Sunday, March 02, 2008

Oliver

Inspired by Dicken's Oliver Twist and edited....

Chapter 2
"I am very sorry for the way I spoke to you. It was just..." Danumego's voice trailed off, his embrassment merging with mortification as he attempted to profer his apologies. Mojere was not about to make it easy for him. She just stared, waiting for him to finish his sentence. Amazed at how little he felt, even though he towered at least a foot and a half over her, he cleared his throat and forged ahead.

"Mrs. Sulaiman, I am sorry for my behaviour. If you can find it in your heart to excuse it and forgive. It was...it was not a good day and then you brought him in and...I am sorry."

Mojere gave him five full seconds of silence before sheer exhaustion won and she sighed.

"One, it is Ms Sulaiman. Secondly, I will suggest that you always ask before you jump to conclusions. I would never do that to a child...to any human being."

He nodded, his bald head shining under the flourescent light.

"Please forgive. I am not that ill mannered an individual."

Mojere raised an eyebrow,

"So you are somewhat ill mannered?"

He shrugged and gave her a full smile, one that she had noticed all the females doing sommersaults over. It did not affect her...that much.

He sobered and reached up to rub his eyes. She noticed that he was wearing the same shirt as he had been the day before and that his eyes, though cheerful were extremely tired.

"He is ready for discharge. Do you know what you are going to do?"

Mojere shook her head wearily,

"No, but he is coming home with me. His parents are dead, that much I know and I don't know about his relatives because when I tried to ask him, he went into fits. Whether that was because he was sick or because he was panicked, I don't know. He will come home with me. I can't go back on him now."

Danumego regarded the tiny woman before him and wondered how he could have been so mistaken in his initial appraisal of her. When he had been called on the intercom to come down to emergency, he had burst through the door to be greeted by two bloodied women and a child, the latter of which lay unmoving on the bed. The stench of gasoline had been almost unbearable.

"Market...little boy...I carried him...my car..." the shorter and more worried of the two women babbled out to him incoherently.

He assumed that she had hit him with a car. When he reached the boy, he realised that it was not a car that had done the boy in. He had been beaten and judging by the garrish scars on his back and legs, it was not the first time. In fact, the last time he had seen skin so marred with keloids had been on a poorly treated burn victim.

He had noticed when he sighted the women that underneath the blood and petrol, they were attired in clothing that was not cheap. The ring on the finger of the one who had spoken gleamed. He guessed that he knew who they were. Wealthy women who most likely in a fit of rage had beaten up their male servant.

"Is he going to be okay?" The shorter woman asked. Danumego was disgusted.

"Get out!" he spat.

'Excuse me?..." she began, stunned.

"I said get out." he continued, without looking up. "Let me see if I can save this boy for you to kill another day. Or would you like to finish him up right now and save us some time?"

That had been a wrong assumption to make. He did not find out the details until later when they had miraculously found blood and intravenous medicine to keep the boy hanging on by a thread for his life. By evening, an infection had set in and Danumego was not sure he would make it to the next morning, but he did. And the next one and the next.

Three days later, when the boy was stable, Danumego found himself in the director's office. There in the presence if his boss, Mojere Sulaiman stripped him naked verbally and walked out.

"What were you thinking?" Director Nnamani asked. "Do you not know who she is?"

Danumego did not. He had not been in the country long. He knew almost no one.

"Be careful, There are some people we do not need to be worried about."

"Yes dad." he replied before he left.

He had been trying to apologise for the past six weeks.

Till he conered her in the parking lot.

"It cannot be easy for you. You have tried alot. I have not seen your friend for a while." he continued referring to Labake who had accompanied her in the beginning when Oliver was first brought in to the hospital.

Mojere avoided his eyes. She did not know how to tell him that as she was standing there before him , the grey skies threatening a heavy july rain moving swiftly past above their heads, that she was alone in the world. Alone with her decisions considering Oliver. She and Labake had not spoken since the day of their heated and bitter exchange over her involvement with Oliver.

Oliver needed clothes. When she brought him in to the hospital, all she had had to cover his small frame had been Labake's scarf that she had snatched off her friend's shoulders and the jacket of her suit. It had been a week and a half, Oliver seemed destined to beat death a second time and was hanging on pathetically to his existence. There were no men's clothing for her to borrow for him at the house.

Thus, she dragged her ever available friend and companion shopping. Oliver needed clothes and she was going to buy some for the boy. Labake was no longer amused by the play that Mojere was enacting starring the vagrant street child.

"Mojere, what on earth do you think you are doing?" Mojere winced. Labake's voice, cutting above the hum of the store's air conditioning and background Celine Dion music was loud and grating on her nerves.

"What does it look like I am doing?" she bit back before turning to the sales girl, "do you not have something smaller? He is a very tiny boy." She turned back to her friend, lifting the shirt in her hand. "Or Labs, what do you think?"

Labake eyed both her friend and the grey and blue t-shirt. "What do I think? What do I think? Are you listening at all to what I think? I have been asking you what you think you are doing; do you intend to bring him to come and live with you? Where do you know that he is from? Why did he run away from home? Did you even bother to ask? Mojere...Mojere..."

Mojere had moved on to the next rack, completely ignoring her friend.

"Mojere I am talking to you." Labake's voice held a warning. Mojere was suddenly fed up.

"Labake, what do you want me to do?"

"What you should have done from the very beginning. His case belongs with the government. You should have handed over to the police from the very beginning." Labake was indignant, her nostrils flaring with the strength of her emotions. She had since ignored the fact that they were in public and was oblivious to the fact that not only the sales girl but the six other customers in the store were eavesdropping unabashedly on her conversation with Mojere. Infact, one man who had accompanied his girl friend had since discarded his look of misery at being dragged from store to store and was staring unflinchingly at the two women, his ears wide and receiving.

"Is it the same police that almost did not show up before Oliver was almost burnt alive?..."

"Oliver..."Labake hissed, "Oliver, you are calling him Oliver? Hey-ey, you are getting attached to that area boy."

Mojere was suddenly disgusted. Labake of all people was not someone who ought to say such things as her education had been paid for by her mother's trading at the bus park. And yet, just because she had become the mistress/third wife to a wealthy politician chief, all who did not exist in her economic circle where beneath her. Mojere fixed her friend with her legendary icy stare.

"Labake, I asked you here because you have twin boys and so you could help me figure out what a boy ought to have. If you don't want to help me out, you can go back to your shop and do whatever you were doing that area boys were not involved in. I have alot of things I need to get before I go to the hospital."

Labake shook her head as if something was very sad. "The boy is not your son. And he never will be."

The pain that sliced through Mojere was such that a gasp escaped her mouth without her knowledge. Infact, it was so heavy that she clutched at her side as if Labake's words had become a knife that had gone through her side. Labake sensing she had gone too far, opened her mouth to speak.

"If it had been anyone else but you Labake, I would have slapped them for what you just said. No,he is not my son. So, if I do not go and open my legs for the first potbellied randy goat that thows money at me and carry his seed, I do not know how to be a mother? Abi, iru osi oro wo lo n jade lenu e, ehn Labake? (What kind of nonsense are you saying?")

Labake was taken aback. "Excuse me...?"

Mojere sneered, "Excuse you? you are excused. Please leave me. Yes, I have found this area boy and until I can find someone else who can do a better job, I will take care of him so that I am not driving down one day and see that people like you have set fire to a little boy of eleven!"

'Mojere! Are you crazy? What has gotten into you?"

Mojere hissed, "I don't know o. I don't know. Maybe when he gets better, I will just carry him and dump him at the exact place I found him and pray that this time, the mango seller will not chase after him when he steals because he is hungry. You disgust me!"

Labake's eyes widened. "I disgust you? Hey-ey, Mojere, are you listening to yourself?"

"Not really," Mojere replied, "but I am sick and tired of pretentious superior attitude when we all know that if Chief was not busy with his cronies spending the country's wealth on you and all his other mistresses in the universities, maybe we would not have that many Olivers."

Mojere had hit home and hit home hard. The issue of Labake's standing as Chief Rotimi's wife/mistress was a really touchy one. She had only recently been allowed to refer to herself as Mrs. Rotimi even after producing twin boys for the man. And she knew after more than fifteen years of being with him starting when she was still a Jambite in the university, that she was only one of many women on his roll call. The latest softsell edition had pictures of Chief and his latest mistress at a social function. Like Labake, when she too had come into his life, the girl was just twenty two.

Her mouth parted and she too backed away much like Mojere had done a few minutes before. Without saying a word, she reached for her huge purse that lay at her feet, picked it up and walked out.

They had not spoken since then. And now the doctor was asking after her.
Mojere looked at the doctor, "She is fine. She has been busy." That at least was true. She knew Labake had been busy.

Danumego nodded. He did not press further. So, instead he said to her, "If you come with me, I will hurry up the paperwork and you can take him home."

She smiled. Slow and wide. Danumego tried not to stare.

"Home." she looked at the hospital building and nodded as if to herself, "Yes, he will come home today."

22 comments:

Atutupoyoyo said...

This is an excellent premise for an Oliver Twist adaptation. When you think of it, the parallels between Dickens' London and modern day Nigeria are stark. Child labour and suffering is still rife in the poorer classes as it was in 19th century England. The sensibilities and snobbery of the Victorian middle class also prefigures the attitudes of the Nigerian bourgeoisie. In as much as the two worlds co-exist side by side, they clearly jar against each other and provide for a rich examination of human behaviour. Dickens toys with the reader's emotions by turning the hackneyed idea of the benevolent pauper on its head. The kindest souls are to be found within the ranks of the affluent classes. Witness how the young “area boy” is rejected by his own kind.

It appears that you are looking to develop this further along similar lines as the original and as I said there is a great story waiting to be told here. However in order to achieve this you must lose some of the colloquialisms. I am all in support of it when there is dialogue but lines like "You know how when in a movie, the plot gets to its most important ……" can be put aside in my opinion. I found them a bit too self-referential. Some of the sentences in Chapter 2 could also benefit from truncation in order to build on the suspense.

Your dialogue, as ever, is realistic, witty and unforced. You are adept at mimicking the unique rhyme and rhythm of daily speech and this is a real strength. However you will need to make a decision on whether to translate the Yoruba directly or include it in some sort of appendix. I have no trouble with foreign languages in text as quite often one can get the gist of what is being said.

The characterisation is solid in Chapter 1 but I confess that I got a bit lost in Chapter 2 with the introduction of further characters. No doubt over the course of the whole work you will expound a bit more on their various backgrounds.

I enjoyed this thoroughly and there is real potential here for a fantastic novella. Ku se love.

Idemili said...

What ATUTU said! (Great job Atutu, couldn't have said it better myself).

However, you have Mojere saying to Labs that she asked her because she had 'a son'. further down he line, you make it twin boys. Just thought you might want to look into that.

Also, the sentence about the salesgirl stopping in panic is a little long and bulky. Maybe break it up?

Otherwise, excellente!

Anonymous said...

good job babe!!!...and good critique too...keep them coming.

Zena said...

very good

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

This is so nice. I couldn't help but think of my Husband when you described the bored guy with his girlfriend in the shop. I like the way we are discovering more about the characters. Can't wait to read more.

How far?

And, I am for translations in the footnotes, if you were trying to decide.

@ Uncle ah22: ol' boy, that was a seriously constructive analysis of the piece. I could use such detailed observations for some of my stuff. lol!

Take care!
NIGERIAN CURIOSITY
IT WAS SO MUCH EASIER WHEN I ONLY HAD ONE...

Ms. Catwalq said...

Atutulove: meeeen, I am glad that u r not my teacher o...but I agree with your analysis and I went and did some editing. The first one I wrote after some thought and like three drafts while I wrote the second chapter at three this morning while dozing off on my exacto blade.
I thought to put my own spin on the story as that is my current text for class. Getting through the book has been both educational and emotional. Educational because the course, The Victorian Novel offers some insights into the development of cultures and practices which are universal and timeless when it comes to man's inhumanity to his fellow man. It has been emotional because I read about the nonchalance of society to its most vulnerable and then match that with stories of women who go through hell to become mothers and yet will never consider adoption as a solution. My mother is not championing my decision to adopt...when I can. I am guessing she needs me to be pregnant so that I can also show that she sired an offspring with working ovaries. I also am aware that the decision to adopt might also have to involve my husband/ spouse and hopefully he will support me and see the blessing such a choice will be to us.

The story is not quite complete but I shall present it as it forms and hopefully I would have in some way been able to explore the human consciousness and their many interpretations of "Love thy neighbour as thyself"

Idemilli: Thanks girl. Have reviewed and done some editing...whatcha have in mind for the joint project?

anonymous: thanks and se u know

Zena: thanks

Solomonsydelle: my inlaw, how far. have done some editing and I will put the interpretations in the footnotes from now on...
do return for the next one

Afrobabe said...

wow...excellent...I usually dont read blogs that sound like the story will go on and on and on...but I think u r doing a great job here..

and might be worthwhile to listen to Atutu....he seems to know what he is saying..

teecity said...

good work girl pls keep it up.ur faithful reader.

Today's ranting said...

lovely! nice work! keep it up!

eFJay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eFJay said...

This is just like literature class...

As i hv always told you, you r a very talented writer catwalq

atutu, very thorough analysis! nice!

'ef babe'

Risquediva said...

avnt finished reading but wud be back...nice tho

Jaycee said...

*Sigh*

Such an excellent writer. I felt as though I was living out Mojere's pain and anguish on deciding if Oliver should come home with her.

And the heated argument between Mojere and Labake was really something...lol.

Ha ha, so she named him "Oliver" after Oliver Twist, eh?

Nice...now I can't wait to continue the proceeding episodes...another Bimbylads type of thingy...lovin it!

Jaycee said...

I love the critiques too by Atutupoyoyo...I'm also for translations at the bottom of the writings (I think it makes it more formal). :)

Sherri said...

lol@prof atutu.

nicely done babe.
how u dey?

Baroque said...

Baroque was here...brb to read the post

Olamild said...

I waz here

N.I.M.M.O said...

I think Prof Atutu has said what we 'free readers' are all trying to say. Listen to him.

I noticed a difference between the two chapters myself. Chap 2 not as tight as Chap 1. Simply put.

This is good. Very good.

We are waiting for Chapter 3 o.

princesa said...

I love the plot and atutu's comment too.
You should turn this to a novel or movie script girl.

Allied said...

Why do i feel like the greatest deeds always have a selfish intention?

Would Mojere keep Oliver if she had her own family? Husband? Children?

Waffarian said...

Great story you have here, can't wait to read the complete story. I thought it was very interesting and the Nigerian setting is just perfect.

Well done girl!

Naapali said...

Atuts na wa for you and this new found zeal for #1.

Charlotte Dickens Lagbajess, nice read thus far, I hope this continues.