Lola Opatayo

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Short Story
The store was almost inconspicuous, but it was popular amongst those who patronized it. It was one of the four pharmacy stores on the road, and as it is with most businesses referral was key to patronage. The store was painted white and had been fitted haphazardly with shelves on which were several bottles and packets of antibiotics, antacids, pain relievers, antimalarial drugs, anti-fungal creams, allergy treatment drugs, birth control pills, sachets of condoms, cough medicines, anti-inflammatory drugs and creams, food supplements, and abortion inducers. A naked bulb hung from the ceiling and an old calendar swayed in the afternoon breeze. A wooden table on which were scattered old newspapers and fliers was placed in the center of the store with a black plastic chair behind it. In a corner near the door were empty bottles of beer.

The owner of the store Clement, popularly known as “Uncle Clem” sat in the other corner near the door engrossed in a tabloid magazine. He wore a yellow branded t-shirt on old jeans and stretched his stocky legs, his feet crossed. His hardened face conveyed different emotions as he flipped through the pages of the magazine. Finally, he stretched and yawned, feeling hungry and sleepy. Only one customer had patronized him today- he had bought a sachet of paracetamol which was just twenty naira. He had a hundred naira in his pocket which he was saving for his transportation fare back home so he couldn’t afford to buy anything to eat.

“Segesky!” he called out to a young man who name was really Segun.

“Ah! Uncle Clem! How market now?” the young man greeted jovially.

“We dey manage…” he replied with a practiced smile. “You’ve not been coming here again, have you taken my money elsewhere?”

“I don change levels o! I get steady girlfriend now” Segun replied.

“It doesn’t matter, you can’t trust all these girls” Clement pressed, Segun usually bought about five condoms every other day and he was hoping that he would do so now. it would at least buy him a small plate of rice and a piece of meat. It didn’t work, Segun declared his trust in the girl and soon moved on. Clement checked his watch, it was just a quarter after midday. He was beginning to feel the pangs of hunger and cursed his luck wishing he had joined his friend at Yaba selling second hand clothes.

Shortly after a woman walked in with a baby strapped to her back. “Good afternoon” she greeted.

“Good afternoon madam.”

“Give me antimalaria drug for my baby.” She said in broken English.

“What is wrong with her?” he asked peeking at the child.

“She dey stool, vomit, cry and she get fever.”

“No be malaria do am! You these women wey no sabi anytin! Na teeth do am” he said in mock annoyance.

“Ehn ehn, you sure?” the woman asked doubtfully, her instincts told her the baby had malaria because she knew the child had suffered mosquito bites.

“Na you be pharmacist abi na me?” he asked angrily now, how dare the woman challenge his authority?

“No vex” The woman said pleadingly. “I just tink say na malaria do am.”

“You wey no sabi come dey argue wit person wey don dey for the business tey tey.” He mumbled as he searched the shelves for a bottle.

“Take dis one, you go give am three times daily.  Dat one na for the teeth.” He said handing her a packaged bottle. “This one na Vitamin C, give am. Then this one na paracetamol.” He said handing her two other bottles.

The woman received them gratefully then asked. “So how much for everytin now?”

“Everytin na six hundred naira” Clement said sternly.

“Eewo! I no get dat kain money.” The woman said beseechingly, kneeling slightly.

“You know say you no get money you con come my shop abeg comot!” Clement snapped at her snatching the drugs away from her.

“Abeg… I get four hundred naira for hand, I go come give you the remaining. Abeg, her body don dey hot for my back” She begged.

The drugs really cost four hundred and fifty naira but Clement saw that the woman was desperate so he decided to take advantage of her. “No problem, but bring my money o!” he said holding the tip of his right ear for emphasis and then put the drugs in a black nylon bag.

“God bless you!” The woman gushed and hurried away without checking the expiry date of the drugs and ignoring her motherly instinct which told her that the baby had malaria.


Clement belched, he had immensely enjoyed the eba and egusi soup with smoked fish which he had bought for lunch thanks to the desperate woman and her baby. He was fanning himself with a broken plastic handfan whistling to the tune of a hymn when he heard a woman pass by on a motorcycle crying: “God abeg make dis my pikin no die!”

Clement would normally disregard the noise but the voice sounded familiar. He sprang up from his seat and looked outside, it was the woman who had just come earlier with a sick baby. He turned back into his shop alarmed and checked the drugs he had sold to her, the vitamin C and teething drug had expired. He raised his hands to his head and said: “Dis one na trouble o!”


The woman walked agitatedly towards the store with her baby strapped to her back along with two policemen. “Dis na the place!” she pointed at the closed shop. “The man don comot o!” she wailed. The policemen tried to calm her down assuring her that they would find him and then they proceeded to question other shop owners in the vicinity. No one knew where Uncle Clem had gone to except Mama Fatima who roasted corn a few yards away from Uncle Clement’s shop.

“E don travel. Him talk say him papa die” She said certainly.

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