Home Slice Lit Series
Home Slice is thrilled to launch a series of contemporary creative writing with Irenosen Okojie. This London-based Nigerian writes short fiction that is the literary equivalent of knock out punch the senses. And, her opinion pieces on the lack of diversity in London’s literary realm refreshingly honest. We will be featuring a story per month for the next few months, including an excerpt from her forthcoming novel, Butterfly Fish (April 2015). She has a novel and a collection of short stories coming from Jacaranda Books in 2015.
by Irenosen Okojie
There’s a distance in the woman’s grey eyes he can’t quite identify, only a gnawing feeling spreading in the pit of his stomach. Officer Philippe aims the torch at her hollow face, which threatens to swallow the light. “Ma’m, you do realise your left taillight is broken? You need to get that fixed asap.” The Nevada desert is only slightly cooler at night, blisteringly hot; its parched cactuses imitate the silhouettes of men beneath the moon’s cracked eye. A tall, strapping figure patrolling the roads, Philippe is almost done for the night. He already tastes a cold Budweiser when he spots the banged up cream Buick stuttering along and the woman asleep in the driver’s side, tawny head bobbing against the wheel. “Shit.” He mutters, before parking his motorcycle on the side. For some reason, the image of her head bobbing gently made him think of a doll he once found in the river as a boy. And the way ripples ebbed away from its red mouth as if it had been talking to the water’s creatures. The woman also has a red mouth which matches her painted toenails. She is barefoot. A gap in her front teeth stirs something in him, making him think of rubbing the slit in his penis there, against another night beyond that gap.
When she finally speaks, she trembles as if her thin frame has already handled too much. “I was robbed earlier officer.” The voice is paper thin; accent could be from Mississippi, maybe North Carolina, a southern belle, a southern belle vulnerable at the wheel, ready to shimmer away for somebody else to encounter. Philippe is momentarily distracted thinking about the lines of coke he’d done maybe three to four hours before. He couldn’t tell, sometimes, he loses a sense of time. But he could feel the blood pumping in his veins as she swallows, could hear a shriek in the distance longing to belong, smatterings of light dancing in rear-view mirrors, his shadow snorting in doorways that were unfamiliar and the lines of the open road dragging him back, limb by limb.
“Are you drunk?” he asks irritably, peering in the darkness of the vehicle, picking up a rotten scent he can’t decipher. Boldly, she grabs hold of his torch. “They took everything, they left me with nothing.” A wavering slithers into her voice, she holds the light right up against her face. There is something so disturbingly bleak about that one action, Philippe can’t resist. He yanks the torch back just as a ram’s head with orange eyes pops out of her chest asking for his teeth. She’s out of the car now, babbling and unsteady on her feet. Rambling about disciples taking her licence and registration when she stopped for gas, accosting her out of nowhere like that! She is rubbing his crotch almost absent minded as she speaks. Other vehicles zip by, a truck carrying bottled water supplies, a fleet of bikers clearly used to minding their business don’t stop, the sound of their engines ring so loudly in his ears, he feels he might inherit it for a while, listening to it revving when his heart stops and starts, when the bloodshot images from his peripheral vision fall out of his eyes as his head thuds on different surfaces, landing with nothing to cushion the fall but the white hot God splintering in his veins. He watches her red mouth, sees it moistened by semen. He knows he will swell and harden in her hold long after she’s gone. He knows the cactuses, bored and thirsty will uproot into the roads and cause accidents.
Later, he drags her into the back seat, takes her roughly, violently. She thanks him for the pardon. Her smile is wide and grateful in the hot air. He doesn’t notice dried spots of blood on her thighs. Only that the ram’s head in her chest is silent now but its eyes still glower at him. After he comes, his finger catches in a rip on the hot seat. The smell is more intense now, pungent. “What the hell is that?” he asks wondering if she has food stashed somewhere that’s gone off. He knows he can smack her head against the wheel repeatedly, watching till it becomes still, just like the doll in the water. She laughs girlishly. “Oh, that’s just Claudine. We’re going to Vegas to play blackjack.” She yanks her white dress down, clambering into the driver’s seat with surprising agility. Philippe is already turning his lean, handsome face away, sweat drips into his slanted Asiatic eyes. There is the sound of something churning, hurtling towards them. And the sky is vast; he is nothing but a tiny thing stumbling from the Buick.
His broken torch has the ram’s eye in it glimmering.
He orders her to pop the boot. When she does, he peers into it closely. Something cloaked in bubble wrap catches his eye. He lifts it out gently. It is almost alien like. He can see a small hand through the bubbles, a navel, and grey eyes. The rotten stench is unbearable. He wants to cover his nose but cannot do so without dropping it. He removes the bubble wrap, revealing a still baby. The wrap falls, skimming the road. The baby has tiny green veins running across its face, fine tufts of downy hair. He thinks it makes a sound like engine noise but that cannot be. Before he can say another word, she hits the gas, tearing off into the distance at a ridiculous speed with the boot still open. Somebody crazy enough might just leap and land in that opening, in the darkness of the boot and curl into shapes and things that seem impossible. Philippe does not know her name. He is left holding the dead baby, his flaccid penis hanging out of his trousers obscenely and the night beyond the gap hissing sensuously.
For more information, visit www.irenosenokojie.com
# # #