GNAW

He fumbles with his groundnut pod. A defiant three-or-four-year old that will not call for help. It slips out of his fingers once or twice, and he darts in its direction each time, pulled by his fascination with the shell-hard thing that won’t give in to his will. He raises it to his face for careful examination, gripping it at the tips with four skinny fingers of his left hand, pivoted underneath by his thumb; observing the fine lines sculpted along its length by no human hands. After careful inspection, he bares his teeth- the first weapons of little ones his age, flat and chiselled little things they are- and sinks them into the once-upon-a-stubborn shell of the dry groundnut, and a satisfying crunch reaches my ears. One would expect a child so tender to have no insight into the rules for savouring groundnut. But he pulls his hand back from his mouth, the cracked shell with it, and raises his right hand in a delicate, if not dexterous, dance to free the two halves of the now divided groundnut shell. He peers at the purplish-brown treasure encased within, a grin of victory on his face as he looks at me. I smile in return, knowing deep within: “This one is a fighter”.

I do not often have such ‘moments of truth’ with scrawny looking children clad in dirtied pants, running around the marketplace; that would leave me queer. Perhaps that pant-clad child is a representation of mankind and our will to survive. Science lies. Perhaps the aged do not lose their teeth to age; perhaps they lose them to long years of gnawing through life and its woes, of cracking new spheres of emotion and even more-overwhelming loses. Plausibly, our teeth fall out from gnawing for survival.

 

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Artwork by Kenart

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CROCODILE

His back is against us. Arched like a cat’s. He hurriedly tucks at the hindrance at his waistline, with the fluster of a four-year old struggling with shoelace. But his fingers tell a tale of impatience, whence relief shall delay. In the urgency of neglect, he lets his rifle fall to the ground. Now armed with both arms, the Khaki trousers slumps off his waist, mocking the once defiant belt buckle. What happens next confounds us fourteen passengers. The once-upon-an-armed Policeman begins to drizzle salt rain against the wall and ground; spitter-spatter. Clad in Black Khaki shirt, boxer shorts and fallen Khaki trousers. He lifts his right leg, tilts his buttocks to the left and lets out an ominous fart. Aye, this is what begifts the other thirteen and driver with murmur ‘pon the lip. Amused by his brazenness, I roar with laughter. Perhaps I was too loud, for the Officer of the Law suddenly quells his ease and half-turns to the window from whence I stared the proceeding. His face now cringes, as if a burnt pancake. He hurriedly grabs his trousers, in attempt to cover shame; or recover it. Before he reaches rifle, however, our bus driver seems to have had his share of the comedy. The Volkswagen Transporter bellows ‘way, leaving the Policeman gape at Black stripe on Yellow paint.

When I was twelve, my grandfather would call me into his room each evening and tell of his younger days. He had been a hunter, the village’s pride- according to him. I would bend my feet beneath me in a squat, wedging my arms at the elbows and resting them on my thighs; supporting my chin with my palms across my cheeks. He, on a creaking chair as old as my father- so he said- would spin finely threaded tale of village life I would never have. I had often wondered why he came to the city, if village life was so fulfilling. Now, he lies motionless in a locally made coffin, several meters beneath his farm. The day he died, I followed father to the village. I queried my father, seeking truth. “Grey hair tells no lie.” But grandfather did. A great deal. Perhaps because he had no hair; grey or other. I vote nay that he ever shaved. His scalp was battered; all hair grated by loads of tuber and fruit, for grandfather had been a farmer. That is all father told me. Nosy whispers said more, however. “Abraham Johnson”, the English had christened him. The unfortunate fisherman. Libertine. Drunk. They said his first name stuck, for he spread more seed than the Cobra sprayed saliva. He had only one legal son, however. My father. But Abraham Johnson! In spite of his failings, the village knew him well, for he had caught more fish than a Lizard caught flies. In the end, however, he had lost three fingers on his right hand to a crocodile. A queer man, he ne’er let them waste. He would roll up paper pregnant with Indian hemp while mother and father left for work, lick the sleeves and wedge the foul piece between the stumps of two half-eaten fingers on his right. The last stump, the index finger, he would use to arrange brown snuff powder after his smoke.

Noise from the bus park arouses me from time travel, lest I remain in the past. My mind seems to cling to memoirs of dead bald men? Nay. Perhaps I was reminded. Aye, the pissing Policeman. His belly was like grandfather’s, for ne’er have I seen such a finely carved calabash. Rounded and swollen by seas of fermented Barley. Indeed, it reminded of grandfather, but I will let it pass. Our bus driver wheels to the right, turning into the Park. His left hand is hanging from the window, a crisp currency note rolled between his fingers. He slaps it into the palm of an eager Policeman, the latter grinning sheepishly and saluting the driver. This time, no passenger exchanges glances. None complains. In my country, it is the norm to bribe these ones. It is the law. Their law. He revs up the engine a last time, whence the over-worked engine coughs and sputters thick smoke from poor fuel combustion, further plaguing the almost saturated air. I begin the walk, briskly throwing foot. I am in a hurry, and the Live Football match is scheduled for “18:45”. It’s 6:30 p.m. already, and I’ve yet to walk some twenty more minutes. “Perhaps I shall hire a Bike?” Nay. Too expensive. They’ll charge Three Hundred Naira, for they know I have no choice. Extortioners. The thought roving, I walk past them Bike riders, leaving them whistle in my direction. Five paces past, and I begin to hear the din of an excited throng. I finally see the lot up ahead on the road. Leading this congregation is a man clad in the Danshiki. The scalp of his head is covered by the Dog-eared cap, the ears of which are neatly folded and pointing upwards. He has a partner hanging from his left shoulder, that he may not take all glory for himself; the queer little drum that speaks grandiose, all within baritone. His left palm lies across its side, holding it against his left thigh. He suddenly bends in a sacred manner, as if performing the Danse Macabre. His right hand aptly surfaces, showing the wooden mediator between him and drum. The drumstick is curved as a Scimitar, then rounded at the point of impact. The Talking Drum then begins conversation, bellowing praise of a noble ruler. Few paces behind this duo is a car hued Black. A fat man with a puggy head sits atop the Sunroof, waving to the crowd. He is clad in Guinea Brocade sewn into ‘Buba and Sokoto’, a native style. The vehicle bears posters of him, with the inscription:
“Vote…for Councillor”
I choose not to see the name of the fat one, for I am disgusted.
“Oi, pray tell us! Are you but greedy for more power?!”
I only think it, I dare not ask aloud. There is no guarantee of freedom after speech, I’m afraid. Closely following him are two trucks. I stand at the roadside, observing the procession. Come the first truck. Laden with sacks, two attendants begin to climb down, the one after the other, repeatedly. Each time carrying sacks, each time throwing to the eager crowd, and each time the crowd chanting praise. In the crazed struggle, a sack or two bursts, spilling Rice or Beans. I begin to move out of their way, lest the furious owners of burst sacks ram into me in their madness. Unable to move briskly, I begin to ease my way out of the crowd, the only one moving in the opposite direction. As I advance, I see that the second truck is loaded with thugs. Behemoths that would dare the Goliath; their lips swelled and blackened from burnt wraps of Indian hemp; their faces dry and whitened from much exposure to gusts of cruel Harmattan winds. Each one a monster; all seeking blood. “One..two..three..four…” A tirade seems to have begun on the east of the first truck, interrupting my count. Hastily, the giants begin to leap out of the truck, all armed with machetes and large knives. I once more begin my march, this time quickening my pace. I must have missed much of the football match, but I must escape this mob.

I make an urgent rapping sound on the door.
“Open up, It’s Felicia!”
The door swings open.
“Good evening, sir!” I greet my father, barely kneeling. Not because I’m disrespectful, but because there’s no time to complete customary salutation.
“Good evening. Welcome.”
I slip inside the house and slump into a couch.
“I’ve told you severally to be home before seven, young lady. Did you see the mob? What if they hurt you..?”
Father begins.
“I…had to check some things out at the market.”
Silence. He knows I’m noble. I wouldn’t misbehave.
“Is mummy back?”
“She’s in the kitchen.” He responds. Partly recovered from the race, I begin to stand. The TV is not showing the football match, unfortunately.
“Daddy, are we not watching the match..?”
“This is the break after the first half of play.”
“Oh.”
I did stay long.
Mycroft Holmes, from the Sherlock Holmes TV series, graces our TV at the moment, his mouth a loaded pistol. As I move towards the kitchen, I pause to hear him speak.
“…I guarantee…that material will be found…resulting in your immediate incarceration.”
Oh. He knows. He’s the government. He can do as he pleases. The government.
I turn towards the kitchen once more.
“Good evening, Mummy.”
“Welcome, my baby.”
I do like that name, anyway. I grin, flushing and warming in my mother’s embrace.
“I’ve come to help…”
“Don’t worry. I’m already done. Go and rest a bit.”
“Thank you, Mummy!”
My father mustn’t hear of this. He’ll say mother’s spoiling me. I sneak into my room, closing the creaking door gradually, as would one afraid to wake a sleeping babe. Once alone, I begin to loosen my scarf. My best scarf, it is. I once gifted it to mother at their last anniversary, but she did not like the colour much. When the last knot is undone, I toss the scarf on my bed, letting my hair fall back and tease my aching neck. Father had nailed the mirror strategically, such that I need only climb out of bed to gaze ‘pon my face. I’d done this in the morning when I woke, and I feel it necessary to complete this ritual. I flip the light bulb on and discover, much to my chagrin, that a pimple has begun its growth on my light-skinned face. I scatter the cosmetic tray before me until I find my liquid knight in familiar bottle. Caution. A bath first. Enlivened with zeal to evict the vile imperfection, I begin to approach the towel. Climbing across the bed, I meet with my scarf again. Deep spots and hues, like the scales on grandfather’s Leviathan. Perhaps the Crocodile is not much different from Government. Arms of Executive and Judiciary; hind legs named Bribery and Debasement, and a thrashing tale of Legislature. Aye. Tail with stories. Tearing at poor man from rivers of power. Perhaps there is no law. Perhaps there is no justice. Aye, it’s ‘Court of Law’, not ‘Court of Justice’. The politician did speak of change. Same sermon of the Leech before him; whence forth we literally bounce in zigzag. Man only governs man in the internecine cycle of greed; hate and ill fate. “Why ‘change’, and not ‘repair’?” I stare the tiled bathroom walls, the question in eye. “If our water tank burst along its girth, would we repair it? Would we rather change it?” Perhaps human desire is insatiable. “If we changed the tank, would it function better? If we repaired, would it function better? Would we outgrow it, eventually?” That is the tank. That is human government. There we have our fierce Crocodile. Lest I plague myself with riddles for the Plumber, I’ll have a good bath.

Perhaps man can ne’er tame the Crocodile.
Indeed.
“…it does not belong to man who is walking to direct his step.”

For them with eyes. To see reason.

NOTE: All characters are fictitious and do not actually represent a person, persons or an organisation. Furthermore, this piece of fiction may not be used for political or anti-political themes.

OMEGA

Dogs. Two of them. The He-brute struts-a bit overzealously- and She follows. Or so it appears. The hairy lot stroll casually toward me to inspect. Or suspect. For the queer grin on his face, as if the verdict of a jury. And she follows. Mindlessly. Paw after paw. Unreasoning beasts, they appear to me: “…have in subjection…every…animal that is moving on the earth…” But they know not the law. They leap ‘pon me, like I did wrong. Dysphoria is complete, when the Pacco Rabanne jacket I borrowed is rent in the fashion of textile fireworks. When canine injustice has exhausted it’s wrath, the gate man approaches my bleeding and very humiliated body:
“I’m very sorry, sir! I’ll call an ambulance!”
I recoil from my cold, hard embrace with the rough-surfaced pavement. My Once-upon-a-Black suit now resembles White background for Mud coloured Polka Dots- the result of roughing me against saliva and dusty pavement; nibbling holes and dirtying my vest within. In the far east corner of my eye, Bruno and Juliet elope, waltzing. No tragedy in their Shakespearian tale.

“Human Diploid Cell Vacine.”
I know. Because she said so. She also said that she would continue puncturing my already sore buttocks for a couple more days. I hold no grudge against the fluid; creamy like breast milk, maybe clearer than that; I cannot tell. She concocted it in a hurry, as if hiding the secret to her evil brew. What I can tell is the exaggerated length of her hypodermic needle, shiny protrusion from tubular, meek plastic. A pointed reminder that “all that shines isn’t gold.”
‘Pon the wake, my eyes reveal an adult male bowed in throaty, vigorous laughter. I cannot blame the nurse for bringing such a rattler in. His head is a luminary, for the reflection of the fluorescent lamp above us; clean-shaven. His eyes are welled with tears and wit; not at all hidden beneath finely trimmed eyebrows. His nose is the
pride of an archer; straight, like the steel arrow-head, plunging and halting above finely threaded moustache. His chin is clean; curving backwards like a talon, smooth like the blade of a spade. Black Narcissus. From his throat bellows the Larynx of a mature Bullfrog. My uncle. I need not fear chastisement. His eyes already promise treachery. How much did his suit cost? I find, very much to my embarrassment, that this question and many like it plague me now. Had they betided me ‘pon the thievery, I probably would not have had it on, for the rabids to feast. Truth is, I never had the man’s consent. The stern of his eyes ettles to portray his disapproval. His solemn rise from the nurse’s guestfriendly chair tells of this, but the nurse does not see it that way. She only stands there, gawking at what seems to be the life-size version of the carved ‘man-and-pen’ trademark of the Bic Biro. Her folly, however, troubles me not. The man nods in my direction:
“We’re leaving.”
Exit the Clinic. At the clang of rusting metal gates behind us, my uncle begins his sermon. Seated, he wails, coercing the defiant wheel through road and pavement of recurring bumpiness. The road seems to indulge him, in no attempt to quell his anger; each irritable turn increasing the pitch in his voice, till it rivals the ferocity of a
public-address system.
“…who gave you permission to ..?”
I’m mute.
“The nurse was nice enough to have taken you in! What were you doing in that compound, anyway…did you not know there were dogs?!”
Dumb question. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have perceived that they would be loosed, to punish the innocent.
“…I was asked to apply for a job, in person.”
“Oh? Who owns the company?”
Like I’d care. I only sought the job.
“I’ve no idea.”
“Mrs William Grace! They even say she’s a Doctor! So, she thinks herself able to man the company, eh?. In this age, how could she be competing with us for power?! Some women just do not know when to stop!”
I stare the pillock in the face, wide eyed. I can tell that he intends to continue.
“Did you not read: ‘woman will be in subjection to man’?”
My anger is almost complete:
“But that is expected, only of married couples!”
He looks me in the eye:
“I do not understand you, Tope! I’m surprised that a male would think so! I’m disappointed.”
Think what you will of me.
Thankfully, we’re home. I place my foot on pavement. Much encouraging. The brute-bites ache now, but I’ll live. Much longer than I would, if the conversation did not end. He even forbade me step foot in Vortex Pharmaceuticals again. However, I have other intentions. Tomorrow, I’ll submit my letter of application, in response to the advertised vacancy of office for an Industrial Chemist. In feigned appreciation- for the ride and wise counsel- I wave at the now retreating figure of a shimmering Maroon 2011 model Crysler 300c Sedan. He said he had work to do. Good riddance.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013. The day I notify the HR Department of my will to work in the company. I approach the gates with caution. There’s no warning sign, yet my mind seems to throat loud, emphatic “Beware of Dogs!” between breath intervals, now very often. The same creaking sound of rusted heavy metal heights my anxiety. One foot within, and I chance ‘pon the Punisher. The bigger of the beasts grants me a leer, after the fashion of Shark and Fish. The Alpha. Fang sets with a horrendous reputation. His tongue is bequeathed with saliva, dripping from almost violent pants. He
awaits me. But I know this. From my satchel, I begin to pull at the almost conspicuous handle of a baseball bat. Feeling a victor, I charge forth. He does the same. I, walking, him trotting. My elation is only transient, for the bat won’t budge. Not while there’s a struggle for space with my books and files. He stops, too, and I see why. He’s no fair beast; lest there be no chain round his neck. It grips him in cold fury, all for my comedy. In the end, humbled by its strength, he bellows in bark. A uniformed guard approaches, relieving me. He’s different from yesterday’s.
“Good morning, sir. How may I help you?”
So you didn’t hear of how this brute bit me, yesterday?
“I’m here in response to the advertisement for vacancy of the post of Industrial Chemist.”
He seems to have noticed the numerous beads of sweat on my forehead, and then replies:
“I’m sorry she scared you. We’ve been having problems with her, lately. Please, come with me, sir.”
She? Her? I turn enough to look again at the German Shepherd, now lying meekly. Beneath an exaggerated girth, three nipples point in my direction.
“Where’s the other..?”
He grins.
“You’ve been here before?”
“Indeed.”
“He’s the smaller one. We keep him at the back. You must’ve come at midday, that’s the only time they are together. You’ll probably see them before you leave.”
As we make a turn through the entrance of the complex, he salutes other uniformed men. Approaching a short flight of stairs, he stops and points to a six-panelled door.
“Knock on that door. You’ll be received by the Secretary.”
“Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, sir.”
Thirteen minutes later, I exit the complex, pass the group of seated officers, and walk into the open space in front. There, the only human around being myself, I come to stare once more at the Alpha. She casually begins to stroll once more in my direction, this time with her companion, he, loyally following. Realising that there is no chain round her neck, I brace myself for impact, clutching my baseball handle again. She only eases herself past me. Perhaps deliberately. To show more of herself. Indeed, the view be graceful. She brushes her tail against my right leg, still shivering in its place. Her fur is luscious, finely arranged after the fashion of a cosmetic brush; gleaming with a black lustre that beckons my touch. But I remember the battle. I will not do it. The follower trots in line, eyeing me with a cynical growl. He turns toward her and continues in pace. Bemused by this, I begin the ponder. In the end, I’m no different from my uncle, lest I renounce the insidious air that recommends the Alpha of society male. “Mrs William Grace..?” Who knows if prosterity shall reward her, should she born sons enslaved to this arbitrary foolishness.
“Male and Female, he made them.”
I mutter to myself as I approach the gates. If one is Alpha, whose place is Omega? My next appointment with the HR officer is in two days. Perhaps by then, I may have found answer to this Greek riddle.

For Woman. No less than man.

“Domestic- a beast of burden,
Remote are the feats of the donkey,
Construed as the woman’s place,
Illustrated as without grace.”

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Artwork by Kenechukwu Nwadiogbu.

Note: This is a piece of fiction. All characters are fictional, and bear no resemblance to an actual person or registered name. Also, this piece may not be used for Sexist or Anti-sexist notions or themes.

PALPABLE

…away from the noise, relieved of stench; amused by nothingness. All is peaceful. She holds on to her baby, a smirk of “holier than thou”. “I don’t even know her!” Then I realise: they’re all staring. I try to turn; to see what has their attention; I fail. “What’s wrong with me?”

Lucidity- I think – is being aware of one’s subconscious- Ah! Such costly pleasures! It’s pulling at my hair now; tickling my ears…like being awake through a nightmare; feeling. I suddenly know what an echo is- Echos, this time: sweet, deep bass drums, running, reverberating in my head…on and on…

…I hate circles; there’s no point! But my head likes them, it seems, for I see the same things over again; feel things in circles…now, a man stands over me, looking more closely at me than the others. I’m scared: “don’t touch me!” But he does; with a friend.

First my head, then my arms; all warming up. “Shall it hurt?” I look around. They do not see him. Or his friend. Only me. Just me.

…he whispers his name. I’d rather not listen. But he beats it in. On those fearful drums. Echo by echo. I know it now. His name is odd: Pain.

Like a military procession, he gives way to his friend. This one’s arms are cold. His eyes are blank; he’s done this before. “Don’t touch me!” But he does. A great deal.

She sees them, now. She holds her little one even closer. I know his name. But she won’t let me touch him, play with him. Not while these ones are here.

…he continues touching; defiling; toturing me. Now I remember. I know him. Quite well. A smug smile on his blank face, having forced me to remember…this one is dark: Death.

They match now. Leave. Accomplished. Aware of my knowledge. I grin at them. My teeth are stained. Not with food, not drink, not flesh, nor bread. Creamy. Chocolatey, too. No word was formed for this grit on my teeth. But one. Victory. The name of her baby. Now I know. Now she smiles, too.

Be not surprised, yet, gape in awe! I am male- and female. I know you. I know all. I am Humanity.