For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“Modern Girls”

Teju Cole


‘Is Atinuke Oyewole here?’ Mrs Allardyce hadn’t been back to Scotland for thirty years, but she was no better at pronouncing Yoruba names than when she’d first arrived in Africa. Tinu raised her hand. She was one of the richest girls in school: her father was a magistrate who had been posted to the North. She often told us that he would be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria one day, and when she said it, it wasn’t anything like a boast. It was a simple fact. Mrs Allardyce spoke from the front of the class. ‘I’m so sorry, Atinuke, but a telegram has just come in. Your brother Alade was killed in action near Benin City. So sorry about it.’ Tinu, as gentle a soul as existed among us, got up from her seat silently, walked to the front of the class. She drove her head with tremendous force straight at Mrs Allardyce’s chest. The old lady let out a cry as she crumpled to the ground. Mr Abosede, our Geography teacher, at first sprang back in astonishment, before coming to his senses and grabbing hold of the now enraged Tinu. He held her arms back, with some difficulty, as she hovered over Mrs Allardyce. Tinu screamed, ‘What did you say to me? What did you say to me?’ We watched, struck dumb, intoxicated at this sudden excitement. Mrs Allardyce staggered to her feet, gathering her pleats about her, and fled the room, calling back at us, ‘Remain calm, girls, remain calm.’ Tinu, struggling against Mr Abosede’s grip, had every intention of giving chase.

We read it in Island: 133.

Full story online.