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“Sex in Sales” — A Flash Fiction by Okpara Uchenna

Just outside the shop was a showcase of tempered glasses willing wallets into buying on the spot. In the shop, stood a man and a woman talking at one end; another man sat behind a plastic table with a phone on it, and then, me.

The woman wore a stolid expression. I watched as she took three steps backwards, tossed a multi-paged book on a desk and called out to her husband. It was not the sweetest of calls.

“Henry, he is asking for you.” Her voice was not breezy.

He was exchanging words words with someone on the phone with a thick Igbo accent, probably with a customer, whilst giving directions to another who was searching for gadgets on the wrong side of the spacious shop. He seemed to like his role as business caller and owner.

“Attend to him, please. I’m busy on this end of the phone.” He was at the back where home theatres, generators, and air conditioners were situated.

At the other end of the shop was a question: “Where is your husband?” It was directed to the woman who just called Henry, the one with the vacant, inscrutable look.

“I have attended to you. I have just told you what you asked.”

“But I need to speak with someone I can be sure of.”

“And that someone is busy. You have have to wait.” Her oblong face with bold chins had started settling into a frown.

This has happened before. Over and over. There were days when buyers come in demanding to be attended to by the man. Tell me about déjà vu.

On such days too, things usually ended with currency changing hands, not daggered words. Also, there were, no pushing and no shoving. Well, not today.

I’m sorry, that came out too soon.

In the large space in Ojo Alaba, Lagos, gender preference is a pandemic. The Spanish flu of 1918 does not come close. Literally. We know what it is. It is prejudice against women. It is sexism. It is a culture of misogyny. It has crept into our African heritage ages ago, and boy, have we embraced it, sucking every bit and marrow of the female subjugation like my mama just did and had done on several occasions.

It could ricochet, but to who?

And ironically, Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves and Hymen was ogling at Mama from a small bookshelf in the corner situated at the left side that also housed woodworks that nestled assorted monitors with their keyboards.

This particular half-bearded man kept asking for the man—my dad—insisting he was in a hurry. I was sure the uncle named ‘male chauvinism’ grimaced, a smirk that said, “I won again.”

He finally appeared after dropping the phone—my dad—with the pot he calls ‘belly’, and with the tongue I admire. He replied the supposed buyer, “It is a Samsung 32.” His ethnicity was infused with the pronunciation of every word. “It is a digital HD LED.”

“I see it clearly. I know.” He tilted the TV to the left to take another look for the umpteenth time.

“Then why did you send for me?” The old man was getting uninspired by the minute and losing his patience.

I got up in anticipation of writing the receipts my mum had dropped on the table for me while she slipped into her habit of double checking the stock. I walked to the seat and the conversation continued.

“To be sure of the price.” The man was shorter than my dad as was evident when he came closer to him and whispered something to his ear which I later found out to be: “You know women don’t know anything about electronics. Na bed sure pass. And this your wife too fine to sabi the—”

The hearer was basically unimpressed. And that was it for him. He pushed the man away slightly and told him bluntly, agitatedly, straight up, “It’s sixty-five thousand naira. Take it or leave it.”

I should just tell you that the potential buyer did not take it lightly, but I will not. Or did I already? Oh, well. He had to give back his own push, obviously, being the alpha male that he was and looked—muscular, stern and deep voiced. Is that why he thought the other sex less capable?

My father returned the favour. He did too. My father ditto. And on and on they went, exchanging words of battle as they did.

Bury your face, son. You might not want to see this.

Of course, these words rolled out unsaid, off my father’s knuckles and on to my feet. I simply stared. Don’t judge me.

We were at the tip of our seats, I and mama, waiting to stand up if it got messier and waiting to sink right into it again in hopes that it would turn out to be nothing serious; a happenstance that became a matter of when, not if.

My father had lost the fight and some flesh before I and mama were able to get the man’s hands off him as we stared helplessly at the winning side. The alpha male. He won again. He always did.

The ricochet, the rebound had caught a father.

There was another winner of the day. Mona Eltahawy’s book was laughing hard at us. With nobody touching, it magically fell to the ground with a flumping sound that hissed and spoke: “I told you so.” It was loud.

We were all shaken by that, even the hunk, as we froze, rubbernecked, gawked at the book and froze again.

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