The Circle of Life

And another pre-farafina story…

Things almost never go according to plan; Mr. Stomach’s life is a living proof of this. He had wanted to become a world famous painter, the short boy with a paunchy stomach from Ilawe Ekiti whose works are displayed in the halls of the biggest art galleries in the world. He had been talented enough, once upon a time. Now his paintings can be found only on the walls of his six bedroom penthouse apartment, to the entertainment of classless visitors who barely notice, much less appreciate them. Now he’s a malcontent accountant in a cold corner office working with other malcontent accountants in a three-floored accounting firm with central air conditioning reeking permanently of stale blood and broken dreams. 

Mr. Stomach had planned to marry a white woman, skinny legs with no breasts who would fry tasteless white eggs without salt and produce pretty half caste babies with pink cheeks and pinker lips. Two babies; one female, one male, both with big fat asses everyone would wish to cuddle and no one would be allowed to touch. Now he’s stuck with Mrs. Shout. Black like burnt dodo and as fat as fat can be. So African in all her senses it was like her part of the country wasn’t even colonized. She’d birthed a boy first, fair like him with the accompanying round stomach. But the second time she’d put to bed she pushed out three black boys in between her big fat yam legs. This was not the plan. Why couldn’t anything go according to plan? Why? Why?

That is not to say things are always bad when they don’t go the way we want them to. Oh no. Mr. Stomach, like you might already have guessed, was rich. The kind of rich his plump (as she preferred to be referred to as) African wife could neglect her career teaching disobedient and strong-willed and defiant secondary school students in the prime of their adolescence and its consequent puberty for redecorating their penthouse apartment every six months. So rich his driver would take him to work every morning in his Mercedes while the other would drop his unwanted but tolerated three black boys and the one good one in school in his BMW suv. He had even gone ahead to send his children to universities abroad, giving them the best education money could offer. Rich, not upper middle class. Accounting, however miserable, was very profitable, and Mr. Stomach was exceptionally good at his job.

He had dedicated himself into it after his father, Grandpa Stomach, who used to play for Evangelist Obey when he was much much younger but went on to study Law instead, had deterred him from chasing his wild and pipe dreams of becoming a painter. Painting would bring him satisfaction, but not money, and everyone knows the lack of money is the root of unhappiness. That’s what Grandpa Stomach used to say. So Mr. Stomach had opted instead to chase money aggressively, ignoring but never forgetting his dreams of becoming a painter. Alas, money came but happiness didn’t. Promotions after promotion and salary increase after salary increase and happiness continued to elude him. But at least, there was money. It was easier to cry in his G-Wagon than in a cramped Lagos black and yellow bus. He didn’t wish he had chosen painting over money, regrets were for lesser men and hindsight was always 20/20 anyway. Besides, one couldn’t substitute the reliability of a steady income for anything. So, yes, he had made the right choice.

Life had no more surprises up its sleeves, or at least that’s what Mr. Stomach thought. Until Fresh, the one good son Mrs. Shout had produced decided he was going to become a comedian. His own favorite son, whom he had sent to school to study Law, was saying he was going to be a comedian. To become the Yoruba version of those unattractive south south boys who often make jokes in funny voices about their lives and themselves? Never! Not in this life or the next! Fresh was going to become a lawyer and do him proud.

Now Fresh, who looked just like his grandfather -fair and fine with the rotund stomach, had no plans to live just like his grandfather had. He was satisfied with just looking like him. So when Fresh’s father, Mr. Stomach, had huffed and puffed and decided he wasn’t going to fund Fresh’s dream of becoming a comedian, he was fine with it. Fresh was going to become self-made.

He got himself a gig at a popular bar, and bragged to his father that he was making things happen for himself by himself. Of course, Mr. Stomach had disapproved. He wasn’t going to let Fresh go with any of the cars in the house, and that was fine with him, one of his friends was going to give him a ride.

Except the friend didn’t. Fresh called and called but the friend’s phone must have been on silent, because that one never answered his call. So Fresh decided to take public transport for the first time.

Fresh’s first encounter with public buses didn’t turn out very nice. Last to enter a bus he had to struggle to get into, and getting stepped on and stained in the process. But it was cool, he was going to tell it as a joke later at his gig. Except it wasn’t cool! He sat right next to the standing conductor, who had begun to collect fares from passengers as soon as the bus began to move. The conductor’s smelly shirt and smellier armpit was pushed in Fresh’s fresh face, and all he could do about it was scowl and glare at the conductor’s white armpit hair. The conductor must have known and enjoyed the effect he was having, as he intensified his antics and began chatting animatedly with other passengers, droplets of spit dribbling from his mouth unto Fresh’s bowing neck. What’s worse, the woman sitting directly in front of him turned around suddenly and began slapping, pinching, punching and spiting at the man sitted next to him, claiming he had been caressing her bottom, and also the bottom of her daughter sitting right in front of him and next to her. So this is what normal people went through?

He was having none of it. He wasn’t interested anymore. If he was going to have to go through this every time he had a gig, having to deal with a conductor, this kind of conductor who knew he was buttey and was taking advantage of him because of it, then he’d rather follow his father’s wishes and devote himself into law. He sourly missed his air conditioned car.

Of course Mr. Stomach was glad. His son had seen the light, and he was proud. Another Stomach had chosen comfort over art. And another disappointing, unhappy life for another Mr. Stomach.


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