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Your Husband. The Horse-Mouth

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Small Boy #2

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For first part click here

Earlier that day, while watching black soldier ants’ march in a not too straight line into the bushes from under the tree where he took shade, Small Boy picked his nose as he thought about food. His rumbling stomach continued to remind him that it has not received any offering since the afternoon before. He frowned. His mother has not mentioned food all day and the hunger biting his stomach was giving him a headache. He has never understood the connection with his head and hunger, from what he knew it was the stomach that was hungry not the head. He picked a pebble then threw it at Shortie’s crouched figure not too far from him, busy drawing figures in the sand.

‘Stop it Small Boy!’ Shortie said in an irritated voice as he rubbed the spot where the pebble had hit him.

‘Does your head hurt when you are hungry?’

‘It doesn’t but it might be possible that your large head shares your stomach’s offerings and because it hasn’t received any today, your head has nothing to feed on.’

‘Shut up! Spider legs’

‘You shut up box head!’

After a few minutes of silence, Small Boy spoke as he moved closer to Shortie who was still drawing, ‘I’m bored. Let’s play jump in the box.’

‘I don’t want to play. I’m tired, besides the game needs more than two people. I don’t know where others are.’

‘You are always tired.’

‘And you are always hungry!’ retorted Shortie.

‘Shut —‘ Small boy was cut short by shouts.

‘They are coming! They are coming!’

A wide-eyed Shortie stood up staring at his friend, ‘did you hear that? The ones from the bush are here. Let’s go!! Let’s go!!’

Although he didn’t see her, he heard his mother’s voice loudly telling him to run and hide. So they sped off into the bushes. This was not the first or second raid Small boy had encountered and he was always ready but unlike those days where he had the strength to run, Small Boy felt tired. He thought about his family and hoped nothing would happen to them and this raid would be like the others where the rebels just came to take their food and whatever else they found useful. They beat up and injure people but hardly killed anybody. The people in his village had gotten wind of stories of young boys and girls abducted by rebels, which has never happened at theirs but to prevent such the young ones were often told to hide and come back at nightfall whenever raids happened.

His heartbeats pounded against his chest like an angry caller at the door. Run Small Boy!! Run!! were the words that echoed in his head. His stomach hurt from hunger and his legs were tired but still he ran because their pounding steps were getting closer. It happened that the rebels caught sight of them when they ran and pursued. Shortie’s tall figure and long legs were ahead of him. Small Boy had always wondered why someone with such features would be named Shortie. They were both eleven-year-olds but Shortie’s physique sometimes made people think he was older. He frowned at the thought of Shortie throwing jabs at him later on for being too slow to catch up but he would be ready for him. Small Boy’s thoughts drifted back to his pursuers, he had to lose them.

‘It’s better you stop running and surrender yourself!’ one of them shouted.

He looked back to see how close they were but was unaware of the fallen tree branch in front of him hidden in the waist length overgrown grasses, which made him trip face flat on the ground. Small Boy raised his head in time to see Shortie’s retreating figure ahead. Lucky Bastard he thought to himself as he forcefully swallowed the painful scream that rose to his throat waiting to be let out so as not to alert his pursuers, which unknown to him like a pride of lions waiting patiently to pounce on their prey they were nearby watching his failed attempts to get up. As he tried to crawl his way into hiding, something hit his back hard. He felt a painful lump in his throat and closed his eyes regretfully as two men pulled him roughly into a kneeling position.

‘We told you to stop but you ran.’ said one of the men.

‘And for the stress you put us through, we would have killed you but you’ll be useful.’ said another voice.

‘Where is your friend?’

‘Yes they were two, where is your friend?’

‘There was—was no one else, it was just me.’ He said in a wavering voice as his eyes darted everywhere but the men’s faces.

‘He’s telling lies, there was another boy.’

‘Both of you, search the area. He wouldn’t have gone far.’

The one who seemed to be in control stared at Small Boy fiercely, a red hue spreading across his cold experienced eyes—that seemed to have recorded more than his mouth could relate—as he grabbed him by the shoulders, ‘Where is he?’

‘I don’t —’

The slap that landed was unexpected.

‘I—I swear it was just me. I swear.’ Small Boy held his face with his sweaty palm, spat out blood as tears filled his eyes.

He would rather die than reveal Shortie’s hideout and prayed silently that the guys who went in search of Shortie wouldn’t find him. His pulse jittered as a flash of Shortie’s bloodied lifeless body crossed his mind but he erased the thought as quickly as it came.

‘We didn’t see anybody.’

They whispered amongst themselves, as Small Boy began to cry silently at the thought of what might become of him but was a bit relieved that his best friend wasn’t found.

‘Look at him crying. Let me tell you something, you are wasting your tears. Save them because you’ll have a lot to cry about later.’* The one who slapped him gave instructions.

‘Carry him, let’s go.’

Small Boy knew there was no point struggling or fighting back against four armed hefty men. They laughed and chatted as they half dragged and carried him through the bushes. The tight grip on his arms was painful and his legs hurt from the bruise he got as he fell. They soon got back to his village and Small Boy’s mother’s eyes widened in shock as she saw that they caught him.

‘Small Boy’ she whispered sadly, teary eyed.

His parents and other people he knew were on their knees. Some had their arms up and fingers entwined at the back of their heads.

‘We found the boy’ one of the men carrying him said as they dumped him in front of the man that headed the raid.

‘I thought they were two. Where is the other one?’

‘We thought so too and even searched the area but didn’t find anyone else.’

‘The boy said it was just him.’

‘Okay.’

Small Boy pulled himself to a kneeling position and was scanning around the few inhabitants of his village for the rest of his friends when he caught sight of Shortie’s hut and few others on fire. The smell of burning flesh, smoke, screams and gunshots amongst other things filled the air. His hands flew to his mouth and tears blurred his vision as he watched everything around him fall apart. The rebels shouted orders and killed people who didn’t co-operate on the spot. Some of them took girls his age and raped them in front of their shocked parents. The rebels laughed at the girls’ cries for mercy. He saw his sister struggle with one of the rebels while his parents watched helplessly. Ignoring the commotion around him and his mother’s pleading eyes to stay put where he was, Small Boy broke into a run towards his screaming sister but his run was cut short when he felt something hit the back of his head. His mother’s piercing scream and gunshots was the last thing he heard before he blacked out.

**

‘…Do you understand?’

‘Do you understand?’

The brutal kick that resuscitated him out of his thoughts was enough for him to realize he was in hell on earth but not enough to digest everything Master or any other person had said as he passed out with tears in his eyes, a silent prayer for death on his lips and the thought of his raped sister, probably dead parents and his friend Shortie who he might never see again. The sky rumbled as the gathering dispersed, it seemed like rain was going to pour down in any minute. Five captured girls were led to Master’s tent by one of the men for him to choose from. Instructions were shouted out and the fire was killed. Master walked towards the unconscious body but turned back and made his way to his tent. One of the young boys standing around moved towards Small Boy’s figure to drag him under one of the makeshift tents but was stopped in his tracks by Master’s cold voice.

‘Don’t you dare!’

‘Yes sir!’ the boy said as he took a pitying glance at Small Boy’s body then hastened away from it.

Muhsinat Kamardeen

 

Small Boy

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Image: Google Image

 

 

The elders say our country is rich that is why we have so many problems. This does not make any sense. In fact, it sounds like rubbish. A rich man does not suffer, only the poor one so I don’t understand why they say the country is rich when we are suffering like this. When did richness become a problem? They say something about mineral resources—the root of our problem, what does that even mean? I don’t really know because it’s been long since I go school.

 

The warm wet salty substance that seeped through his lips jolted him awake. He almost broke into a run but was stopped by a violent kick from someone towering above his body zipping up their trousers.

‘Where do you think you are going?’ He heard whispers and laughter around him.

‘Stand up!’ a voice thundered.

His snail-like response was rewarded with another kick on his side, which made him stagger. He lifted himself off the ground slowly accompanied with pain from his spine to his head and the rest of his body. His head felt heavy and throbbed so much that it seemed like his heart was beating from there. He felt so weak and scanned his surroundings to figure out where he was.

‘Stand properly! Like a soldier!’ The same voice bellowed. The man who was above him earlier, slapped the back of his head so hard, he was surprised his legs didn’t betray him.

‘Are you deaf? Master said you should stand properly’ he said.

Small boy followed the order. The unpleasant taste of blood and urine in his mouth riled his stomach. He felt digested contents rise to his throat but managed to suppress it. It was difficult to combine focusing on what Master was saying and trying to figure out where he was or how he got there. He scanned the part he faced as he listened to words flying out of the hefty figure called Master who had a gun slung over his chest, a red strip of cloth tied around his forehead and fingers entwined in front of him. From what he could make of Master’s figure sitting on a tree stump with the help of burning fire not too far from him, Small Boy saw that the last finger on Master’s right hand was missing. His heavy head conjured possible mishaps that could have resulted to the loss. Eight boys possibly his age mates sat on the ground around Master while two older boys fanned him as he spoke. There were more people some sitting on the grass and some standing armed with guns, bayonets, and machetes. Although he couldn’t see behind him, Small Boy could hear screams and sobs from the tent out of sight.

‘Shut them up before I come there to do it myself. Make sure the one spending the night with me is tamed. I don’t want a noisy fowl I’d be forced to strangle.’ yelled Master.

The noise was too much for his head to accommodate and his backside cried for a seat. His rumbling stomach made him remember he hadn’t eaten. Then he remembered it was the same wretched stomach that put him in the trouble. He couldn’t run fast enough. Pointing at a figure tied to a pole not too far from the gathering, Master continued, ‘you see that man over there? That’s your first assignment tomorrow. To kill the enemy without sympathy.’

Small Boy’s eyes blurred from tears as he turned to look at his first assignment, in shape of a man whose head slumped over his chest with bloodied face and looked like death was about to snatch his soul in seconds.

‘If you try to escape, I’ll send you on an errand to heaven. Do you understand?’

‘You’ll deliver a message to God from Master.’ shouted someone from the gathering, which made everyone laugh.

‘Do you understand?’ Master’s unsmiling mouth repeated.

‘Yes, sir!’

‘There is nowhere to run to. You are part of us now. Your family is gone and… ‘

His eyes widened in shock. Gone? What did he mean by gone? Small Boy felt hot and cold at the same time on his insides as tears slowly crawled down his cheeks. He felt the sudden need to itch his body as his chest tightened at the recollection of how he got to his present abode. What happened before he was hit on the head with the butt of a gun, slapped him in the face. He remembered his mother shouting that he should hide but the hunger that troubled his stomach did not agree with his legs. He remembered running with his friend who was faster than him. As Master’s words faded, Small Boy eyes looked around for a familiar face but instead a throng of alien faces met his gaze.

Run! Small Boy run!! His mother’s voice echoed in his head…

 

 

To be continued

Muhsinat Kamardeen

Surety

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I had heard of men who handpick girls like you would fresh vegetables or fruits at a market stall. I often laugh at this talk till the day I was picked.

I’m supposed to see Bala this afternoon. He is the one I plan to spend the rest of my life with. He is everything to me. I remember the first time we spoke, I was very shy but he made me feel very comfortable till my shyness evaporated. We often meet secretly, when our parents are not watching. Lovers tryst I call it.

I busy myself throwing stones at nothing in particular whilst patiently waiting for a signal at the front of our house from Bala when two men walk towards me. One is tall and the other, quite short and plump, reminding me of the black pig that roams our street. Both are garbed in black. They ask for Pa. They look impatient and I wonder if something bad has happened. Did someone die? That probably explains the black attire I thought but wave it off.

I tell them Pa is inside.

‘Call him. We have a message for him from Alhaji Sanni’ the short one grunts as I make my way into the house.

Pa is saying his prayers. I shift from foot to foot, thinking of Bala as I wait for Pa to finish. Ma is also in the room, her face dressed in a frown, trying to feed little Audu, who constantly twists his mouth away from the direction of the spoon. It is obvious he is not interested in the food but Ma is hell bent on getting every last bit into him. A smile snakes its way to my lips as I watch them. I picture myself feeding a baby –a willing one—unlike my reluctant brother whilst my sweet Bala says his prayers and—

My father clears his throat, disrupting my daydream, signifying with the hand in which he held his brown rosary that I can speak.

‘Pa, there are two men outside waiting for you.’

‘From where?’

‘Alhaji Sanni.’

I do not understand if it was the name or Ma finally decided it was time to give up on Audu. From the corner of my eye, I see her put the bowl of half eaten pap on the table beside her then let Audu slide to the ground from her legs. He gladly crawls away. Pa also looks like he’d seen a ghost.

‘Alhaji’ he mutters.

‘Yes, Pa. Alhaji.’ I say impatiently then turn to Ma.

‘I’m going to see—’

‘Bintu, sit down’ She says quietly patting the chair in between us.

‘But Ma, I told—’

‘Bintu I said, sit down! Your father has something to tell you’

‘Pa?’

Ma looks at Pa, trying hard to hide the worry in her eyes as she moves closer to me.

‘Pa tell her.’

I find it odd when my mother calls my father Pa as if she is one of his children. I decide to ask her why later.

‘Tell me what?’

‘You are going with them’ He says without looking at us.

Pa’s words scatter on the ground between us as he stares hard at the door as if talking to it. I frown, look at him then back at Ma who is standing beside the chair she asked me to sit in.

‘Going with who?’ I ask.

‘Those men are here for you’ Ma says in a way too calm for my liking as her hand plays with my hair.

A truckload of thoughts, fruits and vegetables drive through my mind. I spring up from the worn out chair as if pricked by a thorn.

‘Ma, what are you talking about?’

Little Salma walks in towards me cutting through the tension, ignoring the adults in the room. I look at her with questioning impatient eyes Not now Salma, not now.

‘Food’

I didn’t know what to say to her.

‘Bintu is leaving.’

As the words roll off my tongue leaving a bitter taste, I question its reality. Salma stares at me. She does not understand.

‘Food’ She repeats, then puts her right thumb in her mouth.

Ma takes her out of the room but not without stopping to take a look at me again. I see tears form in her eyes. Little Salma tugs Ma’s dress to remind her they were leaving for a reason.

I am leaving for the rest of my life. I want to scream and claw out Pa’s eyes.

‘Papa why?’

‘Bintu, I borrowed money. Walahi[i] I’d bring it at the end of the month so you can come back home.’

‘I thought you loved me Pa. You said you’d make sure I become better. Is this how you plan my betterment? By using me as a surety?’

‘Alhaji Sanni will take care of you’ He says putting his hand on my shoulder trying to reassure me.

I eye him with disgust and shake his hand off my shoulder. We both know he would not be coming for me at month’s end. Even if he comes it’d be to Oliver Twist his way into getting more money.

‘Take care of me? You stand there telling me about care when you know fully well what will happen the minute I leave here. You know my innocence will be stolen. Pa, you said you wouldn’t let this happen yet you sold me.’

‘Bintu, I—’

‘I’ll never forgive you for this Pa.’

I think of Bala and our plans. Tears roll down my cheeks. I feel numb as I walk slowly to the front of our house, Pa behind me.

The men stand up when they see me.

‘What took you so long? Where is your father? We don’t have all day.’

As the short one spoke, you can smell the arrogance oozing from him.

‘You know why we are here. It’s the money or one of your daughters like you promised eh.’

Pa takes me by the shoulders and pushes me slightly towards the men.

‘This is Bintu. Tell Alhaji I’ll bring his money at month’s end so I can take her back.’

‘Take her back?’ the short one sniggers.

‘You know Alhaji won’t let this one go. You are lucky she is beautiful. She’ll be a wife, not a maid.’

‘Do you have any belongings?’

‘Yes, I want to take a few things.’

‘Hurry. We are waiting’

I walk straight to the backyard where Ma is, with little Salma and Audu. She rushes towards me to hug me tight.

‘Pa sold me Ma. Pa sold me. He said he loved me but he sold me.’

‘I’m so sorry Bintu.’

‘Do you sell something so precious for money that disappears in seconds? Ma answer me, do you?’

I release myself from her embrace; wipe away tears with the back of my hand.

‘No. I’m sorry Bintu. I really am’

I glance at little Salma and Audu. The thought of not being able to see them again for a long time make my heart ache. I wasn’t even able to say bye to Bala.

I face Ma, her lovely face with tired eyes, looking older than she really was.

‘Ma I’ll be alone. I don’t want to go’ I hold her dress like Little Salma did earlier. Tears flow freely again but I did not wipe them off this time.

‘I feel useless Bintu. I feel sad and torn because my sixteen year old daughter has to go through this madness and I have no power to stop it. God is with you and will never leave you’

‘Where was God when Pa needed money? Where was God when Pa made this deal? Ma I know this is not your fault but don’t tell me about God!’

Ma bites her lower lip, fighting back tears that refuse to be caged. I hug Ma one last time then walk towards my soon to be old room that I share with Ma and Salma. I look around the small room for few minutes then grab a little bottle and bracelet Bala made me.

Ma walks me to the front of the house and I whisper I’ll be back in her ears. She stares at me, confused. I feel her continuous stare as I walk towards Mr. Tall and Mr. Short. I did not bid my seller farewell. He does not deserve it. The men lead me to a blue car with tinted glasses. I sit at the back, clutching the little bottle and staring at my bracelet. As the car moves off, I see Ma still watching. Her hand moves to wave but instead, she places it at the back of her neck then leans against the wall at the entrance of our house.

I read what is written on the bottle Original Instant Rat Poison. Instruction: Put a few drops on the item needed to lure rodent. Tears well up in my eyes again. I refuse to be a refund. I down the contents of the bottle.

‘I’m sorry Ma’ I whisper.

I close my eyes and count as the car move, like an old man with a walking stick because of the bad road.

[i] I swear by Allah

New Wife Series: Our Husband

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Click here for 👉Papa Married A New Wife (The Poem for the drama)

(A loud craaaackkk! sound is heard from the kitchen, Number 2 rushes from the sitting room to the kitchen)

 

Number 2 (hands on waist, facing the bent figure of Number 5 who is clearing broken pieces of the plate): So it’s you who have decided to break all the plates in the house?

 

Number 5: Haba it’s just— (stops mid-sentence as Number 2 raises her right hand)

 

Number 2: Will you keep quiet? Who gave you the audacity to talk back to me? (Number 3 walks in)

 

Number 3: What’s going on? (Looks at Number 5 with disgust)

 

Number 2 (claps hands & laughs mockingly): This thing thinks because our husband can afford plates she can break all the ones in the kitchen.

 

Number 3 (long hiss): Apa![i] Can you blame her? (Stretches to take something from the kitchen cabinet) They don’t have plates like these ones where she comes from.

 

(Number 5 clicks her tongue & carries on with cleaning the plates she had just washed)

 

Number 2: Disrespectful rat! It’s your mother at home you’re clicking your snake tongue at, not me.

 

Number 3 (Long hiss): Alaileko![ii]

 

Number 5 (abandons the plates then faces Number 3): Whom are you calling uncultured?

 

Number 3 (moves closer to Number 5 then pokes her chest with the plastic cup she took from the kitchen cabinet earlier): You! I’m calling you uncultured because it is what you are. You have no respect for those before you. You click your—

 

(Number 2 smiles as she watches the exchange between Number 3 and Number 5. Number 4 enters nods a greeting at Number 2, grabs a nearby stool to sit and watch)

 

Number 5: Those who deserve it not those who act like wild dogs earn respect! (She slaps off Number 3’s hand from her chest making the cup drop)

 

Number 2 and 4 (gasps at the same time): Mo gbe![iii]

 

(Number 3 makes her way to the kitchen door then locks it)

 

Number 2: This girl doesn’t know anything. (Pulls up Number 4 who reluctantly stands) We’ll teach you a lesson today!

 

Number 4 (mutters): I’d rather watch. (Number 2 glares at her) What? Why are you looking at me like that? Face the person who insulted you.

 

Number 3: Is it me you’re calling a wild dog? (Standing close to Number 5 who looks unbothered)

 

Number 5: Yes you! What will you do about it?

 

Number 3 (turns to Number 2 and Number 4 with a wide smile on her face): She’s asking what I’ll do about it. (Turns round to face Number 5 again) I will teach you what your mother didn’t teach you.

(Number 3 pulls Number 5’s blouse, then gives her a sounding slap)

 

Number 5 (holds her throbbing cheek then quickly grabs a stirring stick from the sink behind her): You’re just a frustrated mad woman! (She yells)

 

Number 3 (to number 4 and 2 without facing them): She says I am frustrated. She still has the mouth to talk and thinks that the stick she’s holding will stop me from touching her. (To Number 5) You are the mad and frustrated one. If you weren’t mad or frustrated because no man your age will marry you, tell me what you’re doing with a man old enough to be your grandfather?

 

Number 5: It’s none of your business you shameless old—

 

(Number 3 and 2 pounce on her before she could finish her sentence. Number 2 pulls her left leg making Number 5 land on her behind screaming, struggling and cursing. Number 3 collects the stirring stick from her and hits Number 5 with it severally before throwing it towards the door.)

 

Number 4 (half-heartedly as she opens a packet of biscuits): Stop fighting.

 

(Someone bangs on the kitchen door from outside while Number 3 and 2 deal with Number 5)

 

The voice: I said, open this door! Are you people crazy? Open the door!

 

Number 4 (grumbles as she makes her way to the door): They won’t let someone eat and watch this live drama in peace.

 

(Number 1 bursts in as Number 4 opens the door)

 

Number 1 (pulls Number 3 and 2 from a struggling Number 5): What sort of nonsense is this? What is wrong with you people?

 

Number 4: I told them to stop fighting but they didn’t listen to me (They all glare at her) What? Why are you looking at me like that? (Grumbles then exits the kitchen)

 

Number 1 (to Number 3, 2 and 5): Why have you decided to turn the kitchen into a mad house?

 

(Number 2, 3 and 5 talk at once)

 

Number 1 (irritated look): Will you shut your mouths?

 

Number 2 & 3 (together): But she broke—

 

Number 1: What if she broke plates? Are they yours? Did you bring them along when our husband brought you to this house?

 

Number 5 (mutters): Please ask them?

 

Number 1: What did you say?

 

Number 5: Nothing

 

Number 1(stares at 5 as she speaks): I am not in support of our husband’s lifestyle but do you see me acting like a mad woman? (To Number 2) You should put them to order not join in.

 

Number 2: Iyale mi[iv] I am not Jesus.

 

Number 1 (long hiss): You want to kill yourselves over a man who will marry another in seconds. I do not pity you. (Mutters as she exits the kitchen) He never picks the good ones. All he does is bring shafts and noisemakers for me to deal with. I wonder where he gets them!

 

 

 

[i] Vandal

[ii] Uncultured/ Can also mean disrespectful

[iii] I’m in trouble

[iv] Mother of the house

Black. Beauty.

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Image: Google

 

Her Black

Shiny like

polished ebony

Dark as

Shades of night

Beautiful

Tall

Slim

Slender

Long legs like a deer

The way she walks,

Graceful strides

Like a fawn

I revel at this wonder of God

 

In a different world

She would have been

A model

A celeb

She’d shine like the star

That she is

But

Alas, she is just a normal lass

Washing dishes

And

Living life

The way she knows how

 

No shining lights

Or

Contracts

No paparazzi

Nor strobe lights

She’s just Bella

Bella by the roadside

Black gold Bella

 

Muhsinat Kamardeen