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.

A Rainbow Of Tears

My mother had me for their security guard when she was nineteen. Grandpa would have chopped my dad into small pieces and dumped him in the lagoon but the neighbours called the police in time.

Grandma, she was stunned, speechless, so she just sat on the stairs and wailed till her tears turned to salt flakes.

Mom was already six months gone when they found out so an abortion was out of the options. Grandpa threw us out, so mom had to take me to the village to stay with Grandma’s mom.

Dad spent a couple of nights in police custody before Uncle Ahmed came to bail him. Mom thought he would come after us once he was free, but we didn’t see him again, for a very long time.

We found put later that he had many children from women he never married. The lady that told Grandma knew three. When Grandma heard this, she began to cry all over again.

Mother had me on a cold December night. It was the peak of Harmattan and I am told the thin roof of the health post shivered beneath the furious wind like a paper kite.

Since Grandpa had thrown us out, and Dad had run away, Mom had to find a way to support us. She would have loved to do that by modelling or hosting TV shows, but without a degree or any real contacts, that was fantasy.

She woke up by 4 am every morning to bake cakes in a large sand-filled pot. By 7am she swept and mopped floors in a nearby guest house. From 10 she did typing jobs for people that needed them. In between all this, she helped Daniel find tenants for the buildings his agency had been asked to manage. Anything to keep us from starving, anything to keep us from going back to beg Grandpa.

Sometimes Grandma would come to see us. She would bring plenty of food and clothes but she wouldn’t sit or smile or taste anything mom offered her. It felt like a video clip sometimes, one moment she was dragging bags of stuff in the house. The next, she was making small talk with mom and laughing a small stifled laugh, then she was gone. All that was left was my memory of her, with her eyes darting to either side of me while she spoke, like I was a flame, or a fire, something you couldn’t look at straight on.

Daniel started coming home to see Mom. I liked him because he always brought strawberry biscuits with him and he let me play with his phone.

One day he knelt down and offered mom something whispering some words to her. Mom shut her eyes tight and screamed at him. “Leave me alone!”

Daniel knelt there for sometime and my heart stopped in the silence. Then he walked out and banged our door shut.

Mom has been crying a lot of late. She keeps counting the days on the calender and shaking her head. The other night she bought something from the chemist and put pee on it. I know because I peeped.

One night I overheard her talking to someone on the phone. She said she was late and she didn’t know what to do and she wasn’t going to marry ‘him’. A river of ice surged through me then and felt myself break out in goose bumps.

The next morning Daniel came back and offered her something again. He didn’t kneel this time and mom didn’t scream. She collected it and put it on.
The ring sparkled in our little flat.

Its’ matter of fact brilliance brightened my mood. The sense of doom I had felt lifted and I could almost feel happy again. I wanted to freeze the moment, to be at that spot watching mom and Dan hug and seeing the light bounce off the ring in a rainbow of colours forever.

So I closed my eyes and soaked it in, for then and for afterwards.