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Roses are red, Violets are blue, If he’s always busy, The side chic is YOU…” Mogbe. I nearly died with laughter upon seeing the meme with those words. Ordinarily, it should speak to me, but that would be speaking to a girl who didn’t know she’s a side chic; wouldn’t it? Me, I know my own brand of vice; I’m well aware of my poison. Men like the guy in the quote above? SO NOT MY CUP OF TEA! And am not much given to second thoughts myself; particularly after I have decided on a course of action. I am a proud assistant girlfriend, by choice. Okay, not so much by my own intentions in the beginning; but after I discovered the goodies of being one, I am sure not going back to being miss goody two shoes. “Her days are overrrrrrrrr” (in my best imitation of Rita Ora’s “RIP”). I totally forgot to introduce myself. My name is Bimbo and I am a SIDE CHIC (insert response here) Ahn ahn, did you guys not watch oyinbo film when growing up? Search alcoholics anonymous and watch their greetings. Thank me later. Yes, that’s my relationship status; gladly too. Now, you may abhor me for being someone’s husband’s piece of tail on the side; I totally understand. However, if you have walked in my shoes, you may not be so quick to cast aspersions. But please, do your thing. I used to be a faithful, one-man woman until 4 years ago; when the love of my life ditched me during marriage preparations for another girl. I was your model, Nigerian homely raised woman; so you can imagine what that experience did to me. For all of 15 months, I could not stand the sight of men, even my dad. Then in a bid to pick up the pieces of my life while job hunting, I met Ini. Now, Ini was not the first married or single man to become interested in me; I think the timing made the difference.  I was on my way for a job interview when a car splashed water on my clothes. I just burst into tears, like everything that had happened to me prior to that time dawned on me in that instant. Think totally inconsolable, gut wrenching sobs that emanate from the belly. In Ikoyi, no less; I had just alighted from the cab in front of the interview venue when this happened. It literally seemed like my life was over; my will power was gone. Luckily, the owner of the car was a gentleman. I was in no state of mind to attend the interview anymore. He made me comfortable and watched me as I wailed like a banshee for a long while. He wasn’t condemning or condescending. After a while, he took me to get a replacement for my dress in an exclusive clothes store (so these places described in my novels existed in this Lagos?). That day began a friendship, one that changed my very existence as it were. We were friends first, then lovers; before I knew about his marital status. And while I was disappointed, I was also relieved. It meant I did not have to be in a relationship with its conventional requirements. I could sleep easy, as he would not call me wanting to pass the night with me at mine. I would not be at his beck and call 24/7, like in a normal relationship. Plus, did I mention the perks? I have never been so well taken care of. See, curse me all you want; bring out the morality brigade if you like. But you and I know that every woman deep down dreams of a man who will make her feel like a princess in every way, not just financially. And the heavy pocket is a plus, like it or yes. Afterall, on those days when it gets cold at night and I don’t have a man to hug, my silk beddings help nicely. YES, I said SILK. And the fact that I can hop on a flight and travel where I want, when I want makes up for the impromptu meetings and clandestine trysts. Shey you wey dey curse me ni, if them flex like Ini dey flex me, you go reject am ba? Yes o, you go return the millions wey dey account. Iranu. Abegi, face your front and let me go to the spa in this hotel o jare. My cookie is arriving in a few hours and I want to arrange him a special session for us both with the masseuse. I have to bring my a-game today; as that trip to Maldives I plan to embark on will not pay for itself *Reaches for waist bead pouch*   [color-box] Eky Shirley is an unrepentant Liverpool FC Lover. A girl who loves words, books, and good music. She blogs at Eky’s Corner. [/color-box] Photo Credit: Kandis Design via Compfight cc  

  Tick tock says the clock, tick tock. Whatever you have to do, do quick! I’m not sure I got the lyrics of that nursery rhyme correctly but I hope it still conveys the intended meaning. Many of us wear wristwatches or have table/wall clocks in our homes, offices, places of worship and wherever else we choose to place them, wrist watches and clocks of different shapes and sizes, colors and costs too, with the second hand just merrily ticking away – unnoticed for the most part – as we perfunctorily glance at them to check the time, before continuing whatever endeavor we were on in the first place. Have you ever pondered about the significance of that ticking second hand? Does it hold any meaning for you? Has it ever influenced how you spend your time and the things you spend it on? To most of us, one second is just too insignificant in our normal day to day measurements of time and we routinely abuse the use of the word ‘second’ due to the almost negligible value we place on it. Take for example our normal “I’ll be with you in a second” which then turns out in reality to be much longer than expected or the traditional “give me a second” which usually precedes someone taking a much bigger chunk of your time than you bargained for. The second as popularly viewed, is just too brief a measure of time for us to actually reckon with or even take serious. For a select category of people however, seconds or even fractions of them, are the difference between success and failure, the boundary between outstanding and ordinary and maybe in some particular situations, what demarcates life from death. Usain Bolt is the current king of the sprints with world records in both the hundred and two hundred meters. He and a lot of other athletes will tell you that in athletics in general and the sprints in particular, a second is a lifetime. What else do you expect from the man of lightning who beat Justin Gatlin to second place at the last IAAF World Championship Finals with the margin of a whisker? To help us keep the importance of even the hundredth of a second in perspective here, it is important to note that both men finished a hundred meters well under ten seconds, probably less than it took you to finish this sentence, a hundred meters! Motorsports, especially Formula One is another place where seconds are of huge significance. Watch the time trials ahead of races and see how places on the starting grid are swapped and determined by margins as slight as a hundredth of a second. Louis Hamilton will testify to the distance a ‘slow’ F1 car can cover in the blink of an eye, which is sometimes the difference between finishing on the podium or off it. A second on the battle field can mean that someone is fatally shot or just wounded; a second can produce a noiseless kill for a sniper or a huge miss which alerts the enemy to his presence. Literarily in these situations, a second is enough time and more to determine the outcome – whether life or death. To the aged, the condemned or the terminally diseased, each tick of the second hand brings them closer to the grave and each tock of the clock is a reminder that time is fast running out. Each second counts and such people will never take any for granted. It is easy for most of us to go through life without giving conscious thought to the importance of the second – young people especially – living life with the erroneous belief that there’s still ‘time’. We take unnecessary risks and nonchalantly set future dates for appointments and other engagements, procrastinating without end, erroneously secure in our vision of ‘everlasting’ youth. How different would our views or actions be if we knew this or the next second to be our very last? Many of us go through every day, just passing time without noting that seconds accumulate into minutes, hours, days, months, years and ultimately, a lifetime. Only the very aware realize that the second is the very foundation upon which the concept of time and life itself is based and therefore waste little or no time, on activities which do not directly or indirectly benefit or edify their existence and productivity in any way. Today we need to realize that life is not an infinite stretch but a phase, and that the success of our journey through it is based on the utilization of time which is an accumulation of that much overlooked, but fundamental building block – the second. Tick tock says the clock, tick tock. Whatever you have to do, do quick! Photo Credit: tonyair767 via Compfight cc

I sat quietly in the backseat of the cab with my best friend. On a good day, I would have been smiling and winking randomly at people in passing cars. That was how I usually whiled away time whenever I was caught in this dreadful Lagos traffic. But today, my head was head hurt as if a freight train had just run over my head twice. I put my palm on my forehead to check if it felt warm to the touch and let out a soft sigh.

“Are you okay?’ He asked. “Yes, I am. A little tired, maybe.” “Have you had anything to eat today?” I opened my mouth while my brain was still processing an answer; he looked away shaking his head. “I was just asking. I know the answer to that question already.” He knew me too well. I would skip meals whenever I was going to a gathering like this. I think eating increased my nervousness. We were headed to the venue of a book club meeting. Some guy had tweeted about a book club that was starting up on the mainland, and I somehow stumbled upon the tweet and signed up. When I got the email welcoming me to the group, I actually was scared. Being extremely shy, I didn’t know how I would function in such a group. About half a dozen “what if” questions danced about in my head. When I mentioned it to my best friend that I had signed up for this book club and he said he also did! “Whoopee! At least, I’ll have company and won’t be alone.” “Well… I won’t always be there you know.” Sigh. He couldn’t understand why I always hid myself behind this cloak of shyness. I brought out some facial tissue from my bag and daintily dabbed at my face, hoping my makeup still looked fresh. He smiled at me with that big brotherly look in his eyes. “You worry too much. You don’t need makeup. You’re beautiful just the way you are.” “Thank you.” A few minutes later, we got out of the taxi and he held my hand as we crossed the road. As we neared the entrance, my steps slowed and I gently squeezed his hand. “I’m nervous, egbon.” “Hey. Chill. I’m sure they’ll love you. People always love you. I don’t know why you worry.” And so taking a deep breath, I forced my lips apart into my widest smile as we went in. They all turned as we came in and immediately, some of them shouted excitedly “Noka!” “See? I told you.” My best friend whispered to me. The smile on my face this time was a real this time. “Ahn ahn, when we did the introductions online, she kept telling us she was “big”, “plus-sized”, “fat”. She never ever told us she was this beautiful!” That came from one jaunty young lad with a massive afro. I thought he looked like a younger version of Wole Soyinka with a splash of Denrele thrown in. Weird right? I know. “Hi, I’m the Loud One. Come, sit beside me. I’ve really looked forward to meeting you.” “Somebody is popular already…” My best friend teased as he took his seat beside me. I jabbed him with my elbow and he was about to “revenge” when a chubby young bespectacled man stood up and clapped his hands together drawing everyone’s attention to himself. The meeting was about to begin. They say time flies when you’re having fun. The next couple of hours went past with the speed of light. I had never been in the same room with so many great young literary minds all at once. I laughed, talked, and laughed some more. Shyness and nervousness and even the hunger pangs, flew out of the window. I didn’t want the evening to end. It was such a lively discussion and I learnt a lot from all the contribution on the book picked for the month. But again, as they say, all good things must come to an end. And so, the meeting was over just as quickly as it started after we had agreed on the next date for our meeting and picked the next book to read. I could very well end my gist here. But it would be incomplete if I didn’t talk about him. He was the last to come into the meeting. So he didn’t get to introduce himself till the end. He just sat quietly with his glasses perched on his nose, observing. At some point, I thought he was a spy from another book club. I tried to take in as much of his features as I could without him noticing I was staring. From the way his well-formed biceps strained through the sleeves of the striped T-shirt he wore, I thought, Okay, maybe not a spy, but I’m sure he works with the military or police. A few times during my “appraisal” of this mystery man, his eyes met with mine. And he smiled. His lips didn’t part when he smiled. The small ‘v’ that crested his upper lip made it look like he had a dimple on it. He didn’t say much throughout the meeting. Another fascinating thing was how his voice did not match his looks. One would expect a husky, gruff voice, but instead, it was soft and calming and…you know, like the voices of those guys that work the late night shifts at the radio station. Those ones with the dreamy, bedroom voices. Ehen! You get what I mean. However, what caught my attention the most were his eyes. While the rest of his face remained emotionless, his eyes spoke volumes. The way they darted from one person to another…recording, noticing, describing, analyzing, deciphering, analyzing, assessing, appreciating… Each time our eyes met, it seemed like he was trying to tell me something. I smiled back and lowered my lashes over my eyes each time. After the meeting, everybody went around shaking hands, exchanging numbers and talking about one thing or the other. I was still sitting on my chair, because the hunger pangs had returned with full force. He stood up and walked straight towards where I still sat. I looked around furtively for my best friend and spied him at the far corner of the room, talking with a couple of guys. “Looking for your bodyguard? Don’t be scared. I don’t bite.” His eyes were smiling. “He’s not my bodyguard he’s my…” I began, then changed my mind and held out my hand bravely. “I’m Ojonoka. Everyone calls me Noka. I didn’t quite catch your name earlier.” “I am the Masked One.” He replied, straight-faced. “What’s with you guys and nicknames here though? Do all writers use pseudonyms?” “No. That is actually my name. The translation in Urhobo is a tongue twister.” “Oh. I see.” “I’d like to call you after today. I have a feeling we will find each other…interesting.” With that, he pushed his phone towards me and I punched in my numbers as if in a trance. “I’ll call you.” I nodded several times before an “Okay” managed to find its way out of my mouth. He took my hand in his large palm and lifted it, brushing his lips lightly against my knuckles, all the while keeping his eyes locked on mine. ‘Stay sweet, Lady Nectar. Till the winds of time bring the Masked One your way again.” Then he turned on his heel and started walking away. “Hmm! I saw that!” My best friend spoke into my ear as he sneaked up behind me. I jumped. “It’s not what you think.” “And what is it that you think I’m thinking?” “Em…nothing.” I turned to see which way the Masked One had gone but he had disappeared out of sight. “Let’s go get some food. I’m starving.” He pulled me to my feet and steered me towards the exit. “Yes, please. Me too!’ As the waiter set the plate of steaming fried rice and smoked peri-peri chicken in front of me, all thoughts about masks, mystery and men were momentarily filed away to be revisited later. I sat quietly in the back seat of the cab with my best friend. As the bright headlights of passing cars threw flashes of light on my face, I closed my eyes and smiled. I think I’m really going to like this Mainland Book Café after all. ******** Originally published on Neker Nibs (Nov. 25)

Many of us can’t precisely remember where we were at that particular instant when The Call came. I know I can’t and I’ve asked around from some of the others too, their responses are same as mine. At that time, we didn’t even know it for what it was, The Call. We just heard it, at our different locations, doing the different things we do in our different daily lives and felt that pull. It was simple yet coded, seemingly empty but loaded and heard by many but connected with by only a few. Those few who did got up, subconsciously girded their loins and waited for further directives. The rest to whom The Call had no meaning, they went back to their normal lives and everything was forgotten. Much later, we found out that The Call had originated from The Herd Master. You should meet him; I was amazed when I finally did. Slightly rotund, moderately bearded and of an endearing amiability that hides his genius. The Herd Master is the reason we all came together, he is the head of this clan. A week or so after the first call, he sent out a sequel with a specific message instructing us to journey to the place of the Spur, where we were to initiate ‘first contact’. Time was settled upon and we all agreed to come, though not one knew the other, not their strengths, not their characters, not what they looked like, not what they liked or disliked. Only The Herd Master knew what our inquisitive minds wished to know, but he remained resolutely silent. Finally the day of arrived. We, The Chosen, assembled at the agreed spot; huddling round a blazing fire in the heart of the Great Plains, thrilled to be part of the selected few. I arrived last, much to my chagrin, as the black spirited steed I rode was uneasy and restless at the unfamiliar terrain we found ourselves in. I apologized profusely but my discomfiture soon melted as the others waved my apology away and welcomed me like a long lost brother even though we were strangers to each other. The first gathering was to be introductory – a testing of the waters and sizing up fellow chosen ones – but such was the enthusiasm that we soon found ourselves discussing an invention brought by one of us. I can picture him now, the inventor, tall and ebonite, with long legs and a long and winded form of speaking. The amazing features of the invention were praised, while hitherto unrecognized faults were pinpointed with suggestions for improvements from sterling minded people. We bantered and played until the full moon couldn’t contain her curiosity any longer and came to join our party. There was some eating to do and roasted wild grouse never tasted so good, washed down with crystal clear chilly stream water. Before we left for our different realms, The Herd Master, who had been silent and ponderous all along got up, cleared his throat and began to address us. We all grew quiet, even the coyotes, crickets and owls seemed to be interested in what he had to say, such was the silence of the night. “I’m sure you all are wondering why we’re gathered here tonight. Well, no need to wonder further, just listen carefully. At some point in your lives, you all must have heard about the Ancient scrolls of the forgotten Seas. What you might not have heard about is the prophecy of those scrolls. The prophecy foretells of a period of darkness, where deprivation will ravage the world under the rule of Lord Illitracus. Sons of men will be attacked and their powers of reasoning taken from them. Valiants will be turned into mindless minions, an army of soulless beings to be known as The Horde, kept only to pander to all the dark and twisted whims of Illitracus”. He paused and looked around, taking in the expressions on our faces. “The scrolls predict a bleak future, a time of great hardship. But there is hope and that hope that lies in you all. For there would rise, an army of extraordinarily brave humans, led by a visionary and capable of fighting the scourge that would threaten to take over the world and steep it in darkness. You, are that army and you have been chosen for your uniqueness. Together, you’re that potent weapon that will strike at the very core of evil and restore light to the world”. He paused again, and finished in a solemn manner. “I do not promise that it will be easy but the salvation of the world lies in your hands”. His carefully chosen words lit my inner fires and awakened my spirit. I could tell it did same for the others; fueling our thirst for the enemy’s blood and by the time we were set for departure, every single one of us had voluntarily taken an oath to battle the evil Lord Illitracus regardless of the cost. So here we are today, an assemblage of men and women of different characters and powers. A collection of different experiences, brought together by The Herd Master to fight the good fight, united by our love for humanity. We are The Chosen, a group of brilliant individuals drawn together to form an awesome and unstoppable team buoyed by the magic of synergy, focused on saving the world. Brethren of the Mainland Book Café are ready to restore the dying art of reading to its former place of glory amongst the sons of men. We are ready to bring reading back into vogue, that light may once again shine on beclouded minds. We are ready, under the guidance of The Herd Master, to restore the love of books to the hearts of men that evil may have no space to reside in them. Our task is simple: to keep the Sons of men enlightened, that they may never become slaves to the manipulations of Lord Illitracus. May the gods be with us.