BITS by Chantelle Makenwa Chiwetalu

BITS by Chantelle Makenwa Chiwetalu

Red Volkswagen Bus


by Chantelle Makenwa Chiwetalu

She wonders how the conductor will look dead. Bruised, battered eyes the size of coconuts. No, eye. She has never seen anyone with two swollen eyes. As she gets on the bus, she wonders what will happen if the passengers gang up on him. Will he laugh stupidly? What words will he say? How many blows before his heart gives out? She has just read Copacabana. Petina Gappah is a genius, really.

At Mkpokiti, a yellow man in a green shirt and blue shorts gets in. His toes are pretty. She discreetly moves her right leg so she can see them better. There is perfection in every line, every curve. His nails are pink crescents topped with white. She stares at hers. Unremarkable. Dark. In need of a pedicure. She detects a curious smell about him, and realises it is his hair gel. It smells like a mixture of sulphur ointment and vanilla. They struggle against each other; sometimes, the sweet clarity of vanilla wins and sometimes the rotten-egg pungency of sulphur dominates with a vengeance. She imagines both in a Coldstone cup, the biggest size, cream and white with sprinkles of wavy brown hair. She imagines her annoying roommate eating it, smacking her lips.

The man gets down at Okpara Square. There is a small garden outside Enugu State House of Assembly. On a bench, bold and white is written, ‘don’t enter our flower.’ She wonders, as she has several times, who wrote this, and if no literate person who works at the House has seen it. It is probably the gardeners. She imagines them clustered approvingly as one of them, armed with purpose, dips a brush in white paint and begins to write a lopsided D. 

Red Volkswagen Bus

They are at a red light. She stares outside. The driver of the car on the left looks imperilled by his seatbelt. It divides his overgrown taut-drum belly in half. The vest he’s wearing says Fitness for Days. He reaches under to scratch his crotch and then leans towards the glove box to retrieve a corn cob. She looks away.

They arrive New Market at 6:18pm. When she hands the conductor a 100 naira note, he sniffs and asks where she boarded the bus. ‘UNEC,’ she says. He makes to give her a 20 naira note but pauses and says, ‘UNEC? You don’t have change.’ She gives him one last look after she alights, imagines a tyre around his neck. She crosses to the other side of the road and takes a bus going back to UNEC. She does this all the time, takes the round-and-round-Enugu bus route to free her head and kill time. Her phone buzzes. A message from Nnamdi:

Babes, was looking at my table today and realised how we cud put it to gud use. I can almost hear you—


‘Just negodu this idiot!’ The driver exclaims. He is talking about a driver who has recklessly overtaken him. He hisses. The conductor lets out a stream of invectives. He is short and slight, this one. A tire would slip right down his shoulders to land at his feet.

Twenty minutes later, she is at UNEC gate. Near Chapel of Redemption, a car pulls up and the driver winds down. He asks where she is going and she says ‘don’t worry, have a nice evening sir.’ He mutters something about girls that are faster than their shadows. When she continues walking, he tells her that her behind is the size of a saucer. She bursts into laughter, quickening her footsteps. 

The Prayer Secretary welcomes her with a smile when she gets to Freedom Square, asks her how her day went. She says fine. He says good, please lead us in the opening prayer. She stops, only for a moment, and then she smiles and says okay and smiles again. She picks her words carefully: appreciation and magnification, the plea for forgiveness, requests. Amen.  

When the vice president raises the prayer point, ‘anything that is hindering my service to God this year, scatter by fire,’ she imagines Nnamdi splattering apart,  his body parts plopping upon one another: kidney on lung, small intestines a ropey bed for his heart, ribs broken like tiny ivory tusks swimming in his stomach’s remains. She imagines his thumbs, his dirty, dirty thumbs that type dirty, dirty things, landing on the earth, their pads up in eerie approval. 


Chantelle Makenwa Chiwetalu is a law student at the University of Nigeria, Enugu. Where she can, she submits ‘The words do not yet exist’ on her bio. It is deep-seeming but manifestly lazy, and that suits her just fine.
CRIMSON by Uche Osita

CRIMSON by Uche Osita

CRIMSON by Uche Osita

October 2008


Do you remember the way I used to hold your hand? Do you recall how I kissed you the day you told me that your father had finally left your mother? How tender our lips; rubbing off the loss that you knew could only be stayed for so long. Do you remember how we used to hug and hold on for eternity, not wanting, not needing anything else in the world? Do you remember the faint scent of chocolate that filled the room each time you visited? Adaeze, the rhythm of fate’s music has played far too loud and now I am scared. I fear that I am holding on too much, to these things, these feelings, and these memories. Maybe I am unfortunate. Or maybe Mama’s admonitions finally made manifest.

Do you remember the time when you said you would never leave me, was it all a lie?

It is true all I see now is darkness, it is also true I may never be able to live out all the dreams I talked about when there was light but Adaeze, the only darkness I truly see is the one that I know your absence has caused.


Adaeze, I love you.

I believed in God when I was little. When all Mama could talk about day and night was how wonderful God was, how grateful we were to have a father that stayed home and how kind God had been. Papa stayed home alright, but only because he was jobless. He also had a ferocious temper that hit Mama hard, all the time.

When I finally got a scholarship to study at the University, I felt a deep relief that I could not express in words. I promised Mama I would never let her down. She saw in me, hope, a reaffirmation that her belief in God was not unfounded. She, however, warned me against girls, no girls she insisted, not until you are done. I had agreed. It was so easy agreeing to something I had yet to give serious thought.

I kept her promise until the day I met you. When I first saw you I knew I would never keep her promise. You were so happy and carefree and I was burdened with my background and expected responsibilities. But you accepted me for me. You did not mind that I had quaffed kai kai with the boys in the slum. The fact that my father was jobless, that I had eleven siblings and a breadwinner mother whose only source of livelihood was selling matchboxes, cheap biscuits and sweets.


Adaeze, did you know that I have been waiting for 2 years to reach you? You blocked me from calling and you have not been in town all these while. I have been learning to deal with this new condition our love has bought me. Quite frankly it is not half as bad as I imagined. I do not speak as much since I can’t always tell whether I am being spoken to, but I also think a lot. I now take slow measured steps, and I am vaguely aware of time from the heat intensity of the sun and Mama hasn’t completely forgiven me since then.

I started learning to write with an old typewriter papa used to work with in his early days as a typist. It was a very trying experience, having to feel and guess and feel again. I have persevered mostly because I wanted to one day write you this letter. I am sure that you are reading and partly because I suspect that this curse may well not be the end. Adaeze, I am going to become a writer. Ever since I learnt how to type, I have been practicing, day, noon and night. I have written and rewritten ever since and I have strong thoughts to take some of my products for appraisal. Even though for me, there would always remain a vague memory of light -past, this new hope brews a thick fire in my heart and I am determined to guard its flames.

How have you been? I sincerely hope that life has served you a better dish than it did me. But perhaps you suspect my motives. But I assure you, 2 years is a very long time. And writing you is my way of moving on, of trying to forget. I woke up this morning feeling mildly grateful, Mama just got better, she has been down with a fever since last week and the doctor just called. I have in consequence come around to thinking about how much I have undervalued the little things that I have had; life, peace, family. Though, I wish I could have more, still I suppose I should be grateful for the little I have.

The world has changed a lot and me with it. And I have chosen not to allow our past to dictate whatever happens next.


How can I blame you? All you did was love me. And sometimes when I remember the times before; the times when there was light; I grope around in the darkness searching for hope, for you…


Still, when I sleep at night my dreams are crimson. There is an indistinguishable shadow that I suspect to be you, it reaches out and I come forward. Then I am forced back by another shadow, this one I know to be Musa. It reaches for me, I raise a hand and try to stop it, but it is quicker. It reaches for my eyes and then there is darkness.


Uche Osita is a creative writer. His works have been published in Kalahari Review, African writers, Mu-Afrika journal of African literature, The crater library, Nwokike literary journal, and

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by Chinweokwu Ukwueze

It was mid-year in Nsukka when the clouds merged with the earth to become one. The brown soil of Nsukka had become muddy and clumpy, sticking to the shoes. During this period of the year, the skies were always pregnant with rain. Women carried umbrellas in their bags and the men’s eyes followed the clouds in search for signs of rain. The leaves dripped with water constantly and dampness thickened the air like cocoyam thickened onugbu soup. The cold was the sort that possessed the body making people shake like there was an evil spirit within them.
The mourners in the Public Cemetery, Nsukka, didn’t allow this to deter them on that third Friday of June. The large cemetery was partly filled up. Middle-aged men shook their heads as they stood in groups, conversing. Women wailed, sobbed and sighed as they looked up to the sky. The young men shook their heads, beat their chest and bit their fingers. The whistling pine trees that surrounded the cemetery, standing beside its unpainted walls were silent. Except for occassional wails of ‘eewoo’, ‘chai’, ‘Chineke’ here and there by male and female alike, the cemetery was quiet and cool.


Ebuka stood close to the unpainted walls of the cemetery and whistling pines trees. He was a young man in his early twenties. He was in a white T-shirt, black trousers, and black sandals.  He watched the water drip from the leaves. He didn’t want it to give him the feeling it always had. He’d have taken a deep breath, and the scent of the new rain on the ground and leaves would have excited him. He did not want to stop the intake of a deep breath. He did not want the sweet liquid that would fill his heart. He didn’t want to feel all these on this Friday in June. He felt as though two strong men were pulling his heart apart, shredding and then setting it on fire.
“Why?” Ebuka cried. “Why does this have to happen to us?” He closed his eyes and he felt two streams of coldness running down his cheeks. He sniffled. He opened his eyes and stared at the whistling pine trees. When he was in primary school, he’d branch off by the cemetery and as he waited, he hoped that the breeze would blow and make the whistling pines whistle. On a rainy day, the trees whistled louder than a hundred coaches. As he stood now, he wished they’d whistle and fill up the hollow space in him a little. He also wanted them to whisper to him that all was well. He cried softly then laughed at himself. He knew that he was a man, and men did not cry like women. He wiped his eyes with the back of his palms. He heard the loud murmur and he turned to look.


A tall, slim young man walked into the cemetery through the rusting metal gates of the cemetery. He was draped in black clothes and black boots. He walked like the male models Ebuka had seen on TV. His eyes always seemed to be looking at something just ahead, his shoulders were raised, and he often adjusted his dark eyeglasses. The eyeglasses were supposed to be sun shades, but Ebuka guessed he wore it because he didn’t want his tear filled eyes to be seen. The people at the cemetery looked at him and murmured as he walked through the cemetery to where the white plastic seats were arranged for the funeral mass. When he sat down, people looked at him for a short time before they looked away.
Ebuka looked at him longer than the others. The young man looked rich and he was the only one in the cemetery in the complete attire of mourning. Ebuka had graver issues to worry about, although they seemed a million miles away as he stared at the young man. Ebuka squatted and watched some earthworms moving on the surface of the ground. They’d be part of the things that would devour his brother. He closed his eyes, and his mind moved to a thousand places at the same time. His family was very religious, and never forgot to keep any commandment of God, he was sure of that. But trouble and calamity had taken some rooms in their house. He inhaled and exhaled.
“Good morning,” a voice said behind him. He turned. The young man was standing there without his shades. “I am Diddy. I was your brother’s close friend.” He spoke with a forced accent. Although he tried well to sound as British as possible, he still mispronounced some words. Ebuka stood up. “It’s a pity that you lost your brother at such an early age. I offer my condolence. Take heart, my dear.”
“Thank you,” Ebuka said. “My name is Ebuka.” He offered his hand to Diddy for a handshake. Diddy didn’t take the hand. Ebuka dropped his hands, slowly. “How do you know me?”
“As I said, your brother was my very close friend. We knew each other to our wardrobes and cupboards in our different homes.” He laughed lightly. “He was the best person I’ve ever met. You were lucky to have had such a nice brother. It’s a big loss.” He took out a white handkerchief from his trouser pocket and wiped his eyes.
“I also offer my condolence to you since you were so close to him like that,” Ebuka said.
“Thank you, bro. You should take it easy with your grieving. I’ll only be around for a short time because I cannot stay until the end of the funeral mass. I sincerely offer my condolence” Diddy said. Ebuka nodded but said nothing. Diddy picked his eyeglasses from his pocket and wore it. He bowed again and walked away. Ebuka watched his model-like strut until he sat on one of the white plastic seats.
When Ebuka turned to look at the whistling pine trees, he smiled. He never knew anyone could say such good things about his brother. His brother was a good man, but he was often quiet and alone, and because of this, he lacked friends. Ebuka remembered that Chidera gave him his toy for Christmas when Ebuka was five. Their parents had bought a toy for Chidera only, because he took the first position in his class. Chidera was seven then. He’d given Ebuka the toy airplane controlled with remote, smiling. Since then until his death, Chidera was always nice to him and everyone else. His quiet nature made other the children of the neighborhood (and later youths) loathe him. Ebuka smiled. He had respected his brother very well, but after the talk with Diddy, he respected him even more. The whistling pine trees whispered to him in their calmness that his brother was already in heaven, at the right hand side of the almighty, and he heaved a sigh of relief.
There was a caravan of cars led by the ambulance that stopped in front of the cemetery’s gates. The crying in the cemetery had increased. Ebuka saw his mother wailing and collapsing on the ambulance. The other women around held her back and consoled her, but she persisted in it. He saw his father remove his traditional cap and hold it to his stomach. He was a man; he didn’t need any serious consolation, he could bear the loss of his favorite son alone. In the caravan of cars that stopped in front of the cemetery, there was the officiating priest’s jeep and a bus filled with young men who worked with Chidera when he was alive. These young men held bright green leaves and sang mourning songs.
The tortuous noise that took over the cemetery stopped totally when the priest began the burial mass. The mourners sat on the plastic seats. They heard the priest’s voice as it moved around calmly. Ebuka looked around for Diddy, but he couldn’t see him again. He focused and listened to the priest’s sermon that was pineapple in the midst of lime. The priest, who was the parish priest at the nearby Catholic parish, spoke about the good kingdom after earth. A kingdom where there is no sorrow and suffering. Chidera was a good young man in all his ways, so he’ll be in heaven, and at the right hand of God. This kingdom is what mattered most, and not the short time on earth. If he is in heaven, we’ve to cry no more and rejoice for his reunion with the father. Ebuka nodded solemnly to the priest’s sermon.
While the priest was consecrating the sacrament, a loud scream pierced through the somber occasion. On investigation the scream was that of a little girl. The priest stopped the consecration. Some men moved to the direction of the little girl’s scream. Ebuka moved with them.
Ebuka got to the girl first. She wasn’t more than six. She was sitting alone, surrounded by empty plastic seats, and Ebuka wondered who she had come with. Ebuka looked at her, seeking what might be wrong with her. The other men gathered around Ebuka. Ebuka looked at the men before he fixed his eyes on little girl. “What is wrong? Did you see a snake?” Ebuka asked. The girl shook her head. He looked at her carefully and noticed her eyes opened widely like someone who’d experienced a murder scene or seen a ghost. “Did you fall?” She shook her head again.
“She must have been frightened by the casket and the entire funeral,” a middle-aged man in a brown tunic said. “Who brought a little girl to a funeral? This must have been a horror to her.”
“She’s fine. She was playing around when I saw her,” a young man in jeans and a green T-shirt said. Ebuka looked at him longer than he’d looked at the middle-aged man. The young man had a scar near his dark lips. “I think she played from where she was sitting with her mother to this place.”
“Then, what is wrong with her?” the middle-age man asked again, fixing a frightening quizzing look at the girl. The look would frighten the girl more than the funeral he claimed frightened her.
Ebuka walked closer to the girl and squatted. He held her small arm. “Omalicha, what is wrong?” he asked.
The girl turned her face slowly to the left and pointed to what looked like some white papers on the ground. Ebuka stood, walked to where the papers were and stared at them. “Omalicha, I think these are pictures. Did they make you scream?” he asked. She nodded. He picked the pictures. He walked towards the men. He smiled. “Pictures made the girl scream.”
When he got to the men, he opened the pictures for all to see. A man snapped his fingers and shouted, “Tufiakwa! Evil!”
Ebuka finally looked at the pictures; the horror in them shook him and crippled his breath. He shook his head, and he willed it to be false. He wanted it to be that his brother was not naked in the picture with Diddy, allowing Diddy to suck him up like a mother sucking the runny nose of a child. He wanted the other to be false, too. Diddy bent down, his palms on his elbows as Chidera drilled him. Many things ran through him mind and had serious commotion that weighed him down. He tore the pictures. He tore them into tiny pieces.
The funeral mass never remained the same again. People murmured as the priest tried to finish the mass. Ebuka sat down, shocked. Diddy was evil, the whispering trees had lied, and his brother had deceived them all. After the mass, the priest rushed out. Other mourners left the cemetery, silently, until the family was left alone with the casket. His father spat on the casket and left with his mother. Ebuka stared at the casket for a long time before he dragged it and buried it in the already dug grave, cursing that third Friday of June.


Chinweokwu Ukwueze is a Nigerian writer born in Nsukka, Nigeria. He lives in Lagos. He studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he is studying for a degree in English and Literature. He is serving as the editor of The Muse Journal, 46. He believes art is human and free.


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