Hello Peeps – seven days have never been so far away but we’re back here again and I’ll like to announce that we have a surprise waiting for all of our followers at the end of today’s post – it’s our way of saying – thank you for supporting us.
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Enjoy our feature presentation.
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//Face Your Fears//
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy ~ Dale Carnegie
Daniel drove the cursor down the HOW TO ENTER section of the PEN2SCREEN Africa website and glossed through the instructions for the umpteenth time.
It seemed like just a week ago since he put in for the competition, but the banner on the homepage announcing that the shortlist would be unveiled by 21:00 CAT later that day reminded him that five weeks has since elapsed.
He smiled as he remembered the look on Stella’s face when he caught her trying to sneak in his entry for the competition. The expression was epic. It reminded him of the expression on his face the day she had walked in on him telling Bankole that guys like him don’t land girls like her.
‘One-one,’ he muttered under his breath, as his thoughts shifted from the competition to Stella, and then back to the competition again. He couldn’t seem to stop thinking about both subjects as they seemed intricately tangled.
It’s deal day.
It was the first ping he received this morning and it was Stella reminding him of the shortlist that was to be unveiled much later in the day. She seemed so sure his name would be amongst the shortlisted three and urged him to begin work on the thirteen episode serial that would be used as entry for the next stage of the competition.
He remembered when the long-list was released and how excited she had been. He could see pure joy in her eyes when he broke the news to her.
‘Just nine Nigerians on the list and you were one of them,’ she said excitedly, scanning the names on the list. ‘So tell me, how did the mail read?’ She asked.
‘It was just a normal email telling me that the long-list is out and bla bla bla,’ Daniel answered, surprised at her excitement.
‘So we wait for the top three, right? And I bet you’ll be on that list,’ she said confidently.
‘I pray so,’ Daniel breathed. It was the same response he had given on that day. He closed his eyes as his thoughts began to sketch the visage of Stella on the canvas of his mind. Her eyes, soft and beautiful like melting chocolate, pierced through to his soul with her stare. Her nose, sculptured inches to perfection, was a work of precision modeled by a master sculptor who realized that perfection in itself was a flaw. Her honeyed lips was the last piece of a beauty jigsaw puzzle that usually left him with visions of a kiss, until she parted them to let out a silvery voice, that was comparable only to the beauty of her intelligence. She was a goddess.
‘Dano!‘ Bankole hailed, as he bounced into the office with a file in his hand.
‘Wassup?‘ Daniel replied, a thin smile playing around his lips as his colleague roused him out of his sketching exercise. It was not unusual to have Bankole in such a hyper mode. Hyper was actually his default setting.
‘I saw your girlfriend just now at the car park,’ He reported as he settled into his chair, placing the file on his desk but with his eyes fixed squarely on Daniel, who returned the gaze with a questioning stare.
‘Who’s my girlfriend?’
‘Stella now, who else?’ Bankole replied, his brows arched comically.
‘And how’s that supposed to be news, seeing that she works here?’ Emmanuel who had been quiet in his corner of the office cut in.
Bankole turned swiftly in his direction, surprised at the interruption. ‘I thought you were busy working, ‘Mr. Diligent’. Infact, who called you into this matter?’ He asked, turning to Daniel for support.
‘I did,’ Daniel answered with a big smile, taunting Bankole by sticking out his tongue at him. ‘And yes, how’s that supposed to be news?’ He continued, repeating Emmanuel’s question.
Bankole grinned as he watched his colleagues double up on him. ‘Interesting. So the one that cannot toast a babe that clearly likes him, and the less privileged one whose social life is in the office with his laptop, has teamed up to attack Nigeria’s own Idris Elba? Issokay,’ he joked, dusting imaginary dirt off his left shoulder. ‘I just wanted to tell you that I saw your girlfriend in the car park with her boyfriend. They were cosied up in a Range Rover.’
‘Dundee.’ Daniel hit back as he saw Bankole’s eyes light up in delight as he delivered the news. ‘You saw my girlfriend with her boyfriend,’ he said sarcastically as Bankole erupted in laughter. Emmanuel had a broad smile on his face.
‘E pain you?’ Bankole asked, still convulsing with laughter.
The shrill sound of the intercom disrupted the conversation, as Bankole picked up the receiver. He was still chuckling as he spoke into the mouthpiece of the phone. ‘Yes he’s here,’ he said, his eyes fixed on Emmanuel. ‘Okay, I’ll tell him,’ he finished, placing the receiver back on the phone box.
‘Manager wants to see you,’ He said, beckoning to Emmanuel. ‘She said you should bring along the file on the last campaign for the BizConnect package.’
‘Okay,’ Emmanuel replied as he picked up a file that was sitting on his desk. He seemed to have been expecting the call.
Daniel turned his attention to his laptop. He had some unfinished work to attend to as he didn’t want his Manager breathing down his neck. She was a no nonsense person who always demanded a little extra. This could explain her differing attitude to Bankole, who was willing to do just enough, and Emmanuel, who didn’t mind staying back till nine pm to make sure a task is completed.
He was somewhere around the middle, floating closer to the Bankole axis than the Emmanuel end. He just knew when to be whom, to avoid his Manager’s wrath.
‘Baby, so you’re not coming out this evening because you want to be with your dreamer friend, shei?’ Ebuka asked with a calculated sulk.
Stella smiled. She had become used to Ebuka referring to Daniel as her dreamer friend ever since she disclosed to him that he had put in for a writing competition that would see the winning work adapted for TV. ‘I’m not spending the evening with him,’ she corrected, ‘I just want to be home early so I can listen to the live announcement of the shortlist.’
‘And you can’t do that in the car?’ Ebuka probed.
Stella didn’t answer the question. She planted a soft kiss on Ebuka’s lips. ‘I just want to listen to the announcement at home Eeebee,’ she cooed, flattering him with her specially coined pet name. ‘Besides you said we were going to see a movie, I can’t rush out of the cinema when it’s eight pm and you know that.’
Ebuka blinked sadly like a six year old who had just been refused his favourite chocolate bar. ‘So I watch the movie alone then?’
‘If you reschedule till tomorrow, we can do it anytime of the day, after-all its Saturday,’ Stella replied, pinching his cheeks softly. She knew his sense of loss was exaggerated, but she liked it. It made her feel very wanted but her desire to hear Daniel’s name being called out by the announcer as being amongst the shortlisted three, was worth more than just another night in the cinema. She had this gut feeling that his name being on the list was dependent on whether or not she was listening to the announcement live.
She could not afford to miss the show.
Ebuka smiled. He had sold her a lie and she had bought it. The tickets were for a night out with Gold who was a movie buff and had been angling to see The Martian, but he had to cook up a quick story after she had seen the tickets sitting pretty in the glove compartment.
‘We’ll talk later, right?’ Stella asked as she stepped out of the car. Lunch break was officially over and it was time to report back to work.
‘Sure we will,’ Ebuka replied, blowing her a kiss which she received with a smile as she sauntered towards her office block.
He watched her confident but elegant strides with a smile on his face. She was everyman’s dream woman and he was living that dream even though his version of the dream was presently sprinkled with some Gold dust.
Gold was something temporary, something that would cease to be after he got married, but right now, she was a present addiction, a drug that kept him alive for the future. Stella was that future.
Daniel curled up on the bean bag in his sitting room, his ears glued to the voice on the radio as the on air personality went through the motions of starting up the show.
I’m Olajumoke Bello and it’s nice to have you in on the show as we unveil the shortlist for the PEN2SCREEN Africa writing competition. I’m sure you’ve seen the billboards in town, you’ve heard the jingles on the electronic media -now it’s time to feel the excitement of the show.
In the next half hour I’ll be chatting with some guests about the PEN2SCREEN Africa writing competition and unveiling the names on our shortlist whose identities I’m sure is wrapped up in the three paper boxes staring at me in the studio.
(Giggles) My guests are already in the studio and they’ll be helping me out to make the unveiling a smooth process. I have with me, someone from WnP, the studio that has brought you award winning movies like Unchained, The Morning After, erm …
‘Shades of Deceit,’ a soft voice added.
Sure, Shades of Deceit -how did I miss that one? That movie left me with wet eyes…
For real, I left the cinema crying…
‘We’re sorry we made you cry,’ the soft voice apologized. A happy strain visible in her tone.
It’s still one of my favourite movies though, so like I said, WnP is in the studio and they’re ably represented by that lovely voice you just heard. They’re the organizers of the PEN2SCREEN Africa writing competition and I’m sure we’ll get an insight into what this is all about.
I also have with me in the studio another very beautiful lady, she’s from Deloitte and Touché, the auditing firm for the competition and she’ll be confirming that these boxes have not being tampered with, even though I doubt if tampering will be possible as the unveiling is taking place in seven countries at the same time and it’s a uniform shortlist.
The last but definitely not the least… He can’t be the least cos’ he’s a big fish. I literarily screamed when I saw him in the studio. He’s an ambassador for the competition and a Nobel laureate. I know many listeners already have a face to that description but I’ll let my guests introduce themselves after this musical break, it’s a Dan Baird’s ’92 classic, ‘I Love You Period’… enjoy
Daniel jerked up from the bean bag as he felt a mild shock on his rib-cage. The vibrations from his phone that he lay on stirred him up as the music played out from the speakers. He picked up the phone and was not surprised to see that the caller identity read Stella.
‘Hello,’ he said into the phone after tapping on the receive button.
‘You’re listening to the show right?’ She asked, her voice happy and sweet. ‘It’s on SMOOTH FM.’
‘Oh really? That means its syndicated cos’ I’ve been listening to it on COOL FM,’ he replied, as he tapped on the control in search of SMOOTH FM. He felt a cold chill run down his spine as he heard Wole Soyinka’s voice boom out from the loudspeakers.
‘I’m sure your name is on the shortlist,’ Stella said, reassuringly.
She had always been confident he would make the shortlist and even though he tried to play down her optimism with pretence humility, he couldn’t see any reason why ‘The Bridge’ shouldn’t be on the list.
Rainbow Gloom by Lerato Mphela from South Africa
Stella could feel her fingers shivering as the name rang into her ears from her earphones. It was the second name that had been unveiled for the night and Daniel’s name was yet to be mentioned even though the first name to have being mentioned was a Nigerian, Nnamdi Madu.
We’ll take this ’66 classic by the Beatles, Paperback Writer, and when we come back, Wole Soyinka will help us unwrap our last box on the show, we’ll be back.
Stella scrolled to her Whats-app messenger, typing as fast as her shaky fingers would allow. She couldn’t understand why she was so apprehensive, especially since it was not her name that was to be called out.
The Whats-app message had arrived at the perfect time as the suspense was getting to unbearable heights. ‘I’m relaxed’, Daniel lied in his reply. ‘This type of competition always depends on the kind of short stories the organizers are looking out for’, he continued typing as the sound of the third box being unwrapped in the studio enveloped the room from the radio.
And from our third box …erm… Okaay… This box is a bit different… But Folake from Deloitte and Touché has assured us that the content has not been tampered with and I’m a witness to that… Guess we all agree too… Right?
Daniel strained his ears for every sound coming out of the speakers even though the volume was reasonably loud. He had his hands over his mouth as he waited anxiously for the announcement.
American Returnee, by Paul Ochieng from Kenya.
‘Shit!’ Stella cursed under her breath as she heard the announcement. She was utterly dismayed that Daniel had not made the shortlist.
This type of competition always depends on the kind of short stories the organizers are looking out for. She read the Whats-app message but opted to make a call instead of replying with another message.
‘I think they were partial,’ Stella started, her voice expressing her disappointment. ‘I would like to read all these short stories to see if they are half as good as yours.’
Daniel felt drained as he listened to the sadness of her voice over the phone. ‘I’m sure they’ll be good, I should have taken more time to edit the work, but it’s all good, we gave it a good run, at least you lost the bet and I don’t have to take you to no Corporate Buka,’ he joked, even though that was one of the reasons he was looking forward to making the shortlist so that he’d be forced to pay his wager, which was taking her out to Corporate Buka on what was his best chance of having a date with her. She had actually forced the wagers, as she wanted to have a feel of his famed dodo and beans delicacy.
‘It’s a tie for the third slot.’
‘What?’ Daniel asked, not drawing a connection between what he said and her reply.
‘I thought you were listening to the show?’ Stella questioned, her speech hurried and her voice excited. ‘It’s a tie for the third slot and there were two envelopes in the third box.’
Daniel had switched the dial of the home theatre from radio to the auxiliary function and was still scanning his television channels for a soul lifting program after the last name was announced and was not ready to go back to listening to the show. He already knew how it would end -heartbreak. ‘I was listening, but I’m back on TV,’ he said, the tone of his voice thick with resignation.
He held the phone to his ears as he waited for Stella to say something but he could only hear faint whisperings of what sounded like a radio on the background. He held on to the phone but his eyes were on his television.
Daniel dropped the phone in shock as he heard Stella’s excited shrieks. ‘Hello.. Hello…’ he called into the phone, ‘What’s up?’ He asked, bug-eyed after picking up the phone. His fingers tapping frantically on the remote control.
‘You’re taking me to the Corporate Buka that’s wassup!’ Stella screamed excitedly into the phone.
Daniel smiled almost sheepishly to himself, a sweet feeling sweeping through his body. For a competition he had pretended not to care so much about, he was visibly euphoric to have made the shortlist.
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A! Surprise: The short story, “The Bridge” by Daniel Bamidele, shortlisted for the PEN2SCREEN Africa writing competition will be mailed to all our followers for an exclusive reading on Thursday, 13th of November by 10am, please fill out the form below, CLICK on the follow button to follow the blog and receive “The Bridge” [It is an exclusive reading and will not be published on the blog].