couldn’t God give him a 24-hour leave from heaven to attend his first daughter’s wedding? She sniffled and blinked away fast-gathering tears.
“No I would not cry.” she told herself.
“I’ll be strong for my children like I have been all these years. I’ll enjoy today and be happy for Tamilore.” She slowly repeated her mantra aloud.
There was a knock on her bedroom door.
She hurriedly dabbed at her face, peering into the mirror to be sure no sign of her thoughts was evident on her face.
“Who’s there?” she called out.
“Mum, it’s me. Open the door.” It was Tokunboh, her youngest daughter.
She rose to open the door. There were a lot of people staying at the house. A wedding brought all kind of guests and visitors-the invited, and the ‘uninvited’-and some of them could be light-fingered. After two Blackberries, an I-pad, and fifty thousand naira had mysteriously disappeared from her room in two days, she had changed the locks and kept it locked at all times, before something more valuable was taken.
Tokunboh looked shaken. She wrung her hands helplessly.
“Mum, you have to come downstairs. Tamilore is crying, and frustrating everyone. We’re going to be late.”
She put a hand on Tokunboh’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry about that. Sort out those notes on the bed into different denominations and arrange them in that purse. Then lock up the room and bring the purse with you.”
Omawunmi hurried downstairs.
Tamilore, in a pink gown, stood by the window, her back to the room, staring unseeing outside. Her friends were seated in the room, looking uncertain. They looked up at Omawunmi with relief.
“What happened?” Omawunmi mouthed at them.
Sarah, the make-up artist from House of Eve walked up to her.
“One minute she was okay, we were joking and laughing together. The next minute, tears just started streaming down her face.” Sarah said, looking confused.
Omawunmi walked over to the window to stand beside Tamilore, draping one hand on her shoulder.
”I wish dad was here” Tamilore whispered.
“Me too, I do. But he would want us to be happy today, won’t he?” Omawunmi asked. Tamilore nodded her head and placed it on her mother’s shoulder.
Omawunmi wrapped her hands round her in a crushing bear hug.
“My dear, in times like these, we turn our tears into a resolve to honour the ones that we cry for.”
“Remember, you’re getting married to a wonderful man. By tonight you’ll be Mrs. Tamilore Keyamo. Ovie is one in a million. I’m sure you don’t want him to see you like this.” Omawunmi said.
Tamilore lifted her head and smiled.
“I’m really sorry. I guess it was the nerves and all.” Tamilore said.
“It’s okay. I understand.” Omawunmi patted her and led her by the hand to a chair in the room, one arm round her shoulders. She eased Tamilore into the chair, and gestured to the make-up artist.
“Let’s get this beautiful bride ready for her wedding, now shall we?”
Peter’s residence. New Bodija Estate. Ibadan.
“O boy, you look take away. “ Peter said, slapping Ovie on the back.
Ovie stood in front of the mirror, admiring himself. He adjusted his purple tie.
“No o, leave it like that. It follows the shape of this your oblong head” Peter insisted, readjusting the tie.
The room burst into laughter. Ovie didn’t mind. These were his friends and buddies, with friendships developed over the years. They could say anything they wanted today and get away with it. Today was the happiest of his life. Any guy who had Tamilore to himself for a day would consider himself blessed, and now he was going to have her for a lifetime. He was super blessed. He smiled, his eyes lighting up with joy.
“See how he’s smiling foolishly.” Peter joked again.
“He had better, because today is the last day he’ll smile like that.” His younger brother and best-man, Efe added.
“By the way, where did you say you were taking Tamilore for the honeymoon?” Peter asked.
“Nice try dude. I don’t remember telling you.” Ovie replied.
“When you find the right person, you’ll understand the true meaning of the word ’colourful’” Ovie began a lecture on finding true love, but his phone rang, cutting him short. He picked the phone, raised his right index finger, and walking to the door, said,
“Guys, excuse me for a minute, I’ll be back”
He closed the door behind him.
Onireke Baptist Church, Ibadan.
“Finally, we arrive” Omawunmi remarked, as the car pulled into the church premises. They were really late, and this time it was not fashionable. After they had finally gotten Tamilore ready, they had wasted some more time trying to assign everyone going for the wedding to vehicles. When they had finally taken off-a small convoy of six cars-they had gotten stuck in traffic on the Sango-Dugbe road as some adjoining roads were still under construction.
The car came to a stop, and Omawunmi alighted. She walked hurriedly to the front of the church where the car conveying Tamilore had stopped. There her brother-in-law, Rotimi’s elder brother, Wale stood, a worried frown on his face. He was supposed to walk Tamilore down the aisle.
“Egbon, we’re sorry for coming late.” Omawunmi said, curtsying slightly.
“Is that why the ceremony has not begun?” She had noticed there was no sound emanating from the church.
Uncle Wale pointed to the side of the church. A pastor stood, together with the groom’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edafe Keyamo and Ovie’s younger brother, Efe. They were facing a man whose face Omawunmi could not see.
“The couple is not around.” Uncle Wale said
“Is it because the bride was not around? She has just arrived. Can we begin the wedding now?”
“I’m not referring to Tamilore. They say the groom just disappeared. Nobody knows where he is.”
Omawunmi held a pillar for support, a million questions flooding her brain. Where was the groom? He couldn’t go anywhere. Didn’t he know today was his wedding day? Why hadn’t anyone called her before now? Why was this happening to her?
A couple of guests were coming out of the church, questioning glances on their faces. What was she going to tell them? Omawunmi thought. Surely, this was a joke. The groom was going to surface, and the ceremony could start.
A shout drew her out of her reverie. It was Uncle Wale. He was running, his hand pointing out in front of him. He shouted.
“Stop her! Stop Tamilore! ”
Omawunmi’s eyes followed his outstretched arm.
At 11:15 am that day, a chartered helicopter took off from the Adekunle Fajuyi Military Cantonment, Ibadan. On-board were a pilot, a co-pilot, and three other men. Their only cargo was an unconscious Ovie, who lay trussed up at the back of the helicopter. It was headed for Bayelsa State, South-Southern Nigeria.
THE END BY OPEOLUWA OLUBODE
10:30PM on Friday
“Baby, goodnight. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow at the altar. I’m sure you’ll rock that wedding gown.” Dare said and waited for few seconds before ending the call.
She probably replied him with something sweet because of the way he was smiling as he cut the call.
“You people should remember you are getting married tomorrow. Why are you still sweet-talking yourselves?” I asked as I rolled my eyes (I do it a lot).
Dre (as I fondly call him) pulled me closer to himself, hugged me tight and kissed my forehead. Then I started sulking because I realised that I won’t have Dre all to myself anymore, I’ll be forced to share him with Simi.
“Boo, don’t cry now. Oya, I’ll make you chocolate milk.”
“No problem.” I said as I wiped my eyes.
Dre went to his dressing table to open a new tin of powdered milk. Chocolate milk is something he used to make for me since we were little. Three heaped teaspoons of milk, three teaspoons of milo, two teaspoons of sugar and few drops of water.
I’m sure y’all are wondering who I am. I’m not Dre’s best man because that is absolutely gay. Neither am I his mistress. I’m Tammy (short for Tamilore), his sweet look-alike little sister of eighteen years. Dre is eight years older than me (the child between us died) but we have this really strong bond that makes people ask if we are twins; not that I look old, he just has the baby face ( in Wande and Don Jazzy’s voice because me I no sabi who get the song) and the blind ones ask if I’m his girlfriend (Yeah, I’m super-hot *wink* and some people can’t see the resemblance between D-banj and K-switch or Peter and Paul Okoye )
In a way, I was sort of happy that Dre had found someone he wanted to marry. Simi is the girl who’s stealing Dre from me. In my opinion, she’s perfect for him but I’ll never tell him that. Dre’s a 6’2 and Simi’s a 5’10. She is one of the privileged slim women who have massive hips. I’m not even going to refer to her 34D but that woman is just curvy. Original coke bottle body, not padded to taste (Yes, we’ve slept and dressed in the same room several times *straight face*).
Dre met Simi at my dad’s birthday. My dad and my mum, knowing that we, the children would not want to be partying with old people and one dirty live band (forgive my vocabulary. Anything I don’t like, I call dirty) decided to book a hall for us and our friends. They even went the extra mile to book a DJ and a caterer specifically for us. We were allowed to invite as many guests as we wanted because the room was big enough. One of my cousins, Wura, invited Simi and four other friends. Those my relations can bẹ ehn! All because she heard we were allowed to invite as many guests as we wanted, she invited five on our behalf. It was worth it in the end sha.
What actually attracted Dre to Simi, apart from the fact that she was the one of the few adult guests who dressed decently were her lips. They weren’t pink, they were orange! Then he discovered the mad curves that were hidden by the aso-ebi ankara gown (x-ray vision things). I sha noticed I was talking to him and he wasn’t concentrating. That was when I knew ‘wassup’.
As a sure boy, he walked up to her table and started chatting her up. Before I knew it, my dear brother had collected her email, phone number and bb pin. If not that he borrowed himself brain and remembered that he just met her for the very first time, he would have collected her home and office address.
One year later, I realised Dre stopped having my time. Dre and I used to play monopoly, Playstation or playing cards every single night, any time we were at home together (I was seventeen and in 100 level then). So it was weird that Dre’s door was always locked as from 8pm. He was serving in one dirty company in Ikeja that makes and services generators so I thought that was the reason he always went to bed early until the day the air-conditioner in his room got spoilt and he had to move to my room.
I finished my tests that fateful Friday so I was knackered. I hit my bed as soon as I got home and I slept till like 2am. When I woke up, I couldn’t hear Dre snoring (the boy snores like a pregnant pig) so I sat up on my bed to check if he was in the room (he normally works late on Fridays). Then I saw my darling brother lying on his mattress (he kuku can’t carry his whole bed and the frame and everything into my room na) and blushing while listening to whoever he was speaking to (Yes, I saw him. I always sleep with the lights on). I sharply closed my eyes and pretended like I was still sleeping and listened to the whole conversation.
As a sharp amebo sister, I checked his call log by 5am in the morning when he was in the bathroom and ‘Boo’ appeared like twenty times. The question was “who is the boo?”
Luck was on my side because Dre is one of those few men that can spend one whole hour in the bathroom taking their bath twice, the first time to remove the dead skin cells and all the dirt from the skin and the second time for the soap to be absorbed by the pores living the skin fresh for over twenty-four hours (Dre’s words, not mine).
I sha opened his blackberry messenger and searched for ‘boo’. Then I reset the display name and I saw ‘Oluwasimisola Johnson’. Then again, I knew ‘wassup’. A sharp amebo can’t forget to cover up her tracks na. I sharply changed it back to ‘boo’ in the same fancy writing that it was in before (okay, you got me. I copied it before resetting and then I pasted). Then I read the chat and I realised that Dre’s working late on Fridays was really Dre clubbing late with Simi on Fridays.
I was actually wondering why Dre didn’t tell me about her. But then I guess it was because I never fail to bad-mouth any girl that he tells me about, whether he’s dating her or not. No girl will come and steal my Dre from me!
In all my amebo business, I forgot that I read one ping that ‘Boo’ sent to him. Then Dre was forced to tell me about her. Sorry to disappoint y’all but Dre has never scolded me and he won’t start all because I checked his messages *tongue out*.
Three days later, he brought Simi to the house to introduce her to the whole family. Simi and I started gisting and we soon became very close. Of course, she tried to get off on a good start with me to completely win Dre’s heart and that, she did.
Thirty-two date nights later, Dre proposed to Simi. Ghen ghen! Of course, the babe accepted. Then they started all their wedding plans.
First of all, introduction. Our nuclear family and two of our uncles went to visit the Johnsons to make our intention of marrying into their family known to them.
Three months after Dre proposed to Simi, here I am. The engagement has just ended and it’s time to hit my bed! Here I am, aburo ọkọ and the maid of honour of tomorrow (as Simi’s close friend) so I sure need a lot of sleep.
9AM on Saturday
The bride’s father rented a black Mercedes Benz G550 2013 model otherwise known as the G-wagon to convey the bride, the little bride, the two flower girls and I, the maid of honour to the church. The two flower girls sat side by side while the little bride sat on the bride’s leg in the owner’s corner of the vehicle and I sat in front.
He also rented a 2014 Range Rover Sport to convey Dre, the best-man, the two page boys and the ring bearer. I don’t know how their own sitting arrangement was because they got to the church before us.
The rest of the bridal party (the bridesmaids and groomsmen) were conveyed by a coaster bus. There was no special treatment for them. If not for my daddy, “we for don say make dem bike am!”
As soon as we got into the church, Simi’s dad rushed towards us as I was adjusting her veil. He locked his arm in hers, I lifted up her train and then we walked into the church together. Dre was already waiting at the altar and he blushed as he saw his bride.
The hymn was sung after a thirty-minute praise and worship session. The choir in Simi’s church ehn, they can stress hymn for Africa! What is “Ooooh woooorrrrshiiiip the kiiiiiiiiiiiing”? To worsen it, the minister assigned to take the opening prayer used ten minutes to do that. Okay, now I know there are two types of pentecostal; Pentecostal (the one I attend) and Pentecomma. I will not say more than that. My eyes were open throughout because I know weddings are places where you can catch good and fresh fish, if you know what I mean *wink*.
Then another minister with one dirty, oversize grey suit that had white sweat-marks all over came up. It was later I heard that the man was the Parish Pastor of the church. His own duty was to take the introduction, the charge and the declaration. The man used another thirty minutes to pray for the couple before stating the purpose of marriage.
When he got to the end of the introduction where he says to the congregation; “Is there anyone here that can show any just cause why this two may not lawfully be joined in holy matrimony? Let him or her now declare it or else forever hold his or her peace”, I thought of standing up to say “Abeg, make una hurry up na! Hunger dey wire me, piss dey catch me. Na beg I dey beg” but before I could consider doing such, Simi’s scream jerked me back to reality. Everybody looked back to see what made her scream and we got the shock of our lives (Even the Priest shouted “JESUS!!!”). All I could make out at first was the image of two ladies with one holding a gun. Oh no! It’s Kemi, Dre’s ex and Tola, his stalker for the past four years.
THESE, THE LAST DAYS OF OUR LIVES BY AKINWALE AGBAJE
“We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments … these moments when we dared to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we’re still pioneers, that we’ve barely begun, and our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us. That our destiny lies above us” – Interstellar
Episode 1: This beautiful, dark fantasy
Tunde woke in a sobbing fit, curled up in a foetal position at the corner of the room like he had done yesterday and many days before. It had been this way since the accident – he’d go to sleep on his bed and wake up on the floor.
Strange as these occurrences were, he wasn’t at all bothered. In some ways, he deserved it.
The heater was broken – had been for the past two weeks. He took a cold shower.
The only clothes in his wardrobe were a suit jacket, matching black trousers, a white shirt and a thin red tie. He wore them.
He opened the cupboard in the kitchen. Empty. The fridge – empty. The freezer shared the same fate.
On the kitchen table, a half-eaten loaf of bread and two eggs in a crate. He made himself eggs on toast.
He stood by the main door and adjusted his tie and suit jacket. He wrapped his hand around the door knob…
‘Don’t look. Don’t. Look,’ he muttered, squeezing his eyes shut. But he did look when he opened them: the shabby door at the end of the hall, right next to the kitchen door. It was the only door in the house in dire need of a makeover.
Dread consumed him whole. He swallowed hard. The longer he stared at the door, the more likely he was to crawl to a corner and weep. He left the house in haste.
Work was worse. Tunde couldn’t concentrate. He felt his pocket, allowed his finger to trace the hallow band inside.
From his office he spotted Chika talking to her friend. Becky? Becka? He couldn’t recall her name, but she was fat. Chika’s fat friend, that’s what he referred to her as.
Anyways, he had a date with Chika. He had better prepare.
They met at the restaurant across the road from the office, a large, homely place. The food there was nothing special, but it was OK, certainly date-appropriate.
Chika wanted to know more about him: his hobbies, his favourite colour, what artist he loved above all, movies they had both seen… He gave her answers he had researched on the internet. They seemed to satisfy her curiosity.
The date ended. Chika left, happier than she had been when they arrived at the restaurant earlier. He watched her through the large window, his hand in his pocket, tracing the hollow band.
He checked his watch. It was time to go. He stood, and then groaned at the sharp pain in his left side. He checked: a pool of red was growing on his shirt in that area.
His nose was wet. He touched it. Blood. Why did this always happen?
He took out the band from his pocket – a wedding band.
Someone bumped into him from behind. The ring slipped from his fingers.
‘Hey!’ Tunde didn’t bother with the person. He bent and searched frantically.
The cleaner – an elderly woman – helped. She found the ring under a chair and handed it to him.
‘Your nose-’ she began.
‘It’s OK. Thank you,’ he said and rushed out of the restaurant.
Tunde got home late that afternoon and sat behind his study table. The only item on it was a paperback novel: “These, the Last Days of our Lives” by Nancy. No last name.
He didn’t know what to make of the book. In fact, he didn’t know what to make of anything anymore – this house, his life, his job. It all seemed pointless without her.
So, he did the one thing he had always done on every other day. He pulled the stool from the corner of the room, placed it under the ceiling fan, climbed it, tied a rope around the neck of the fan, slipped his head into the noose, kicked the stool from under his feet … and chocked to death.
WEWE BY IFEOLUWA WATSON
The market was empty. The stalls were bare; overturned tables were tilted against the padlocked doors of shops. Stray dogs ruffled the refuse dumps for scraps of food. The black-spotted dog found a big cow-leg bone but the brown bitch dragged it away. They struggled, snarling and baring their fangs until they heard the familiar approaching footsteps. With their tails between their hind legs, they shrank back whining in fear.
She encircled the dogs in a predatory dance. She held a heavy piece of wood, hoisted in the air. The dogs scampered away. The strongest of the strays had claimed the booty. She sat in the dirt. She tore the rancid flesh off the bone and growled when the dogs drew near again. She burst into loud cackles of laughter as the dogs ran off into the distance. At dusk, she was the queen of the market. Even the unseen aerial spirits made obeisance to her.
She howled at the full moon. She held a monologue with the old woman and the mortar and pestle in the yellow orbit. She told the old woman of her tormented soul. How a thousand pins pricked her skin; how a hot steam cooked her scalp and how she wanted to shed her skin. She ran a race – from the fresh vegetables stalls to the meat section; from the kitchen utensils section to the clothes section. She circled the fairly-used clothes section twice. She lingered to inhale the pungent scent from the fumigated clothes. Even from behind the closed doors, the scent permeated the atmosphere. It calmed her. At last, she settled in a shop’s frontage. There, she kept watch all night till the curtain of darkness shifted from the face of the day.
At the first crack of dawn, the traders began to arrive. They were armed with their weapons of warfare. The rotund yam-seller sprinkled some salt over the threshold of her shop. The woman opposite, who also sold yams poured water from a calabash onto her feet. Then, she waved a broom to the right and left and backward and forward. She began to chant, “Today, many people will come and buy at my shop. Ase! They will….” She stopped abruptly when she saw the figure huddled beside an upturned bench.
“Ah! Wewe, you this mad woman! What are you doing in front of my shop ehn? See the bad luck you’ve brought upon me today o!” The woman drew out a long cane from the roof and chased her. Two lashes caught Wewe’s bare back before she got away.
They called her Wewe. No one really knew where the name had originated. It could have been from the alarus, who bumped her out of the way with their wheelbarrows or the school children who prodded her with sticks on their way to their mother’s stalls. Wewe never harmed the children. The voice in her head was often silent during the day. But it banged and screamed at night when she ran wild in the still market.
Many traders speculated on Wewe’s presence at the market. She’d first appeared with a curly long weave on her head until it fell off and was replaced by dirty dreadlocks. She’d chosen the gutter that ran through the market as her home. Some said she was a trader who had been struck with madness but none could point to her shop at Oja Oba. Others said she was a runs girl who had been used for rituals by a fetish rich man to enlarge his fortune.
Wewe’s favourite place at Oja Oba was before the rows of shops where home videos and music CDs were sold. The loudspeakers there blared music all day long. She closed her eyes and swayed like a tree branch in the wind to the soulful tunes. When it was fast-paced music blaring from the speakers, she danced to the thrill of the passers-by. Of the onlookers, males were in the majority. They stared at her ebony skin; though topped with the grime of the refuse dumps, it had not lost its glow. They watched her bouncy breasts till their mouths drooled with saliva. Though left flying free without the support of a brassiere, the twins stood resolute. Her beauty had an eerie feeling to it especially with the dark birthmark on her forehead shaped like a four-angled star.
The men knew enough to stay away from her. Once, Warrior, the fiercest of the alarus had tried to push her behind the shops to have his way with her. Wewe had gored him with a broken bottle and he’d limped away, bleeding. Wewe had attacked him because she’d seen the red halo over his head. It was the same halo she’d seen over a woman passing by her. She’d grabbed the woman’s wig and revealed her balding patch. The day fire blazed in a part of the market, Wewe had carried sand in a pan throwing it into the inferno with the others. It was acts like these that made some people question her insanity.
That morning, Wewe was hungry and she wandered about Oja Oba in search of food. Her nose led her to the centre of the market where Mama Dindindin, named thus for her famed fried chops – dundun and akara and buns and puff-puff, sat tending the aperin of hot oil. Words bubbled on many lips, that it was her special condiment of wash-put that kept the buyers flocking to her shop. Her customers varied from the little naked girl with snot running down her nose, clutching a ten-naira note to the pot-bellied man in a tinted Big-Daddy Toyota Camry. They came from the nooks and crannies of Ibadan; from Apata and Sango and Ojoo and Ashi. Their stomachs led them past Mapo Hill to Oja Oba to partake of Mama Dindindin’s delicacies.
Wewe stretched her hand forward. “Fun mi,” she said. Mama Dindindin waved a ladle menacingly at her, “Kuro joo, don’t spoil business for me.” She did not want the sight of the dirty mad woman to dissuade her customers.
A young man alighted from a car. He often drove to Oja Oba several times a week to indulge himself with hot dundun and akara. He took his position beside the other waiting customers. He ignored his fiancée who sat in the car with a big scowl on her face. “Rotimi, please hurry up. This place stinks!” she exclaimed, holding her nostrils closed with her fingers.
He bought two packs of akara and dundun wrapped in newspapers. To the horror of the lady in his car, he walked towards Wewe. For a moment, he stared at her star. Then, he handed one of the packs to her. She grabbed it and stuffed some dundun into her mouth. Just as the food hit her stomach and the man entered his car, Wewe looked up and saw it – a blue halo over his head. The first she had seen since Oja Oba became her abode. She threw the wrap of food in the dust. She ran towards the car, eyes intent on the blue light. It was too late. The car gathered speed and zoomed off. Wewe began to weep and dashed herself on the ground. The people around stood spellbound. Who was the man in the car to the demented woman?
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