Lynn Bey ~ Face Forward

When the bike mes­sen­ger on his bike was speck-small in our sight, Headmaster said nev­er mind our after­noon lessons.

Follow me,” he no-non­sense bossed, and all the way along the path, past the goat pen and the shed for the hoes and spades and oth­er what-nots, we were on his heels till we reached the court­yard where is his bar. Inside the bar is Headmaster’s tele­vi­sion, and it is how our vil­lage knows what busi­ness is in the capi­tol. As soon as those in the field saw us chil­dren on the move, they straight away stopped their weed­ing and shooed the goat inside its pen. Then, quick-quick, they joined with us, and all togeth­er we over­flowed Headmaster’s bar.

The TV showed non-stop the cel­e­bra­tions in the sta­di­um. Everywhere was so much hap­pi­ness, all the peo­ple singing and stomp­ing inside there. We clapped at the pret­ty red-green-white-orange-blue-yel­low stream­ers that were a cro­chet over the army and police as round and round the sta­di­um they did their high-kick march­ing. The President stood very straight and smooth in his no-roof white car. A hun­dred times, five hun­dred, a mil­lion times he did his salute and smile, smile and salute, and when his wife next to him some­times waved, we saw extra shin­ing in his cheeks.

If only we were a vil­lage that could show off a band, and fire­works, also hors­es that lift up their front legs to do a bicycle!

After the tele­vi­sion fin­ished, Headmaster told the uncles to light torch­es for the court­yard. In the half-dark, half-light, we danced and sang and danced. When enough sun woke up, the aun­ties fed us baked yams and por­ridge they’d stirred in milk from the goat. We chil­dren zipped our lips that a chick­en roast­ed in the ground would have brought a bet­ter mouth-water. Between swal­lows and bites our vil­lage said, “But how will the President know we are all-sup­port­ive?” “Armbands show you are loy­al!” shout­ed one answer. “A ban­ner shows it more!” shout­ed anoth­er one. “But who will see it except us?” We chil­dren were say­ing we would make a poem for the strongest guard to read to the sta­di­um when Headmaster beer-boomed that the new babies of our vil­lage would forth-hence be named President.

All week we back and for­ward argued. We did not take the goat to fresh grass, and no one yanked weeds from where we will plant the mil­let soon-soon. Even wash­ing at the riv­er for­got to be orga­nized. Then one night Headmaster had a dream where God said, “And the world will know thou art the most loy­al if this one spe­cial thing be done.” We shout­ed at Headmaster to spit forth what is His one spe­cial thing, and when he did our vil­lage cheered “Amen! Amen!”

Soon the mes­sen­ger was rac­ing to the capi­tol on his bicy­cle. There he fetched a doc­tor and some nurs­es, and in no time they were chang­ing our school to a clin­ic. We stu­dents were busy-ant helpers. Carefully we took out the Dettol and bar of green soap from the nurs­es’ bags, also rolls and rolls of ban­dages, and put them on our desks. After that the nurse with lip­stick showed us her news­pa­per, and on every page we saw that the President was busy being in charge. Other pres­i­dents came to sit on his wide veran­dah so ours could tell them what was what. Sometimes in the pic­tures the wife of our President was serv­ing roast­ed yams and chick­en as fat as bush pig. We searched and searched for pic­tures of the high-kick guards.

When all the nee­dles and knives were ready, the doc­tor and nurs­es put on their gloves and our vil­lage made a snake around our clin­ic-not-school. Day after day we were turned into Headmaster’s dream. Soon not one of us had our own faces. Instead the face of the President was grow­ing there. With over­flowed excite­ment, Headmaster sent the mes­sen­ger to the capi­tol so he could hur­ry the President to come and jubi­late at our tribute.

It has been a long time now since our mes­sen­ger rode away. In his place the tele­vi­sion told sto­ries of bad things hap­pen­ing in the capi­tol, and now Headmaster has too much wor­ry to unlock his bar. Many times when we walked past or tried to make the goat give milk, we pic­tured the President stand­ing in his car and promis­ing to the sta­di­um that the coup by his wife was over­come, also that plen­ti­ful guards keep her in a cell. We filled up with that hope because if in the real she is the new leader, she is very ugly.


Lynn Bey has had short sto­ries and flash fic­tion pub­lished in The Literarian (nom­i­nat­ed for a Pushcart award), The Binnacle (nom­i­nat­ed for a Pushcart award and joint win­ner of the Eleventh Annual Ultra-Short Competition), Digital Americana, Scribble Magazine, The Brooklyner, Birmingham Arts Journal, and oth­er magazines.