Today I start a series from the collection of short stories…
Everyone Hates The English
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“GET INTO EUROPE NOW!”
That is the bold catchy caption on the face of the small sky blue complimentary card, with those unmistakable loose cluster of tiny white stars of the European Union logo at the top right edge of it. A closer look at the card reveals it also has a specific time and hotel address printed on it, with a room number inscribed on it as well. But that is all, no name or anything more, just the all important promise for a better life, where even African cattle know the grass is surely greener.
Each person that receives the card or merely sees it and can memorize the easy to remember address printed on it, could go over for more details. The time on the card is nine in the evening, well after working hours. Anyone can go and everyone who has considered going to Europe did, that is almost everyone. Even the bulky Mama Cyril, a middle aged mother of seven mostly jobless children and the added responsibility of providing for the nine grandchildren they gave her, wanted to know more. She had intentionally closed her shop late one evening so she could look in on her way home. She liked all she has heard so far and sought more information.
The hotel premises was full and busy. The open air bar shared the parking lot but there were no cars in it. It was packed full with all sorts of people, young and old, looking healthy and well fed, many of them looked obese and rather well off.
They sat everywhere and chatted purposefully. If only the rich drive cars, then some here had deliberately left theirs at home before coming, Mama Cyril thought.
Those wicked rich sorts always want more at the cheapest rates and Mama Cyril was certain they were here too, set on depriving the poor of this God sent charity.
Only a few were drinking and everyone seemed to be talking to someone else.
Mama Cyril ignored them, snuck round the back and up a short flight of stairs.
Good elderly Christian women like her shouldn’t be seen in ungodly places at dark hours. Idle gossipers will love to give Baba Cyril a new excuse to start yet another fight. The old fool loves entertaining neighbours with his drunken wrestling shows. Allegations of sleeping around will be an effective excuse for her husband of over thirty years, Mama Cyril concedes. So far the two decades long jobless buffoon
relies on claims of being disrespected as the head of the family to ignite quarrels.
The door into the specified hotel room was ajar and surprisingly, there was no queue outside it like she had expected. Mama Cyril looked in and was encouraged
with what she saw. Seated on the side of the bed, attending to two young girls, was an elderly white man. That was a huge relief for Mama Cyril because everyone
knows white people are honest and do not need to cheat poor black folks like rich black people do. Mama Cyril recognized one of the girls as Mimi, the pencil thin
Mama James’s youngest child in their Church choir. Mimi curtsied and greeted Mama Cyril properly and from then on it was simple really. The details Mama Cyril sought came in fast waves and she was soon contented. An hour later, she was hurrying home, singing her favorite Church hymn.
She was happy she came and thankful for Mimi’s assistance in understanding the white man’s explanations. Mimi has always been a smart girl, a very sharp girl. She is the youngest girl to
graduated from the university in these parts and only returned from her mandatory year of national youth service last month. Now little Mimi is soon going away to Europe. If Mama James’s smallest baby goes to Europe, no one will hear the last of
it in the whole community. That shapeless old stick will brag about it forever. Mama Cyril strongly believes wicked angels in God’s heavenly court had conspired to curse her with the worst possible litter of puppies, with most of them inheriting their useless father’s beastly moronic genes. She doesn’t ever heed her own advise on cursing her children.
She only remembers not to, after she does and then forgets to bless them often enough to neutralize the curses. But God knows her thoughts and forgives her words, regardless of their effect. She is reassured.
Her three girls are only good at repeatedly opening their knees to conceive and retrieve off springs for the worst possible fools, while her four boys are a bad mix of gain less dreamers and doers. Half of her children are too selfish to care about anything other than their stomachs and their appearances. It is a nightmare to get most of them to do anything constructive for themselves, let alone somebody else.
This once it looked like the odds were stacked well in Mama Cyril’s favour to get them all to do her bidding. But she could only hope and pray they even listen. Mimi had already paid for her trip to Europe, if anyone in his right mind can call the amount involved payment. The entire cost is incredibly low by all known
reckoning. It costs ordinary folks an arm and leg to travel to Europe properly and the remaining limbs too, if it is legal. Then every bit of pride and dignity goes with
staying on in the white man’s land. This all inclusive offer is as cheap as God’s air.
Candidates don’t need to be educated or have travel documents and if they have
international passports or are graduates, they are advised to leave their certificates behind. They could easily lose them on the long tedious trip to get into Europe. They can always send for the credentials later, when they are safely inside Europe.
Relatives can easily send them over by registered post, when addresses are gotten. The middle aged white man had explained that the low charges only covers
transportation for the long land trip through Niger and Mali, into Libya and onto the Mediterranean coast. Travellers are expected to hold fares for their boat rides
across the sea, which is nothing much. Accommodation in Libya is guaranteed, where the travellers are known as pilgrims. The pilgrims are kept safe in Libya
until their ride across to Italy or Greece is arranged within a week after arrival.
The Libyans play a key role, ensuring Europeans get the impression they hold back the
pilgrims. But they simply keep them safe while they wait for their paid boat rides.
Then what happens next is completely legal and facilitated by the Europeans themselves. Once the boats are halfway across the Mediterranean, the European
patrol boats must rescue them and help them all into Europe. If the pilgrims’ boats make it near the European shores they are advised to disable their motor boats or puncture their rubber dinghies and wait to be rescued. It is essential they are rescued so that they get treated with more compassion. All the pilgrims are simply welcomed with warm clothes, food and medicine. The cutest Europeans girls welcome them with flowers and hugs at the ports. European governments will give them official documents to classify them as refugees and no one will reject them or deport them because it is against international law to send refugees away. The timing is just right and the public opinion in Europe is still favourable towards the
pilgrims. The world is in turmoil and an opportunity is there to take advantage of.
Mimi helped the much older white man explain things to Mama Cyril. It has never been this easy, cheap or legal for Africans to get into Europe, not since the
abolition of slave trade many centuries ago. With the estimated amount needed by each person, Mama Cyril could easily afford to send all seven of her children, and
she is just a poor trader in the local market. Praise God for all his bounties. She just needs to secure the hefty loan she is eligible for, from her market thrift
and credit cooperative society, which she had been putting off.
She had originally planned to access the credit, combine it with the money she has been saving and buy a plot of land to build a house for her large family. But sending her children to Europe is a bigger and better investment, multiplied into seven places.
For thirty years the family had rented cheap accommodations and a few more years of doing so will make no difference, when a huge mansion, to be financed
with funds from this European trip is assured. Since Mama Cyril started her grains wholesales business just under two decades ago, the quality of life had improved for her family. They paid their bills and live rather well by local standards. Rent is paid, no one went hungry, every school fees and every hospital bill settled. All her seven children still live at home, with their collective nine children added to the
family’s sum. Yet the family is poor because it lacks the official world average and the plenty they see flaunted around them. There is no crime in wanting much more.
“Who will take care of my children if I go to Europe?” That was Rose’s very first query. Her visibly angered mother eyed her with disgust and contempt.
“Shut up,” Mama Cyril snarled. “Who is taking care of them now?”
Rose hissed and looked away, a usual response in her case. Rose ever struggles to talk to her mother. She is the third girl and fifth child, with attractive looks that didn’t help her much. Rose appears to blossom with a new child every spring. Her good looks tripled the amount of romantic advances she gets, with the appending material favours from men of all ages and calling. Rose is not smart, with her intelligence well below average. Coupled with her inability to exercise restraint in romantic settings once she was of age, Rose had popped out four kids in six years. Baba Cyril’s niece called him with news of the last of Rose’s four pregnancies.
He had laughed and asked her to call his wife instead, to tell her directly.
The long banter over Rose’s fourth pregnancy at home went on for months and hasn’t ended over a year later. Mama Cyril had to put her foot down, the trend simply got out of hand and that is the last child yet. No doubt all four girls had their mother’s fertility
rate. Mama Cyril had seven children in ten years and a doctor had to surgically end her ordeal when everything else didn’t help.
Baba Cyril wasn’t consulted, as usual. Rose turned her attention back to her expensive iPhone, same type the female federal minister of finance has. Baba Cyril saw the badly dressed minister caress hers when she came to make more unfulfilled promises to retrenched employees of the defunct government owned telecommunication company after twenty years of not paying their benefits. Baba Cyril couldn’t make sense of why Rose found it or anywhere really. It never makes sense why children are named in this manner, when their names wouldn’t be optimally used. Mama Cyril expectedly turned to Mammy next. Mammy shrugged and looked down at her well chewed finger nails. Mothers always have the most expectations for their first daughters and the shy
Mammy never met those Mama Cyril had set for her. Mammy was the pioneer, she had the first of Mama Cyril’s nine grandchildren and that was considered her first
of many failings to follow.
Pregnant at sixteen and the favourite child of her father,
the roof rose to heavenly hell and back down again. Back then it felt like the worst possible disgrace for a teenage daughter to have a child in her parents’ house. Then
Mammy’s parents incredibly relived the same scenario over again repeatedly, eight more times over. Now it is the expected norm for the girls in the family.
“I will go with Steve,” submitted Mammy. Steve is just two, Mammy’s second
and last contribution to the haul of grandchildren Mama Cyril caters for, alongside her seven children and their hopeless father. Steve has autism and is a handful.
Mama Cyril nodded, proud to see that Mammy is finally living up to her expectation. Mama Cyril hastily interpreted Mammy’s decision to mean she is actually thinking about the difficulty Mama Cyril will have with Steve and it is not just the act of a loving mother towards her challenged child. Mammy always had her uses as the family’s somewhat junior mother. She earns some money and contributes to the family’s upkeep. She fries beans cakes and sweet potatoes at the
top of the street, did so every evening for a decade, except Sundays. Mammy will make a wonderful wife yet for some strange reason none of the her numerous courting male customers ever comes forward for her hand in marriage.
* To be continued …