THOUGHTS ON ZINO ASALOR’s ‘What to do…What to do’

TITLE: What to do…What to do

Author: Zino Asalor

Publisher: Sentinel http://www.sentinelnigeria.org/issue3/fiction/zino-asalor.htm

THINKER: Su’eddie Agema


Zino Asalor’s ‘What to do…What to do’ is in three parts: the beginning of the end, a middle, and the end of the beginning. It starts at the end, bringing us to what brought us there, takes us through the whole trip and finally dumps us again at the same place where we all started. It has a mixture of a certain fast pace that gets a reader reading fast at certain points and an engaging slowness at some points that the author uses to control the reader’s momentum.

The story revolves around a central narrating character who we later get to know is called Onome. Without any waste of time, we are told that he is in a certain dilemma:

My mind raced through it all and unsure of what else to do, I sighed. Who would ever imagine that it was the same Erezi who used to scream at the top her voice, threatening to set my clothes ablaze and the same girl who was almost in tears, pleading with her eyes, telling me of how in love she was? Who would have thought this possible?

We follow the narrator, Onome from this point on a journey to what brings him to this position. He has a friend, Tobore who he stays with. Tobore has a sister, Erezi, who is a strong feminist:

…there were also the beautiful ones who deliberately, as a result of their male-bashing ways, made themselves unavailable to most men; they too also had strong words against domestic violence and so on. Erezi was of the latter group.

She is a student of Philosophy at the University of Lagos and an active member of a drama club and some literary associations. She wastes no time in letting Tobore and Onome that she would not be their maid and so they should not expect too much from her. With such welcome, Onome is on his toes and tries to be very nice, trying to be his best as a guest till he gets his own apartment.

Meanwhile, Onome’s job goes very well and he is making progress. One day he comes back from work a bit late. Tobore is out drinking as it is a weekend and would not be home till very late. Onome thinks of the day’s work, his exhaustion and is confused as to whether he should go and eat or sleep right away. He notices a brown shoe by the door and knows it does not belong to Tobore. He goes in and meets the sitting room dark. He interrupts a process between Enezi and another man that she introduces as her boyfriend, with a strange ‘feminine’ name, Hilary. Onome is surprised that the feminist has a boyfriend and was sleeping with him in the house. He looks at her in the light in a tee-shirt and thinks of her breasts but takes his mind away. The couple excuse themselves as he goes upstairs to think on whether to report Enezi to her brother or not. She comes in later and begs him not to tell Tobore. He agrees in the end. Then, as the story goes:

“Alright,” now smiling, she made her way towards the door then in a flash she sneaked behind me and slipped her arms under my shirt “Though, I already know you won’t tell him, you can’t tell him.” She let out what sounded like a giggle.
I stiffened. Her touch was not unpleasant, not by any means but it was unnecessary, she was talking this manipulation thing too far.
“Erezi, what are you doing?”

Onome the confused gets to another dilemma ‘What to do…what to do’ The girl’s touch is not unpleasant and thinks a lot as she tells him that everything that happened was a ploy to get him but the story does not end there. Some serious seduction – more confusion. Well, I think you should rather go see to the end there. However, I should let you know:

The end of the tale sacrifices a sudden end with a dull anti-climax on the altar of a surprising twist. You get there and you expect that you would see “Then he woke up” as most authors would do but you do not and discover after a while that the story is really over.

The greatest strength of the tale would lie in the middle where most of the real action takes place. There is a steady crescendo marked with strong narration, humour and great description. It moves right to the end of the middle that is marked with three asterisks and dumped at the end.

It is moralistic and gives you something to think about: before you do, or not do.

A few weaknesses which are reader specific might be noticed in ‘What to do…what to do.’ It can be seen in some strictly Naija (Nigerian) flavoured codes. Such would include the use of institutions like the NYSC (which stands for the National Youth Service Corps, a one-year scheme where Nigerian graduates are sent to work in a different state from theirs to foster unity). There are also sprinklings of Pidgin in certain places and the use of peculiar exclamations like ‘Haba.’ Without any explanations or footnotes, these might prove a problem to a reader who is not used to the Naija lingo. To his credit though, Zino weaves his tale in such a way that meanings can be inferred from this ‘peculiars’ and where none can be reached, it does not distort the flow of his tale as one can easily brush aside them and continue in the ‘enjoyment’ of the tale.

On the whole, the story flows well and anyone reading it wouldn’t regret the time spent or like in my case, the forfeiting of some sleep to get to the end of the tale and penning of these thoughts!

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