Monkey Pepper Soup

That’s the house?

Yes. The brown and white one.

My father owns a street in my country. How do you imagine I can invite him to visit me in a place like that?

You did say affordable –

Yes, not deplorable!

Okay. We’ll go somewhere else. We aim to please. I have other houses listed. Where are you relocating from?

New Jersey.

Ah, the Garden State. You don’t like it there?

It’s okay. It’s the snow that throws me a curve.

We don’t have snow here.

Yes, but you do have tornadoes.

It doesn’t snow in your country?

No. On the average, it’s roughly 80°F all year round.

Sounds like heaven! What are you doing here man?! Ha ha ha!

It takes more than great weather to make a place habitable.

You think America is habitable?

I think it is bearable.

You’re a funny guy Sa-la. So, where are you from? Africa?

Yes.

I was in South Africa once, in the ’80s. Do you know Johannesburg? I was in Johannesburg.

I am from West Africa – Nigeria to be specific.

Not far from Johannesburg?

Johannesburg is just a block away.

You’ve never been to South Africa?

No.

That’s the place to go! I was there in 1983. My brother still lives there. See this photograph? That’s my brother. He brought me a huge African mask. It’s on the wall in my house. He told me the Zulu king puts it on whenever he has to meet strangers. I understand no stranger must see his face.

Ah. This Zulu king, is he still alive?

I suppose so.

He doesn’t receive visitors anymore?

I wouldn’t know. He must have “serious” matters to attend to like all local African kings. Matters of the state, you know. Ha ha ha!

He can’t be seeing a lot of people if his mask is in your living room.

Very funny, Sa-la.

Actually, the name is Sola. There’s an accent under the S which gives it a “sh” sound as in shhhhhhhh. There’s another accent under the O which gives it the “orr” sound. So-la.

Sha-la.

No. So-la.

What’s your last name?

Don’t even go there.

Okay, your first name, is that all of it?

The full name is Olusola

Ol…Give it to me again. I like the sound of it. I can get it.

O-lu-so-la

Ol…Damn, I almost had it there.

Yeah, almost.

Does it mean anything?

It means God has created wealth.

So, you’re like, what, money?

No. It means I am worth all the wealth in the world to my parents.

Wow! I don’t think I’m worth that much to my folks! Ha ha ha! What I don’t get is how you guys say it so easily. You even say American names without any problem.

Just one of those things that’s difficult to figure out. It’s like you guys trying to dance to juju music…All the parts of your body start going in different directions, none even in the general direction of the music playing.

Isn’t joojoo some sort of dark magic? Like voodoo?

It’s also some kind of music.

In Africa?

If you put it like that, yes, in Africa.

Well, I’ll just call you Mr. S. if you don’t mind.

As a matter of fact, I do mind.

You could have a name change…At least until you go back to Africa, something easier on the tongue.

Did you change your name when you went to South Africa?

Well, you do have a point. No offence, but you guys ought to get names like people…normal people.

No offence taken Larry.

Harry. It’s Harry. Oh, I know what you’re trying to do. You’re a regular fun guy Sa-la. ‘Remind me of a guy I met on my vacation in South Africa. He made this okrah…You know okrah, okrah soup? And he took me to see the lion and elephant and giraffe. Outstanding, Sa-la.

Animals are always interesting.

You can’t go to Africa without seeing the animals. That’s the highpoint!

Really?

Yes. I even saw monkeys, you know. The tiny ones that never seem to stop moving…What’s that sound they make again?

You heard it. You should be able to duplicate it.

I can’t do it well. You’ve lived with them all your life –

We’re neigbhors back home. They own the house next door.

Are you kidding me? That’s so cool. I love it when they make that aghh aghh sound.

Oh, you do know how to play the monkey.

Well, you’ll probably do it better, knowing them so well and all that…Do you try to protect the endangered animals in your part of Africa?

What is there to protect? We eat them.

You eat monkeys?

Come on, Harry, how do your people put it? It’s a dog eat dog world? Just as America occasionally feasts on lesser nations, we eat lesser creatures. Try the monkey pepper soup. It’s unbeatable.

Monkey pepper soup?

Spiked with real pepper, none of that mild stuff you eat here and call spicy. Pepper that will make your eyes water and your nose run.

Why would you want to eat any sort of food that has that effect on you?

I think it’s time to check out another house Harry.

Right Sa-la, right.

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