by Ikhide Ikheloa
– Ring! Ring!! Ring!!!
– Hello! Who is that?
– Papa! It is me! Your son!
– I say who is that?
– It is me! Your son! Calling from America!
– Ah! Is that my son? Wonderful! Thank God! You will live long, my son! I was flashing you and you were not picking up your mobile! Did you not see me flashing you? You are a good son! Hunger was flashing me to death and I knew you would call me to give me the Western Union pin number! Wait, let me get a biro and paper! Hold on O, abeg don’t go anywhere! [Papalolo calls his grandson Johnbull for help!] Johnbull! Johnbull! Johnbull! Where is that boy? Johnbull! Have my enemies blocked your stupid ears with cotton wool? Bring me a biro and tear me a piece of paper from the foolscap sheets in the cupboard! Hurry up; if this line goes dead, you are dead!!!
– Papa, I am sorry, I don’t have a pin number for you today. I was just calling to check on you and mama?
– I said I was just checking on you and mama!
– Hmmm. We are well; it is only hunger that is up to her usual tricks. Do you know the price of garri has hit the roof again? Talking about the roof, do you know that my roof is leaking buckets everywhere? Whenever it rains, the villagers troop into my house and gather water with their buckets!
– Papa, I shall see what I can do.
– It is well. You shall see what you can do! You told me that the last time you called. I know you are trying your best, you are not a thief like some people’s children that I know. I did not raise thieves for children. But my son, are you not in the same America as your cousin Monday? Did Monday not build a mansion for his father within two years of coming to America? My son, when are you coming home to build a house worthy of your name in our village?
– Papa, I shall see what I can do.
– [Papalolo sighs] It is well. Whenever I ask you to come build a house at home, you say “I shall see what I can do.” Let it not be said that my son’s name is now “I shall see.” Ah Monday! He is a good son! I remember when we went to open his father’s house; we ate so much, your mother and I could not stand up for weeks. They sprayed us so much money, we hired apeteshie the drunk to escort us home.
– Papa, that reminds me, Monday is in jail
– Why? In jail? For what? What did that good boy do?
– Medicare fraud…
– Mediwetin… what is that? Never mind! Monday is a good child. I am sure the evil witches on his mother’s side set him up. Monday is a good child. I remember when he came to visit me when I came to see all of you in America. He gave me an envelope filled with so many dollars, I couldn’t count them all. That is how to be a good son.
– Do you miss America?
– Oh yes my son. I miss America and my grandchildren. That is a place of wonder. My son, when am I coming back to see my grandchildren? I tell you the white man is no longer a human being. The white man is next to God! America reminded me of Lagos before our yeye Independence! The things that my eyes saw in America, I was afraid to say with my own mouth in the village. When I came back home, my people, they asked me, how was America and I said America is fine, my son and my daughter in-law are doing fine and my grand children eat well, everything is as it should be. I did not dare tell them of the magic that my eyes saw. Do you blame me? If I tell my people that there are water taps and you put your hand under them, and real water starts coming out like River Niger, they will say, “Ah, Papalolo, you have come again with your stories! Are you the first person to go to America?” Do you remember how I screamed in the toilet in the shopping mall when after relieving myself, I got up and the toilet flushed itself? Just like that! How did the toilet know that I was finished? Unbelievable! I screamed because I thought my enemies had finally found me in the white man’s latrine! Everybody came running including the police and you were embarrassed.
– Yes, papa, I was embarrassed, I won’t lie.
– Yes, you are easily embarrassed. Remember those doors in America that always opened for me? Wonderful! The white man is something! You will be coming like this and the door will just open for you, just like that! You don’t even have to touch it! I know there are evil spirits inside America’s doors. I would walk to the door and it would open, fiam, by itself! I would run to the door and it would open fiam! Just like that! I like America, the doors always open for you over there unlike over here in Nigeria. In Nigeria, if you don’t know somebody who knows somebody, the doors just laugh at you! The white man is a god!
– Don’t talk like that! The white man is a human being just like you! And some of these inventions were made by black people.
– Na you sabi, be fooling yourself there that you are equal to the white man simply because you wear a coat an’ tie like him. You will never be equal to him. Look I am talking to you now on a cell phone without wires! I have a cell phone, your mother has her own cell phone, which is a problem because I KNOW that you call her secretly and send her money secretly through Western Union. That is forbidden you know, the gods of our forefathers will place a curse on you if you don’t stop secretly funding your mother’s insubordination! Anyway, do you remember NITEL? Those olodos, those dunces held us hostage with their stupid telephone system that spoke to no one, heard no one. And they made us pay for no services! And then the white man came along and look we are happy again! My son, when will they come back to rule us? I miss them so much, they are the best, Independence was a big mistake! Look at that thing called the Internet. Thanks to the wonders of guguru, Johnbull was able to find out your salary in America!
– Yes, guguru, Johnbull says because you are always complaining about being broke, he used guguru on you and there was your salary for everybody to see! America! Why will they put your salary on the Internet? Don’t you people have secrets? Unbelievable!
– Oh! Google! It is not guguru, papa. It is Google!
– Same difference! All I know is that Johnbull went to the cyber café and used what do you call it again, google? He did the thing where he can see your street and your house. He says your house is so big the picture does not fit on the computer screen. And he saw four cars in front of your house!
– Google Earth! I had visitors that day! I don’t have four cars!
– Be denying it. My son, I did not raise you to ignore us in the dusk of our lives. Build us a house and send me one of your six cars! I know you can do it. What do you need six cars for anyway? That is madness! Our people say you do not pour a bucket of salt in your bowl of egusi soup simply because you are rich!
– Six cars!
– Yes, Johnbull says that you have a two-car garage and so plus the four cars in the front of the house, that is six cars! Anyway, I tell you, we are cursed! In my next life if I come back as a black man ehn, I will crawl back into my mother’s stomach and say “oya, return to sender!” Enh, who knows, it would just be my luck that I will return as a white man, and then black people will be in charge! I have bad luck, I am telling you!
– Papa, don’t say that again! That is racist!
– What is racist about that? Na you sabi! It is the truth? With all your book knowledge what have you done with it? Hell, you can’t even send me a measly $50. Every time I ask for money, you sing “I shall see what I can do! The white man is strange though…
– Strange? What do you mean?
– Remember when I was over there, on television, these two men were kissing each other, even the women come on television and they said that they are in love with each other. I was watching that soap opera and these two men Jeff and Dave they said they wanted to get married! Abomination! Do you remember your beautiful friend Joy? Oh yes, she was very pretty! You told me she used to be John! Wonderful! Only the white man is crazy enough to look down below and say, “I don’t like what I see!” and cut it off! I say they are not human beings! Why do you have such friends anyway?
– Papa, stop it…!
– [Audible sigh from Papalolo] Let’s not talk about sad things anymore, it is depressing enough that you have nothing for me and your mother today.
– Papa, do you have a pen and paper?
– For what?
– I was just teasing you! I actually called to tell you that I sent you some money through Western Union. Don’t forget the answer to the test question – What is your son’s name?
– [Papalolo breaks into lusty song]
Ah! What is my son’s name?
How can I forget my great son’s name?
Does the tortoise go toAmericawithout his home?
Did I not say you are the son of your father, enh?
He-who-is-a-double-white-man is my son’s name!
Conqueror-of-the-white-man’s-magic is my son’s name!
He-who-may-be-gentle-but-is-no-fool is my son’s name!
He-who-says-his-father-shall-never-know-hunger is my son’s name!
He-who-says-his-mother-shall-never-know-shame is my son’s name…
– Wait, wait my son, did you send the money in dollars? I hope you sent the money in dollars! The Naira is useless O, the Naira is the cousin to Mugabe’s money…. If you take okada to the market for N100, on the way back the fare will be N200! On the same day! [Papalolo calls his grandson Johnbull for help!] Johnbull! Johnbull! Johnbull! Where is that boy? Johnbull! Have my enemies blocked your stupid ears with cotton wool? Bring me a biro and tear me a piece of paper from the foolscap sheets in the cupboard! Hurry up; if this line goes dead, you are dead, In Jesus Name!