Nwilo Bura-Bari Vincent
Click!It comes twice. The first click may have a flash. But the second click does. The flash light comes blinding. But that isn’t my problem. I like it, especially when I’m placed on serious smiles with crisp notes. Halima, that woman I love likes it when I smile. Other children envy me. I can’t tell why that is, but my curly hair, my skin colour and my stature are mainly my speculations.
The white men that visit Bori always find us fascinating. They enjoy all we do. From clicking at children diving into streams, to sweating teenagers cleaning the windscreen of cars for money, they love all we do. A lot of them wouldn’t buy what we sell. But they never minded any pictures. They clicked at cats crossing the road. They would click at quarreling market women and struggling bus conductors. They also clicked at monuments. You see them in armed protected vehicles. Someone said taking pictures of us was a good thing. He said the pictures travel to the white lands and is put on large billboards and computers. And it makes us famous. Others have said the pictures generate funds for these people. When I heard that I intensified my charge for every picture snapped.
When I grow up I want to have many children, maybe ten or fifteen of them. And I would position them around the country with large bowls like I have now. I would take some to Port Harcourt; I heard the people there are rich. Someone said there is oil money everywhere, even in the air, especially in Bonny, an Island close to the Garden City, where women go for good luck, and hustlers like us beg for mercies. I would take a half of my children there and make them bug all the white and black people so one day; we would pool resources and build ourselves an empire. I am sure the dream would be achieved. I would send a couple of them to Lagos. The governor stopped us from hawking and street trading. He stopped our business. He stopped everything because he knows nothing and cares little. That is bad business. He wants to kill my dreams.
I would have made so much money today if I had been discovered by another white tourist. But I didn’t. I missed my luck. I was at the National Stadium where the President’s daughter celebrated her eighteenth birthday. The nation gathered. And I found enough food to last me the day.
Tomorrow is another day. Maybe I would find my dearest, Halima, and tell her of my dreams of ten or fifteen children and the strategic idea I thought up. I like Halima a lot. I have not told her, because I think I am not ready yet. I would be fifteen in a month. Maybe I would have added some more height. Someone said I wouldn’t grow any taller. I know it’s a lie. I know I would grow taller and marry Halima and have so much money and maybe have a family snap shot from the click of the tourists’ cameras.
Judges comments: Our second prize story ‘Slum Diary’ by Nwilo Bura-Bari Vincent takes us on a trip into the psyche of a young boy and his strategy for thriving in the slums. The reader while enjoying the story is compelled to feel great empathy for this juvenile whose experience is simply a microcosm of the experiences of his kind all over the world. Only a child can truly see something to look forward to in the life that the main character in the story leads. We all can identify with his hopes, dreams and aspirations, maybe not in the way that he does but in a similar way, we draw strength to live one more day and try one more time to overcome the challenges that are inevitable in our individual journeys through life. Nwilo has succeeded in creating a credible work of literature. Well done!