ORANGES – short story
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December 6, 2018 at 12:04 am #1276521
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Coo koo roooo koo! The c---s crowed and woke Ireti up. She stretched her arms, yawned, put on her slippers. It was the end of December and Adekunle Village was crawling with more animals than usual. The one or two goats that pranced around the narrow roads and made angry drivers even angrier now multiplied and trekked among the throng of people who came from Adeniyi Jones to buy pirated CDs and warm agege bread. The whole area smelled of animal excreta but occasionally, she would catch a whiff of frying eat and be comforted by the knowledge that soon they would all be ingredients to delicious soup. Until then, she had to persevere with the hens littered around her compound who cackled into the night. Her neighbors really loved their chicken.
She almost kicked one of these birds on her way outside. The tap made a screechy noise when she turned it. Why did she even bother? The last time there was a trickle was 2006. Yet, everyday, she went to the tap, sometimes even barefoot. Someday, she believed, water would rush from the tap. It would add some form of excitement to her monotonous life. She left to find the waterman.
“Six 25-litres por two-hundred and pipty naira,” he declared with his Hausa accent.
“Ah! Mallam, it was two-hundred when I bought it yesterday now. It was your brother I
bought it from self.”
“Na true. I no go give you that fifty naira. If you no wan’ give me water, na your own problem.”
“Sister now, take it easy. Oya I go bring the water, you can give me the two-hundred.” He walked in the direction of her house pushing his cart of ten kegs. She followed.
When the waterman had finished transferring six of the ten kegs of water into their drum – the only black one in the backyard among her neighbors’ blue ones, she gave him his money and he left. Then, she filled three buckets of water, poured Omo detergent into the big one, and sat down on a broken stool to wash her clothes. After washing for about fifteen minutes, her hands started “paining” her because she had been doing people’s hair for ten hours the day before. When she is a big woman, she will never wash her own clothes. She will have a washerman. No, in fact, she’ll buy a washing machine! And a dryer!
Her friend Sade had a washing machine in her house but no dryer, so they still had to spread their clothes outside. She finished washing and rinsing, then went to gather pegs from around the house: they could never stay in one place. Her neighbours were always stealing their purple pegs from the line as if her mother used their money to buy them. Idiots. She took some of their own pegs and spread her clothes.
“Ire! I hope you have finished washing. Please go to the market and buy pepper. You are making stew this afternoon.” The people across the street from their own shop sell pepper but her mother says it is not as fresh as the one in the market.
“Are we not going to church?”
“I am going to the church to prepare for watchnight service and I know I will be hungry when I come back so I need you to buy our foodstuffs. Ah! I almost forgot, please also go to the butcher and buy some shaki. We should celebrate the New Year.” Whenever it rains in Lagos, it rains. On her way back from the market, as she was about to enter a bus, it just started – no warning. The bus conductor quickly entered and shut the door, leaving her stranded. She could not take an okada, because of all her load. All the clothes she had spread on the line that morning would have fallen on the ground (the pegs were three years old) and been soiled by the mud. She would have to wash every single one of them all over again. That, and the fact that she was carrying several nylon bags full of peppers, tomatoes, onions and water leaves which seemed like they would burst at any time, almost drove her to tears. She carried them jejely, holding them to her chest like they were babies. If they fell, there would be no saving …
The bag of tomatoes fell. A car sped by as she was trying to pick the dirty tomatoes off the floor, crushing about half of them and splashing rain water all over her. She picked up the other half and kept walking, crying, sniffling, unable to wipe her nose. How was she going to make stew without tomatoes? Her back was paining her. She just wanted to sleep. She could have been having some nice sleep with this breeze. A car stopped by her and interrupted her thoughts.
“Do you need help?” It was a Hummer. If it had been a Volvo or a Peugeot, she would have kept walking. She thought it might be a big man, but big men don’t drive their own cars. She saw that he wore an Aba-made Polo shirt. The horse took up most of the shirt and it somehow appeared to be smiling. He was just a driver.
“No, thank you.”
“I’m not going to leave you here in the rain. I can see you’re crying. Where are you going?”
“I’m going to Oba Akran, so you’re on my way. Please enter.” If he tried to kidnap her, she would kick him where it hurt. She had done it before. Chin chin still reminded her of it during their monthly midnight call.
“Okay. Thank you sa”
“Do I look like a sa?”
“Thank you sa.” she said again as she got down from the car at the junction between
Adekunle and the main street.
She used the small change she had left to buy tomatoes from the people on her street. The stew was a little pepperish but her mother, an Ekiti indigene who lived for spicy food and could not be offended where pounded yam was involved, only sang her praises. There was no mention of the driver and his oga’s Hummer Jeep.
So when he came back on January 2nd and asked for “one derika of rice,” her mother did not understand why Ireti acted like an omugo. She decided that it must be because only a mad person buys one tin of rice. It would last at most two days. He came back again on the fourth, and asked for another derika and she decided that yes, he was mad. When he came again on the sixth, the mother was not around.
“I don’t need rice. I came to see you.”
“I want to talk to you now”
“But sa, we are talking here now, and you’re not saying anything.”
He smiled. Nothing aroused him quite like an insolent woman. “Can you at least tell me your name?”
“Your real name.”
“My mummy said I should not talk to strangers.” Ireti made herself laugh. She should be a comedian. Yes, she would be a comedian. No, a Nollywood actress, like Funke Akindele. She was funny.
“I’ve talked to you four times. I’m not a stranger.” He was enjoying this.
She saw, afar off, Mummy Tolu with her daughter walking in her direction. “Mister, my customers are here. Come back tomorrow.”
“Please, just your name”
“Ireti. My name is Ireti.”
“A beautiful name for a beautiful girl. I’m Ayoola – Ayo for short.” He smiled, exposing his gap tooth.
As she closed the wooden windows of her shop, she thought of Ayoola. As she sat down in the backyard to plait suku onididi in Tolu’s hair, she thought of Ayo. Later, when she knelt down to greet her mother “E k’aabo ma”, she thought of A-Y, her new friend. She was always giving people nicknames. From what she could tell, he was no different from the boys who liked her in secondary school. There was Chinedu who bought her chin chin everyday after school, Bayo – the booli and groundnut one, Teju – the Tampico one. They all liked her because her school skirt was tight and she was fair in complexion. Some men liked orobo, and some men liked lepa, but she was not fat and she was not thin, so everybody liked her. She had front and back. During the time of chin chin and Tampico, she liked shaking her bum bum when she walked down the streets of Ikeja; it made her feel like those UNILAG girls she always saw walking around with their high heels and red lipstick. They were her role models (after Rihanna). But she learned quickly that she could not gyrate in peace. Each time she walked home from school, or went to the market, men would yell at her:
“Sweet baby. Can I have your number?”;
“Why won’t you answer me? Am I ugly?” They were ugly.
“Ogh! She is now squeezing face like she wants to s--t. Abeg go jor!”;
“Go and wear cloth! Walking around in mini skirt as if you don’t have home training.”
Even when she wore long baggy skirts and squeezed her buttocks to make sure they didn’t move, they still disturbed her. These touts hollered at everything. They were the ones with no home training. Ireti longed for the day she would go to university, and be around educated boys, who didn’t bark at girls. There were a lot of tears the day she received her JAMB score: she hadn’t made the cut-off for UNILAG. In fact, she didn’t make the cut off for anything, not even Yaba Tech. Sade’s parents had bribed the vice chancellor. Her mother did not have any money. Her mother was a virtuous woman. Ire would stay at home, help with the shop, and write JAMB again the following year. She would stop going to Sade’s house to watch that devilish woman on MTV Base and Channel O. She still went. A-Y came again the following day. There were no customers. when she entered his oga’s Hummer again, her ears were assaulted with highlife music. Her companion, on entering the driver’s seat, became animated and started singing along, drumming on the steering wheel, and performing all the inflections during solo instrumentals. His voice could do anything. He sang, she listened. They got to Tastee Fried Chicken, where they became acquainted over a hearty meal of jollof rice, dodo, moi moi, and of course, chicken. Ayoola
loved highlife music: he wanted to be the Ayefele of his generation. He “respected D’Banj and co’s hustle” but he didn’t consider their combination of dancehall and hip hop, African. Asa, he loved though, her Yoruba Jazz was excellent. Ire sometimes danced to Ayefele but had no idea who Asa was. She loved D’Banj. They laughed, munching on meat pie and gulping spoonfuls of strawberry ice cream. If he was a musician, why was he a driver? He didn’t have the resources to record, and they both knew that musicians didn’t make any money in Nigeria. He had made a cassette, back in 2009. Did she want to listen to it? Yes! It had the same effect on her as Rihanna’s “Diamonds”, the first she heard it. He loved driving though. And his oga was a nice man. He let him use the Jeep to go out for lunch. Is that how he could come to her shop? Haha Yes. How did he find her self? He got to Adekunle and asked for a girl who “walked like she was the Oba of Lagos’ newest wife”; they knew who he meant instantly. She blushed. They were already in front of her house. “My mother is going to Redeemed Camp on Friday.”
“God is good. I’ll bring my talking drum.”
She had never met anyone like A-Y. He wasn’t rich but he had culture. She definitely didn’t have culture. She hated going to the village and listening to her grandmother’s stories. Grandma had called her one day, when she was twelve years old. She was holding a peeled orange. Look at this orange, she said, how succulent and promising it is. Then she bit into it and devoured the fruit. There was hardly anything left over, how succulent is the orange now? It is not succulent at all mama. You are right, my child. And this is what happens to women who sleep around. They become dry and used up. So, my dear, zip up!
Ireti was really confused that day. She thought oranges were meant to be eaten. The orange parable hung over her head now, as she lay on her sheetless mattress in the dark. The power authorities had just “taken light”. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she thought of the only thing she remembered from Biology – her radial and circular muscles doing their jobs to protect her iris. She had been paying attention the day Mrs. Ogunlowo taught about the eye: she was vexed with her friends. Usually, they all sat together at the back of the old run-down lab. Mrs. Ogunlowo spent at least five minutes every class haranguing them. Would they all keep quiet? Stop playing with the taps! And stop chewing gum! In fact, they should all separate. And not sit together again! They never listened. That day though, she sat in front and the table at the back was unusually quiet. Her friends – Osose, Uche, and Sade – were all looking at her with “who does she think she is” eyes. Occasionally, she would look back at them wistfully, then immediately turn to face the chalkboard. No wonder her neck was stiff that week. Soon after, Sade would whisper
something and the rest of them would burst out laughing, hitting the rotting wooden table for effect. So she forced herself to frown, remembering why she was angry with them. Osose had told Chinedu (she hadn’t crowned him ‘chin chin’ then) her bra size and he teased her about it: “You’re a 34D? I didn’t know you were that big! I thought you would be like a B or a C.” When she reported that she was upset, Sade remarked that she was always “forming ‘mysterious babe’” What was the big deal? What was the big deal, she thought as Mrs. Ogunlowo explained the aqueous humour. Still, she couldn’t give in, she was too stubborn to show that she was no longer upset by the comment. She faced her teacher and learned about the eye. The following day though, Chinedu told her he liked her and she had to tell them!
Currently, Ireti could make out the silhouettes of houses outside her bedroom window. She heard generators going on, dogs barking, people talking. The hairs on her mattress cover were becoming prickly, and the mosquitoes buzzed, nearer and nearer to her until she saw one crawl up her thighs. Slap! This drove her into an itching fit, and she fell asleep as such: crying, and kicking out her legs like she were possessed by demons. The first and only previous occurrence of the itching fit, resulted in some madness. Ireti was adventurous but tried to tame that side of her because adventures always came with consequences. The day after this first itching fit, she had gotten in a physical fight smack in the middle of the market. The girl was a thin housegirl, and had bumped into her intentionally, causing her beef to fall on the floor. Ireti was mad, and was anxious to be in a physical fight (having never been in one before), so she slapped the girl. The
repercussions were brutal. The skinny one could fight! Their fight had all the wrapper opening, hair pulling and screaming insults that made up marketplace fights. An onlooker was affected though, and decided to call the police. They arrested both women. The skinny one’s oga bribed the policemen to free her, but Ireti rotted in jail for two days and a night. At home, her mother chased her for thirty minutes with koboko and finally, catching up, gave her thirty strokes. She “ooshed!” and “ahhed!”, jumped and screamed, but her mother was relentless. She could not have anyone spoiling her name. She was Iya Ireti, the hairdresser!
Ire had ignored her thirst for adventure since then. But now, with this musician-driver who could play the talking drum, it was starting to gnaw at her again. She woke up with red eyes and four large mosquito bites. Consequences and oranges be damned, she was ready to be thrilled. And thrilled she was. Her mother left for camp with instructions for the shop and a quick hug. Ayo showed up an hour later. They started the weekend with a visit to the buka. He let himself dance to D’Banj and she tried Gulder for the first time. No wonder these men loved it so much. The ofada rice was delicious. So was the goat meat and egusi. These bricklayers and truck drivers ate like kings. Everyone was sweating, dancing, and laughing. The night ended though, and they had to retire. What’s your traditional name? He asked as they walked back to her house. Ireti now, she answered. No, no, I mean your oriki. Your praise name. Oh, oh. Ajoke. Ah, ah. Ajoke, Ajoke, just like water, she has no enemies. He recited her entire oriki, with a tap, tap, tap on the talking drum after each line. Tap, tap, tap, she kissed him. They ate one another’s mouths, and the night wrapped her arms around them.
She decided then that she wanted to experience for herself what Rihanna was always
“Take me to your house.” He was pleasantly surprised. He had a small flat, off Oba Akran. A bedroom and a kitchen, but it was clean and comfortable. He was proud of it. She was impressed.
“I want you to take me.”
He guffawed. “If I jam you, you go know say Jesus Christ is Lord.”
“I’m not joking.”
“I know, I know. But are you sure?”
He took her hand and picked up his mat with the other. “Oya, follow me. It’s better when you do it outside. That’s the way our ancestors did it.”
It was a beautiful night. The warm Lagos breeze blew their way from the beach. There were no stars but the half moon was obnoxious in its gaze. They lay on the mat and caressed a while, then he mounted. The feel of his heaviness on her was oddly, almost liberating. He smelled like exhaust fumes, the pine air freshener in his oga’s car, black soap, and musk. It was a heady smell. When he entered her, she howled. Were these tears of joy? It felt like it. But she wasn’t too sure. After the gasping and back-pinching was over, she was left with the realization that she was now the squeezed orange. The orange probably also liked being enjoyed but when it was finished, that’s all it was. Whatever. She wiped her tears and moved closer to the snoring man. He enclosed her with his arms. She adjusted so that she could not see or smell his armpits. They slept outside.
Her mother came back on Sunday evening and met a clean house. A few derikas of rice had been sold. She suspected nothing. She had seen Jesus on the mountain, she was euphoric. Ireti was in her room with her JAMB textbooks, so her mother assumed that she had been doing that all weekend. She hadn’t. She was only studying now to distract herself. She was scared that she’d been impregnated. Ayo had used a condom but her health education classes had only taught abstinence. She’d thought it was some kind of accessory. What was she going to do if she was pregnant? She was only nineteen! Her age mates were already graduating with first class degrees, and here she was, looking for thrill. She better study for her JAMB, and enter university. Her period came a day early; brought with it a nosebleed too. She was ecstatic. She did what she wanted, and there were no consequences. She was in the middle of plaiting Tolu’s hair when he showed up. He watched.
The little girl’s suku done, they walked about Adekunle Village together in a comfortable silence. He whistled some, she swayed some. It’s really hot today, he said. Is it? I didn’t even notice. I think so! Ah, see that mallam! Do you want some oranges? My sister calls them Nigerian ice cream. She responded, I would love some oranges.
0December 6, 2018 at 1:23 am #1276540
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Can I get some oranges too?0December 6, 2018 at 10:21 am #1276582
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me too.0December 6, 2018 at 2:08 pm #1276619
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she got lucky. nice story tho, reali enjoyed it0December 6, 2018 at 7:22 pm #1276660
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Nice story0December 6, 2018 at 8:19 pm #1276666
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NYC story0December 7, 2018 at 7:06 am #1276629
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Orange indeed, use & dump, I pity you0