Friday, September 04, 2009

New Beginning 681


Baba Lasisi’s thunderous voice rang out as clear as the Muslim call to prayer, even though he stood ten houses away. That meant I had violated my curfew again–for the third night in a row.

Baba Lasisi was my next-door neighbor, and a creature of habit. Every evening at seven, he came out of his house, his protruding abdomen girded by only a loincloth, a half-eaten chewing stick in one hand, and a bowl of feces in the other. As he deposited his business into the Lagoon below, he screamed for his wife to put dinner on the table. However disgusting the thought, you could set a clock by Baba Lasisi’s evening routine.

I lived with my parents and four siblings at the far end of the Ijora-Badiya community, in a two bedroom house, suspended above the Lagos Lagoon by wooden stilts. An intricate maze of bamboo walkways served as our connection to the outside world, and also separated us from the filthy water that flowed placidly beneath.

Every day after school, I sold 'pure water' at the bus park for Maami. She expected me to sell all ten dozen sachets of water in two and a half hours, and complete the twenty minute walk home by six p.m. Therein lay the problem.

Since our only source of "pure water" was the Lagoon beneath us, our customer base was being steadily destroyed by cholera, amoebic dysentery and enteric fever.

But what else could I do? I was past my best years for child prostitution, and the street gangs that dealt khat and opium had no use for me. I could work in the sweatshops, but sewing garments sixteen hours a day would obviously keep me out past six.

It all seemed so unfair. All we needed was one person to help us get the millions of dollars out of the secret account, and our troubles would be over. Why would no one help us? We were offering a generous cut of the proceeds; why would no one answer our emails?

Opening: Wande.....Continuation: Steve Wright


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

It took a long time to sell. Out of every 10 people I would talk to, maybe only one would buy. Most lost interest when they found out how the sachets of freeze-dried, instant "pure water" really worked.


You see, the A bus left the station at 2:30 PM, heading East Northeast and carrying a median of 48 passengers. It traveled at 89.34 miles per hour, except at the bend where it once hit Baba Oringi's goat. When that happened, we had goat meat for a week because Baba Oringi was a vegetarian. You could see him every evening in his yard, crooning to the crickets.

The B bus, however, left the other station at 5:20 pm, traveling at 23 miles per hour and carrying a mode of 32 people. Assuming an average weight of 78.3 pounds per person, it wouldn't arrive at the station until 6:01 pm.


How the hell was I supposed to complete the walk in twenty minutes when Baba Lasisi's habits, however disgusting, were nonetheless fascinating? Seriously, how could he use a bowl for his feces? Where was his chamber pot? When were they going to get a real toilet like the rest of the homes on the street? Surely he wouldn't throw it into the source for the water I was supposed to sell?

I sat down in the grass, far enough away that Baba couldn't see me. For the third night in a row I pondered the feces of the Lasisis.


The intricate maze of bamboo walkways that served as our connection to the outside world were meant to carry foot traffic not buses so, as often as not, the buses would plunge into the feces laden lagoon taking my customers along.

Of course I tried to sell them a sachet of "pure water" as they climbed up the banks of the lagoon, but their response was always, "Are you mad, girl, it will take much more than just a sachet to wash the filth off of me".

--Joel G.

* * *

Scott turned to a new page and started scribbling. Ten dozen -- that's a hundred and twenty. In two and a half hours, or a hundred and fifty minutes, it would be necessary to sell one sachet every -- he tapped on his calculator -- one point two five minutes, or seventy-five seconds. Good, good, okay so far. ...but what did that have to do with Baba shitting in a bucket?

Scott pondered for a while. "I know!" He thought. "It should be twelve dozen sachets; then they'd both be doing something gross."


Evil Editor said...

Neither I nor is familiar with "sachet" as a container for a liquid; I trust it's a term used in Nigeria and not in error?

I wouldn't say the house was "suspended" above the lagoon by stilts as this implies it's hanging from something. Maybe "supported" by.

Otherwise, I'm into it.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most well written new beginnings I've seen here. Great voice, wonderful detail. Excellent.

Dave Fragments said...

When I first read this, I wondered which paragraph was the opening. They are all good and they are all interesting. Each paragraph could open the novel. Fascinating as each paragraph is, I think the reader is ready for some action, some tension, some trouble that might disrupt this idyllic existence.

I would read this as it is and give it a chance. However, if it went on like this for another few pages, I might just give it up as reminiscences of childhood. Keep these paragraphs but add something that moves the action into the mind of the reader.

Mame said...

Two thumbs up from this picky Cat.

fairyhedgehog said...

I struggled with the bowl for the feces, and the words "feces" and "business" seemed odd together as the second one is so euphemistic. (This may be a UK cultural thing.)

Other than that, it's pure delight.

Steve's continuation was spot on and very funny. I also loved the feces of the Lasisis.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant continuation.

Steve Wright said...

Actually, I thought this was a nicely evocative opening; I guess it's not getting directly into the main action, but it's a good piece of scene-setting, and there's a sense of something going on. So it works for me.

Of course, I'm the one whose opening involved a paragraph's worth of vomiting, so I can hardly complain about Baba Lasisi and his business. In fact, I think we should see more bodily functions in these openings. Would someone like to drain an abcess for the next one?

_*rachel*_ said...

There's some real character in here--gross as Baba is, he's fascinating.

At first I thought it really was the Muslim call to prayer, which was pretty confusing. It could just be me.

You go right into backstory, not action; that's my main problem. The backstory/setting holds my attention because it's new to me, but still....

Kathleen said...

I really like the opening as well, though I agree you need to get to some action soon.

Great continuation - laugh out loud funny.

Eric P. said...

Finely written. My one minor quibble is that it jumps immediately from the present action (shouting) to the habits of the person shouting, which threw me for a brief moment ("he's ten houses away, but now he's next door?"). Probably this confused me because the writing is so vivid, which however is an excellent thing.

Would "suspended" really be the right word for something that's propped up on stilts? I'm not quite sure.

Continuation for the win.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Great continuation.

Steve - I popped zits in mine, but that was a long time ago.

I love the voice here and the cultural aspects that are unfamiliar to me. The switch to backstory was a bit disappointing. I'd love to see the same information woven into the action a little more tightly.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the first three paragraphs, but when it switches to backstory it should be about the narrator. The name, age, and sex. What is at stake? Will he/she be caned for being late or will mother be relieved he/she is home safe? Therein lay the problem suggests a flashback or more backstory that will not answer these questions.

Focus on the main character and what their immediate problem is. With your writing skill a simple scene like the mother confronting the child would tell us what we need to know in an engaging manner.

Joel G.

Dave Fragments said...

By the way, every time I read the first line I misread it as "apnea"...
Sorry, that's so unfair because it's my goofy eyes not the writer's fault. And Apena is a good ethnic name.

Wande said...

Thanks everyone for the very helpful comments. Steve Wright, you are so wrong (though funny) for that jab at Nigerian 419 emails! Oh well, maybe one day, we'll finally live that down.

Wande said...

And EE - yes, pure water is sold in 'satchets' in Nigeria.

Sarah Laurenson said...

How awesome - all this information about Nigeria and the culture there. I hope you continue with this and get published as I'd love to read more and I love your style.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too was impressed by the writing style and voice. I was going to attempt a pithy derivitive, something along the lines of "You had me at feces", but I thought better of it.


Jodi Ralston said...

Hilarious continuation. And very interesting original. The only paragraph that had me skimming was this one: "I lived with my parents ... filthy water that flowed placidly beneath." I think because it was ordinary compared to the rest and I didn't sense the voice there. But otherwise, this is something I'd read on about.


Stacy said...

Yeah, I would definitely read on.

The chosen continuation was stellar. Loved it!

Monkey Mama said...

Author, I loved this. Terrific job all around! Count me among your early fans.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm the fly in the ointment today. Think this is well done but it still needs tightening.

Who is Apena? Is it the MC or is it someone else?

Suspended should be supported.

"served as our connection" = connected us.

I would change "separated us" to protected us.

The last paragraph is all telling and by this point your reader wants some action.

Otherwise, good job

Xiexie said...

Actually, when I was in South Africa, little pouches of powdery substances or juices (like equivalent of Capri Sun of Sip-ups)were called satchets on the packages.

I like the writing here. It's quite solid, and great continuation Steve. Good job, author. I'd read on.

Evil Editor said...

Both Xiexie and the author have spelled it satchet in the comments, while it's spelled sachet in the opening. The widely recognized definition of sachet, a little bag of potpourri you throw into some drawer or . . . a satchel or whatever to keep it smelling nice, may be related to satchet, may be where the word originated, as they're similar in size, but a sachet wouldn't hold liquid, so if satchet is an acceptable spelling for the water container, spell it that way to avoid confusion.

fairyhedgehog said...

In the UK you can have sachets of shampoo, for example, so I've seen it used for liquids.