Guardian’s Twitter fiction is a series where top writers create a story with twitter’s 140 character limit. Now that’s a short short story! I decided to give it a go and this is what I came up with:
Iya mi tied her oja like a true Yoruba woman going into battle; if you know nothing about the Yoruba and their women, just know that there’s no storm that’s ever been brewed like that of a Yoruba woman’s. When the head-tie (oja) is taken off the head and used to hold the wrapper, it only means one thing… IT’S ABOUT TO GO DOWN!!! Iya mi might not have gone to school, but this 60s grandma knew that she had rights and she would not allow anyone mess with her family.
It was the 60s in Ibadan, Nigeria. A time when the country was newly independent, and headmasters and teachers had their due respect. The flog was used to bring justice on those who ‘deserved’ to be disgraced. I can’t tell you anymore because I didn’t live it but I am told that the air was cooler and the prices made more sense. It is in this time that the Dada family lived. Somi and Bomi’s mother had gone to the United States to get her Master’s degree, while their father was working at First Bank and taking good care of the family. They went on picnics, took trips to museums, and played in parks. In a nutshell, whatever was fun, they did it! Iya mi, their paternal grandmother, helped take care of them and also spoiled them senseless. Life was smooth sailing for the sister duo, Somi and Bomi.
Somi was two years older than Bomi but the two were an inseparable pair. Somi always took care of Bomi making her eba and ewedu while Bomi was ever faithfully by her sister’s side whenever she was ill to ‘help’ Somi finish her food before the adults came back to check if Somi was eating. Somi also took care of Bomi at school. Although Bomi was very little, her mouth was the sharpest of them all. She never hesitated to use her venomous tongue on Jolomi, the tall lanky ‘Baba Suwe’ skinned boy in her class who she had cheekily nicknamed Baba Dudu because he was ‘as black as charcoal’. Jolomi hated when Bomi made fun of him and would try to beat her when she called him Baba Dudu. Bomi would run to Somi’s class for protection while yelling “Baba dudu ti n bo” (Baba Dudu is coming) and Somi would keep Bomi behind her and wait for Baba Dudu. When Baba Dudu got to Somi’s class, he would be disappointed that he couldn’t get his revenge and walk back to class with his tail behind his legs. This Tom and Jerry duo continued like this till Somi graduated from the school. Unfortunately for the Bomi, she was still stuck with her cheeky attitude and smart mouth. With no protection, Bomi tried to avoid Baba Dudu as much as she could; however, old habits die hard and soon enough, the tiny eight year old would soon have her last duel with Baba Dudu.
It was Thursday and the whole school was looking forward to the fast approaching and blissful weekend. Bomi’s joy was however disrupted by Baba Dudu who she had successfully avoided since school started 2 weeks ago. Before the morning assembly started, everyone usually went to class first to drop their bags. In the time it took to get to school, drop your bag and line up on assembly, you had to make sure that your uniform remained spotless, your socks was as white as snow, your shoes were glistening from being polished the night before and your hair, teeth and nails were clean and tidy. Amazing that even your teeth had to be ‘tidy’, isn’t it? It was like they knew where each tooth had been and if anyone was out of place, ‘o ma je egba ni yen’ or to put it lightly, ‘the flogs’ were coming to get you. While Bomi was putting her bag on her seat, Baba Dudu stepped on her shoes and socks leaving a nasty brown dirt stain on her white socks and a dusty imprint on her perfectly polished shoes. He pretended as if he didn’t know what he had done and went on his jolly old way while Bomi tried to salvage the damage. She used her hands as a wipe for her shoes and dusted off the stain on her socks. As much as she tried, the damage was done. The bell rang and Bomi braced herself for the impending punishment for uncleanliness.
“Cleanliness is next to what …?” the headmaster asked. To which he got an echoed reply from the teachers and students, “godliness”. At that point, all the teachers went through the lines and inspected each boy and girl to make sure they were spic and span. No excuses were tolerated and as Bomi expected, she was pulled out of the line. It was so humiliating! She walked to the front of the assembly and faced the school with the other dirty girls and boys while mentally preparing for her own share of strokes. “Five strokes of the cane each”, the headmaster announced. One by one, each boy and girl got their five strokes with the option of taking it in the butt or the palm. Bomi had strategically made sure that she was the last on the ‘dirty’ line so that the headmaster would have already dissipated most of his energy on the others before he got to her. “Where are you taking it?” the headmaster asked as if he was a doctor asking his patients where they would rather be injected. Bomi stretched out her left hand revealing her small palm; she wasn’t going to take it in the right because she knew that she would have to write notes in class. She also had to protect her bum because she was going to be sitting on her wooden chair during classes. In that moment, Bomi felt like a nervous patient waiting to feel the thin injection poke her skin followed by the rush of the medical fluids making their way into her veins. Kpa! Kpa! Kpa! Kpa! Kpa! , the sound echoed in the silence as each stroke came down on her palm. While enduring the pain of the cane, she could feel the eyes of everyone on the assembly judging her. The probably thought that she was the type of girl that didn’t wash her clothes before she wore them. She wasn’t! She wasn’t a dirty girl! Although she tried her hardest, the combination of the pain from the cane and the humiliation of being thought of as ‘dirty’ got to Bomi; The tears she tried hard to suppress, broke out of the mental dam she had built and started to fall. The fact that she was crying in front of the whole school added to the humiliation which made her cry even more.
The bell rung for break time; Bomi’s anger had been slowly brewing and she was determined to give Baba Dudu a piece of her mind. Immediately the teacher left the class for the staff room, Bomi walked up to Baba Dudu and demanded an apology. “Baba Dudu! You made my shoes and socks dirty this morning! You better say sorry. E wo ori e bi burnt pancake (look at your burnt pancake head)”. With that, Bomi stepped on his shoes and ran. Baba Dudu chased her around with his belt up in the air ready to lash the little pest that had insulted his complexion so many times. Bomi ran as fast as she could but her short legs could not save her from Baba Dudu’s leather belt. He caught up with her and with a swoosh from his boyish strength, his leather belt landed on Bomi’s arm and left its imprint there. Bomi stopped running and examined the swollen imprint on her arm. “Look at what you did!” she screamed; She stormed straight to the teacher with her throbbing arm, determined to get justice.
Immediately Bomi got back home, she ran straight to Iya mi to report what had happened, showing her the evidence of the injustice she had suffered. She made sure to exaggerate the pain that had subsided before she had gotten home. Luckily the swell was still big so her acting looked genuine. Iya mi removed her oja, tied it to her waist and exclaimed, ‘A ma de school e yen l’eni!’ (That school is going to feel our presence today!). Bomi followed behind Iya mi, who was determined to get justice from the highest authority in the school – the headmaster. Iya mi never went to school but she knew her rights. No one dared to mess with her and her grandkids, the world be damned if some bully would scar her baby and not be punished. She entrusted her little bird with the school and they had allowed this to happen; hell hath no fury like Iya mi’s oja.
“E wo nkan to shey si apa owo omo mi! Baba Dudu abi ki lo n pe! …Wo ti so n pe o ti ma n waja e te le. Egbon e lo ma n gba” (look at what they’ve done to my daughter’s arm! Baba Dudu or what’s he called! …They’ve told me that he’s been bugging her for a long time. Her sister was her savior). The headmaster told Iya mi that he would take care of the situation and apologized for the trouble. He assured her that Bomi would be safe.
The next morning, all the students strolled into the lines like they did every day. After the devotion was done, the headmaster announced that there would be no inspection today, instead everyone was instructed to stand at attention while Otunba, the school pianist played the school song. Everyone knew immediately that someone was about to be disgraced and flogged in front of the whole school. The headmaster was very theatrical and insisted on having music playing before he made any important public announcement. When the music finished playing, there was complete silence. You could hear the beating hearts of all the kids that had done something naughty the previous day, as well as their silent prayers to be good if they were not the ones that would be flogged today. “It pains me to hear that in this establishment where we teach you to respect and honor your neighbor, someone here has taken upon themselves to be an oppressor to his fellow student”. As the headmaster took a long pause, you could hear the sighs of relief of the naughty girls on the girls’ lines, as well as the increasing beating hearts of the naughty boys on the boys’ lines. “Jolomi Adekunmi! Step out at once!” Baba Dudu, who was at the back of the line because he was one of the taller boys, made a long walk to the front of the school with his head down.
As Baba Dudu stood facing the rest of the school, the headmaster continued. “If someone offends you, you report! Jolomi here took the law into his own hands and beat his classmate BLACK AND BLUE!” The older students rolled their eyes a little because they knew that the headmaster had a knack for exaggerating stories. “… Jolomi did this all because his classmate who is half his size, called him BABA DUDU”. A wave of laughter broke out among the students followed by a bunch of authoritative shushes from the teachers. After the silence was restored, the headmaster announced that Baba Dudu would be given twenty strokes of the cane by Mr. Makinde, the science teacher notorious for his painful lashings, while four senior boys carried him so that he would be lying flat in the air. The rest of the day would be filled with whispers and gossip about Baba Dudu and Bomi.
Bomi ran out of the car to hug her sister. Iya mi and she had packed up chocolates, biscuits, juice, and Jollof rice with dodo (fried plantains) and fried chicken for Somi’s visiting day at the boarding school. While they all sat at the table to catch up, Bomi told Somi how Baba Dudu had been disgraced on assembly and gloated that he never disturbed her again. Iya mi was happy to see her girls together, safe and happy.
Authors Note: I don’t have a lot of experience writing short stories, but I decided to give this a go. I would really appreciate some feedback. Please don’t just say you liked or hated it. Tell me what you liked and what you didn’t? Was the story easy to follow? What part confused you? etc. Thanks for reading and love the arts!
“Life is an opportunity, take it as it comes”– Sarkodie
I was feeling a bit down in the dumps today. Somehow looking around at the people that inspire me didn’t help much. It all just made me feel more inadequate and wonder where my life is headed. We plan, plan and plan and sometimes the plans most dear to us either get knocked down or seem to be slipping away. They tell you to take the road less traveled, but in that road, it is much harder to breathe and you can’t turn back because the only way is forward. Even though everything might not seem like it will be alright, your strong will tells you that it will be fine. So you keep moving despite it all. When you hear the stories of others, you realize you’re one of the ‘lucky’ ones. In all your luck your story fades into the background of those more tragic; nonetheless, your heart still breaks. This might not make much sense or maybe it might… in all your anxieties, don’t forget to breathe, I can’t say if it will be okay because it might not be but don’t be the one that throws in the towel. YOU ARE AFRICAN!!! You are alive! and you are! so keep walking because your journey is not done yet…not even close.
Hey readers! I have been itching to give you another interesting interview session and finally I have done it! If you missed the first issue, click here. In this session, I chatted with Saratu about the first part of her story titled “Guilty Pleasures”, a story that explores relationships, deception, cultural norms and society’s ills.
Saratu Danjuma is a 26 year old practicing lawyer and aspiring author from Lagos, Nigeria, her “lieu de naissance”. Before she moved back to the country, she lived in France and England; she speaks English and French (which she says is “quite rusty” at the moment). She is inspired by anyone who chases their dreams and finds a way to contribute to the progress of their community/country as well. If she had to pick someone, she would say the late Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist, poet, critic and professor popularly known for his first novel, Things fall Apart. According to her, he revolutionized African Literature and his courage inspires her immeasurably. She once reviewed the famous novel while she wrote for the arts section of her University Newspaper, The Epigram.
I know you guys are already getting très excited! so I’ll just dive into the interview session!
Tell me about your life at France? Where did you stay? What were your favorite places to visit and your fondest memories?
I lived in France for a year whilst studying at Sorbonne University in Paris. My apartment was on rue de rivoli in the quatrieme (4th) arrondissement in an area called St Paul, very close to Le Marais. It was sublime! My fondest memories were weekend mornings wandering around Les Marais (lots of quirky vintage shops, cafes, art galleries, trendy bars etc. The area attracts a young cool crowd as well), I loved museum hopping (The Louvre, Musée D’Orsay etc are great but my favorite museum was just 5 mins from my apartment and called the Musée Européenne de la Photographie- they always had incredible photography exhibitions), The guys who lived next door to me (mes voisins) always had these incredible soirees where all their friends would come over and just drink wine and chat. Those were so much fun. They organized a little birthday dinner for me back then which was lovely. Ah good times! Spending Easter with a friend’s family in Tours, by the Loire Valley in Central France is another great memory. I even miss my evening jogs at Jardin Tuileries. I could go on and on!
It says in your profile that you tried wake boarding and didn’t have the best experience, what exactly happened?
Haha! That happened whilst I was at Uni. I joined the waterski and wakeboard club assuming that being able to swim would be enough. I didn’t anticipate how tricky it would be to stay balanced on the wakeboard whilst holding on tightly to the cable attached to the motorboat. The force of the boat’s speed was too much for my puny arms so I let go and was flung gracelessly into the icy water.
So the title of the story is “Guilty Pleasures”, why did you choose this title?
The title is “Guilty Leisure” and I chose it because of the intrigue in the story. There is a lot of merriment depicted beside some disquieting behavior.
What inspired this story?
It was inspired by my fascination with relationships involving deception and secrets.
Tell me about your writing process.
I almost never have every detail of my story planned out before commencing. I just need a strong idea and solid characters to start. I want to indulge in the wonder of discovery the way my readers will. This means that I do end up re-crafting my story halfway in, which is fine. I can’t stand writing on touch screen surfaces so would rather lug my laptop around than my iPad; I have to hear the keyboard clicking as I type. I’m also funny about the fonts I can write in.
What audience do you write for?
I write for everyone
Any outside research involved in the story?
Any research done was very minimal since there nothing really intricate or complicated in the storyline. It wasn’t at all intellectually demanding compared to some of my other stories. It was a fun story to write.
The story features scenes from different parts of the world eg Venice, London, NY and Paris, are the pieces of these locations influenced by personal travels?
In this story- not really. Being well traveled to a certain extent makes me want to exploit more settings, cultures and types of characters in my work but I write as much about places I haven’t visited as the places I have. Research is a powerful tool.
You have lived in two continents, how has that influence your world views and the way you write?
It’s definitely enlightened me and made me more open minded.
Why did you decide to do the story in parts?
I flirted with the idea of making it serial at first but wanted a break from those characters by the time the story was done so figured I’d just let it end at that point. However, when the first few people who read it asked me where the rest of it was and insisted I continue it, I knew I’d have to write a part 2 at least.
So there’s a little story in there that I found very intriguing- the story about Simi’s grandma and grandpa. From two different class backgrounds and yet they fall in love. A very romantic concept but some might say not very realistic, what is your opinion on the extent to which a simple story like yours should reflect reality?
I don’t think it is unrealistic, I personally know of real relationships like that. People of different social backgrounds, races, religions and political affiliations, fall in love all the time. That said, I write fiction and will inject as much realism as I feel is necessary. Even if you don’t believe it’s possible, I’d love for my readers indulge me and believe that in this instance it actually did occur.
Do you think in a class conscious society like ours, it is possible for two people from extremely different class backgrounds to fall in love like Simi’s grandparents? And if so or if not, why and on what grounds?
Love is inherently a dynamic emotional state or force. I think it’s absolutely possible. Usually when an individual can’t imagine personally falling in love with someone of a different social bracket it’s hard for them to imagine why others would do it, but it happens. Whether it will eventually affect their relationship further down the line is a completely different concern but it really does happen.
Children don’t know that kids can see and can be damaged by actions of their parents, would you say that Simi’s actions are partly due to her dad’s unfaithfulness?
I think kids get affected by what they see growing up, but as an adult you can always choose to make better choices than your parents did. It can be tricky though.
We’ve gotten this image about Tolu from Simi’s view, can you give me a scoop of who Tolu is in his own view? Are we going to get Tolu’s perspective in the second part?
You’ll have to read Part 2 for that! There’s definitely a lot more to him that you got to see in the first part of the story.
There are a lot of issues like how the rich and powerful are not brought to justice that are reflected in the story, was this intentional or consequential?
Yes, that was intentional right from the start.
As a lawyer, do you find this to be true?
Absolutely, it’s no secret that the Nigerian Criminal Justice System leaves much to be desired.
There you have it! You got all the details here on LitiTalk! Be sure to share the article and your thoughts on the story!
Read the first part of Guilty Pleasures here.
Make sure you keep up with Saratu on her twitter page here,
and don’t forget to love the arts, follow your dreams and read a book. Till next time, I’m Kofo Adebiyi.
She doesn’t belong to home, she doesn’t belong abroad. She finally realizes she’ll always be a foreigner, only belonging to her.
Standing on the edge of the bridge, feeling the winds that have travelled through a thousand years, she thinks of letting go and travelling a million years with the wind… but winds stop, they fade and lose strength; eventually, she’ll end up somewhere else where she is a foreigner.
She sits and fades into her soul. The only stable she can find, the only place where she is home. She breathes in the winds and sinks further and deeper within.
She thinks… thinks of how to share her soul…how to help the world understand her own culture. So she takes her brush and strokes the story of her soul on the canvas she knows will age, fade and erase the story that no one fully understand.
She risks it all…etches her soul on the impermanent canvas of the worlds that are not home to her.
After 999,999 strokes, she leaves canvas and hopes that someone out there will recognize a home in her soul and answer the final stroke.
Can you hear me? Can you find me in 999,999 strokes? I bare all but 1… please find my soul… so I can share a home.