Catch 10 (Short Story)

So I finally come around to doing this. A short story. After a generation. Planned something for Christmas but it didn’t make it, so I did this to reflect the last days of the year. Meet you at the comment box. Enjoy.

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On the 30th of December, 2016, Okwudili sat down on the bed in his Emene one-room apartment with a pen in hand and went through the year. He asked himself a simple question: how many girls did I lay this year? 
He wrote their names down. Lucy whom he met on Facebook and who came all the way from Kaduna to lay him. Uche the Twitter noisemaker who came to Enugu from Uyo. Beatrice, the girl whose number he stole from his cousin’s contacts and whom he travelled to Abeokuta to collect from, as he would brag to his friends. Nine girls in total. The best year for him with girls. He laid seven in 2015, six in 2014, and just two different girls in 2013. He was making progress.

Next year I will hit fifteen girls, he vowed. But first, this year, he had to reach double figures. One more girl tonight and he would end the year as an Oloye. There’s no sense asking any girl out today. From his experience it took an average of three weeks after a successful toasting to take a girl to his bed. The easiest was the girl he met at the ATM point and took to Shoprite then home the same day. The hardest was one UNEC student who accepted his romantic proposal but didn’t play ball for four months.

There is no need initiating a fresh runs today. He would go straight to Otigba Junction and carry a girl home. The girls who stand at the various hotspots in Enugu at night are not prostitudes, Okwudili had always told himself; they are part-timers. Real prostitudes live in brothels. There is no shame in using a part-time player to complete his squad this year.

Okwudili walked out of the room for the bathroom.

There was one aspect Okwudili didn’t make progress in in 2016 which should bother most people in their thirties. Money. In 2014, he paid his house rent and still had enough money to buy a generator. In 2015, he paid his house rent and starved for one month. In 2016, he borrowed to pay just six months of his rent. The rent would be due in February and he would have to borrow again to pay it.

Perhaps in January this would bother him. For now, he wanted to hit double figures in bed. This was the kind of man Okwudili was. The kind who put his manhood like the horse in the front then drags along his brain, plans, his future and all in a cart of procrastination, fun and vanity.

Okwudili arrived Otigba Junction in a chartered keke at 9pm. There are four grades of men who went to Otigba and other hotspots to pick girls. One, the men who came by foot who rated between F and E. These were the kind of men who fought the girls, take them violently and had the tendency to refuse to pay them. Two, those who came in keke. These ones rated between D and C. They were stingy and demanded absolute satisfaction for every kobo paid to the point of physical and mental exhaustion for the girls. 

Group three belonged to the ones who came by car. This group might have a rating between B and A. They are usually demanding but liberal with their wallets. The final group could be rated between A and A+. They came by big cars. They spent big on the girls and hardly break a sweat on bed; they did not see any pleasure on bed as a way of recouping their expenses, they just spent money. 

These last group of men were rare and the dream of every call girl. It was because of them that men like Okwudili who came on keke didn’t get the best girls this early. The most beautiful and sexiest girls usually waited for these men till after midnight; if they didn’t show up, they could settle for anyone they might rate a weak C.

So Okwudili counted himself lucky when he got a beautiful girl aged about nineteen with the right curves and sizes to follow him home. She must be a learner, he said to himself as the keke drove them home. The girl didn’t say anything about price and she was following him home this early without a stopover at a bar to measure the weigh of his wallet and the speed with which he brought it out.

“You’re a student?” Okwudili said. He was sure she wasn’t and expected her to lie. 

“I am not a student,” came the response. The answer surprised him and disrupted his continuation. “Erm… What do you… What is your name?” He said.

“Chidinma,” she said.

Okwudili suppressed a sigh. He had expected a fancy name like Shirley, Sasha, Sharon, Nikky, Natasha etc. An alias. Even this Chidinma might still be a pseudonym, but that it was in Igbo made it believable and robbed him of his prepared continuation of asking what it meant and giving his prepared speech on how we are still colonized.

He gave up his desire for small talks and decided to think of the pleasure ahead. He reached for his phone.

Okwudili’s room looked like the mess it was. The bed was in disarray with clothes on it. There was a shoe in the middle of the room, a used teacup and half eaten bread on top of his laptop on the reading desk/table. The top of the fridge was littered with odds including a toothbrush, a hairbrush, cloth pecks, a shaving stick, a tub of cream, a wristwatch, ATM cards, a cup containing half drunk pure water, all.

Okwudili cleared the bed off the clothes and begin to do the same to the clothes on his body. “Remove your dress,” he told his guest who stood by the door watching the mess with a small smile of distaste.

She nodded and placed her bag on the fridge. Okwudili now totally nude and harmed with an erection and a condom watched her. She reached for her earring. She unclasped it. She reached for the other one. Slowly, with a deliberate movement that set his belly boiling with anticipation and lust. She reached for her necklace. Cheap, Okwudili judged with his eyes. She removed the necklace and place all on the fridge.

“I hope I don’t forget these,” she said. 

“You won’t,” his voice was hoarse with desire and impatience.

“Okay.” She removed her shirt revealing sizeable  lustily designed with stretch marks and cupped in a pair of push up bra. 

“This is beautiful,” he said. She removed her bumshorts. She had nothing underneath it. Okwudili rose to his feet. “Let me help with the bra.”

“Get my lubricant in my bag,” she said.

The handbag was a medium sized blue foldover. Okwudili opened it and a rattle snake raised its black ugly head and revealed its venomous tongue. Okwudili’s head swelled. He shouted, charged backward, stumbled on his chair and fell heavily on the floor.

“Are you afraid of my little pet?” she said. He watched her walk to her bag, patted the snake lovingly on its head and began to help it out of the bag. “We can have a threesome,” she said. She blew him a kiss and lifted the snake to her neck. She began to wrap the beast around her neck. 

Okwudili had seen enough. His heart snapped and slowly his eyes closed.

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So My Big Brother Wrote a Book

Writing a book is a noble act, up there with paying your debts in Nigeria (Yes, an average Nigerian hates paying their debt; when they do, usually it is because they want to borrow another day.) Writers are a bunch of smart people and they own a lot of debts, so whenever they write a book and publish it, they have paid one of their debts. And they keep paying till they die. This is the burden of being a writer.

Ogundare Tope is a fine writer and he has paid his debt. He wrote The Book of Pain. It is a book of poems which makes it a special one. Poetry is a difficult genre of art. So difficult yet so easily seen as simple, that is why there are so many bad poets around and why the internet is littered by very poor attempts at poetry.

Topazo is one of the few good poets in Nigeria. He is among the school of poets who understands that poetry is about meaning, making meaning of situations, of emotions, of life. Words that make beautiful appearances on paper, words that mean something. Topazo is not a poet for poetry sake. He doesn’t delight in weaving webs of enigmas for the readers. He picks mostly simple words and creates giant imprints on paper.

This poetry collection accomplished many things. There are 38 poems in all. Speaking and connecting many fields.

This collection speaks of love. The poem “Smitten” dwells on lethal love, the kind that drives a lover to put their head in a cooking pot.

“She danced on nimble feet,

Pranced and jabbed

You parried

Twisted

Pounced”

Then “You loved her/It killed you.”

There is also the “City of love”, but Topazo will not just talk about love. No, the low key sadist-poet had to talk about “Rivers overflow from broken heart springs” and “Searing pains” and “Demons with claws unleash the stench of death”.

The poem “Impedance” is one poem where the poet showed a glimpsed of his medical cloth. “Soon, there will be no rise

Fibrosis of the Corpora Cavernosa

Loss of girth –

Peyronie.”

The writer also spoke of dead affection and zero “Intimacy” in the face of love, façade of love to say. This is life, our life, of pretenses, of appearances, of patching, what Igbos refer to as covering the world with a George wrapper.

“Sleeping on the same bed

Bodies touching

Hearts separated by a wall –

Traveling in different directions.”

The Book of Pain is a collection with a strong philosophical hip. The poem which most connects to me in this regard is “Toilet musings”.  It reminds me of my service years, me and my guy in the middle of the Osun, relieving our bowels and swapping gist about the lodge, who is crushing on who, who is crushing the other, what the crazy LGI wants, what the tricky future hold.

“Jungle Morning poo comes/In pairs like eyes,” the poet muses. “We make haste to/Dump waste Rush into the /Waiting arms of the day…” He paints how life can be like using the toilet, never in a hurry, except for an emergency—“Diarrhea”. This poem in explaining the inexplicable nature of life produces my best quote in the book: “Life works in selective inhibition.”

The crucial 2019 election is around the corner and the poet didn’t leave us hanging. In “Hopes of a thousand nights” he talks about

“The earth has embraced darkness

Cold now rules with the rod

Of despair”

If this is not APC then it is APC for me.

Tope went on to declare:

“Nightmare has returned from the abyss

Look, how fast the darken Lord has overthrown the sky!”

If this one is not Lai Mohammed, let goat eat palm fronds from my thigh.

The poem equally weighs a big wand of emotion as amply seen in the poem “Catharsis” where the poet-persona aches for an emotional release: “I want to scream,/To hit something,/Anything but sit calmly/And smile” and pretend that everything is going well while “A storm roils within” while “Fierce winds are raging” while “I see red”.

In the title poem, Topazo opens with a powerful question: “Can you tell the colour of pain?” I have never thought of pain as a matter capable of such attribute. I have always seen pain as a wilderness of agony and regrets and self-pity. but the poet expands on these, takes the reader into many features of pain but not in a way that forces it down the throat; he presents them in a series of rhetorical questions, calling out pains without calling it out, describing it while confessing that “The pain you feel is indescribable,/Words do not do it justice, and fall short”.

I have seen pain but thankfully the pain my friend describes is one I have never suffered. That is the merit of literature, it takes you to a world you have only imagined which you might never experience personally and makes it your shared experience.

“It fills your heart and squeezes your chest,” the poet says of pain, “Till breathing becomes a chore”. This one is strange to me but it exists, thousands if not millions are passing through it as I type this. People I will never get to know but whose woes I have now been made aware of. By Ogundare. By the power of words.

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It is disservice to this book to give each poem a singular meaning. While most of the poems have diverse meanings, “Emerald” speaks to me of the diversity more than most of them. In one breath the writer talks about singing a song “In words of worlds/Where magic lives:/The magic of love”, on the other breath, he muses about Fate:

“Destinies are set in stones,

Hidden in the sky

Among the stars;

When the stars align

Destinies are merged as

Designed by Fate”.

You know how we all glorify handwork, dedication, persistence and all those one-liners they throw at you in seminars, well, the truth is that these things are man’s attempt to make sense of success. But these amount to the single story of success. You start a pig farm; your friend starts a pig farm. You guys buy impigs. Your impig gives birth to four; your friend’s impig gives birth to twelve. No amount of hardwork and dedication will make a pig carrying four piglets turn to a pig carrying twelve.

You go to an interview with your third class, the HR falls in love with your carriage and you get the call. You

Christians call this favour and grace.

You study literature, like I did, you don’t know how to do poetry, Topazo who studied medicine kills poetry. This one is not Fate. This one is mastery, talent, some study. In a way, Fate. Because if when he was a boy somebody came and hit him on the head with a bottle and he goes to the hospital and they tell him to avoid literature, he wouldn’t have done this. So for nobody hitting him with a bottle on the head, as a boy, Topazo’s stars aligned and we are the winner.

I am beginning to ramble.

All I am saying, in essence, is that this is a collection to be read and enjoyed and learn from, that would echo the reality, and the scam and the ache called life. If you are a beginner, this is a book of poetry to inspire your art.

In most reviews, you have to say what you do not like about the book. I don’t like that I am getting this book for free. As a boy, I remember my mother’s women association come to our place for a meeting and sing “let good thing eat my money” when someone presents them with a gift. Like King David, they understand that items that cost you money have a special place in your value-scale.

I got this book because Topazo is my brother. Yes, all wealthy people are related. We writers too are. Me and Topazo drank from the same breast of Muse. Don’t be like me, go to Okadabooks and buy this book. Read it, keep it, and bring it out from time to time and read it some more.