Missing the Bus by Tolu Daniel – A Short Story

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MISSING THE BUS
BY
Tolu Daniel

That was how you missed the bus; you had awoken earlier than the usual time and skipped your normal morning routines. Yet, you still missed the damned bus! Only three buses made the journey from Abeokuta to Abuja daily and you missed the last one and the only one that would get you to Abuja in time for you to sleep and prepare for the examination.
You stand by the bus stop to contemplate upon traveling to Lagos or Ibadan to get another bus, your earpiece blasting sad tunes from your favorite musician Regina Spektor. You swayed your shoulders to the left and then to the right, singing along offhandedly.
You missed the call of another Abuja bus conductor calling aggressively for three more passengers. You move slowly towards the Ibadan cabs, the extra fare that you would need to pay to get to Ibadan turns your stomach. You bite your tongue and wonder why you had punished yourself. You mistook the driver’s gesture of trying to point you to the fact that the Abuja bus still had two more seats, to him insulting you because you felt embarrassed when you caught some people watching you as you did a dance move that you had practiced overtime.
You trembled at his huge tribal marks; a warning rang in your head not to exchange words with him so you turn quietly towards the cab. You entered his cab and sat down at the front seat, ready to go to Ibadan. Then your earpiece falls off and you hear ‘Abuja one, Abuja Enikan’. You jumped from the Ibadan cab forgetting about the restraint of the seat belt and fell back. You slowly detach the belt and made your way to the Abuja bound bus only to meet the pretty girl who lived next door whom the neighbors had told you said that you were proud and arrogant, going towards the same bus.
You keep walking, eyes on the prize, seriously concentrating and pretending as though you had not seen her. Then you get to the bus before her, you notice that she had seen you make the last minute dash for the last seat on the bus, yet she still kept coming towards the bus, smiling as though she had just won a lottery.
“You are David Agboola, are you not?” she said as she spoke to you, her face still aglow with that victorious seeming air as she got nearer to the bus. You couldn’t find your voice and hoped that you never find it so that you would not have to say something wrong, so you nod instead. She brought something that looked all too familiar from her hand bag that had the letters MUSCHINO largely printed on it, evidence that it was probably a knockoff; that was when you realized that you had misplaced your wallet. Your hand went straight to your back pocket to seek succor but you were left disappointed.
She had made the effort to bring you the wallet all the way from your house at this hour of the day; it suddenly began to dawn on you that she expected gratitude as she handed the naira filled wallet over to you. There would have been no way for you to pay for the bus that had gone earlier, if you had not missed it, you manage a grunt and suddenly felt out rightly emotional and since words were failing you, so you get off the bus and gave her a hug.

THE END
Tolu Daniel is a fiction writer, blogger and administrator of A Poet’s Diary. He blogs at http://toluojuola.wordpress.com and is @iamToluDaniel on twitter.

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Caught – A Short Story

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Caught by Tolu Daniel
I have heard about the stars that encircle around a dazed man’s face after receiving a knock on the head or a brutal blow to the face, but I never thought any of it was real. My unbelief could have stemmed from the fact that I saw so many cartoons while I was growing up. Those yellow suspended birds that hover around the cartoon characters always seemed mythical to me; I never imagined that they could ever become so reachable, almost touchable. But there I was, standing in front of the igbo trader with the enormous sausages that were supposed to be his hands, as he dazed me with the biggest slap that my face had ever encountered. It felt as though I had run into a moving train, for a split second, I was in a universe that was neither here nor there, it was though all was on a merry go round. The birds danced, they even sang, so was the glory of Chibuzor’s slap on my face.

I would have cried a fountain, I would have shed buckets of tears there and then, because the sight of Chibuzor’s beefy hands should have been enough to make any child cry, but I was not a child or was I? A scrawny looking and witty nine years old with what many described as a bad habit would describe me. I didn’t feel any pain after the slap; however my head suddenly felt lighter, the world appeared as a shade of many colors with my brain suspended for a little while in a sepia configuration; the little birdies were still dancing around my head. I knew what I did was termed as wrong by the society but I had issues with societal stereotypes and what everybody defined as wrong or right. I couldn’t help myself, I felt as though I had a responsibility, like superman’s was to save the world, mine was to defy the generational belief system that certain things were wrong and certain others were right; I had questions that nobody was willing to give me answer to. So I developed theories for myself and ensured that I live by these theories, these seems a little too impossible for a child of nine, right? But I was not just any child.

For as long as I could remember, I had developed an affinity for seeing movies; I loved seeing movies, in whatever genre the movie was, I would watch. I remembered once when my mother needed to send me on an errand and after she had yelled my name over six to seven times, she had decided to come looking for me and found me sprawled carelessly on the rug, body facing down and my two arms holding my head firm, mouth slightly opened in reckless abandon as a long slimy salivary rope connected the floor and my mouth as I paid raft attention to the movie that I was seeing. My love for movies was never derailed by the fact that I lived in a town that could not boast of a single cinema, the best we could do was to buy these movies from the movie store at whatever price.

So whenever I went to Chibuzor’s store to buy movies, I always picked one extra without his knowledge. I was subscribed to the school of thought that stated that Chibuzor was cheating me, that the movies that he was selling to me were a lot cheaper than the amount that he was selling them and that I needed to ensure that I did my own back, a tit for tat philosophy from a nine year old could never go wrong, but I was mistaken, the music of the birdies still lingered in my head and was an unsubstantial proof.

Today Chibuzor un-customarily asked to check the backpack that I had brought into his store. As a witty nine year old, I tried to get myself out of the mess, I stalled, insulted him in Yoruba but unfortunately Chibuzor insisted that he had to see the contents of my bag. So, reluctantly I allowed him to check and the expression on his face was one that would remain with me even in my adult years.
Ewo….oooo!!!” Chibuzor exclaimed, his eyes bulging like a ripe volcano ready to explode, I should have made a dash for the door at that instance, but I didn’t want to, I thought that I could talk myself out of it like most of my usual escapades. I was certain that he would understand once he heard my opinion and the reason why I was doing what I was doing, but like many of the things that happened that fateful day, I could not have been more wrong.
“You skinny little thief” He screamed as he threw my bag at me and followed it with a thunderous slap. I would have replied him like I normally do to my older siblings when they accuse me of testing out my theories on them, ‘what sort of nonsense was that? How dare he insult me like that? Who does he think he is? Who does he think I am? Just a mere road side trader’: but the slap was so resounding, that it drowned every thought from my head, Mr. Kokosari my Elementary School teacher whose palms my face had grown accustomed to would have been proud of Chibuzor.

I was still in my dazed state when I realized that our little squabble had attracted several on-lookers and interested participants and there was a crowd gathering slowly at the store and somewhere in my head, in the deepest of my recess, I could hear some diabolical chants or maybe it was my mind that was playing games on me.
“Ti owo ba te ole, Pipa ni e pa, ka roun jeba lola”
(If a thief is caught, he must be killed to make an example for the rest)
For a child that grew up in a very superstitious environment, who watched tales by moonlight without missing an episode, who was subjected to listening to ‘Nkan nbe’ by Kola Olawuyi on the radio every Friday night and who never missed a chance to sit by grandpa who was a major exporter of unrated and scary tales, I was certain that I was going to die; that song was always accompanied with bloodshed in all of grandpa’s tales and those crappy Yoruba movies that we saw at home, and yes, there were no age restrictions to most of them.

Chibuzor dragged me with the back of my shirt and dragged me outside to the main-street, and rained down another set of slaps on me, I didn’t wince once, neither did I pretend nor behave as though I felt any tinge of pain but I didn’t miss the chirping birds that hung over my head. The scene was so overwhelming; I could not bring myself to look up, by now I was feeling ashamed that I got caught. I still felt that I was supposed to get a chance to defend myself, because my unfortunate theory still lurked somewhere in my mind.
Among the several persons that were gathered watching the seeming movie that was unfolding, was a rather strange woman; she was strange because of the fact that she was strangely attired. Garbed in a traditional white attire, the blouse was hanging loosely to her lean shape and the Iro was held tightly too, she was jeweled in cowries and shells, and fairness of her skin made her all the more attractive. Chibuzor and his slap seemed to become the last thing on my mind as the woman got nearer. There was a longing in me to know more about her and the longing consumed me: She reminded me of the Yoruba mythical character called Yeye Osun , the first wife of Sango, the one whom a river in South-western Nigeria was also named after, she moved nearer to the scene where I was being manhandled and said something that I could not really understand to the orderlies that were with her and the next thing that I could remember was the manner in which the orderlies yanked me out of the clutches of Chibuzor and his cohorts.
“Don’t you know that this boy is the son of the soil?” the weird looking lady screamed at the angry igbo traders from whom I was just yanked off. “Do you want to take the law into your own hands?” I wondered what she meant by ‘the son of the soil’, I wondered if my crime was made any easier by the fact that I was an indigene of the town or the fact that I was a Yoruba and Chibuzor was Igbo. And why ethnicity was always a tool so easily used during the smallest of squabbles.
Madam, I no send law o, do you know wetin my oga don do me because of this brat?” Chibuzor barked back at her. “Where law dey that time?”
“So you think beating him to death because of a few Nairas won’t cause you wahala? Abi?”
Chibuzor was angry and for good reasons too, the woman seemed as though she was not trying to understand at all. Ignoring Chibuzor she just snapped her fingers, a rather strange act that seemed overtly dramatic but which he orderlies understood only tool well as they came to drag me inside an ancient looking white 505 Peugeot.
Madam, make I no disrespect you o, where you dey carry that pikin dey go? Me I wan collect my money…you think say I dey crase?” as he was uttering those words, the crowd was slowly thinning out, some of the onlookers were slowly losing interest, that was how such matters were solved these days, when the intertribal sword was drawn, nobody dares tackle it without having a better weapon in the fight. And without uttering another word back to Chibuzor, the lady checked her white handbag and removed a minty whole one thousand naira note and handed it over to Chibuzor. Despite myself, my eyes twitched with rage, I struggled to get free of my captors but they were a lot stronger than I was.
“But ma’m, he does not deserve the money”
“Did you deserve to get beaten?” she asked looking at me with face like an eagle, as though she could follow it up with a scarier version of Chibuzor’s slap. I had to change the direction of my gaze; her hawk face seemed to have had some sort of Kraken effect on me.

THE END
Tolu Daniel is a fiction writer, blogger and administrator of A Poet’s Diary. He blogs at http://toluojuola.wordpress.com and is @iamToluDaniel on twitter.

How We Fall – A Short Story

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    Read other Works by Uneñ Ameji on African Stories

    How We Fall by Uneñ Ameji

    It was like every other Monday.

    The traffic was long enough to compete with the legendary Niger Bridge under political contention and Ms. Joe as usual was running late. A last-minute being and an uncompromising sleeper, Joe was one to sleep to her fill and took motorcycles from her house to wherever the traffic stopped before jumping on the next available bus heading to her work place 3km from home. A journey indeed it was. She didn’t mind – a good boss and an impressive salary didn’t come easy in the capital city.

    But today was not like every other Monday.

    The black bearded ruffian in what Joe decided were lice infested rags sped and maneuvered the meandering traffic as if hoards from hell pursued. She wasn’t in the least worried about the speed. The faster she got off the death trap, the better chance she had at escaping invisible lice that she felt crawling up her skin.

    In what will be only fit for the movies, Joe in the middle of her thoughts saw the door of a moving vehicle in the go-slow open and within seconds was flying off the bike with her large bag and landing heavily in the green lush bush few meters away from the main road. Her first thoughts were for the safety of her laptop and phones as she lay there momentarily confused at the flight and why she wasn’t hurting.
    Hanging on to the wet grasses and hoping she wasn’t bleeding internally; she mentality scanned her body for pains and felt none.

    A look at her black shirt revealed she was not stained but a look at the scene unfolding before her caused creativity to pool at the base of her brain. A crowd had gathered with cars stopping and bike drivers holding the passenger who had opened the door without looking. A slap from a bike man initiated a little drag with the man that had opened the car door. The black ruffian on the coal tar was shouting to the heavens as if he was great pain. Joe knew he wasn’t. He wasn’t an actor.

    “Are you okay?” it was a good looking man in a well fitted black suit blocking her view. With smart looking glasses perched on his nose, Joe did the next thing she knew would get her to the office without transport fare. Tears clouding her pretty brown eyes, she shook her head in the negative.
    “I am sorry, I didn’t see you guys coming” it was the man who had opened the door joining the man who offered her his hand. Supporters as well as castigators moved to her.
    “Can you stand?” it was the handsome man. He had lovely pink lips and bushy knotted brows too.
    “I can’t” Joe said, the tears already pooling at her lids threatening to drop if she blinked. It was going to smear her makeup for sure but the prospect of getting a free ride to work wasn’t too much a price to pay. Moreover, she got kicks acting. It was her first love.
    “Here, let me help you” he said as another supporter helped her up.
    The whimper was fake but they didn’t know that. Joe was the ace faker when it came to dodging work or getting freebies.
    “You need to get to the hospital” the man in black suit said as the traffic began to clear. A look at her wristwatch told her she didn’t have time for checkups.
    “I am good” she answered as the tears rolled down her eyes.
    “No, you are not” he stated and indicated they help him carry her to his car parked just few meters from the scene.
    “I will go to the office and sign in first” she sniffed as she saw the lice-ladden bike man collect 2 notes of a thousand Naira.
    “Where do you work? Let me take you to sign in and then take you to go checkup” the man whose perfume spoke volumes helped Joe along to his new Toyota Camry. Joe smiled inwardly.
    ‘A.C’ she almost sighed aloud.
    “Fiji Consulting, Maitama” she said as she tip toed along with their hands, stopping momentarily to make sure her acting is believed. Just then, a woman who had since followed her decided to speak up as she settled on the passenger seat.
    “Let me stretch it. It will swell up if you leave it” and just like that, she was on her knees grabbing her right leg immediately. Her eyes had dried considerably but as soon as the woman touched her, she twisted free and fresh tears flowed.
    “Pleaaase” she cried holding her leg and twisting it free from the strong grip. Taking a hand she came to realize was the man in suit, she pulled him closer as she smelt him and he held her closely.
    “Sorry” he muttered as she nodded and let her tears fall.
    ‘When will I get a part in the movie industry?’ she asked herself with an evil grin as she pressed her face into his stomach.
    Soon, the woman decided she heard a click and stood up feeling like the latest traditional leg puller.
    “She will just rub Aboniki. It have set” she said to no one particular, clapping her hand.
    “My dear, sorry ehen, all this bike men are very careless” she continued breathlessly.
    “Sorry oo” she rubbed Joe’s head and Joe raised her head in a nod. Her big eyes were already red as she sniffed. She saw the crowd stand up in roaring applause at her performance.
    “Feel better?” the man in suit asked with such sweetness, Joe gave a small smile as the invisible audience disappeared.
    “Let me take you to work and then we check the hospital” he said as if he didn’t just hear the leg puller declare her leg ‘set’.
    “Ok” was the only word that came out from her mouth. Joe wanted to get out of here.
    “Here” it was her zipped bag. The supporting man who had helped her up handed it over to her.
    “Thank you” she tried a small smile with a sniff.
    The crowd, desperate to continue hanging at the accident scene dispersed slowly and soon Joe was headed to work in a cold car and a handsome man beside her.
    “Still aching ….” He asked as he joined the highway.
    “Joe…., no, it feels much better” Joe answered settling into the ride. She would be in on time.
    “I’m Kene” he said looking at the being sitting beside him. Kene had seen her fly from the back of bike and had stopped to offer his services as a ‘life saver’. He smiled inwardly at the thought. Kale, his closest friend called him a life saver ever since he decided he was going to be a doctor at the age of 10.
    Joe nodded and stared ahead only too happy for the free ride.
    He was cute but she was in a relationship – surely she couldn’t go out of her way to be friendly with fine men especially as she knew how scared she was of her approaching nuptials. When she was afraid, Joe was a flight risk. Yomi, the groom was sweet. The perfect man for her but sometimes, she wished she would just catch him cheating and have a valid reason to be single again – to take a breath of fresh air. She longed for the days she didn’t belong to no one; days she could decide to stay indoors and sleep rapture. But those days were days of old.

    She was getting married.

    “Are you okay?” his voice startling her from her sad thoughts.
    “Yes. Thanks” she released a small sweet smile and she saw him smile back.
    “You fly really well” he cracked and he was rewarded with a hearty laugh. Kene liked what he saw and when that woman had gone down to twist the poor girl’s ankle; it took him a lot of restraint not to tell her to leave it alone.
    “Thanks” Joe said.
    “So Joe?” he continued the conversation.
    “Josephine” she said and he nodded like he understood.
    “I like Joe” he smiled as he neared Maitama and she directed.
    “Me too” she laughed again and she pointed at the blue building at the Close.
    “I will wait and take you to the hospital” he said as she made to get down.
    “No, no need really” she was already hopping out.
    “Did I mention that it is my hospital?” he asked coming out to help.
    “No. you omitted that” she said in a small laugh.
    “Well, now you know. And it is free too” he said as he helped her out.
    “Now how can I refuse?” she feigned disappointment and he laughed. It sounded like a snort.
    “You simply can’t” he said as she leaned in and he helped her past the curious security guards.
    “Let’s have your card doctor. I will come in as soon as I get the vibe that I’m becoming an invalid” and that got her a hearty laugh. Joe was dismissing him.
    “Right” he said after she limped into the reception.
    “Thanks” she waved his card as he left. She waited for him to leave, limped to her office and as soon as she sat down took out her heels and her laptop.
    She got to work.
    It was 3:00pm when Anna called her from the reception.
    “Your Doctor is here to see you?” it was a question.
    “My doctor?” Joe asked trying to finish tidying her accounts.
    “Dr. Kene”
    “Oh! I am coming” Joe said changing into her flats and taking a quick look at her mirror. Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and a clean wipe of her oily face she made to the reception with slow calculated steps. Perhaps he could take her back home too.
    “Hey Doc” she called happily as she approached the good doctor without his suit. The sleeves of his purple shirt folded at the hands and neck opened at the collar, he looked friendly and younger.
    “You didn’t come, I was in the neighborhood and I decided to checkup” he said smiling.
    “I …….” Joe was saying as an awkwardly tall male walked into the reception. His eyes looking out for someone and then he focused his round eyes briefly on her before walking up to them.
    “I see you have found her” he said and the good doctor turned to acknowledge him.
    Joe looked at the tall man and suddenly felt like a dwarf. She itched to climb some inches. She could tell he could see into the middle of her head and she didn’t like the feeling it evoked.
    “Yes, I did” Kene said smiling.
    “How’s your leg?” the tall man was asking. Joe didn’t know if she should answer. Kene helped her.
    “Better” he said and Joe looked at him with a smile.
    “So are we taking her in?” he asked fixing her with a look that Joe didn’t find pleasant.
    “No, you are not taking me in” she finally found her tongue as she looked from one to the other.
    “See! I told you she was okay” he finally said smiling at a confused Joe. Anna, who had been watching the exchange, picked up her ringing intercom.
    “Oga is calling you” she said after dropping her intercom.
    “When are you closing?” Kene asked.
    “5:00pm” Joe said feeling the eyes of the tall man piercing into hers.
    “I will come take you home” Kene said excitedly and Joe simply nodded.
    “Kale Kanwa” the tall man extended his long hands fit for a pianist and Joe momentarily wondered if he played. His Adam’s apple danced as he laughed at Kene hitting his hand away.
    “Joe…” she said simply as she smiled at their exchange. They looked like an interesting pair.
    “Joe who?” he asked as Kene pulled him out of the reception because Anna was already beckoning to Joe.
    “Joe Nathaniel” she answered as she made to walk away.
    “Joe with the broken ankle, we coming to pick you up at 5:00pm” he said as he gave in to the tugging from Kene.
    “Don’t let him scare you. See you soon” Kene called and they left soon. Joe smiled as she watched them go. An odd pair…she shook her head.
    The next hours flew past and by 5:10pm, she looked like she needed to be re-hydrated. Hanging her large bag containing her laptop on her shoulders, she stepped out of the building and decided to make it to the junction. Calling Kene to take her home will be asking for trouble.
    “Are we ready?” the familiar voice called from the car park and she turned to see the awkwardly tall man leaning on a white SUV that looked like a jalopy. It was covered in dust.
    “Like my car?” he said reading the expression in her eyes. She smiled.
    “Where is Kene?” Joe asked looking around.
    “He asked me to come pick you up. He got another bleeding case” he said without emotion. Joe laughed.
    “Great! She has a wicked sense of humor” he laughed and made to open the door for her.
    “Thanks”
    “Anything for a short woman” he called as he gave an evil laugh.
    “Awkwardly tall man” she retorted and laughed at her reaction.
    “Put on your seat belt” he said as he walked over to the other side.
    “So are we going to meet Kene?”Joe asked as they left her office.
    “Awww, she has fallen in love with the good doctor” he said looking at her briefly before focusing on the road.
    “I have not fallen” Joe answered angrily and amused at the same time.
    “Nopes….we are taking the little woman home after buying some ligament nonsense – Doctor’s order” he winked and Joe laughed. His Adam’s apple danced again as he swallowed a laugh.
    “So how’s the leg?” he asked as they joined the express and he sped on.
    “Doesn’t need amputation” she said and he laughed again, sparing her a side glance.
    “So what do you do at Fiji Consulting?” he asked as they drove in silence for a while.
    “Keeping their account. Thinking of committing fraud though. Just in case you see my photo in The Guardian” Joe said and she got another side glance. He laughed through his nose and the sound sounded lovely yet strange. She was definitely getting in over her head.
    “Why The Guardian?” he asked after his original laugh.
    “Boss reads only The Guardian” Joe replied as they reached the traffic.
    “Makes sense” he gave a smile. His lips upturned and Joe wondered how it would feel in a kiss. A quick mental slap and she was good.
    “You live in Karu?” she asked as he kept a straight face and drove with rapt attention.
    “Nopes” he answered, another side glance.
    “So Kene requests that you take me home”
    “Yes. He wants to know where you live so that he can monitor your leg” he gave another evil laugh.
    “Evilly” Joe said as she heard him laugh.
    “Goodily” he replied naturally as if they were longtime friends
    “So you want to listen to your favorite song?” he asked as they inched closer to home.
    “I don’t have a favorite song” she answered and watched him play a track.
    “Miranda Lambert – Over You, if you are wondering” he said as he turned up the volume and continued to stare straight ahead.
    “I wasn’t wondering” Joe answered as they neared the diversion that was taking her home. Luckily, the traffic flowed and she briefly wanted an impromptu traffic that will keep the conversation going.
    He was awkwardly tall – she couldn’t get past that but then he was cute with his round roving eyes, hyena-like laugh, impressive hairline and an Adam’s apple that should worry her but it did more to fuel the quiet interest that was building within her. She didn’t dwell on the lips and long fingers; that would be asking for trouble.
    She definitely shouldn’t ‘like’ any other man and in less than 12 hours, she had met interesting ones.
    “What do you do?” she asked.
    “I am waiting for my inheritance” he answered seriously with a wicked look that got a laugh he wanted.
    “Construction. Lovely to build masterpieces. I’d take you to some of my sites when your leg lets you. Be warned – my works are taller than me” he answered easily as they arrived at the roundabout.
    “Left” Joe answered with a shake of her head as she directed him to the house.
    Soon she was home and he remained in his car clutching the steering while he waited for her to get down.
    “I’d love to” Joe answered surprising herself on agreeing to see his sites. If she was any truthful, she’d say she wanted to spend more time with him.
    “Great! And you should give Kene a call. Tell him I drove like a human being” he winked and soon he was zooming off. Joe stood smiling as she watched him drive off.
    She definitely was going to get tangled with this one…
    …Kale…she turned to walk into her flat and missing a step, she was falling into the gutter……a thick blackness overwhelming her as continued to fall…..
    Grrrrrrrrrrrrggh! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!!
    Joe woke up to the angry doorbell blaring so loud she jumped off the bed and rushed to the front door to open it without asking who it was. It was probably Maimuna – her flat mate who liked to play with the doorbell just for the fun of it after her club nights.
    It was a Saturday and Joe was earning her beauty sleep.
    What was she dreaming about again? She searched her fuzzy brain as she unlocked the door. She blinked and shaded her sleep-raw eyes as the hot sun blinded her with her right hand.
    “Good Morning” a familiar voice greeted.
    “Yes?” she answered finding the source of the voice as she cleared the mass of long borrowed hair from her face.
    And there he stood looking down at her with warm brown eyes, amusement lighting his roving eyes and his twitching lips as he studied her appearance. Dressed in a flimsy sleeveless shift shirt that hung off her shoulders and clearly displayed her provocative chest, Joe looked like a sleep-demon. She looked down at herself and back at him.
    “Do you find it to your liking?” she snapped, irritated at his height advantage and the delayed smile tugging at his lips. He laughed then and Joe found herself stepping back.
    Surely he wasn’t real.
    “Is that stubborn Maimuna home?” he asked as he fixed Joe a stare after his original laugh. It was him, the dream guy; her brain trying to retrieve her dream as fast as it could.
    “And who wants to know?” she asked heating under his stare. His Adam’s apple.
    “Kale Kanwa” he answered.
    A rush of air from her tensed lungs.
    It couldn’t be.

    She was getting married in 2 months.

    ***

    Read more from Uneñ Ameji on the Okadabooks App. Love on the 25th – a corporate love story set in Nigeria is her latest. Get Courting Baida and Finding Baida on African Stories. She is @UnenAmeji on twitter.
    **How We Fall is dedicated to a new friend. #AwkwardlyTall

Acidious – A Short Story

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Today is Short Stories Friday!

African Stories brings you three short stories for your reading pleasurezzzz…..Happy Holidays!

Love Stories, Share Stories…

Acidious by Tolu Daniel

You were furious, she had just broken up with you and this time she informed you that it was for good. There was no was plausible cause nor a possibility of redemption this time. You had tried, really tried to get yourself on the same page with her and like a diamond with many edges you had kept on scraping her edges and hurting her without really doing anything; that was the story she told you. You didn’t understand it, not a bit. It all seemed a wee bit strange to you but you played along, understandingly.

You were the stuff of fairy tales, the Prince Charming that Princess Fiona was waiting for after all the Shreks that she had met in her life, her friends confirmed this too. You were not just good looking; you were cool and spontaneous too. You were godly and fun to be with; little wonders you always had people around you. She didn’t believe you when you informed her about your vow of celibacy because your shrink had diagnosed you of nymphomania after you had an affair with her. An affair that started during one of those sessions that the organization you worked for insisted you attend.

You had walked into her office hoping to see an old man or an old woman but upon entering her office; you had tripped beyond measure, she had been so fine and sexy that you couldn’t imagine not getting down with her; and the rest is as better imagined than told.
That was the problem she had informed you one of those nights while you walked her home; it was under the mango tree that stood proudly like a peacock in its prideful glory in front of her house. ‘I want more from this relationship’ she had said as though you were not giving her enough. ‘I want you inside me, and I want you to be committed to me as I am to you’. You stared at her in disbelief; the words coming of her mouth were foreign to you. You had chosen her because of her innocent outlook; the definition of a good girl was what she represented to you. You had assumed that she would want to stay pure till marriage; and by pure you meant a virgin but now you are finding out that looks can be deceiving.

You decided not to preempt her not for any other reason but the fact that you could have easily misunderstood what she was saying. “I want to you to make love to me and make me scream like all those movies, I want you to be my first and only” she had said to you. You stared at her unbelievably horrified, it occurred to you at that moment that she must have put a lot of thoughts into it. She had continued by challenging you to do it, just to prove to her that you loved her.

Two warnings rang on your head at that moment, one was that of your shrink but it was easily replaced by an X-rated memory of you banging her inside her office; the other warning was that of your priest. Sunday’s mass had been abnormal, the priest had mentioned something about running away from all appearances of evil, not that you were the religious type but it was still ringing in your head because your innocent seeming girlfriend at the moment seemed like the stuff of horror movies, pure evil.

Then there was you philosophizing, you were in love with her and she had just challenged you about proving your love for her and if you couldn’t you guys were done for good. You couldn’t blame her, she had met two of your ex-friends with benefits and you could see that she longed to have a taste of what ever drug made their eyes tingle whenever they saw you, not that they were better looking than her. You were amazed at how stupid and naïve she seemed but you kept your mouth shut and let your mind wander. She had decided there and then that it must be the fact that they had had sex. You wondered why she had waited for so long and why she was in such a hurry to let it go now.
You stop thinking for a bit and look into her eyes; you fell in love with her over and again. But you still couldn’t make a decision on what to do.

***THE END***

Tolu Daniel is a fiction writer, blogger and administrator of A Poet’s Diary. He blogs at http://toluojuola.wordpress.com and is @iamToluDaniel on twitter.

The Outcast

Present Day:

Last night I saw her again. But this time she stood sadly before walking into my bedroom like the old friendly ghost that she was. Silently I watched as she passed by my bed and then as if she did not see me walked through the walls. I watched her leave as my walls turned red and the once familiar writings on the old red walls of the cave in the belly of Idah Mountains, deep in the Ojaina forest-the spiritual center of the royal clan and resting place of all dead Attahs appeared on my walls. And for the first time, I heard my name in a whisper.
‘Manale’ I woke up staring at my wall in cold sweat.
I knew what I had to do.
****
The rains fell insistently for days unending in continuous almost rhythmic sequence producing musicals that only the gods could dance to. The thick black clouds lightening seconds before the loud talking thunder would strike and the shout of the enemy would be heard. Yes, the land was under attack again and the gods were killing the Junkun warriors that had invaded our land. It was so dark one could not tell whether it was the start of a new day or the middle of night. The gods had come down because the land flowed with blood of virgins that had been sacrificed. A dry fast had been proclaimed throughout the land and no one was to leave their dwelling until the last drop of the rains.
This was the god’s commandment.
I obeyed not because I believed in Obochi-the god’s emissary but because I feared the Junkun warriors waiting in the bushes unwearyingly and filled with hatred to wet their spears and cutlasses with human blood. I was gradually losing any sense of fear and consciousness as I had gotten tired of chewing the termite-ridden thatched roof and barks of firewood gathered in my little blackened inherited hut before the death of my grandmother a fortnight ago; this I substituted with red earth when I needed a change in diet and drank from the old clay pot. The stench of the decaying flesh infiltrated the red walls and the water. I inhaled her hot rotting flesh coming from the entrance where I had hurriedly dug the wet earth and unceremoniously deposited her frail remains in her favorite weaved mat as was the directive.
She had been sick for many years. The sickness of the gods Obochi had said. ‘The gods want you. You are to serve them with your body and wait for the last day. Your death will mark the beginning of the destruction of our enemies. Do not bury her with emotions. Do not one weep. Bury her with her head pointing north’ he made these pronunciations three years back and sent us home. According to his words, she had died just before the strong violent wind overtook the land and indeed marked the beginning of the destruction of our enemies.
The putrid stench mixed with my urine and excreta that I had modestly concealed in a clay pot had gotten stronger now and I was suffocating. I had to get air and I stumbled out of the hut against my better judgment. The darkness enveloped me like cocoon and I instantly retched as the cold wet air rushed into my lungs. I gasped for air and waddled to the back of the hut to get some fresh mango leaves for food in the high water that had risen to my thighs. Just as I eased my way back to the hut, a movement caught my eye. Wiping my eyes to see the departing figure, I moved farther away from the hut to see the disappearing figure covered in animal skin.
Curiosity.
Another step and wet slippery ground gave way. I lost my footing and I found myself totally immersed in the flood. The last thing I remembered was the sharp pain at the back of my neck before I slipped into oblivion. I woke up to the smell of roasting rat and sound of the gentle sharpening of stone. Eyes squinting, I noticed the hunched figure backing the blazing fire in the same animal skin.
‘Ou ngbo ude?’ I asked with hoarse voice demanding to know where I was. She turned at the sound of my voice, silently turning the cooking rat and feeding the already blazing fire. I tried sitting up and the sharp pain reminded me of the fall. I stilled and watched quietly the figure; glancing sideways and taking cognizance of my surrounding. The roof was of earth and the drawings on the wall faint but visible.
‘Dashi peita’ she said softly telling to rest just a little with kind old eyes.
Instantly, I knew who she was and shot up immediately forgetting the pain. I screamed as the sharp fresh pain struck my back and I gently laid down back; nursing the pain.
It was her.
The dreaded one.
Aja-Nigo! The outcast.
Surely I was cursed and I fearfully broke into incantations that escaped my memory as I fought to remember the words. I was face to face with the old village witch and I was tongue-tied. No one had seen her and lived to tell the tale. If there was, no one would agree to have seen her. Such admissions were met with the strictest of cleansing and sacrifices after which the gods would approve the status of the person and determine absolution or expulsion. I had nothing to sacrifice. I was doomed.
She looked at me kindly before taking the unfortunate rat from the blazing fire and scrapped with the sharpened stone. Here I was calling the rat unfortunate while I watched hungrily with pooled scented spit in my mouth. I swallowed the diluted spit filled with the delicious smell of the thoroughly roasted rat and winched in embarrassment. She heard the growl of my traitor stomach. I cowered in shame.
The gods have mercy on me I thought. I was the unfortunate rat and I was hungry.
She rose slowly and grabbed her curved stick like her spine and she hunched over to me before giving me with the gutted rat.
‘Gba’ she offered and I collected it. I was going to be an outcast anyway. What did it matter if I ate from her? I had no one in the village and my life was no different from that of an outcast. No farm land, no family, no respect.
I ate the rat slowly at first before pushing the rest into my mouth. I chewed with gusto; the weak bones crushing under my heavy jaws.
She smiled and returned to sit by the fire.
‘Naya ku tacki omi ki lokpa’ she started slowly predicting that she was going to die before the rains stopped. With the crushed rat and renewed strength, I crawled to the fire without much pain. I looked at her suspiciously.
‘Ojo duwe weymi’ she continued as she told me that the gods had brought me here to hear what she had to say.
‘Eiun sho duwe?’ she asked of my name.
‘Manale’ I said firmly.
‘Manale’ she whispered before clearing her throat.
She told of decades. Of lost love. Of fear. I listened and these were her words.

In the year 1516.

“My name is Aja-Nigo.
An old maiden.
A slave.
In the bowls of this old Mountain I have dug my resting place but I breathe to confess before I joined the gods. I die an outcast. ‘Ochu’ they call me with scorn and fear. The mention of the old forest witch terrifies the young villagers into obedience. Yes, I know what you call me. I was one of you.
I will tell of times you have heard about and I will tell you of the things I have done. It is the god’s commandment and their ways I must follow.
Oh my fair princess Inikpi! What beauty. What Grace. Her heart pure. Her love for all.
But her heart was for one named Onu-Eje. The fairest man that the existed to torture every maiden’s dream. The sweet love songs spilling from her lips all day long; for they met on her way to Azaina-where Attahs interred.
Onu-Eje!
His name brought shivers to all the maidens. His smile gave every maiden sweet dreams but he lived only for my Princess. He had found the reason for his existence. Their love knew no bound and surely the gods envied them. There was no love such as theirs in all the land.
But there was one whose heart was broken.
Ojamaliya. Onu-Eje’s betrothed.
She lived for him but he had found his mate in my Princess. She mourned her loss in quietness in her walks and the look of dejection. The maidens mocked her for she could not keep her a man and was regarded as a failed woman. Scorned and maltreated.
Alas! The gods watched and they decided to intervene.
Soon after, our land was attacked by Beni warriors. Our bravest warriors killed, our kingdom was in disarray. Ayegba Oma-Idoko our great King was in need of the gods’ intervention and Ameh-Oboni the fearless priest he called. The gods demanded a human sacrifice. Princess Inikpi.
The King was distraught. The days of gloom that followed. Princess Inikpi gave herself willing after she dug out the message of the gods from her father on the 7th day. It was decided that nine slaves and ten volunteers were to escort her on her journey and I was to be buried alive with her. I wept for my soul and I ran to the River Niger that night; to pray to the gods to spare my life for I was but a teenager with great responsibility and I feared death greatly. The gods must have heard my prayer and opened my ears to her the songs of one who prayed for death.
‘Whose shall I be now? What do I live for? I will go with the one I was made for. My god, I come to you. Show me how’ these were Ojamaliya’s words and it would seem that her song had reached the gods before my prayers. I realize this now.
The morning came and the shy clouds opened to witness the great sacrifice. From afar I watched as Ojamaliya disguised in my clothing knelt with the slaves and escorts at the foot of my Princess who sat staring ahead into the world beyond. Onu-Eje stood with her hands in his and where I was to be was Ojamaliya. The earth was covered and the tears of the villagers soon mixed with the rains that poured from the sky.
That same day, the gods sent down an illusion of fire and the multitude of warriors went back saying that our land was under attack and that we perished.
Oh yes! I had traded my life for hers and betrayed my Princess. I was soon discovered and escaped into the thick forest. Ojaina became my home. And an outcast I had become”

The fire was now in ashes as she finished her story. The rains had stopped too. ‘Lo’ she commanded and I ran out never looking back. I ran for hours and wandered through the forest until I saw my hut almost submerged in the flood.
It was over.
The days that followed were full of celebrations and amidst it I snuck to the old Mountains to give her of the new yams I had collected from the Palace.
I found no one.
The cave was empty and I returned to my hut. Sad that I had ran away. Worried about what her end was and most ashamed for hiding the fact that the Old Witch saved my life and I could not tell anyone for the fear of becoming an outcast.
I was indeed an outcast.
I was Aja-Nigo’s son.