THE LADY IN BLACK SKIRT

It was the kind of weather that tried everyone’s patience. You could see it in the irritable frown on everyone’s face. There was not a single happy face about. It was this kind of weather that gave the art of smiling the status of the costliest precious stone. But no one could be blamed, no one had the luxury to blame anyone; everyone was embattled by the glare of the vindictive sun seated on its furious throne on high heaven. Frustrated, impatient.

The traffic was busy and crawling. Road Safety officers, their brains cooked out by the aggression of the sun were not in position to direct vehicular movements. So every vehicle in a craze to get ahead was slowed by the other vehicle’s need to move an inch. Everything under the sun wanted to hurry, nothing was moving. Except mouths from which curses and oaths for/from drivers, conductors, keke napeps riders, okada riders and trekkers were launched. The honks of horns, the hooting of engines and the gasps of exhausts tormented ears. Smell of body rot, the foul gutter and miscellaneous rubbish punished the nose. And there was no oxygen anywhere. People breathed out carbon dioxide and gratefully breathed in carbon dioxide.

It was the end of the world. It was Kano in November.

I stood by the side of the road, a dozen newspapers in this arm and flashing the headline of another with the other hand. The headline was a vendor’s delight.

JOS BOMB BLAST CLAIMS SCORES

*Presidency: It is a Dastardly Act

*This is worse than Civil War, Says the Opposition

*More Deadly Attacks Coming—Prophet

But nobody was buying the papers. They were so blinded in the sun to care for papers. The only ones that as much as glanced at my direction were the pedestrians. The hawkers, the wheel-barrow pushers, the insane, the beggar, the idle, the stalker, the criminal. These people don’t buy newspapers; these people cannot even read. There was a conspicuous absence of the studious/pretentious/worldly youths, those pencil jeans-wearing and punk-hair-cutting boys who bought sport newspapers. So I was left in the mercy of the sun and cunning hope. My eyes were fixed at the faces of drivers of cars like a starving baby would stare at dripping breast. I ought to pity those inside the oven of the cars, they were the most unlucky ones, they were being baked alive. But I pity myself more, I was being baked for nothing.

Then I saw it. A dark blue Sienna drew level with where I stood. The glass wound down and a man hiding behind dark glasses beckoned me. As I made to walk towards him, the tail of my eye caught Abu my snake-rival vendor making towards him. You see, this business of selling newspaper is the worst kind of trade on earth. If you were selling oranges you could always claim that yours were the sweetest ones; you could claim your bread were the fleshiest ones; you could claim your banana were imported from Germany. But in this cursed trade of ours, what could you claim? It was the same news, so your only advantage was on your legs, your ability to outrun your rivals. I outran Abu and stopped before the man, panting.

The man had a fat face and small head, but his smile was rich and confident. Who cared about small heads? He bought six dailies and gave me two shiny one-thousand naira notes. ‘Keep the change.’

I was elated beyond measure. At most, people bought two newspapers plus a sport newspaper if they must add a third. But this man bought six and I should keep the change! ‘Ranka ya dade. Na gode.’

‘Wait,’ he called. I turned. ‘I need little help,’ he said.

At this point, I could carry him on my shoulder to Sudan if he asked. ‘Say it.’

He brought out a big black nylon bag with fabrics of sort inside. ‘I cannot leave my car in this jam, could you please help me deliver this in that super market. Ask for a lady in black skirt. Give it to her; she will know who sent it.’

‘Kwarai,’ I said, happy to be of help to such a kind fellow. I hurried off to Bame Plaza. I had never entered the popular shopping mall before. But I knew it was big; I had stood on the entrance many times to sell newspapers to its opulent customers trooping in and out in great numbers. As soon as I stepped into the mall, the chilly breeze from the air conditioner hit my face and I sighed with relish. My senses, having being burnt char became alert, like an unconscious body at the dousing of cold water.

‘What do you want?’ the receptionist demanded. ‘Please stay out.’

‘I am here for the lady in black skirt. Alhaji asked me to give her this package.’

At the mention of alhaji the girl’s patronising frown softened to an inquisitive concern. The lady in black skirt?’ she stood up and peered. ‘Let me see… Yes, see her over there.’ She pointed at a neat pair of hip-lines outlined in a short black skirt. The lady was backing us as she talked excitedly to a lady in red skirt. I hurried towards her. I stopped by her side just as they began to chuckle. ‘Sannu,’ I said to call her attention. She turned. She had a round, attractive face with innocent eyes and calm red lips.

‘Yes?’

‘He said I should give you this.’

‘What is it? Who?’ she collected the package and gapped the sides to glance into it. That was when it exploded, I heard an atomic blast for a quarter of a second then saw myself lifted up in limbs, torn from myself, bursting through the roof amidst cries of shocked agonies. Just as my lifeless carcasses returned to the mass of pieced bones, charred flesh, smoke and fire I thought of tomorrow’s newspapers headlines: Suicide Bomber Ribs Kano Plaza Apart, Kills… how many?

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27 thoughts on “THE LADY IN BLACK SKIRT

  1. Mosesabu

    what a story. sannu… a blast, the headline will read something like… Vendor cum suicide bomber rips plaza apart. He is survived by the pieces of newspapers, some old naira notes and two shiny one-thousand naira notes. haha

    Like

  2. damstylee

    Sir, accept my apology in advance for the long story I’m about to write..

    I refused to read this article immediately I got notified with the link on Twitter… because I like ending my nights with reading various blog posts and finally my Bible…
    I settled on this article some minutes ago and from the first word to ‘It was Kano in November’, I was spellbound… The descriptive style left nothing out… The rest of the story followed in that light and now that I’m done, I regret not having more articles like this to read… This is one of a kind… You’ve done a splendid job …

    p.s. sorry for my long story… Felt a short comment wouldn’t be able to describe my awe for the work…

    Like

    • Kingsley

      If there is something I like immediately after my short stories is long comment. Then are sweet to read most especially from senior writers like you. I really don’t know what to say. but i trust you will continue to make out time to read me.

      Thanks Damstylee!

      Like

  3. Adewoyin Joseph

    Amazing!

    With the way you painted the images with words, you’ll make a fine artist if you grab—or kidnap—the interest. That’s if you’re not already one.

    What more can I write? Terrorism and it’s attendant gory scenes! Only God must save us now.

    Like

  4. Yemie

    Wow! You totally, absolutely outdid yourself this time around Kingsley, this is your bestest effort yet! Without a doubt! Wowzers!!! Gashi, chop plenty knuckles! This, right here’s an ‘overkill’, hook, line and sinker! BOOYAH!

    First, you totally out-witted me with that title, gave absolutely nothing away! Your literature background came to bare, with the use of lingo and imageries and then the plot itself; awesomeness! This is gotta be my bestest and all time, most favourite post on your blog yet! You gave it your all in all its totality! I guess this is the part where I say ‘Double Twale’, na u biko! Well done and do more of course! Wow! LOOL

    Like

    • Kingsley

      Hmmmm, only a novel-long reply can conquer a novel of comment. But I can’t conquer this comment, this great comment. This is the kind of comment that you put on your CV and also post on your wall paper. I have now read this comment over two hundred times! I will read it for two hundred years more. It will take the grace of God not to allow this praise enter my head. Well, let it enter not just my head but my body, being and ink, let it improve me, let it make me want to better my yesterdays. I will give anything to my art to earn such praise.

      Eshe Yemie.

      Like

  5. onyeka Norman

    how long are his beards?; d man in d sienna. As citizens of a warring nation, ds story calls on us to b more careful n alert. let d help we render not make lives short as d black mini skirt. gud wicked story.

    Like

    • Kingsley

      I know you will reduce the size of he mini skirt, Onyeka and increase the length of the beard, Norman! Lols, indeed we must be extra-careful; we are living in abnormal times, and cannot be over careful. Thank you for reading, and come again.

      Like

  6. Benny-Hills

    Wow,,,,we have a young sidney sheldon in our mist,,,mixed with john grisham and stephen king….. It was amazing….. I totally love it…. Congratz dear

    Like

    • Kingsley

      Thanks so much for this, Benny. This is the kind of comment that sends someone’s head swelling beyond proportion. But I will try and keep my head, I am used to keeping my head… when I can!

      Like

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