The ceiling fan was making a whirr whirr sound, swaying from side to side in a last desperate attempt to do the work for which it was made; to circulate air. The Power Holding Company had just emasculated it. Mrs Effiong groaned. Her three month old who was sleeping soundly, would soon cry out when he became hot and sweaty. If she had known that PHC was this unreliable in these parts , she would have prevented her husband from paying for this flat in Ijesha. She lay sprawled on the couch, her well worn jeans skirt riding up her thighs, the copy of the church bulletin fanned out before her. She didn’t need this now, not like it was ever needed, but not now. Especially not now. She was expecting the agent to bring a new housegirl for her.

Mrs Effiong was petite and rotund; her stomach still reeling from the expansive effects of pregnancy. Her face was long like a sheep’s; but she gave no impression of foolishness, rather of hawk like alertness; she had the quick movements of a bird. The most remarkable thing about her was her voice, high, metallic, and without inflexion; falling on the ear with a hard monotony; irritating to the nerves like a constant crackling of biscuit wraps in a solemn burial service. She liked to have housegirls; not that she couldn’t do her work herself, but she needed to have the company of someone, preferably someone she could control, since her husband would be at work; having escaped temporarily from her bilious tongue. The heat was already getting unbearable, and their Tiger generator had only recently packed up. After the four housegirls that had been through her hands in the last two months, her instincts were now honed to pick up even latent traits of stupidity; and heat would only serve to deaden those instincts. She had refused her husband’s offer to be present at the interview, because she didn’t need him empathizing with a girl just because she sat there, palms folded in laps, a doe eyed look in her eyes.

Mr Effiong was a Sunday School teacher at the Presbyterian Church in Yaba, and had been since 2007, and after two years of teaching youngsters, his constant refrain was “Honey, small small, no kill small pikin!” He was quiet, almost brooding and one who after three years of marriage to Mrs Effiong had learned that it was more conducive to peace to leave her with the last word or action. Mrs Effiong didn’t think any of those girls were ‘small pikin’ and she showed them by pummelling them promptly, and although she was thirty three, five years younger than her husband, she felt she was wiser than he was in the ways of the world.

“Madam!” someone called. It was Mr Akpan, the agent, hovering at the burglary proof just outside the sitting room, a young lady at his side. Never one to miss the opportunity of cutting someone down to their size or even below it, she said,unlocking the padlock, “Mister Akpan, I have a door. Knock ! No dey shout person name” , her eyes roving all over the girl.
Mrs Effiong had resolved not to accept any girl who looked anything like all the others, and so when she saw this one; with her tapering jeans and white plaid shirt, a pink beret on her head, she smiled to herself. She thought she might be someone who fit . Someone who didn’t look stupid. Of course her judgement was biased; her mind had told her: as long as the girl doesn’t look like anyone your husband would call small pikin, you are fine. The baby’s wail pierced the air from the bedroom, and she hurried to pick it up while showing them to the couch.

“What is your name?” she asked as she returned, her eyes surreptitiously scanning the lady’s sillhouette and this time noticing pink toenails peeking out from pink gladiator sandals. This must have been to match the pink beret, Mrs Effiong thought.
“Monica, Monique for short”, she replied all the time twirling her shoulder length braids. Bits of pink could be seen highlighted in the thick mass of charcoal black braids. She was very conscious of fashion, thought Mrs Effiong. Just then a loud disco tune rent the air. “I go call you later, I dey interview”, Monica said into a phone pulled out from her jeans pocket. Mrs Effiong couldn’t help but notice that it was a well used blackberry.
After a series of questions such as how old she was which was twenty-four and her level of education which she replied, “School Cert” and an expert inquisition into her background, which was directed to Mr Akpan, who all the while had been quiet, a faint look of amusement on his face; keenly observing the exchange between ‘Madam’ and applicant; a verdict was reached. You fit start tomorrow? asked Mrs Effiong, her baby nodding off to sleep again in her arms.

Monica arrived the next morning at 7.00am just when Mr Effiong was preparing to leave for the construction site where he was head foreman. He clutched yesterday’s Punch newspaper in his left hand and a little basket in his right. The basket contained a meal of boiled plantains and fresh fish stew, which Mrs Effiong had woken up at 5.00am to prepare; fleeing not once , but twice to breastfeed her baby, who wailed just when he could no longer feel the warmth of his mother against his skin. At each point, she swore under her breath, cursing the last girl who had just left and simultaneously willing Monica to hurry up. So it was with great anticipation that Monica was expected. Mr Effiong stopped in his tracks when he saw her at the door. What he saw, can best be described as the sight of a plate of jollof rice and chicken to his hungry labourers. Monica was dressed in a red knee length pencil skirt with breasts straining for prominence under a black blouse, and a black beret substituting for the pink beret of the day before. “Did she have them in all the colours?”, Mrs Effiong thought as she came out of her room, when she heard the door open.
“Honey, this is the girl, she said to her husband, who mumbled “this one no be small pikin”, and hurried out to his grey 1996 Datsun to begin the one hour crawl to the site at Apapa.

“Good morning, Ma”, said Monica lugging her fifty pound travelling bag over to the center of the sitting room. Mrs Effiong eyed the bag from the corner of her eye. “You have load oh”, she said intending the question as a rhetorical one to which Monica mumbled something inaudible. Just then the baby cried out and Mrs Effiong hurried away, with Monica following closely at her heels. His diaper was wet, and when Monica, showing great prowess in the process of diaper change, lifting up the baby’s buttocks with care and massaging Vaseline on it with the practised air of someone who had done this before. Not once , but a lot of times, Mrs Effiong was excited , but she kept it to herself. She had made a good choice afterall, and the days of woe as she insisted on calling these times would be behind her for good. “No small pikin and their stupidity” was her private mantra.

The days and the weeks passed with no casualties between Mrs Effiong and her housegirl, the house looking like one with no ‘small pikin’ housegirl, clean, orderly and above all without the familiar wailings and quick dashes to the backyard of a young girl accompanied by Mrs Effiong, hot on her heels, wrapper around her breasts, brandishing a gari stick. It was peaceful, because afterall there was no small pikin. The last girl couldn’t even hold the baby, for her hands shook and her face blanched and bore a resemblance to that of the baby. Of course the baby cried much more when it was carried by Ekaete, for that was her name; seeing that it was being held by one of its kind, howbeit a bigger version.

36 thoughts on “SMALL PIKIN(1 of 2)” by Berry Feistypen (@berry)

  1. Hmmmm
    nice story, lovely characters
    i also admire your attention to detail
    cant wait for the other part

    1. Thanks Anderson, it wasn’t written as a series, the whole story is already in for review, it was just broken up into parts cos of the lenght.. Walch out on Wednesday! I appreciate the goodwill :)

      1. will definitely look out for it
        well done.

  2. Berry is a good girl, iya iya oh. This is a good one. Think you’re a well-rounded writer. You’ve shown you could do lotta styles and genres. Waiting for you. Loved the reference to jellof rice and chicken. Hope the man doesn’t eat though. Good one halle berry.

    1. awwwwwww……Pls sing Berry is a rich girl…iya iya oh! :)
      Thanks Jay, i’m suprised though that the story doesn’t remind you of any film ;-)
      Thanks a lot and just watch out on Wed to see if he ate or not….! I appreciate your kind words.

  3. Cant wait for the second part
    Good description.

    1. Thanks Naija mum, the next part is coming right up :)

  4. Anticipating part two. Do I smell trouble brewing? Dis one no be small pikin o. U do well, Berry.

  5. Thanks Uche, I appreciate, watch out for Wednesday. Cheers and Keep reading! :)

  6. I like your writing style… you use of detail and the way you make the reader anticipate… this is a well crafted story..looking forward to the second part.

  7. Well written. This reminds me of corporate maid.

  8. Methinks she would have been better of with a small pikin rather than ‘hot jollof rice and chicken’, lol.
    Berry, you are fast becoming a fave writer. Can i adopt you into my ever growing family?

    1. “hot jollof rice and chicken”…I can’t shout oh!
      Thanks Lade and yes you can adopt me :)

  9. Absolutely interesting Feisty Berry, that’s why I always watch out for your posts. I’m only a little surprised that you haven’t yet hinted us that it may have crossed madam’s mind that this girl (wey no be small pikin) may try to compete with her for Oga’s appreciation. I mean the way you described madam with her high impression about her own ‘worldliness’, I’d have guessed that would have been one of her first fears.

    1. Tee, thanks a lot….and I’m honored you watch out for my posts…
      I’ll let you read the whole story and the we’ll talk after, k? Suffice it to say, the premise of the story is Mrs Effiong’s aversion for small pikins and their stupidity and she’s willing to take any one who doesn’t look like small pikin. Because she wants order and competence around her…
      So far this part has told you she is getting that…let’s see what else will happen…. :)

      1. I could have been more patient, right? don’t mind me jor :)

  10. FeistyBerry, I’m enjoying this story, although I think I can see where this is going. A housegirl with “breasts straining for prominence”? Hmm…

    1. Yes…TO, a writer should let readers know where the story is going; that way they follow and they enjoy the journey along with the characters. The way the story evolves and the changes it makes in the characters are worth looking out for…Watch out for what happens to this Sunday School teacher and his Feisty :) wife!

      1. I agree – the journey is as least as much fun as the destination.

        I’m looking forward to part 2…

        PS How come BlackBerrys always seem to crop up in your stories? Is this some kind of guerrila marketing? :)

        1. TO, shebi the way I talk about the thing you’d think I had five, abi?! I have none! I am just amused and fascinated at its ability to encapsulate in its sleek self a lot of people’s dreams and desires to be seen as chic, upwardly mobile, and err….current. It is this age’s ultimate possession, although they are people who use it for its functionality, a lot don’t use it, it uses them! So in writing my stories in this period, I’ll use it to evoke the imagery of currency, solvency, and chicness :)

          I don’t have the BB, because for all the writing, research and study I do, what’s more practical is the laptop/internet modem.

          Please watch out for Part 2 and enjoy the ride!

  11. This is good Berry, as always. I like it when a writer has a keen eye for detail, and appropriate descriptions, and this you have in no small measure, no pun intended!

    I especially liked this comparism: she had the quick movements of a bird. ‘The most remarkable thing about her was her voice, high, metallic, and without inflexion; falling on the ear with a hard monotony; irritating to the nerves like a constant crackling of biscuit wraps in a solemn burial service.’

    Well done!!!

    1. Thanks Lawal, my dear cheerleader..
      In a quest to raise the bar, I have embarked on a study of Nigerian and foreign writers who write the kind of prose I like; intelligent, entertaining and thought evoking, employing the right words(cos of course words are the tool of this trade) to evoke the images that just won’t go away. I’ve found one, His name is Somerset Maugham; prolific short story writer.

      Now what I do is when I see him describing a character whose dispositions match one of mine, I make a note of it, and then eventually revise it, taking into note our ethnicity and prejudices in this part of the world. It has been a fantastic arrangement since I discovered it. There’s a lot of treasure out there, believe me :)

      Keep reading, Lawal… I appreciate the goodwill.

      1. I’ll just keep trying and trying, having mentors is good even if you never get to meet them.

  12. I will keep reading Berry, do I have a choice? when I am hooked already…

    I take it that you have gotten my message?

    1. I have gotten your message and I appreciate it, thanks :)

  13. Lol Berry, I have been saving small pikin cos I’ve been so busy.
    This is great a usual.
    There’s something between you and blackberry o! :)
    well done dear, off to read part 2!

    1. I know…Lagos life can be so crazy! I’m glad u finally found the time…I appreciate the goodwill., and I’m glad u are enjoying the story so far! :)
      Refer to my response to T.O on my apparent affinity with BB :) :)

  14. I joined Naija Stories just today, I must confess you are going to be one of my favourite writers. I admire your style of writing – simple, detailed and witty. Kudos!

    1. Thanks Johnson… God bless..

  15. @johnson, yeah she is very good with her feisty pen but you should move around more on the site….?

    1. Yeah… there are very good people here…esp Xikay.. :)

  16. Na real big pikin she find, lol. I liked the way you crafted this, it flowed so well.

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