Parker Street by Abuchi Modilim

Parker Street

The news circulating in Ogbe Okpa was about the slim tall oyibo man with a long face and hair who rented a shack and moved in two days ago. At every corner of the road, people talked about him.

“This man is hiding himself. I swear that he is very rich.”

“Listen, original white people don’t live in a wooden house.”

“Oyibo is oyibo. Where they live does not matter.”

We had not seen an oyibo in real life before now, and had never imagined that the first oyibo we would ever see would live among us. My name is Parker, he had told the fathers at Madam Highest Buka where he ate pepper soup like every other person who had been eating it. When they asked him where he was from and what he did for a living, “I am from America, a journalist, in Nigeria for a course,” he answered, and would later take pictures of some fathers with the camera he carried around in a leather bag.

Exactly four days after Parker moved into Ogbe Okpa, military men came in two old white Peugeot 504s and announced that Ogbe Okpa had been chosen for the governor’s Industrial Agenda and would be demolished. They said that the visit was to notify us to start parking early, that their next visit in one month would be to demolish everything.

The fathers begged Parker to write to the governor to give them an extra two months to find another place, that he would listen to him since he was a foreigner. Parker said that it was against his mission in the country but he could help them to migrate to America with their family if they could pay a small amount of money for visas. They welcomed his suggestion and thanked him.

The fathers sold their valuable properties – bicycle, Yamaha machine, radio, and television – and added the money to the money they had been saving all their lives and gave it to Parker for visas. The mothers started taking food to Parker after cooking, and girls visited his shack regularly.

The day Parker was leaving for America, he dropped his telephone number with the fathers and promised to come back in two weeks with our visas. We sang and danced and praised him, and cursed our land.

Parker did not come back in two weeks as he promised. The number he dropped with the fathers was not correct. Many fathers started leaving with their families since the arrival of the military men was near. One month passed, the military men did not return to demolish Ogbe Okpa. One year passed, Parker and the military men were nowhere in sight. The fathers who did not leave with their family renamed Ogbe Okpa to Parker Street, to remind the coming generations that an oyibo man called Parker once lived here, who left with their money to collect our visas and had not, or did return. But until he does, when we see an airplane in the white lumps of the moving sky, we stop whatever we are doing and run after it screaming – Parker stop here. Parker come it is here. Parker stop and take us to America. Parker throw our visas. Parker throw money – until our voices fade with the noise of the airplane.

Abuchi Modilim is an Igbo-born storyteller and playwright. His writing has appeared in No Tokens Journal, Kalahari Review, Abandon Journal, and is forthcoming in Samjoko Magazine, the State University of New York Praxis: Journal of Gender and Cultural Critiques, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for Best Small Fictions. He is the curator of Enyo: An Anthology of Contemporary African Plays, and the winner of the 2021 Arojah Students Playwriting Prize for his play In Saint Mulumba. Currently, he is studying English and Literary Studies with a minor in Theatre and Film Studies, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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Art: Paul Klee Public Domain

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