SMOKED FISH (pt.3)

Like a thief in the night, they came in three vehicles and hit the culvert at the beginning of Raffia Street. Dust, sand and pebbles flew in all directions as people froze in shock, petrified at this after dinner-time invasion. Two black Pick-Up trucks were closely tailed by the mobile prison known far and wide as ‘Black Maria’. The vehicles barely came to a halt before anti-riot policemen equipped with guns, batons, torchlight and tear gas hustled down and fanned in all directions.

The football match between Chelsea and Zenit St. Petersburg was about to kick-off in Russia as scheduled. Football fans were casually making their way to the only Viewing Center in the neighbourhood located on Raffia Street. There was a large turn-out occasioned by the usual NEPA induced black-out. The policemen were also on their way to the Viewing Center but not to watch the match.

There was major confusion as people were seized and forcefully dumped into the foul smelling ‘Black Maria’. A blast of Tear-Gas increased the pandemonium as people ran into the darkness to escape the noxious fumes. Most succeeded in running into the waiting arms of the AK-47 totting policemen who assisted them into the gaping jaws of the menacing ‘Black Maria’. Gunshots were fired severally into the air to discourage those who tried to resist capture. The make-shift benches at the ‘Viewing Center’ were broken as all the customers fled.

“Officers, what is the problem, did someone commit a crime?” Reuben the owner of the business asked politely. The answer was a vicious blow from a police baton, Reuben grunted in pain as another blow to his knees sent him crashing to the ground. “Where is Skipper?” the policemen demanded as they kicked and clubbed him like an off the ring mayhem from an episode of The World Wrestling Entertainment. Except there were no cheering crowds, and Reuben’s bruises and dislocated shoulder was real.

He agreed to lead them to Skipper’s house, not because of the excruciating pain in his shoulder, but because of the murderous glint he saw in Sergeant Aliyu’s eyes. He could endure pain, but he was not willing to die for his best friend. The broken benches will be fixed again, the smashed decoder and ripped cables will be replaced, the business will be restored and the customers will return but he desired to be alive to witness that revival.

So he allowed himself to be shoved and prodded towards the mango tree, where more policemen waited with guns, batons and torchlight.

Lucky was not a ferocious guard dog, it just looked dangerous because of its size and loud bark. It loved chasing kids up and down the street but was never known to bite anyone in its two years of existence. Lucky initially thought the police was its friend as it was barking excitedly under the mango tree. The policemen could not tell where it came from, they had been through that compound already, everyone had fled. “Somebody shoot that dog!” Sergeant Aliyu bellowed as he came into view. But when one of the policemen shot in the air to scare the dog away Lucky pounced on him. They could not shoot at the dog now for fear of hitting their comrade. Lucky had bitten the man several times before a nasty blow to the ribs sent it whimpering into the night.

Tom also known as Skipper was a local football hero. In his youthful days he had captained the local football team to many victories in State wide competitions. Nowadays he coached a youth team in the small town. Still a bachelor at 38, he lived alone.
“That is Skipper’s house” Reuben pointed with trepidation, an AK-47 poked him in the back “Next time you will mind your own business, let’s go!” The policemen chorused. Sergeant Aliyu and his team marched Reuben to Skipper’s door and broke in. The living room and bedroom was turned upside down but there was no sign of Skipper.

As Reuben was being led to the ‘Black Maria’, a careless beam from a policeman’s torchlight picked out an unfortunate Skipper perched at the top of the mango tree, his seventeenth ‘hail Mary’ ended at that instant. “Come down my friend!” Two pokes with a bamboo pole sent Tom also known as Skipper crashing down to earth. Boots stomped on him, batons cracked at him, gun butts struck him as he was battered and dragged into the waiting jaws of the dreaded ‘Black Maria’.

The Divisional Police Station had a carnival atmosphere that night as the policemen congratulated each other for a successful raid. The detention cells were packed to capacity as the victims smelled the rust of the iron bars and the stench of the urine, some of them for the first time. They were all charged with assault and battery, disturbing the peace, conspiracy and stealing.

‘Statements’ were obtained, ‘undertakings’ were signed, friends and relatives paid cash the next day to secure the release of the captives. Case closed.

Arit John was fortunate not to have been arrested. She was not a resident of Raffia Street, neither was she a Chelsea fan. Information about the raid only reached her the next morning at the market place as she was buying foodstuff. She immediately hurried home in fear and was not seen outside for several days. It did not matter to the Police, they had exacted their revenge. However, it mattered a lot to Arit John. She was never to be seen hawking smoked fish again. Tired of looking over her shoulder whenever she was outdoors, she began studying feverishly for a ticket out of town to pursue her dreams.

THE END

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SMOKED FISH (pt.2)

I apologise for taking too long to post, I’ve not been feeling too well the last couple of days.

SMOKED FISH (pt.2)

“Is it fresh?” The woman asked disdainfully as she took in Arit’s tired look.
“noooo! Its rotten!” Arit John wanted to say but “yes Ma” was the natural response as she set the basin to the ground.
“How much?”
“Its 250 naira each”
“Am paying 200 naira”
“How many do you want?”
“Four!”
“Ok Ma” Arit responded excitedly. The woman looked pretty in a sleeve-less black dress with tiny yellow horses galloping orderly all over. Gold wedges, red toe nails and a flat snakeskin purse with a metal clasp accentuated her affluent appearance. A whiff of her fragrance teased Arit’s nose as she set her goods down. The difference between the two women was like the difference between night and day. With her non-descript dress partially covered by a dark green apron, Arit looked right at home under the mango tree by the side of an un-tarred Raffia street, the other woman looked out of place.

Strangely all that elegance was nothing more than a surface coating. 15 minutes of prodding, poking, flipping and shifting had left 5 smoked fishes broken.”This one doesn’t look good, let me see that one” the woman scraped on with shiny red fingernails. Completely intimidated by the woman’s appearance, Arit endured her discomfort and masked her displeasure with a forced smile, but inside she was beside herself with anger as the woman mindlessly continued her onslaught.

“Your fishes are so small” the woman declared with red lips curved downwards, but she handed 600 naira to Arit. At last! Arit John sighed in relief. After counting the cash and pocketing the stash, she grabbed a few pages off an old Daily Trust Newspaper and quickly wrapped three smoked fishes, put them in a black plastic bag and handed them over to the woman.

“I told you I was buying four fishes! You must give me four fishes!”
“But you only paid for three!” Arit John said exasperated at the woman’s demand. “Am sorry Ma, I can’t sell four smoked fishes at that price” she added as she raised the aluminium basin to her head, “maybe next time” she smiled sweetly at the woman, meanwhile her train of thoughts were hurtling at breakneck speed down the tracks of worry. For over thirty minutes she had waited patiently for this woman to make her selection, perhaps it was the shade, damn this heat. She was not prepared to spend another second in this woman’s snooty presence. Hopefully prospective buyers will overlook the peeled skin and protruding bones of the remaining smoked fishes. Hopefully she will sell the left overs before nightfall.
Usually customers reached their decision to buy or not to buy after a few minutes, made payment or simply allowed her to walk away, but this particular customer was of a different breed.

Without warning the woman reached out and knocked the basin of smoked fishes to the ground. The racket caused by the falling aluminium basin suddenly drew a lot of attention, eyes peeked out of windows, heads poked out of doorways.

Arit’s patience completely evaporated, she no longer had time for civility, the sight of her labour scattered all over the place propelled her to angrily seize the woman by the wrist. “You must pay me my money!” she cried. “Let go of me, foolish girl!” Was the scornful retort. There was a brief stare-match which the woman found amusing, clearly she was enjoying the whole affair. Completely unperturbed by the small crowd that had gathered, she gave Arit a stinging slap. Arit’s confusion increased, her ears rang and her eyes watered. The fragrance of the woman’s perfume that had hitherto been pleasant now made her nauseous.

There was a brief struggle, Arit was bitten on the arm before both women sprawled on the roots of the mango tree. With the taste of victory in her mouth, the woman took another bite. Arit could not bear it anymore so she seized the woman by the throat and applied pressure. The woman may have been richer and taller, but on the ground they were both of equal height and Arit John weighed more. Fortunately Tom also known as ‘Skipper’ assisted by his friend Reuben were around to make sure the woman was not choked to death.

After being pulled from the woman, Arit took a few steps and crumpled in a heap, inconsolable as she tried to fathom out the situation. Her arm was bleeding, her shoulder was bleeding, her face was scratched and dirty, her smoked fishes were swimming away in the sand. “What am I going to do!” She weeped softly. What is she going to tell her mother, what is she going to tell the church. A few people went to assist her but she could not understand a single word of what they were saying.

The other woman was now a far cry from elegance. Her clothes were torn and soiled, her fingernails were broken and dirty, her lips were like that of a leopard after a jungle kill. “It shall not be well with any of you… you are taking her side?…Ok take her side, God punish all of you!”
“Do you know who I am?…You’ll regret the day you decided to mess with Stella.” Few people showed interest in her tirade, most people concluded that the woman was mad.
“Where’s my phone, they’ve stolen my phone….thieves! You will pay, all of you, I’m going to show you pepper!”
She thundered as she made her way from Raffia Street and quickly flagged down a commercial cyclist. Stella instructed the Okada rider to take her to the Divisional Police Station. Unknown to the small crowd, Stella was the wife of the DPO.

(To be continued)

SMOKED FISH!

MTN deprived me of the joys of twitter over the weekend, then PHCN joined them. So I went analog (good old pen and paper), this is the result. Oh I later had to type and post it with my phone (imagine that). Please be kind, whatever! Enjoy.


SMOKED FISH (pt.1)


Arit John had been trekking for several hours, she was used to it. The stack of smoked fish on her head was not heavy but she would have preferred to be under a cool shade sipping a chilled bottle of coke with only a fashionably twisted ‘Gele’ as burden for her young head. But with maternal responsibility and no money to rent a shop, her head with a shiny aluminium basin, punctuated with stacks of smoked fish was a mobile stall.


Ever since her boyfriend Sam had denied the pregnancy and disappeared thereafter, hawking smoked fish had become her major vocation. Smoking mackerel over slow burning coals had become Arit’s regular homework. Her university education had been postponed indefinitely due to ante-natal and post-natal responsibilities. Her daughter Eno was almost seven now, probably playing dressmaker at this very moment at grandma’s ‘fashion house’. Arit John still harboured hopes of becoming a lawyer, but today’s poor sales made such dreams seem luxurious.


Earlier that day, Arit could perceive the petrichor, that peaceful and pleasant aroma that embraces the nostrils whenever rain falls after an extended period of dry weather. Several hours later, under the unflinching stare of the tropical sun, the earth was baking and all Arit could perceive was her own desperation. “Buy fish! Buy fish!” She called out urgently as she trudged down raffia street.


Her thoughts were interrupted by a flash of red. A little boy in red shorts bounced across the street, not unlike the red ball he was purposefully chasing. Not much older than her daughter Eno, the boy seemed to be unaware of the ‘look right, look left, look right again’ rule. Arit stopped in mid-stride and looked back in alarm, right hand raised in reflex like a traffic warden. But there was no vehicle to stop, no ‘Okada’ or car bearing down the un-tarred street to ‘jam’ the careless boy.


Only a tall young man clicking his manicure and pedicure tools was nearby. In the distance, a few students clad in blue uniform could be seen chatting loudly as they made their way home from the nearby secondary school. None of them showed any interest in the fish seller or the boy in red shorts bouncing after a red ball.


By the time Arit turned around, the boy had retrieved his ball and was safe within a nice courtyard, happily tossing the ball against the wall of a nice bungalow. It won’t be long before that boy ran across the street again, she hoped he remained safe. “Who told you to cross that road, enh!” a female voice reprimanded from within the house. The voice sounded too young to be the child’s mother but you never know Arit thought with a mixture of sadness and joy.


The heat was unbearable, the brilliance of the sun completely negating the welcome effects of last night’s rainfall. ‘Buy fish! Buy fish!’ She called out repeatedly as she marched on. There are no buyers on this street today Arit mused to herself. She may have to pause and rest or proceed to the next street.


‘Fish woman!’ She heard and directed her gaze towards the source of the sound. An elegantly dressed woman beckoned from under the shade of a mango tree. She suddenly felt cold. It should have been welcome but it was not. For some unknown reason, Arit experienced an unusual dread as she took in the form of the stranger. It was like a dark cloud had covered the face of the sun, threatening imminent storm and incalculable damage. In her excitement to make a sale, Arit John ignored the chill. Shaking off the foreboding, she hurried towards the woman.  

(to be continued)

A Trip Down Vanity Lane

Behind the wheels, feeling big, you can fall asleep

Not even knowing that vanity is a Hummer Jeep
Not unlike a make-up, all in your face
its hard to wake up

Then you crash without any grace

Vanity for men, vanity for women and obsession

Don’t presume that am talking perfumes

My heart is broken to pieces at the sad discovery
That people have died during plastic surgery
Gastric bypass and fake eyelashes…. huh?
Always be sure your child’s taking the right classes
Feel free to criticise what this signifies
Ignore the lies
Try to read between the lines
It feels good to talk trash when there’s no food crisis
Better than kilograms, skin tone and shoe sizes