Order (A short story)

Fiction

When there are no customers Madam Gbenro takes a thirty minute lunch break. She pulls out a container of beef lo-mien and an egg roll. Not that the greasy MSG laden food did much for her arteries. There wasn’t a restaurant that sold good Jollof rice within 10 miles of her shop. If she wanted…

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When there are no customers Madam Gbenro takes a thirty minute lunch break. She pulls out a container of beef lo-mien and an egg roll. Not that the greasy MSG laden food did much for her arteries. There wasn’t a restaurant that sold good Jollof rice within 10 miles of her shop. If she wanted a decent meal, she would have to go uptown. Behind the counter, a Nollywood film is playing softly on the small T.V in the corner. She doesn’t want to flip the dial to the news because it will be too depressing. Either the new president would be signing an executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven countries, or a black man with a PhD was being shot down for wearing a black hoodie and attempting to steal his own car.

A stone the size of Madam Gbenro’s head comes flying through the glass window of the shop. The shards are splayed all over the carpet that is littered with merchandise she is yet to organize. Before she can grab the phone to dial 911, a group of boys swarm the store, looting all the colorful dashikis they can find before exiting. One boy runs back into the building and drops a ten dollar bill on the counter.

“Thanks Ma’am.” He calls out, before running off, as if he is making amends for the damage.

She stands with her back against the wall, holding her breath until she is sure the coast is clear. She doesn’t want to raise alarm, because they could be armed and she cannot risk crossing them. Madam Gbenro slips out of her hiding place and steps around the mound of glass to survey the empty shelves but is too tired to begin cleaning up the mess. They overturned the stool, the one that ladies often perched on as she twisted the stiff fabric into intricate shapes with safety pins and staples so that the geles sat crown-like on their heads and kept their form. Commotion arises outside of the shop. She’s lived in this neighborhood for ten years; she should be used to the ghetto, yet the old fear greets her again. The group of boys are outside waving their picket signs in the air and chanting.

“Down with Trump! Down with Trump!”

Madam Gbenro thought the protests would have ended by now. Judging by the headlines, the inauguration day tear gas should have been warning enough. Nothing could be done now that the president had been sworn in. Yet, these boys in stolen dashikis and ripped jeans are parading themselves in front of Madam Gbenro’s shop as if they obtained permits. The lead protestor stands on a beer crate and grips his bullhorn.

“So you want to dispose of all the immigrants’ right? Well, guess what Trump. You can’t do that. I’m an American, but I have immigrant blood running up and down these veins—foreign blood. My ancestors were slaves—the original immigrants. And guess what? America was built on their backs, and will continue to be built on the backs of immigrants.”

Another guy takes the bullhorn from him. “ For goodness sakes, your wife is an immigrant!”

“Build a wall my foot.” One boy spits on the ground then continues shaking his picket sign in the air and circling the perimeter.

“What are you going to do about the blood being spilled on the streets by your stewards of peace? What about are schools? I bleed red, just as you do, even if my skin is six shades darker.” He waits for a response from the still afternoon air before hopping off his cardboard box.

Madam Gbenro was glad her son was not foolish enough to be out there with those riff-raff boys making all matter of noise outside her walls. There was truth to what they were saying but there was nothing an old, sickly woman as herself could do to change the tide of things. They were in Trump world now. If he planned on kicking all immigrants out and “make America great again”–homogenous, she would pack her things and prepare to return home to Nigeria. At least she would be welcomed back with open arms, though they would question why she fled the U.S—”God’s own country”. Madam Gbenro sighs with too much effort. She knows it is time for her to leave. She can feel it in her bones. Bola can take care of himself now. He is a grown man.

The cakey brown foundation seeps into her wrinkles, and does little to conceal the pallor and weakness clinging to her face—the green spider veins that jut out and pulsate in sync with the beads of sweat breaking out on her forehead as she prepares to open shop each day. Her eyebrows are penciled in with tremoring hands. With that silent air of dignity, she grips the hems of her flowy, floor length Ankara dress, as the folds of fabric billow behind her, swamping her short stodgy frame. She is surrounded by the cords of exquisite fabric—George wrappers and French lace and Ankara. She smiles, proud of her acquisitions, until her joy is unraveled by the cramp traveling up her leg. How long before her store must be shut down? Her hands grow clammy just thinking about the possibilities. After all, the underwear bomber a few years back was Nigerian and so was Boko Haram. Would Trump hold any bias? He knows that Nigerians are everywhere, dotting every single inch of American territory—even Alaska.

Madam Gbenro blinks a few times to clear her head. She needs to call the police. She needs to restore order, but how can she when life as she knows it, is on the verge of crumbling?

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