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Now, Let’s Consider This Case

ISSUE:  Fall 2014

Malisa Suchanya

And so they meet for drinks at the open court in the shopping plaza, something that happens quite often as they are wives with no jobs (depending on how you look at it) or wives with jobs (also depending on how you look at it), in the sense that the usual definition of “job” is work that a) comes with a dress code, b) is defined by a time range, and c) is rewarded with a specified amount of money, which you must consider carefully now, for though these women’s duties did not come with any, not dress code, not time range, nor salaries, they were always busy, the explanation being that to them, husband and children were more than all of the above, and chores like washing up after meals, helping out with homework, presenting chests to receive vomit and sick heads and so on, were the ultimate fulfillment of their presence here on Earth, because Almighty God said through Apostle Paul who was under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that the woman is the weaker vessel, to be under her husband, to call him “Lord,”  and this because he is an earthly representative for Jesus the ascended Lord of Lords, so said Apostle Paul, so said the law of the Almighty, which made all things okay, so okay in fact, that when their earthly Lords decreed that the women leave the work of family provision to them alone, these women were exceedingly glad, for how else could a man show he loved his family except by taking command, showing the way, and even devising spousal duties, yes, these Lords devised some statutory job functions for their wives, or maybe the functions were an outgrowth of sheer necessity, and they were things like a) auditioning a house girl for the post of housecleaning, diaper changing, or impromptu shopping for food items, b) contracting a mechanic to fix the broken car, c) all other things in line with a) and b) that have not been mentioned, to which these women said “yes darling” and laid aside their university certificates, “yes darling” and sacrificed themselves on altars of what they perceived to be a higher calling, “yes darling” because the world said so, and this world included their mothers in the village who thought it a good idea, that it was best for a woman to focus on raising a family, things were getting worse these days they said, civilization was ruining moral values, children were getting molested by the hour, were being taught all sorts of horrible things by peers, things so filthy that what these little ones knew about sex their parents could not even imagine, “a ha, a ha, watch your children’s souls,” the mothers in the village said, “for this is more noble, love your earthly Lord in the name of Jesus and don’t let your society down, don’t let your society down,” thus the wise mothers had spoken, thus the Almighty through Apostle Paul had spoken, and this sealed everything about everything, making the equation of the world as ordained by destiny balanced.

Their meetings, which may be called the meetings of the “Association of Jobful Women at the Shopping Plaza,” are never planned, but then, maybe the women prefer to think of them as not planned, which, truly, if you were to observe closely, may not be planned, because they coincidentally bump into themselves here and there, weaving in and out of shops that deal in kiddies’ clothes and toys, hair extensions, men’s shoes, women’s lingerie (this “lingerie” means tummy shorts tough enough to keep fat spools on a firm leash, the sinful lacy stuff they frown at), and etcetera etcetera, so, yes, that’s the way it is, this weaving in and out of various shops by the women, as they hold on to shopping lists, long long lists compiled at the end of the month when Lord Darling has dispensed the financial quota for food and other expenses for general household upkeep, for which reason these lists are called miscellaneous lists or ML for short, and being miscellaneous means plenty of other things, many more things, including items with special asterisks and markings by the side, items which may be a surprise something for their Lords, like a cologne or can of shaving cream, as these women are told in church fellowships that it is important to keep that marriage going through the God-given element of surprise, up upping the flame of matrimonial appreciation, of matrimonial something something, but we don’t want to go too deep into this something something, just remain with the contents of the ML, though you must consider carefully now, as we were saying, look, these MLs could also contain an item recently advertised on TV, like the hair extensions and tummy shorts earlier mentioned, an item like a push-up bra, an item like an anticellulite lotion with seaweed extract and pure shea butter, all of them things coming from advertisements stumbled upon on lucky days, lucky days because these women don’t always have time for TV from running around as the wife-job demands, for now you will agree that four to six children is no joke, fending off and thereafter surrendering to the libidinous nightly assaults of a hot-blooded Lord Darling is no joke either, but anyway, when these women can watch TV they watch, though short short flashes of entertainment and entertainment mostly, mainly because the news makes them fear for the world, makes them believe the world must be coming to an end as predicted in the Book of Revelation, and this is something they don’t want to be reminded about, not at all, but, however now and again, slowly, ever so reluctantly, they watch the news sometimes, maybe twice a month, and when they do, they do so in order to determine what to pray about in church, how to use some scientific information on one another, like the fact that an earthquake is measured by a Richter, Rich-tah, and they would nod at that information, “good news for good brain” they say, and they pray in fellowship, trying to calm their beating hearts at the news of wars and killings and famine, all signs that Jesus’ second coming is at hand, which you must consider carefully now, for even as these women desire heaven and the glories of the afterlife, they do not wish for Jesus to come just yet, appearing in the clouds with his army of angels to take the Faithful home, precisely because the “Faithful” would not include their husbands, their Lord Darlings, men who still drink and smoke and watch videos of rollicking naked people, men who see nothing wrong in such filth, have not consecrated their lives to Jesus, no not yet, their Lord Darlings were not ready, but they would be if the women prayed harder, prayed to Jesus not to come just yet, to step on his chariot brakes for the sake of their men, something which is interesting when you think of it, for according to the Bible Jesus had made it clear that in heaven there would be no marriage, no man and woman, for all would be as one gender and race, enjoying mansions and streets lined with gold, and there would be joy and righteousness evermore, forever and ever, thus did these women not remember this part of the divine plan, praying and praying for their husbands to come along with them all the same, believing that the family had to be intact nevertheless, everyone receiving presidential handshakes from God in the afterlife, and God would announce, and this is for you oh noble daughter, for converting your husband here is a diamond star, or a golden scepter, or maybe God would simply say well done and nothing more, for the term “daughter” would mean that genders still mattered, and how could that be if man and woman would have no differentiation, nothing between the legs, all wearing similar clothes, or robes, maybe even trousers, or tummy shorts like the ones bought in the shops, tummy shorts described on the adverts on TV, tummy shorts written down on the lists they carried, weaving in and out of shops, for kiddies’ clothes and toys, for kitchenwares and men’s cologne, muttering to themselves all the while, comparing prices and looking left and right, heads bent to study the next item on the list, engrossed, so engrossed, so that they bump into one another, and then look up in embarrassment to apologize an apology that goes thus, “Oh I’m sorry I wasn’t looking, oh it’s you and what is this, you’re pregnant again!”

Now what they talk about varies greatly, but it will always be sure to come around to you know what, and they laugh a lot when they talk, and watch each other for signs of aging and sagging in determinant places, take for instance the chin, the neck, the puff above the elbow, and then they imagine the rest, like the milky cellulite trajectories on the butt or thighs or breasts, or the bulging stomach that must dip to the pelvis when released by a tummy short, hanging there like tubes of soft tires hahaha, after which they swap information on brightening creams, weight-loss capsules, medication for children’s fevers, and praise Jesus for the gift of life, for the gift of a husband in these days of good-man scarcity, for Jesus had seen their chaste hearts and rewarded them for staying virgins till their wedding nights, very true indeed they confirm, although there was no way for each woman to ascertain if the other’s claims to virginity were true or not, a research mission they imagined themselves embarking upon, only they wouldn’t know whom to ask, or what former lover to consult, or what commission to report their findings to, no not at all, but how they wished they could know more, hear more, and perceive more, even though it could be said that they were not totally ignorant about some of the other things, for they heard news about one another from other sources, an advantage applicable to the ones whose children attended the same schools and thus were taught by the same teachers, schoolteachers who loved to gossip, whose chattering crisscrossed about, like a story about misbehaving children, a family issue, about the father who pushed a child over a balcony in a fit of anger, stories like that were carried about by teachers, causing these women to hear few things about one another through this means, and when they heard they whispered behind the back of their unfortunate jobful colleague, saying how important it was that they pray for the unlucky one, saying how virtues like patience and righteousness must be upheld at all times, shaking their heads and trying to hide the glee in their hearts, unable to realize that someday the table would turn and a new name, a new story would leak, causing the discussion wheel to swing to a new unfortunate, provided she were not around the shopping plaza that day, thus more excitement, new excitement for everyone, chatting about how necessary it was to pray for the one whose husband was cheating behind her back with one of his secretaries, to pray even harder because this secretary had straight legs and bore what looked like a firm 36DD pair of breasts on her chest, qualities that must have endeared her to their jobful colleague’s husband for all this time, could be months, could be years, and for this what an unlucky woman their colleague was, what a poor thing she must be not to be aware, or perhaps she was aware but had chosen to be silent in a show of demure endurance, which might be the wiser option because if you left, who would take care of the children if not this prostitute secretary doomed to hell where Jesus would be sure to make her chant apologies for all eternity, hmm, so they were right, for finally whatever injustice was committed would be avenged in the end, “hallelujah hallelujah,” they chorused over ice cream at twelve noon, along with fried-chicken thighs and Coke, sitting now in the open court of the shopping plaza, around a big round table to pass the time till it was time to pick up the children from school, or do something else like check on the man repairing the generator at home, or on other ancillary jobs as mentioned before which are not necessary to repeat at this point, but are jobs nonetheless, even without a dress code and time specification, because as the rest of the world is thinking and strategizing for a future, these women are doing so as well, and for this they grow closer, look forward to seeing each other for want of what to discuss, what new thing to learn, what new thing to do, thus drawing the cord around their hearts tighter, and sometimes they follow themselves to their homes, in twos or threes, and it is said that they touch and lie together sometimes, though the veracity of that cannot be confirmed, for if they did such things then it would be a sin before Jesus, although one cannot say at what stage it becomes sin, take for instance running a finger around the edge of the shoulder, or giving a close hug, or helping a sister with aching breasts undo her bra clasps, one cannot say there is sin in that, and if the other says this must be sin, then she clearly had bad intentions from the outset, just like for the sake of anonymity we shall call her SK, just like when SK began to avoid the shopping plaza and would not pick up their calls, and when she was accosted in her home she said that this was sin, to which anger and pity and then love flushed over the other women, because SK was not the good one it had turned out, which was why something very bad befell her, something worse than what their Lord Darlings would ever think of doing to them, and to pray for her the news had to be passed around in the plaza, with shopping MLs in their hands and leers in their eyes, in the manner of making sure no one would say she hadn’t heard the latest development, which caused them to begin by asking around in low voices, “Did you hear what happened to SK?”

SK was HIV-positive, and her husband had given it to her it seemed, but the strange thing was that the man was negative, and SK swore she had been with no other, a perplexing situation on which her family and her husband’s family deliberated upon for days and days, after which it was finally decided that SK’s husband undergo another test, which the man did, and it was still negative, therefore surprising everyone all the more because SK was the woman with the secretary-sleeping husband, and the secretary wasn’t even the first woman he had been with outside his home, nor was she the second nor the third, for the man simply had an entrenched reputation for this sort of thing, so how then did it turn out that though the field was sterile the farmer had turned up with a handful of rotten fruit, which was the proverb SK’s family used in searching for answers, and the in-laws on the other side pointed out that SK had obviously been involved outside and was lying about it, which was some answer to give, because it made both families fight, each vouching for their progeny’s fidelity, shouting and shouting at the top of their lungs, till SK’s family stormed back to the village with their daughter, leaving behind SK’s HIV-negative children with their HIV-negative father, and this HIV-negative father brought in the 36DD-breasted secretary, though it couldn’t be ascertained that the secretary really spoke to the children, rough intimidating children that they were, the older of whom was a teenager, the younger of whom screamed every day for his mother, till one day younger and older absconded from school, stole their father’s money, and made for the village to see their mother, a decision which proved to be a bad one, because they met their mother all by herself in a room, talking to herself and pulling out her hair, hair that used to be the envy of the jobful women at a point in their friendship, hair that they could see now as they sat talking around the table in the plaza, asking themselves whether really, could it be possible that SK had been carrying on with a lover and not saying it, or could it be that she had sustained an injury in some way, or could it be that her husband was the one to blame, though it was not fathomable how he could have altered or bribed for his test results and why, and then they understood why, and when they understood why, they wondered if that was what had really taken place, but as was said earlier, these women heard in snips and snatches and never got the actual stories behind one another’s situations, so what was always left for them to rely upon was the lengths to which their imaginations could take them, so who could it be said introduced what at what point in SK’s story, or removed what at what point in the story, if it was a story at all, for these are the kinds of things they told as they shook their heads, things reeling with bubbles within, and when these bubbles broke, a need to pray would burst forth, for it has been said if you would remember, that a job was a job depending on how you looked at it, all that was needed in this case was a vacancy, a willingness to fill it, expand it, fill it again, expand it, and we could go on and on and on.


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Olusola Akinwale's picture
Olusola Akinwale · 8 years ago

My God - this is an incredible story!  I've never read a four-paragraph story of 3,000 words before. Onyinye pulled it off successfully.  I've always thought George Saunders' Puppy, with an opening paragraph running at 137 words before a full stop, is awesome, but Onyinye's story is more than awesome. Now, Let’s Consider This Case opening runs at 518 words before a full stop. I’m very much in love with the characterization. I can see the women at the shopping plaza. Come on, this story shows Onyinye's eclecticism as a writer.  Girl, you deserve the Caine Prize for this.

Mari's picture
Mari · 7 years ago

this is beautiful


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