Middle of nowhere

I’m excited to announce the release of Bourbon Penn, Issue #12, especially because it features my short story, “The Worst Breed of Vultures”. You can read the story online for free, or you could support Bourbon Penn by ordering the current issue.

The Worst Breed of Vultures by Walter Dinjos

If you are looking for a peek into ancient Nigerian cultures in all their beautiful ruthlessness, then you will find “The Worst Breed of Vultures” extremely enjoyable and shocking. I wrote the story after taking a long break from writing. I was on a new job then and the environment was so noisy I couldn’t hear myself think most of the time.

Okay, that came out wrong. Can humans hear themselves think? Ah ha, I believe this actually reinforces my good fear that I may have originated on OkirikiriKaAnaAgbaUkwuOseAdighiAriyaElu (good luck pronouncing that), a grey planet in the Ogburugburu Galaxy.

You earthlings probably haven’t heard of that galaxy and planet before, so for the sake of preserving your sanity and sparing you the dread of an impending invasion, let’s focus on that work environment that stole my alien ability to hear myself think.

Below is an article I wrote about the place during the time I was writing “The Worst Breed of Vultures”. Now you have two pieces to enjoy: a gut-wrenching story and an article about a weird place in Awka, Nigeria.

Samkos Plaza: A Tale of Misfits

If there is a place most unsuitable for writing, it is Samkos Plaza. Riddled with the unending drone of motor engines and the cries of marketers, the park made me feel noisy inside and drained my mind of creativity.

My walk there was like one on a wasteland, and the air reeked of weed smoke and faeces dumped in caked mud. The heat suggested the park was nestling amidst a thousand suns, and the ground was parched.

Yet, if there is a place most suitable for sourcing story ideas, it is also Samkos Plaza. Located in Awka in the southeastern Nigeria, and owned by a former police commissioner who has a flair for deflating the tyres of vehicles occupying his parking space, Samkos Plaza tells the story of a park swarming with misfits, although it serves mainly as a bus station for mass transits from various parts of the country.

These misfits, ranging from questionable beggars to a queer park manager, were what won my attention.

At first, I pitied the beggars, but when I caught a blind one punching the buttons of a mobile phone and a cripple smoking weed, I could not contain my shock. In addition, a woman among them was known to curse people who ignored her beggarly cries, and another was publicly battered by her husband after he had caught her begging while returning from his frequent trip.

Then there were the local marketers whose brutal manner and untruthfulness earned the name ‘Agboro’, meaning ‘con artist’. Employed by the various mass transits in the park, they would do anything to ensure passengers boarded their buses. They would crowd around one, struggle for one’s bag and sometimes damage it in the process, and even literally heft one onto a bus.

At the end of their daily hassling, they would join the weed dealers and smokers in nooks, drawing in and puffing out the smoke of weed. I did wonder why this weed-smoking gang was allowed to deal freely in the park, despite the fact that the landlord was a police commissioner. Soon, however, I discovered the dealers paid rent and that police officers even patronized them.

Each time I tried to pull my eyes away from the misconducts, the sight of children hawking confronted me. It seemed law enforcers there treated child abuse even more casually than weed smoking. These children hovered around moving vehicles, dressed in rags and carrying (on their heads) all sorts of items—breadfruit, stickers, assorted bottled drinks, etc. Merged, they were a walking market, and three dying in a motor accident while hawking did not daunt their zeal.

Every day, it seemed there was a new mad person in the park. The males wandered about facedown, looking for stubs of weed to smoke, and they exhibited some sort of intelligence. A female one, in particular, would not accept a free meal that did not include meat, a soft drink, and water—no wonder she eventually got pregnant; and her impregnator: was he saner or madder?

Other misfits in the park were the wheelbarrow pushers (who, though always haggard and dirty, earned more than the average Nigerian writer) and the park manager who chanted every morning, breaking kola nuts and offering the ground some in prayer to the gods, that they may favour him over his competitors every day.

In all, one could set a story in Samkos Plaza and it would become a bestseller. You should see the pigeons.

Read “The Worst Breed of Vultures“.

Written by Walter Dinjos
A Nigerian writer of African-themed fantasy and science fiction stories. A Writers of the Future winner. And a runner-up in the Writers Bureau Writer of the Year awards 2017. Life goals: Tour Du Mont Blanc, interstellar space travel, immortality, godhood.