Friday The Metala by Afolabi Boluwatife Micah was submitted in October 2022 to Challenging The Writers Writing Contest #5 based on the writing prompt: During their late-night work shift, your main character dies but does not realise it. At closing time, he heads home but gets confused when everyone he interacts with acts as if he doesn’t exist. However, the story ends after he realises he has passed.


“What kind of name is Metala anyway?” Chidera asks me.

“It’s Yoruba for thirteen,” I reply. “I’m my father’s thirteenth child. He ran out of name ideas so he gave me a number instead.”

Chidera and I are stacking the trays of bread on top of one another in the store so they can be delivered early tomorrow morning. It is10pm already and the dark night outside is illuminated by yellow streetlights and headlights of cars laid out bumper to bumper in the traffic. The car horns seem distant from the bakery as we labour in the backroom stacking bread while the other night shift workers and our boss are outside in the front room, where the pastries are displayed.

“So you mean Metala is on your birth certificate?” Chidera asks me.

“Na so we see am,” I say with a smile.

I turn away to face another tray and Chidera senses I wouldn’t say more than that, because he doesn’t ask any more questions. It’s not like there is much to say. My mother actually named me Friday, but the name my father gave me in my naming ceremony was what people picked. Thirteen, like an item on a menu, or a tag on a footballer’s shirt. My mother eventually left him with his four other wives. She still calls me Friday. I should call her when I get off work.

Chidera and I hear shouting from the front desk and give each other a knowing glance. I am still bracing myself when my boss pushes the swinging doors open and storms in the room dragging all 200 pounds of her.

She is a beautiful fat woman that everyone calls Mama Solo. She owns the bakery, three hair salons and two photocopy and printing shops, all of which are spread all over Ikorodu. She always walks with a certain bounce to her step, usually wearing very brightly coloured dresses that contrast her dark skin. She’s married to a much older local government chairman that beats her. I know this because I see the marks on her skin every time we make love at our Wednesday hotel meetings.

Mama Solo shouts, “I’ve just finished yelling at the others. I’ve finished my audit and a hundred thousand naira is missing. A whole hundred thousand! You people have been taking your normal 2k and 3k and I ignored it because you’re all thieving paupers and I pitied you. But this time around, I can’t let it slide. You all will return my money one way or another!”

Chidera and I glance at each other and say nothing. Why would I steal from the bakery when Mama Solo sends me allowance every week? I’m pretty sure the others are responsible. I’ve seen Chidera recording twenty loaves of sardine bread instead of forty in the record book and keeping the extra cash which he shared with the rest of us. I rejected the money because I know Mama Solo is an Osun worshipper and I don’t want curse on my head.

“Are you both mute?” Mama Solo yells.

“I don’t know anything about it, ma,” I say.

“Of course you don’t. Is that not what the others said too?” she hisses.

“Chidera, you nko? Same story?”

When he doesn’t say anything, she hisses and storms back out. We hear more screaming and then silence.

Chidera exhales loudly and says, “I can’t wait for this shift to be over. How can someone be insulting a grown man like me? Is it because I’m here arranging bread?”

“Yes na,” I reply. “Eyin breadwinner”

Chidera rolls his eyes and continues his work. I join him and we stack the bread tray after tray, the smell of hot dough from the oven in the adjacent room filling our noses. It’s normally a nice smell, but I’ve been surrounded by bread for so long that I’m now repulsed by it.

When the clock strikes 10:40pm, Chidera hangs up his apron and packs his backpack. He slings it over his shoulder and announces that he’s leaving.

“I’m going o. It’s your turn to lock up,” he says. I nod and he’s out the door.

I have to wait till 11pm before I lock down the bakery so I use that time to wash up. I go round the bakery to turn off lights and machines as is routine. From the corridor, I see the other two night shift workers putting on their coats in the front room. I walk to the oven room and see that the oven’s been turned off already. I turn off the light and go to the front room.

The two other colleagues say, “Metala, we’re off o.”

“Bye bye,” I answer and they walk out. 30 seconds after, Mama Solo comes out of her office, with her alligator handbag in hand. On seeing me, she looks round and asks, “Ah ahn. Everybody has gone?”

She’s no longer angry.

“Yes. I’ll close by eleven,” I respond.

She moves closer to me and cups my face in her hand. Her voice is now very soft. She says, ‘Take care, Friday. I can’t wait for Wednesday’ and my heart melts.

This is the Mama Solo I know. When she first asked me out on WhatsApp after I started working in the bakery, I was hesitant. But after meeting her every week for the past 5 months, I found myself developing feelings.

When we fuck, she’s not my annoying boss. She’s my lover. She’s the only other person that knows my name is Friday.

“I think I’m in love with you,” I tell her, staring her in the eye.

She freezes and her eyes widen.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says hurriedly and walks to the door.

“I don’t like how he hits you,” I say and she stops. “You should leave him.”

She turns around and sighs. “I can’t just up and leave. What money do I have?”

“You have this bakery. And your other shops,” I say.

I suddenly feel a sharp pang in my stomach.

She laughs. “They all belong to my husband. He’s just letting me oversee it. You think he will let me have money of my own?”

I say, “You still have a chance to leave. Are you waiting till he kills you?”

“Is that it? I should run away with you on your salary? You know that this man is the one funding your lifestyle, right? The money I send to you, where do you think I get it from? Believe what you want, Friday, but I’m not leaving him for you.”

I stare at her, unfazed. “Well, you never know what might happen if he comes to hear about us.”

She peers at me. “Is that a threat?”

I shrug.

She stares me down for a while then she turns and leaves. As soon as she’s out the door, another pang hits me so hard that I double over. I crawl to the bathroom to see if I can vomit but nothing happens so I just stay bent over the toilet, clutching my stomach for dear life.

My body goes numb and I crash to the floor. The ceiling above me swirls and the fluorescent lights seem brighter than usual. I let out a sharp groan and then the pain is gone.

I look around for a while and wonder what the hell that was all about. What did I eat today? When I got here for my shift, I ate some of Chidera’s rice that he bought from Mummy Seun. Oh well. I’m just glad I’m in one piece. I wash my face in the sink and pack up my cross bag. I take one last look around the bakery, then leave.

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