2009 Caine winner E.C. Osondu's new story is in Atlantic Fiction 2010, and reminds me of old favourites by this writer, like his Caine shortlisted 'Jimmy Carter's Eyes'. The story this time is titled 'A Simple Case'.
It was simple enough. Paito is waiting for his prostitute girlfriend, Sweet, to service a punter when the police raids the Jolly Hotel. He finds himself in a police station and ultimately in the dreaded Area F. Interestingly enough, I had occasion to pay a couple of visits to a real Area F police post in Ikeja last year (not to worry, there was nothing 'Jolly' about my reason for going there); and I pass by Alade Market off Allen Avenue all the time. Osondu's character, Paito, is a second hand trader at Alade Market, so the landscape of this story's not so alien to the average Lagos dweller, though not everyone gets roped into trumped up allegations of robbery, as happens in this very believable story of suffering, which still allows the reader lots of smiles. Paito ends up in an Area F cell, a Jungle Republic presided over by Presido. Paito must sweet talk his way out of this sticky situation, in a story that reads nicely to its 'Jolly' end.
The man who had spoken to Paiko was the first to speak. He cleared his throat and launched forth boastfully.
“My name is Robert, but I am popularly known as Bob Risky. In the daytime, I am a motor-park tout at Iddo, but at night I am a robber. I have been robbing and killing since I was expelled from Mushin Grammar School in form two, for smoking and selling marijuana. No operation is too risky for me to undertake. That is how I earned my nickname, Risky. I have been detained in almost all the police stations in Lagos, including Isokoko, Panti, Alagbon, Bar-Beach, and even the old station on Malu Road. I was drinking in my girlfriend’s beer parlor when the police raided the place and arrested me. They found a locally made pistol in my pocket and some wraps of marijuana. When they are tired, they will release me. I have no other profession than armed robbery, and, as we say, once a robber, always a robber.” Bob Risky finished his introduction, to loud applause. Even the Presido appeared to be impressed.
- Read A Simple Case
In Unoma Azuah's story, Sirens, Kaito is a new arrival in the US. From the airport he begins he search for the only two people he knows in America, two 'brothers' from his village who preceded him in the search for the American dream. During his search he encounters two women who know the men, the 'sirens' of the story.
Excerpt Kaito sat in the well-furnished lobby. A movie was playing on the giant screen TV, but he was uninterested. What if Kamalu never turned up? He thought. A few minutes later, the lady at the desk joined him with an extra cup of coffee. Her red lip stick was smeared at the edge of the white mug. Her face powder didn’t quite hide the light wrinkles on her face.
“What’s your name again?”
“My name is Kaito.”
“No, thank you.”
“It might help calm your traveling nerves.”
“You are right, thank you. What is your name?”
“So you believe that Kamalu is out of town?”
“Well, I haven’t seen him in quite a few days. Are you related to him?”
“He’s my brother….from my village.”
“He didn’t know that you were coming to visit?”
“I sent him an e-mail and left messages on his phone, and while I hadn’t heard from him, I purchased a ticket anyway because my travel visa had kicked in.”
Beth’s eyes settled on his muscles. “You look quite fit. Are you an athlete?”
“You and Kamalu are from where again?”
“And the name of your village?”
“My village is called Iwu. I’ll show you pictures.” Kaito retrieved some pictures from his bag.
“The lake in the photo of you fishing is beautiful.”
They spent some time going over the pictures until a little after midnight. Beth’s shift had ended, but there was no sign of Kamalu. She sat with Kaito while he waited.
- Read Sirens