View Full Version : Computer Toilet

June 4th, 2014, 10:27 PM
This is the beginning of a narrative short story set somewhere in West Africa. There is a line in Pidgin English as spoken there and the word ogogoro means dry gin. I hope you guys enjoy it :), I would really appreciate hearing what you think.

Beji can’t use computer toilet in a million years. He can only boast for a million years. Only the very brave amongst us can use it. Akin is the bravest. He has used it twice in less than six hours. No one can break his record. He got his bravery from his occupation as a labourer. He inherited the occupation from his father. Even though he is thirteen, he does a full day’s job and dusts his shoulders and walk away and start again the next day. He is the son of his father. I tried a half day’s job once and woke up in the hospital the next day, after that, I knew that carrying a head pan full of cement and sand up a staircase was not my calling. I am the son of my mother. I know the exact amount of money each debtor who bought ogogoro on credit owes her. She can’t read or write so she just passes on the information to me and I record it in my head.

I may not be as strong as Akin is but I have other qualities required to use computer toilet. I have good reflexes which are required in case it starts collapsing in the middle of shitting. I also have the best freeze and position. They all agree. Ese has the best squat. He squats like a jet that has been ready to take off since last year. We are still working on our skills; we need more than a day’s practice to perfect our skills. We have time. We have four days to practice before the military government allow the election to vote in a civilian governor who would declare free education that will enable us start secondary school.

We are all getting excited by using computer toilet today, but it was not always like this. At the beginning when we moved into No. 9 Nosakhare Street there was no toilet. We had to improvise by taking a shit in a polythene bag as a short cut each time nature called. There was no fun in that, just too much planning. That was the natural order of things for three months until yesterday morning. We woke up to find the famous four sons of our landlord digging a hole at the left corner of the backyard. The hole was a square of about sixty inches long at each side and they had already dug more than four feet deep by the time we woke up. They were at it all day.

I was still trying to make sense of the digging where I sat on the window ledge when Osas whispered from the bed.
“Are they digging a grave?” he asked. I was surprised he knew already before he added “I saw them when I woke up to pee earlier” This is very typical of Osas, he doesn’t see anything serious in most things.
“If someone died would they just dig a hole and throw the body inside” I asked. He responded with a slow grunt.

Osas has never been uncomfortable to live in this house since we moved in. If he had, he never showed it. He took it as his fate and moved on. He took after our mum on this fate-taking-and-moving-on business. Although I dread the highly skilled mosquitos in this house I really didn’t mind living here until the day Akin told me our house was the worst in the street. He gave me proofs. “The walls of una house get more cracks than all the other houses and na una zinc old pass for this street he said.” Akin doesn’t open his mouth often but when he does important things fall out. He was right. After that day I longed for the uncompleted building we moved from because we had no neighbours there – even though it was worse than this one – there, we had the luxury of swimming in our misfortune without others knowing about it. Also, the mosquitos there are better. They use needles and fly like mosquitos and blow Vespa sirens. The ones here use nails and fly on broom sticks and blow police sirens. I have never been able to smash any one anytime they complete an operation on me, I always slap myself.

Unlike our former street with no name this one is named after Mr Nosakhare, the only rich man on the street. He is a two eyed man in a kingdom of blind men. He has two houses, two wives, two cars and two bakeries. He bought his second car three days ago and everyone in the street flowed to his house like erosion making its way to a river. I am not interested in things like that because that world is too far from mine, but I went to see it for the record. People marvelled at the shiny navy blue machine like they were learning to worship a new god. The shiny body of the car made my skinny frame look bigger and I wished I was like that in reality. People said different things that didn’t make sense and I decided to leave when the vulcaniser who lives at No. 4 said the car can fly. When my mum returned from her shop in the evening I told her about the car.

“People are dying of suffering around him, left right and centre; he is buying cars” she said.
“The ice cream man who lived in number two beside his house died of malaria last week because he couldn’t afford to buy medicines. “Common malaria!” she exaggerated. “Iya groundnut lost her last daughter on Sunday because she couldn’t pay the deposit required at the clinic when she rushed her there”

My mum is always in touch with the current affairs of Nosakhare Street and the street before and the street after without leaving her shop. Her shop is the mother of all gossip camps in the area. You would know what people ate in their houses and who is sleeping with another man’s wife and who is sleeping with another woman’s husband by spending a few hours in her shop. Hot and fresh rumours come in daily from about 6am to 8am when bus drivers, carpenters, mechanics, panel beaters, spray painters and others who do all sorts of menial jobs converge to sip ogogoro. It is their daily ritual to charge up themselves for each day’s job, except on Sundays when most of them go to church. The four sons don’t ever drink ogogoro in our shop; they send Ivie their younger sister to buy a litre for them every now and then.

The four sons are Jacks of all trades. Everyone fears them because of the rumours about them that hang over the street like a faded tarpaulin. David the eldest and smallest sits calmly on the fence that separates our house from the next one as George the second son digs on. He has no shirt on his thin muscled body. He is smoking weed as usual. He raises his head up every now and then to let out thick white smoke. Every time he raise his head up his punk hair-cut makes his face look more oval and his head longer. He is the calmest of them all. He is a panel beater and spray painter by occupation. He has a very old Volkswagen Beetle that begs for retirement every time he drives it. Rumour has it that he uses the same beetle to convey armed robbers around the city at night when they go about their dreaded profession. The only few times I speak to him are to say good morning or good afternoon or good evening and he always says hey in return. He saw me once talking with Ivie under the mango tree behind the house and gave me a do-you-want-to-die-young look, after that I never went anywhere close to Ivie when he was at home. She understood and laid low when he was home.

June 4th, 2014, 11:13 PM
Edata - You have the gift. Not since I first read Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul have I been so pulled into a neighbourhood or carried along a street to meet all the people who live there. Beautiful work that will find a publisher. Thank you for this picture of your part of the world.

June 5th, 2014, 03:26 AM
I want to visit that place. The title itself drew me in. You are a very good writer. Nothing was wasted. Every word belonged. Funny and interesting and makes me want to see more.

June 5th, 2014, 06:59 AM
Ohh wow Garza and Bryan you guys just made my day!! thank you very much. I am going to edit and post more when I return from work.

June 5th, 2014, 03:36 PM
I'm definitely looking forward to reading more! That was really good. I can't find a single flaw in it. Amazing job!

June 5th, 2014, 07:38 PM
Thanks a lot aliveatnight! I will post some more as soon as possible :)

June 5th, 2014, 08:37 PM
This is a continuation of the story, there is a line that may pass as an adult content but I am not sure to be honest, please guys kindly criticize the first bit and this one, that is the only way I can tell my mistakes lol, thanks for taking time to read it :)

George digs on energetically and angrily as if the pit is an enemy that had slayed his first son. He jabs the shovel into the red soil and throws out the soil above his head with the adroitness of someone who dig holes for a living. He is the biggest, strongest and most rugged one. His face and body can get him a body guard job anywhere in the world. He stands at about six feet five. He lifts weights made of cement and sand and rods every morning. He walks like someone who can walk through a cement wall if he wants to. He has a scar on his forehead and another on his cheek. Rumour has it that he head butted a truck and used a bottle he broke on his head to tear his cheek as a display to scare off some police men who came to ask for bribes at his workshop. The police men never returned they say. He is a man of no words. He is a carpenter and furniture by occupation. Another rumour has it that he nabs the bags of people coming out of banks in broad day light and drives off on his motorbike.

Kevin the fourth son didn’t join in the digging. He kept on pulling out nails from used planks, straightening them and using them to nail old corrugated steel sheets to new planks. He nailed the edges of three steel sheets to two planks of about seven feet long. He did the same with other steel sheets and planks until he made enough body for the toilet. He normally looks blank and didn’t do much in-between his epileptic seizures. He sits on a bench in front of the house during the day staring into space like someone watching his life fading away. He never says anything to me but his body odour shouts at me anytime I go close to him. He works at George’s workshop as an apprentice once or twice a week. Rumour has it that Iya Beji who lives in the next house used voodoo to transfer the epilepsy from her son Beji to Kevin. Our mum warned Osas and I a million times when we first moved in, never to go anywhere close to him so that we do not inherit his epilepsy.

When they finished digging the pit, Sato the third son dug another hole of about eight inches wide and two feet deep around the pit. He laid the foundation of the toilet with cement and blocks in the hole around the pit. He is the tallest and most feared. He is so tall that he had to bend to do everything, even to walk. He killed a boy who was the same age as him when he was sixteen and was sent to jail for three years. From the day he was released, he has stolen everything, from chickens to cows, from car stereos to cars. After he stole a massive cow, the entire area agreed he had enough work experience to be regarded as a professional thief. The only thing he has not stolen yet is a house. He is a usual suspect and the first point of call for the police anytime there is a major armed robbery.
“Ivie bring a jug of very cold water sharp sharp” he yelled without raising his head from the cement he was stuffing between the last two blocks of the foundation. Ivie materialised with a jug like a shadow.

After gulping two cups of water he placed four thick timbers in the spaces he left open in-between the blocks on each side of the pit. He wraps the timbers with damp-proof course and stuff in more cement in the spaces left between the timbers and blocks. He then starts laying planks across the pit to make the floor of the toilet. He carves out small square-shaped holes at the middle of the fourth plank from the left and right side of the pit before nailing them to the timber across. After he covered the entire pit with planks, Kevin nailed two smaller planks, standing vertically on the middle of each side of the toilet. They then lifted another plank which Kevin has already nailed some steel sheets to and nailed the edges of the sheets to the smaller planks attached vertically to divide the toilet. The square-shaped holes Kevin carved out are now in the middle of each part of the toilet; the male and female part.

George places four thick timbers vertically on the four corners of the toilet and nails them to the timbers Sato placed in-between the blocks. He then lifts and nails the steel sheets with planks Kevin prepared earlier to the four vertically placed timbers to create the body of the toilet. Kevin starts making steel sheet doors for the front of the toilet while David nails planks and steel sheets as roof over the toilet. He is sweating profusely like a Christmas goat, even though it is already evening and the sun has finished working for the day. He yells for cold water, Ivie appears.

Ivie is the complete opposite of the four sons. She has a pretty and tender-innocent face. She is lanky and her buttocks looks a little too big in-between her tiny waist and tiny thighs. Her breasts are too big for her lanky frame and they are always struggling to escape from the bondage of bras and clothes. She has a shiny dark chocolate skin. I don’t know where she got such perfect skin from while eating the same food and living under the same roof as the four sons. The first time I saw her was two months after we moved in. It was one of those extremely hot January afternoons when everyone agrees that the devil is regulating the sun himself. She was inside a massive bowl-shaped basin filled with water under the mango tree at the back of the house. She had only her head outside the water resting on one side of the basin. At first I thought she was a boy because she had a low hair-cut, until I got closer. She had tight boy shorts and a vest on. She stood up briskly and questions flew out of her mouth in the same manner.

“What are you doing here?”
“What are you looking for?”

I froze. My brain disappeared. I forced my mouth open to tell her we just moved in after what seemed like a zillion seconds of confusion. Her face transformed from anger to laughter and she started laughing hysterically. I walked away as fast as walking would allow. The picture of her wet vest clasping her big firm mango-shaped breasts and her bare tummy hunted me many nights after and caused many pleasant dreams. Later the same day, I saw her sitting in front of the house while going to get roasted corns for my mum. I turned back immediately and she ran towards me laughing.
“Why are you going back and how long do you think you can avoid me” she said, in a way that sounded like a half question and a half statement.
“I left to live with our aunty some days before you moved in” she added.

I told her what I was trying to get and she offered to take me to the woman who sold the best roasted corn in the area. On our way she became a news channel and plastered me with news and rumours about the people who live in Nosakhare Street. She initiated me. She didn’t get on well with girls because she was a tom boy. Boys stayed clear of her because of the four sons. It was too late for me. After that day, we gravitated naturally towards each other like bees to honey. As we walked to get roasted corn that day she wore one of the slack-neck, over washed and oversize t-shirt that normally passes down the ranks of the four sons to her. The neck was so wide and slack that it kept sliding down one side of her shoulders exposing most of her vest. She pulls it back immediately with the ease and speed that made it look like that is part of wearing a shirt. The t-shirt was so long that it got to her knee and too big that it looked like an agbada. The edges of her skirt that escaped the canopy of the t-shirt were so light and frail from many years of constant washing that they looked like pieces of a nylon bag. Her beautiful skin and pretty face were complete contrast to everything she had on.

We stood close to the junction waiting for the corn woman to properly roast the corn we picked and George flew past on his motorbike like James Bond.

June 6th, 2014, 04:56 AM
Wow, what a commitment. Great vocal choice. I don't know if you've spent a lot of time in West Africa or did your homework in studying, but it's incredibly convincing. Aside from a couple of out of place words (zillion, adroitness, etc.) which didn't quite fit the childish nature of the narrator, the character felt disembodied from a writer, almost like a first hand account of factual events. Any time you can this successfully suspend disbelief with continuity, you've started out on all the right feet. Wherever you go from here, please take me with you.

My only qualm would be that as a short story you don't have a really convincing conflict going on here. A piece of everything kind of swirls into the scene, but the resulting kaleidoscope never really forms into the cool shapes that make you Ooo and Aaah. I'm not reveling in a plot so much as I am in every character; accordingly, just like a buffet often detracts from the overall cohesiveness of a meal, so this also suffers from a kind of togetherness issue. Most importantly, I want to know more about this toilet you've played up in the title and in the first couple of paragraphs but which falls out of favor by the second half of the story. You need to focus your attention more.

Also, be careful of the repetitive sentence structure: "He did this...He did that...He came here...He went there..."

Other than that, I give you a standing ovation. First piece on the site and already Edata outshines the majority of us.

June 6th, 2014, 07:26 AM
Thank you very much thepancreas,

I will certainly work more on the repetitive sentence structure bit.

I haven't been able to say much about the toilet because of a few things:

They are building it which I tried to explain along, maybe I should talk more about similar toilets?
Also, I was trying to avoid making it too long, I have considered turning it into a book and rewriting the whole thing, it is about 6000 words long which I think may be too long for a short story, what do you think?

Thanks a lot, really appreciate your criticism.

June 8th, 2014, 10:22 PM
Generally, short stories come in under that number. You'll be hard pressed to find lit mags that want to publish anything more than 3000 words when it comes to short stories, from my meager experience in the world. Also, from experience, I've learned that a strong storyline and plot really help your case in that world, which I think is one of the only things this really lacks. I would love to hear a little more about what's going on and a little less about the people in the story, only because the room that you've got to work with is limited, you know?

Let me know if you have any edits or additional things I should read!

June 9th, 2014, 12:28 AM
I'm with pancreas on that it is missing a plot at the moment, however with that being said it is still a really engrossing story to read. Whether you decide to turn it into a book or to shorten it, I'm certain that it will still be a good read. You're a great writer! Keep it up.

June 10th, 2014, 11:30 PM
Thanks a lot thepancreas, you have been really helpful by giving me some direction, I am currently doing exams, I will definitely edit and write more about what is happening in the story as soon as I have more time.

June 10th, 2014, 11:31 PM
aliveatnight it's really nice to hear that! I will work more on the plot, thanks a lot.