David was still rubbing his cheeks from the pain of the slap when Amaka walked into class, then he maintained. If he could, he would have turned a bright red on his left cheek and be lost in the confusion of what the cause of the abrupt pigmentation could be – the unwarranted slap or the unwanted embarrassment at sighting Amaka.
Three days ago, Amaka had spoken to him for the very first time. He had been classmates with her since JSS1, and having to utter the first word to your five-year-old crush wasn’t top of his to-do list that faithful Monday. He had just received another grueling lecture on how he had to break out of his shell as the topic for the family’s morning devotion that Monday morning from, nope, not his mother or father; from his junior sister. It was her turn that Monday, just like it had been a fortnight ago, and the fortnight before that, and the fortnight before that.
Ardent believers in the power of a spoken word, David’s family was. But in his opinion, attempts at talking him out of shyness shared amongst his family members like some form of shifting cultivation farm practice for the gazillionth time, was a gazillion times too many. So, he’d simply not listen, not like he used to. He had tried all they’d suggested to him and none worked, but he dared not admit he was actually paying some attention. When their suggestions started becoming overly repetitive, his resolution to completely disobey them as well started becoming infinitely solidified.
The one thing he hadn’t tried was talking to Amaka. He’d nurtured the thought in his heart since hitting puberty – that is if one knew how to distinctly indicate when puberty is hit – and it was a pretty simple one, the thought: “I am shy. I know because my parents say I am. I like Amaka. I don’t know why. But I do because when she comes around me, I forget how to breathe properly. If I can learn how to breathe around her, I’ve conquered something in life, I’ve had a victory. I would harness that feeling and reproduce it each time I feel shy.”
David’s conversation with Amaka that Monday morning went thus:
Amaka sashays over to David solving some integration math. She leaves her clique to do this one exclusive thing. “Hi,” she says. David goes straight into a panic fit the moment he realizes it’s her. He loses the ability to hear her as well. His auditory impulses were skyrocketing. He heard the loud thumping of his heart alone. It was drama. It seemed she was speaking all the while through, like she was really enjoying the sight. So, suddenly, what was a fit of awkwardness turned into a fit of anger. A strange understanding that what she was doing to him was demeaning condensed in his head. He couldn’t take it, so he screamed, “Get away from here! Gettaway! If I see you near me again, I’ll slap you!”
As Amaka walked into the class that Thursday, David’s cheeks went bright red. But he did resolve his facial pigmentation puzzle. The unwanted embarrassment was very much warranted. The unwarranted slap was as well very much wanted. It was a simple matter of pride. The pride that made his disobedience to his family’s instructions something he enjoyed so much. After his bout of anger at Amaka that Monday had subsided, he’d told his bosom friend and classmate who was there in the thick of the debacle that he’d slap himself if he ever stared at Amaka again. He did . . . both things.
Slap Maintenance is one of the entries for our 1st version of the Route Africa in-House contests. It is not a winning entry, but we felt it right and just to put it up here on our blog because it was just one of two entries for the entire contest and the only for its category (category 5 – “best flash fiction”).
Slap Maintenance is a “whodunnit”. It takes the definition of that word, rips out completely the aspect of it that has to do with murder, and settles into a casual mystery story about a slap. It exceeded the 500 word limit for flash fiction entries y a whopping 109 extra words, but it was a fun read anyway. We hope it is thae same for you.
To know about the other entry for version 1 of our in-House contest, click here.
Ndukwe Chizzy C. is a Route Africa member and pioneer, who loves writing. He’s a final year student of Petroleum Engineering in the Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria.