Paul’s Dream in a Palindrome

Paul’s Dream in a Palindrome

“Nurses run!”

“Murder for a jar of red rum.”

“Peep! Peep! Peep!”

“Goddamn mad dog.”

“Peep! Peep!”

Mr. Paul Asukwu startled out of slumber. He has been having sleepless nights; so much was on his mind. The company he works in is giving ground to automation and his wife is in her first round…. Paul is a petit bourgeois struggling to survive and raise a family. He lives with his wife in a one-room apartment in a ghetto. He has passed through a lot of pain to get to where he is today, yet, he is still nowhere and all these affected his temperament and psyche.

“Honey, what is it again? The same nightmare?” his wife asked nervously.

“Nah, it’s a new one … strange … I just don’t understand.”

“What do you mean, you don’t understand? What happened?”

“It’s not clear but I heard someone saying, nurses run.”

“Nurses run? Ha-ha, come on honey, we’re having a baby. I’m already nine months pregnant, so, you know, it could be … ah!”

“Chi, what is it? Chi, are you okay?” Paul asked worriedly.

“No, no, I’m fine. It was just a kick. The baby kicks a lot,” Chinenye cooed.

Chinenye has been Paul’s one and only true love. She never gave up on him through all those hard times when Paul was still struggling to pass through the four walls of the university and all those times in the labour market, searching for a job. They have been best of friends since the university days, knowing life for what it is and never minding about frills and fripperies that add pleasure to life.

“Chi, um, the tap has stopped running, so I fetched water you might need for the day. And, er, I still don’t know why you sent off that housemaid. Who is now going to…?” Paul spoke in a blasé manner as he walked into the parlour, almost dressed up for work. “Chi! Chi! Oh my God!”

He found Chinenye lying on the floor unconscious and bloodstains around the pelvic area of her attire. She lay askew with her head still pressed against the couch and the right leg contorted with pain, while the television still played a music video. She must have collapsed wearily.

“Somebody help!” Paul yelled in panic as he heaved his wife towards his old Mercedes Benz. It was a Monday morning when the preponderant mood was still preparatory activities of students preparing for classes and workers preparing for theirs.

“Oh my gosh! What happened?”


Two neighbours rushed out and helped him carry Chinenye into the back seat of the vehicle. And then, one of them assisted on the steering wheel, while Paul huddled up in between the passenger’s seat and the back seat. He squatted beside his wife, held her hand and whimpered softly as the vehicle sped off to the hospital.

“Doctor! How’s she? Is she okay?” Paul paced up to the doctor as he came out from the ward.

“Relax, she is fine. It was just a minor concussion as a result of fatigue, but she is okay. However, we believe the way she flopped may prompt an early delivery, still, there’s no cause for alarm. We have everything in control,” the doctor assured.

“Thank you, doctor,” Paul said and then walked towards a corner of the hallway, drooped his head to answer a phone call.

It was the office that had called; they had a letter for Paul. Apparently, almost half of the work force had a letter. So, Paul went off for the office after he saw that his wife had stabilized.

“I’m sorry Mr. Asukwu, there’s nothing I can do. So many employees got the same letter. It was the board’s decision to retrench almost half of its workforce and adopt automation,” the manager explained repeatedly to Paul’s persistent pleas.

“Please sir, my wife is pregnant in the hospital; my mother is still in the morgue awaiting funeral and my rent is due. Please sir, have mercy on me. The…the world is crashing down on…” his phone rang, “Hello, hello, who’s this? Why are you disturbing me? I’m busy here.”

“Sorry sir, I’m the doctor from the hospital. Remember, you gave me your number and said…”

“Yes, yes, doctor, I’m sorry. I’m having a bad day.”

“I’m sorry to hear that but you need to come down to the hospital.”

“Doctor, any problem? How’s my wife?”

“I’m sorry sir, but we need you here.”

Paul rushed out of the company; he didn’t even notice the sad faces of his colleagues still hanging around the company. His mind was on his wife. He had been wondering why the doctor needed him and why the doctor’s voice was so calm, up until he drove up to a hawker.

“O boy, commot dat thing for dat place make I pack my motor. You no see where others dey sell their goods, you come for in front of hospital come de sell your…your alcohol. Which kind Rasta man be this?” Paul snapped in Pidgin English.

“How uh suh bloodcloth fool fool! Uh blind or wah uh neva si seh dis is a market place an uh come a pack uh rass car yah suh? Si uh fucking hospital deh, guh ova deh an park uh piece a old car, dam idiot,” the hawker retorted in Jamaican Patois.

The hospital was located in a busy area with people hustling and bustling by the sides of the main road and vehicles, honking and racing up and down the road. Mondays are always bustling with reckless drivers, impatient drivers, aggressive hawkers and careless passers-by.

“Doctor, where is my wife?” Paul piped up from the hallway.

“Calm down. Please, calm down.”

“Why is everyone staring at me with pity? What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry Mr Asukwo; we did the best we could but…”

“But what? No, no, no, don’t tell me that. You assured me you had everything in control. Oh my God. No!”

Paul was completely numbed at the news of his wife’s death. He gave an abstracted gaze as the doctor commiserated with him for his terrible loss. It was a mysterious incident for the staff of the hospital. The baby had been alive when they arrived at the hospital but later ended up as a stillborn baby during labour. Paul dawdled along the hallway distractedly; he had had enough of the doctor’s explanation and everyone’s pitying look. He needed some fresh air to invigorate himself, so he went off out of the building.

“Peep! Peep!”

“Wetin dey worry you. You no get patience? You just dey drive anyhow. Which kind driver be this?” a bus driver yelled at another driver of a Hilux pickup truck as both of them raced down the road.

“Buy your DVDs! Only 50-50 Naira! DVDs! DVDs! New DVDs!” a hawker yelled.

“Orile! Orile! Iyana Ipaja, Mile 2! Iyana Ipaja, Mile 2! Ho your change o. Change no dey o. Orile!” a bus conductor yelled.

Despite all these, Paul continued walking in a state of stupor without noticing anyone in that busy road, not even the Rasta man, the DVD hawker or worse, the two impatient drivers racing down the road.

“Oh my God, what’s that man doing?”

“Somebody stop him!”


“Peep! Peep!”

“Goddamn mad dog.”

“Peep! Peep! Peep!”

“Murder for a jar of red rum.”

“Nurses run!”

6 thoughts on “Paul’s Dream in a Palindrome” by Emmanuel (@Emmanuelpro)

  1. stephanie (@stephethel)

    Wow,so unfortunate

  2. Nalongo (@Nalongo)


  3. bunmiril (@bunmiril)

    Lost his job, lost his wife and lost his child.
    How sad.

    Nicely written.
    Well done.

  4. Hehe. It’s the palindromes that got me. I like that you placed them in reverse at the end. Poor Paul, he would get a ready made family in the afterlife.
    Well done, Emmanuel.

  5. @emmanuelpro,

    I got the sense that you wanted to structure the story around the palindromes. If this was so, then it felt like the tail wagging the dog.

    By itself, the story was OK and quite well written, but it felt unfinished, like the story was just starting. A man loses his job and his wife, and then…?

  6. Emmanuel (@Emmanuelpro)

    Thanks @stephethel, @Nalongo, @bunmiril, @sibbylwhyte, and @TolaO for your comments.

    Well, @TolaO, sorry if it felt that way. Perhaps, you didnt decipher the whole arrangement of the story. It’s just a nightmare playing out in reality; but this time in reverse.
    A man wakes up from a nightmare, only to end up losing his job, his wife, his baby, and then… to become the reason behind his earlier puzzle — nurses run — which means he died. Each of the sentences in the dream is a palindrome and the entire story, too. That is, it began and ended in the same way, but in reverse.
    Actually, the 2nd version of this story ended (after the last quote “Nurses run”) with:
    Paul startled out of slumber.

    Which means the whole story was a dream… Happy New Year.

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