Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)
TITLE: All in a day's work
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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“You don’t seem to realize this story has a deadline.” My editor barked at me and for a moment, I wanted to disappear like smoke. I didn’t do that. Instead, I stared him boldly in the eye and told him what I knew he knew but was unwilling to accept.
“The deadline is unreasonable.”
He sighed heavily, shook his large head as if to clear it of worrisome thoughts and handed me my file. “Reasonable or not, I want to see the first draft by Tuesday.”
I wanted to argue then realized I’d just been given an order. So, I turned and began the long trek back to the newsroom.
At the close of work, I’d hardly made a dent in my workload. I’d yakked on phone all day, scheduling interviews, and I’d waded in a sea of cuttings hoping to find background information.
Knowing it would be another gruesome workday tomorrow, I wished the security man a goodnight and stepped into the brisk wind. I knew a lot of colleagues envied me, but what was there to envy? Agreed, I’d won best reporter three years running but did they know what my job was costing me?
At past seven, I turned into the crèche. Work policy allowed me close two hours earlier than normal since I was a nursing mum, but what was two hours in a job that had no regular hours?
“You should quit.” My husband had told me only last month when I fell asleep at the kitchen table and burnt dinner. I would but how would we survive? He was between jobs and earned less than a quarter of what I did, and with the added expenses of the new baby…
Besides that, I was good at what I did.
Kike, my eight-month-old baby was running a temperature. Nothing serious – just the usual teething problems, but she would need baby Paracetamol and close monitoring over the night.
Some minutes to eight, I drove up our driveway. The house was dark, so Jaiye was obviously not back.
“Long hours…inhuman pay.” I muttered, reaching for Kike who was gorging on a soft toy. “Come on sweetie. Mommee has to make dinner and try to work a bit before daddy comes back.”
Setting rice to a slow boil on the cooker, I headed for the bathroom. Kike didn’t want to be bathed. She didn’t want to be let down either. Clinging to me as I dusted and cooked, I couldn’t help but sigh in frustration.
I wanted to bathe and she wouldn’t let me.
“Sweetie, mommee needs to bathe. Be a good girl and sit down quietly, okay?”
Babies are the most selfish people on earth, and Kike was a classic baby. She turned her little head away from me but held on.
Jaiye met me weeping.
At the sight of him, Kike let out a whoop and crawled towards him. Not wanting to speak, for I was afraid I’d only babble rubbish, I headed for the kitchen.
An acrid smell greeted me even as thin wisps of smoke rose from the burning pot. I would have to start dinner all over.
Fatigue was seeping into my bones now and it was tempting to give in to it, but what about the other things I needed to get done?
Like my writing. I’d vowed to write a scene each day. Now, when I succeed in writing two scenes a week, I praise myself and had a solo party.
Like praying. I wanted to be close to God. My prayer life had been reduced to a quick “thank you Jesus” in the shower every morning.
The proverbs 31 woman had it all together. She cooked, cleaned, ran a business, bought fields. Why couldn’t I?
Somehow arriving at the decision to toast bread and not cook rice again, I brought out the ingredients. I was in the process of slicing the bananas when I heard the phone ring. I heard Jaiye pick it and returned to my business.
He was soon standing in the doorway.
“It’s your sister. She sounds really hysterical and wants to talk to you.”
For the next twenty minutes, I listened to Funmi curse her ex-boyfriend, then gently cut her short.
After all, there was still dinner to be cooked, Kike to be bathed, books to be written, prayer to be prayed…and perhaps Jaiye would want some TLC tonight.
I sighed. A woman’s work, they say, is never done.
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