Man Booker, Girl Booker

Bunmi Anjorin Kogbe

I know that its a couple of months out, but the winner for the 2018 Man Booker Prize  has been announced.

Anna Burns novel, Milkman, centers around a young woman coming of age in 1970’s Northern Ireland . This is the first time Burns has won a major award. ‘Ecstatic’ I am sure  is an understatement as to how she feels in wining the Man Booker prize.

I had an ecstatic feeling the first time I ever won a competition. I call it winning the Girl Booker

Girl Booker Prize. When I was about nine or ten years old, it was the norm during morning assembly at school that a teacher would read a story to us.
‘The Willow Pattern Story’ was read to us on this particular Friday morning. The teacher said that if anyone liked the story they could try and write it. I realised, on Monday, that I was the only one who wrote the story. I was called out in front of the whole school and declared the winner. It was inevitable that I would win. However, when I was called out in front of the whole school, I had my Girl Booker moment.

Anyway that was years ago. Today I thought I’d share a short story which I wrote for a competition in an African Literary magazine. We were given the first paragraph as a prompt and asked to provide a 500 word flash fiction on the back of this.
I didn’t win. But hey that wasn’t my fault. After all, I wasn’t the only one who entered.

The Wink

In this country, a boss should always be bald and have a big belly. My uncle isn’t bald, he hasn’t got a big belly, and you don’t realise, the first time you see him, that he’s the actual boss of a big office in the center of town.
He is 6 feet tall and very handsome. Aunty said that she was the envy of ladies during their university days as he only had eyes for her.
I enjoyed spending my school holidays with aunty and uncle. In the summer holidays of 1988, when I was 13 years old, my uncle took me to his office. The boss is allowed to break any office regulations.

‘What will she be doing all day’ my aunty asked.
‘Don’t worry’ my uncle had replied winking at me ‘I’ll put her to work’
I understood the wink.

One holiday, when aunty went to the village to visit her dying father, I got the exact  same wink when a pretty lady in a short skirt came to our house.

It’s the wink he gives me when he leaves me in the lobby of New World Hotel on Allen Avenue After delivering the wink he would disappear to one of their rooms leaving me in the lobby. Sitting on the partially worn brown leather sofa, I would watch the ladies come and go. Ladies whose hems of their skirts were closer to their waists than their knees. Faces plastered with foundation. Ladies who use one yard of material to make their blouses.

It’s the wink he gives me when he goes to Tinubu Street on Lagos Island.
There are mallams on Tinubu Street. The mallams on Tinubu Street sell lovely suya. How do I know? Uncle always buys this for me when he goes there after work. When we have finished at his office, that’s in the center of town, we go to Tinubu. When the sun had receded and all the evening traders are bringing out their wares. Their lanterns filled with kerosene on standby for when darkness finally envelopes the sun.

It takes uncle about 30 minutes to come back to the car.

He would return to the car his eyes alert, exceedingly happy and with two packages. One would be aunties suya. He preferred to buy Aunties suya just as we were about to leave, knowing that it would still be warm by the time he got home. The other ‘small package’ would be secretly hidden in his trouser pocket.

Delighted  with the suya, Aunty was oblivious as to how late it was when we finally got home. Her appreciation would culminate in uncle receiving a big hug.
While reciprocating he would look to me and give me the wink.
In this country men who like to ply streets and frequent seedy hotels to meet ladies of the night are bald and have a big belly. My uncle isn’t bald and doesn’t have a big belly.











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