Weekly Photo: Motion

By Nora Vasconcelos

Motion by NVS

It’s always lovely when I have the chance to see the seagulls flying close to the beach, but it’s only in rare ocations when I can have a photo of some many of them while flying over the sea.

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‘Eclipse’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

(Part 2)
— — —

In a matter of minutes day turned into night. Darkness covered Abakaliki, and most of the provinces in the southeast of Nigeria.

People all around went out of their houses to watch how the Moon covered the light coming from the Sun, with its spherical presence. Then, a funny feeling accompanied the whispers of the observers who lower their voices, more and more, as the light disappeared from the sky.

“Nothing bad should happen”, many said. Some others prayed.

Slowly, the effect was completed. Then, nothing could be seen, neither on earth nor in the skies. The power company had agreed on a petition signed by the local people who wanted to go through the whole eclipse without any lights that could distract their attention from the Moon and the Sun’s encounter. Only the critical areas were working, such as the police stations and the airport.

Looking up, Leye started thinking about his wife. Were they really fighting over the colour of the wall? That sounded really foolish, he accepted, but he also knew that their fight wasn’t just about that.

He resented that Yewande had stopped paying attention to him and all what he wanted and needed since she had taken over the work needed to fix and mantain the building. Or at least he felt it that way. Was he jealous of a building? He wondered. Then, he noticed that Yewande wasn’t around.

They weren’t in speaking terms, but may be it could be a good idea if they shared this moment. Should he look for her? After all, they didn’t even need to talk. They could just hold their hands.

But he didn’t dare to break the silence that surrounded the neighborhood. All around was darkness and calling her was not an option. He didn’t even have a flashlight. They would make it up when the Sun started shining again, he decided.

Almost an hour later things in the city came back to normal. As soon as the sky recovered its blue colour and the Moon let the Sun shine again, people returned to their regular activities.

Noises seemed to explode after such a prolonged silence. That brought Leye back to reality. Why should he apologise if she had been the one who painted the building without consulting with him first?

“She doesn’t even know that I don’t like cream or white colours!” He said aloud while getting up from the chair that had served him as a base during the eclipse.

If she doesn’t care enough, what’s the point of this marriage? He thought.

Life had come back to normal, he realised that now. But the sounds coming from the back of his building weren’t usual.

He forgot about his disappointment and went to investigate.

One minute later he was shocked. The cream-white wall that had been the cause of their fight, the same that he had painted over with a blue coat, was now painted in green and cream stripes! He couldn’ believe his eyes!

“Cousin!” A young man said from a scaffolding.

“Manolo?” Leye asked, calling his friend’s name.

Although they hadn’t seen each other for some years, their friendship remained as strong as the day when their suitcases were mixed up in Beijing. At that time, five years ago, Manolo and Leye were attending an international conference sponsored by the Chinese engineering company they both worked for.

The incident made them laugh, as they had to wear each other clothes for a complete week until they were able to coincide at a lecture to exchange suitcases.

The following day, each one started to wear their own clothes, but by then, people noticed the exchange and they kept on asking the new friends why they shared their wardrobe, so Manolo and Leye came up with the idea of telling people that they were cousins.

After that, they visited each other frequently, either in Mexico and Nigeria, but some time later they were promoted and time wasn’t enough for long trips, so they stopped the visits and took the best advantage of technology, chatting over the internet and emailing e-cards for the important days.

That’s why Leye’s surprise was so immense when he saw his cousin there …and painting his building!

Manolo gave some instructions to the men who were working with him, and then he went down of the scaffolding to give his friend a big hug. “Cousin!” He said, with a warm tone.

Leye still couldn’t believe what was happening. “How is it that you’re here? Why are you painting my building?” He asked in a serious way.

“Oh! That? It was Yewande’s idea. She called me last week and told me all about your quarrel. She knew I was visiting our offices in Africa and I offered her to come here to see if I could do something to help you both to solve your differences. Then she said that the only thing that would make you happy it’d be if the building was painted in green and cream stripes, so I told her I’d do it, and here I am!”

Leye hated the way the wall looked. In fact, he hated all what had happened these pass weeks. Offended, he asked Manolo: “And where’s my wife?”

“Aw, she told me she would be traveling this weekend. I met her this morning at the airport. She gave me the keys to the apartment. Then, she left, right before the eclipse. You didn’t know?” Manolo asked, feeling worried and confused.

Of course Leye didn’t know. As much as he hated cream or white colours, he hated more not knowing where his wife was. As for the green and cream stripes, what it could be worse than a green and cream building! He wondered

Oh, yes… A cream-white one, he answered himself.

“All this is a complete mess,” he told Manolo. “I have no idea where Yewande is and I don’t understand why she told you everything would be okay if you painted the building in green and cream stripes.”

“Aw, man! You really have a terrible memory!” Manolo said, padding his friend on the back. “Don’t you remember? Those were the colours you both wore on your wedding day! Your traditional gown had more green than cream and hers was the opposite!”

Leye was speechless. How could he have forgotten that! He had agreed to wear a green wedding gown with some cream colour on it because he knew how much Yewande liked those colours, and she had consented to a traditional Nigerian wedding because she knew how important it was for Leye’s family. That had been a sign of their commitment to each other.

Now, everything was clear! It had been a way for her to commemorate their anniversary, and he had been so stupid thinking she had done it just to bother him! How could she possible forgive him? He had to look for her, right away!

“Manolo, please, forget about the painting. Help me find her! Please!” Leye said checking the time on his watch. If Yewande was where he thought she would be, there wasn’t a lot of time left.

The two friends hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take them to the airport. Once there, Leye asked a clerk where he could get a charter flight that could take him to Obudu Mountain Ranch, it was the resort where they had spent their honeymoon, and the place where she wanted to travel before they started fighting over the colours of the building.

As soon as he made all the arrangements, Leye boarded the small jet and Manolo promised him to take care of everything at home. Wishing him good luck, he waved his friend goodbye.

Sometime later, right after the sun had set, Leye found Yewande enjoying the view from the pool. “If I was going to spend time here by myself I thought I’d better make the best of it,” she said when her husband approached her.

“I’ve been a complete fool,” he told her, touching her head softly. “My judgment was as blocked as the Sun during the eclipse. I was so focused on myself that I didn’t even take the time to see through you and understand your reasons. I don’t know how you’ll ever be able to forgive me…”

Yewande didn’t say a word. She continued with her eyes fixed on the horizon. Had she listened to Leye’s explanation? He wasn’t sure, and he didn’t know what to do or what to say.

Some minutes passed, and the first starts appeared in the sky. It was only then, when the night had covered their faces, that Yewande took her husband’s hand. “I can’t believe we actually had our worst fight ever due to the colours of the house! Let’s forget all about it.” She said, bringing him closer to her.

[You can read the first part of this story on Obinna’s Blog]

*This is the final story installment for the Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project.

* * *

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* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

Read all other Crossover Mexico-Nigeria stories in this blog or visit Obinna’s blog

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Weekly Photo: Early Bird

By Nora Vasconcelos

Early Bird by NVS

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‘Who is taking the books?’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

Mary couldn’t decide if she was going to continue reading her book or if she’d just spend her time listening to the rhythmic jazzy tunes that filled the club’s atmosphere  …along with the smog coming from the cigarettes, and the spicy notes of Cajun food coming from the kitchen, located just a few meters away.

Being there was a little bit like being in New Orleans, she thought. But in fact, she was right there, in the same city that had driven her crazy minutes ago, when she had had to fight with the other drivers just to get the right exit, before getting into the high-speed lane.

That’s why Mary liked to relax in places like this any time she had the chance, and Mexico City gave her plenty of choices to do that. That also suited her perfectly as she was a lifestyle reporter for a local magazine.

That evening, it was the opening of the jazz club and the ambience turned lively when the band started playing all those classic songs that became popular during the Louis Armstrong era.

Mary soon got into a cheerful mood and started to enjoy the evening, while typing some ideas on her smartphone, for her to remember the highlights of the event and to complete her article later on.

The time passed fast, and while she was enjoying a tasty plate of jambalaya, a young man approached her.

“Are you alone?” He asked.

“Yes, I’m covering the opening for a magazine, so I’m actually working.” She answered with a friendly tone.

“Oh! So, would it bother you if I sit here, with you?” The man said.

“Not at all.” She replied, showing him the seat next to her.

After typing a few more words, Mary put her phone back into her handbag and asked him where he was from.

“I’m from Nigeria, miss. I arrived to the city this morning. I’m on a business trip and I was supposed to have a meeting this afternoon, but my colleagues’ flight was cancelled due to the bad weather, so I’m alone here. I’m staying at a hotel close by and they recommended me this place, when I asked them where I could have dinner.’

“Aw!” Mary said. “So, you haven’t actually had the chance to visit the city, have you?”

“No,” he replied, feeling a bit ashamed. “I don’t really know if I’ll have the time to do some sightseeing, as I’m on a tight schedule. May be after I finish all the meetings I’ll have some time to go around. Any place in particular that you recommend?”

“Well, if you don’t have much free time, I definitely recommend you one of the bus tours that are offered in the city, they’re quite good, and the price is right.” She answered.

“Great! Thanks!” He said, smiling at her. “By the way, my name is Adewale.”

“I’m Mary. Quite nice to meet you, Adewale.” She said.

“So, you’re a reporter?” He asked.

“Yes, I write reviews about new restaurants, clubs and any other place where food and entertainment combine. It’s really interesting and I have the chance to enjoy myself while working.”

“That sounds fantastic!” He said, smiling back at her. “My job requires endless hours in the office. In fact, this is the first time I’ve been assigned on a business trip. I’m really thrill about it. I’m sure you never get bored.”

“Almost never. Sometimes we have to wait for a long time before the events start. That’s why I’m always carrying a book. Besides…” She leaned towards him, getting closer to his left ear. “Can I tell you something…”

Adewale also leaned towards her and nodded.

“For some weeks now, I’ve been working on a story of my own. If everything goes as I plan, I’ll have a cover story and I’ll get a much better position.” She said to him.

“And, what’s the story about?” He asked.

“Well, I first heard of it from a friend of mine. Then, I started to do some research and I discovered that books are actually disappearing!”

“Indeed?” He said, sounding surprised.

“Yes! In the magazine we have a huge collection of books. It’s so big that it seems infinite. This is because the family of the owner has been collecting books for many generations. But when I started asking questions, their inventories didn’t match. Someone has been stealing the books!”

A waiter bringing some beignets interrupted their conversation.

After two plates of the sweet pastries were placed on the table, Mary continued.

“But it’s not only that. My friend, who first gave me the tip, told me that his personal library was stolen the other day. The strangest thing is that nothing else was taken from his house. The same has happened to some other friends of mine, and if you may know, I’m missing a book right now!”

“Seriously?” Adewale said.

“Seriously! What I have been able to confirmed so far is that books are been stolen, but I haven’t found any reason for that. Any theories?” She asked.

The young man placed his right hand on his head, and scratched it softly. “Who would like to steal all those books?” He said aloud, not really asking her.

“May be they want to used them as construction materials…” He offered. “You know, if they’re recycled, they might be of some used. Or may be, someone doesn’t want people to read any more.”

“I’ve also thought of that, I mean the second option. But I can’t imagine who.” Mary answered, while checking on her phone, which had just rang.

Seconds later she left the table, whispering Adewale that she’d be back.

It didn’t take long for her silhouette to disappeared among the people that were occupying all the tables in the place.

While waiting for her, he also received a phone call.

Covering his left ear with his hand, as a way to listen better, he nodded a couple of times, and then smiled. “Yes, I’ve spoken to her…” He said, just before Mary came back to the table.

The same waiter that had brought the beignets came back to the table, offering them some coffee this time.

They both accepted the coffee and tasted the beignets, laughing at each other when they saw the confectioner´s sugar covering their mouths.

“So, how do you like Cajun food so far, Adewale?” Mary asked.

“Oh! I find it very tasty. Is it common here in Mexico?” He said, placing his phone back in his pocket.

“I wouldn’t say it’s so common, but we do like spicy and tasty food, we use many similar ingredients. And here in La Condesa people are used to having many different restaurants that offer international food. This neighbourhood is an attraction for tourists and locals.”

“Very interesting.” He answered. “But I have to say that now I’m really intrigued about your research. Do you have any other leads?”

“No really”. Mary said, taking another sip of her coffee. “As I only work on this during my free time, I’m advancing at a slow pace. On the other hand, I’m just doing it to satisfy my own curiosity, so I’m not really in a hurry. I have no deadlines on this, so it’s okay. However, I am in a hurry with this story…”

“Aw!” Adewale said, sounding a bit disappointed.

“It was my editor, the one on the phone.” She explained. “He wants me to email him the review of the club right away, as they’ve just closed a deal with the owner to have some adds in the next edition, so they want the story to be published right away.”

“That means you have to go?” He asked.

“Yes! I’m really sorry we have to cut our chat short, but you know what it’s like when duty calls.” Mary said, while picking her things up.

She took one last sip of her coffee, and kissed Adewale goodbye on his right cheek.

“Nice meeting you!” She shouted from the door, right before she left the place.

The young man continued staring at the door for some time, then one of the waiters talked to him.

“Excuse me sir.” The waiter said. “Has the young lady left? I ask you this because I think this book belongs to her. Someone left it outside the kitchen, where we collect the garbage. It has no name, but I remember seeing her carrying a book like this when she arrived. When we went through it, we also noticed that is has some sort of chip on it. It might be something important. If you happen to see her again, could you let her know that we have it, please?”

Adewale reached for the book, but the waiter left before he could take it.

What would he do now? He wondered.

(To be continued next Wednesday on Obinna Udenwe’s Blog: )

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* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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Weekly Photo: Afloat

By Nora Vasconcelos

Afloat by NVS

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‘Rats’ invation of Lagos’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

(Part 2)
— — —
[You can read the first part of this story on Obinna’s Blog]

The ones who were lucky, skipped town. But they were the less. The rest of the people were still stuck in the city, ruled by the giant rats.

On April 13th, two days after the rats showed everyone what they were capable of, the local authorities made a deal with them. They would have everything they wanted: food, wealth, property and the management of the Port, which would give them the total control of the economy of the city. All of it in exchange for them to stop threatening the people of Lagos.

The conquest had succeeded before their deadline, which had been set for January 1st, 2016.

For about a month, there were no major incidents. People started to heal and the rats focused on taking over the strategic places and positions in the city.

Jeher, the leader of all the giant rats settled in a huge mansion facing the lagoon. Every day, with his enormous teeth he bit the fresh meals that were brought by ten servants, all of them people who weren’t allowed to look at him, so they had to walk with their heads down.

The rat enjoyed insulting them, showing up his power, feeling always sure that now that his kind had controlled the city, no human would ever be able to remove them from their comfortable life.

Holding his food with one hand, Jeher liked to play, holding his big tail with his other hand. This seemed to scare his servants more than any other gesture, apart from showing them his big teeth.

He liked power, power that he had got not because he was the most intelligent or hardworking one, but because he had bullied everyone all his life, even when he was a regular tiny rat running across the sewer lines across the city.

Not only humans feared him, but also the other rats. Since he had become this colossal rat that found the way to grow thousands of times his normal size, everybody around had lost part of their bodies due to the attacks made by this rat that found pleasure hurting other beings, just for the sake of it.

His second in command, Leax, had bought all her way to power, paying Jeher so he wouldn’t hurt her, on the contrary he would take her all the way up. Together they bullied everyone, and if someone dared to complain they would get rid of them, either sending them to faraway dirty manholes, where food was scarce and weather conditions would punish them badly, or making them work unspeakable tasks. Rats feared them the same as the humans did.

By August 15th, all the cargo shipments that arrived to the port were controlled by the rats. All the incoming merchandise was processed and storaged, so they kept the most valuable goods and the most exquisite food. The left overs were sold to the people in the city who had to line up for long hours before getting a putrid piece of meat and some moldy bread.

For the rest of the world, the horror that caused the story covered by the international media had passed. What became breaking news and took over the TV shows at some point, turned into an old story filed in the archive. Rats ruling a city was just another tragedy the world had got used to.

At least it seemed so to the people of Lagos who had lost all hope. They had seen all the international media leave months ago and no one else had come ever since. All the promises of help from foreign powers and friendly nations had remained as good-will acts, sometimes only performed to get a bigger space on the news.

And the rats felt happy about that.

What nobody knew was that somewhere faraway, a young man in Mexico had been working really hard to find a solution, or at least some sort of relief.

Concerned for the faith of the people of Lagos and horrified by the power that the rats had gained so easily, he spent all his spare time working in his little apartment on a series of experiments that could diminish the strength of the rodents.

Pedro was aware that poison hadn’t worked, so he designed different plans. Some of them sounded simple, some impossible, but he didn’t discard any idea. At least in the planning stage.

As the days passed by, more walls in his house were covered with notebook pages full of diagrams, equations, drawings and paragraphs. Paper cups with left overs of dry coffee were all around the place, and maps of Nigeria could be seen over the tables around the apartment with small notes and arrows drawn in different colours.

But desperation caught up with him. None of his ideas would solve the problem. After all these months, Pedro was finally giving up. Exhaustion caught up with him, and he fell asleep right where he was, covered by a pile of dirty clothes and newspapers.

Suddenly, something unexpected happened, the solution came to him in his sleep, as clear as if he were awake. But, could it be done? He wondered, still half asleep. 

Afraid he would lose this idea, Pedro forced himself to wake up. It was time to implement his plan.

Jotting down all his thoughts along with formulas and lists of items that he would need, Pedro showed then no signs of fatigue. He had to act fast, before the rats could cause more damage.

One week later, Pedro was in Lagos. A backpack hanging on his left shoulder, a metal briefcase in his right hand.

As soon as he settled down at an abandoned hangar, he set all his equipment, but he still had some doubts. Was this a real solution? He questioned himself, over and over.

That same day, Jeher was particularly bored. Since the rats had domesticated the humans, so they would do all the work for them, the fun had severely diminished. May be it was time to move ahead with their plans to conquer other cities. After all, it had been quite easy, and his richness and power would be then infinite. He didn’t have to conquer the entire world, just some critical places. Then, he’d ruled everyone on this planet!

But all this thinking had made him hungry, so he ordered some snacks from his special reserve. A few minutes later, a human servant brought a backpack full of little kittens.

It had been brought by some Mexican guy who dared to come to the city, taking advantage of the almost non-existing fares charged by the few airlines that had kept flying to Lagos.

The present –the young man had said– was in exchange for the rats to let him do some scientific work in one of the abandoned areas of the airport, because his experiments were so unusual that he had already been rejected in other countries. As Jeher had no interest in science, he allowed Pedro to do whatever he wished.

Relaxing in the garden, the rat picked up one of the little kittens with his big claws, and as he was taking it to his mouth, something happened…

In a matter of seconds the little kitten changed its size, and it kept increasing it until it became impossible for Jeher to hold it anymore. The kitten, bigger than an elephant, landed all its weight over the rat …The last thing the evil rodent saw was the huge interior of the cat’s pink mouth.

Minutes later, the rest of the kittens started to pop up, growing as big as the first one, then they began to chase the rats all around the city. It took them no more than two hours to end the rats empire.

The few ones that weren’t eaten by the felines, Leax among them, ran away toward the bay, so scare of the cats that they forgot that the waters of the lagoon had been polluted with their own garbage. They died even before they drowned.

The humans couldn’t believe it! This horrifying episode had ended, but they were so traumatised by the whole experience that they weren’t sure how they would go on with their lives. May be they didn’t have the strength anymore, but they thanked Pedro anyway.

How did you do it? An old man managed to ask.

I found the way to alter the genes of these cats, so they would become huge just with the tiniest contact with the giant rats, then I left the rest to their natural instincts. Pedro answered, happy because his idea had work.

But, what are we going to do with the big cats now? The same old man asked.

That, my good friend, is something I still have to figure out… Pedro said, looking at the horizon were the enormous felines were taking a nap, after their big feast.

* * *

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* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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