Fiction

Just Another Face #Short #Fiction

“Miss Bright?”
“Pim!”

The old cab pulls over. Surprised, I am, to find that I am the only passenger at 7.50 pm. Unless I am in a different time zone, on weekends in Molyko, the day starts at 9 pm.

Eta Palace
Apart from the customary hum and occasional gear change, the vehicle moves silently. I love silence. I don’t bother looking for an identification document. I barely see inside the vehicle, why remind myself of my already incompetent visibility in low light conditions?
He is old. 50 at least. His gaze never leaves the road. Mine, the sidewalk. The silence eats our thoughts. The necessity of quiet is usually underrated.

Total

A bevy bunches up at the entrance to Dirty South, the street just after the Total gas station. The rainbow striped crew clearly has a Sunday evening outing. The kind that usually culminates in : a refurbished sense of moral decadence, lowered standards of truth and a renewed archive of dirty little secrets. He doesn’t stop when the couple points in my direction.

Mile 17
I reach for change. 200Frs. On evenings when I am particularly excited, I argue the fare with, tease and try to get the best of cab drivers.
Today, I just want to go home.

Kawah
I hate it that I don’t see properly in the evening. Just like Dad. This makes me grateful every time I get into a cab.
A bittersweet reminder of the diversity and complementarity of all humans.

Miss Bright
“Miss Bright?”
“Yes.”

Coins clink. I step out. Will he give my 50 frs?
I watch him hesitate for a split second- wishful thinking that I would start moving into the street without taking my 50frs. He catches my gaze, smiles in the dark and stretches his arm.

“Thank you”.

He knows he lost the battle when he flinched. I know he is not in that taxi because he admired cab drivers as a child.
We both know he doesn’t deserve the extra 50frs.

Miss Bright Junction
It’s six past eight. The street light reflects on my glasses and blinds me for a moment. The bar squeezes the peace out of my ears. As the bikes beckon, asking if I would ride them into the pitiful excuse of a tarred road, I wonder whose father he was. Whether he had made the day’s quota and whether he was strong enough to carry on such a grueling profession.
The thought didn’t stop me from arguing with the young man dispensing pawpaws. I wondered if in another life, he would be retired and reaping the fruits of a well invested youth.
I wondered if he would remember me. The nonchalant, lenses borne quasi-blind dude.
Did I look like one of these Pawpaw fruits? Identical except with slight curves, color and fruity attitude?

“How much?”

Would he remember our moment?
“Cent ngoma for this small thing massa? Noo. Take piece.”

Did he consciously ignore the couple or was he just pleased that he had a passenger who didn’t want to be bothered as well.

“Thank you boh”.

Maybe. Maybe not.
In the end, like my pawpaw buddy, I would be just another face.

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A Valentine Chuckle- Scene One

The following scene takes place in less than 5 minutes.

Her chuckle did it for me. Like a snort but with a little whistle from her mouth. The loveliest sound in the milky way.
She was with a dude. Stylish. Well dressed. With those silly looking hairstyles young men wore these days. “Crepe”- they called it. He made her chuckle.
I’d never met them in my life, but I knew the reason I choked on my spit was very different from the hunger that brought my sister and me to ‘Kuchina Restaurant’ that afternoon. What the hell was Sandra asking at this time again?

 

I saw him look in my direction. Our eyes didn’t meet but I knew what had attracted him to our angle. Mama always said I laughed like a pig and Greg here, with the silly Crepe-thingy ,just loved making me laugh so he, in turn, could laugh at me. I loved his style. He was contemporary. But not my type.
“The Onlooker” on the other hand, was dressed simply. White shirt and jeans. Tucked in. A little too old fashioned for his age. He could be about…twenty something. At most 30.
Funny how he choked. I hope he doesn’t think I’m with…oh. No. He does. I need to do something. He’s with a lady but the resemblance is too keen. That must be his sister. Or is she?

 

My brother hardly comes to Buea. When he does, I get the chance to steal some quality time so he can tell me all about his new life. What better place than his favourite restaurant.
Ugh. That girl has a funny laugh. Like a pig. In a restaurant? Ew. That’s just gross. Why is Martin looking at her like that? Does he know her?
“ Do you know that girl?”
He chokes. Martin? Choking. Ok. Something is up. And isn’t about the spices in the air. We need to sit as far away frm that table as possible. Or…wait…no way…he’s actually taking us closer…he means for us to get closer to…them?
That other guy is kinda cute though.

 

Taking a beautiful girl out is the best thing that can happen to you in Buea on the 14th of February. Even if it is not you chick (like Piggy Cynthia here) you can just act as though she is. It’s the points that matter right? Massa…man na fine man… The sad thing is that I have already been friendzone by her massa…and the fact that she’s with me means she doesn’t even have a boyfriend for now.
Wait…her laughter has changed. Ever since that white shirt dude entered, her laugh is louder. It’s as though she’s now laughing on purpose.
Could it be that she is…

Liquid Demons #ShortFiction

She wept.
My shoulder drenched.
The mucus coagulating.
Slowly. Freely.

Like an exorcist I patted.
Granting the demons freedom.
Her shoulders buoyant with fury.
Boiling. Truly.

My sister who never cried.
The one who scorned weakness.
Turned to me, me…the family weakling.
What could this mean?

At that instant, it meant everything.
That her heart was as weak as mine.
That our souls were threaded by more than blood.
The currency of pretense, dismissed.
And respect, born.

She sobbed for minutes.
Hours. It didn’t matter.
I didn’t care.
We didn’t bother.

She cursed and hit me.
She let the demons on me.
“Thank you for trusting me”, my heart screamed.
Thank you for letting me.

Mother questioned the strange noises.
The guttural muffling.
My lie made no sense.
My honor depended on it.

Mother couldn’t bring my door down.
Martha stopped hitting.
My shirt was torn in many places.
But on her heart…worse bruises.

She rose from my arms.
Towered. Regal.
The demons…gone.
Or so I thought.

“This time, I’m done. Come, let’s pay that idiot a visit.

“I guess na ma own cross this today”

Sunday morning. After yesterday’s rain, wet plants and muddy tire trails map the general direction to the Community Catholic Anglophone Parish. The Mass started half an hour ago.

17  year old Susan is reading from today’s scripture. She is nervous. Her blue gown slightly tout at the front. Her high pitch voice dangles through mispronunciations and the struggle to maintain a less than confused tenure. In front of her are 200 or so eager Christians.

She has done this before. She is getting better at this, she thinks.

Sitting and gawking are other community members. As well as her best friend from high school. Her mother and her siblings too. James, the young man she secretly admires, is somewhere in that crowd.

The phonetics of certain words elude her. She wished she’d practiced them more yesterday during the rehearsals. Unfortunately, her Mom needed her to return early.

“Anyway, I will do what I can. I am here already and everyone is watching. No going back dear”

Susan rushes through the text as best as she can. She is very relieved when she reaches the last words.

“Thanks be to God”, she mutters as she leaves the pulpit.

Father Kevin, leads shortly with the Gospel. Visibly impatient. A usual solemn gaze is plastered across the altar. His youthful voice stretches the speakers, ever so close to their exploding point.

Ears are relieved with his chant ends:
“This iiis the Gospeeel of theee Looooord!”

The crowd responds in Christian unison. More grateful to be able to sit than for the Holy words they just heard.
The benches squeal from the weight of malnutrition. Body odors merge and private spaces amalgamate. Only the knowledge that the Mass will soon be over keeps the high school students from outright rebelling and staying outside.

A few have that courage- idle till the Mass is done. Then, come in as soon as the final blessing is about to be bestowed.

Parents call it teenage angst. The kids know it as independence.

The less courageous ones, like Susan, wield holier than thou looks. They offer mental sacrifices for their cramps to subside and for the lady with the colorfully embroidered 30 centimeter high head scarf to fall asleep so that they, too, can see Father speak.

Like Susan, the only reason they came was because their mothers had promised hell on earth (or rather lack of food and degrading verbal insults) if they’d not completed their chores that morning to join everyone in the family wagon.

Father Kevin is about to start his sermon. It is very difficult to follow from the static blaring loudspeaker, especially when your ‘neighbor’ had to come to Mass early without fulfilling toillette etiquette AND insists on reading the Sunday Newsletter just above a whisper. He could just spare you the knowledge of his morning meal and read in his head, you think, then you remember you’re in God’s house.

“I guess na ma own cross this today”.

“Er…Suzy…before I start, I think I need to find out from you…do you have a dictionary? Because…”

When Father mentioned Suzy’s name, she had smiled. Thinking that he was about to congratulate her on her eloquence. That, maybe, James would pay attention to her name and that her mom would be proud of her and let her watch Secret Story later on TF1. She had made a couple of mistakes. But granted:

“At least I tried nah”, she thought to herself.

She felt the word “dictionary” was odd in that speech. Especially if it had to be in her favour. Something was off. Very so. Then Father’s words hit her full on the forehead.

“It’s “Exalted” not “Exhausted” eh, make sure you use your dictionary well, you should not make this kind of errors in Church. “Exalted” means…”

Susan knew what the words meant. She recalled the exact moment when she faltered. But, at that particular instant, as Father turned to look in her direction from his language pulpit, she also remembered that the whole congregation was listening and everyone was paying close attention to Father.
She could feel the pull of gravity receding and the eyes, laser beams, soaking up Father’s glorious wisdom and heavenly English prowess.

Throughout Mass, she responded and moved mechanically. Her head seemed heavier than usual.
“There seems to be more people in church today”, she thought.

Whenever someone smiled, she imagined them saying:
“Hum. Show Show tin. She can’t even pronounce common Exalted. Tsuiiiip #disgrace”.

Her head felt like a log. The kind she carried back in boarding school during Works on Thursday afternoons. Balancing on her shoulders was a task she now had to perform consciously. She mutters to herself regularly now. That was the only voice she could trust.

“I guess na my own cross this today”.

After mass, Susan smiles and greets her Mom’s colleagues. The perfunctory smile and rehearsed responses.

Her best friend shows up:
“You read well oh. You made a few mistakes too. But you read well. Like when you said…”

Susan hopes Becky would realize that she is not paying attention. That she would just kindly move away. Because her plastic smile could soon melt. Becky never did. She always yapped that way anyway. Even in school.

No wonder she was always working punishment.

And Susan kept her act. After all, it was the Rainy Season and the sun wasn’t going to be out anytime soon. The Mass was over and James was nowhere to be found. He’d probably been idling around the Church premise anyway. Or maybe he didn’t come today.

She uttered a silent prayer.

____________________________________________________
On the ride back, the nimbi gathered like a painting mocked up in haste. Her mother in her morose self didn’t say much about Susan’s performance. She vaguely cautioned her daughter.

“Do better next time, y’hear?”

As soon as they got home, the drops started. Slow, steady and drowning in quick succession. Susan rushed to take the clothes off the line,away from the impeding Bafoussam-like deluge. She seized a bundle of clothes from her elder brother and told him she’d take them in. ‘Thanks sis’, he said and smiled.

“So, that’s what a real smile looks like.”
____________________________________________________
She turned on the lights, poured the clothes on her bed and sat down. The tempo increased on the roof. She took off her shoes. Laid back. Letting her legs dangle for a while. The clothes cushioned around her. Embalming her wet blue gown.

She shut her eyes.

She didn’t hear her mom calling to tell her to unplug the fridge. That the thunder and lightning could damage the device.
She didn’t notice ENEO exhibiting its electrical display of force.

She thought of the rain. The lack of sunlight., of James, of Becky’s yapping and all the eyes in church. And of Father.

She cast away her plastic smile and took a deep breath. The smell of OMO and cheap hair oil. Father’s speech played like a ‘Sergio et Marimar‘ episode in her mind.

She plastered her hands to her face. She could no longer feel the fake, sticky plastic. The room, dark. Loud, lonely and dark.

With no one to watch and no eye to fake, she let the tremors take over and the liquid heat drown out.

300 word Fiction: “The Dartanian reminisces”

(c) Flickr user: Sweetie187

(c) Flickr user: Sweetie187

I pretend I am human. I learnt to smile a few centuries ago. After I was forced to learn Arabic and Chinese,that is.  It is not very difficult, you see. What irks me during the process is the voice in my head that knows how much my face hurts to twist. But the pain is okay. I prefer  it to the barrage my alien earthmates spew daily.

” Are you okay?” ” You look sad?” ” Is everything alright?” ” What is wrong with your eyes?”

Nothing is wrong with my eyes, you see. Where I come from, it is a privilege to have eyes facing in different directions.
In fact, it might just be the only thing that saves your life.
Dartan is brown. Mostly. The lone sea, the plants, even the ghosts are brown. The blue sun on the other hand…I have no idea why Maester made it that way.

Then again, She rules all.

On Dartan, it rains for years. Some children are born and die without seeing the sun. I was born lucky. My father is a recharger. His job allows him enough bluon ( the blue energy from our Sun. They are still trying to use it around here. They call it’Green energy‘. Hm. Humans.) to feed the thirty of us. My mothers never bother about the sun. They have seen many. 210 each.

I wonder what they are doing now…

I have been stuck here for so long. My eyes have grown accustomed gazing in the same direction. Even the animals no longer argue with me.
Maybe I will settle here. Since I cannot die( yet) and I cannot return to my world, I might as well fit in.
Or maybe I will try to steal their stupid yellow sun again.