‘Have you considered that my daughter here is a soon-to-be pharmacist?’
‘Have you considered that she is now completing her bachelor’s in pharmacy and will proceed to do her MPhil in the UK?’
‘Have you considered, young man, what kind of future you, an unschooled farmer, will have with her?’
Edward kept his head down, not daring to look up from the page and into the faces of those seated in a neat semi-circle around him, the most insufferable of whom took their seats right next to Samantha. The little pub they were in smelled like wood smoke and red wine. It was a popular spot amongst the students in town. It was the first time he’d set foot in the place.
“So, what do we think?”
He could feel her eyes on him. A heavy, charitable gaze. He did not look up.
“Well it’s clearly about socio-economic class across Africa,” said a red-headed girl with circular glasses. “Chinondo is aspiring to a class outside of his own rural–”
“Chinonso,” said Samantha, not unkindly, to the girl seated next to her.
“And yes, it certainly is about class. What do you think Edward? You haven’t said a word all evening.”
Edward looked up, finally. All eyes were on him – a room full of eager-to-please English students, just waiting for him to fuck up.
“Yoh. I, uh,” he began. “Look, this Chinonso guy. He’s in love with her. We know what’ll happen, right? He’ll go against her father’s wishes and go after her anyway. And he will lose it all, you know? It’s hopeless, he’s a hopeless guy, but he’s trying his best. That’s what good stories are about, right? They push us to keep going, despite it all.”
His words shrank. He felt stupid.
“Right,” said Samantha, nodding. “That’s right.”
A few of the students nodded, too, even if they weren’t sure why. The red-headed girl remained silent.
After the last of the students had left, Samantha approached him, her hands clasped together loosely at her belly.
“You did well, tonight.”
“Thanks,” he said.
“Edward, you know why I invited you, right?”
“Ja. You like my writing.”
“Yes, but more than that, I like the way you think about writing. Pasting your poetry up all over town, spray-painting it under bridges? It’s genius. It’s a whole new model of publishing!”
He shouldered his backpack and stood up. “Hey, I never said the graffiti was mine.”
“You didn’t have to,” she smiled at him.
It was a maternal, thin-lipped smile he didn’t appreciate.
“Just promise me you’ll come next week? If you show enough progress here, you could even stand a chance at a bursary next year –”
“I’ll try my best,” he said.
It was raining outside. He hitched up his jacket collar and, across the road, saw the red-headed girl getting into her car. The two of them locked eyes for a moment. By the time he arrived home, he was completely soaked through.
David Mann is a writer and arts journalist living and working in Johannesburg, South Africa. His fiction has appeared in AFREADA, The Kalahari Review, the ITCH Creative Journal, and more. He is also 1/3 of the award-winning e-zine, Ja. magazine, which publishes new written and visual work from across Africa.
This story was published as part of the AFREADA x Africa Writes Competition. Writers had to produce a 500-word story from a dialogue in Chigozie Obioma’s latest novel, An Orchestra of Minorities.
Read all the final five stories here.
Related country: South Africa