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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Baby Trouble by Sally Sadie Singhateh

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By Dr Cherno Omar Barry,
President of Writers Association of The Gambia

The E.A.E.P. Secondary Readers Series has been deliberately developed to meet the supplementary reading needs of students in Lower Secondary School. Students are encouraged to read repeatedly and widely the books in the series to the advancement of both their written and spoken English. Emphasis should at this stage be placed on reading for enjoyment. An elaborate study of the text is not necessary, although teachers of English will find the books suitable for class readers. These readers should provide the groundwork for a more elaborate study of literature in later classes.

For Jogob, trouble begins when Mr Ousman Ndow kidnaps her and forces her to live with him and his baby, Mam. Mr Ndow mistreats Jogob at every turn and will not listen to her when she swears that she is not the mother of his baby. In her attempt to run away from the abusive life in Mr Ndow’s house, she discovers a lot about Mr Ndow’s past and her own. The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is her life are eventually brought together in a very captivating way.

Author

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Sally Sadie Singhateh was born in 1977 and wrote her first full-length work when she was 16. She has since published one children’s book and three novels, the latest of which is called Baby Trouble (2006, East African Educational Publishers, Nairobi, Kenya). Her poetry won her an International Poetry Award of Merit in 1995. Her other books are Christie’s Crises and The Sun Will Soon Shine. She has many unpublished short stories.

Sally, who has a background in communication, international relations and literature with focus on creative writing, worked with The Foundation for Research on Women’s Health, Productivity and the Environment (BAFROW) and also UNICEF as a communications officer.

When she is not busy writing, she enjoys settling down in a quiet spot with a good book. Otherwise, she draws, creates crosswords and logic puzzles, watches movies, or spends time with her family and friends.

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Sally currently lives in the Gambia with her family.

Excerpt

“She didn’t show up,” Rupert fumed angrily. A little more disappointed than angry though. “She didn’t come.”

“Hey, calm down,” Christy said softly. It was Friday evening and both she and Rupert were over at Tijan’s house. They had been expecting Jogob at 4:30 pm. And it was just turning 6:30 pm. Christy didn’t quite understand why Jogob didn’t show up. After all she had been very excited about meeting Rupert.

“Look Pert,” Tijan said. “Maybe she forgot.”

But Christy didn’t think so. Jogob had acted very strangely that morning at work. She had broken three plates, two tea cups and two dishes. Not only that, she had also spilled a large cup of apple juice on a high school girl. And she had spilt two orders before reaching their tables.

Nanadita had been very angry but she didn’t give Jogob the sack, which Christy was grateful for because it seemed that she liked the job. Christy had also tried to talk to her twice but Jogob had looked blank. It was as if she were a wall of brick.

“Rupert, I think Jogob has a problem,” Christy stated.

“Yeah, she heard that I wanted to see her, and so she pretended that something came up right?” Rupert retorted hotly.

“No,” Christy shook her head. “No, I think it started long before you came. I wish I could help her but she won’t tell me what is bothering her.”

“Maybe she’s too upset about it,” Tijan volunteered.

Rupert sighed. “I guess I over-reacted. I’d better take a walk to clear my head. Okay?”

Christy felt a sense of deja vu. It seemed as if exactly this moment had happened before.

“Okay,” she replied watching Rupert already disappearing.

“Christy, I don’t know. But it seems that you always get entangled in some sort of…well mystery. You are always mixed up in other people’s affairs,” Tijan said softly.

Christy turned around slowly and looked at him sharply.

“In other words you are telling me not to help my friend right?”

“I didn’t …”

“Well what did you mean?” Christy demanded. “That I’m too nosy? Is that it?”.

“Listen to me.” Tijan’s voice rose and Christy quietened. “I didn’t mean any of that. All I meant was that maybe what Jogob is involved in is dangerous and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

ons 49 “You don’t?”

Son V mo “No. I like you a lot.” N o one

“A lot?”

“Actually very much. I’m concerned about you.”

***

Jogob was sitting at the back of their house thinking about what would happen if it turned out that Rupert was not from her aunt after all. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath then opened them again, picked up her sketch pads and pencil and began to draw. bi Jogob had been a gifted artist from as far back as she could remember. She sketched and sketched while her mind wandered. She didn’t even know what she was sketching until she had finished.

She gasped at her drawing. It was that of a nice looking boy with a pair of glasses. What if Mr. Ndow sees this? He’ll kill me, she thought and frantically ripped the sketch of Sydney Martins off the book, then tore it into pieces.

Sydney had liked Jogob from the first time she started Duer High School. Sydney had asked her out several times but she always said no. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to. She was afraid Mr. Ndow might hurt him if he found out.

She did her very best to keep her address and phone number a secret so that no one would have to visit her at the miserable dump where she lived. Although Jogob found it very lonely all by herself in the house, she had no choice.

Just then she heard a sharp knock on the gate. Who can that be? she wondered, going to the door.

She opened it and got a real shock. Leana Sumareh and Sydney were standing there smiling at her. do “Hi Jogob.” Leana smiled. “We were in the neighbourhood and so we thought we would stop by.”

Jogob tried to speak but was numb all over. All sorts of wild thoughts whizzed through her mind. How did they find her house? What would Sydney think after seeing the inside of the house? He wouldn’t like her anymore. She wanted to die or at least faint right then so that she would not have to invite them in. Why not take them to the back? she thought.

“Jogob, are you okay?” Sydney asked, concerned.

She wanted to reply but words failed her. Both Sydney and Leana looked at her strangely. Then Jogob saw Sydney’s face fall. He said, “Sorry, but we’ll come some other time when you’ll be expecting us.” There was hurt in his voice as they turned to leave.

“Wait,” Jogob cried, finally finding her tongue. The others turned around. “I’m sorry, it’s just that I was so happy to see you both. I…” She trailed off, not knowing what to say. “I was just sketching at the back.”

She led them round to the back of the house and brought them each a chair while she sat on a huge log beside them.

“Nice of you to come and see me,” she said with an exaggerated smile.”

“Well, I went to my aunt’s house and as Leana was escorting me she saw a friend of hers,” Sydney said. “And during their conversation, we learnt that you live opposite her.”

“Who was that?” Jogob asked knowing too well who the person was.

“Mrs. Olay,” Leana replied licking her dry lips. Jogob realised that she hadn’t offered them anything to drink or eat. She felt a sickening feeling down in her stomach because there was nothing in the refrigerator to eat or drink except water and baby food.

“Oh yes, she lives opposite me.”

Jogob wanted to cry. What if Sydney changed his mind about her? But she forgot all about her two guests as the front door slammed shut.

“What was that?” Leana asked, wild-eyed.

“That must be my uncle,” she replied Jogob, getting up and giving her friends a nervous smile.

Suddenly there was another slam of a door and Jogob’s name was thundered repeatedly.

“He’s in his bad mood today,” she lied, and quickly went inside, not daring to look at her friends.

Mr. Ndow looked like a bull in a toreador fight when he saw Jogob

“Where the hell have you been?” he demanded.

“Some … fr … iends came to visit me,” she stammered. “They’re at the back.”

“I hope there aren’t any boys,” Mr. Ndow cautioned seriously as he went to the back. “Who the hell are you?” he roared when he saw Sydney.

Sydney looked at Leana then at Jogob, who was standing behind Mr. Ndow.

“I think Leana and I had better leave, Jogob,” he said turning to leave. But Mr. Ndow blocked his way and repeated his question. When Sydney didn’t answer, he hit him so hard that his glasses flew to the ground and broke.

“Syd!” Leana cried, going over to her cousin. “Are you okay?”

“Yes I’m fine,” Sydney said, getting up and dusting his Jeans which were now torn. “I think we’d better go,” he repeated, but Leana had already made her way to the front of the house even before Sydney completed his sentence.

Jogob watched as the boy she fancied and his cousin left. She felt tears streaming down her cheeks bitterly. There was nothing she could do but fall on her knees right where she had been standing and cry herself sore while having to listen to Mr. Ndow giving her a lecture about not inviting friends to his house.

“Oh God, what is happening to me? What will Leana say? What will Sydney think of me?”

She waited till Mr. Ndow had gone to his room before she finally went to hers. She lay on her bed unable to cry, laugh or do anything. Life meant nothing to her anymore. Surely, death must be better than this, she thought.

“It’s all your fault you ..!” she cried bitterly, wondering where Mam’s real mother was. She had put her into this mess and she was never, ever going to forgive her.

***

“She didn’t show up,” Rupert fumed angrily. A little more disappointed than angry though. “She didn’t come.”

“Hey, calm down,” Christy said softly. It was Friday evening and both she and Rupert were over at Tijan’s house. They had been expecting Jogob at 4:30 pm. And it was just turning 6:30 pm. Christy didn’t quite understand why Jogob didn’t show up. After all she had been very excited about meeting Rupert.

“Look Pert,” Tijan said. “Maybe she forgot.”

But Christy didn’t think so. Jogob had acted very strangely that morning at work. She had broken three plates, two tea cups and two dishes. Not only that, she had also spilled a large cup of apple juice on a high school girl. And she had spilt two orders before reaching their tables.

Nanadita had been very angry but she didn’t give Jogob the sack, which Christy was grateful for because it seemed that she liked the job. Christy had also tried to talk to her twice but Jogob had looked blank. It was as if she were a wall of brick.

“Rupert, I think Jogob has a problem,” Christy stated.

“Yeah, she heard that I wanted to see her, and so she pretended that something came up right?” Rupert retorted hotly.

“No,” Christy shook her head. “No, I think it started long before you came. I wish I could help her but she won’t tell me what is bothering her.”

“Maybe she’s too upset about it,” Tijan volunteered.

Rupert sighed. “I guess I over-reacted. I’d better take a walk to clear my head. Okay?”

Christy felt a sense of deja vu. It seemed as if exactly this moment had happened before.

“Okay,” she replied watching Rupert already disappearing.

“Christy, I don’t know. But it seems that you always get entangled in some sort of…well mystery. You are always mixed up in other people’s affairs,” Tijan said softly.

Christy turned around slowly and looked at him sharply.

“In other words you are telling me not to help my friend right?”

“I didn’t …”

“Well what did you mean?” Christy demanded. “That I’m too nosy? Is that it?”.

“Listen to me.” Tijan’s voice rose and Christy quietened. “I didn’t mean any of that. All I meant was that maybe what Jogob is involved in is dangerous and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“You don’t?”

“No. I like you a lot.”

“A lot?”

“Actually very much. I’m concerned about you.”

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