“Brown Boy” By Osahon Ize-Iyamu


Jimi took a deep breath and smiled, letting all the muscles knotted in his back relax. He reached for his spoon and took in the delicious fried rice, savouring each taste as he let the flavours swim in his mouth before resting on his tongue. He lit a lavender scented candle and let out a huge sigh.

When he was done eating, he cracked the bones and sucked out the red marrow from the chicken. He licked the plate and sucked all the juices from his fingers. He unbuckled his trousers and let his potbelly sag.

It was midnight. A Friday night. If he opened his phone he would see messages of his friends inviting him out, texting the address of a party nearby. But where was the money?

He dropped his plate in the sink and went back to his favorite chair—the puffy brown one in the middle of the sitting room—and grabbed the remote, looking through all the recordings, settling on whether to commit to a show or movie, maybe even a novel. He hadn’t even considered that option.

The urge to pee came out of nowhere and he rushed into the bathroom, trying to pull down the trousers. He scanned the walls and laughed in relief before turning to the toilet to start peeing.

Something crawled past him and all the hairs on his body stood up. He felt the first set of goosebumps rise on his skin. He held his breath, turning around, his urine dripping to the floor. He stared straight at it: its long, smooth brown body and antennas that stretched out; the hairy legs that poked out from the sides of its body that scurried along the floors.

A cockroach!

He screamed and ran out as fast he could, trying to raise his trousers up at the same time. He almost tripped. He slammed the door against him and leaned on it, panting. His heart beat heavily and tried to break out of his skin. His eyes were wide and he looked down at his trousers, wet from piss.

He looked both ways, unsure, before rushing into the kitchen and raiding the cupboards. He rummaged through all the things and cursed loudly with each drawer he closed. Why was it that you could never find something when you really needed it?

He spotted what he was looking for in the cupboard under the sink and shouted happily, thanking God. He loved the sleek, red can and the wonderful acidic lemon odour of the bug spray. He loved watching the cockroaches die, with their backs turned over, their legs flapping in the air. Helpless.

The can felt light. Why did it feel light? He shook the can and sprayed it in the air, and a dull, low hiss came out. His eyes widened. The useless thing had finished! He paced around the room and stopped to look at his phone, grabbing it and turning it on. He dialed a number.

“Zuma Zuma! Zuma Rock! How you dey?” Zuma did not reply. There was silence on the line.

“Eh… please you will come to my house and help me kill this cockroach?”

“Fool. You don’t have shame. It’s small cockroach that you are calling me? How much do you even owe me?”

Jimi hissed and Zuma cut the call. He threw the phone across the room and bit his nails. He swore loudly and went to pick up his phone, looked at the screen and saw a small crack. He put his hands on his head, already giving up. He opened the door to the bathroom again and poked his head through the crack and saw the cockroach on the wall.

Taking small steps, he entered the room again and looked at the insect. He moaned; it was an adult, not even a nymph. He could kill nymphs with his slippers, but not adults. Allowing himself to get a little bit closer, he inspected the roach, sure it was looking back at him—the useless thing, the reincarnation of evil.

He puffed out his chest and held up his shoe. It was just a cockroach, after all. He was the evolved species; the thing was more scared of him than he was of it.

The insect spread out his wings and flew across to the other side of the room. He ducked and fled, almost knocking the door off its hinges, calling on God for help. He didn’t understand how he would sleep this night, knowing that the thing was moving about. It was an adult, so there could be eggs everywhere. Eggs!

The cockroach just came to torment his life. He had been so happy before, lounging and enjoying himself, ready to stay up all night, full of possibilities. He slumped on his chair and looked to the bathroom again, rolling his eyes. He wasn’t sure how he could be such a baby.

Jimi thought about it. The best course of action would be to use his shoe and kill it, or maybe a broom, but he didn’t want to see the weird pus everywhere. That would complicate things; having to sweep the body away was enough torture, but also having to use the mop to wipe the gooey mess made his skin crawl.

Bile rose up his throat but he swallowed it. Why was this happening to him? He hadn’t even done anything wrong. His house was clean, spick and span, so much so that he could eat off the floor. Cockroaches were only supposed to be in dirty homes!

He had even done the extra work of arranging his rooms in a way that there would be no hidden spots for any of them. He sprayed the whole house every day before going to work. He was the last person in the world who deserved such a cruel fate.

He heard a sound from the bathroom and threw his legs up on the chair, wary of the floor. There could be another one. Oh my goodness, two cockroaches on the same day? At the same time? He wouldn’t even hesitate to pack up his things and move out.

Jimi concluded that the cockroach could only have been from his neighbour’s house. He had never gone to visit any of them, but now he was sure they were filthy. No, no, this evil beast could not be a permanent resident in his house.

He continued flipping through the channels, occasionally looking back, hoping nothing had changed. He settled on a movie, but he was unsettled and his mind stirred, unfocused. At every small sound, he jumped up, almost running towards the door.

This is no way to live. He wished he was somewhere, anywhere else. It would have been better if he had never discovered it. But, what if he had never seen it and it quietly multiplied? He rejected the thought. His enemies had surely planned for him this night. His eyes grew heavy and his mind faded, falling asleep.

In the morning, he jumped up to the sound of the alarm on his phone, another demon in his life. He turned it off and wiped the sleep from his eyes, unconsciously walking towards the bathroom. He stopped himself and took a step back, reaching for his phone. He dialed another number.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Mr. Ogbo, good morning. It’s me, Mr. Idiosa.”

“Ah, my favorite customer!” Jimi bit his lip, holding back a very terrible insult.

“Yeah, it’s like you will come and spray the house again.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Please as early as possible, eh?”

“Yes, sir!”

He sighed and rubbed his eyes. Jimi went into his bedroom and took out the clothes he’d ironed the night before. Dressed for the day, he checked his breath, grimaced then popped a handful of mints. He sniffed his armpits then reached for a lime in the fridge, slicing it into two and squeezing out the juice on to his hands, he rubbed the juice around his armpits.

Jimi nodded at his reflection then opened the front door. He entered into his car, a polished old station wagon past its prime, and put it in gear. When he checked his side mirrors, something zipped past, almost a blur. He paused, brows furrowing in confusion. What it could be? Whatever it was, it was the exterminator’s problem now.

He drove out of his house as fast as possible and went to work.


Osahon Ize-Iyamu lives in Nigeria, where he writes speculative fiction. He has work published in Clarkesworld, and The Dark, and is a graduate of the 2017 Alpha Writers Workshop.