Category Archives: Stories

Vain Gain

Ben, filled with so many regrets, dragged his feet to the door. His index finger worked on his chest, on the  brownish stain on his navy blue robe and wondering why on earth he now lived alone, why his family weren’t there and why everywhere was ghostly quiet in that house, as if he just w oke up to reality.

He had lived without his family for one year, but it always seemed like he lost them yesterday. Its hard to move on. It’s just hard.

He reached for the door handle, stared at it for a while, opened the door a little and peeked into the street.

As he searched for the delivery man with neck turning left right and left, with eyes squinted against sun rays, he saw the group of onlookers gawking at posters leaning on  metal poles.What could it be they were looking at?  He pulled his head back inside the house and peeped through the window at the man hastening towards his door.

‘Mr Oy!’ The man called. ‘Come out here and see this for yourself.’

Ben glared at his robe and ran upstairs, changed into something better and joined the group outside.

He gawked at the posters. What were his photographs doing on them? What the…! He whispered as his eyes sped through the letters.

There, glaring back at him, were his secrets.

Who was out to destroy him? Joy? Janice? They were the only ones he told

Ben hurried up through the tickled readers and yanked the posters off the four tree trunks, and wished someone exploded with  idiocy.

It must be Janice. Joy would never hurt him.

What else did Janice want? She was supposed to move on after destroying his marriage and ruining his life.

Six years ago, Janice was the woman for Ben; the one he wanted from the bottom of his heart to spend the rest of his life with.

And whenever she said amidst laughter ‘One day, you will wake up to my absence’, Ben had always thought it was one of her jokes. She would never leave him.

But she did. When he needed her most.

His asthma had hit hard and he was critically ill at the hospital. She was to take care of him but she did not show up at the hospital and never showed up again. He never saw her until after he got married to Joy. Joy was the pretty nurse who took care of him at the hospital and captured his heart. But Janice would always be prettier and lovelier.

Thats why The day his wife put to bed and was still at the hospital, she stood at the door with tears in her eyes. She was sorry. She could bear seeing him in his condition. It pierced her heart to see him in pain.

Something awakened in him and forced him to reach for her hand and let her in.

Few months later, he returned from work  and saw her at the dinner table silently eating dinner with his family. Instinct told him to run but it was too late.

‘Janice here wants to have a word with you, honey. I’ll leave you both to talk. I’ll join you when you’re done.’

What wife would leave his husband alone with such a pretty woman? But his wife trusted him that much. He stared at her back as she carried baby Fortune on her shoulder and walked into the room without glancing back.

‘!Why are you here?’ He whispered

‘!Ben. I’m pregnant with our baby!’

‘How! Why!’

She got up and walked to the door. He was scared…scared his wife would find out and leave.

His wife walked back to the dinner table and stared into his eyes.

‘Why was she here?’ He heard the question but could not answer, and was relieved when she  did mot say anything further. But he was afraid of what would follow that visit.

A week passed and nothing happened.

Then two weeks later, on Sunday, he was before his computer and his wife in the kitchen when a knock came on the door. He glared at it and hoped it wasn’t what he was thinking.

It was! It was her. With a big  bag laden with God-knows-what.

She left the bag and walked past him into the house.

‘What are you doing?’ He asked. Her hand glided to her shoulder and she whispered into his ears,

‘Our baby needs you.’

‘Janice, listen up, if you know what is good for you, go and do something about that baby! I’m warning you. Stop it! I’m happily married. Dont spoil…’

His wife walked into the sitting room. Glared at them for a while before picking baby who was crying in baby stretcher.

‘What is she doing here…with a travelling bag?’

‘Ask this shameless woman! She is just like every other girl in the street looking for the owner of a child growing in their wombs!’ He said and regretted saying that. For Janice stood up, went to the door and dragged her bag into the second bedroom. They both stared at her without words.

His wife handed him the baby and walked to the door and knocked…was she not  supposed to kick the door open, burst into the room angrily and drag Janice out of the house? Why was she so soft with her.

She opened the door for her. She stared hard at him before closing the door. He did not hear them shouting.. he wished they did. As he  placed his ear at the door and listened, he heard his wife’s sob. What? Then the door snapped open and she picked their girl from him, ran into their room. He rushed after her. He met her sitting in the rock-star with Fortune on her bosom.

‘She’ s pregnant with your child!’ When he did not say anything she said, ‘ You cheated on me with your ex!’

‘Joy, I’m sorry for this. I’ll make sure she left.’

‘Tell that to yourself because I’ve called my sister to pick me up. She will be here any minute.’

‘No, Joy! Honey, you’re my wife. You can’t do this. Fight for your right!’

‘Leave this room, Ben, before I lose my cool! Leave!! This minute!!!’ And he left. Hurried to Janice and dragged her bag out of the house and pushed her out of the house. But Janice was a hard nut to crack.  Before he knew it, his sister-in-law was already there in front of the house. And without a word to him picked Joy, screeched her tires on the driveway and zoomed off.

Joy left him. He did not feel good about it. He couldn’t have. She and Fortune were the  best things that have happened to him.

But when Janice turned into an angel and made him feel greater than he had ever felt, he felt that losing them was sort of blessing. Little did he know that he was being fattened for the slaughter.

They got married…he and Janice after three months.

Two years later, he found out she was having an affair with his boss at the office. It came as a surprise. How did they meet?

It was too much to bear! And he did walk into his boss’s office and punched him in the face for shamelessly admitting to have slept with her even though he was sorry.

Janice was sorry too. But that did not stop him from serving her a divorce letter and didn’t mind when she took their child with her…after all, he needed a paternity test.

In the midst of all the turmoil, he began to feel this wired desire to be all by himself, isolated. This feeling cost him his job and now he was a depressed as hell.

Two weeks later, a knock came on the door. He refuced to open it.

But he jumped to his feet when Joy called his name. His daughter wanted to see him. Ben knelt down and hugged his girl.

‘I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry!’

Florence Ezekafor

Trouble Walked Up To Me

A young boy collapsed at my doorstep!

I loved corn pudding dearly and he was a corn pudding hawker. I couldn’t resist the urge to call him when he was passing by my building shouting, “Buy your hot agidi jelof! Buy your hot agidi jelof! Hundred hundred naira!”

He was a secondary school aged boy and the first thing that came to my mind was, this boy should be in school. Why is he hawking while other children are in school learning?

I studied him as he got closer with his tray loaded with many wraps of agidi and his neck looking so short under the weight.

He looked tired and worn out and… sad. And I was still thinking of how unfit he looked to hawk under the blazing sun when he toppled and collapsed on the ground  before me, with my toe too close to his lifeless looking body.

I took two steps nackward and looked around as if I knocked him off and making sure no else saw me doing it. The hunger for agidi vanished and those delicious agidi now looked like gravel to me.

“What happened to him?” My neighbour asked from her balcony.

“I dont know.” I said and shove the boy and called since I did not know what else to do.

My concern was this, if anything happened to this boy at my doorstep, people would gather and ask me what happened. And how would I explain to them that I called him to buy agidi only for him collapse before me. How easily would they believe that I did not do anything to him? And who would be my witness when the police would come?

“Take him out of there madam before people go gather on top of your head.” My neighbour said in pidgin English. And she was right. They would gather and ask what happened, and I better have a good answer.

“Come and help me, ma!”

Who? Me? No be me and you. I no wan trouble on top the one wey I don get for my hand.’ I stared at her with my palm hinged on my waist and back at the boy.

The boy turned to lie on his back.

“Please ma, give me water to drink,”  he murmured, his breathing was fast and shallow. I got the water and he drank it.

“What is your name?”

“Ekene,” I stressed my ears to hear him.

“Ekene, are you sick?” He nodded and  roamed his eyes as if he just realised he was in the middle of nowhere. My neighbour joined us. People began to drop one after another asking, what happened to him? Is he sick? And it was my duty to say the same thing over and over again, “I dont know, he collapsed before me.”

“Is he sick?” They kept asking. To this I said nothing. How would I know?

“Are you asthmatic?”  My neighbour asked.

The boy shook his head.

“Who sent you to hawk?” One man asked.

“Please take me to the hospital. If you take me to the hospital, I will be fine.”

“I need to call your parents first. To let them know were taking you to the hospital.” I need a number to call.”

“I dont have parents. Call my madam.”

“Oooooooh! No wonder.” people murmured. “This woman is over-using this boy for her selfish gain. Look at him! Tired and worn out and yet she had the mind to send him out to hawk in his state. If he was her son, would she do this to him? And why didn’t she put him in school like his fellow children?

I listened to their rant as I dialled the number he gave me. A woman answered and I told her what happened. When she said I should put her on a cab to bring him home, I said no. “Come here madam,” I said, ” it’s a matter of life and death.”

“I’m coming,” she said and the line went dead.

People began to disperse, leaving me and him.

“Auntie!” I turned towards him and he said, please I want to ask you for something. I’m sick with malaria but that’s not why I fainted. I fainted because I want money to register for my Senior WAEC. I want you to help me.”

“What?”

He told me the story of his life. How he dropped from SS3 because no one could help him pay WAEC fees. He had no relative to help him and his little sister. He was the one fending for both of them.

“Who do you live with presently?”

“My employer,” he said.

“She employed you to hawk agidi?”

“Yes, ma. It’s not her fault. I chose to do this to make money for my WAEC, but its hard to save.” At this point I thought I knew what happened. He feigned the whole thing to get me pay his WAEC fee. And he was telling me to my face that he feigned fainting.

I was about to scream his head off when he said, “Ma I didn’t mean you should pay for me. Take me to the hospital and leave me there. I want the doctor to help me get some money from my employer.

I got it. If I took him to the hospital, he would tell the doctor to extort his WAEC fee from his employer by adding some extra cash on his hospital bill..

How amateur his plans! How did he think a responsible doctor could consent to scam his employer?

“Do not do it. I know how much you need this but please stay away from scamming.

He kept quiet. Then he said after a while, “Ma , please when my auntie comes, do not tell her what I discussed with you,. Please.”

I nodded. “But I would if you carried on with your plans.”

“I have changed my mind, ma. I won”t do it. I’ve changed my mind about going to the hospital.

‘You’re not sick anymore?’ He kept quiet. And when his employer arrived, he got up and staggered home by her side. All that I wanted to do was take him in as my child and take care of his need and I wished I had all it took to do that. I wished I could help make his life easy.

I wondered why he could not tell his madam to pay him upfront, instead of using tricks.

Two weeks later I saw him happy, still with his tray of agidi balanced on his head. I asked about his health. He was okay and he did not go to the hospital that day. His madam bought him malaria medicine from a pharmacy. And he sat for his WAEC and the papers were easy.

In the end, I could not help but admired his determination to further his education and how he worked hard to achieve his dream on his own.


I see so many children hawking in the streets. Some of these children have no parents and some have single parents who are disabled or too poor to fend for them.

I like that some African countries have criminalized child Labour but I hope they have something in place to help these children.


More on real stories

It’s Not Time Yet!

Retirement is a stage of life that most workers look forward to. It’s a time to rest from regular work for the rest of one’s days. For some, it means rest but for others like ninety-year-old Nwana, it means death.

He believes that the moment he stops working, he will die. 

He’s a painter and painting makes him feel the blood in his veins. He loves painting houses and old age has not changed his passion and expertise.

It began when he turned seventy and refused to retire, his children did not understand why he kept working at his age. It became a thing for concern when he turned eighty-five. They knew what people were going to say – no one caters for his needs. But all their effort to stop him failed.

‘Force your father to stop now  before he dies working!’ People say.

And his children try all the tricks they know to make him stop, including soliciting with his clients to stop giving him work. Nwana finds out and summons them and says, ‘ I know you care about me but if you care about me, let me live my life the way I want. It’s my life. If I die living my life, it’s my death as well. Please, let me be..’ 

‘No papa, you must stop. It’s not good for you. And People are talking!’ The youngest says.’ They’re laying blame on us!’

‘Well, let them talk.’

‘You must stop or I’ll make you,’ the eldest says. 

In the night while Nwana sleeps. They gather his painting tools and burn them to ashes. Nwana wakes up early in the morning with no tools for his day’s work. He searches for them until he finds out what happened. His children burnt his tools. I force-stop him. 

He stays at home the whole day in silence and his children think they have won. But he calls them again in the night and gives them a warning.

 ‘Before tomorrow’s dusk, I want to see all my tools in my hands. That’s all I have to say for now.’ 

He gets his tools back and keeps working into his 90’s, and everyone fixes wide and condemning eyes on his children, who are in the position to support his used life. 

But each time Nwana sees their sympathetic stare, he wonders if they think old age is a time to sit around and depend on others. He’s not tired. He’s strong and healthy enough to work. Why do they insist on retiring him?. 

Nwana turns 92 and his strength fails him. He’s forced to stop painting. He only stared at his tools.

Ten years later, he’s still alive and knows that what keeps him alive is neither work nor rest, 

It’s not yet his time.

The Only Family He Had

Ikem beamed whenever his father drew close to him and told him stories and gratified his curiosity while his stepmother burned with something he understood well.

His father brought her because his mother could not have a child. She got Ikem when his half brother was already four. But she passed the next day when he was yet to see her face. Now Ikem was eight years and happy his father was always there for him.

With his father by his side, he had no fear.

 But from the day Ikem heard screams at midnight and the hushed voices that followed, he knew something terrible had happened. Afterwards, he searched for his father to ask what happened; he found him sleeping on his bed. There was something strange about the way he slept on his back with his hands stretched by his sides. He was so still. 

‘Come out. Go to your room.’ Someone had said. 

In the morning, lots of people gathered around a long brown box and his stepmother wailed like she had gone nuts. He didn’t see his father in his room and never saw him again. 

A few months later, when he got hungry and wanted to eat, his stepmother said, ‘ Tell your father to give you food to eat.’ When he asked where he was, she dragged him by the collar of his shirt to a mound of red dirt and let him slump on it. ‘There he is. Ask him for food.’ He had laid there for a while and wondered if his father was down there. 

The days that followed were terrible. His major problem lay because his stepmother, whom he called mother, had a son. He was his half brother, but evil, more brutal than his mother. He mocked him, called him an orphan and beat him and sent him on difficult errands. Ikem allowed him to do all the evil things to him, until one day, the unimaginable happened. 

As soon as his mother gave him his bowl of rice with a drop of stew on top, his brother followed him and hit the food off his hands.

 What made Ikem’s heart char with excess anger was not that his food had scattered on the sandy ground but the roar of his mocking laughter and the hands he kept on his hips as if daring him to a fight. Ikem picked something which felt heavy in his hand. And by the time his stepmother screamed and neighbours gathered, he was looking at his brother, who lay still on the ground. He was panic-stricken.

 The brick in his hand seemed to be glued to it as he ran through the gate and into the bush. No one chased him. They were all by the side of his brother, calling his name and pouring water on him.  

Ikem crouched on the ground and peeped through the long grasses behind their mud hut. His wide eyes depicted horror.

He heard them say, ‘Where is he? Where is he? Where is the evil child? He did this to his brother. He must face due punishment.’ The sudden screams of women and the wailing of his stepmother slashed his heart in two. Those noises sounded like the end of his life.

Night came and mosquitoes attacked his legs, arms, and face. They cried in his ears and seemed to mimic their voices. ‘Where is the evil child?’ 

His stomach gnawed as he looked for where to sleep. He walked far away to a lonely house in farmland and slept on the veranda of a small house. 

When the sun flooded into his eyes in the morning, a voice so soft asked, ‘Who are you, my child?’ He sprung to his feet. 

‘Please don’t take me home. They’ll kill me.’

‘Who will kill you?’

‘My stepmother and everyone.’

‘What did you do?’

‘I hit my brother, and he fell.’

‘He died?’

‘I don’t know.’ The old woman picked him up, gave him water to take his bath, and gave him a satisfying meal. 

‘It’s time to return home.’ She said when evening came. ‘I’ll please for forgiveness on your behalf. I’ll make sure they don’t touch you.’ The horror returned to Ikem’s face. 

‘No. I can’t go home.’

‘You can’t stay here. If they find you here, they’ll say I kept you because I don’t have a child of my own.’

So he left. 

But he did not return home. He walked a long distance, day and night, in an unknown direction, until he collapsed in front of something that looked like a house. 

‘My child, who are you? Where are you from?’ A woman said when he opened his eyes. She wore the most beautiful gown and a crown, and her smile gave him little hope.

‘I’m lost.’ he said as his eyes scanned his surroundings. It’s the kind he had not set eyes on, beautiful, rich and clean.

‘Where are you from?

I don’t know.’

‘You remember nothing?’

‘No,’ he said this because he knew that if she found where he came from, she would take him back.

‘Ok. We’ll keep you here until we find your family.’ Ikem knew that day would never come. Nobody would look for him.

The woman took care of him, sent him to school.

 Ikem grew into a handsome young man with a dominant personality. But when the King gave him preference over his two sons, who were a lot older than him, the queen’s attitude towards him changed. 

He was twenty-five when the queen sent him away with lots of money.

He returned home at twenty-five. The mud house was still the same and his stepmother was no more. His half-brother lived alone. When he told him who he was, he broke down and sobbed. 

‘She said she regretted having me as a son and spoke well of you till death. But I’m not bad anymore.’ Ikem wrapped his arms around him.

He was the only family he had. 

No Regrets

There were times

I walked through recall

With a sharp digger

In the hands

of my yearning

To exhume values 

Of time past,

But I dug in vain.

They were things

I wanted to have,

Where and what

I wanted to be,

And what I wanted to

Stick with for a lifetime,

But which slid through

My fingers like grains of millet 

and fused with history.

Taken away.

With them, I could have 

A different life.

Perhaps better than

What I have now.

And my mind kept whispering

To me about what

I should have done right.

If I did this instead of that,

I could have gotten it right.

But that’s history too.

All I have is now

to get things right,

Change what  

I couldn’t change.

And shun the voices

Dragging me into the void

to relive history the same way.

I should have regrets,

But of what use

Is going back and forth ?

Whatever didn’t work 

Might work if I tried again.

But I must not go

 through the same 

Process on 

that same road

Which led to nothing.

No regrets.