Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Reading age: 18
A woman chops off her finger to demonstrate her fidelity to her lover. A mother loses her mind upon discovering that her husband has left her and their only child. An artist seeks to unravel why his neighbour’s face enchants him. A passenger on a bus acts as an emissary of death. Meet some of the characters in Double Wahala Double Trouble, a collection of eleven stories by the award-winning poet, short story writer, children’s novelist, and literary scholar. In this stunning collection, Umezurike lures the reader into a journey of the absurd and the grisly to show us men and women struggling to live, desire, love, and thrive against the eddy of troubles in their world.
About the author
Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike holds a PhD in English from the University of Alberta. He is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, and literary journalist. An alumnus of the International Writing Program, Iowa, USA, Umezurike is a recipient of the James Patrick Folinsbee Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing from the University of Alberta and the Norma Epstein Foundation Award for Creative Writing from the University of Toronto, among many honours. He is a co-editor of Wreaths for a Wayfarer, an anthology of poems. His children’s book, Wish Maker, is forthcoming from Masobe Books in the fall of 2021. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta.
Excerpt: Double Wahala, Double Trouble (by (author) Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike)
Flesh of my Flesh Daluchi remembers him drunk. A breathless, grasping figure. She remembers the way her heart lifted, the very night she brought Tobe home after his younger brother had kicked him out. She had rescued a stray soul. She finds it endearing, the look in his small brown eyes, the look of an innocent frail man, the wounded look he gives her when he tries to snuggle up against her. But that expression has been missing for months. Still, he touches a spot between her breasts, leaving a flutter there, as if his fingertip is tracing her navel. Tobe is telling her about a catfish he saw on his way home from the bottling factory where he works, somewhere around MCC Road. The fish is the length of his arm. Daluchi only buys roasted or fried fish. But he had purchased a live catfish and grilled it for her one Saturday evening when the wind had charged up and rattled the roofs of buildings in the neighbourhood, chasing everyone off the street. Despite her protests, he held her hands, tightening her grasp around the knife, and made her gut the writhing creature. It was the first time Daluchi killed a fish. As she sliced the soft, quivery belly, she felt like the knife was cutting slices off her. Her skin crawled. The sharp, greasy smell scratched her throat. She tried not to vomit. Tobe had watched her, a satisfied glint in his eyes the whole time. She hated the way he laughed—showing the inside of his mouth and beer-stained teeth—at her puckered face while she washed the reddish-orange eggs off her fingers. “I wish I had bought that fish,” says Tobe. Daluchi frowns and notices a tear on the couch, which she will have to fix. He sees the swaddled finger on her left hand. “What happened?” How else could I show him now that I’d do anything for him? Daluchi stops herself from grinding her teeth. Her head buzzes from the pain in her swaddled finger, but she tells herself to endure it. “Anything,” she says, feeling quite dizzy. He creases his brow. “I don’t understand.” He wouldn’t. How convenient. The man he is today, she made him. Turned her own frog into a prince. “Have you taken any medicine?” “Not yet.” Daluchi sees his face contort and adds, “I will.” Tobe rubs her back. “When did this happen?” Does he know what lengths I would go to keep him? She regrets not taking painkillers to lessen the burning in her hand. Fighting off the dizziness, she sighs. “Love is sacrifice.” Her response deepens the puzzled expression on his face. He now looks as though he’s bashed his head against the door. And he had, once, when he stumbled home drunk and tripped in the doorway. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs, scratching his nose. “It’s been a busy day.” He rests his head on her shoulder and shuts his eyes for a moment. She longs to stroke his earlobe with her right hand, but she changes her mind and keeps it resting on the armrest. A motorcycle growls outside the window, and a dog starts yapping at something. It is past six, though the sun is still creeping around in the sky. Children shout and squeal in the street—their delight so easy, so unsullied, Daluchi finds it annoying. She wonders what their parents are doing right now. How convenient that they allowed their children to bound from one house to another like mongrels, not minding that a car had all but run a child over before. Maybe they’re breeding more babies, again, as Tobe would joke. Late one evening, the children had invaded the street, screaming and running after each other. Their crazy game had driven Tobe to a fit, but there was nothing he could do about it. He merely complained to her about how wild they were, how their parents were busy competing to see who amongst themselves would produce the most babies. It would get to a point, he predicted, that parents would use their children for fencing their houses. He added that the more children a mother had, the less attention she gave them. She wound up becoming less emotionally attached to her flock. Daluchi found the jokes distasteful because she dreamt of being a mother herself. Tobe had never thought very highly of his mother. The squeals grow louder in the street—their pitch maddening. Daluchi considers racing to the window to shush the children. She decides to endure the din, not wanting any foul-mouthed mother to remind her that she has yet to have a child of her own. “You should have seen the fish,” Tobe says, glancing up at her. A wistful smile spreads across his face. The fish talk bores her, chafes her a little, so she changes the subject. “I prepared your favourite meal.” “You did?” He sits up, sniffs the air. “Guess what it is?” “Mmm-hmm.” He walks to the window, still smiling. The memory of the fish Tobe had seen might still be dancing in his mind. Daluchi purses her lips, thinking how small he looks. She’s a foot taller than him, and his chinos usually bunch around his ankles. Longer pants enhance his height, she knows.
"Double Wahala, Double Trouble does everything a work of fiction should do—shock and impress at the same time. Each story here is beautifully crafted, with characters that will linger in the reader's mind long after the reading. Umezurike is a writer with a bright future."
— Helon Habila, author of Travellers
"Each of Umezurike's stories leads the reader down a comfortable path, until it is abruptly uncomfortable. His consistent skill in twisting plot lines and the driving needs of his characters is rare in short story collections, no matter where they take place. Lost family, betrayals, the idea—and illusion—of home, and grand, fierce gestures of love flow through this book. Reader: let these outstanding stories wash over you."
— Kimmy Beach, author of Nuala: A Fable
"In these compelling stories, Umezurike limns the lives of ordinary people trying to survive whichever way they can. Whether he is writing about a lover who makes a disturbing and unexpected sacrifice to secure her love or a man who loses his life in a case of mistaken identity, Umezurike's prose shines like something very carefully polished."
— Chika Unigwe, author of Better Never Than Late