By Philip Oyok
The taxi came to a halt at the mouth of the street. The middle-aged couple alighted from it and made their way into the midnight darkness of the seedy tenement jungle, a hand draped against each other since it was obvious that they weren’t from this part of the city.
The house they were looking for was situated at the far end of the street; they had the buildings’ address written on a piece of paper and it wasn’t long before they spotted it. The old woman was sitting by the front stoop of the ancient building as promised over the phone that she would. She rose up upon seeing them and together they entered the building, made their way past a central corridor and out through the back, a short walk past a refuse-littered alleyway and then they stepped into the light of another tenement building. They climbed up a flight of stairs to the second floor before the old woman came to a halt before a door. She turned to face the couple, both of whom looked just as agitated at being in such an environment as about what they were here for.
“Have you made your mind on which one you want to have?” the old woman asked them. The couple shared a glance at each other before the wife answered for them.
“Yes, we have. We would like to have a boy.”
“You sure you don’t want a girl?”
“No, we’d like it to be a boy. At least he will carry on the family name.”
The old woman appeared indifferent to this. “No problem, though boy’s are a bit expensive. The price for one is two hundred and fifty thousand.”
The husband took out a bundle of money from the inner pocket of his robe. “I have it
all here,” he said before handing it over to the old woman who took her time
counting it. She smiled at them when she was through.
“Both of you wait here,” she said before giving a signal tap on the door, waited for a word of acceptance from inside before entering the room. Less than a minute later she was back with a cloth-wrapped bundle in her arm, which she then handed over to the couple. The wife spread out the cloth to appraise the sleeping feature of the baby boy. The husband gently touched one of the baby’s hands, and then smiled warmly when he noticed its feeble response.
“Perhaps some other time you can come back for another,” the old woman said as she led them out of the building, feeling happy from the sale. “If maybe you want twins, we have that one, too. Or perhaps you would like triplets.”
When they returned to the front of the former building, the wife turned to the woman and asked: “I’d just like to know one thing. The children, what happens to them if no one ever shows to buy them?”
The old woman’s smile suddenly turned hostile. “Nothing happens to them. They simply continue waiting for God to show up and claim them. Good night.”
The couple made their way back to the mouth of the street, a new companion in their hand to stem down the pain of bareness. All of a sudden the world felt all right for them as they stood there smiling at themselves, waiting for an empty cab to appear and ferry them home.