Fiction Fiesta: The Curfew by Magnus Ekpiken

Although he was third in the line, the food-seller noticed him. Realizing that he could be a potential big customer, she beckoned him over.

“Welcome, sir. Tell me wetin you go chop. Dem go bring am come give you.”

“Thank you, madam.”

Jeremiah placed his order and the woman knew she had not made a mistake. Her eyes gleamed as she watched Jeremiah walk up to a nearby table.

Jeremiah sat down on the hard chair and made himself as comfortable as he could under the circumstances. As his gaze swept across the dim room, he noticed that almost all the tables
were occupied. Must be the rush hour, he thought. He noticed that although most of the furnitures in the room were threadbare and shabby, everything was clean. Cheap paintings, most of them depicting scenes of various cultural displays, adorned the walls.

What are you reading this lockdown?

Most of all, he noticed the man who shared the table with him. He could not help but notice him. The man seemed to be in a hurry and was attacking his food as if it would suddenly disappear. It was fascinatingly revolting to watch him deftly roll the garri into a ball, dip it into the bowl of soup and throw it into his mouth, his tongue snaking out to wipe off the excess soup that dribbled out from the corner of his mouth. It also increased his hunger. He kept on making squirming movements and wished
the woman would hurry up. This was certainly going to be the last time he would undertake such a vicarious show of uxoriousness.

the man who shared the table with him… seemed to be in a hurry and was attacking his food as if it would suddenly disappear. @magicmagnus2 #Fiction #lockdownreads

Mercifully, he saw one of the madam’s girls approaching him with a tray in her hands. He allowed himself the luxury of a small smile; so he was getting the V.I.P. treatment.

The girl placed the tray on the table before him, poured water from a jug on the bare table into a glass she had brought along with her, and uncovered the plate. Jeremiah almost sang out loud at the sight of the steaming plate of jollof rice. As he reached for the spoon the girl had placed before him, his Adam’s apple moved up and down.

He was about to dip the spoon into the plate when he realized that the girl was still standing unobtrusively beside him. He raised his head quizzically.

“You are to pay before eating, Sir,” she said.

Jeremiah almost sang out loud at the sight of the steaming plate of jollof rice… He was about to dip the spoon.. when he realized that the girl was still standing… You are to pay before eating… she said @magicmagnus2 #lockdownreads

Jeremiah was mildly annoyed at this interruption.  He started to bring out his wallet – and froze.  Sweet Jesus, he thought.  This can’t be happening to me.

But it was happening.  It all came flooding back: his extreme hunger after the meeting and the wait for his food to be brought in. He remembered taking off his jacket and hanging it on the back of his chair. He remembered his hasty departure from the office. The problem was he had left his wallet in his jacket.

He was jolted back to the present by a voice. It was the madam herself who had come in person to see how he was enjoying the fare. “Ah Oga; I hope say the food sweet well well.”

It was a nightmare the like of which he had never before experienced. When she discovered that her potential ‘big’ customer had no money on him, the madam turned hostile.  She raved and ranted and called him all sorts of names. She refused his plea to her to get someone to accompany him to his office to get money. Under her supervision, the food was packed away.

Jeremiah’s humiliation was complete and to top it all, he was still desperately, ravenously hungry. He felt his eyes boring into his back and heard the raucous laughter as walked out of the room, holding himself up with as much dignity as he could muster.

This story was excerpted from The Betrayal by Magnus Ekpiken. The Betrayal is a collection of six well-crafted short stories set in Africa to portray typical happenings in the contemporary African society. Read more about The Betrayal by Magnus Ekpiken here

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