Second part of the series from the collection of short stories…
Everyone Hates The English
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Joe is the last born and just belatedly finished secondary school at twenty. He didn’t look his age and appears to be age mates with Thomas, his fourteen year old nephew and Mammy’s first child. Most people assume they are both Mama Cyril’s final twins and the family gives its tacit approval to that innocent mistake.
Joe is glad to hear credentials wouldn’t be needed for the trip because he has none. He had accidently burnt his birth and basic school certificates with old
magazines after a general house clean up two years back. When the call to leave all documents with Mama comes, he plans to lie that he had misplaced his somewhere in the house. He didn’t sit for his final secondary school exams just a month earlier.
He chose to buy a new iPhone with the registration fee Mama gave him instead. As such, there wouldn’t be a new certificate for him in a couple of weeks either and all hell will break loose when Mama Cyril learns this too, after a futile search for his older certificates. Being far away in Europe when she discovers will be a life saver.
The planned trip to Europe is God sent for Rueben also, he is the third boy and second to the last child. He is the most industrious of the seven, works at almost
everything, everywhere and for anyone. He is hardworking and gifted. He kept getting all sorts of training from various people on diverse technical disciplines.
Rueben is never idle and always involved in something to earn a buck. He also contributes to the upkeep of the large house hold from his meager earnings without
batting an eye. Mama Cyril could always depend on Rueben to do his best for himself and for everyone else. Rueben had worked his way through his five
gruesome years in a federal tertiary technical institute, graduating with distinction.
It is a marvel that Rueben has been unable to secure stable decent employment.
Rueben has big dreams of making it abroad. He has enough talent, ingenuity, training and drive to make it under the dedicated and selfless guidance of those
knowledgeable white men, where his abilities and capabilities will be properly rewarded. That hasn’t been the case back here, where he needs to know someone well placed to get employed. Everyone in the family knows Rueben has the best chance of making it in Europe. If Mama Cyril will have two of her children stay behind to assist her, it will include Rueben. But none were more deserving of the trip than Rueben and his older sister Monica, the only other graduate in the family.
Monica is Mama Cyril’s second daughter and third child over all, her favourite and the brain behind Mama Cyril’s business success. None of Monica’s advices
ever goes wrong, she is Mama Cyril’s right hand and that explains why Mama Cyril refuses to let Monica marry the man she claims to love. The chap seemed
decent enough, with a steady job. But Mama Cyril always found something wrong with him to jibe at. The chap’s effort in chipping in his bit to assist with Monica’s
schooling was of no consequence.
Mama Cyril claims he comes from the wrong tribe and cultural background. She insists he is destined for no good because of his name, Shawulu. That is Saul, the devious man who killed decent folks in the Bible.
Shawulu ‘s eyes were either too large or he squints a lot when he stares at folks, resembling a thief surveying his next target. Shawulu comes to the store too often and disturbs Monica in her duties. Shawulu stays till late when he visits Monica at home, no decent man does that. Shawulu doesn’t even bow when he greets Baba Cyril. Then there was the most unforgiveable act of all. Two years after Monica graduated with a degree in Business management, Shawulu intentionally got her pregnant to force the difficult Mama Cyril’s hand into consenting to the marriage between Monica and the hateful Shawulu. Thus Mama Cyril summarily refused to
entertain any more talk of their marriage when she finally got her best excuse.
There was no reasoning with her from that point on and the sole child Monica added to the house hold was the only grandchild Mama Cyril celebrated with an
official naming and church Christening fanfare, all in aid of wrestling Monica from
the affectionate clutches of Shawulu. The incessant visits by Shawulu’s people to placate Mama Cyril and make amends for their son’s shameful act was unaccepted. Baba Cyril benefited from these many visits because the delegations always
came bearing gifts, which didn’t interest Mama Cyril in the slightest and the crafty old man did as he pleased with, after they leave. Monica respects her mother to a fault and kept appealing to Shawulu to wait and be patient.
Shawulu will wait forever, if Mama Cyril got her way. This trip will seal Shawulu’s fate, that is that. A quick run down on the progress so far reveals that Monica was excited about
the trip, yet not entirely sold on the idea. Not telling her beloved Shawulu about it was going to be exceptionally hard but Mama Cyril will always have her way with Monica, that much is certain. So Daniel, Mammy, Joe, Rueben and Monica were all in. Rose is still work in progress but if many men, mostly with the intelligence
quotient of day old chicks, could persuaded her into bedding them, surely making Rose catch a boat to Europe wouldn’t be as hard as tackling an algebra equation.
That leaves out Cyril, first born of the house. Mama intentionally left him for last because he could easily scuffle the whole thing before it even started off, if he
so desired. It was her plan to hear all the others before Cyril. He was the only one she earlier told why she wanted to speak with everyone that late at night. She asked him to keep his thoughts to himself, until he hears all the others. Cyril will keep his word, if he can be convinced to give it. She convinced him and now it is his turn. Mama Cyril had already decided that if Cyril isn’t going, he will have to deal with not being able to stop the others from going. There is never telling before
hand what Cyril will like or will not like, he is that unpredictable, even to his mum.
Cyril is not a social retard, he is just simply too blunt. His mind and mouth had merged into the same cognitive organ and he quite innocently doesn’t think things
through before he speaks. Words just come gushing out his mouth like piss as soon his lips part, just as he would when he opens his fly to ease his bladder. He doesn’t
consider the implication before making a statement, even for the briefest second. Cyril is well aware of this shortcoming of his for years and he had simply come to one conclusion about it, without making the slightest attempt to change it.
Cyril concluded that he can not lie and get away with it. As a direct result of this, he actually doesn’t lie casually. It soon became so obvious that he didn’t lie as
often as those around him. Everyone needs to steer other minds wrongly once in a while, to deflect hostile reactions at least. Cyril struggled to socially relate with the people around him. But for someone who is considered a social nerd of sorts, he is still relied on to be sincere in all his dealings. Everyone listened to him keenly.
“Don’t you all see the news?” Cyril started. “People are dying every day in the Mediterranean sea, that is if they make it that far.” Mama Cyril was ready for that.
“That is if you rely on smugglers and we are not,” Mama Cyril returned.
“Besides it a risk worth taking,” Daniel quickly added.
“Risk our lives and die in a strange land, like wild animals? You call that risk
worth taking?” Cyril returned, but Daniel didn’t answer. Unlike Daniel’s carefree attitude towards life as a whole, Cyril’s approach to life is much less mechanical.
He trusts the human nature to disappoint and this is solidly based on his proven notion that human beings will only bend their nature as far as their joints allow.
“Mama, I suggest you forget this plan. Use the considerable amount you plan to spend to either improve on your business or build the house you have planned.”
Cyril had said his honest mind and that was good enough for his mother, who ignored the audible snicker from Baba Cyril. She was well aware why her husband
chose that moment to insinuate his disapproval. The man couldn’t stand the thought of all that money saved in the bank, out of his reach to squander away on hard liquor drinking and frivolous gambling. To hell with him, Mama Cyril thought.
“Are you contented being the long serving Head master of a private primary school with a rarely paid salary? You are not paid on school holidays, that is a quarter of the year. You can hardly meet just your own personal needs. You have worked there for ten years, with nothing to show for it. You are thirty years old, still with only a lowly teacher’s diploma and still living with your parents. You are unmarried, you can’t save or improve your education, can not get another job and fully dependent on your family for your needs because you earn close to nothing.”
Joe had only meant to sum things up nicely for Cyril but he had by extension touched the minds of all the other too. It had hit home to the others that what was different about Europe was they could have a fighting chance at making their lives better. Cyril knows better than to stand in the way of their dreams, if he was not going to do something about his. He didn’t have to say it, they just all knew he was not going to be difficult, if all the others were decided on leaving for Europe. Though Mama Cyril couldn’t predict her first son, she maneuvered those she
could predict into shackling his unpredictability, such that it is of no consequence if he reveals to be difficult. The simple truth might not ever change, but it can be
ideally shaded. Mama Cyril was spot on in her assessment and reeled in her catch.
Rose was still undecided, she is not sure she will get as much attention from white men like she is getting from black men. She couldn’t possibly compete with
those elegant looking European women out there, with their classy clothes, delicate make up, sophisticated way of walking and sexy way of talking.
“They may not even take us to England and Europeans only speak English in
England,” the stupid Rose was telling herself. She was terrified she wouldn’t be able to cope in Europe and was getting increasingly worried that her siblings will not let her off. Rose didn’t like the uncertainty that came with life in Europe, not to
mention the dangerous difficulty of getting there. Daniel intently watched Rose stiffen her back, without relaxing her stomach
muscles. Rose always has this expressively suggestive manner of carrying her elegant body. Her emotions are clearly revealed in her body language. Initially
Daniel couldn’t appropriately decipher her exact thoughts, then he figured out she was planning on not going with them. But Daniel wanted Rose to come along more than any of the others and for a good reason too.
A month or so earlier the elastic string holding Rose’s under pants suddenly snapped beneath her flowing gown, just as they started the long walk back home from church. With nothing to keep her panties from falling down to her ankles, the silly girl had tried to hold her loose panties in place without using her hands. As a
result, she had to walk with her thighs clamped up. Daniel had noticed something was wrong, inquired and Rose told him of her predicament. He offered her the use of his belt and had to wear his trousers up just that once, in her honour. Every male eye trailed her every move that day too. She had dropped four children already and yet every man still drooled over her. She had to come along with them to Europe.
They will need her out there. The others don’t know it yet but Rose might just hold the keys to their success in Europe. Rose is suited for the role Daniel had in mind, more than the cagy Monica with her proper ways or the aging Mammy, who looked every inch a mummy. Rose could quite easily sustain the lot of them in
their earliest days in Europe, until they can settle in later. She only needs to bat her eyes or wiggle her fanny a couple of times. If they are lucky, she could bloom into a fruit for some unsuspecting rich white dude and settle two thirds of their worries.
As if on cue, Rose batted those thick eyelashes of hers and looked straight at Daniel with eyes like glittering dark brown gems set in white marble. He smiled
and winked at her, urging her with a nod. She smiled back, like some strange inter-galactic alien in a beautiful female human disguise. Rose is his favourite sister by far and she is most fond of him too. He knows how to play her and get favours off her. He was certain she will play this ball and many others too, later in Europe.
It was very late, Baba Cyril yawned and shifted in his seat. They weren’t asking for his consent as usual but he realized he could still get paid if he played his cards right. He only needs to insinuate some subtle threat that could throw spanners in their works. He is not as stupid as his wife makes out. So without minding that his sudden contribution doesn’t relate to the discussion, Baba Cyril shuffled his cards.
“Davido is expecting payment from me tomorrow,” he disclosed.
“Who cares?” Mama Cyril returned and glared at him. Baba Cyril’s stare didn’t waver. His wife knows him very well, he can be cheap when his silly threats are
nipped in the bud. But when ignored and not appeased early enough, he could cause enough stink to attract unnecessary attention. With this important plan for a mass European trip, it is better not to risk it in calling his bluff. The stakes were too
high and he just might do something stupid. Just telling Shawulu before hand will
be distraction enough. Baba Cyril had to be settled and Mama Cyril backed down.
She nodded at Monica and the smart girl responded appropriately. The best
leaders never reveal when they concede, subordinates do it for them so they will never appear weak. Mama Cyril is never weak, rather it is her forte to feed on other people’s weakness and Baba Cyril represents a steady promising field for her most
influence. Once his meals are on time and his daily gulp of medicinal gin is within reach, he rarely makes trouble at home. But the most quarrels the couple have is over his weekly heavy drinking and gambling at a local shack, ran by the respectful Davido. The sly Davido sells locally brewed gin and also doubles as a bookie.
Baba Cyril will run one silly scheme after another around the house and in the community, to fund his weekly evenings at Davido’s. But when there is nothing to be had, Davido is willing to extend some credit to the elderly fellow because he is
confident one of Mammy, Rueben and Monica will always pay up.
Mama Cyril never does, she would rather die, like she repeatedly says at the top of her voice. This is just his latest scheme and a highly lucrative one at that. Monica left the sitting room briefly and returned with a number of crisp money notes of the highest
denomination. Baba Cyril never had it this good. As soon as he received the money from Monica, in full view of everyone, he inspected the notes in the faint candle light. Satisfied with the illuminated imprint of the inserted hidden silvery security
components, he put the money in his pocket and grinned. A metal picture of Judas Iscariot receiving payment for his kiss of betrayal flashed across Cyril’s mind, but
not even the devil would dare to wrestle this hand-out from Baba Cyril now. He will be contended for a couple of weeks and if this hyped European trip is still pending after then, who will deny the old man’s right to have another go at the golden goose. But this night he played along as expected, sang the tune paid for.
He nodded and retire for the night with a spared parting good word to aid his wife.
“You children listen to your mother, she only means well for all of you.” Cyril willingly accompanied his eager mother to the hotel this time around. It
was unanimously agreed by everyone that Cyril should get fully involved in every aspect of the arrangement from then onward. His good eye for probity will come into very decent use to ensure there is no foul play or the family is not taken for a ride by dubious fraudsters. The elderly white man Mama Cyril had met the first time, instantly recognized her the moment she entered the hotel room with Cyril in tow.
When they exchanged greetings, Cyril got his first of two pleasant surprises of the night. In Mama Cyril’s narration to the family about the details she got from her
earlier visit, she said Mimi had called the elderly white man in charge, Mr. Bill.
Cyril already had established suspicions of the whole arrangement, so he had
expected to meet some bossy north African, a sort of middle man for his Arab brothers, taking full advantage of the confusion in their nation to make a fast buck
by smuggling sub-Saharan Africans into Europe. But there was no chance of a mistake in identifying where Mr. Bill is from, he looked it and his accent said it.
“You are English?!” Cyril’s querying remark was laced with his surprise.
“Who did you expect to meet, some ancient Roman?” Mr. Bill responded with a smug grin.
Cyril didn’t acknowledge the joke but he looked more relaxed as Mr.Bill offered them seats. Once seated in one of the two armchairs in the sparsely
furnished hotel room, Cyril faced their elderly European host sitting on the side of the only bed and started off his questioning, with Mama Cyril quietly looking on.
“What is the country of entry?”
“Depends on where the boats arrive or where the intercepting joint European Naval forces take migrant boats to. It is likely Italy or Greece,” Mr. Bill explains.
“You’re sure about this?”
“Nothing is certain in this business but nine out of ten times, the task force is involved and take the boats to Italy or Greece, where the migrants are processed as
legal refugees. But surely you know that once you enter one European country, you can enter all the others?” Mr. Bill fished, hopeful Cyril doesn’t just look educated.
“I do,” Cyril replied but clearly he was not done yet. “And the safety of the trip across to Libya, is that guaranteed?” Cyril asked.
“Yes it is, as well as accommodation and security, up till the point of departure
from the Libyan coast. That is what you will be paying for. Extensive arrangement
that involves seasoned transporters, senior border posts officials, top military brass and government officials in all the nations involved, is in place. I came here after setting it up and I assure you it is working faultlessly and I can prove it now.”
Mr. Bill reached for his cell phone and called a line. From their seats, Mama Cyril and her eldest son could hear the other line ring and a female voice answer.
“Mimi, how are doing?” Mr. Bill spoke into the cell phone resting on his right cheek. Mama Cyril smiled at her son and her eyes almost said: ‘I told you so.’
They already knew Mimi left just three days earlier and hearing it had rushed things for their family. Mr. Bill handed the phone to Cyril, electing to satisfy the son’s more pronounced doubt ahead of his already convinced mother’s.
Cyril accepted the phone, placed in on his right ear and spoke. It was certainly the excited voice of Mimi. No doubt it was Mama James’s little girl at the other end of the line. The notable delay in their exchanges was further prove that Mimi was indeed in a very distant place. She had only good things to say about the efficacy
of the whole arrangement. Mimi said her boat trip has been paid for and she will be heading across the calm Mediterranean waters very early the next morning.
Mama Cyril had her turn. She incredibly managed to scream out enough pleasantries, prayers and information in a single minute to last the girl’s lifetime before reluctantly handing back the phone to Mr. Bill. She withdrew her chubby arm, which looked rather like an enlarged midget’s sinewy arm. The fold of fatty
flesh casing sort of shrunk her arms and completely hid her elbows from view.
What stood out for Cyril was that Mimi still had her phone, but he didn’t say it out loud. He reasoned that after money, phones are the first items lost or taken away from persons either held against their wishes or in any kind of difficulty.
Mama Cyril was elated to see her son’s nod of approval and the rest was routine, handled by Mama Cyril and Mr. Bill. Cyril watched his mother make full cash payments for six places on the next available vehicle leaving for Libya. Mr. Bill apologized that the next four buses leaving the next day were already full, but he assured Mama Cyril her children will leave in a couple of days.
Mr. Bill emphasized the need for urgency because the situation wouldn’t be the same for much longer. Once the puerile panic that greeted this rapid unprecedented flow of predominantly economic migrants into Europe has subsided, the European nations will most certainly device some expedient international law to revert to the status quo. Mr. Bill stood up to see them out, paused to reassure the silent Cyril that he and his siblings will safely be in Europe before next week.
It was Mr. Bill’s turn to be surprised. He was stunned to learn Cyril is not traveling with the others.
“Why?” Mr. Bill asked.
“The world is full of loud commentators, with deceptive commendations their many willful listeners obviously find admirable and not coy. But I am an exception to the general norm, among the few appropriating critics who equate affirmation of
evidence and the clearly advertised ruse with serious concern,” Cyril started.
“You and I know that getting into Europe is the easy part. But living in Europe, in the most sub-standard conditions, a far cry from illusions perceived, assumed, created and forwarded, is the real tough part. Africans integrating into evidently
hostile economic and social European societies that segregate against foreigners, as they increasing learn to abhor migrants for clogging their systems and worsening
their already precarious situations, is the reality of things. I will rather accept the fair situation I can manage right here, than pursue an elusive pot of gold at the end of some European rainbow.” Cyril was assertive and Mr. Bill was impressed.
A fellow intellect, the English man thought. The elderly white man tarried at the door to explain further. He felt Cyril has earned the right to understand why it
is only fair that Africans escaping war torn regions or economic difficulties or simply seeking to better their lot, must get a chance to pursue a life anywhere they
desire without any hindrance from those who seek to make choices for them, yet
“I am not doing this for the money,” Mr. Bill said. “I am doing it because it is the right thing to do. For centuries European slave merchants own Africans and
traded them across continents as they pleased. Everywhere they took them, the prosperity that was gotten through their unpaid work for centuries funneled into
making these European nations the model economic and social communities they are today. Then there was colonialism, when European nations arbitrary syphoned the wealth of African nations for free and incessantly bullied them with the same
effect, which resulted in making large economic powers of European countries.
“A lot of people consider the abolition of slavery and subsequent independence
of the African nations as an act of charity, a favour granted the most belittled and unjustly treated people in all history. No it is not and any thing that remotely offers
a whiff of reparations should be encouraged and milked till it is drained. What do you think the world’s racial history will be if the black man was styled as the clear
antagonist? Just consider that before you write off your siblings.” Mr. Bill ended.
“You should consider that most of those going over will end up as liabilities.”
“Then it is only fair that they do.”
“It is fair to unsettle the living standards and security of Europe?”
“Certainly! Centuries back it was the superior Europeans that felt they had the God given right to come to Africa for economic reasons. Now it is only fair that
the African have their civilized right to come to Europe for economic reasons too.”
“The long established tedious ways for Africans to legally get into Europe ensured only the best Africa has to offer do migrate. The new trend only dumps from the dreg of the continent. At this rate Europe will be full of the sort of people that it needs the least. It is like allowing locusts to rest on your farm because they
also have a living right to feed. But maybe the English do not really care and it is a continental European problem, since England is still an old independent island, still on it own and just playing to be part of Europe. Still with its own currency in place, as the presence of a Queen imprinted on it.” Cyril remained every bit as steadfast.
“Good people do bad things for good reasons, my friend.” Mr. Bill appeared offended at the insinuation that he is just being more malicious to his European
brethren than helpful to Africans.
Mr. Bill looked the way of Mama Cyril before continuing. She was already near the stairs and screaming into her phone, eagerly
informing Monica of the good news about their trip to Europe in a couple of days.
“It is the least honourable thing I can do to follow in my ancestor’s foot-steps.
An Englishman was instrumental to ending the brutal carting away of Africans from their homes and it is only ideal that another Englishman is instrumental in the
civilized migration of Africans to Europe as an act of reparation. I should have properly introduced myself. My name is William Wilberforce, the Sixth.”
A stunned Cyril gawked with renewed respect as he assimilated this second pleasant surprise. He accepted the grinning white man’s farewell hand shake and watched as the Englishman shut the hotel door behind him, before hurrying to meet his bulky mother, breathless at the foot of the stairs. She had ended her phone call
and was singing her favourite church hymn out loud, in the most jolly of moods.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,” the aged woman hollered at the top of her happy voice, with a spring in her step. “I once
was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see. Was blind but now I see!”
Mama Cyril sang as she led her eldest son through the hotel parking lot that passes for a bar and also the launching pad for yet another compelled economic
migration from Africa to Europe. Cyril only had thoughts for yet another symbolism. He smiled at the irony of one William Wilberforce ending the old
compulsory slavery and yet another William Wilberforce fueling the new optional slavery. It is somewhat fitting and quite English in its concept, Cyril thought to himself as he resisted the urge to hum along to the tune of his mother’s singing.
Like the song, the general mood is infectious, spitefully civilized and English.
THE END OF THIS SHORT STORY
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