22 May 2011

Mules of Fortune by Samuel Kolawole (Part Two)


Major Red Wings loved to talk whenever he slept with Sue. The more he talked, the stronger he remained. Talking to him was an aphrodisiac of some sort. This was never good for Sue but she had no control over the matter. Her role was submission. Her role was passive. Her role was pain. After Major Red Wings exhausted himself and fell into snoring sleep, Sue would clean her private part with all the mundane ritual of someone washing her hands off some plague. She would then splay her reed-thin legs apart and incline her body at an angle to drain out his semen.

Rose told her if she did it right, the seeds, no matter how stubborn, would trickle down her thigh with ease. Rose also advised her to take some carbonated drinks mixed with potash. Rose herself had been a bush wife once. When the warlord got tired of her, sent her packing and her family rejected her for consorting with rebels, she became a prostitute.

Rose became a regular visitor at the camp, giving pleasure in exchange for looted items which she sold at Lane street market; a row of makeshift structures where rebels and civilians sold plundered goods and drugs. Sue often wondered how she always had her way with the rebels who picked any girl they wanted from anywhere and did whatever they wished with them. Sue was two years older than Rose, but she was less experienced. Sue admired Rose's courage, her arrogance, her supposed knowledge of a woman's body.

Sue became pregnant despite all she did and what Rose told her to do. In no time, her legs became swollen and her stomach bulged. The rest of her body, however, shrivelled. It was as though the nourishment she received was always passed on to her unborn child, and instead of looking like an expectant mother, she resembled a kid with kwashiorkor.

Her distended belly was at odds with the rest of her painfully thin body. Sue chose to make lemonade out of lemon. She fed herself with cassava and boiled edible leaves. She scooped dirt off the surface of her drinking water before drinking it. She pricked herself with thorns in search of wild fruits to consume. She scavenged for what little nutrients she could find for the life in her womb. She protected her baby the best way she knew. When she was alone and captain Red Wings was not ordering her about or gasping on top of her, she spoke to her child in soft tones. She sometimes sang to keep the baby quiet and still. The baby kicked a lot, so she concluded the baby must be male. She had heard Rose say once that males trouble their mother in the womb more than females.

Her pregnancy did not stop her from cooking and cleaning for the rebels, nor did it curb Major Red Wing's appetite for intercourse. One hot afternoon, the rebels returned from their regular patrol, two members of the group were dragging a decaying cow with them. Scrawny and belly bloated, the creature could have easily been mistaken for one of the cows in the biblical Pharaoh's dream. Its pale tongue lolled out of its twisted face as the two boys dragged it by its legs, flies swarming all over the place. Major Red Wings led the procession, cradling his Kalashnikov, his naked torso glistening with sweat. His stride seemed pompous with his head tilted upward and his chest pushed out so that the curve of his back resembled a hunter's bow, his filthy Detroit Red Wings shirt hanging carelessly over his left shoulder. But then that was his posture.

The team walked briskly to base, their faces though clammy and exhausted, bright at the prospect of a good meal. The dead ruminant was dumped in the middle of the wattle and tin structures that made up the rebel base and with repeated blows of the machete, a boy hacked off one of its hind legs from the thigh. Sue was summoned at once to cook while the rebels lit their marijuana and promenaded.

Sue plunged into action, even though she did not have the strength to cook that day. She feared that she might get a taste of the Major's horsewhip if she wasn't up and doing. So her culinary activities were carried out under immense strain. She sliced and scrubbed, then sliced some more. She fanned the embers of her smouldering firewood till her eyes became red and mucus oozed out of her nose. Her legs trembled from fatigue, threatening to give way beneath her. Her bloated womb seemed to carry more weight than her body could bear. Her head ached. She felt nauseated.

Eventually she finished, plodded into the room, slumped on her wafer-thin bed and drifted off to sleep. When she stirred from her sleep a little later, Major Red Wings was lying on top of her. He grunted like a pig and belched as he fumbled at Sue's skirt. He reeked of marijuana and filth and was naked except for an amulet made of bullets and a string tied around his neck. He lifted her skirt, parted her thighs and forced his way into her, running his foul mouth all over her face, panting and slobbering. This time he was too drugged to talk. Sue shut her eyes as always. She waited. She took her lower lip between her teeth. A few moments and it would be over. She willed her mind away from the pain, clutched to pleasant memories of the past, memories that were fast becoming bleak, and soon enough it was over. The Major shuddered, stiffened and was spent. Red Wings unrooted himself, rolled off, hitched up his trousers and stumbled out of the room. A few seconds passed and another figure lurched in. It was one of the boys, picking his teeth with a little piece of twig. The boy couldn't have been older than Sue. It was bad enough that Sue was Major Red Wings' sex slave, but opening her legs for his boys to her was unimaginable. This was the first time it was happening. It was the first time the commander was rewarding his boys that way for a good day's job.

Sue jerked into full consciousness, her black startled eyes defensive and fearful. The boy tossed the twig away, removed his camouflage shorts and rolled up his filthy vest before approaching her. Sue kicked and scratched like a wounded tigress but the boy held her down. Her mewling seemed to inflame the boy more and make him want to get on with the task. He was inexperienced. He was awkward and really hurt Sue.

Hardly had the boy finished when another came in. This time Sue moved from where she was lying. She crawled to the corner of the room as though to a refuge. She could feel strength draining from her body. Her heart sledging hard, she fought desperately for breath. The other boy, whose phallus now protruded through his trousers, dragged Sue by both legs and began to rip her skirt off.

She offered no resistance to the fourth male. She couldn't even make out his face although she was staring at him.

Sue lost her baby. She became ill afterwards and would have died had Miss Milton, a white humanitarian worker whom the rebels captured on the rice fields and brought to the base not intervened.

Miss Milton told Major Red Wing's of impending death if Sue did not receive medical care and the rebel leader reluctantly agreed.

While Miss Milton treated Sue, they devised a means of escaping from the camp. Several months later, their plans having crystallized, they escaped one night. The rebels were drugged that night and wanted sex but the women were gone before they reached them. Miss Milton left her under a tree and said she would go get help. She didn't come back. The G-string battalion found Sue. That was before she discovered she again was with a child. Major Red Wings' child.


Etty and her mother Sarah worked in a red light district. It was so called not because of the sex trade, but because it once had traffic lights and the wardens were not working because they were not paid by the government. So it was not uncommon to find those areas jammed with trucks, cars, old battered buses and hawkers and beggars and pickpockets.

Hawkers sold firewood, charcoal, boxes full of small batteries, trays laid out with candy and chewing gums, rat exterminating drugs, love potions, drugs to improve erection and wipe out every disease both documented and yet to be discovered. Some, like Sarah and Etty, were general merchants, selling anything that could be exchanged for money. They dug into people's refuse, recycled their waste in the best manner they could and tried to convince potential buyers their goods were valuable. They scavenged bushes for edible leaves and fruit to trade for meagrerations of raw rice and cooking oil. They picked up liquor bottles from the rubbish heaps and turned them into palm oil containers.

Being general merchants also meant having to impersonate sometimes. Sarah was the blind mother in need of crucial medication, which if not received in three days would result in inevitable death, and Etty was the tear spilling, nine year old daughter who loved her mother too much to let her die. You needed to provide something compelling if anyone was going to part with anything at a time when bordering towns were under rebel attack and the economy was sagging.

The duo occasionally succeeded in wringing out money from pedestrians, but it was never enough to meet their basic needs so they had to also rely on the meagre wages from the rubber plantation where her husband Matao worked.

Sarah was leaning over the cement tables built in the fish market, haggling with a bulky fishmonger over a bowl of fish with Etty beside her, when the news came. The transaction ended and Sarah and the trader chatted for a few moments. The fishmonger first said something about bailing out, processing her papers to relocate to America. She claimed a catholic organization recommended by her parish would sponsor her. After that she said “Did yor hear that the rubber plantation catch fire, the rebels attacked it?”

Sarah gathered her belongings, grabbed her daughter's arm and headed home without saying goodbye. They found her husband sitting on his big brown sofa, tears tumbling down his face. He refused to eat and kept to himself for the rest of the day. In the evening, Matao went out to drink away his misery. He came back late in the night, stumbling over things and shouting “where there is life there is hope!” Trying to make a rhythm out of the statement as though humming a tune he had composed. He knew it was coming but ignored it to protect himself from thinking about its inevitability. Now he had to find a way to sustain his family in the midst of the crisis. After a few days of quietly pacing outside his wood and aluminium structure, Matao announced to his wife “I will join the government troops.”

That was when things began to fall apart. Sarah knew that it was just a matter of time before the government forces came for him even if he didn't want to go. She wasn't sure if Matao's decision came out of cowardice or self-sacrifice for his family. Matao told Etty he would be back but Sarah knew Etty would not see him again. The troops came to pick up Matao in a Toyota Land Cruiser pick-up in a camouflage colour. Etty wept and clutched her mother for comfort but Sarah did not shed a tear, at least not that day. She just waved goodbye. The days following the event saw Sarah swinging between two emotional extremes. Sometimes she would be as calm as a graveyard, at other times she would be loud and violent like raging fire, snapping at everything. Sometimes she would talk to herself quietly, saying something about what could have been or couldn't have. If Matao had been around, other times she would curse Matao aloud for leaving them alone to suffer, for embracing death. Sometimes she would nurture the feeling that her husband had gone to work and nightfall would bring him back home, other times she felt like a widow.

Soon, Sarah began to meet scoundrels at back alleys and sniff cocaine in the room corner. She would scoop the fine particles into her nose with the surface of a broken piece of mirror. She would sniff a bit and cry like crazy before sniffing again, as though the drug was causing her pain. Her tears would drip on the mirror surface till the white substance turned into paste. She would take it all in, tears and all. Before long she began to invite the scoundrels to her house to spend the night when she couldn't afford to buy more drugs to keep up with her new lifestyle. She stopped cleaning up. She stopped using sanitary towels, which turned her customers off. But then she went after them like flies after shit. She reduced her charges. She even gave it for free to those who could offer some cocaine. Sarah shrivelled before Etty's very eyes. She cursed Etty whenever she was around her.

“Go! Carry big big guns like papa, you are of no use here, get out, out.” Sarah told Etty one day. She was sitting on the edge of her spring bed, naked, smoking marijuana and drinking palm wine, her body glistening with coital perspiration. Her client stretched nude on the other side of the bed, face down, snoring and farting. The room stank like many dead rodents. Etty detested her mother for what she had turned into. She longed more and more for her father's love and company as her mother grew worse. Her longing stayed unsatisfied like a wound refusing to heal.

The incursions intensified as explosions became more frequent and the air carried sounds of guns from afar at night. Soon the gunshots came very close. People huddled in their shelters like snails, fearing stray bullets from rebel gunfire. Some gathered their personal effects and fled the County, unsure of their destination or where the enemy was lurking. Little children walked about, seeking their lost parents. Hungry babies wailed for want of their mother's breasts. Old people stood on their veranda s, waiting and listening to the radio as the president ranted about how everything was going on according to plan. Fathers came running from their workplaces to fetch their families. Mothers panicked as they ran toward schools, rivers, football pitches and water taps to look for their kids. Transportation halted and food became a scarce commodity.

The ECOMOG forces and two UNICEF trucks arrived a week later. It was first the sight of red dust rising in the horizon, then the sound of heavy vehicles. Green Military vehicles with ECOMOG flags fluttering from their fender ground to a halt and men in khaki uniforms and rough-surfaced helmets with chin straps, spilled out like disturbed ants, cocking their guns. A man, the leader of the platoon, emerged from a dusty Range Rover. He scanned his surroundings and produced phlegm from his throat, spat it out and crushed the glob under his boots. He was a tall man with a thick moustache extending down to his jaws on both sides and a large nose. His face was rough. It was as though tiny holes had been punctured into it. His camouflage jacket and trousers bulging with grenades were dirty and frayed.

The soldiers brought out their stuff from their trucks. They drove big nails into the ground and tied fat ropes around them. In no time, they finished erecting a large tent made of green tarpaulin. After that they filled their sandbags with earth. They dug out soil and created a very tall heap before filling them in the bags. The soldiers used the sacks to make low walls upon which machine guns were mounted. They unloaded brown sealed cardboard boxes: boxes of medications and toiletries, white bags labelled in blue.

They worked under a thick leafed tree that provided shelter for them to distribute the relief materials to people. They distributed nylon bags containing T-shirts, soaps, sachets of shampoo, toothbrushes, biscuits and packets of Vitamin supplements. The nylon bags smelled nice so people kept sniffing them.

Sarah's hands became unsteady as she held her bag and drifted back home. Small beads of sweat studded her skin and she shuddered at intervals as though she had fever. Those who supplied her drugs were gone, scattered like frightened birds, but the craving in her body didn't leave her. Etty tagged behind Sarah, observing her mother, tears begging to burn themselves down her face. At the back of her tear filled eyes was the pain of helplessness and loss. Since Matao left, Sarah and Etty seemed to have drifted apart. They moved about like an estranged couple. They hardly communicated and when they did, it was always about Sarah cursing her, telling her to join the government troops like her father.

“Fucking Amerikans! They tink they can bribe us, fucking Amerikans. They caused the war, they want our diamonds!” Sarah ranted when they got home, the veins of her neck sticking out. Flecks of spittle smeared her quivering lips. She shuddered more often now and sweat made her blouse cling to her wet body. The room stank of sweat, staleness, saliva and unwashed menses.

She dug into the content of the bag, spilled them on the spring bed. She opened the mouth of the nylon of her rice and stew. But then the tremor in her body became unbearable and she dropped the meal and sprang into the corner of the bed. She coiled up like a wet puppy as the spring bed rocked and squeaked.

Etty stood there, watching her mother for what seemed to be eternity. Though her eyes were wide open, they were almost motionless except for the blink that dislodged tears. Her tears now tumbled freely like her mother's perspiration. The tears blurred her vision, slipped into the crack of her mouth. She ignored its salty taste, did nothing to stop its entry.

“Whaaaa-at are ya looking at?” Sarah stuttered, “Leave, I-I don't want you h-here.' Her voice was harsh, the muscles of her face now bulging with rage. Etty was still staring, rooted to the ground. Outraged, Sarah grabbed one of the objects on the bed and hurled it at her. The object struck Etty's temple before she could twitch a muscle. Another one flew at her, but missed by inches, bouncing off the wooden wall. Sarah pelted her with what she could lay her hands on, raising her voice, cursing and crying. Pain surged through Etty's head as she stumbled out of the house, choking back fresh tears.


The sun heated up the earth upon which Tolbert had been walking for hours. He had to walk fast like the others but it wasn't easy for him. He could not support the load he was carrying with his hand so he balanced it on the arch of his shoulders, his head drooping. The burden being borne; a jute sack bursting with coffee seeds strained the veins of his neck until they jutted out from under the skin, long and sinewy as ropes. Because he moved with one arm, his body tilted at an awkward angle, streaks of perspiration crawled down his face and chest and disappeared into his shirt.

His brown rag of a shirt which lay open at the throat, and showed his body to be withered and worn, was soaked dark with sweat and where wetness did not conquer, red earth dominated. Sometimes, the two crossed paths and charted a soggy route through his frayed shorts and down to his pair of thin plastic flip-flops.

Had Tolbert known what was coming, he wouldn't have joined the G-string Battalion. He joined them to get even with General Bloodthirsty, who was formerly known as Captain Tennis Shoes. Though, it had been twelve months since he escaped from Thambo, the memory stayed fresh in his skull like an embalmed corpse. He relived it over and over again. He remembered how he ran through the dense forest, wadded through mire, wheezing and panting, wet blades of grass tickling the stub of his severed arm. How thorns sliced his skin and thistles clung to his clothes and the hair on his body. How he cursed and fumbled and prayed and cried. How he starved for days and chewed wild new leaves to sustain himself. How he met a dying old man in the jungle who told him about, the G-string battalion, a rebel group who were enemies of the National Patriotic Front.

Tolbert joined the G-string battalion to fight, rise through the ranks and go after General Bloodthirsty. It was as simple as that. He wanted him for all he had done to him, for his family, for Captain Goggles, for his right arm. He wanted to cut his body into pieces till there was nothing more to cut. He wanted him to plead for mercy even though he would not grant it. He wanted his pound of flesh.

The Commander of the battalion, General G-string, an individual who took pride in wearing female underwear which he claimed he seized after sleeping with a beautiful British lady and never hesitated to prove the authenticity of his claims by pulling the lingerie through his trousers to show that the label had “Made in London” on it, did not give Tolbert what he wanted. He told him there was no place for a one armed man in battle, or rather that there was a better place for him.

“Move! I say Move!” the escort said to Sue in a warning voice. The procession immediately halted as though they had been waiting for the opportunity to do so. Then they carefully got their load off. They knew it was going to take a few moments to get the girl back to her feet and they needed the time to rest their legs and aching bodies.

“She is hungry,” Sue said to the escort and without caring what the consequences would be, pulled out her breast and stuck it into the wailing baby's mouth. The infant choked, then began sucking quietly. Sue turned her face to her baby, away from the escort who now stared with large, angry eyes. The escort, tall, skinny, chiselled face, sunken eyes, crooked nose, with roughly plaited hair, held a rifle. A bandolier stuffed with bullets crossed his chest. The escort's eyes widened and with one swift movement he pulled the baby from the mother's grip, plucking her from Sue's breast. The babe screamed; Sue scrambled to have her child back. The escort stepped back. Sue dropped to her knees, lifted her chin and clasped her hand, pleading.

The others made their way quickly towards the escort, appealing to him the life of the baby. They knew what the rebel, any rebel was capable of. After a few moments of screams and pleas and cries, the escort mumbled something unintelligible and spat out phlegm.

“Everybody, move!” he growled after handing the baby over to the mother. The porters went back to their sacks of coffee, cocoa and kegs of oil and continued their tedious journey in the bush. Sue piggybacked her whimpering baby while she tried to shush her, and at the same time prevent her wrapper from coming undone. A woman came to her aid. She helped her fasten the baby firmly to her back and lift her keg of oil. Sue became calm when her baby drifted off to sleep. She supported the keg on her head with one arm and wiped her clammy face and runny nose with the edge of her wrapper, with the other.

The baby's presence was a disturbance, one that could well jeopardize the successful transfer of their goods. Her cries could attract the enemy and bring them to swift deaths. The escort was conscious of this. He would do anything to deliver his goods safely and Sue knew that. Sometimes she wished she were dead and maybe then she would have peace from her troubles.

After three hours of walking the porters made another stop. An elderly individual tossed his load on the earth and began wriggling in pain, clutching his right leg. He foamed in the mouth and before they knew what was happening he grew still. Beside him a lustrous black serpent slithered off, merging into the thick foliage. The old man's corpse was dumped into the bush but the escort, who already on edge, had to decide how the dead man's burden would be borne. The escort walked among his prisoners, his eyes roaming, fingering his rifle in apparent perplexity. Every step or two, he put his hand to his temple to rub his head, not to wipe away the dew of exertion but the moisture of jangled nerves. The look in his eyes and the manner in which he discharged his duties testified a deep seated fear.

The occurrence became an example of how fickle their life was. How one can be living one moment and dead the next.

“You! Carry! Quick!” The escort handpicked Etty who was already carrying a keg of oil. The sack was hauled on her head and her keg of oil placed atop it. The poor girl groaned, staggered, spread her legs to maintain balance then plodded along. Her head ached and her neck felt like the weight of the load was suspended on it. Sweat poured on her face freely. The load compressed her body, constricted her breath. The burden however was not to be compared with the misery that bore down on her soul; the loneliness, the uncertainty hovering around her head like a cloud of bats, the face of her parents that sat heavily on her memory. She did not know if she would ever see her father again, if her mother would ever reconcile with her, if her mother had not withered like a leaf with its roots plucked out. She did not know how long she would survive, what kind of death she would meet.

Etty ran out of the house the day of the unpleasant episode with her mother. They never saw again after that. She looked for her, though. “Have you seen my mother?” she asked a familiar street beggar. The one legged man was sitting on a concrete slab with a blank expression.

“Your mother?” He smiled wryly, “I don't know.”

“Have you seen her?”

“I wouldn't have known if I had seen her.”

The beggar was right. At ordinary times maybe someone would have been able to recognize her. But it was a time when nothing made sense. Everyone on the streets looked the same, everyone wore the same masks: fear, pain, surrender, hopelessness.

Etty roamed congested streets for days till she happened on a group of people with blaring megaphones and two rickety Lorries telling people to evacuate to a safe place.

When the lorry stopped after a few hours' drive because of a cow standing in the middle of the road, the members of the G-string battalion spilled out, killing and capturing.

The sun's heat abated and the trees from where birds chirped, danced to the quiet wind as the porters moved along the sinuous path amid trees and shrubs.

The porters arrived at a deserted border post where a rope hung across the road beside a stall with thatched roofs yawning with holes. Two men in sunshades, clad in loose shirts, reclined against a parked pickup beside the stall, smoking cigarette.

The transaction was fast. The men spoke French but the escort didn't understand a word. The escort did not say anything to them. He only nodded at their words. The waiting vehicle unloaded metal boxes of ammunition and brand new weapons and the bags of food supplies were placed into it. The two men jumped into their rickety car and the driver connected the two naked wires that served as the ignition. The engine coughed, roared into life and the vehicle zoomed off.

Darkness descended heavily as the sun sank beneath the horizon. Flocks of birds flew home and nocturnal creatures began to poke out their heads. The porters camped under the border post stall for the night. They dumped their exhausted bodies awkwardly on the concrete floor of the stall like a pack of frozen sardines and drifted off to sleep almost at once, snoring, unaware of the plague of mosquitoes droning over their heads.

For a few hours, the escort kept vigil. He paced back and forth with his gun in the dark. Now and then, he rubbed his eyes with the back of his free hand to stay awake. It was not long before he sat down, still trying to stay awake but he fell asleep and his mouth caved open in exhaustion. His finger however held the trigger of his gun which was cocked. Several moments later, the escort sprang up at the sound of a bird flapping it wings noisily overhead and his gun fired a shot, the sound of which galvanized him into a more furious action. He began spraying everywhere, firing at an imaginary enemy. It was too late before he realized what he was doing. The sound of frantic footsteps, pleas, prayers, incomprehensible words erupted amidst the rattling of the gun.

The ricochet of a stray bullet against one of the metal boxes of ammunition caught the shooter in the neck and sent him crashing down, his gun still discharging bullets. The barrage of bullets ceased as blood gushed out through his neck. He coughed and choked on his own blood before expiring.

Everything became quiet afterwards, except the sound of Sue's infant howling. Heaving chests had now become still. Mouths locked open in half snores, dangling heads with dreamy smiles still on their faces. Some lay sprawled some distance away from the heap of bodies, their hands stretched out in a futile struggle to escape the gunshots.

Tolbert laid flat on his stomach under the heaviness of a corpse. For a moment he thought he was dead but a sharp pain seared through his neck and he coughed. Then he heard the cry of the infant. That made him fight. She was just a baby and she was alive. Tolbert twisted his body and tried to wriggle out of the body lying on him. His head pounded. The pain in his neck intensified and blood spurted out of his mouth as he coughed and gasped for breath, feeling as though something had knocked air out of him. He used his only arm to flip over the body, but it was too heavy or rather strength had leaked out of him. He tried again this time using the weight of his own body, summoning what was left within him and the corpse moved. He dragged himself out of the pile of bodies, muttering and cursing. He groped around like a confused soul, gasping and coughing and muttering.

He crawled towards the direction of the noise where the baby was wedged between two corpses and plunged into a laborious attempt to pull her out. He used his legs to push one of the bodies away. He tugged and kicked. When he finally got the baby out, Tolbert hoisted the wailing infant to his chest supporting her with the stump of his severed arm and clasped her against his blood soaked shirt .

He broke down in tears, at first barely audible and broken, like the sobbing of a child, but then the weeping quickly progressed into one long, loud, and continuous scream, a wailing shriek, such as might have risen only out of hell. He was in hell.

He screamed till he thought the veins of his neck would snap. He screamed to release his agony. He screamed because he was alive. Now he wanted to die. It was better to die. Tolbert's screams subsided but the baby was still wailing.

“Blessing! My blessing!” Sue called out weakly, trying lift her body. Tolbert placed the baby gently on the floor and again crawled about to find Sue. He rummaged through the bodies, checking for any sign of movement, any sign of life. That was how he found Etty, gasping for breath, her right shoulders bleeding.


Etty crushed bush leaves and Tolbert held the baby still, while she squeezed the liquid into the infant's mouth. Sue watched as they fed her baby with the bitter substance, her naked breast dangling like two withered fruits on an abandoned tree, her face swollen with tears. Lack of nourishment and unavailability of water had sufficiently taken its toll on her ability to lactate. Blessing had drawn off the last of her mother's milk and suckled her breast for more. Sue continued to nurse her baby with her dry breast, hoping it was not dry till her nipples became sore and the poor infant began to take in blood. Etty tried to be a wet nurse but failed and now they fed her with herbs.

Blessing kicked and screamed as Tolbert held her mouth open and allowed the fluid to drip in through her lips. Flies swarmed all over her wet body and dry yellow mucus smeared her nose and mouth. The dark spots covering her plump face and her rheumy eyes showed signs of ill health.

The four survivors, delivered by the mysterious game of chance had journeyed in the bush for days, trying to find any form of safety. They had avoided the roads and muffled Blessing's cries. But then Blessing's well being was of utmost priority to them. Their past struggles were dissolved into one purpose. Revenge, longing, despair merged into one. It was the bond that yoked them together. The beautiful creature was a symbol of new life. It was the only good thing they knew, at least for a long while now, the only innocent thing.

“What is her name again?” Tolbert asked Sue as though just meeting the infant.

“Blessing,” Sue answered feebly.

“Blessing?” Tolbert said.


“Why Blessing?”

“I don't know.”

Silence engulfed them for a long time. They seemed to be brooding on something, like some past happenings were groping in all the corners of their memory. The baby drifted to sleep. The temperature of the air plummeted, the winds gusted making trees and herbs sway from side to side.

“You hear that sound,” Sue said.

“What sound?” asked Tolbert.

“A truck?”

“What truck?”

“I dan know.”

“Hide somewhere, I go find out.”

Mules of Fortune was written by Samuel Kolawole.

Copyright © Samuel Kolawole 2011.

Samuel Kolawole’s fiction has appeared in Black Biro, Storytime, Authorme, Eastown fiction, Superstition review, Sentinel literary quarterly. His story collection The book of M will be in stores soon. A recipient of the Reading Bridges fellowship, Samuel lives in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria where he has begun work on his novel Olivia of Hustle House.


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