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Spoils of the Death Road by Sefi Atta

“Oh her…she told me…she wants to leave town…after I told her…about the bus crash last night. The driver lost his head. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not predicting the same fate will befall Lubna. Allah will always protect her, but that is what can happen when you go traveling up and down the Death Road willy-nilly.”


Farouk blows out smoke. “Yes, yes, but don’t you yourself want to leave this place?”


“Do you?”


“Only on a day like this when I encounter a lout like that.”


He smokes his cigarette again. My gum is much softer now and is sweetening my temper.


“I just wish people would be more obedient.”


“Like who?”


“Lubna for a start.”


“What else has she done wrong?”


“She is left-handed.”


“She’s always been.”


“It’s most unsanitary. She should have been corrected.”


Farouk smiles. “You two are like husband and wife. Me? I don’t blame her. If I had the opportunity I would want to leave this town. Things are changing too much around here.”


I push the chewing gum to the side of my mouth. “It’s the Americans, you know.”


“Which Americans?”


“The woman with balloons in her breasts.”


He pats his flat chest. “I wouldn’t mind to have those.”


“She’s ruining everything. She keeps giving out scholarships.”


Hassan said she used to get attention because of the balloons, then her skin got shriveled up and the balloons began to leak. After that, no one would give her work to do in Hollywood, so she tries to get attention by saving African girls. It is either us or wild animals, Hassan said.


“The Americans indeed,” Farouk says.


“It’s true. They’re to blame. Hassan watches cable television whenever he goes to the capital. He says they are debauched and greedy. They want to take over all the oil in the world and kill Moslems.”


Farouk tilts his head. “Is it Moslem blood or oil they’re after?” 


“I’m not playing. They won’t stop until they succeed, and once they finish with the Arabs they will turn their attention to us. You’ll see.”


Farouk puts his cigarette on the edge of his stall. “But look around you. Who stops you from going to Friday prayers? The Americans? Who makes it a crime to walk around with your hair uncovered? The Americans?”


“I want to cover my hair.”


“What if you don’t? And remember the Christian woman? Who killed her? The Americans?”

“She was being unreasonable.” 

“Our sarki barraki should be ashamed for letting that happen over here.”

“She should have stepped aside.”

“But should the men have killed her? And what about the woman in that other town, the one the sharia court sentenced to death, did the Americans do that too?”


“No one would have stoned that silly woman.”




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Per Contra Fiction - Fall 2006