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The Short Form

“Hailstones on Zamfara”

Sefi Atta


I was pregnant by the end of that month. I had not been as sick as I normally was. I was sicker; sick all day. It made me thin. I was worrying about Fatima's schooling. I was running around for Junior Wife's newborn, Abu. She was refusing to touch him. She said he might as well have been born a stone. She cursed her parents who gave her to Our Husband in exchange for a dowry. She said marriage was like slavery.

“But you're a miserable one,” I told her. Everyone was quick to compare themselves to slaves. What slave had the power to tell Our Husband to let her sleep separately? I had to fake typhoid so that he would not come to me at night. My temperatures were easy; I was making his morning teas again. My nausea was convenient.

Junior Wife told me one evening, “You're hiding something from me. You seem one way while you are the other. You say one thing and mean the other. Our Husband says you do this to drive people to madness.” Her eyes were red, not from crying but from lack of sleep.

“Have you fed your son?” I asked.

“See?” she said. “You're doing it again.”

“Your son needs to be fed,” I said, sharply. Doing what?

“My son is like you,” she said. “A snake hidden in the grass. He does not cry, so that I will worry about him. That is why I no longer sleep at night.”

We read it in News from Home.