This story was written in response to theAFREADA x Africa Writes Competition. Writers had to produce a 500-word story from a dialogue(italicized below) in Chigozie Obioma’s latest novel, An Orchestra of Minorities.
Kanu and his blue-eyed wife Otrude, rejected by her Stuttgart family for marrying outside her race, sat on one side of the glossy mahogany table. Facing them, their daughter Gboimuma, twenty, and her suitor, Kumrabai, age unknown, a sinewy farmer reeking of ‘FroAroma, the cheap cologne made in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Atop raffia placemats in front of each of them stood four glass tumblers of freshly squeezed orange juice. Kanu insisted that fruit drinks served in his home must be made fresh and with only the harvest of his citrus empire. It extended over 200,000 acres and swallowed most of the small farms of western Sierra Leone.
‘When Africans learn to feed themselves, then they will be free.’ Kanu had spoken these words to pubescent Gboimuma twenty years earlier as he planted his farm’s first orange saplings. Kumrabai, the teenage help, listened but mostly stared at Gboimuma. But how could the father have foreseen that his insistence that his daughter take an active interest in his agro-business would bear the fruit of her addiction? He had to eradicate this pathogen sitting across from him just as he had done to the canker that threatened to decimate his 2012 crops. Now, he would render this Kumrabai-20 strain impotent with concentrated doses of reality:
‘Have you considered that my daughter here is a soon-to-be pharmacist?’
‘Have you considered that she is now completing her bachelor’s in pharmacy and will proceed to do her MPhil in the UK?’
‘Daddy, you are so snobbish,’ Gboimuma flicked back the blonde extensions draping her face.
‘Have you considered, young man, what kind of future you, an unschooled farmer, will have with her?’
‘I reach standard seven, sir.’
Kanu exhaled. ‘Let’s start over. Why do you want to marry my daughter?’
‘Amadu Bayraytay steal my first wife, sir.’
‘Kumrai speaks in parables, daddy. They stole his farm.’
‘Bayraytay, Mami Wata’s brother,’ Kumrabai clarified. “I go steal your wife,” ‘he say to me one night. The next day, he take am, fiam!’
‘Well, Mr. poet-farmer, the name of the game is survival of the fittest.’
‘See this juice,’ Kanu pointed to his tumbler, ‘it is here today because of my sacrifice.’
‘Nonsense!’ Otrude shot up from her chair. ‘Leave them alone. Yes, you’ve achieved big things, but don’t forget I left my people and never looked back to stand by your side. Women’s sacrifices often go unseen. Young man,’ she turned to Kumrabai, ‘if this is to work, you will have to support Gboimuma like I did her father.’ Otrude sidled around Kanu’s chair, stood between father and daughter, and caressed Gboimuma’s golden tresses: ‘Our orange has blossomed near the tree.’
‘She go blossomed ten sons, ma!’ Kumrabai exclaimed to show he could roll with the conversation.
‘Bloody hell,’ Gboimuma shrieked. Ten?’
Kumrabai looked baffled. ‘Nine?’
‘Oh, my god!’ Gboimuma clutched her head.
‘Village men,’ Kanu smiled.
‘No, men! Otrude stomped out of the summit.
Pede Hollist is a Sierra Leonean-born professor of English and fiction writer at The University of Tampa, Fl. USA. He is also an avid sports fan.