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Chronicles of the Absurd

 facts, fads and fictions  (R)

By Samuel Kolawole  (Nigeria)


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Mr. C tells Mr. D what he heard from Mr. B who got the information from firsthand Mr. A. Soon every body hears about it and the entire country goes berserk (it happens only in my country). But then neither Mr. A or Mr. B is known so people abandon the source and "follow gullibly after the story", which may lack the support of empirical evidence and threaten logical reasoning, the later taking place more frequently.   

  These yarns are unstable as waters. They wash over the people, recede as quickly and unforeseen as they come. They leave pleasant and not so pleasant imprints in hearts and lives. Fact, fad or fiction, one thing is sure. The absurd lives with us, now and forever more.   



   1-Begging for death


There was time when beggars leaped over bridges and plunged into water canals to surface twice as large and white as eggs. They'd talked about bad business and total neglect by the citizens. But the real reason for their predicament was not far fetched. It had started with Miriam Dafeh(Not her real name, nobody knows her real name, nobody knows if she really exists) and a motor park beggar. 

     It was a bright and sunny day when heads grew hot, sweat licked from armpits, horns blared crazily and drivers shared curses freely. Mariam meandered through the crowd, clutching her handbag close to her to prevent purse snatchers and thinking about how good the day has been. She was slim, flat breasted and light complexioned. Today she was feeling good and light as paper. Her first salary as a chattered street-side typist was tucked discreetly in her bag and she was very much eager to go home and stretch her legs out. She entered a public vehicle and went straight to the backseat beside the window for easy access to fresh air. Her place of work was not too far from home and she'd always trekked the distance but today she felt like giving herself a treat-it was good to do that once in a while.

 Soon, the bus was almost occupied and the passengers were complaining of heat but there was no one to receive the murmur; the conductor was busy yelling his guts out in an attempt to drive the crowd into the bus. The driver on the other hand, was playing "lust chase" with a food seller further down the road and would not be back till the bus was ready to move. Profusions of shouts and abuses would alert him

"Where is the driver of this bus?"

"Where did this mad person wander to?"

"Does he want to bake us in this heat?"

"Are we going to spend the whole year here?"

"Are we goats that the driver stacks us together and abandons us?"

Such would be the statements that would fall from their lips and more upon the driver when he arrives. But for him, it was nothing to bother about, it happened almost every time.

 The passengers were constantly besieged by hawkers and beggars as they sweltered on in the heat. It was not long before they were hanging out their hands through the windows for "pure" water and cold drinks stitched in nylon bags. Some were handing out crumpled notes to those who pleaded for alms and showed the vestiges of their chopped limbs or engorged eyes to arouse pity. Mariam gave two crisp notes to one who'd no disability but whose stammering tongue caused much empathy. He was a young man and his dress was incredibly filthy. Dry blades of grass clung crazily on his brown knotty hair and his beard dangled like ropes around his jaws. The lunatic beggar's eyes were red and hunger filled but focused on Mariam. His madness didn't exempt him from suffering and hunger. He was sober. He’d stretched out his hands and raised his open palms up and had received the damp note before his pleading was consummated -it was painful to hear him speak.

  The bus was ready to go. The driver hopped in, struggled with the steering gear for a few moments and switched on the ignition by twisting two naked wires together. The vehicle coughed and grumbled down the slope of the motor park then hit the rush hour traffic after five minutes drive. The heat resumed and people brought handkerchiefs and fashioned their palms into fans. They hurled serious accusations at the driver but the fellow was in no mood to be rude. He ignored them and ordered his conductor to start with the money collection, who without hesitation, moved up and down the aisle, picking up soiled notes and exchanging insults with those who didn’t have change (The exact bus fare)

“You have suffered us this bus and yet you collect money from us” a woman who wore a filthy head scarf said

“Nobody suffered you! The country is suffering all of us!” was the conductor’s direct reply and the passengers spent the next few minutes scourging tongues about their beloved country.  Their confab was rudely interrupted by sudden spasmodic jerks of the vehicle which resulted in a halt. For a few minutes, the driver tried in vain to put the vehicle into gear; he sweated and cursed and jerked the gear stick from side to side as drivers poked their neck out of their windows and tossed dreadful words at him.

  The driver suddenly hurried out of the bus then went underneath it. A few seconds later he was back in his seat shifting the gear with his now greasy hands and urging the vehicle to move- he knew his fellow drivers would soon be tossing fists and he was not in the frame of mind to engage in a brawl.  The bus finally gave a screeching sound and jerked back to life-the ordeal left beads of sweat on the poor driver’s forehead     

   Mariam got down from the bus ten minutes later and was heading for the one room apartment she shared with her best friend. She doubled up her speed and took short routes to arrive her destination in time. She stumbled on the way; a block of concrete hit her foot. It did not hurt her much but she lost the shoe heel of her right leg.  She called the shoe useless and complained of wasting her money. She would have started keeping a good watch over herself if she'd stumbled a few years ago. She’d always held on to the superstitious belief that tripping over was a sign of danger just around the corner. But that was then, now she knows better.

   Her roommate was not home. She took off her shoes and undressed. She wrapped a towel over her body, wore her shower cap then picked up a pail to fetch water for bath. A little later she was in the bathroom, a small enclosure made with rust out roofing sheets soaping her nakedness and singing a tune she heard on her way coming. That was when she saw a man, the lunatic beggar at the motor park. He was standing in the bathroom with her and was as nude as she was. He was smiling; his eyes were no longer red but dark and flashing with excitement. His weapon stood erect as a pole, long and richly supplied with blood vessels. Her eyes popped wide open, whether in surprise or horror it was not to be known. She opened her mouth to scream for help but no words came, she was to enjoy the moment, not scream, but she wanted to scream.


Enjoy the moment

Let the beggar boy have you

Touch his dangling beard

Eat the blade of grass in his hair

Let him have you

Open your yellow thighs wide

Let the beggar in 


Mariam opened her legs wide, stretched her arms as though crucified and closed her eyes to savor the moment.


Enjoy the moment

Let the beggar boy have you

Touch his dangling beard

Eat the blade of grass in his hair

Let him have you

Open your yellow thighs wide

Let the beggar in 


They coupled on their feet with incredible passion. Mariam writhed beneath beggar boy; she struggled and scratched with her fingernails, yet by no means in horror. She was enjoying the moment; the throes of sexual intercourse, the sweet stench of the lunatic's unwashed body and the coarseness of his manly hair. She wanted the moment to last but it was over before she knew it. Her lover was gone, vanished with the wind. Her pleasure turned into agony, discomfort gripped her down below. She attempted again to scream but nothing came out, just hot air, hot odorous air. She moved her legs but it was heavy as lead. She decided to crawl and again her body felt like a sack of salt. She moved out of the bathroom and groveled in the soil like worm. People spotted her and the alarm was raised

   The wind snatched away her life before she reached the hospital but not before sucking out her guts.  The beggar boy had her... all of her 



2-Passover Herbs

 Friday afternoon, Thelma Makeba stretched and stood on her toes in vain to reach the lintel of the living room door to hang a green plant.

What do I have children for! She thought and relinquished her effort.

   Height was not her strongest point but she had reasonably lanky kids and a husband who was tall as the door itself. She was just a year before forty and was already at that period when a woman becomes more passionate about her family and less about her husband; a prospect every “contrey woman” must face, like menopause or going through age crises but has little to do with oldness.  

  It was that time when leafs dangled over people's lintels, Passover leaves for warding off angels of death; tiny ethereal beings that live in Iroko trees and turn up at night to wrought evil. They’d been a general circulation of the story that people dropped dead at the visit of these nocturnal creatures and everybody was fearful; those who’d open their doors to the Iroko spirits have shriveled up on the spot, turned into lifeless lumps of flesh. People had bolted their doors at night but then that had not worked; it was said that the spirits took the form and function of their victim’s close relatives to make them open their doors. The Passover herbs had proffered the solution in which people could go to sleep with magic plants hanging up their doors to fend off evil.


“John!” Thelma called out

 No response.

“John!” This time her voice was loud and harsh.  

“Yes mama!” a voice boomed from a distance and a few seconds later a tall slim boy appeared

“How many times will I call you before you answer me?” Her mother’s voice dripped with anger.

“I didn’t hear you the first time mama”

“You didn’t hear me the first time?”

“Yes mama”

“Did you block your hears with cotton wool? You young ones of nowadays are so manner less! Will you hang these leaves before I pounce on you!” She harangued   

Tall John murmured and stamped her feet on the ground to register his displeasure, a childhood habit he’d not stashed away. However he mellowed at her mother’s sudden change of countenance, which always preceded an unpleasant action. John received the magic herb from her then proceeded with the task. He strained his long legs and plucked off the brown decayed plant that dangled over a nail fastened to the top beam, then replaced it with the new one. A couple of days later Thelma would go through the same process again. Maybe john would not be around to help her so she would have no choice employ the services of the kitchen stool to prop her up.

“Dry herbs are powerless; they loose their magic to the scorch of the sun. They have to be replaced.” She would tell her last born, twelve year old Boyo. John was not supportive of her beliefs although he couldn’t do much about it and the man of the house, who guarded a cement factory neither, had time for her or her superstitious inclinations

“Father said he might be coming home today” John said later in the day.

“Who told you that?”

“Baba Jhimo, his colleague”

“His he home”

“Yes he took his day off yesterday. He said father told him to tell us that he will be coming”

“Your father is unstable as water. I am not going to waste money on food that will rotten up”

John did not speak. He’d done his job and was exempted from any trouble that might arise from not delivering the message. The rest was his mother’s cup of coffee. His father would raise dust when he comes and finds no food on the stool and she knew that.   

“OK I will prepare dinner for your father” She said on a second thought “but this will be the last time if she doesn’t show up. Now you go fetch water for cooking”


10pm, the food was cold as a dog’s nose. Thelma cursed and yawned and called herself a fool then snuffed out the lights from the hurricane lantern.


12 midnight, Helon Makeba crossed over to the other side of the road with his eyes half closed and was almost hit by a night taxi. The headlights of the car had caught him in their powerful brightness and just in front of him it stood. He didn’t hear the screeching of the tires when the braked on hard road. Maybe he did but was not attentive; maybe he thought it was some noise from the factory.  He recovered from his benumbed state and walked the few steps remaining steps to the side of the road. The driver of the car thrust out his head and stared at Helon in silence and absolute surprise for a few moments but also to store up insults in his skull.

“You wretched spawn of Satan! You crazy son of bitch! You want to kill yourself and get me into trouble? Did your miserable brain fly out of your skull?”

Helon looked at his aggressor; he was a small man with a neck narrow as a stick and he could crush his whole body into bits with one hand, but he made the day his. He turned to go

“You have nothing to say!” the man was more enraged by his reaction “You arrogant leper! You mongrel! You big for nothing animal of no descent...” he continued but Helon just allowed the foul words to sail over his head-he was weary and home sick.

  He was a weekend husband but sometimes he didn’t even come home during weekends. The factory paid him well for one who didn’t know what a classroom looks like. They also ordered him about and told him when to go to his family.  He had no choice; He needed income to fend for his family and give his kids the education he didn’t get.

   Helon moved a little faster now. He thought of home and what he would do; ripping off clothes, stretching out singlet and underpants, and having a warmed up meal, proper rest and maybe sexual intercourse with wife if she is willing.  The thought of spending little time with his children crossed his mind but then it occurred to her to him that he must be back to the factory by Saturday afternoon. Maybe the driver was right he thought, maybe I am a big for nothing animal of no descent



Bam! Bam! Bam!

Someone hammered on the door

“Daddy is home! Daddy is home!” Boyo slapped her mother’s


“What?” she rubbed her red eyes and tossed and yawned.

“Daddy is home!” he said again and yawned too.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

John entered his mother’s room wearing nothing but shorts and holding a lantern

“Daddy is knocking the door, where is the key? John said

Bam! Bam! Bam!

“Let me find out fist and you two don’t leave this room” he tossed out of bed, snatched the lantern from her son and thrashed out of the room

“Who is that?” Thelma asked when she got near the front door

“Mama Boyo, open the door for me” the voice said  

“Who are you?’

“Look my friend. I am too tired for games. Let me in” he pounded harder. Thelma sprang back to her room and ordered her children in a lowered voice to go under the bed.

“Why mama?”

“The dwarf spirit his here to destroy us, we will not allow him, he will not have power over us” she whispered with her eyes glazed with fear.

“My father?” John said quickly

“No, the spirit is just sounding like your father to make us open the door” she said as she roamed about the room, shutting windows and throwing object across openings. Boyo began to cry and Thelma told him to put a finger over his mouth. John was perplexed.

“But he said he will be coming today!” he spoke

“Today? Look at the watch” she pointed at the clock pinned on the wall above the window.” this is past midnight, only witches and spirits come out this time. And you know whenever your father says A he does B so that voice can’t be your fathers .I knew he would not be coming when he said he would.

“What about the herbs on the door? You said they drive them away”

Thelma gave his son a dirty slap which brought tears close to his eyes. She spoke to her in a hard but low tone so that she clenched her teeth while talking

“Do what I ask to do and don’t play smart with me. You young boys of nowadays don’t know anything. You think everything is education. , evil spirits do not respect education. Go and ask the professors who went lunatic. Now get under the bed now before I give you another slap!”

John joined his brother beneath the mattress who cuddled up to him and sniffed and sneezed.  Few moments later little Boyo dozed off but his brother couldn’t sleep. He listened   to mother’s incessant supplications and recitals of verses from the book of psalms until the last candle melted out and she came under the bed. Thelma placed her hands over her children and prayed for their guidance.    


Your husband is in the police station” A neighbor informed Thelma when morning came.

Her heart jumped, she sprang on her feet “What did he do?”

“He was roaming the streets late, they nearly shot him. They took him for a thief”

“Yeh I am finished!” she screamed and leaped and clutched her head and slapped her thighs in frenzy. She roamed about in confusion for a while then pulled the informant by the wrist, urging her to accompany her to the station. The Passover herbs might cost Thelma her marriage.      


Dance of Death 

A higher denomination of the nation’s currency had just been introduced into the economy and blood money-makers   were on the prowl. Small kids and infants were kidnapped, slaughtered and their blood used in preparing potions that transform materialistic citizens into fabulously rich millionaires.

   Fourteen year old Kareem was on a mission and his destination was the food market where mothers care less for their children and more for the petty goods displayed in front of them. They leave their young ones under the “public watch” of their fellow traders but then the supposed protectors also do the same thing. So it was not uncommon to see boy and girls wander off and wallow in dust without clothes. Those too young to “explore the world” simply made sandcastles out of their excrements and without the cognizance of their busy mothers. Sometimes a mother’s attention would by chance be drawn to the piece of creativity fashioned out by her little child and she would tear a sheet of paper from the wad with which she sold her goods, mop up the lump of stool and dispose it in the gutter. Then return to her work with her hands unwashed-washing hands would consume extra time, she’d spent enough already.

   Mouka, a two year old boy, was miles away from his mother who was engaged in a hot bargain with a plump woman over the price of rice grains. The little lad wore only panties which was incredibly filthy and dangled between her legs like sack. Yellow mucus crawled down his nose with ease, lined his upper lip like moustache and dribbled into his mouth so that he would oftentimes lash out his craving tongue to clean up the remaining juice. He was toying with a corroded milk can when Kareem came

“Hello little boy” he said as he held out a note flauntingly.  He was in a squatting position and was sandwiched between two dilapidated kiosks which concealed him from people stares. Mouka abandoned his plaything moved happily towards the stranger, stretching out his hands eagerly before he reached the source of his fancy. Kareem took away the bait and grabbed his wrist gently then dangled the note again before his eyes.

“We will use it to buy biscuit?” Kareem said.

Mouka nodded.

“And sweet,?”

Again a nod,

“Follow me” he said and made the little boy follow him, taking quick steps but not quick enough to arouse curiosity. Soon they were clear from the market and heading towards the main road

“My biscuit!” Mouka demanded abruptly when his head reminded him that his patience was nearly exhausted  

“We will buy it there” Kareem uttered pointing nowhere in particular

“My biscuit” He was crying now .The realization of Kareem’s promise was taking too long for him. He began to scream, which typically was a method he employed in getting the things he wanted but then the little lad saw no visible sign of having a biscuit in his hand yet so he tried harder. Mouka collapsed on bare ground and screamed at top of his throat leaving the kidnapper in a state of complete disarray.

 Meanwhile Mouka’s mother had discovered that her child had been stolen and was mourning while a group of concerned citizens with a friend went in search of her boy. (It was just natural for people to think that ritualists are causes of any disappearances at that time.) She’d tossed away her scarf and was now yanking off her wrapper which made an unfortunate show of her unclean underskirt. But she was not bothered about good looks or the grains of rice she sold.

  She was not expressing apprehension or panic, she’d more or less given up on Mouka and what was simply mourning-falling into the hands of the rituals killers was falling into the hands of death itself, they hardly leave anything to chance. 

  The crowd foresaw that she might discard the remaining tier of her clothes and scamper away a lunatic so they encircled her. Two women locked her arms in theirs and spoke consoling words into her hears but she was not affected by their ministrations 

“He is my only child ooooooo People help me!” She cried aloud in anguish, twitched her body from side to side then broke loose. The mob chased after her but she only wanted to cast her body on the floor, stretch out her legs wide   and shake her head in sorrow.

“You need not to kill yourself woman, you will see your child by the might of Allah” A Mohammedan woman wearing a black Burqua said.

“His creator will not forsake him; he will come back in peace” another woman comforted.

“My enemies have prevailed over me.” Mouka’s mother observed and chewed her lip in grief. Her mother didn’t like her and she’d exchanged insults with her brother in-law a couple of times. Her sin had been her inability to produce more than one child. They’d called her a witch and said she’d donated the rest of her children to her fellow witches to be consumed. As a result, she’d lived with the belief that her in-laws were devoted to making her life a living misery.

“They found the boy! They found the boy!” a jubilant voice loomed from afar of. Mouka’s mother leaped to her feet and clasped her chest, fearing that her heart might dart out of her rib cage


Kareem was tempted to abandon the little boy whining and rolling in dust but he feared his Master would punish him for incompetence thus he resolved to get him what he wanted at least to alleviate the attention that heaped on him. He approached a roadside petty trader and came back with sweets packaged in gleaming wrappers.

“Stop crying and take this” Kareem hunkered and offered one bonbon

Mouka! Mouka! That’s the boy         

Seize the murderer!

Make sure he doesn’t escape!

He must not vanish into the air!

It was so rapid that Kareem could only mouth a few words that ran back into his throat. The searchers were upon him and a crowd was gathered. Jungle justice was the outcome; the gleeful mob hit the young boy with blows and huge sticks and struggled with his body like hungry lions feasting on sufficient flesh. A murderous looking man sprinted from nowhere carrying a tyre and the crowd paved the way for him to hang it on the kidnapper’s neck.  A few seconds later another volunteer came with a gallon of petrol which he emptied on him. The third person offered his cigarette matches and fire was made; Kareem’s skull went up in flames then kindled the rest of his body. The boy leaped wildly in the last dance of death and darted away through the thick wall of the crowd. They gave him a hot chase to make sure he was thoroughly dead      


‘Manhood snatcher’


Some Grannies are not made for city life but they turn up all the same

“I am going to live with my son in the city” Grandma goes around telling almost every old woman in the village. They bid her good luck as they twinkle their eyes with envy and wish their good-for nothing boys get on too.

Grandma arrives the home of her “well to do” city son with a load of village goodies on her head; She brings home well yellowed oranges, huge tubers of fibre crawling yams fresh from black earth and a village odor that makes the young members of the house twitch their noses when their parents are not watching. But then the smell itches the noses of the adults too (except of course grandma) and they hold their breaths when the breeze directs the foulness their way but smile not to convey any message that might be regarded as inappropriate.

  At nightfall, Daddy shoves his kids out of their cherished room for her mother and his wife is not happy about it but has no choice but to seal her lips. The kids are not happy too, it shows on their faces but they sleep in the sitting room anyway where mosquitoes drone over their heads and bite into their neck. They get back ache for sleeping on hard floor and congest their chest on account of the carpet floor. The next day Daddy brings in a second hand mattress with the thinness of bed crust    which the children bring out at bedtime and spread on the living room floor. 

  Needles to say, grandma becomes a “worrying responsibility” as the months go by. Soon, she begins to receive harangues from her son and consequently puts her senile brain cells into use as a way of reacting to the “hostile” condition she finds herself; she refuses to eat their meals and wanders off barefoot into the streets to come back with sack crammed full of “city goodies”. Her nomadic activities and scavengery degenerates into outright street begging. His son can’t take it anymore so he forbids her mother from going out of the house but she grabs her withered breast in grief and talk into space, asking why the child she suckled treats her so. She refuses food for three days and on the fourth, the sanction is lifted. His son reckons that his mother’s situation is one he must live with. He quivers at the thought of sending her back to the village. The people would turn against him, and his wife for using charms on their son.  Worse, they would set out to destroy his home and livelihood by all means and make sure he begs in the end. Her mother might even “collect witchcraft” to annihilate him…  He would rather allow her rot in the city



Her weapon pierces into a canister then conveys it into a grimy sack already crammed near bursting point  

She moves on, dragging her sack slowly behind her and clambers the next heap of refuse.

 She looks older than she is elderly so gauging her age is immaterial. But then all over her, age and use are in strong contention so you do not know which is responsible for what. For instance, her hair is infested with fleecy patches that can not be bequeathed alone to old age because lice also appear white.

 She has red-veined bulging eyes and a scrunched up face.    The blood nerves on her neck remind you of taut ropes. Her frame on the other hand resembles the erectness of a skeleton plastered greedily with flesh. She is wearing a native threadbare blouse and wrapper which reveals some unfortunate points on her body.

  She gets off the mound of rubbish, covers one nostril to blow the other and crushes the gob of phlegm under her feet. Her nose is still clogged so she chews her mouth in readiness to force the mucus out of her throat as she revealed her dentition; few, dispersed and rotten. The juice is not well fired so it falls a few centimetres from her feet. She looks at the discharge for a while then progresses with her sack as she talks to herself what she is going to do with the goodies in the sack. She talks about cleaning and selling the rubbish and flaunting the money before his son’s eyes

“He can not proud to me again” she says and a little later reaches the main road. Her narrow legs are quick, strong and accustomed to trekking. She feels cars are no good so avoids them, her forefathers never had vehicles and yet they reached their destinations even if they have heavy loads to carry.

“Help me with this load my husband” she says, addressing a passer-by who flings her a quick glance and walks pass. She makes the plea again and young fellow, dark and short wearing blue work clothes thoroughly stained with engine oil stop to help.

“You will never lack a helper in your life again” she says as she balances the sack on her head and supports it with her deeply creased hand, her back bending slightly under the weight.

“Amen mama!” he gives a knee jerk response and goes on his way. Old granny moves on, she crosses the road and is on his way home when an unsettling noise bellows from behind. Moments later she is surrounded by an angry mob with the engine oil fellow, who is now grabbing his pubic area and rolling the eyeballs up and down.

“Give back the poor man his manhood!” one expels  

“Respect your grey hairs, restore his little thing!” another says stormily

“If you want to go to your grave in peace do something now!” and yet another.

 For a moment granny does not know what to say; she looks at the people surrounding her in amazement as though the whole thing is some sort of hoax. But then remembers in flash the circulated story about penises vanishing through diabolical means so she bursts into weeping

“I didn’t take his thing; he helped me to carry my load. How can I do such a thing to him!” she is on the floor and her hand clasped on her head in distress

“Lair, she is a lair!” she does not deserve mercy!”

“She’s only shedding crocodile tears set her ablaze!

“No expose her, bring her to shame. Let the whole world watch her nakedness before you burn her” 

The irate mob heeds to the advice of the third and old Granny is forced out of her clothes amidst the tearful entreaties of women standing in a distance, also cursing and anguishing over the dehumanization of femininity and grey hair. She is then made to dance on the streets like a lunatic. Her withered breast jumps up and down as she leaps under the motivation of a thin stick plucked from the bush. A large crowd is gathered and she is jeered at by kids young enough to be her great-granddaughters.




She escapes death narrowly as a police van arrives the crowd is tear gassed   



She goes back to the village never to return to the city again.



Much later, Engine oil man somehow manages to get pregnant a girl who hawks peeled oranges and he is looked-for by the girl’s mother with a huge stick.  




 The End



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