“SHO FE JE ashewo?! Eh? You wanna end up a prostitute? Ah, Omo de yi, ko kin gboro! You’re a disgrace! Sho gbo mi? You hear me!? A disgrace! (Hissing)0 ru igi oyin!” You should be embarrassed! Skipping class?! Vandalism!? You think you are going to bring shame on me and your papa?
Running around pelu those losers like you have no sense.
Have you no sense? Have some pride! It is my fault for allowing you to have such an easy life; a maid to clean up after you, no struggles to speak of. You’ve had no responsibilities. But I hear you now, omo de. From now on you will do the maid’s work, and she will be paid to see to it you do. And you will still complete your studies and excel. Sho gbo?! You hear me!? By the time you are done each day your arms will be too tired to deface property, your legs too tired to skip!”
Her mother’s almost musical application of vernacular moved rapid fire in between the cracks of the cane landing on her hands so that Grace Ife, as she would one day be known, whose cries came in rhythmic response to each lashing, had the odd understanding of what it meant to be a talking drum in the band at the parties she attended with her parents as a child. “Obinrin o ti ri aye li le! Mase sege si e lara!”
And her mother was true to her words that day, for Grace had never received a beating so thorough, until her father arrived later that evening, and having learned from her mother that she had been caught cutting class (exposed when Officer Babawale found her trazing the side of a condemned building earlier that afternoon) proceeded to lay into her with a series of insults so punishing, he needed not lift a finger.
And so the cane of his voice went, Wai-Wai-Wai-Wa punctuated by the neighboring tone of her wails. If there were any musicians worth their salt living in the adugbo who happened to be present during that interval, fortune had clearly favored them with so many great opportunities for inspiration, or, if they were shameless enough to press record, free instrumentals for their next set (they did not even have to open their doors). Grace suffered greater injury from the internal humiliation brought on by her father’s harsh words, for there was nothing more viperous than the tongue lashing of an angry Yoruba parent in Yoruba. Her greatest regret besides the trouble she was in was she hadn’t been able to somehow prevent the news from arriving until both Mama and Papa were home at the same time. Oh well.
As she washed the dishes and turned the house upside down, jolting all clutter and dirt from the corners in which they’d grown comfortable, her aches didn’t throb so much as knock, demanding to know when sleep was imminent, a query that would undoubtedly never make it to her parents. She completed her last homework assignment in time to shower and dress for school, and was more awake and alert in class than if she’d slept a full night. She was of the notion however, that her outer shell had disappeared-perhaps abandoning her to continue polishing the cabinets in the kitchen-and that she was a glorious apparition, unburdened of rude things like physical discomfort. As she received the results from her calculus exam, she barely acknowledged the instructor who muttered “Iranu. Nonsense … what a waste,” as he sent another green check mark to her panel:
The ire of her parents and teachers was justified. Grace knew this. She was quite easily the brightest of her peers which was almost miraculous, considering many of Nigeria’s most luminous, most privileged-the one percent of the one percent-attended Gregory’s College.
JOSEPH OLUMIDE ADEGBOYEGA-EDUN was born in Lagos, the then-capital city of Nigeria. A great-grandson of the First-Secretary of the Egba United Government, he was brought to the United States at age two when his parents came to study. Increasing corruption in the Nigerian government followed by the return of military rule thwarted their plans to move back and America became home. They set roots in Brooklyn, New York, a vibrant environment colored with graffiti and steeped in elements of hip-hop that left an indelible mark on the future author’s consciousness.
The cultural influences and experiences of his homeland and the city of his early youth have been a strong source of creative inspiration for the author. Trazer: Kids of Stolen Tomorrow is his debut novel, and the first entry in the Trazer Series. When not writing, Joe enjoys working on other projects with his creative partners LenStorm, 7Woundz and Soundz, and exploring the breathtaking wilderness of the Chesapeake.