“The Kelewele Seller” by Karen Okundayor Bright-Davies.

When her eyelids parted, she wasn’t even sure she had really opened her eyes. Lying still, all she could see was a disturbing pitch black. Slowly, her tiny hands registered feeling. Then her back. Then her buttocks and legs. She felt folds of cloth beneath her, but the surface underneath the cloth was hard and rough. She was lying in a warm, funny-smelling liquid; the cloth had done a poor job of soaking it up and it was all over her legs and thighs. Confused, she sat up sharply and in panic. Her eyes tried to focus and adjust to the darkness but the best they could identify were oddly shaped silhouettes randomly moving about.

It wasn’t too silent, there were voices. Some extremely loud, some faint, none she could recognize. They made odd sounds, nothing she could understand, and they seemed to come at her from all directions. There were footsteps pitter-pattering non-stop in odd rhythms around her. Her sharp ears picked up one particular set, its consistent pattern began faintly and seemed to get louder and louder; they were approaching steadily in her direction. She opened her mouth to scream, but her throat felt like there was a marble stuck at the tip, blocking whatever sound wanted to push its way out. She tried to get up but her legs wouldn’t obey her. She rolled over onto her stomach, lifted herself on all fours, and began to crawl as fast as she could. In what direction, she didn’t know. All she wanted to do was scramble away, fast.

Before she could get far, large coarse hands grabbed her middle from behind. Her eyes widened to the size of fists as she watched the ground move further and further away from her. She flailed her arms and legs wildly, thrashing as hard as she could. The scream lodged in her throat pushed its way upward, but the marble wouldn’t budge. It hurt. Water filled her eyes but not a tear dropped. The blurry world began to turn slowly…no, she was the one being turned by the hands. In a split second adrenalin hit the ceiling, the marble popped out of her throat, the tears in her eyes had reached the brim and the first of them was about to drop. Before she realized it, she was face to face with … a face.

“Ei my child, where are you running off to?” the night kelewele seller exclaimed. She picked up her baby from under her display table. Spread upon the table were strips of cardboard boxes carrying the deliciously spicy fried plantain. Two kerosene lamps stood by.  “Oh! And you have urinated on yourself too!”

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33 thoughts on ““The Kelewele Seller” by Karen Okundayor Bright-Davies.

  1. 🙂 Lovely read.
    Even though at a point in the story I guessed it was a child I think your writing was splendid.The suspense was on point.

    What intrigued me most was how various parts of the child’s body registered (emphasis on the word “registered”) her state of awakeness.Something to think about…Is there a word for that? I really hope there is 🙂

    Great read.

    • theliterarycritic says:

      I think the writer wanted us to know it was a child right from the beginning. I like your theory of awareness though….

  2. theliterarycritic says:

    Great piece! Very good imagery. I like how you’re so in control of the story and keep the reader exactly where you want him/her right to the very end. You subtly let us know who the subject is, a child, but only let us know what exactly is happening, which is what everyone really wants to know, at the end, so we remain hooked until we’re done with the piece. Your use of the third person narrative was so adept. Even though you narrated the story from your perspective, we still got it through the eyes of the persona. This is critical in this piece because it would be almost impossible for a baby to think such deep thoughts or have and express such an “awareness” of herself (borrowed from O’Zion). You managed to do that for her yet somehow make us feel like you were inside her head. Very impressive.

  3. thelma opoku adomako says:

    wow! beautiful story! imagery, suspense, mood, all had the right timing. great work Bright-Davies. keep it up!

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