There are certain works that you come across accidentally. Some we quickly discard or close while for others, we find the accident dead for once You go through them – the work – a bit and discover yourself engrossed, the accident turns into a willing leisure. I should explain first that of late, the night turns me into a sleeping slot. Tired after my runnings, not a single creative enterprise allows me – not reading, not writing. Or if I do, I find disaster or non-assimilation. So, I usually have to wait for morning.
On this specific night, in between short naps and reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground (not assimilating the easy Existentialist piece), trying to write something on Camus The Outsider (not being able to even write a sentence); then looking for a movie to watch while waiting to make some free midnight calls, I found myself going through some materials that my friend, Idoko Ojabo had given me when I clicked open an MS document. It turned out to be ‘Waiting’ by E. C. Osondu.
Okay, so I read a few lines and soon discovered I was flowing away in a certain refugee camp with some children whose touching stories reminded me of the value of life and some simple niceties that we take for granted.
E. C. Osondu’s Waiting is a three thousand and ninety (3090) word story centred round some children in an African refugee camp who spend their days waiting for one thing or the other, and keep waiting, waiting, then waiting for one thing or the other else. They wait for trucks to bring food, wait to join lines, wait to scatter, then wait to fight for the food. After this, there is a watch and wait for water trucks – which do not always come. In fact, on the day of narration – for the tale is a narrative of a day in the camp with flashbacks, thoughts and the like – the children are waiting for a photographer to come and take their pictures so that same can be transported abroad by the Red Cross who are the hosts of the camp. And they keep waiting… many times like for Godot.
The main character and narrator, Orlando Zaki goes to meet his friend Acapulco under a tree. And if you are wondering on the foreignness of their names, we find an explanation at the beginning of the story:
Zaki is the name of the town where I was found and from which I was brought to this refugee camp. My friends in the camp are known by the inscriptions written on their t-shirts. Acapulco wears a t-shirt with the inscription, Acapulco.
From the conversation that Orlando has with Acapulco, we get to know about the fears of the children, their wants, hopes and even memories. We get to know that each of them wants to be adopted. Acapulco in particular wants to be adopted by an American family. He is the oldest child on the camp and hasn’t been adopted though those who he came with have all gone. Before one begins to wonder why such would befall him, we get to notice (as the author stylishly lets us know slowly) that Acapulco asks too many questions, and looks unkempt as a result of pus which continuously comes from his ear which many flies come to perch on. Even as they get to eat later on, after Orlando has fought to get some food for himself and his weakling friend, Acapulco has to fight with two sets of flies – the first which attack his ear and the other that follow his food. Surely, few people would want to adopt such a child as most of us – probably you inclusive – would want a nice and lovely child without sores and the like. Still, it is to good use that Acapulco is still in the camp as we get to know some history of the camp from him. We are told of nice dogs that only eat shit while helping their human masters. They later turn savage after most of them are eaten by the same humans. They come later to eat the humans. Maybe through the dog tale, E. C. Osondu is trying to also show the lives of several people who remain loyal till they are pushed to the wall and have to form a defence – sometimes through the best form, attack.
In all, Waiting proves to be a nice tale that gives one a lot to think about. Several themes abound in it ranging from war, love, literacy, abandonment to a struggle for survival among others. The style of narration and language is simple especially since it is told from the view point of a child. This might also be because of the author’s intention to pass messages that wouldn’t be hard to decipher. The brevity of the piece is also a quality that would appeal to many readers especially in this time where there are a million and one other things to be done.
Indeed, it proved good company in my waiting till 00:30 when my midnight calls were to begin, and even kept me writing this piece till long pass that time. Hmm, come to think of it, I was able to assimilate the work well and even write this piece without having to wait for morning when I am fresh!