TWO STUPID CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AUTHOR (3RD SET)

Here’s the third episode in the stupid characters series. Read the previous set here and the very first set here. I have not really been prolific with this, I publish one episode per month (just like Chelsea’s wins, tsk tsk!); I must do better than this. Read carefully (or carelessly, your choice!) and lemme know the character you believe’s stupider. Let’s go.
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What Uche and Linda have cannot pass for marriage. Although for six years now they have been parading themselves as man and wife. But indeed they were two enemies who, against common sense, are sharing the same room, and only sparing the other’s life because it is illegal to carry somebody’s life and seize it. There problem began on their wedding day. Or, their first public showdown.

The church was packed full, Uche and Linda stood at the alter, facing each other without seeing each other. The priest led the marriage vows. This pastor was a wild-eyed fellow whose tight black lips gave the impression that he was never happy until something bad happened, or actually expected something bad to happen, or even prayed and hoped for something bad to happen. Something worse happened. When the man of God said to Uche, ‘Will you have Linda to be your wife, to live together in holy matrimony, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do you part?’ Uche answered, ‘it depends’.

What happened next is still been discussed and debated in Benin City. It defiles description. It took the entire men on suit, the bride maids, the choir and even some members of the marriage committee to break up the tsunami and separate the two larks. Uche survived with a swollen eye, and Linda a torn wedding gown and a running nose. And the pastor? He was rolling on the tiles shrieking with laughter. No one paid him any attention. People had their eyes on the couple who were panting like dogs on heat, striving for part two.

The whole marriage thing would have been over right there, that very moment. The groom was saying, ‘God forbid, me marry this mad dog!’ and the bride was screaming, ‘Nonentity, bastard, son of a bitch, criminal, armed robber’ etc, right inside the church. But the committee of friends, most of whom had spent a load of cash, reasoned with the couple. To save face, to prevent the rice from wasting, to recover some of their cost, they needed to go ahead with the reception.

So the reception held.

After the comic absurdity of reception the couple went home, they were already living together. And they needed a rematch badly. So they locked the door and third world war began. The neighbours heard the crash of gidi-gidi gidi-gidi for a large chunk of the night, punctuated with an occasional scream of ‘My ear, my ear!’ ‘You dare bite me!’ ‘I will kill you today’, ‘Whooooah!’… More gidi-gidi gidi-gidi. It was a wedding night to remember.

Physically, Uche was tall, thin, dark, coconut-headed, a tough jaw with the temper of a snake that erroneously landed on a hot stove. He rode an okada for a living, fifty percent of the time the okada was in the mechanic’s, the other fifty percent he was riding all over Benin City, searching for nonexistent customers, wasting fuel. By the time he returned from work duly baked by the sun and thoroughly frustrated, a situation as minor as good evening said with the wrong tone could spark a revolution.

Linda was a short, sturdy woman. Uche once said that God created Linda by 11.59pm on Saturday, just one minute to having His Sabbath; in His haste He just found a mound of loamy soil and began to slap eyes, ears, mouth on it. The result, Linda possessed ears that could have been plucked from cocoyam plant, eyes the colour of ripe pepper and lips reserved for a football club. Of course Uche only spoke out of malice but he wasn’t far from the truth. Sometimes when people looked at Linda they lose hope on humanity. But what Linda lacked in looks and height she made up with the energy of a wild cat.

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Linda owned a kiosk where she sold cigarettes, dry gin and snuff. And she made a lot of money (it will surprise you to see the number of men, in Benin, who are willing to smoke, dry and snuff their lives away). But for all she made her husband never saw a kobo. The only way he would have seen a kobo of hers was via her food. But she never cooked for two, she cooked her food and he cooked his. Each with their stove and pots and utensils.

They never did anything together. They didn’t even sleep on the same bed. They have a tired mattress and a mat. Tonight Uche would sleep on the mattress and Linda on the mat; the next day, Linda took the mattress and he the mat. Once Linda travelled for three days, and returned to claim the mattress since Uche had been sleeping on it in her absence. Uche told her she couldn’t eat her mattress and have it. She travelled, having a good time and he continued counting, it was his turn tonight. Linda said lie lie. Go to hell! The wrestling began, gidi-gidi gidi-gidi.

One day Uche and his bike had a face to face collision with a rickety lorry. Uche survived, a miracle but his motorcycle was picked up in bits and pieces, put in a basket and put away. Uche spent two weeks in the hospital and came out on crutches. On the day he returned one of his few friends, Malachi, paid him a visit. He met Uche seated on a chair by his door-mouth sorry for himself.

‘How are you man?’

Uche smiled painfully. ‘As soon as I drop these crutches I am going to strangle that witch.’

‘What has she done again?’

‘I returned from the hospital today only for her to tell me that I owe her thirty-seven thousand naira which she spent on me while I was in the hospital.’

‘Chai.’ Malachi couldn’t believe his ears.

‘That’s not all,’ Uche continued, ‘she said that she will feed me only once a day and that her price is two hundred and fifty naira per plate.’

‘What!’

‘And to bath me, I will pay five hundred naira before service.’

‘Linda is a witch o.’

‘She’s Lucifer’s last born.’

Malachi decided to help his friend. ‘I will take you to a native doctor that will tame Linda for you. She will be your slave.’

‘As you can see I am crippled, how will you take me there?’

‘I will go on your behalf.’

‘I don’t have money.’

‘Don’t worry.’

Malachi returned the next day to tell Uche that the native doctor needed Linda’s brasserie to make the charm. Linda was at her kiosk so Uche wobbled in and out with a black brasserie.

Two months before now, Linda stopped seeing her period. At first she thought she was pregnant. How could it be, no man had touched her in nearly one year. Or was this the effect of climate change, airborne pregnancy? She went to see a doctor. It wasn’t pregnancy, it was menopause. The bombshell stopped her heartbeat for minutes. ‘But I am only forty-two.’

The doctor nodded, ‘Premature menopause happens’. He began to say something about chromosome defects, Turner’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis etc but Linda wasn’t listening. Overcome by the brutal suddenness of the finality of the whole thing, she broke down and wept for the first time in seven years.

After eating herself in sorrow for a few weeks, Linda consulted Veronica. Vero, Linda’s only friend, herself a mother of six told Linda that this was a temptation from the pit of hell; she took Linda to a temple. You know those temples were the prophetess in white garment discerns the voice of God by whining like a snake and ringing a bell? She took Linda there. The prophetess collected a huge offering, whined like a worm in a can of salt, rang the shit out of the bell then told Linda to fast and pray for twenty-one days.

Linda returned on the twenty-second day.

‘You committed a grievous sin against your late mother,’ the Oracle said,  ‘so she withheld your period.’

‘But my mother is still alive,’ Linda said.

‘I am talking about your godmother,’ she said.

‘I don’t have a godmother.’

‘I mean Mother Mary! You sinned against the mother of God.’

For atonement she told Linda that she must endure thirty days of twelve lashes of the prophetess’ cane on her bare buttocks. After this her late mother/godmother/Mary would release her monthly circle.

While Linda was listening to the voice of God, Malachi brought back Linda’s brasserie. ‘Now you have Linda on your palm.’

Uche grinned.

‘The only thing you  will do is get a kettle, put this brasserie in it, pour water, boil the water then drink it like tea every morning for thirty days.’

‘Are you mad!?’

‘That is the instruction of the medicine man. If you really want to have Linda as your slave you shouldn’t argue.’

Uche spat phlegm on the earth. ‘This is asking three much.’

‘Nothing good comes easy.’

The next day, before six, Linda woke up and began to dress to go out. Still lying on the mat, Uche stretched and lighted his stove.

‘Take that stove outside.’ Uche ignored her. He lifted the kettle full of water and brasserie and placed it on the stove. While he was waiting for his tea to boil, Linda left for the temple to pay for her grievous sin. In less than half an hour heavy cane would be tearing through Linda’s soft buttocks and Uche would be tearing bread and washing it down with his special tea.

This world.

Update: Read the Fourth Set of Stupid Characters

NO PEACE FOR ANGELA

A friend of mine, a few weeks ago, asked me to write something for her to be read in church. It was her graduation and she wanted to do a literary rendition. She wanted something on Light on Campus. With fraternal flourish I wrote this. When I sent it to her she said no, no she actually meant life on campus. Could I please rewrite? I actually heard light on campus. No, I said Life on Campus. But I heard light on campus. No! I said life… So we quarreled on. Life on campus was never written (I think she reworked light and presented it).

It’s been a while I published a short story here. It’s a record since I am not on any sort of hiatus. Ergo, this. Note: I wrote this from the perspective of a born again Christian (which I am!) (Shalom!).
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Angela felt like crying. Indeed she cried on the inside, the tears just wouldn’t come out. It was the kind of crying that dries the eyes and eats the heart up. Her body was already weak with hunger, this piece of news had now paralysed her entire body system. So she lay on the bed, barely moving, just looking; and even this, looking, the effort, hurt her. With a brave move, she rolled to the other end of the mattress and picked up her cell phone. The phone was a rare BlackBerry product that had given her so much joy when her uncle bought it for her nearly a year ago, now it was this same precious phone that was her source of worry, that brought her such assorted bad news.

Angela tapped the touchscreen of the phone, scrolled down, tapped again, and sighed. She was staring at her inbox lined up with messages that held monstrous news for her. She clicked the first box. She read the message.

‘Please Angela, I beg you in the name of whatever you believe in, I don’t want you in that room by the time I return. I will disgrace you if I come back and meet you there. Go and stay with your new found boyfriend.’

Angela shut her eyes. Peace meant business. She was a sweet friend, her friend of three years; three years of staying in the same room, on the same mattress, enduring hunger together, being sisters. Early this year Angela’s family finance had hit the rock. A certain governor woke up one day and sacked her parents, both civil servants, for being non-indegenes, pushing them to the edge of the gutter. Somehow, Angela remained in school, helped by great friends like Peace. They normally shared the house-rent but this year Peace paid the whole rent. Now Peace wanted her out of the room.

Angela’s offence was that she shared the good news with Peace’s boyfriend, Bola. And he became born again. The fornication and regular stipends that came with dating Bola stopped. Peace lost Bola to Jesus Christ, but she thought she lost him to Angela. She abused Angela, cursed her and asked her to leave her room. Peace told her to leave the room on Friday before Peace journeyed for the weekend. Angela didn’t take her serious but today, Sunday, the text message came, bold, decisive, angry, ‘…I don’t want you in that room by the time I return.’

Angela opened the second message. It was from her father.

‘Please dear I ran around to no avail. Please help yourself.’

Angela had called her father after reading Peace’s bombshell the first time. He had been painfully sympathetic, and, although he was dead broke, promised to go to the end of the earth, if he had to, and get her something. Albeit, she knew he was never going to get her enough money to enable her pay for a new room tonight, nor clear the mountain of debts on her slim shoulders. But she felt encouraged by his will to get her “something”, now she was crushed by his inability to get “something”; the clause, “Please help yourself” mutilated her spirit.

She clicked the third message. It was from Ejike, a long-term admirer of hers. She liked him but couldn’t bring herself to go beyond just being friends; he wasn’t born again and didn’t flinch from the fact that he gave Jesus cold shoulders. He had called Angela on the phone just after she had read Peace’s message, and had insisted she tell him why she was sounding so sad. She told him. He said he would help her, he would get back to her. He got back to her with this text, ‘I will help you babe. Pack your things and come stay with me. But you have to keep your born again over there and be ready to play ball.’

Angela let the phone fall on her chest. She shut her eyes as sorrow flowed down her heart, washing her oesophagus, intestines, her entire abdominal cavity. She was standing on quicksand. Her bosom friend would disgrace her if she didn’t leave this room in an hour or two; her father couldn’t help her; the only person who could help, wanted her body.

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Her cell phone began to ring. Reluctantly, she picked it up. The caller’s identity wasn’t known. She didn’t want to answer the call, but she couldn’t bring herself to disappoint the caller. The voice was familiar. ‘I can’t talk long,’ came the voice. ‘It’s my roommate’s phone. Where do we meet?’

The caller was Beatrice, Angela’s evangelism partner. Apart from Jesus, another thing Beatrice and Angela had in common was biting poverty. Beatrice was also being squated by someone, and this someone hadn’t asked her to leave since Beatrice hadn’t ‘snatched’ someone’s boyfriend.

Angela said they should meet in front of the school gate. ‘Ok.’ Click. The call ended.

Angela didn’t want to evangelise today. She was tired, embarrassed, angry, hungry, discouraged, frustrated. She didn’t feel like going to share the good news when her belly was full of not good news. She just wanted to lie on the bed and cry herself a solution. And going away to preach for at least two hours meant that Peace would return in her absence, which meant Angela could (trust Peace) meet her belongings by the gutter when she returned from evangelising.

But this didn’t change her mind. She was the light on campus, Jesus shines through her. No amount of evil prospects would quench the light in her. Thousands need to hear the good news. She would tell them the good news. If she returned and find her things thrown outside, so be it. Nothing, not hunger, not poverty, not the gutter would stop her light from shining. With this resolve, Angela summoned energy, lifted to her feet and made for her jotter and Bible.