The Achilles Heel (Chapter 1, part 1) by Ojuolape Amusa


This is the first chapter of this book by the author, go check out their profile for more.


“E ra ata e se be!”The pepper hawker chants with a bowl of spices heavily rested on her head and flies hovering around her as she treads through the market amid several hawkers. It’s a sunny morning at Obanikoro market, as always. The road has many potholes, but people and drivers alike are treading through the street.

Everyone, including the Okada and Keke Marwa drivers, has found a way to adapt to the alarming situation of the roads. There’s nothing much anyone can do to change the situation. Even after paying taxes and receiving several promises from power-thirsty politicians, they’ve refused to restructure the bad roads. But at least, everyone is happy that General Sani Abacha, that one man who was a nightmare to every Nigerian, died the previous year.

The market is busy with people who have different intentions — to buy, sell, and beg. Some are just ordinary passersby who are headed to their workplace and have to catch the morning bus by all means. So long as you mind your business, walk carefully, and don’t collide harshly or offend pedestrians and hawkers alike, then you are okay. Everyone has a common motive, and it is to survive.

Folakemi is not exempted as she walks through the sidelines with her fourteen-year-old son, David, as ordinary pedestrians. Folakemi is searching for a shop where she can buy her son a new school bag. She and her son have been strolling through the market for several minutes now. It isn’t because Folakemi was yet to find a shop owner that sold bags but because the prices of those bags weren’t budget-friendly.

An average Nigerian mother knows which shop to visit if she needs to negotiate or buy commodities at a lower price. Still, Folakemi barely visited the market when it came to purchasing school accessories for her children. Over the years, all of her children have managed their school bags and shoes despite how old and worn out they looked. If their black shoes and sandals get tattered, they used black markers to shade the torn spaces. But there was no possible way for David to manage his old school bag any further. He’d been using the same tattered bag for four years. But now, the damage was beyond repair.

“Remind me of the bag you said you want, ” Folakemi asks her son as she dodges another lousy, smelly hawker along the street. “A sling bag.””Okay. I know you are already exhausted. Sorry, my boy. We will find a good shop soon, ” she consoles David while breathing in sharply. David knew his mother was the exhausted one. He didn’t mind trekking the long distance. It was his heavily pregnant mother that he pitied. Amid four siblings and a father struggling with complications of sickle cell anemia, his mother was doing too much work to sustain the whole family despite the stress that came with carrying another baby.

He wished he could do anything to bring his family out of poverty. He often suggested hawking bread on the streets with his big sister, Yemisi, but his mother wouldn’t let him do that. She already regrets letting Yemisi trek the streets daily for long hours, but it earned extra income for the family, which was why she was still hawking, but Folakemi wouldn’t let any of her other children do the same thing.

After walking for an additional span of twenty minutes, folakemi comes across an open space. An albino woman is sitting on a stool and ringing a bell in her hand as she chants, “Bend down select! BEND DOWN SELECT!” it is a call for interested buyers to bend down and select whatever they wanted to buy from her.

They had to bend down because her commodities were displayed on the ground for passersby to see. Folakemi pauses from walking when she sees some school bags among the other goods that the albino woman is advertising. “The bag you want, is it there?” Folakemi points in the direction of the ground where the goods are. David squints and searches thoroughly with her eyes before he nods affirmatively. “Yes. That bag,” David points at a black sling bag. “I want it.”

They walk into the corner where the seller is seated after David affirms. “Ekaaro ma, ” Folakemi greets the albino woman whose skin has been heavily sunburnt. Nigeria’s weather was no respecter of skin differences. “Ekaaro o, ” the albino woman responds in Yoruba. Folakemi is momentarily relieved that the woman understands the language. “Ejo, elo ni bag yii?” Folake asks for the price of the bag that David wishes to buy. “egbaa naira, ” the seller states.

Folakemi’s heart skips a bit at the mention of that price. Why was the bag so expensive? Immediately, David could notice the unease on his mother’s face. He wished he could be considerate by going for a cheaper or a different bag, but he’d used the other bags before, and they weren’t durable enough. He chose a sling bag because he knew it would last longer and he would manage it better. “O ti won ju. Se le ta fun egberun naira?”

Folake tries to reduce the price from two thousand to one thousand naira with the seller. “Price bag yii niyen. O won ju be lo te ba lo si shop imi, ” the seller insists, stating that the bag was more expensive at other shops. Folake heaves a worrisome sigh and reaches for a space in her purse to pull out her last cash. Her budget was one thousand nairas. She would use the remaining one thousand nairas to buy shoes for her second son, Alexander, but she knew David needed this bag, so she had no other choice.

With a sober mind and a sad heart, she’s searching her purse with her hands to pull out the money, but a familiar voice distracts her the minute she finds the money in her bag. “Don’t worry, I’ll pay, ” the person says. Quickly, Folakemi lifts her eyes to look at her Godsent angel on a sunny Thursday morning, and her countenance changes for joy when her eyes meet those of her best friend, Florence.

Florence looks dashing as always—just like she’s always looked from their days at secondary school. Her brown, wooly hair is a thick bun, and her caramel skin looks like melting peanut butter under the sun’s glow. There’s not much change in her body size either; slim and tall but looks healthy as always. She’s dressed in a casual yellow kaftan and earrings to match. “Florence! Oh my God! What are you doing here?” Folakemi is wearing a bright smile because she is beyond pleased to see her only friend.

David, out of courtesy and home training, greets his mother’s best friend, but Florence returns the greeting with a smile and focuses on the albino woman who is still seated, waiting for her money. “How much is the bag? Let me pay for that first.” she smiles back. “It’s two thousand nairas, ” Folakemi replies shyly. “That’s a lot ooo. But don’t worry, ”

Florence dips her hand in the pocket of her bag and brings out a few currency notes. She gives it to the seller. The seller counts the money to be sure it’s complete. With a good nod a few seconds later, she packages the bag in medium-sized nylon and hands it over to Folakemi.

“God bless you, Florence, ” Folakemi expresses her gratitude in words available to her. Tears have gathered around her eyes, ready to fall. “Abeg, don’t cry here oo. We are in public, ” Florence rolls her eyes jokingly…..

The final part of this novel will be posted next week Friday, subscribe to our website to stay updated.

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Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.