Short Story: The Stool by T.J. Benson
“The Stool” by T.J. Benson, featured on online quarterly Sentinel Nigeria’s webpage, is a short piece detailing the return of the protagonist, a 50-something grandmother invoked in the second person, to her family’s compound in Orlu after 40 years of absence. Benson’s writing is wistful and melancholic, and offers a textured if brief portrait. In the piece, the “you” contemplates her role as daughter, mother, and grandmother, in response to her own mother’s death. She also reflects upon the knowledge she passes on to younger generations, and the choices she made in life. Specifically, she reflects upon her choice to move away from the family compound to follow “the Reverend Sisters,” a group of white women, and a choice for which her father and mother thought her mad and threatened to ostracize her, yet she remarks that little has changed on the compound. Ultimately, the piece ends on a note saturated with tradition in the “you”‘s contemplation of the eke day and its cyclic presence in her life.
***Interestingly, one line of the story somewhat pigeonholes African women; the protagonist reflects, “Maybe one day, if Jason asks you about motherhood, you will tell him it is not a choice for an African woman, it is a duty.” T.J. Benson, from the image attached, seems to be a male wonder and I wonder about that comment.
I woud also note that Sentinel Nigeria has a blog-like format, similar to StoryTime noted in the Jaji piece, and there were 4 really positive and supportive comments on this story, the first of which also noted and commended the use of the second person! The website also features poetry – I liked Uchechukwu Agodom’s (http://sentinelnigeria.org/online/issue-14/uchechukwu-agodom/ – he does cool stuff with enjambment) and Tares Banigoe Oburumu’s (http://sentinelnigeria.org/online/issue-14/tares-banigoe-oburumu/ – which somewhat obliquely addresses several African tragedies in 1994, but in a mode I think successfully defamiliarizes the scenes.