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Home  ›  Science/Fiction  ›  Wiping Halima's Tears
Wiping Halima's Tears
by Naija Stories   (Author)
Read First Three Chapters


Durosinmi and his newest customer, Mr. Peters, sat silently on a low wooden bench outside the coffin-making workshop. He tapped his scuffed work shoes on the sun-baked clay soil, listening absent-mindedly to the lively human sounds coming from the large open-air market across the road.
It was Friday, the day dusty trucks loaded with fresh tomatoes and peppers from farms in the North arrived in Akure. Hundreds of people from little towns around the State capital flocked in for the bargains.
He dusted off some wood shavings from his overalls and maintained a respectful silence while the middle-aged man flipped back and forth through the black binder that held laminated pictures of his past creations. He knew that the process of choosing a coffin for a loved one was always a difficult one, and it was obvious from the way Mr. Peters squirmed and chewed nervously on his lower lip that he needed some gentle guidance.
Durosinmi respectfully cleared his throat. “Mr. Peters,” he said, “maybe if you told me what you were looking for, I could help.”
Mr. Peters looked at him with reddened eyes. “It’s just that these coffins look so ordinary,” he said, with a sigh. “And my mother was not an ordinary woman.”
Durosinmi reached for the blue binder placed beside him. He always waited until his customers asked for something different before handing it over. “Yes, mothers are special people,” he said. “You may find these ones more suitable.”
Mr. Peters quickly flipped through the second binder and for the first time since his arrival, he smiled and jabbed his finger at a laminated page. “This is exactly what I want,” he said, in an excited voice. “My mother had always wanted to travel on an airplane. Since she did not get to do this while alive, I want to send her off into the afterlife in one.”
Durosinmi glanced at the page. The coffin Mr. Peters wanted was a replica of the Nigerian Airways Boeing 727-200 plane. It came with both the landing gear and cockpit. “You have very good taste. This model is very popular. In fact, I just finished two last week.”
Mr. Peters frowned. “Hmm, I don’t want something that everybody has seen.” He ran his fingers across the picture. “Can you paint my mother’s face on the side of the plane?” he asked. “I will bring you her picture.”
Durosinmi nodded. “I can get someone to do it. But that would be an added expense. With the high cost of imported wood, these ones go for at least N350, 000.”
“Money is no problem,” Mr. Peters said, with a confident wave of his hand. “I’ve already secured a bank loan to pay for the funeral. It is a lot, but I know that my mother’s spirit in heaven will reward me doubly for whatever amount I spend.”
Inwardly, Durosinmi snickered. People who erroneously believed in the idea of an afterlife constantly amused him. Death for him would be like a peaceful sleep from which he would not awaken.
But who was he to complain about making a profitable sale? “In that case,” he said, “I’ll need at least a 25 percent deposit to start work.”
Mr. Peter scrambled to his feet. “Let me quickly go to the bank and withdraw the money. I’ll be right back.”
Durosinmi watched him go, knowing that he would come back with an amount that he probably did not spend on his mother while she was alive. He loved guilty customers the best.
Later that afternoon, after Durosinmi finished the final touches on the Marlboro Red coffin ordered by a tobacco merchant’s widow, he wiped down the dusty machines and swept up debris from under his work tables in the cramped one-floor workshop. He had decided to close the shop early because of a headache that refused to go away.
Tidying his tools for the next day’s work, Durosinmi reflected on the need to get an assistant. He had played with the idea when his father died five years back but then business had been manageable. It was no longer the case. The combination of bad roads, poor medical services and the scourge of AIDS had contributed to a high demand for coffins. He could barely keep up with the orders that came in every week. He decided then to send a message to his mother. There had to be a responsible relative willing to learn the trade.
Driving home, Durosinmi’s mind went back to the conversation he had with a friend the previous week. This friend had wanted to know if he said prayers to ensure the success of his business. The truth was that he had never been a praying man. When he arrived at his workshop in the morning, he mumbled something over his tools. Yet he doubted that the ramblings qualified as prayers. He clearly remembered the look of horror that had contorted his friend’s face. “Don’t you realize that when you pray for more business, you’re praying that more people should die?” he had asked.
The logic behind his friend’s question was why Durosinmi had wanted nothing to do with the family business. His father, Baba, had inherited the business from his father who also inherited it from his father. It was what their family did.
As a young man just out of secondary school, all he had wanted to do was leave Akure for a bigger city. Baba’s disappointment was very evident when Durosinmi had finally summoned up the courage to tell him of his plans. Baba had raised four sons and he was the last. His older brothers had each decided not to work in the family business. Durosinmi knew that he was his father’s last hope.
“Why, my son?” Baba asked him. “Why do you want to leave me too?”
Eyes downcast, Durosinmi shuffled his feet. “But Baba, how can I make money off the pain of others?”
“Look at me,” Baba commanded. He did, and he saw the understanding in his father’s eyes. Baba patted him on the shoulder. “My son, we’re all going to die someday,” he said. “We build coffins because we don’t throw our dead out on the streets. We can only pray not to bury the young, and for our elderly ones to grow old and grey. It’s an honest job.”
Baba’s words had not convinced him to change his plans and he had insisted on leaving.
His mother came running at the sound of his father’s angry voice. She pulled him out of the sitting room. “But Durosinmi,” Mama chided gently when they sat in her bedroom, “I told you to let me find a way to tell him.”
Durosinmi shook his head. “Mama, you told me to wait two months ago. I want to go now. It’s not fair that I should have to stay when my brothers have gone.”
“Please my son,” Mama pleaded, with tears in her eyes. “Your father is an old man. He needs a son to help him.”
“But I need to find my own way.”
Three days later, Baba summoned him to the sitting room and asked if he had changed his mind. “No, sir,” Durosinmi said, in a low but firm voice. He loved his parents but he was no longer a child.
Baba’s look of disappointment quickly turned into anger. “If you will not do as you are told,” he barked, “leave my house and don’t come back!”
Durosinmi packed his bags that evening and left for his brother’s house in Lagos. But he did not stay away for long.
Five weeks after his departure, Baba had a massive stroke and became paralyzed. He later recovered some mobility in his limbs but he was never the same man. When Baba returned from the hospital, Durosinmi picked up his father’s tools, knowing that he could never again speak of leaving home.
A couple of years later, his father had another stroke. He was the only one at Baba’s side when he passed. As life ebbed out of him, Baba was unable to speak. Holding his limp hand, Durosinmi’s heart thumped fast from the fear and desperation that widened his father’s eyes in those last minutes. Baba’s mouth opened and he gasped. He had the feeling Baba wanted to tell him something, but could not. That look in Baba’s eyes haunted Durosinmi every time he thought about his father.
After Baba’s death, his mother moved away to live with one of his brothers. Mama told him she needed grandchildren to keep her busy. Just a few months shy of his twenty-fifth birthday, Durosinmi saw no need to rush into marriage. He considered himself a good man. Unlike most of his friends, he did not drink, smoke or chase women. While his parents had raised him as an atheist, they had always emphasized the importance of being good to others. They had rarely turned down requests for help and as far as he knew, wished no one evil. If indeed there were a supreme being, surely he or she would see that they had earned their place in heaven. That was, if such a place existed.
Durosinmi sighed and turned off the main road into a windy, untarred street named after his father. Their family had been the first to move to the street. He winced as the bottom of the car scraped against the large stones jutting out of the road. He could not afford another emergency visit to the mechanics. He had just stopped the car in front of his house gates when he saw Baba Ibeji standing in front of their bungalow, dressed in the usual white shirt and blue trousers that were a holdover of his days as a school principal, and waving to him.

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Product Details
Author: Naija Stories
Publisher: NS Publishing
Publication date: 2012
Pages: 67
Product dimensions: 422 x 600
More About This eBook
Wiping Halima's Tears and Other Stories is a collection of Nigerian short stories centered around the themes of sadness, regret and heartbreak. The tales are rich in variety; they range from a child being forced into an early marriage to a would-be emigrant seeking greener pastures. But the one
thing they share in common is a capacity to touch the wellspring of
compassion in you.
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About Author
Naija Stories is a social network for Nigerian writers of all skill levels and readers of both genre novels and literary fiction. It is an avenue for readers and publishers to discover new authors and for writers to share their work, gain recognition, and connect with their audience and each other.
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