Alabo has just completed a long novel: the beauty of an ugly girl. It was about a twisted faced ugly local girl who in time become the belle of the small town of Alakiri. Dreams of his work making the big time was an obsession for Alabo. He had written in a flamboyant style befitting of a serious masterpiece. Besides, the book is rich in original expressions hence one would appreciate his reluctance to let his genius be ridiculed by an unknown editor. Tonye’s advice to send the script to Boma for editing had been understandably annoying. Boma was not known to have written a book therefore he could be unfair to this masterpiece. Yet after so much vacillating, Alabo agreed to send the work for Boma’s verdict.
The script left and the dreaded waiting game begun. After what seemed an eternity, the script finally arrived. Alabo did not at first recognize his masterpiece; every page was rougher than all his long discarded drafts. Every page had lots of lines over text, run-off ink marks glazed some sections. He looked closer as if to reassure himself that the lines were accidental and not intentional. Question marks saluted here and there, circles with arrows floated like some new atomic structure sometimes at the bottom of a page and veering off to the top. From the centre, lines criss-cross and run out of the sheet. He saw again that the ink stains too were deliberate. They blotted some of his powerful expressions and words. Whole sentences had been lassoed behind lines by non-symmetric circles.
Suddenly his eyes sported a new word “scenic” added to his narrative. It could not have been his word as he had not yet discovered that word in all his life. Was it a ploy to embarrass him? After checking up the meaning he agreed that the word fitted very well. And should he accept it, could he still claim the work as his original? The answer did not come.
The verdict had advised him to rewrite some sections, discard others, move paragraphs, moderate on words, restructure tautologies. For the first time he saw that his energy and emotions had been betrayed as words trying to give the book volume. But does a good book necessarily have to be very long! He asked himself. At last he got the message. Writing well is an art to be learnt irrespective of one’s fluency in English.
The last page of his manuscript was however spared the agony of lines and ink of correction. He wished it had as he was no longer confident in his ability. He decided to read that page again. The last line went thus: “when the girl grew to a marriageable age, suitors gravitated like swarms of flies over a piece of spoilt meat”. But was there a word like “marriageable?” should it have been “marriable”, he was not sure.
He looked about him as if afraid to be seen correcting his supposed perfect work and quickly dived into the sheet before others discovered it. The sentence finally read: “when the girl came of age, suitors zeroed on like bees over a fresh blossom.” He could only but agree that it looked better; flies love for rot made a good simile but it is detestable to the reader while bees for a flower made her attractive and beautiful. He learnt another thing: a sentence could be correct but the flavour unsavoury. Also, by correcting his supposedly masterpiece he had justified Boma’s effort.
Finally he agreed that Boma Erekosima might not have written a book but he had just made one beautiful and that was more important. The superficial ugliness of his lines and spots filled manuscript precipitated by time, was like the fate of the ugly girl of the story it sought to project. In her case, time had stretched her facial lines and spots to manifest a new beauty like the ugly manuscript’s inner beauty.