LP: Dancing Time by the Funkees
2012 Soundway Records SNDWLP 039
Favorite Track: Akula Owu Onyeara
Yarl departed the night train at the Kano Station and pushed through the 3rd shift crowd somberly walking toward the work trains. He was surrounded by faces–dirty faces, exhausted faces, faces with too many teeth, faces obscured by CleanAir masks–but not the right face, the beautiful face of Thizzie. Every face made a wall around Yarl, another dead end in the maze. If Oke was still alive by the time Yarl returned home, he would have to ask his father how he navigated his life. Every time Yarl thought he turned right, he found a new, more complex passageway in front of him. So far, no minotaurs however.
Thizzie was not at home. The Nigerian Afrobeat record was still in its sleeve on the shelf. A cold fear washed over him. Where could she be? Did he drive her to Enyina? No, he decided, he was wrong to be suspicious of her friend. Maybe she was right about his mother, Koma. Maybe she was trying to poison him against her? Yarl slammed the door on the way out, adjusting a CleanAir mask over his face.
He ran over to Sorrel’s apartment. Maybe she would know Thizzie’s location. Lights were on in most of the apartments despite the late hour of the night. Two empty police cruisers were parked by the entrance. Yarl scanned the streets noticing the shadows seemed darker and more ominous than ever before. Even the trash cans held a dangerous presence. Perhaps if he lifted the lid he would find a dead…
The scream proceeded the arms grasping him, but he had no time to react. A body had barreled into him, pinning his arms to his side, tears or snot dripping along the line of his neck. The waft of almonds and vanilla told him who it was.
“I’m sorry,” he said but was hushed.
“We need to leave now. He’s here.”
Thizzie pulled him across the street causing a taxi to brake suddenly with angry honks. On this side of the street, all the businesses were dark but a coffeehouse that was closing down. Thizzie told the barista to call the cops but the man said the cops were already here. He pointed at Sorrel’s apartment complex. Thizzie became hysterical, her arms knocking chairs over. Before Yarl could figure out what was going on, another voice made everyone silent.
“Where is my money?”
A bleeding, dangerous man stood in the doorway. His CleanAir mask was askew, wild hair ran over his eyes and scarred cheeks. In his large hands was a pistol aimed at Thizzie, an impossible long index finger bent to fit inside the tiny trigger guard. Mats of fur were embedded in his shoes.
“Who is this?” the barista asked before a bullet ended the syllables in his throat. Yarl screamed as the body fell behind the counter, a fan-shaped spray of blood on the back wall.
“I’m with the Mafia. And I was here to collect my loan, but this has become much, much more personal.”
The man shuffled two steps forward but then his leg twitched from a spasm. Thizzie looked at Yarl with tears in her eyes. Slowly, Yarl began to understand what had happened. The money she saved. How they were still able to visit his parents. What Koma insinuated. Yarl couldn’t help but let his facial features fall. He remembered the first time he met her. All the times she had forgiven him. Her laugh. Her touch. That damn Afrobeat records and the electric fuzz guitar pounding away next to the heavy drums.
The maze finally had come to an end.
“How much do we owe you?” Yarl asked.
The man shuffled forward again so he was just out of range from Yarl.
“I said this was personal now. Give me the girl and I’ll give you a quick death.”
“Aren’t you suppose to offer me my life?”
“I specialize in pain. Death would be life.”
“Death is the final word.”
Yarl sprang forward. Not fast enough. The bullet ripped through his right shoulder, throwing him off balance but not enough for him to crash into the man. The gun hit the floor and spun away. Yarl attempted to position himself so he could use his left arm, but the other man was faster, more used to these types of situations. He drove his finger into the bullet hole in Yarl’s shoulder. His other hand ripped out the bezel gauge in his ear. Yarl’s back arced before he passed out.
When the gun fired, Thizzie’s eye sight went dark. She never could quite recall exactly what she did. She thought she had watched Yarl be shot, she thought she heard the gun but remembered the knife. The man had left it in his leg. When they hit the floor in a huddle, she found herself with it in her hands, blade pointed down. She thought she stabbed one time. There was little left of the man’s face to prove his identity. The only image she could repeat to her therapist, to Yarl, to her parents, was that as she stabbed him, she believed he was made of cat fur, that it floated up into the air as she pulled out the knife and gently wafted back down to the street to form a strange asymmetrical pattern around his body.
Oke had died. Yarl went home to say a prayer over the body before it was pushed out into the atmosphere. Then he returned to find Thizzie listening to the Afrobeat record. The last song on Side D was playing, but Thizzie wasn’t dancing.
“What’s a matter, Thizzie?” Yarl asked as he placed his coat on the rack. He embraced her, standing next to her with a bit on anxiety tickling his nerves. She hadn’t slept well in the last three months.
“It’s gone. The magic of the album is lost.”
Yarl sighed, “A lot of magic has disappeared from this world in the last few months. That is the nature of magic. To vanish.”
Thizzie looked up into his face with a wry look, “Are you going to suggest that the magic will come back? I believe you used that line on me before…”
Yarl smiled, “I did. And it did.”
It was sultry that Nigerian night, like most nights around this time, and the stars were the brightest they had been since the environment collapsed.