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)