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Story by Ola W. Halim (Read author interview) September 18, 2023

Art by Geranimo

—mummy lock laura and me in our room because ojuju-kalaba is around and ojuju-kalaba is big-big like elephant and bad-bad like devil and he only visit when daddy’s food is cold or not ready yet or mummy is wearing too much lipstick like she have a secret-secret boyfriend or laura have wet her bed or i’m watching too much tv or no many people in daddy’s workshop today or daddy is drunk-drunk and left a slipper in a ditch, but ojuju-kalaba is really nice, mummy say, because sometimes he pay your school fees when daddy is broke and he make eba when mummy is busy and he kiss you girls goodnight and say sweet dreams my princesses, but it’s you, mummy, i say, because i’m not always sleeping when you kiss us goodnight, and you always make eba, but mummy is saying no anything, so i’m asking her, if ojuju-kalaba is nice, why does he do you bad-bad, and i’m pointing her swell-swell eyes and break nose and blood-blood arm and pressing-iron mark on her shoulder, and she touch her tear-tear body and shake her shoulders and say ojuju-kalaba don’t like too many questions, so i should go and do my homework or ojuju-kalaba will come and catch me, and laura should stop picking rice from the rug, and i should stop using my left hand to eat because ojuju-kalaba hate it and left-hand girls are bad and dirty-dirty-dirty so i’m forcing my right hand to not be shaking when i use the spoon, and laura stop picking rice from the rug, and we are keeping quiet because we’re fearing, but i want to ask mummy many-many question like, since ojuju-kalaba is big-big like elephant, why we don’t see his footprints, and how does he enter her room, and why daddy haven’t catch him yet, and why does daddy call mummy a girl-child factory, and why does daddy call us ‘specimens’, but ojuju-kalaba don’t like questions so i keep quiet, and, one day, mummy say she’ll have a new baby and ask me to pray it’s a boy and i say boys are boring and don’t like dolls but mummy say that’s what ojuju-kalaba want and i say we cannot do everything ojuju-kalaba want and she say he’ll stop doing her bad-bad if she have a boy and i hold laura’s hand and we pray-pray-pray for a boy and one day, when mummy’s belly look like she have swallow a ball, ojuju-kalaba enter daddy’s body and he become an elephant without footprints and he say no more girls martha you must abort that specimen and he break a bottle and chase mummy around and she say joseph joseph joseph remember we shouldn’t fight in the children’s presence and daddy say mirabel and laura, to your room now, and in the evening, the police come and daddy is saying it’s the devil and pastor pedro tell laura and me that mummy have go to greet jesus and grandma is crying she was pregnant she was pregnant she was pregnant and our neighbours are looking at us and shaking their head and saying oh poor children oh poor children oh poor children—

About the Author

Ola W. Halim (he/him) lives in Edo State, Nigeria, where he writes fiction and reflections. His work has been shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Prize, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and the Kendeka Prize for African Literature. Twice nominated for the Caine and the Pushcart Prizes, he is a 2022 fellow of the Literary Laddership for Emerging African Authors.

About the Artist

Geranimo is a photographer from South Africa.

This story appeared in Issue Eighty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty-One

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