4 minute read | Flash-fiction
New Fiction from Kehinde Badiru
WE WERE TIRED of the sudden silence of everything, everywhere and even of neighbours whose disturbance used to fill our heads weeks ago. While we stared at one another, she was aware of our eyes on her and smiled in a way that meant that the look on our eyes was contradictory to her undisclosed assumption, or that they had hidden motives, perhaps beautiful ones. Mama used to be happier — of little things; of the mango tree in our compound; of little sunlight; of the stockfish Kiara buys; of DSTV’s African Magic Epic; of sister Chisom’s new job with the insurance company at Victoria Island; of her now favourite fabric which Uncle Pius sent to her through DHL in 2018; of her husband’s clipper, with the way it brings out his young clean-shaven look, a reminder of how promising their union was when they met; of the midnight birds which chirp tweet tweet tweet around our roofs leaving Mama to do nothing but walk to the front door, screaming behind the glass frame, ‘Blood of Jesus, Blood of Jesus, every evil spirit die by fire’. We used to be awakened by her screams.
She was finally having a good laugh; she hadn’t laughed as such in three weeks. Mama pressed her elbow into one of the armrests – of our brown patterned couch which were arranged to form an L shape – and then removed it. She later fingered her turban with one hand and placed the other on her lower jaw, Papa cradled his chargeable radio turning one of the knobs as he tuned to Ray Power 100.5 FM since power supply had been erratic. ‘Who knows if their own report will not be baseless but factual’ he said, looking suspiciously from the glass frames of his recommended eyeglass. Our centre table had a few old newspapers and Kiara’s copy of Chimamanda’s Half of a Yellow Sun opened and turned upside down revealing the already scarred cover pages. We heard her talking to herself two nights ago at the balcony. Was she mad? She had said that the present situation and the silence within our street gave her an apocalyptic feeling like the silence Olanna and Odenigbo felt within while the Biafrans were fighting the Nigerian soldiers. We didn’t understand the connection our quiet streets had with the story in Kiara’s copy of the novel, ‘Only Kiara knows whatever connection and spirits she is seeing from that novel, yuck! That girl is just too weird for my liking’. That was Khalistus talking; he wouldn’t understand Kiara’s weirdness — we all do not. Princess was just close to her 10th birthday, too little to understand either, she would smile at our rapid comments of Kiara and her alleged connection of how everything felt now with the scariness and trauma the characters felt in the Novel.
We stopped seeing planes fly over our heads, our quiet street was now filled with goats and even the one next to us, just before we get to the bus stop. The goats now have the freedom to explore the streets and sunbathe as little children throw stones at some of them. One headline reported: ‘Sanity for Humanity as Everyone is Forced Indoor’. Another, ‘The World Takes a Break from Fossil Fuel’. Asides the headlines which will leave us scampering around the house, like many others on blogs and social media pages, Kiara owns a WhatsApp group, with members, mild and wild in their responses and use of emojis. We were on the WhatsApp group too and used to break the news there: of new cases, of deaths, of isolation and quarantine experiences and even of false cases. Why would anyone pretend to have a virus that they don’t have?
While some of these reports will break your heart, some were meant to fix it inadvertently. But what was there to fix in an already scarred world? There was little less to be done, the world was a bomb waiting to be triggered off. Towards noon, 15th of April, 2020, the sky was lucid blue, clear of dust and dirt, homes silent, high-ways not ploughed, grocery stores empty, young boys turning the roads to football pitches, filling stations empty of attendants waiting to fight over your fuel tank and gallons, little kiosks scarce of consumables everyone was familiar with, families abroad video calling and screaming about different things:
‘People fighting here for tissue papers’,
‘NHS not doing well, their doctors are dying and we aren’t treated right, you know’,‘We are outta supplies’,
‘1200 dead in the last 24 hours, a child was buried’,
‘God! I swear the death tolls are increasing’.
But Uncle Pius had stopped video-calling a week ago, he wrote to us through Papa’s email, it was short, but few words over the character count of his email address email@example.com and like his temper — short, reclusive and unpredictable. But he was tender this time: the world was coming to an end he said. He wanted to add that some streets, particularly his deserted street in a town in Alabama was now occupied by local goats instead of locals, but he didn’t. We knew he was scared: of the silence of Mama, of everything, of home, of dying on a street of goats, unaware that Khalistus, his nephew was also shooing some goats away from eating from the dustbin outside our gate.
How does the story resonates with you? I would be happy reading your comments, and remember to subscribe to receive Kehinde Badiru’s writings. Cheers
Kehinde Badiru writes poetry, fiction and Non-Fiction. Paperback/s of his full-length Collection is forthcoming, and he is currently writing a debut Short Stories Collection. Kehinde lives in Lagos, Nigeria and freelances as a ghostwriter, editor and designer.
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