KAITO MADE SURE he had the two addresses his family gave him. One was for Abuda who left 12 years ago. The other was for Kamalu who had been gone for only three years and was studying at the University of Quentin. Kaito was also certain to follow the directions the train driver gave him--straight up the wide road leading away from the station to Lennon Street. At the end of Lennon Street, on the left, was Brooke.
Kaito could see the name Brooke in bold white letters on a dark green sign. He flipped through his address book to look for the exact house number--1437 Brooke. He looked up the street and could see house 1431 but not 1437. He walked ahead faster. On each side of the street, he saw houses surrounded by trees. They looked like castles towering into the sky, and their well trimmed lawns were a luxurious green. Except for chirping birds, not a sound could be heard. This was a far cry from even a small city like his hometown where at this time of day, the average street would be bustling with a swarm of people walking by or standing around, chatting. A slight wind blew across his face. He looked at the address for the tenth time and continued scanning the numbers on the houses. Still, there was no sight of 1437. He started getting worried because the afternoon was drifting into early evening. He decided to stop by the house closest to him to make inquiries. This huge white house was draped with clinging vines. Its walk-way was littered with broken bicycle parts that Kaito was careful not to step on as he approached the front door. Stems of leaves crawled into its cracks and hinges. He stretched his hand to knock, and then an automatic sprinkler came on spraying sharp gushes of water. He was startled. The water swirled in large circles, showering the surrounding grass and flowers. Finally, he tapped on the door. A boy of about six peered through the window near the door and disappeared. Kaito knocked againthis time lightly. A window cracked open above him, and a bald middle-aged white man emerged yelling.
"What do you want?"
"Sir, I am looking for number 1437 Brooke."
"Well, this is not 1437 Brooke. Try the East side."
"Ok, sir. Thank you."
"Where are you from? Is that an accent I hear?"
"I am from Nigeria. I am looking for my brother, Mr. Abuda."
"O Africa! I have a friend in South Africa. He brings home interesting tapes of the Zulu dance clan. Do you know the group?"
"Alright, the East side is quite a walk from here, so go to the end of the street and take the G5 or the red line."
* * *
The train station seemed deserted. He swallowed an imaginary lump. His eyes followed the glittering train tracks into the horizon, hoping the train would return. From the moment he got to the airport, getting directions right was a problem. The signs were confusing. When he got to the baggage claim area, and retrieved his bag, he was not sure about which direction to take. He walked aimlessly around a number of times before finally asking a teenage boy for assistance. The boy allowed Kaito to walk with him as he was headed the same waydowntown. Breaking into Kaito’s thoughts, a train started approaching, and he smiled at the sight of it.
* * *
The dwellings on East Brooke were not as impressive as the ones on Brooke. Most were rundown row houses or crude looking brick houses that were at best moderate in size. There were children playing on the street corners, and men with bare chests were playing basketball. The atmosphere felt familiar, like home. When Kaito knocked on the door of 1437 East Brooke, he was relieved. A few minutes later, a woman yelled from the door, "Who is that?" Kaito said, "It's me, Abuda’s brother from Nigeria." This light skinned lady who could have been in her mid fifties showed her face through the half opened door that was bound from behind with a chain. She asked again, "Who did you say you are?" Kaito could not tell if she was black or white. A mop of hair covered half of her face, and she reeked of cigarette smoke.
"I am Kaito, Abuda's brother from Nigeria."
"Abuda's brother,” Kaito said.
"Well, Abuda is dead and does not live here anymore."
“Dead? When?” Kaito asked. His eyes were wide and a vein on his neck bulged. He placed his right hand on his chest; his heart throbbed faster as if it was about to pop out of his chest. If Abuda was dead, how was he to complete his journey? He may get killed if he ended up sleeping in the streets. He had seen a lot of guns and violence in the American movies he watched back home. Some of the actors didn’t think twice before they shot. And what becomes of him, if he does not find Kamalu? And why was Abuda’s corpse not brought home? As an elder, he was supposed to be buried in his ancestral graveyard, not in a foreign landthat was an abomination. He could feel his palms getting moist. “But, what happened to him? How did he die?” He asked.
"He is dead to me. I threw him out months ago."
"But, how can I find him?"
"I don’t know!"
"Please, madam, can I have a drink of water and then rest for a few minutes. I am so hungry and tired.”
"Hell no! I don't know you."
"I am Abuda's brother," Kaito said. He dug his sweaty hands into his traveling bag to fish out Abuda's picture and showed it to the lady.
"That's Abuda alright. How do I know you’re not some fake ass nigger with some fake ass African accent trying to rob me?"
"Please, if you can tell me where to find him and allow me a few minutes of rest, I will leave. I promise."
She hesitated and then unhooked the chain. He entered. The living room was clouded with wisps of cigarette smoke. Kaito coughed lightly and sat on a leather couch close to the door. Beside the couch was a small table with five scattered coffee stained mugs. There was an overturned ashtray on the floor.
"Can I have something to drink, please?"
"Soda?" Kaito was confused. In Nigeria, Soda was a type of soap. The lady saw the confusion on his face and tossed a can of Coca-cola to him. He caught it mid air and uttered a “thank you."
"Here is some left-over chicken, and my name is April by the way," she said, placing a bucket of fried chicken before him. In bold red print was the inscription KFC on all the sides of the bucket.
"Yes, thank you." He had never seen so much chicken for one meal in his life.
"Help yourself. I will go upstairs and search around for the numbers of Abuda's friends. They might know where he is."
Kaito polished off the last bit of chicken and guzzled the entire can of Coke. He belched and settled back on the couch feeling much better. Then a sharp pain pierced through his stomach. He grabbed his stomach with both hands and cringed in pain. He let out a loud fart and had a sudden urge to use the toilet. "April!" He yelled up the stairs. "Where is your toilet?"
"To your right!"
He had barely pulled down his pants before a loud spurt of feces splashed all over the toilet seat. He sat down on it desperate to relieve himself. The stench was intense. When he finished, he grabbed a can of air freshener from the windowsill and tried to spray, but it was empty. He then wiped the seat with long pieces of padded toilet tissue. Before lowering the lid, he flushed the toilet several times, but the odor held strong.
"Hummmm! What's that smell?" April shouted from the stairs with a distorted face.
"O! It's the toilet."
"What? You? Please, out!"
“Take your sorry stinking African ass outta here, Mothafucka!"
Kaito begged as April violently opened up all her windows. She left her door open and dragged a chair outside.
"If you don't get off my property I'll call the cops, heifer!"
Kaito was shaken. He didn’t understand why somebody would be upset over the smell of shit. He hurried on to the sidewalk. If it was home in Nigeria, they would laugh over it. At home his family felt free to even fart in his presence. His father would often blurt out a loud one, and his mother would hurry out of the place, and then come back to scold him. It was never an issue. His father may apologize afterward, but he was never ostracized for a shit or fart odor--nobody was. God did not create a house of fart in humans. Besides their toilet was not far from their main house and habitually strong odor of excrement hung in the air; nobody complained. He was distraught but determined to find Kamalu and even Abuda.
* * *
Frustrated, he groped his way back downtown. He could not find any buses with the number 27. This is the bus the cashier at the station told him to take in order to get to the University of Quentin. At the bus stop, every person he asked about the bus schedule either backed away or ignored him. They were mostly middle-aged. For the first time he observed a group of people yelling. They were in what looked like a garden right in the middle of the T-Junction in downtown. He scuttled across the road, into the garden. His gaze settled on a bunch of Christian evangelists blaring about the end of the world with loudspeakers. Pigeons flapped away in fright. Beside him was the statue of gargles spewing water. The showers of fountains were endless. At the base of these fountains were glittering coins. After about twenty minutes of listening to them preach, he tapped one of the men standing near the evangelist on the shoulder and asked for directions. He could barely hear what the man was saying. It was still bus 27. He scampered to the next bus that stopped near a sidewalk, and it was the 27. He boarded and asked the driver to let him know when they got to the University of Quentin.
Kamalu’s dormitory was a four storey brick complex. When he entered the lobby, he was struck by the aroma of brewing coffee. The Caucasian lady at the reception desk asked if she could be of assistance. She had a wide smile. Her black hair was held in a ponytail with a blue band, except for a few strands that brushed her ear. She informed Kaito that she had not seen Kamalu for days. She phoned Kamalu’s room, but there was no answer. She told Kaito that Kamalu normally returned at 9p.m unless he was out of town. He usually travelled south for extra summer classes.
Kaito sat in the well-furnished lobby. A movie was playing on the giant screen TV, but he was uninterested. What if Kamalu never turned up? He thought. A few minutes later, the lady at the desk joined him with an extra cup of coffee. Her red lip stick was smeared at the edge of the white mug. Her face powder didn’t quite hide the light wrinkles on her face.
“What’s your name again?”
“My name is Kaito.”
“No, thank you.”
“It might help calm your traveling nerves.”
“You are right, thank you. What is your name?”
“So you believe that Kamalu is out of town?”
“Well, I haven’t seen him in quite a few days. Are you related to him?”
“He’s my brother….from my village.”
“He didn’t know that you were coming to visit?”
“I sent him an e-mail and left messages on his phone, and while I hadn’t heard from him, I purchased a ticket anyway because my travel visa was almost running out.”
Beth’s eyes settled on his muscles. “You look quite fit. Are you an athlete?”
“You and Kamalu are from where again?”
“And the name of your village?”
“My village is called Iwu. I’ll show you pictures.” Kaito retrieved some pictures from his bag.
“The lake in the photo of you fishing is beautiful.”
They spent some time going over the pictures until a little after midnight. Beth’s shift had ended, but there was no sign of Kamalu. She sat with Kaito while he waited. At half past, there was still no Kamalu, so she announced that she was ready to leave.
“Do you know if there’re any cheap hotels around here?”
“What do you call cheap?”
“Seventy dollars is all the money I have.”
“That wouldn’t pay for more than a night. Well, I tell you what, give me fifty bucks and you can crash at my apartment until Kamalu comes back. But we have to make sure no one sees you. If my apartment manager suspects that somebody is staying with me, I could get evicted. But I have a roommate, Kyle, but he’d be gone for a while though -- something about taking a semester or so off to work.”
“Ok, thank you. Thank you very much.”
Beth’s red Toyota Corolla car was cluttered with pieces of paper, a couple of half torn novels, empty cups of coffee and stubs of cigarette. She gathered the piles of papers on the passenger’s side of the floor; she asked Kaito to toss the half-torn books, which were on the seat to the back, then put in a CD into a rectangular hole on the dashboard of the car; loud screechy music blasted. “That’s Girls of summer by Aerosmith.”
Beth nodded her head to the sound of the music; Kaito found it noisy and wondered what she enjoyed in the music. He didn’t ask. A few minutes later, Beth drove up to her apartment complex, which sat at the top of a narrow drive way on a quiet but cluttered street. There were trash bags lying around. Huge plastic containers were overturned too. They walked up a creaky flight of steps to her door. She held Kaito with one hand and opened the door with the other. The living room was unfurnished except for a CD player and TV in a corner. The only couch in the room was in the middle. She brought cans of beer and what she called peanut butter sandwich. As they finished eating and drank some beer, Beth brought out a piece of paper, rolled up some weed in it, and asked him if he smoked weed. He hesitated, then took the wrap of weed. They smoked into dawn.
When he woke up, he couldn’t tell when he slept. His groin hurt and his pants were at the opposite end of the room. He smiled. Beth was not around. She left a note telling him that she had gone to work and was grateful for the night. He smiled at the note. He couldn’t wait to tell Kamalu and his friends in Nigeria that he had a white girl. For the first time in his life, he slept with a white girl. He felt very happy and lucky to have found her.
* * *
Most of his days were spent indoors listening to music, watching movies, switching entertainment channels and eating as much as he wanted. It did feel like America; there was plenty to eat, perfumed showers, no stress and the electricity never blinked. Kamalu was almost forgotten. As weeks passed, Kaito started getting restless. Beth kept replenishing the food as well as the packs of condoms. The pain on his groin didn’t go away. He also felt guilty that he had not called home to let them know he had arrived safely. Beth had helped him call the school where Kamalu was supposed to be for summer school, they told them he had completed the program and left. They had no further information. He decided to start asking questions, to try and find other Africans who may live around Beth’s neighborhood; Beth seemed to have lost interest in the search for Kamalu. The apartment began to feel like a trap. Beth had warned him not to leave or walk around without letting her know; it was dangerous, she had told him. And they needed to make sure her apartment owner didn’t discover Kaito instead of Kyle.
One day he decided to sneak out for a walk and stumbled upon a store a few miles away from Beth’s place and bought calling cards. The man he met there introduced himself as Amin. Kaito still had fifty dollars and the coins he kept because he couldn’t tell their value or what they were called. The store was small. It had all sorts of snacks and food. Some of them looked like what he saw in Nigeria. One was in a transparent wrap, and it had Jerky steak written on the wrap. Kaito looked at it for a while; it looked exactly like Suya, the hot pepper spiced grilled steak meat he loved eating in Nigeria. There was another snack with coconut chips written on the wrap; it reminded Kaito of the slices of fried coconut his grandmother made for him as a child. The store also had assorted calling cards. A lanky, heavily bearded man emerged from the back door of the store with a frown. Kaito greeted him; he grunted. He however lightened up as soon as he saw Kaito’s smile. He asked him which of the calling cards was best for Nigeria.
“You from Africa?” the man asked him.
“Yes, Nigeria. I am Kaito.”
“I’m African too. This is my store, Amin my name, from Morocco. There some Nigeria students in Quentin University down the road.”
“Do you know Kamalu?”
“Not know Kamalu, but I know Momodu from Nigeria too. He is a senior student, doing his Masters at Quentin.”
They conversed for a while and became instant friends. Before Kaito left, Amin gave him Momodu’s address and told him how to get there and how to return to his store by bus if he didn’t find Momodu.
Momodu was very unfriendly. He was in what looked like a lab and was peering into a microscope when Kaito walked up to him. The place was stuffy and didn’t have much light but there was an overhead lamp right above Momodu’s head. He scowled at Kaito and didn’t say a word. He shrugged each time Kaito asked him a question or he responded with, “What?” and “So?” to every question and piece of information Kaito asked about or gave him. He did give Kaito surprising information, however--Kamalu was back from Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. Kaito didn’t believe him. Beth would have told him. A sudden dampness settled on his palms. He begged Momodu to take him to Kamalu. Momodu refused and told him that it was only a few blocks away. He pointed through the only open window in his lab, and Kaito was astonished to see the four storey brick complex almost directly next to Momodu’s building.
He hurried to Kamalu’s dormitory only to stumble upon a very angry Beth. Her face was red and greasy; she was sweating. The scarf she had over her head was almost falling off.
“How dare you leave the house without telling me?”
“I didn’t know I would be here. Somebody told me Kamalu was back.”
“Somebody where? So, you’ve been sneaking around without letting me know.”
“Sorry, but you should have told me that Kamalu was back.”
Beth denied knowing when Kamalu came back. When she finally agreed to call Kamalu’s room with the telephone at the reception desk, Kamalu didn’t pick up the phone. So she gave him the room number. Kamalu was astounded to see Kaito at his door. He was even more flabbergasted when he learned that Kaito had been in Cleveland for weeks.
“Where in hell have you been? I sent a reply to your email as soon as I got back weeks ago. I even called home. What’s going on?”
“Man, I lost track of time. Beth put me up at her place. I didn’t realize you were back.”
“Beth? Who is Beth?”
“The receptionist. She’s nice.”
“I saw her when I got back but she didn’t breathe a word to me about you. Are you out of your mind? That woman is crazy.”
“But she said she didn’t see you.”
Kaito and Kamalu sat down and Kamalu revealed quite a bit about Beth; she was a whore, a drug head and had multiple persons inside her. Kaito didn’t believe Kamalu, but he resolved to take his bag from Beth’s place and return to Kamalu the same day. Kamalu knew it was not going to be easy for Kaito to extricate himself from Beth and he told him so. But Kaito’s response was, “Man, I can’t wait to settle in with you and begin to make fat American money.” It was at that point that Kamalu inquired about the type of visa he had. It was a visitor visaonly for six weeks.
“I don’t believe you could forget yourself this quick and move in with a stranger…for what? Two months? You think this is Nigeria? Now, you’re out of status. You could have at least married her.”
“Married who? That woman is not marriage material. She keeps me up all night.”
“That way she could have been of some use to you.”
“Please leave that witch out of this. Tell me what to do. I’ll do any kind of job. I can start small by washing dishes and cleaning floors at some café or somewhere.”
Kamalu laughed at him and schooled him on the laws of social security numbers, employment and the hounds called immigration officers. Kaito could feel the sudden sweat on his body. He was full of questions. Each response from Kamalu made him confused.
“So what do I do?”
“I don’t know. We could start with Amin. If he agrees to offer you a job and pay you under the table you’ll be lucky.”
Fraught with nervousness, Kaito felt on the verge of a panic attack. Such episodes had occurred frequently in Nigeria. He graduated with a degree in History from the prestigious University of Udi. He could not find employment for six years. When he eventually found a job, it was not based on his credentials as a graduate but on his physical build. He became a security guard at the American Embassy in Nigeria. All his friends envied him. With time, he warmed up to somebody at the Embassy who knew somebody that could talk to somebody for a visitor visa. He had lied about a sick sister in Ohio, who could not afford a home nurse and was in dire need of assistance from a family member. His parents sold the remaining family piece of land to buy his ticket. They had sold three other pieces of land to put him through school. The seventy dollars he had were a parting gift from his friends. He winced at the thought of telling his family and friends that he couldn’t make it in America. They would ask him if the other Nigerians who sent cars and built mansions were more intelligent, if they had two heads and he had only one head. There must be another way, he thought. Kamalu must have been too slow not to have made it in America within two years.
When they got to Beth’s house the next day to collect Kaito’s bag, Beth refused to give it to him. “You have bills to pay, stupid!” she bawled at Kaito.
“Bills?” Kaito stuttered.
“Yes, Bills. The bills you accrued from my heat, water, food, and shelter.”
Kamalu asked her how much they came to. Kaito’s mouth was agape. He could not believe that the nice person he had lived with for weeks could turn into a monster within hours.
“Twelve hundred. He won’t be going anywhere until I am paid up.”
Kamalu called Kaito aside and advised him to stay with her until they could save up the money. At first, Kaito was disappointed that Kamalu did not own a car. That he could not afford to loan him one thousand two hundred dollars threw him off even further.
“It would take me nearly a year to save $1,200.”
“What! But if I continue staying with this woman, I will die. I am telling you now.”
“I’ve never seen a man who is afraid of sex,” Kamalu laughed into Kaito’s ear.
“This is not funny, it’s a savage attack.”
“If you could bear it for six or more weeks, you can manage for as long as it takes.”
Kaito’s eyes watered. He felt the tears build up. He swallowed hard and stared at the ground. Then he suggested that they should force their way into the apartment, take the bag and run. Kamalu warned him that if she involved the police he would be heading back home in no time.
Beth smiled at them from a distance and called out, “C’mon, it was not so bad Mocha. We could make a good couple, you be the house husband and I the breadwinner.”
Kaito nursed the idea of killing her, but brushed it off.
* * *
It took Kaito more than a year to pay Beth. Amin could only afford to pay him half of the minimum wage. Kaito moved in with Kamalu. But Beth tried to persuade him to spend some nights with her. He refused and focused on paying her all he owed her. Kaito worked all day long. He minded the store, and during slow hours he fried and replaced the chicken on the display case of the store. He also made sure he refilled the coffee pots till afternoon. He lost a lot of weight in a year and spoke very little to anybody. Kaito continued working for Amin until the store was robbed one day.
It happened one hot and humid summer day. A Caucasian young man of about eighteen with freckles on his cheeks walked into the store, smiled at Kaito, and walked straight to the refrigerator that contained boxes of beer. He snatched one box and snapped the door of the refrigerator. Kaito thought that that was a bit sadistic; he craned his neck to watch the young man. The man glared at him.
“Whatchu looking at fool?” he snapped.
“Trying to make sure you’re alright.”
“Yea, you did?”
Kaito nodded. The young man pulled up his sagging pants and plunked the box of beer near the cashier’s register without looking up at Kaito.
“May I see your ID?”
“For what?” he asked, and pulled his hooded jacket down to cover his eyes. He held on to his pants with one hand and then used the other to pull out his wallet. As Kaito studied the ID, he tossed a large piece of foil paper at Kaito and told him to obey every instruction, that he had a gun. “Tie up the camera with this piece of foil. Quick!”
“I would need a chair to reach it. With my height, I can’t reach it,” he lied.
“You will. Do it!”
Kaito reached up and tied the screen of the camera behind him. When he finished, the young man moved closer to the cashier desk and requested for all the money in the register.
“It’s not much. I have only fifty dollars here.”
“Do you want me to blow out your brains? Get the whole shit together and toss it here!”
Kaito fumbled and the bundle of money fell to the floor. He raised his hands and asked if he could pick it up. The young man grabbed a box of Benson and Hedges cigarette and flung it at him, then pulled out a gun from his underwear and waved it at Kaito’s face.
“I aint messing with you!” He yelled. “Now, with one hand pick up that bundle of money and give it to me. Keep looking at me, with the other hand up. Any games and I will kill you!”
For a split second, Kaito thought about all the security techniques he learned as a Security Guard at the American Embassy in Lagos. When he lowered his hand to pick up the bundle, he bolted. Because the young man didn’t know where he had disappeared to, he waited. As soon as he heard the back door of the store, which was behind where Kaito was standing, creak open, he fired shots: blind shots. He heard Kaito yell, and then silence. He abandoned the money but ran out with the box of beer. A piece of Kaito’s right ear was blown out.
Since Amin did not want to risk exposing Kaito to deportation, he did not ask him to give a police report, instead, he fired him. Kamalu nursed him in his room. With money Kaito had saved, Kamalu bought over-the-counter drugs. He had hoped to send some money to his parents to see if they could begin to save towards buying back a portion of their land.
Kaito stayed indoors most days and worried about money. So, one day, Kamalu suggested that they pay Abuda’s ex-wife a visit. Abuda could help him find another job. Kamalu knew Abuda managed a Macdonald eatery somewhere in town, but the number he had for him had been disconnected.
* * *
At April’s house, to their surprise, she was pleasant. She did not only give them the numbers of Abuda’s friends, she offered them iced tea and some corn bread. Kaito refused to eat, but Kamalu ate his and put the left over in his school bag. She did not mention the embarrassing encounter with Kaito, instead she told him to watch what he ate.
* * *
Abuda was a bulky, clean shaved man in his mid sixties. He invited Kaito and Kamalu to sit down in his small living room. His floor was littered with books. He told them that even though he retired twelve years ago as a senior professor of Sociology in Nigeria, he still researched and wrote papers when he was not at Macdonald’s. When Kamalu introduced Kaito, Abuda’s face lit up.
“I knew your grandfather. He was my grand uncle’s closest friend. They both took me hunting as a teenager. How are you?”
Kaito told him his story; he narrated his more than one year experience. And Abuda chided Kamalu for not trying hard enough to locate him. He could have asked Momodu or the other Nigerian people in his school. He revealed that he got rid of the cell phone because April kept leaving threatening messages for him. “Women! You can never predict them and I have not been lucky. Nobody is these days, so don’t feel so bad. Whatever jobs you can get, take it and live each day at a time,” he told Kaito.
He promised to give Kaito some of his hours at the Macdonald restaurant he was managing, but that they should keep it a secret. He also advised Kaito to leave town after a year or so to avoid being tracked, especially with Beth in the background. When Kamalu told him that they hardly knew anybody in any other part of the country where Kaito could go, he assured them that his friends in California could assist Kaito when the time came.
On their way home, Kaito jumped up with joy. He decided to send the remaining three hundred dollars he had to his parents, since he knew he could save some more with the new job. He was to send the money on the day he was going to start work. On that day as he was getting ready for work, there was a sudden knock on their door. It was Beth. His heart almost jumped out of his mouth. She was there to let Kaito know that she was pregnant. She needed money for an abortion. Kaito dropped the plate of food he had, looked at Kamalu and then Beth. Her black boots reached all the way to her knees and her pale legs were revealed between her boots and white mini skirt. He rushed to the door, grabbed Beth by her hair and pulled her into the room. Then he smacked her across the face. He was about to smack her a second time when Kamalu pushed him away from her. Beth let out a screeching yelp. Kamalu ran to the door and closed it.
“Are you mad!” he yelled at Kaito. “Are you crazy? This is not Nigeria; you will destroy our lives here!”
Beth had scrambled up from the floor crying, and headed for the door. Kamalu blocked her way and begged. Tears trickled down his cheeks. He knelt down and pleaded with Beth. She insisted that she would take the money for the abortion and then file an assault charge against Kaito. When Kaito saw Kamalu’s tears, the gravity of what he had done dawned on him. He begged Beth too and offered her all the money he had saved. Kamalu had to add some of his money to convince Beth to forgive him. Beth told them that she would keep coming back until her medical bills were paid.
A harrowed and weary Kaito that arrived at the Mcdonald’s restaurant that night. He did not want to tell Abuda what happened. He made up his mind to keep his problems to himself. Abuda had enough to worry about. He cleaned out the grill and tidied up the cooking area as he was directed to. Abuda was taking orders from the drive-through area. Kaito was at the counter where orders were being taken. He noticed that the Macdonald’s had almost the same design and layout as the fast food restaurant in Lagos called Sweet Sensation. There was a children’s section, exactly the way they had it in Lagos, except that in Nigeria they hadn’t introduced the drive through.
After a few hours, Abuda told Kaito to take his place for a while; he needed to use the restroom. Abuda was taking a rather long time to return from the restroom. Kaito dashed to the order counter when he saw a tall skinny woman with a long blond hair approach; she must have been in her forties. Kaito was nervous about letting people hear his accent. When she got closer to Kaito, she had a deep frown on her brow and her eyes seemed to have a fiery glint. Kaito felt a heavy lump at the bottom of his belly. He straightened up and said: “Welcome to Macdonald, may I help you?”
“No, I want to see your manager now!”
“Take it easy ma.” Kaito managed to say.
“Move your ass before I drop you!”
“Sorry.” Kaito whispered and hurried to get Abuda.
“Hello ma’am. I am AB Martins. Is there a problem here?”
“This spider infested store has my daughter in the hospital, and she might die,” she bellowed.
“Madam, we don’t have any bugs here.”
“This was the last place she ate, it was the exact McDonalds, and doctors found several spider eggs in her mouth and nose,” she said crying. “You bastards may have killed my daughter.” She shouted and walked around to meet Kaito behind the counter. She was about a few inches away from him and she broke down in tears. She was crying profusely. Abuda ran to her and held her. As soon as she reached out to take the tissue Kaito offered her, she stood up.
“You may have to discuss this with the regional manager,” Abuda said.
“Naw! I need to see the franchise manager!”
“Ma’am, like I said, we don’t have bugs here. If you’re up to something, this is not the right place.”
Unexpectedly, the woman pulled out a gun from the back pocket of her jeans.
Abuda tried to grab the gun, and they began to struggle. “Call the police!” Abuda hollered at Kaito. Kaito dialed and was about to say “hello” when he heard the shot of a bullet. The woman ran out. Abuda held on to his side and moaned. There was already a pool of blood forming around his leg. Then he fell to the floor, passed out. Another cook at the end of the grill area screamed behind Kaito and said something about 911. Kaito felt caught in a whirlpool. His head and eyes were spinning out of control. Abuda’s limp body was in his arm. All he could hear and remember were sirens, and Beth, and Amin’s store and gunfire. He may have to go: home, jail, California, wherever the sirens took him. But he would not let Abuda’s body down onto the cold concrete floor.
"Sirens" is an excerpt from her forthcoming novel "Edible Bones."
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