In 2007, only 4% of students reported being bullied.
The statistic is an earworm in his head. Over and over. The words chase each other. Indicting him. How does he explain it to his son’s mother? He can not, he will not go home with this.
Perhaps if he stands just so, close enough to the queue so that he looks like he too is waiting for a bus and far enough that others can join the queue in front of him, he will not draw attention. No one will notice. That he’s been standing on the same spot for thirty five minutes, and that seven LAMATA buses, three of them completely empty, have come and gone and he still stands there.
Waiting. For the sheer normalcy of the world to crack.
Across the street, a woman roasting corn and plantain makes brisk business. A blue-collar worker buys six cobs. The Man cocks his head, waiting for the penny to drop, for the buyer to realise that it is obscene to eat corn, to eat at all on a day like this.
Nothing. The customer sucks a pear and spits the seed into his hand. With a careless shrug, he flings it into the overflowing gutter and briefly an image flashes in The Man’s head. Of a child flinging himself off a balcony.
It is hard to breathe, difficult to swallow. Is it the air or is it the lump in his throat? Everything grates and there is a nail in his shoe. The school children watch curiously as he sits down to take it out and then begins to cry.
His son killed himself in school because of a bully and he’s scared to go home.
I assume that this story is set in Nigeria. While you have creative license to write whatever you want to write, bullying-related child suicides in Nigeria are rare, or practically non-existent. Perhaps you could tweak a few things to give the story authenticity. Also consider removing that first line. It reads like a statistic in a newspaper article, not a line in a work of fiction. I hope my amateurish constructive criticism helps.
Thanks for the critique. It certainly raised questions in my mind. Food for thought 🙂
Hiya. Correct me if I’m wrong but methinks that the first line is meant to read like the statistic it is, & set the tone for the short story – which by the time we reach the end, we see is about the suicide of a 9ja child because he was being bullied at school, and a father mourning and in pain about how to break the news to his wife. Yes the story is set in 9ja (Lagos specifically since it mentions LAMATA buses); true, we don’t hear of suicides from bullying in 9ja but… for me, it didn’t make the emotions of the story less real -or true- cuz art doesn’t always have to imitate life for authenticity. I liked it.
P.S. If tweaking it as suggested, maybe the theme should be of abuse, which is very very prevalent.