One of the great things about writing short fiction is that it is easier to map the universe of a writer’s inspiration. A novelist might tackle one big theme per novel. Compare that with the potential thematic spread of an anthology of a hundred tales.

The morning papers report the scandal of AbdulRahman Musa, an assistant controller of prisons in Suleja: a prisoner whose wife was falling out of love with him had begged his prison boss to intercede with his wife on his behalf. Oga Musa called the reluctant Juliet in for a meeting… and fell in love with the damsel instead. Pleading his own plaint, he wooed her, impregnated her, and married her secretly.

But the poor prisoner was still pining for his (ex-)wife, forcing the prison boss to offer him N10,000 to forget ‘the useless woman’. This ‘bride-price refund’ offer provoked an insurrection in the prison yard and a mob of inmates baptised AbdulRahman ‘Romeo’ Musa in faeces and urine – a biochemical libido-retardant readily available in daily bucket-loads in Nigerian prisons.

Compare this with my story, The Curse of Che Baby, (tale no. 26, How to Spell Naija in 100 Short Stories, Volume 1). In that tale, Prisoner Jamis received an unexpected Christmas pardon from the Governor. Getting home that night, instead of yuletide bells, he found his matrimonial bed jiggling with the exertions of his beloved wife, Che Baby, and a lover. Violence fell mightily upon said lover, and Jamis returned to Kpanjo Medium Security Prison. Chief Warden Goriola called in Che Baby – to rebuke her for breaking the heart of poor Jamis… and fell in love with the damsel instead. So he wooed her…

Like the Suleja Romeo, the Kpanjo prison boss comes to grief. How? That would be telling…

Post-publication coincidences of fact and fiction affirm the thematic truths woven into the rubric of fictional ‘lies’. The other day, a friend and reader told me how my story, Re: Vision, (tale no. 62, How to Spell Naija in 100 Short Stories, Volume 2), slapped him prophetically, as a real life church played out its succession drama in his morning newspapers.

In other news, the tragedy of accidental castration in the course of circumcision, which haunted the fictional life of Calamatus Jumai (Calama’s Diary, Diaries of a Dead African), became the reality of a 4 year old in Switzerland. Fortunately, he had a happier outcome than our fictional character.

All of which is why we rise from reading fiction to tread more cautiously through reality.

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