PUMP, a short story

PUMP, a short story

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 10:15

A text by the 2015 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow Jekwu Anyaegbuna

The story was originally published by Dcomp Magazine

Our house is where women come to get pregnant. Men also visit to restore strength to their manhood. Papa smiles whenever he learns of a woman's irregular and painful menstruation. He beats his chest and says the woman will come and consult him, or she will end up with fibroids that chew pregnancies. He claims he has the cure to fibroids, that he will give the woman a "pump" to evacuate the rubbish that obstructs pregnancies. He even assures his patients of a hundred percent success rate, no surgery involved.

Pump, which Papa has trained my mother to use very well, looks like a baby's feeding-bottle. It has a hard, pointed mouth like the beak of a bird. Papa pours a purgative concoction into it; then he lets my mother take charge of the operation. First, she ensures the pump contains the concoction in the right quantity, and then calls the patient into the theatre, which is the bedroom where my parents gave birth to their twelve children.

The room has a flat mattress mottled with dry drops of blood. Two calabashes of pulverised herbs hang on the wall. The rest of the floor is occupied by bunches of roots and different kinds of dry leaves. This same room serves as the pharmacy, labour room and consulting room. We sleep in it on nights when there are no patients – my parents on the mattress, and the children on the mat or bare floor. The corridor, where we keep our clothes, doubles as the outpatient department.

In this suburb of Lagos where we live, a family of many members occupies only one room. Our neighbours grumble about the constant influx of visitors. But Papa always asks the most vociferous complainant among them, a man whose gonorrhoea Papa regularly treats, if he can afford hospital bills.

Papa stays outside when my mother pumps into women. He says men are his job, and my mother owns the women. I hang around the door in case my mother needs anything, and I lift the shabby curtain just a little as she asks her patients to crouch like monkeys and dogs, pushes the pump into their oesophagus, pressing its base to empty the concoction into their guts. Whenever the queue gets too long, she calls a batch of five women into the theatre to pump them all at once, to reduce the waiting period.

The women complain of severe stomach pains, saying they purge for days. But Papa, with the look of an expert on his face, says the pains are the signs of a complete cure ahead.

"When a nurse in a government hospital gives you an injection, does it not pain?" he has always asked.

I know a few women who have become pregnant. I know those who have lost their babies during childbirth. I have also seen some women die on the mattress, a situation Papa blames on evil babies or electricity failure because some operations are performed with candlelight at night. I equally know the women who have succeeded by chance, through the birth canal, smiling home with their babies – a good advertisement for Papa's traditional medical practice. My mother always gathers the rotting placentas into polythene bags and secretly sells them to witch-doctors who use them to prepare different kinds of charms for curing barrenness.

My elder sister has been married for two years, but she finds it very difficult to become pregnant. Today she comes to see us, looking sexy in her miniskirt as if her husband, a roadside mechanic, were not beggarly and devastated like adulterated engine oil. The man is also here with her. He complains to Papa that he wants children. I watch as Papa stares up at the ceiling, thinking. He then advises his son-in-law to borrow money and take his wife to a qualified gynaecologist in a government hospital, although my mother waits at the door, ready.


Jekwu Anyaegbuna is a Nigerian writer. He won the 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. His fiction and poetry have been published in Granta, Transition, The Massachusetts Review and in many reputable literary journals in the United States and the UK, including Ambit, The Lampeter Review, Dream Catcher, Black & Blue, Orbis, Oval Short Fiction, Word Riot, Other Poetry, The Journal, Bow-Wow Shop, Eclectica, Atticus Review, Yuan Yang Journal, The Talon Magazine, Dark Lady Poetry, Asinine Poetry, Vox Poetica, Breadcrumb Scabs, Haggard and Halloo, and New Black Magazine, among others. He was shortlisted for the Farafina Trust International Creative Writers' Programme in Lagos. He recently completed his first novel, which he is now seeking to publish.

EK_Logo.jpg THE ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.

Issue 118 Elizabeth Kostova Foundation

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.


Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

1 I remember her bloody, drained, and happy, her thighs trembling from exertion, spread open to the sides. And I'm holding a piece of living flesh in my hands and trembling with fear.
"Can I get you anything else, Bear Boy?" inquired the waiter of the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall café with an ill-contained smirk. 
The white Renault parked in front of the House of the Communist Party. The chauffeur rolled down the window to have a smoke. Dimcho took a few moments sitting quietly in the back seat.
I have a story in which the main character is a voyeur. It is called The Red Room. Every few months this guy rents a new place to stay in search of more and more new scenes for observation.
RAKIYA, a short story
Comparisons of rakiya and other spirits are nothing new in Bulgaria – one such competition takes place annually in Sofia – but those contests consider alcoholic drinks mass-produced by established wineries and corporations.
To defrost from a long Arctic Vortex and to draw mangroves in charcoal I flew to an artist colony near Fort Myers, Florida, on an elongated and thin island, a Key.
We're in the time of COVID-19, and I'm in the southernmost country in the world, save for New Zealand and Antarctica.
I've been to Bulgaria twice, separated by a gap of three years, though it feels like I've actually been to two different Bulgarias. This difference is on my mind as I think of how my home country, America, has changed in about the same timeframe.
The White Gentleman decided that the weather was too beautiful this morning to waste the day in everyday nonsense. Therefore, he put on his happy hat and flung the door open with a flourish.
If somebody's heart stops due to a trauma, such as a car accident or a fall, CPR cannot save them. I know this, but I don't know if it is the same with cycling.