Saturday, June 9, 2012


 A Short Story by Kaykay Obi

I sit in my room, brooding over why my father is still at home by this time of the day. My father goes out every Sunday, to meetings, to visit friends, or to where I don’t know. But this Sunday, it seems he has chosen to remain at home. I had been hoping he’d go out later in the evening, but the clocked ticked four and he was still in a pair of his brown, baggy shorts, which he wears whenever he’s at home.

Now I’ve lost hope.

My father remaining at home means many things to me. Bad things though. It means there will be no playing for me this Sunday. There will be no strolling to the airport with Dami, where we watch planes land and take off, then practice and talk about how to build our own planes and become the pilots of it. And whenever my father is at home, he makes me read my book until I cram the whole words inside my head.

But this Sunday, I don’t want to play Police and Thief, neither do I want to go to the airport.

Dami’s father had bought him a PlayStation 3 last week and I want to play it so badly, especially after Dami told me how fascinating and real the soccer game is. I would have had the chance to play it yesterday if I hadn’t followed my mother to the market. In the market, I had tried to sneak away but she caught me, and she made a creepy old woman who sold vegetables watch over me. The woman, who was pleased with the task, had her weird eyes on me all day as I prayed silently she doesn’t inject evil spirit into my body with her witchy eyes. I actually…

‘John!’ my father shouts my name from the veranda.                    

I jump out of the bed, cross my room, move through the small sitting room until I am standing before my father. He is sitting on a stool in the veranda, licking mango and pressing the buttons on his phone. Hope made me think he’d finally decided to go out. But I am wrong. He is still in his baggy shorts and even has no shirt on his body. Thick, black hairs spread across his chest like untamed grasses on a field. When I was younger, I loved playing with the hairs. But that was before the little witch was born and she took over from being the favorite child.

My father pulls out a five hundred naira note from his pocket and gives it to me.

My face spreads in a smile. Father has finally given me the pocket money I’d been asking him for over two weeks.

‘Go to Damilola’s compound and get me four hundred naira recharge card,’ he says.

I let out a silent hiss. If my father hears the sound of that, I’ll receive some beating.

‘Why are you still standing here?’ he asks. ‘Go get me what I sent you.’

I turn away, about to dash off, but he calls my name. I turn back, wondering why he stopped me.

‘I know you’re about to go and play in Damilola’s house before you bring back my recharge card.’

‘No, sir,’ I say.

‘Are you sure?’ he asks.

‘Yes, sir,’ I reply, nodding.

He makes a guttural sound and spits phlegm on the floor, close to my feet. ‘Come back to this house before my spit dries.’

With the sun still burning in the sky, I interpret that as come back to this house before three minutes.

I walk to the road this time as the excitement within my body fades away. I stand by the sidewalk, waiting for the oncoming vehicles to pass so I can cross into Dami’s side of the street. A plane flies overhead, so low I think the pilot is drunk and has forgotten the airport is still three hundred meters away. I curse the pilot in my mind just as screams of Up NEPA come from every house in the neighborhood. I brighten at the prospect of watching Discovery Channel when I’m back from buying the recharge card.

‘John!’ My father’s harsh voice comes from behind.

I turn back, and then settle my eyes on the veranda.

My father beckons on me.

I shake my head as my short strides carry me back to him. My frustrations are transferred to a column of ants crossing the sandy path into the small piece of land we use as vegetable garden. I guess a hundred of them crushed under my feet.

The spittle isn’t dry when I stand before my father and I wonder why he’d called me.

‘Get inside and iron your school uniforms. Quick!’

‘Let me get the recharge card first,’ I say.

‘Come on will you get inside and do what I told you!’ my father bawls. ‘You know this isn’t America where light stays on forever. Ten or twenty minutes and NEPA people would cease the light again.’

Living close to the International Airport, you’d think we have a steady power supply. But that isn’t the case here at all.  I could count the number of minutes or few hours we have power supply daily. Yet people keep screaming Up NEPA whenever power comes.

I say nothing as I walk into the house. Just as I expect, Maryann, my kid sister is glued to the television, watching the stupid Tom and Jerry cartoon she keeps watching every time. I hate the sound of her cackle whenever she watches the stupid Cat and Mouse.


The little witch looks up at me, her mischievous eyes glowing in the semi darkness of our sitting room.

I call her little witch because she keeps making life miserable for me in this house.

‘I don’t want to see you there when I’m through with the clothes. Just put on Discovery Channel for me.’

The little witch sticks her tongue at me. ‘Come on go inside and do what Daddy told you. And don’t forget to iron my uniform before yours.’

‘I’ll slap you if you say that again.’

She makes a face at me. ‘Then I’ll tell Daddy.’

And that is the cycle. Little witch pisses me off, I hit her a little with my hand, she cries to father, and father hits me harder with the whip. That is just the cycle of my frustrations in this house.

I ignore her and walk into the room. I find the pressing iron leaning on my school bag, close to my stack of books. Ask father for pocket money, he wouldn’t give you. Tell him about a textbook and he’ll buy you the book even before you say the word.

Little witch’s and my school uniforms are scattered all over the bed. After ironing them, I’d have to fold them neatly and put them inside the box. My father says I’ll get to fifteen before I begin using wall hangers.

I take the blanket and spread it on the floor. Then I put my clothes next to it. As punishment for little witch’s misbehavior, I’ll iron my uniforms before I iron hers. If she’s lucky, maybe there would be no power outage before I get to hers and she wouldn’t have to go to school tomorrow in a crumpled uniform.

The sound of Dami’s whistle reaches me just as I’m about to spread my shirt on the blanket. I drop my shirt and move towards the window. Then I gaze at Dami’s window across the street, on the top floor of a blue, two storey building. He stands there with his hands spread apart.

I understand the gesture as what’s been holding you?

I point towards my father’s room in reply.

He raises something I recognize to be the PlayStation 3 console I always see on TV commercials. Then he gestures at me to come over. I guess he must feel very bad I’m not there to play his PlayStation 3 with him. Yesterday, he’d even suggested bringing the console to my house so we could play. But my father wouldn’t approve such. He hated video games more than he hated Satan. When Dami’s father bought him the Play Station 2, Dami had given me his Play Station 1. I was playing the game one day in the sitting room when father returned home from work, earlier than he was supposed to. I thought he would whip me. But he didn’t. What he did made me cry that night. He took the game console outside, dropped it on the veranda, and sucked some fuel from his motorcycle’s fuel tank. A minute later and the PlayStation 1 was aflame while my father said all negative things about games.
Dami’s whistle sounds again. I focus on his window. He spreads his hands, but I shake my head and wave at him, signally later. Then I return to my clothes. I fix the plug on the wall socket and just as I pressed the switch, a deafening bang sounds outside. The ground vibrates under me and I jump away from the iron before it would explode too. Power outage follows immediately.

It takes the screams of the people outside for me to realize I am not the cause of the deafening bang. I whiz to the window but smoke is all I can see. I wipe my face, blink twice. More smoke.

Then the words of the screamers outside get to me.

Plane Crash! Jesus Christ! Jesu Christi! Oh my God! Plane don crash oo! Chineke!

I’m a little relieved it wasn’t a bomb blast, but could a plane crash? Dami and I had never imagined plane accidents whenever we talked about making our own planes.

I snatch my whistle from the cupboard and blow it twice. Dami doesn’t blow his whistle in return and I know something is wrong. I dash out of the house and moved towards the billowing smoke. A little crowd stands before the cloud of rising smoke. I move closer, into the smoke, coughing and panting as thick choking smoke penetrates my lungs. Then I notice the fire. The heat burns my skin a little but I keep moving, blowing my whistle and waiting for the sound of Dami’s return whistle. The sound doesn’t come. Or… Maybe the noise of the crowd is drowning out the sound of his whistle.

My foot hangs in the air when I see it; the tail of a plane, standing like a flag where Dami’s room is supposed to be. The same place he’d stood moments ago.

‘Damilola’ I scream. ‘Where are you?’

I move forward.

‘Small boy get out of there!’ a voice shouts behind me.

Someone sweeps me off the ground, carrying me away from the burning house. I struggle in the man’s hands and look back just in time to see Dami’s house collapse. The scene around me, just like what I see in American action movies.

‘You wan kill yourself?’ the man asks when he drops me at a safe distance.

I shake my head. ‘Dami dey there.’

‘Dami don die!’ the man yells.

I turn away from the man, hating him even though he’d save me from the collapsing building. How could he be so wicked by telling me my friend was dead?

I move towards another building where more crowds gathered. The building is leveled to the ground and the body of plane burns fiercely here. The commotion is too much. Some people cry, some scream, some take pictures of the site with their camera phones, some move around the crash, checking for people to rescue, other remain speechless, with their hands placed atop their heads. I see Mama Iyabo, crying and rolling on the ground, begging the men around her to allow her go into the furnace so she can die with her whole family.

I move a little further towards the wreck when I see two boys pointing at something near the gutter. I glance at the direction they are pointing, and I see the bloodied body of a man covered in burns.

I stifle the vomit in my throat. Turning around, I see my father walking towards me. He is carrying a sobbing Maryann on his body and he seems like a different man now. I look intently at him but I cannot see whatever it is that makes me detest him. His sternness is gone, replaced with a softness that makes him look ten years younger.

Then I realize that my father has saved my life. I realize that NEPA has saved my life. And I realize that God has used them both to save my life.

When my father stretches his hands towards me, I move into his body in the longest embrace I’ve ever had. I hold Maryann’s leg for comfort while I bury my face in my father’s chest. His hand pats my back while I sob, and silently I pray that God will bless him.
                                      *                            *                              *
Sometimes, I still stand my window, gazing at where Dami’s window had once been, blowing my whistle and waiting for the sound of his whistle. Some say he’s dead and gone. But I don’t believe my friend is gone. One day. Maybe one day, he’d blow his whistle from heaven.

June 3, 2012. A plane crashed in Lagos, Nigeria, killing 146 passengers and 7 crew members.  Dozens of people were killed on ground when the plane, which took off from Abuja, crashed into a residential area in the outskirts of Lagos.

May their souls rest in peace.  My heartfelt condolence goes to the relatives of the victims that they may be able to bear the loss.

Thanks for reading the piece.  Remain blessed and have a nice weekend.


  1. Wow, what can I say? This may be not toatlly perfect from the editing point of view, but the story left me speechless.

    The way you describe the crash, or the boy's life is too intense and I know I will remeber this story. Especially the whistle. I can almost see that image of the boy waiting to hear his friend's signal.

    I felt like I was reading a true story and when you said that a plane did crach a year ago, killing all tose people, a chill ran down my spine.

    May their souls rest in peace.

    Thanks for sharing this story, Kaykay.

    1. Thank you so much, Athina. I'm glad you read the story. The plane crash was a terrible one indeed.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)