Shortlisted Short Stories For League Of Wordsmiths 2018
by – Iqmat Gbemisola
My best friend died last week, but that is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about how messed up things have been. Dad died from leukemia when I was 13. So, I decided I was going to be a doctor to save loved ones from the hands of sickly death. I was barely surviving as it was, and my mother had to get re-married when I was 15. I resented the guy for trying to take my father’s place. But… He was always so nice to me, and I started to warm up to him. That was when the touches started. He always apologized at first, so I thought it was always a mistake. But he got bolder. Then one day, my virginity was gone. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my mother about it because I was scared for myself and her. He was a bad guy, and I wanted to grow up fast and be a lawyer so I could defend people like me from people like him. The raping stopped when my mother divorced him and he left. But I was already broken and I was becoming suicidal. Then, somebody came into my life and started to fix me. A few months later, he became my best friend; the only human holding me to sanity. I don’t know how he got the strength. Now he is gone. I checked the internet the other day for signs of madness and Google says I’m not mad, but how do I trust Google to decide my fate? Mum invited her ex-husband around because she thought having him with me would make me feel better. I wanted to insult her for being oblivious, but it wasn’t her fault. I was going to fix things. When I woke up the next morning, my mind was made up. My dream career changed from being a lawyer to something epic. I would let the rapist enter our house. I would kill him. I wasn’t even 18 yet, but I was going to be a murderer in my own rights.
Kunle stands, hands folded behind his back, head slightly tilted, watching and learning. Kunle’s father pumps air into a tyre of the Toyota Highlander parked on the road, right in front of their tyre vulcanizing machine.
11 year old Kunle mumbles his hopeful dream under his breath, “Me I cannot be vulcanizer o. I want to be lawyer.”
20 year old Kunle starts up his tyre vulcanizing machine to pump air into a tyre. As his machine roars to life, he remembers that dream he once had, the one where he stood in a court room in a wig and a gown. His right hand holds on tightly to that dream while his left hand grudgingly accepts the broken reality of his life. After all, his nation is one of broken realities.
– by Adeshina Iteagbaraoluwa
I sat on the bed we shared – or at least did up until a few moments ago, staring at nothing. In my hand was the letter that had just shattered me. I was speechless. I couldn’t utter a coherent word. My brain was inexplicably blank.
I felt like I was having an out of body experience. Like I was in an alternate universe, one of those in the cartoons my little sister loved to watch. I replayed it all over in my head. How today was my sixth year anniversary with Dan, the love of my life.
He had woken me up with a kiss, despite the usually dreaded morning breath. He brought me breakfast in bed and even sang to me while I ate. The only word that could describe what I felt, was ecstasy. I felt like all was right and perfect in the world. I had scored the most perfect guy a girl could find. One who would bring me breakfast in bed regularly, who woke me up with a kiss, who washed my body and who loved me wholly, flaws and all.
But that was what I thought. I should have known. Realities are never perfect.
I felt my heart break all over again, as I recalled his words in the letter he had left for me. He said he wasn’t happy. He said he had never been. He said he had stayed because of me, because he didn’t want to hurt me, and he didn’t want to break my heart. But he had done so anyway.
He said he didn’t enjoy anything I did. Not my cooking, not my touch and definitely not the sex. I felt a tear drop as the words floated in my mind. He couldn’t ever have enjoyed those things. After all, you only enjoy such when love is blooming.
Then it dawned on me. He had never loved me. It had all been a façade. I thought he was happy, no, that we were happy. But I was wrong. I was just living in a broken reality.
by – Nwaezuoke Chisom Anastasia
The worst part about moving into a new house was the loneliness.Not a day went by that she didn’t think about her past. She thought about Paul, her beautiful husband with the perfect teeth and Sally, her little girl with the long silky hair. These thoughts usually ended with images of the fire consuming their old apartment, the screams of her little girl, the fire fighters, the police, the cemetery . Her thoughts more often than not ended in tears. She knew she had to move on, they were never coming back. Paul would want her to be happy but how does one move on from something like that?
So she lived like a zombie. Wake, eat, sleep. Repeat. Her life was pretty normal. Until the note came. She noticed it on a Monday morning while having breakfast as it lay a few inches in front of the door as if someone had slipped it through.
“Sally would have grown up to be just as beautiful as you. A shame she had to die so young ”
She felt her body go limb.She knew she should report to the police. She’d always suspected that the firewas no accident. But if they didn’t believe her then, why should they believe her now?
The second note came the next day
“Paul’s eyes were beautiful even in agony”
“Would you like to see them again. I can make it happen”.
“Are you a Phoenix? Can you rise from ashes? ”
She knew she should call the police. Paul would want her to fight for her life. But her spirit had grown weak since the accident. She was no longer the free spirited enthusiastic woman that she used to be. So she kept quiet. And when the seventh note came on the seventh morning, she opened it with shaky hands
She felt the heat. She smelt the smoke. There was a crackling sound.
Her house was on fire.
The Dusk Before The Dawn
by – Samuel Victory
It was another chilly Harmattan morning. I had woken up early enough to say my prayers and prepare myself for the business of the day – my marriage, I think espousal would be the right word. I was just nine years. The polygamous family in which I was raised was very far away from a model family. Now I’m going to another polygamous home as the sixth wife. My Father, Alhaji Dauda, beats his wives almost on daily basis, and I’m sure his friend, Alhaji Musa, does the same.
To Alhaji, investing in female children is a waste of resources. He strongly believed that female children are meant to be given away in marriage, regardless of their age or prospects. My elder sister, Simbiat, was given away in marriage three years ago, when she was twelve. She never thought she would have become a wife by that early age, she had an ambition of becoming a Lawyer. She just concluded her primary education in which she excelled. But like a dream, her whole world came crashing under her feet. Alhaji Yusuf and his wives abused her physically, sexually, and emotionally. To worsen matters, Simbiat failed to conceive after spending about three years there. She was sent parking some months back. Alhaji was furious at her return, but mother accepted her back gladly. Simbiat became a shadow of her former self.
I was still drowned in the ocean of my thoughts when a knock on my hut brought me back to reality. It was Simbiat, she beckoned on me to come out. I came out of the hut without arousing the attention of my siblings far asleep. Out in the cold, she asked me if I was ready to go through the same ordeal she went through, I replied I don’t want to. She then asked me to pick my packed bag – we’re escaping. I quickly dashed in to pick my bag. We went out of the compound with obviously no direction in mind, but we knew we escaped from the snare of child abuse and early marriage.
by – Adeshina Ajala
It was five years we tied the nuptial knot, and I could tell from his face his worse theatre days. I wondered why he kept allowing bad surgical outcomes prey on his emotions. Often, I fear for his health.
Today, Bright was looking dim. Unlike previous times, definitely there was an inferno on this mountain.
I anxiously waited for an opportunity. Time seemed to drag like a snail. Ultimately, dinner came. He sank his fork into a piece of yam, and tiredly twirled it in the sauce. Our eyes locked. I pretentiously coughed, grabbed the tumbler and gulped some water.
He was playing with the pieces of yam like a game. His mind seemed to have fled the room. I was almost done with my food. I jerked again with fake cough. It jolted him as if an invisible finger tickled him.
“Dear, what’s the problem?” He uttered his words one by one, trying to hold his cup to my lips, shaking some water off with his trembling hand.
“It’s you that’s in trouble.”
“What exactly is wrong, Bright?”
I nagged. Tears broke into me.
Beaded tears propped into the sides of his reddened eyes. His voice quivered, “I… I… am ve…ry sorry, dear.”
“I won’t practice Pediatric Surgery again.”
Confusion spelt itself over my ashen face. I motioned him to repeat himself.
Bright has been battling with shaky hands for six months without telling me. He rose to national acclaim one year ago, after a heroic surgery he performed. His fame has just begun to distill overseas. This is the marriage I had craved for. These were the realities I had dreamed of and prayed for.
He has used pills to no avail. The tremor is now incapacitating. The hospital was forced to act because its reputation is at stake and has decided to relieve Bright of his surgical duties.
Bright will be forty years next month.
As I come to terms with these broken realities, my soul sagged. I’m sobbing as I pen this horror for the son kicking in my tommy.
by – Jesutofunmi Fekoya
My parents used to have a big frame of their wedding picture. They looked at each other like they were in love and they were. This frame was housing more than just a picture, it was a look into the past, present and the future. It had a mirror like surface that showed my reflection whenever I stared at it. When I looked at it, I saw more than the love my parents shared and still had, I saw a possibility of the love I could have. Everyone who came to our house always talked about the frame. It showed the love my parents had, a love that was envied by many.
Maybe I was blinded by what the picture showed as reality, maybe that was why I didn’t realize that in reality, my parents marriage was far from perfect. One night, I got out of bed to see my parents fighting. I was shocked but that was just the beginning. For the first time in my life, I watched my dad raised his hand and hit my mum. For the first time, I watched mum raise her hand and hit dad too. I rushed to separate them, tears rolling down my cheeks. This was not my family, this was not real, I cried in my head but they were in front of me, tearing at each other.
I knew I had to do something to stop it, so I did. I rushed toward them but they roughly pushed me away. My head brushed the frame hanging on the wall as I stumbled back. One moment, I was standing, and the next, shards of glass were raining all over me. I could feel a liquid sliding down the side of my head as a blinding pain in my head crippled me. I don’t know if my parents noticed, I was too disoriented to look up. A lot of things were broken; the frame, my heart, perhaps my head but most especially my perfect reality was broken. Destroyed. A tear dropped from my eyes just before I blacked out.
A Woman Is A Clock
by – Hussani Abdulrahim
At nightfall, mother paces in the dark. She marks time. She counts every second there is before father’s drunk knuckles appear on the wooden door. It is cold. I hear the wind howl and roar outside. Aside the wind’s menace, there is no other other sound except the slush-slush shoveling sound of mother’s feet as she paces. I am not asleep, but I shut my eyes tightly to kill darkness. To kill fear and frustration. But it is when the eyes are shut that darkness breathes the most. Mother thinks I am asleep. She does not know that I know everything. Everything that happens in the dark. How she stifles her cry so that it only comes out as a whimper. How father barks in the middle of the night. How he keeps breaking and breaking her heart with his fists, with every word that he exhales perfumed with alcohol smell. All the while, I remain still. I shut my eyes tightly to kill darkness. To kill fear and guilt and frustration. Try so hard not to rise. I am a coward. I am helpless. To ignore is another way to survive. And when at dawn, I demand to know how her face got bruised and swollen, she laughs, she tries to glow, and says it happened in a bad dream. But I know. I swear, I know the drama that happens in the dark. But she keeps thinking that I am always asleep.
by – Ahmad Amobi
I grew up as a boy who thinks everything is easy. That they will turn out as I like. When I was four, Mom would tell me i will be five next month. Yes, next month with a little added size and body. Just body and nothing. At each birthday I shoot at something. Reasonable or not. Big or small. I will have a dream towards the day. Some turned out as I wished and some didn’t. I did take them as they come and relinquish.
I was five, the reality’s light is yet to beam into my eyes. I was still a kid. I know life is something but I can’t remember what. I could remember, then, with my friends, we would say that we all want to be this and that. I could remember I said billionaire. How and when? I didn’t know, I just hoped I would become it, then.
Yes, the age doubled. I was ten. Ten at twenty ten as my mom says. At ten, I had another dream, I said I would be an engineer. An engineer. I was inspired by my friend’s brother, an engineer who lives in New York. Yes, the New York attracted me. I wanted to be there. An engineer at ten before I was eleven and I founded myself in Junior Secondary School Two. A year to climb to senior classes. I was still an engineer till Junior Secondary School Three, till I climbed and founded myself in Senior Secondary One. There, we decide the department we like. I was thirteen.
It flew. I couldn’t become an engineer because I was poor in mathematics, so I went for Arts department. Arts students are lawyers in secondary school. Yes, we didn’t know any other thing affiliated to Arts. So, I wanted to be a lawyer. And I was a lawyer till I finished my secondary classes. A lawyer at sixteen. Mom calls me that because I said I would be.
At the drift of the world, I am neither a billionaire nor engineer not a lawyer. I am a carpenter.
by – Anoemuah Pelumi
Her eyes opened slowly . The doctor said he wasn’t sure if she would last the night, given her condition. I wanted to stay with her till the end. She stared blankly at the framed photograph of my father on her left side. I shook my head wearily knowing what was coming.
“Tell me about him again. What was he like?” she asked softly.
I sighed. I was hoping she won’t ask. My mother had Alzheimer and she did not remember most of her life. She remembered life before she married my father and when she knew him, but not much about me. Strangely, she knows I am her daughter.
“He was amazing. He was a great father. He was kind, loving and caring. The neighbours loved him but you and I loved him more” I replied.
The story was shorter this time, because there was no time to replace reality with scented illusions. My father was a wife beater and my mother and I were terrified of him. He justified beating us using verses from the Bible to prove he was right. I was young then, but now I understand that the pools of blood my mother was cleaning were from all the miscarriages she had while he ‘punished’ her.
Even after he died and my mother’s suffering finally came to an end, fate dealt with her when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer at sixty. It was truly ironic. My mother remembered nothing about my father’s cruelty, she only remembered when they were young and in love.
“You’re lying to me” My mother said in a low voice as tears spilled from her face. I gasped slowly. “If you loved your Father so much why do you always cry when we talk about him?”
I wonder how long it has been since she remembered.
In the moments I have lied to her and painted life with my father a blissful paradise, perhaps I had allowed myself to believe it and she had too. That it was true and it could be my reality. After all, it was easier confronting a paradise than my broken reality.