21 March 2010

The Identical Twins by Kenechukwu Obi

The evening was cool, and the air carried some dusty smell as a result of the earlier rainfall. Raindrops rattled on the thatched roof of the mud house in which Johnson studied, occasionally breaking into his concentration. As the rain fell, Johnson took a break from studies and peered out of the window. Johnson’s attention was drawn to his father’s grave that was outside. He wondered if the remains of his late father could still be there, getting wet, as raindrops fell on it. Wild imagination, Johnson thought, and quickly cleared his mind of that. He went back to face his studies. Something his father always said came upon his mind before he could take his seat. Johnson could hear those words as loud as his father had said them. “My Children, take education seriously and secure a bright future.” Johnson gently shut his eyes and nodded in appreciation of that advice.

“Father, I will,” he said to himself in a low tone, and began studying again.

Johnson and Tracey, who was his identical twin sister, had an examination to write in a month’s time. But as each day passed and drew the examination day closer, Johnson burned with the enthusiasm to read and excel, while Tracey simply whiled away her time. She was always going out, chatting with friends, engaging in friendships that spared her no time for studies.


An irresistible aroma diffused from the pot of soup their mother had finished making in the near-by kitchen. Johnson took a sniff and got a strong whiff of it.

“Your culinary skills are unquestionable,” he said to his mother, laughing.

“I have to make sure my identical twins feed well,” replied Johnson’s mother, as she made for the little room where Johnson was studying.

“How are you getting on with your studies, my son?” She asked.

“Well, I am doing my best, which I hope will see me through,” was Johnson’s quick reply. His mother was impressed.

“A good education is quite essential if one desires a sound foundation in life,” she said. “You don’t know how much I still wish my own parents knew the worth of education and had given me a chance,” she further said and looked up.

Lots of regret stood in her eyes. Johnson sensed it and quickly turned to his mother.

“All will be fine,” he said. “I will strive to be all you and father never had a chance to be,” he further spoke to pacify his mother.

Johnson saw a smile flash on his mother’s face, brightening it. Then it dulled again, with a maze of wrinkles so pronounced on it.

“What is it again mother?” The perturbed Johnson asked.

“I’m just worried about Tracey your sister. She does not care about studying.” Johnson chuckled.

“Don’t worry again, mother. I will talk to Tracey.” Johnson thought he could talk Tracey into reversing her attitude to her studies.



Tracey tickled with awareness that someone had come into her room, but did not bother to turn around and find out whom it was. She was lying down. Her books were on a wooden table, begging and yearning to be read, when Johnson entered. The first glance Johnson threw fell on Tracey, and then on her books – those that she had not touched for a long time had gathered enough dust, and had become full of spider cobweb. It was all an ugly sight to Johnson, most especially seeing Tracey lie aimlessly and starring at mud walls which her room had. He could not help getting worried.

Johnson sat beside Tracey. “Are you trying to sleep or meditating?” He gently asked. Tracey sat up. She starred at Johnson as if he was a dreaded stranger that had come so close. There was something aggressive about her glare on Johnson. It nailed him with intense ferocity.

“No I’m not,” Tracey who was very good at repartee uttered, “but why are you so concerned?” She demanded.

“Look, Tracey,” Johnson said. He could not say more because Tracey interrupted him quickly.

“You have nothing else to do? And you have come here to look at my face?” Said Tracey, her tone rising.

“You must listen to me, Tracey.”

“What is it, Johnson? Say it fast and briefly! I am not in the mood to entertain a speech!”

Johnson was determined to bring about a change of attitude in his sister. He allowed a wide smile light up his face before sitting closer to her. Tracey seemed to have lost a bit of her earlier aggressiveness. There was however, a sneering look on her face that was so determined not to give way for a smile, no matter how hard Johnson tried.

“Alright, tough sister,” Johnson began. “What is your problem?”

“And you think as my brother, the solution is with you?”

“You answered my question with a question, Tracey. You have said nothing.”

“You want to know my problem?”

“Yes, you are my sister and I should be distressed when all is not well with you.”

“Thank you so much. Thank you so much for caring. I have no problem.”

“You can’t say that. It is clear you are not focused on your studies.”

“When did you become my mentor? I can’t remember hiring anyone.”

“I am not here for jokes, Tracey.”

“Jokes? Well, you met me lying down. I was thinking about my life.”

Johnson immediately felt that Tracey had made it easier for him to express the real contents of his mind by saying she was thinking about her life. He wasted no time at all in asking her why she never took her studies seriously, in a slow soothing tone that carried all the love and concern he had for his twin sister.

“And yet you made us believe you want to be a doctor,” said Johnson. “Please don’t come to believe anything good can be achieved without hard work.”

“What do you want?”

“I am willing to help you in your studies if only you will start now to embrace it.”
Johnson’s offer stung Tracey’s ears like a bee, and got her into a mood that meant she was not ready to listen further. There was a sneering look on Tracey’s face that fully portrayed her resentment.

“Are you through?” She asked, holding back her simmering anger. Johnson uttered not a word, but looked on.

“Leave me alone,” Tracey added in a shrill tone of finality. She gave Johnson no other chance to speak. All his overtures got yelled down.

Johnson shrugged his shoulders and left Tracey’s room, fully filled with the feeling that he had done what he ought to do. Not even words of advice showered on Tracey by invited elders could change her.

What worsened the matter was that a relationship got ignited between Tracey and Tina. Tina was a girl of Tracey’s age—seventeen. Her behaviour was bad. Her romance with the streets of Lagos was a known fact. Tracey was warned to stay off the relationship, but again, she would not listen. Her mother cried often, and Johnson always consoled her, telling her to believe all would be well in the end.


The examination day eventually came. Johnson received it with a lot of confidence. His hopes were high. It was clear to him as crystal that he was quite prepared. He however, made supplications to his sublime creator for further assistance. Tracey on her part was never really understood. She kept everyone wondering why she even bordered to sit for the examination. Not even Juliet, her friend, could convince her to prepare well for the examination.


“I don’t have any peace of mind in that house.” Tracey paid Juliet a visit one day, and began to complain. “It is all about how I am not studying. That is what they keep saying every day. Just about exams and nothing more. Exams! Exams! Exams!”
Juliet wished she was in Tracey’s shoes.

“What your mother and brother are saying is not bad at all,” she remarked to Tracey’s disappointment. “It is in your best interest,” Juliet further said. “They obviously want the best for you.”

“And what is that supposed to mean?” Tracey thundered.

“I will always tell you the truth as a friend.”

“Meaning what?”

“Your mother and brother are right. Why not heed their advice. That is the right step for you to take.”

“You disappoint me, Juliet!”

“How I wish I had a mother and brother encouraging me. Here I am, wasting my life as a maid who does not go to school. You have the chance to attend a university, and you don’t care about it. My dead parents once told me that those who have buttocks don’t have seats to sit on. And those who have seats don’t have buttocks to sit.”

“I thought you were a friend. Now I know better. You just keep your eyes open and watch how I will succeed if I get to Lagos!” were Tracey’s stern words before she stormed away, her relationship with Juliet having hit the rocks now.


It took a couple of months for the examination results to be released. Johnson was successful. His result stood out. It earned him a scholarship to study his beloved accountancy at the University of Lagos. The scholarship also covered his living expenses in Lagos for the duration of his course of study. It was dreams-come-through for Johnson who for long had dreamt of studying in Lagos. A place he had not been to, but was full of mental pictures of what he had heard about it—the hustle and bustle of the city, its high-rise buildings in Marina, Martins and Broad streets. There was hunger in Johnson to see bridges many miles in length stretched above the Atlantic Ocean, and curved to different directions. He very much wanted to set his eyes on the Third Mainland Bridge and other construction masterpieces that dotted the city.

Johnson’s joy knew no bounds.

“Lagos here I come!” He screamed and jumped up severally in celebration, throwing his hands up. “Father said it. So did mother, that hard work pays. Lagos here I come!”

Tracey had nothing to show as expected. Her lackadaisical attitude to her studies ensured that she recorded the worst result of the examination. It was when the big and demeaning examination failure became Tracey’s lot that she began to think seriously about how to travel to Lagos. But lack of sufficient money was one big obstacle facing her.

Even the wind carried Johnson’s outstanding performance. His mother was thrilled, though her joy was with pangs of sadness as a result of Tracey’s case. Johnson rolled from one end of his sleeping mat to the other in excitement every night. Tracey could not sleep most of the nights after receiving her horrible result. She thought hard of next possible steps she could take.

“You have plans, pretty Tracey,” she kept telling herself. “Examination success is not the only success one can have in life. You have brains, Tracey. You will be successful.”


Johnson counted the days and prepared for his departure. His excitement became bigger when it remained fourteen days for him to travel. He chose to represent the remaining days with short straight lines on sand, a line he cleaned off as each day aged and was gone. He began to stay out late into the nights, watching the moon and imagining himself as a qualified accountant on the staff of a Lagos-based financial institution.

The day for his departure came at last. There was slight breeze that youthful morning, which resulted not in rainfall. And the sun had risen to warm things up a bit by the time Johnson was ready to leave. He never slept much the previous night, being filled with excitement. Johnson left his village a ‘King’. Even the dogs wagged their tails as he was leaving.


Tracey wandered in the village for a while after Johnson’s departure before finding her way to Lagos. Tina had paid her a visit one sunny and bright afternoon. She was alone outside.

“Thanks goodness you’re at home. I had a feeling I may not meet you,” said Tina.

“I’m usually at home at this time. Let’s go to my room.”

“You mean that tiny rat-hole you sleep in?”

“Call it whatever you like. It’s none of your business where I sleep.”

Tracey led the way and Tina followed.

“What have you been doing, Tracey?”

“Thinking of my next move,” Tracey replied and sat on her bed.

“I hope you are not letting the exam thing weigh you down.”

“I will never let that happen.”

“Life is much bigger than that.”

“I like your hair, Tina. It always looks beautiful,” Tracey remarked, as a little smile flickered on her face.

“Thank you so much,” Tina responded in delight. “I’ve been expecting you to praise it. It costs a lot to keep my hair this way.”

“You look absolutely beautiful, Tina. You amaze me a lot. How do you get to look this way?”

Tina smiled and sat on a wooden seat beside Tracey’s bed.

“It’s simple.”

“How? You appear more dazzling each time you disappear and return. How do you make all the money? You are not telling me something, Tina.”

Tina grinned. “It’s very easy,” she said with a smile. “It is even easier than counting ABC.”

“Now what are you talking about?” Tracey who was all lost quickly asked.

“With a bit of intelligence, determination and drive, you are there! Your clients will be all over you like a swarm of flies.”

Tracey remained lost, completely unable to understand what Tina was talking about.
“What kind of clients?” She asked timidly, showing her naivety.

“Oh, Tracey, don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
“Tina, I don’t, to be sincere. What is it?”

“Now, let me call a spade a spade. It’s all about selling yourself. Prostitution is the name of the game.”

“But why?” Tracey asked with some repugnance, which Tina noticed.

“You will remain in this village until grey hairs flourish on her head. You don’t have to look this miserable.”

“You are wrong, Tina. I won’t remain like this.”

“Listen well. You are blessed with such beauty that can fetch you good money and your hair doesn’t have to look this shabby.”

“What about my dignity as a person? I am not ready to throw it to the wind. I will do any other thing that does not lead to selling my body.”

Tina laughed briefly and got up, her glare hard on Tracey.

“Who talks about that today?” she questioned hard “Dignity my foot! All that matters is to make some money. Money! Money! Just money!”

“I want to make money quickly. That is my desire. I don’t think selling my body is the best way to achieve that.”

“What matters is to make money! The way you make is nobody’s business, Tracey. Be smart! Wake up! You can even buy your own house and a car.”

“Really?” Tracey screamed out of excitement. “Tell me more,” she demanded. But Tina told her no more in the room, but demanded matching words with action on her part.

“Let’s get to Lagos. I will show you how you can buy your house and car when we get there.”

“I don’t have the funds to get there. How will I feed? Where will I stay there?”

“I said let’s get to Lagos. I did not say go to Lagos. I’m not sure you’re not deaf.”
“I get it now. Thanks a lot. I’m ready.”

“What of tomorrow?”

“Good.”


Tracey left for Lagos with Tina without her mother’s knowledge. Her mother worried, wept and got tired. She then took Tracey for a lost daughter. Lagos was all Tracey had heard about it. She was extremely glad to have made it. It took no much time for things to work out for her. Tina had given her good leads and all she needed to lunch out successfully. Good looks, slyness and poise brought her money. Tracey became a proud owner of a well known clubhouse in Lagos within two years. A clubhouse where one’s entry was greeted with a rumble of muffled tones. A curtain at the entrance revealed nothing from outside, but showed a lot about outside from inside. The club had rooms that were always well charged with the smell of alcohol and dripping perspiration. They were also dimly illuminated by red, blue and green electric bulbs and always filled with carousing youngsters overflowing with infatuation and extreme debauchery, with music suggestive of these always played at deafening decibels.


Tracey exploited the dark sides of youth for money, while Johnson concentrated on his studies to excel. He avoided every occasion that could distract his focus. Holidays were times he studied harder without even taking a trip to his village for once. He sometimes took time off on Sundays to get a feel of the sights and sounds of Lagos. He avoided late night parties in campus, and successfully resisted the urge to have a lover. These made him a laughing stock amongst his colleagues. He was regarded as an anti-social student, labelled as one that knew only classrooms, refectories, lavatories, the library and his hostel. Johnson was not perturbed. He had his eyes on his goal. This he accomplished with a first class degree. It was an unprecedented academic performance in his department. Then he got a good job in a bank to show for it, one month after completing his one year compulsory national service. He never stopped relishing the moment he walked majestically to mount the podium of academic excellence, flanked by scholars, hedged in by the Vice Chancellor and other Professors, all resplendent in their academic gowns. His face radiated excellence. Johnson shone. He was a single meteor displaying its splendour amidst a sky of expiring stars.

Johnson was reformed. His handsomeness blossomed like flowers. He looked very hard for searching spinsters to resist. In Johnson’s mind were two things. One of them was to see his mother after a long while, and the other was to let Tracey know that he had plans to turn her life around. Johnson was given some days off by his employers to enable him travel. A cold reception greeted his arrival at his village. He was the cynosure of all eyes, eyes that held sad tales. Johnson’s mother had died a day before he arrived. It was like the source of his life had been stolen away by death. Tears coursed down his eyes. He stood beside his mother’s grave and wept more when memories of her life and times howled like strong wind. He remembered when she used to teach him how to weed with a hoe, how she cuddled him in her hands, consoling him, when a scorpion stung him. These and many more hovered in his mind as he watched his mother’s lifeless body in a casket. He wished he could turn back the hands of time and have his mother breathing again.

The pain of his mother’s demise had barely subsided when he heard of Tracey’s mysterious disappearance from the village. Johnson was shattered. He wept openly like a child. He felt a wide emptiness within and wondered why he deserved such a fate. A ray of hope of finding Tracey, however, flashed, when Johnson’s enquiries had Juliet revealing vital information.

“Tracey said something about going to Lagos the last time we were together,” said Juliet.

“You mean she could be there?” Johnson asked with his eyes wide open, looking very desperate.

“I believe so,” Juliet replied. She then followed it up with a nod in the affirmative.

Johnson was more than determined to get to Tracey’s whereabouts in Lagos immediately the funeral rites his mother were concluded. He had to put up a story of his missing identical twin sister in some daily newspapers. A friend of his who was once one of Tracey’s clients quickly called Johnson’s number on seeing the published story, and asked him to check out the busiest clubhouse in Lagos, otherwise known as “ALL COMERS.” Johnson was very reluctant to go to ALL COMERS. He had heard so much about the notoriety of the clubhouse and believed there was no way Tracey would be there. But when many who responded to his publication said the same thing his friend had told him, he decided to try. People said they had seen a young pretty lady that resembled Johnson at the clubhouse. Johnson was reliably informed as well that the lady owned the clubhouse.


Ignoring all the youths who danced away to the tune of music being played, Johnson walked straight to the man at the bar. He bought himself a cold beer, which he gently sipped.

“I want the owner of this club,” he demanded.

The bartender grinned briefly and ran quick investigative glances all over Johnson.
“I’m not sure you can pay for that,” he hinted. “She is very expensive.”

“Do I look like a man who can’t afford her bills?” Johnson thundered. “All-night with her is my desire,” he announced with emphasis.

“Alright, if you insist,” the bartender replied, and went in search of his boss.
Johnson could not believe his eyes when Tracey came along, beaming seductive smiles at him.

“My informants are right after all,” Johnson muttered as he managed to contain his crumbling composure, though he could not totally stop his eyes from getting wet with tears a little bit. Tracey was so blind to see. Johnson agreed without haggles to pay Tracey’s bill and drove off with her.


Their mother’s old photograph was on the wall in Johnson’s large sitting room.

“What a tastefully furnished room you have here,” Tracey remarked, before her glances found the photograph. She knew it so well. Again her glances fell on her family photograph. Johnson looked away and hard at the floor, not wanting his eyes to meet Tracey’s.

“What is my family doing here?” Tracey asked in a tone heavy with bewilderment. “How did you get these photographs?” She further asked Johnson, who could no longer keep up with restraining himself from shedding tears. He quickly held Tracey by her shoulders. Tracey could then have a clear view that revealed it was Johnson, her identical twin brother that stood. She screamed out of shock, sprawled to the floor and fainted.

“Tracey...” Johnson bellowed, as he quickly bent down, shaking his sister’s body in a vigorous manner, in his attempt to bring her back to consciousness.

“What kind of fate do we have?” His lamentation began. “What is this? What sort of fate is this? Do not die and leave me, Tracey. You are all I have left.” He then stood up quickly and rushed to a refrigerator in his kitchen, returned with a bottle of cold water, which he poured all over Tracey. Some water sipped into Tracey’s nostrils. She then coughed loud at first, again and again, until she had coughed fourteen times divided by two. Johnson saw her breathing had become steady.

“Get up, Tracey!” He urged. “Get up! You can’t afford to die now! Get up!” And Tracey’s eyes opened within seconds. She could not still believe who was with her.

“Tell me I am dreaming.”

“This is real, Tracey.”

“I am sorry you had to meet me this way.”

“I need you to be strong for me, okay?”

“Okay.”

“You feel you can get up now by yourself?”

“Yes. I’m okay now.”

“I will still give you a hand.”

Tracey learnt of her mother’s death as well. This made her sober.

“Come on,” Johnson said to her. “Mother is gone and we can’t have her back. You have a future ahead to live she and father’s desire. They wanted us to be educated.”

“She was a nice mother, even though I did not heed her counsel most times,” said Tracey.”

“We have each other, Tracey. My life will be refreshed if you, my only sister, will clean up your life.”

“I will do that. I promise.”


Tracey became dedicated to her studies afterwards. She was able to gain admission to study medicine at the University of Lagos. She was glad like Johnson, to have fulfilled their parents’ lifetime desire, after it seemed like it would not happen. She left the streets, but alas, could not have left without the acquired immune deficiency syndrome—her price for debauchery. Her health took a heavy toll from the disease with time. Johnson became shattered. Tracey was dying. And this meant Johnson’s whole life had no choice but to crumble. With Tracey being gradually tugged away by death, Johnson could no longer put in his best in his job. The result was that he lost it. He saw nothing worth holding onto anymore in life. As Tracey got closer to death, Johnson felt more hopeless. He would not dare to remain alive with Tracey gone. He then paved his way into being in Tracey’s horrible health condition by making love to her. Though Tracey did not agree, but she had no strength to pull off a successful resistance.

“No! Johnson, this isn’t right.”

“I have to do it, Tracey.”

“Don’t you want to live?”

“Live for what? There is nothing in this world anymore without you.”

“You have to live!”

“Be alive and alone? No, Tracey.”

“Johnson, please... don’t do it! I beg you.”

“No I want to be where you are going.”

Johnson hoped to end up with Tracey wherever death would take her. Tracey later died, and Johnson’s death was only a matter of time. And he did not feel bad at all, about how he placed his life in the cold hands of death.




The Identical Twins was written by Kenechukwu Obi.

Copyright © Kenechukwu Obi 2010.



I am a Nigerian writer of the Igbo extraction. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, where I attended Pedro Primary School. I attended Nnewi High School, in Anambra State of Nigeria, from where I proceeded for further studies and obtained a degree in Crop Science at the University of Nigeria Nsukka.

My very early writings started in my high school days and soon after leaving high school, I wrote a number of articles in 1991 on the Gulf war, published by the now defunct Daily Star newspaper, then based in Enugu, Nigeria.
My works now include novels, plays for the stage and radio, short stories, poetry collections and children’s stories.

Some of my short stories have been published online, in magazines (including The New Black Magazine and Echoes of Tomorrow Magazine) and in anthologies. Some of my poems have also been published in anthologies as well as magazines and online.

I am one of many Nigerian poets recognized in 2009 (June 3rd) by the Cultural Department of the Italian Embassy in Nigeria.

I am also a lyricist and the author of the novel entitled A Bond That Crumbled Tradition, available at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.co.jp, amazon.de, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, abebooks.com, lulu.com and many other leading online book stores worldwide.

I worked with Simon Brett in Enugu, Nigeria from the 31st of March through 4th April 2008, to create a short story (Who’s Better off Now?) for radio broadcast, during a Radiophonics workshop. Radiophonics is the African new writing initiative of the British Council, and Simon Brett is a renowned British Crime Writer, Playwright, Broadcaster and Former staff of the British Broadcasting Corporation.


I still write prolifically and envision exposing my works internationally. I am willing to work with honest, dedicated and focused professionals and organizations that are inspired to add value to my writing career by tapping into my reservoir of creative talents for the benefit of the creative industry.

Email Address: kencel65@gmail.com






6 comments:

Myne Whitman said...

Not your best work but it has some merits. The story can be reworked and the language polished but my vote will be for that ending to go.

our blog said...

what a very sad and unexpected ending!i have read some of your work and i feel u can do better than this. there is need for u to revise to avoid the grammatical errors. otherwise i like your creativity.keep writing

Chiamaka Amamgbo said...

i havent read any of your works but i liked the unexpected ending, very interesting. the grammar needs polishing

Su'eddie Vershima Agema said...

COMMENTARY:
Kenechukwu, well done on this piece of work. I loved the contrast between the beginning and the end – I must say that I prefer the start.
The plot of the tale is interesting and the end most unexpected. I think the AIDS angle came in sharply and twisted the whole story. Still, I have to say that good twin, bad twin angle of view predictable and gave the story some blandness.
The grammar in many areas is simply not it. I think the linguistic constructions need real corrections and editing. The end comments after your quotes in many situations are really unnecessary. Furthermore, there seems to be so much ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing.’ In other areas, you simply put unnecessary lines or words that left some friends around here asking ‘Is this guy deliberately trying to punish us?”
I suggest that you do a serious reworking of this piece and also extend some parts because as the tale is, there are several disjointed parts that do not dot well. I believe that this story would go places eventually when it gets ‘born-again.’ Till then, please, pity us and do some justice to this tale begging your every attention.
(Send me your e-mail please - got some words to throw through that)
P.S: Forgive the bluntness. I simply hope to make us better. Take care and may be good tidings be yours to hold. Amen. S’

Su'eddie Vershima Agema said...

COMMENTARY:
Kenechukwu, well done on this piece of work. I loved the contrast between the beginning and the end – I must say that I prefer the start.
The plot of the tale is interesting and the end most unexpected. I think the AIDS angle came in sharply and twisted the whole story. Still, I have to say that good twin, bad twin angle of view predictable and gave the story some blandness.
The grammar in many areas is simply not it. I think the linguistic constructions need real corrections and editing. The end comments after your quotes in many situations are really unnecessary. Furthermore, there seems to be so much ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing.’ In other areas, you simply put unnecessary lines or words that left some friends around here asking ‘Is this guy deliberately trying to punish us?”
I suggest that you do a serious reworking of this piece and also extend some parts because as the tale is, there are several disjointed parts that do not dot well. I believe that this story would go places eventually when it gets ‘born-again.’ Till then, please, pity us and do some justice to this tale begging your every attention.
(Send me your e-mail please - got some words to throw through that)
P.S: Forgive the bluntness. I simply hope to make us better. Take care and may be good tidings be yours to hold. Amen. S’

Chiamaka Amamgbo said...

i havent read any of your works but i liked the unexpected ending, very interesting. the grammar needs polishing

 
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