I pushed my trolley down the aisle, picking up all I thought I needed from the shelves, and dumping them into the basket. I took hold of the handle, and was about to push to the counter when my girlfriend’s favourite American potato snacks popped through the shutters of mind. She would nag the life out of me if I didn’t get Pringles for her, and it had to be the mango salsa flavour.
I made a quick turn to the shelves where all bags and cans of provision were kept. I knew the shelf for Pringles, but there was already a squat, fat man in front of it, his hand extended towards the cluster of my girlfriend’s Pringles. However, much to my excitement, the man was peering into his phone which he had in his other hand, his trolley waiting to be filled.
I grinned, and hurried forwards. With a sheer disregard for the man’s fat hand that was still outstretched to the Pringles, I snatched the last three of the mango-salsa-flavoured Pringles on the shelf, and threw them into my trolley. I made to take a turn and hurry to the counter when I heard the throatiest voice ever. It was a low, guttural voice that you could only hear when you get into the ghetto; the kind of voice hoodlums who were chronic smokers had.
“Hey, young man!” the voice came as I turned to its direction. It was the fat man. I was about five heads taller than he was. He had a snub nose, fat cheeks, a cleanly shaven jaw, and big, deep, soulful, black eyes. He looked well over sixty years.
“What did you do that for?” He asked with an edge to his voice. I was trying to wrap my mind around why the man thought he could frighten me with his voice.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said, matching his glare with a stony one of my own. “What did I do?”
He stared at me for a moment, and said, “I was here first!”
“I took the Pringles first!” I returned, my voice just as high as his. I made a turn, but a hard grip stopped me. I turned, and it was the man again. His eyes were colder than ever, and I just couldn’t imagine how he could muster such an iron grip. I contained my rage and resolved not to start up something. Old people were irritable after all.
As coolly as I could, I said, “Sir, let go of me.” A couple of seconds of monstrous silence walked past, and he let go. My arm which he had clutched was aching. I batted my eyelids at him.
“I am sorry,” he said. “Please, I need those Pringles.”
“Mister!” I bawled, jerking my hand at the shelf where the Pringles were kept. “There are still a lot of Pringles here.”
“It is the mango salsa flavour I want, my boy, and you took the last of it. This is the third shop I have come to search for this particular flavour. Please, I need it,” the man said, looking desperate and nearly etching pity into my heart.
“Mister, if you were about my age, I would have given you a dirty slap!” I barked, and he flinched, some customers were beginning to gather like a kettle of vultures circling meat. “Now, you are calling me your boy because you feel you need me. You old men think you are ruling the world. You cannot give the youths a chance, yet we claim youths are the leaders of tomorrow. There is no tomorrow because your age mates have stolen it from us, and we have all been trying to fix all what you guys messed up. Next time, if you come to a mall, don’t stand before the shelf and start pressing your phone. You don’t have shopping rights more than I do!” I had vented my spleen. I felt slightly relieved. The fat man, still as the dead, said nothing, did nothing, as I walked away, waving off the security man who was walking towards me. I paid for everything I had picked off from the counter and headed out of the mall.
I stiffened, and sat a while under my driving wheel to brood over my life. I knew I loved Titi with everything I was, and that it was same for her, and even more, but I was always afraid and uncertain of the forever-afters. Would I want to spend the rest of my life waking up beside her, enduring her excesses, making love to her, and her only? I was not yet sure of the answer to this question, but she was just so persistent about meeting her father. Titi seemed more assured than I was. We had better not be making a mistake, I thought and started the car.
Titi had told me a lot about her father. She often deified him in every one of her stories. She said he had played both the role of a father and mother since her mother died to cancer when she was still a child. Titi’s father had served in the army for thirty-five years, and despite his nomadic lifestyle, he took his only daughter wherever he went, and watched her grow into the woman I had come to love. Today, I would meet this incredible father of hers for the first time, I said as I gave the door panel a polite knock. I heard Titi’s voice from inside and it felt as though euphoria was being unruffled in the very pit of my belly. I loved this girl, I was sure.
The door was drawn open, and there she was, Titi, the woman of my dreams in flesh and grin. She was some two heads shorter than I. She had the purest pair of black hooded eyes, a slightly broad nose, and thick, proud, sensual lips.
“Come in, handsome,” she said and stepped out of the way, out of who she had been screening behind her. Right ahead of me, in the vast living room, on a honey-coloured couch directly opposite the door sat a squat, fat man, with a snub nose. When he opened his mouth and spoke, I knew I would know that voice anywhere. It was the man from the mall. Upon seeing me, he rose to his feet.
“You!” He said, sticking out an accusing finger at me, his voice twice more guttural than I knew. I didn’t know that my lips were shaking, but I could feel the damp itchiness under my armpits and the chill travelling the length of my spine.
“Dad, what is wrong?” Titi wanted to know, staring quizzically at her father.
“This is the boy I told you about!” My would-be father-in-law said with provoked certainty. Titi stared at me with the eyes of a stranger.
“Dad…” Titi began to say, but her father cut her off with a wave of his fat hand.
“Leave us,” he told Titi. She was reluctant, but she obeyed, storming out of the house. Her father, his eyes getting hostile, waved me to a chair. I sat, very uncomfortably.
“You want to marry my daughter,” he asked, his voice low.
“Sir, I am sorry for earlier today,” I said, pleadingly.
“Yes sir, I want to marry your daughter,” I said, going on my knees. “Please…”
He cut me off. “Don’t cry over spilt milk.” I fixed my pleading eyes on him, and he stared back at me without flinching.
I headed out of the house, blotting my face with a handkerchief. Ahead, I saw Titi standing like a solitary rose amongst ixora bushes. I wondered if she had been crying as I stepped in beside her. She turned to look at me, her eyes betraying her anger.
“What have you done, Nnamdi?” She asked. “I know my father. He will never approve of us now. He is very strict, and…” I placed my finger on her lips.
“Relax, beautiful. It is settled. Don’t add to the nagging I got from him.”
“He kept chiding me for being mannerless, and then, all of a sudden we were talking about basketball. He was very happy to know I am following the tournaments. And then, he asked me to do fifty push-ups.”
“Did you do the push-ups?” She asked.
“Of course, I will do anything for you. He said we should come in so that he can pray for us.”
She threw her arms around me. “Nnamdi, I almost died just now. I love you! I love you!”
“The gatekeeper is watching o!” I drawled into her ears. She went on ahead of me to the main house, and I followed behind her, watching the sway of her hips. At the back of my mind, I was just so certain I didn’t deserve her after what I did.
Johnson Onyedikachi is an eighteen-year-old Nigerian creative writer who has unpublished manuscripts of poetry and plays. He recently picked interest in crime fiction and in August 2019, enrolled in an online course where he gained proficiency in article/journal writing including the use of referencing formats (MLA and APA style). He is hopeful that he will be successful in writing.