Lola Opatayo

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Tales of a year: Dinner and a surprise

Short Story

Kate pounded the foofoo energetically; her husband always wanted it to be stretchy and thick. She stopped to wipe her sweaty face and check on the bitter leaf soup she was cooking in her kitchen hut. She returned to the mortar and picked up her pestle ready to continue with the pounding when she felt the first tightening. Experience had taught her that it was time and it would be quick. She hastened her preparations and promptly served the well pounded foofoo into a stainless steel bowl and covered it.
She let the next contraction pass and removed the firewood from under the simmering pot of soup. Next, she called on her eldest child: “Bring the brown bag in my room quickly!” she urged as she felt the next contraction coming. After it, she picked up her phone to dial her husband’s number. It was switched off. Realising she was going to have to do this alone, she called on her eldest again: “Where you dey na?” The child appeared with a cotton brown bag and placed it on the bench beside Kate. “Go and call Joseph, tell am say make him bring him bike” she said hurriedly.
As quickly as she could, she found her way to the village’s primary health care center. Joseph her neighbour helped her in, carrying her bag on one hand and holding her arm with the other as he called out to a nurse.
“Please don’t shout here! Do you think this is a beer parlour?” she snapped at him
“Sorry…” Joseph said placatingly and lowered his voice. “She’s in labour, please call the doctor”
“She don pay her appointment fee?” she asked irritably
“What is that?” he asked confused
“You people are not ready to…” she began angrily
“Abeg Joseph jus give her sometin, she no go gree call doctor for us” Kate said in between sharp breaths, bending over with pain. Joseph didn’t understand it but he gave her a hundred naira note.
“Which kain money be dis we you…” The nurse was saying looking disdainfully at the note and holding it out to inspect it.
“Eeewuuuu!…” Kate screamed in pain, “The baby go commot o!” she said anxiously.
Seeing that this was an emergency, the nurse quickly led them to the nearest bed, stuffing the money into her pocket and asking her to spread her legs.
“Eh! I’m coming make I go call matron, doctor no dey!” she said alarmed, hurrying off.
Kate could no longer hold back the urge and she pushed out her baby on the bare mattress while Joseph looked on in  horror. The matron suddenly appeared, chasing Joseph away and picking up the crying infant. She cut off the umbilical cord and handed the baby over to the nurse who had brought out a cloth from Kate’s bag to hold it with. The matron instructed Kate to cough hard to expel the placenta.
Kate lay back grateful for a safe delivery as the matron checked to see that the placenta was whole before she remembered.
“Wetin I born abeg?” she asked uncertainly
“Na girl” the matron said without emotion.
Kate got off the bike, thanking Joseph profusely before turning towards her house with her baby on one arm, her bag on her right shoulder and the placenta tied up in a polythene bag in her left hand. Her husband was watching a home video, licking the bitter leaf soup off his hands.
“You don come?” he said looking up at her
“Yes” she said tiredly
“Wetin you born?” he asked holding a bolus of foofoo in his hand
“Na girl” she replied as she sat down.
He shook his head and dipped the foofoo into his bowl of soup.

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