Lafia’s Dream: A Short Story by Ike Adegboye
Life was black and white before Simbi—life or death. She had found me underneath a rusty, grey-orange tin roof, which sat discarded outside a welder’s shop in a settlement in Ibadan which I would come to know as Beere. The rain had thinned out into a drizzle and for once the usually busy market street gave off a strange quiteness. A peace. Or maybe I was fading out, slowly dying from starvation. A face peeked under the tin sheet. She was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. A wide face which ended in a pointy chin, eyes curious, her hair woven away from her face in tidy, straight plaits to her nape. Soft droplets of water fell around her like a sheer curtain. On her head sat a tray of something covered by a large sheet of plastic. Sniff. Sniff. Fried fish. And fried yam. The acrid fragrance of a pepper sauce drifted along into my metal cave. She crouched to half her height, one hand holding her tray, the other reaching out, fingers—unsure but steady. We both stared at each other— woman and canine. My eyes watched her fingers inch closer. I tucked my head into my shoulders, waiting for it—a swat, a smack. It was what I was accustomed to— prods and slaps; kicks and stones. I waited. I flinched at her touch. She whispered something as her fingers gently ran along the grain of my wet coat. Light. It reminded me of something from somewhere long ago. A light. A calm. A tickle. Something. Something, life on the streets had taken away so brazenly and so long ago.
That was what she called me. I loved it. It was the perfect name. We became inseparable. Her name was Simbi, omo Ìyá Eléja*. She gave me a bath. Dinner was fish bones and any scraps from her dinner. She taught me to stand on two feet(anyone could have done that with a piece of fish in their hands). I was by her side whenever she went out to work, her tray on her head. I’d tag along following her scent of fried fish and fried yam. Bliss.
Then one day she met him.
That was what he called me, through his missing incisors and canines. Every time he smiled, his mouth looked like a haphazardly eaten corn cub. She had met him one day when a thief tried to steal her waist purse—the one day I wasn’t by her side. I was locked up in my cage because I had “borrowed” some fish. Ìyá Eléja wasn’t much of a lender. I heard Simbi yell. She must have been a few streets away. I barked and didn't stop barking until she came home. There was a new scent present. A stranger. He had brought her home. She was shaken. Ìyá Eléja let me loose because she thought the danger was still imminent. I followed at their heels. This man. This saviour. He had the undeniable scent of sweat and oil. Engine oil. A mechanic. The heel of his old sandal smacked my nose as I tried to sniff him out. It was the first time he referred to me as Bingo. In the same breath, “locah dog”, in the same breath “useless”. It was like I’d hated him before I met him. I snapped at his heels but Simbi spoke sharply to me. My ears drooped. She had never done that. Ìyá Eléja was full of praise for the mechanic. She packed a bag of fried fish for him and that was the first time he startled us all with his frightening corn-cob smile.
He was back the following day. And the day after, and the day after. More bags of fried fish. More praise. Giggles from Simbi. Then some more fish. I had stopped barking at him by the sixth day. The way she looked at him...
After this, I no longer borrowed fish. I had to be with her all the time. Beere was a dangerous place. Sometimes, the mechanic would show up with his ugly vespa motorcycle, give her a ride and I’d have to run along side.
“Lafun”, He’d holla. He’d suck his puckered lips and make a high pitched kissing sound through his teeth.
He’d raise dust and I’d run blindly after her, after my Simbi. Sometimes he’d splash mud, screeching his tires. He’d laugh loudly. “Tètè, Làfûn!” His tone derisive. Locah dog. He’d say.
If he must know, I was once a puppy owned by a professor and his family at the University of Ibadan. A canine of pedigree, until one day I got lost, captured and sold off as a lab experiment dog.
Sometimes, she’d come home, slam her tray down on the concrete floor, she’d stamp her feet around and bury her head between her thighs and cry. I’d sit beside her, head on my paws. Eyes never leaving her. Other days, she was in the clouds above, skipping. Her tray full, with no purchases, which infuriated Ìyá Eléja. Now she locked me in the cage more often. Her new friend didn't like me watching, she said.
And now she came home with bruises. One day, she came home with a burst cheek. The gash tore deep into her smooth face. She was attacked, she said. Mama Eleja insisted I go everywhere with her from now on.
It was late last night, when she snuck off her mat. I watched her. Her figure moved silently in the dark. I sat up, first on hind legs, eyes keen. She looked me and I followed. We walked quickly. I knew where we were going. He lived three streets away. I tried not to think what she was going there to do.
We got to his home, a face-me-I-face-you building— a house with six rented single rooms down the corridor. She stopped at the second door on the right. My ears cocked. A faint noise. His voice. My eyes looked up at her. I listened.
A grunt. Faint. Then another.
She pushed into the room through the door and brushed aside the curtain which hung over the entrance. There he was in the dim light on a thin mattress which sat on the bare, cement floor. The woman wore nothing. Their skin glistening with sweat in the still room. He saw us and in an instant, landed on his feet.
He spoke Yoruba.
”Who told you to come here?” He yelled. A low growl travelled up my throat. The cement floor beneath my paws felt cold. The hair on my neck tingled as the strands stood on end.
Simbi stepped back. She stammered.
“I told you never to come unless I call for you.” His voice rose again. My growl deepened. He looked at me for a second.
“Who is she?” Simbi’s voice shook. “Tani ni yen?” She asked again.
”Se ori e buru ni?” He asked her if she was cursed; if she was in her right mind.
”Abi ori iya e buru?” His right hand rose above his head…
I had waited for this day…
I leaped into the air and caught his elbow between my teeth, sinking in with such relish. I even imagined it was fish. The naked woman screamed. Snarls. Growls. The sound of teeth crunching bone. Simbi gasped. He screamed. He begged. He even called me “Lafia”. “Goodu boy”, He pleaded.
All I saw was fish. Even his neck began to take the form of a silvery, crispy piece of Tilapia.
Yes. I had waited for this day.
And it was here.
Copyright ©2018 by IkeOluwapo Adegboye