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The City Will Love You a short short story

Nii Ayikwei Parkes


The City Will Love You a short short story

Nii Ayikwei Parkes


The City Will Love You Nii Ayikwei Parkes www.niiparkes.com

Free Web Edition Copyright © Nii Ayikwei Parkes, 2009 First published in The Liberal, March 2009 Cover Images adapted by the author from free vector images produced by the following: ©iStockphoto.com/kristijanh ©iStockphoto.com/minimil ©iStockphoto.com/kycstudio Cover Design © Nii Ayikwei Parkes, 2009 All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent from the author.


MY MEMORIES OF MY FATHER BEGIN IN 1983, when he was expulsed from Nigeria with 1.1 million other Ghanaians. He arrived one dawn — unkempt — his beard looking very much like that of the he-goat my mother had tethered to the diseased orange tree in our compound. Mother said that he had left when I was six, but I had no memory of him. He returned mildly embittered, deprived of all his worldly goods, but with a wad of Naira and Pound notes wrapped around his penis. My father chuckled, exposing a chipped front tooth, as he explained to my mother, “An Alhaji from Benin taught me. He said, in Nigeria the authorities will search and rob you,


but they will never touch your prick.” He slapped Mother’s buttocks. “I told you before; this prick is worth money.” Mother slapped his hand and shook her head, yet a light came on in her eyes that I had never seen before. I thought my father had become vulgar from his seven years working as a master mechanic in Lagos, but Mother said he had always been that way. The same evening, he sat me down on the rickety bench in front of our compound and pointed a whale-like yam seller returning home. “You see?” He nodded. When I didn’t respond, he put an arm around my shoulder. “My son, you


are a man now, so listen. A city, like this our Accra, is a wonderful thing, so many opportunities. But a city like Lagos is also like a fat woman’s thighs; it can swallow you whole. The city will love you, then it will trick and trap you; you should always have a plan to escape its hold.” I looked into my father’s large eyes, trying to read the last drops of orange sunset jaunting in his pupils, but they would tell me no more of what Lagos had meant to him. The scar on his left cheek pulsed with energy as he smiled and exhaled heavily. I turned to watch the yam seller shrink in the fading light, with a new


feeling of dread. My father stood up abruptly. “I’m sorry I was gone so long. You are a good boy.” He patted my head. “A good boy.” He hurried indoors, rubbing his arms uncertainly, and I was struck by how short he was.


In January 1983, in a move believed to be retaliation for a similar expulsion of 100,000 Nigerians in 1969 by the Busia administration, one million odd Ghanaians formerly resident in Nigeria were sent ‘home’. This happened at the height of the Sahelian drought that plagued West Africa in the late 70s-early 80s and was a huge strain on an already struggling Ghanaian economy, especially since many of the deported were not able to return with any of the wealth they may have accumulated. The final figure of ‘returnees’ is believed by some to have reached 2.5 million by 1987 and one of the vestiges of the incident is the now-world-famous Ghana-Must-Go bag, recently mimicked by Louis Vuitton. In this short-short story of less than 400 words, the author explores the uncertainties of those times; the fortunes lost, the families reunited, but - above all - the humour of those dark days.

about the author: Nii Ayikwei Parkes is the author of the poetry chapbooks: eyes of a boy, lips of a man (1999) and M is for Madrigal (2004), and Ballast (2009). Nii is the Senior Editor at flipped eye publishing, a contributing editor to The Liberal and has held visiting positions at the University of Southampton and California State University. In 2007 he was awarded Ghana’s National ACRAG award for poetry and literary advocacy. Nii’s recent debut novel, Tail of the Blue Bird (Jonathan Cape) has been hailed by the Financial Times as “a beautifully written fable... simple in form, but grappling with urgent issues”. He lives in Manchester.

Profile for Nii Ayikwei Parkes

The City Will Love You  

In January 1983, in a move believed to be retaliation for a similar expulsion of 100,000 Nigerians in 1969 by the Busia administration, one...

The City Will Love You  

In January 1983, in a move believed to be retaliation for a similar expulsion of 100,000 Nigerians in 1969 by the Busia administration, one...

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