ATM Rendevous Part 1

 

In her shimmering sheath dress and blue stilettos she is eye candy for tired eyes. I watch as she flicks her braids and fiddles with her phone waiting on the crooked ATM queue. I rack my brain for good pick-up lines but I keep drawing blanks. “Hello girl , I wanna talk” crosses my mind and I want to slap myself. It’s hard to think straight when you’ve spent 12 hours in a tiny cubicle preparing briefs for your boss at a private law firm.

I inched closer to Favour, my second hand Mercedes and survey my reflection in the glass. The medium height, honey brown man looking back at me is well dressed, clean shaven and attractive. I bite my lips and exhale. You can do this man, I tell myself.

She is just in front of me. The lights are in my favour. I take my time savouring the view. She is taller than I am but I’m sure it’s her shoes. Her burnt red braids cascade down her back to nuzzle a generous backside. A few inches down , the shimmering gown stops to show a long stretch of skin the colour of bitter cola shells that tappers down to dainty ankles and electric blue high heels. The left ankle glitters in a silver anklet and the right is etched with a floral tattoo. A kick in my boxers jolts me, I exhale and look away.

It’s not a long line. In front of her , there’s a teen with a grey knapsack wearing earphones and nodding like an Agama lizard.

In front of him, there is a middle-aged woman wearing an I-was-white blouse over a bright yellow flair skirt and rainbow bathroom slippers. The smell of rotten beans and stale cabbage wafts past. Someone has farted, I am certain she’s the one.

A tall bespectacled man in a brown safari suit is next. He stands still with his hands folded, and his head tilted upwards. He is greying at the temples and it gives him a distinguished look. Beneath his arm, there’s a book called The History And Philosophy Of Traditional African Religions. Ah! Definitely, a lecturer.

At the booth there’s a nurse with two school aged kids. I know because she has her uniform underneath a checkered overcoat. The kids, two girls, are dressed in bright purple tops and matching denim skirts. It’s a noveau riche sign that says ‘we aren’t wearing hand me downs, each of us have our wardrobes.’ The woman is paid and the queue keeps shrinking. Soon it’s just Blue shoes and I.

I am happy– we are the only ones at the ATM machine now. No one will witness my humiliation if things go wrong. I allow myself a smile, the scales were tipping in my favour.
She spends longer at the booth than expected and I begin to worry. As I attempt to intervene, she turns. Her shoulders sag and her face looks pinched at the lips. I know even before she says anything.

“It is not paying” she says and it sounds like child that’s about to cry.

In a flash my casanova mode kicks in and begins permutations at the speed of thought. It might be a ploy. After all this is Nigeria. Anyone can feign anything in a blink.

***

 

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Proposal By Proxy

Kasara didn’t feel betrothed. It was like a film, something happening to someone else while she watched and laughed. Her mother was showing her new wrappers to a crowd of cooing friends while her father was puffing on his pipe. Her fiance was an enlarged photograph showing a rotund man with small wrinkled eyes.

It was settled, she would go to Lisbon to join him next week. Some of her classmats came to say goodbye, but they didn’t stay long. Kasara wanted to cling to them, to shout and scream and make a big scene, but she sat still instead and received their cold congratulations with a frozen smile.

News came. He couldn’t receive her immeadiately, a minor matter no doubt. She had to stay with her parents a little longer. Kasara didn’t mind. It was still hard for her to see herself married to the man in the picture.

News came again. A change of plans, he no longer wished to marry her. Would she mind marrying his cousin instead? Of course they could keep the bridal gifts. No one mentioned that his cousin was fatter and older than he was, or that he already had two wives and eight children.

Her brothers were incensed. They smashed the framed potrait and wanted to burn the wedding gifts. A family meeting was called and the elders tried to talk sense into them.

Kasara raided her mothers box and found enough money to travel south. She ran away to her Aunt Jemima’s place. Years passed but no one else asked her to marry them. And when she closed her eyes she could still see the round face in the enlarged photogragh and its small, wrinked eyes.

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Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

How Papa Left

We were having dinner when the lights went out. Ma put on candles and our gaunt shadows seemed like gargoyles on the wall. Pa put his fork down and stomped away from the table. Soon we saw him by the door.
“Marcus, where are you going?” Ma asked.
“Out,” he replied. And before anyone could say more he was gone.

Days turned to weeks but there was no word of my father. Ma made calls, attended prayer vigils, asked everyone but Pa had disappeared.

“Let’s tell the police,” Uncle Makkel said. And so they went to the station the next day. When they were told how much they had to pay in bribes for the investigation to start. They came back sad.

Ma began to sell her wrappers and earrings. Uncle Makkel mortgaged one of his farms. We tried to raise money from our friends but all we got were excuses and had-I-knowns.

In a month, the money was ready and Ma wrapped it in an old newspaper and took it to the station. The police promised Pa would be back soon. Soon dragged on for weeks.

People told us stories of seeing Pa: on a canoe seventy kilometers away, in the market, at the bank, in a church. Ma began to check mortuaries for abandoned bodies.

Then Pa was brought home. He had been hit by a truck and was unconcious for weeks. He couldn’t remember my name and he often forgot what he wanted to say. We didn’t mind . It was just good to know the wait was over.

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The Unravelling

They sat in silence. They’d dreaded this moment. She more than he.

“Do you really have to do this? Isn’t there anything I can say to stop you?”

“Honey, please, let’s not go over that again. The arrangements have been made. The bus will be here in an hour.”

“But why Dan? Have I been such a bad wife to you? Is there anything I haven’t given you? How can you just throw your life away like this? Like rotten fish?”

Her words slapped him, and something in him shifted.

“Like rotten fish ehn? Thank you for the compliment. I better walk up the road. Take care of Ade and Wana. Bye Shade.”

He left with the sound of her sobs drumming on his ears. Wana and Ade were asleep. He hated to imagine how it would have looked if they weren’t.

He loved Shade. She was the only other woman he had ever cared about enough to change. To sacrifice. For her he had stopped smoking. He had learnt cooking. He had even started going to church twice a month. No other woman had been able to keep his attention for this long. Six years and she still stirred him as much as she had on their first date.

Except at moments like this…

The sky was aglow with the colours of the setting sun. A gentle breeze played with the dry leaves, scattering them on the street like confetti. The evening was so beautiful, he was so miserable.

He remembered something he heard the pastor say last month.

“Anger lies in the bosom of fools.”

It was true. He wasn’t being reasonable right now. Any woman would be worried under the circumstances. Shade was just worried. Worried and scared. Why wouldn’t she be? People were giving their souls to run away from Liberia and here he was leaving for the same place as a volunteer. She probably thought he was mad.

The worse thing was that he hadn’t found words to tell her everything. He couldn’t express how excited he felt when he was offered the opportunity. He couldn’t tell her how the moment he read the email, life suddenly seemed ten times nicer, livelier.

The past two weeks had been like reliving his childhood. He was the toughest police chief on the playground, eliminating the thieves. He was him.

Now he had a chance to do it again. In real life, with a real thief called Ebola. He had a chance to do work that really mattered. Not the dead brain routines of Malaria, Typhoid and Diabetes. A real time Emerging Disease Epidemic Response, a real war. He couldn’t stay away for the world.

But.

He could go gently. He could hold Shade and rock her till the bus came. He could remind her of how much he loved her and the kids. He could go over the instructions for his memorial( there would be no burial, just ash in an urn). He could kiss her brows one more time.

So he went home and did so.

It would be 8 months before he returned, not in a stainless steel urn, but in the flesh.

Shade wouldn’t be at the airport to welcome him, neither would the kids.

He would spend the next two years looking for them and failing to find them.

He would discover that she had sold the house and the cars and the land he bought at Lekki.

He would fall into a bottomless depression. And pick up smoking again. And try weed, and like it. And over do it.

He would want to die and pray to do so before morning.

One day, he would get a call from Wana. She was fine, her mother had placed her in a Catholic boarding school in Kenya, she even spent holidays there. Ade was with mother somewhere in Europe. She missed him. She had tried to reach him but mom said she shouldn’t dare. Was he OK?

“Yes, I am fine.” Dan said. And for the first time in three years, he almost believed it.

He travelled to Kenya to see her. As he stood beneath the pine trees waiting, he remembered another place, another evening. Then she was running into his arms, quick as a bullet, and he felt the broken things inside him melding.

It would be a long fight. A long wait. But six years later Wana would be back home in Makurdi with him. He would not marry again. Stop smoking again. Start jogging again.

He would travel the world lecturing on Emerging Disease Response. He would receive more honours than the four walls of his study could hold.

He would forgive Shade (but they would never be friends again).

He would live to eighty-nine. And from time to time he would think over things. He would imagine how things would have been if he stayed. Then he would laugh and mutter to himself.

“There’s no way I was going to let that Bastard get away.”

* * * * *

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The Dinner

Do you like reading flash fiction? I do. And I try to write it because it is fun to write and a great way to fight off writer’s block and stay in touch with my muse. Today’s offering was borne out of an experience I had two weeks ago. Please read and share and comment. And maybe write some flash fiction of your own in the comments.

The Dinner

We talked and laughed, he promised everything would be okay. We were his guests after all and they existed for us. Our rooms would be cleaned, the Wi-fi would work, the cockroaches killed, the staff would start being polite.

We ate his delicious three course meal with light banter and glasses of red wine.

Then we danced and cheered. And all the while, knowing nothing would change.

And for a week, we endured: late assignments, cockroaches in shoes, rude staff and more.

Then we’d had enough. And this time we didn’t talk. We packed our bags and by midday we were gone.

Runaway Dad

Was I Madara Brook? they asked. Yes, I was, I said. Then sign here, they said and I did.

I picked the parcel with trembling fingers and stumbled to the nearest chair. My chest hurt, it was hard to breathe, so I opened the windows. Outside, the sun was bathing the sky in a canvas of colour, inside fear was swallowing me whole.

It had been thirty years. Thirty years of wondering if I still had a father, if he still remembered me, if we would look alike, if he would like my beef stews. I searched everywhere, interviewing my mother millions of times. Did he tell her what part of London he was from? Was Thomas his real name? Was she sure I was his?

Mom wasn’t sure. She had been broke at the time and miserable. Their affair lasted less than a month. And there were others, but she believed I was his. Believed. Like I was a sacrament.

I tore open the brown envelope, a lawyer called a week before to say he would be sending me what Jonathan Rivers had left me as his only living child. I left the phone slip through my hands and scatter into a dozen pieces.
I dragged out the computer first, then I assembled the smaller items on it: a butterfly knife, a toy car, a seashell, many other odd items and a letter.

My beloved daughter, it said, I know you are hurt and angry with me. I am sorry. I have followed your progress the past thirty years with great pride. Since my private detectives found you, I have spent the few pain free moments of my life reading about you on the internet.

I would have reached you while alive but it seemed selfish to burden you with my suffering. I was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago and given eight months to live. I knew my end was nigh. By the time you read this I will be gone, I want you to have these,souvenirs from a father you never knew.

I folded the letter and put it back in the brown box, then I dumped the ‘souvenirs’ in as well. Then I went to the back and made a fire and flung everything in it. Everything except the cheque he sent. I cashed that and bought a new house with a lake behind it, lots of red wine and a long black dress.