UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
UCHE PETER UMEZ
The Sounds & Smells of Night
Most nights your sleep is cut short. Cut short by the sounds. Someone always groans,
moans, coughs, pants; something always shrieks, creaks, flops, plops. Cut short by
the smells, too.
Father smells of saw dust, wood shavings, and native gin whenever he returns from
the Timber Market. Mother oozes with cod or mackerel after a long grueling day in
Night habitually brings the vinegary odour of human sweat and fluids when father's
heavily built limbs crush against the willowy waist of Mother.
The nightly bed quaking has been going on close to three months. As you think about
it a nameless feeling roils inside you, constricting the lower part of your abdomen.
You believe a cruel hand is squeezing your intestines. Sometimes, the feeling foams
up your throat. You feel like vomiting. You barely realize that this feeling is akin
This nightly bed quaking doesn't last more than an hour or two. Yet, you presume it
spans forever. And strangely the sounds of it would linger, never fading, in your
head after dawn must have broken forth.
Night allows you to draw images of Father's broad chest heaving against
Mother's breasts while her bony face is pressed hard against his pillar of a neck in
your head. The darkness fertilizes your mind with such rich fancies. Sometimes,
while the quaking goes on you dip your hands into your pants, and stroke, your mouth
stretched to elastic ‘W’, stroke till you feel your penis turn stiff, hot liquid
stick to your fingers, which you then wipe on your sleeping wrapper.
You have watched a couple of films, where white men and women make out. You begin to
wonder if Father's face is gelid, or rocky, or wrinkly, or cheery, or stretchy, or
just bored and sapped. But you know for sure that an agonized look will create ruts
in the brow of Mother as she tries with what little strength left in her body to
move in sync with Father's wheeling waist. You wish she was bold enough to defy his
"Please, I'm tired…the pain in my waist…" Mother groans.
"I will love you well and you will feel no pain,” Father huffs. ”You will see."
You squeeze your eyes tight, darkness filling your head. You are just 13, and you
wish you were old enough to shush them.
The sounds cannot be barred. Now someone is oo-ooo-ooh-oo-ing; another sound
soon goes ha-ha-um-um-ha-ing, then –
Someone's breaks wind –
Father must have let out that disgusting sound and the room smells like rotting
You feel like hurling spit towards the bed. Hurling him out of the dingy room.
"Sorry," Mother apologizes. And you know for sure that the fart issued from her anus.
You want to splinter the ceiling with a scream. With a soft hiss you turn on your
side, as if embarrassed, defeated, drenched in sweat, hating the deprivation that
life has caged you in.
Uche Peter Umez is a winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Short Story Competition, and
his poems and stories have been published on-line and in print. He is the author
of Dark through the Delta (poems), Tears in her Eyes (short stories) and Aridity
of Feelings (poems).
© 2007 Underground Voices