Lights come up slowly on MONA, a middle-aged woman wearing her nightgown. Sprawled next to her on the living room sofa are a 16-year-old child, GIRL 1, and a 14-year-old child, GIRL 2. On the carpet in front of them, a 12-year-old child, BOY 1 plays with an action figure.
GIRL 1: There’s still no light. When will they fix the power and what are we supposed to do today?
MONA: The electrician is coming. You know what would be fun in the meantime? We could talk about drinks.
BOY 1: This is already boring.
GIRL 2: It’s obvious you need an idea for your next column. Why not admit it? It’s sad to trick a bunch of kids into doing your work for you.
MONA: Fine, I need suggestions.
BOY 1 [eyes widening]: I have a great idea. What if you write about that time you wore a gown to a college dinner at Oxford and then the straps fell into the toilet when you went to the bathroom?
MONA [slowly]: I don’t see what that has to do with drinks.
BOY 1: Nothing. I just thought it was sad. You know, because scholars aren’t supposed to pee on their clothes.
MONA [shaking head]: I refuse to tell stories that cast me in a bad light.
[A long pause.]
GIRL 2: There are so many stories you could tell, Mama. This column writes itself.
MONA: Really? Like what?
GIRL 2: Write about that time in December you went to the beach with those ladies and you drank wine all day in the hot son and you came home and you were acting so—
MONA: [holds up hand] Please stop. I have to live in Lagos. My husband is a respectable man. Some stories are best left untold.
GIRL 1: Well, how about that time you drank two large lassis at the Indian restaurant and nearly pooped in your—
MONA: Stop! I don’t want to remember that day either. I think I consumed the equivalent of two cartons of yogurt. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was so sick.
GIRL 2: Didn’t that happen when you got a coffee at that one Lagos coffee shop that went out of business? Both times you had coffee there, you nearly crapped your pants.
MONA [mumbles]: That was someone else.
BOY 1: No, it was you. You told us you left a full shopping cart in the middle of Ebeano, so you could race home to the toilet.
GIRL 1: Tell the story about when we started secondary school and you were drinking club soda and belching in the school shop and how embarrassed we were that you were ruining our reputation before the first day.
BOY 1: Oh, I know! You could talk about the time I asked you to buy me milk and you got me a jug of cream by accident.
MONA: That story makes me seem like a bad mother, but you loved that cream! Plus, it wasn’t my fault. The label on the bottle wasn’t in English.
GIRL 2: What about when we moved to Nigeria and you kept bragging that palm wine was going to be your new favourite drink, then the first time you had it, the smell was so vinegary that you couldn’t drink any? You looked like you were going to cry when you sniffed it. It was so funny.
MONA: This is a conspiracy. All these stories make me look like an idiot. I will take away everything you love if you don’t give me some stories where I look heroic.
BOY 1: Um, talk about the time you woke up and had coffee in the morning? I don’t know.
GIRL 1: Or, uh, the time you had tea in the afternoon and it was really nice tea, and you said, I sure like this tea. It’s refreshing. I want more tea.
GIRL 2: What about the time you drank water out of a water bottle? It hydrated you?
MONA (sighs): Why is it so easy to come up with bad stories about drinks and so difficult to think of good ones?
GIRL 2: Why would we remember drinks when they go right? Most drinks aren’t memorable. People drink things all day every day. It’s just a part of life.
GIRL 1: Yeah, it’s when it’s funny or strange that we remember them.
[MONA PUTS HER HEAD IN HER HANDS]
BOY 1: Don’t worry, Mama. No one has to know all your weird drink stories.
GIRL 2: Unless you get truly desperate for something to write about.
MONA (laughing): That would never, ever, ever happen.
[MONA, GIRL 1, GIRL 2 and BOY 1 laugh.]
Mona Zutshi Opubor is an Indian-American and Nigerian short story author and memoirist. She is studying for her MSt in Literature and Arts at the University of Oxford.
Follow her on Instagram @mopals5
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