Mad Nigerians by Adaobi Rachel
He watched with annoying interest as their neighbor, a woman in her late seventies, shifted the clothes he had spread on the wire all in the name of spreading her own.
Did she think he will let her just because she was elderly?
He wiped his mouth after brushing properly and quietly walked up to her, his cup and toothbrush in hand.
“Mama it’s not right na. You know the clothes are still wet and you still went ahead to shift it. Ko da now. Ejoor. Let me my clothes dry first before you spread your own.”
She hissed but he didn’t mind. He removed her clothes and handed them to her, as he placed his clothes back in position.
“Children of nowadays.”
“Mama, it’s not about respect anymore, those days are gone.”
She hissed again and carried her bucket of clothes. She was about to leave when a car pulled into the compound. Tolani rushed out waving to her brother. They exchanged pleasantries for a while and she announced her leave.
“I am taking him to the mechanic,” she said as she was about to enter the car. The driver reversed and pulled out of sight. He watched the car until it was out of sight.
He was about to get indoors when he heard her upsetting remarks.
“Your sister is now doing ashawo. I am not surprised. Look at the way she is even dressed. Breast open everywhere, radarada.”
“Is it your concern eh, mama? No be ashawo you do before you land here? If e no pay you, e fit pay another person,” he retorted.
He was angry. First his clothes, now, this rubbish statement. Women will never mind their business. He jammed the door behind him.
Her dad held onto the collar of another young man probably in his late twenties.
“Give me my money! Wo! Wari! You want to chop double portion abi? Useless man!”
The young man was sweating. They both were sweating. He was trying to plea as she got out of the car.
“What is the problem, Daddy?”
He seemed not to notice her presence. At this point, the young man was angry too.
“What is it sef? If you don’t leave me, I won’t leave you too.”
He held onto her dad’s workshop overall with force that it tore. Her father became more furious.
“You have torn my coat abi?”
He threw the first punch. She went ahead to act as the middle man but it was a big mistake as a punch landed on her face as well.
“Ah!” She screamed.
It was very painful. She looked around and found a stick lying at a close distance. She left the both and went ahead to pick it up, it was a long big stick. They were still tearing at each other’s throat.
“Stop it! Both of you!”
She hit the long stick on an abandoned vehicle. It made a sharp sound which was loud enough to draw the attention of both men. They released each other.
“Tolani, what are you doing here?”
“What are you doing yourself?”
She was very angry. At that rate, she was ready to break anybody’s head.
“Please, my dear, drop that stick.”
The young man hung his shoulder blades up and was about to leave.
“I go break your head if you move one step,” Tolani barked at him. She sensed his fear because he stopped in his tracks immediately.
“Now explain to me why the both of you wanted to kill yourselves.”
“Na your papa o.” The young man was the first to talk, eager to leave.
“Idiot! Keep quiet there. Greedy man,” her dad retorted as he drew closer.
“I sent this fool to buy me screw. Ordinary screw, that the price is two hundred naira pere. He came back and told me its four hundred naira. I said okay. Go and buy it. Do you know this fool came back and told me another story? He said he lost the five hundred naira,” he explained as he displayed his five fingers in the air.
“Can you imagine? No screw. This, this, this fool,” he stammered as he pointed his index finger at the man and was moving on him like a lion on his prey.
“It’s okay, Daddy! Let it be.”
Her dad kept calm.
“I will pay for it,” the guy that drove her offered. He had been in his car watching all along.
She turned to him, pointing the long stick at him, “And you, this is the time you deemed it fit to leave your throne. All of you are mad! You are just mad! Kill yourself! Kill yourself!”
She couldn’t take it anymore. She walked out on them, throwing the stick away, blindly, not minding if it hit anyone. They disgusted her.
She walked briskly, her facial expression like that of an angry defeated woman. She entered the bungalow, going through the passage, the only entrance, apart from the backyard door that led into the house. She stopped at the second door by her right and entered.
This was her home, a two-bedroom in a typical face me I face you or face me I slap you house that mostly occupied the rural part of Lagos. Her brother Jide was reading a century old newspaper. He didn’t move an inch when she sat down, nor when she kicked her cheap heels off her sore legs.
She sat on the wooden foamed couch that made creaky sounds as her weight balanced on it. It was facing the box television that was rarely used. The box television stood on a simple wooden stool. The rectangular brown center table stood bare.
“Can you imagine that today was just wasted,” she said to him, wanting him to talk.
She needed him to say something. She directed her frustrations at him. Jide looked at her through the corner of his eyes.
Dropping the newspaper on his laps, he sat upright. He wasn’t very concerned about any of her daily naggings or unfruitful topics. He was just fulfilling all righteousness to listen to her, because after the tales ended, he will never be able to recall it.
“Can you imagine the manager of that God forsaken company, telling me in my face that I’m too poor to work for them, mental and physical? Very shameless man, he will tell me he was never poor in his life. Please do I look poor? After all this my packaging?”
He didn’t need to answer, she will continue talking anyways.
“Tell me, shey poverty is written on my forehead ni? Were man. I know what he wants. He wants to sleep with me. But am too big for him,” she boasted as she placed a hand under her jaw.
“To worsen the matter, on my way home, the conductor refused to give me my change. He said he told me that my fare was one hundred and fifty naira. I am sure that I heard hundred naira. Money that I could have used to buy epa and garri with sugar for dinner. My stomach is so empty. Nonsense man,” she hissed.
She stood up and entered the second room, their only bedroom that also served as a store. Jide laid his head back on the long wooden arm chair, skipping through the newspaper again. Women. He smiled.
Tolani was fed up with everything, the bad energy surrounding her was getting unbearable. She wanted to hide or run far away to a better place that offered better life. She scanned the narrow room they have slept in for decades. Maybe even before she was born, her parents lived here.
It was filled with old musty overstuffed boxes. Clothes piled up in a very old wooden hanger. If you peeped under the bed, all sort of dusty items lay for you to behold. She was sure it was a permanent home for those rats that ran to and fro in the night.
The worst was the old wooden cabinet where they stored kitchen utensils and others. Plates, spoons, foodstuff, pile of news- papers, toothbrush, hairbrush and any other thing you can think of. Even repeated cleaning will never bring back its past glory. It was too old, scratched, peeled and weak in the legs. It begged to be replaced.
The ceiling was haven for black cobwebs, spiders spurn their web indiscriminately. The room was beginning to have a kind of smell that reeked of damp and sweat.
She removed her jacket which she bought on credit, hanging them up in silence, she remembered she offered to pay after getting the job.
She sat on the bed staring at the cemented walls, it was never painted, brown from dirt and old age she wondered if that was how she will look like if she got old living in dirt.
That night, she woke up to the buzzing sound of mosquitoes. It was bad enough that the mattress she and her brother shared was too flat for comfort. Now she had to deal with mosquitoes. They sang unpleasant songs that got her to her feet to pick a broom hoping to kill them off as soon as possible. She began to hit blindly. The low lit lantern illuminated her skinny shadows as if she was a witch with a broomstick.
Her parents who occupied the main bed, woke up as she hit yet another mosquito close to the only window that ventilated the room.
“Tolani, you have started again.”
She dropped the broom, waiting for the insult her mother will raise on her.
“Kini gbogbo rubbish yi now. Why are you always restless?”
Her father sat up too.
“You just like to disturb everybody with your disturbance.”
“But daddy, it’s because nobody is allowed to sleep in the sitting room, if not, I would have gone there to sleep.”
“That place is for visitors, I have told you before, those chairs are too tender.”
Her mother ignored the conversation she was having with her dad.
“The neighbors will hear us and they will know that mosquito is biting us in this house. Why do you want to put shame on my head eh? Why?”
“You too, be quiet. Small thing, you will start shouting.”
“Why will I be quiet?” she countered.
“You see what you have caused?” he directed his question at her.
She looked away, her gaze rested on her brother who pretended to be fast asleep.
“If you have money to move us out of here, will she be killing mosquitoes?”
She was tired. She went ahead and laid back on her matrass.
“Don’t start o. I’m warning you Iya Tunji. I am the man of this house, I will not accept any form of disrespect.”
“Oh! look at who is talking about respect. Bring money if you want respect.”
“Even me, am tired, am running mad in this house, mummy, this is not house now,” Tolani chipped in hoping to buttress her point.
“Shut up!” the duo thundered at her. Her father stretched his hand and slapped her on the head.
She heard her brother muffling the laughter that threatened to escape his throat. She kicked him hard on the leg. He opened his eyes, obviously very angry.
“Ah ahn what was that for?”
“So you have been awake,” she hissed. He dare not touch her.
“Is there anything we do that ever needed his presence?” her mom asked hissing.
Her mother later threw a wrapper at her which she used to cover herself up. The room was peaceful again and everyone slept off.
Other short stories by Adaobi Rachel