Published in 2013 by Origami Books, Fresh Air and Other Stories is a collection of 16 short stories. The stories which cut across continents have a broad range of themes. The characters are portrayed in a way that the reader can identify with them and the situations they are in. Nsirim tells it as it is with no attempt to sugar-coat or to handle the issues raised in a saccharine-like manner.
In ‘Funeral Arrangements’, Nsirim explores the ‘I-have-a-family-member-abroad syndrome’ that is all too common in many African communities. Bekwele ‘the fellow abroad in this story comes to find out much to his dismay that his family members, for whom he was doing all kind of odd jobs in the UK just so they could live well, were a bunch of ingrates. ‘Black Sheep’ is about the struggle between doing what one loves and following the trend of what the family has always done. Osahon chooses his passion than follow the family profession.
The sorry state of the Nigerian economy is portrayed in ‘The Testimony’ where a Mercedes Benz which was no longer fit for a twenty-one year old boy eventually found its way to Professor Amangala. The car which was initially bought for 700 Euros was eventually sold to the Professor for eight hundred thousand Naira. Professor Amangala only deemed it fit to buy a new car when his twenty-eight year old car gave up the ghost. And this was only after he scraped together his salary of six months. His wife believed this in itself was a miracle and as such it called for a testimony before the church of God.
Ever heard of carrying out a forensic investigation in a country that had no forensic lab? Well that happened to be the case when Officers Boyd and Fletcher, forensic investigators from the Metropolitan police in Scotland Yard were invited to Nigeria to help investigate the murder of a senator. Despite been briefed by their boss about the unusual way of policing in Nigeria, the two officers were nevertheless surprised when they saw things for themselves. The most astounding of which was the absence of a forensic laboratory in which they could develop their findings.
‘Diary of a troubled traveller’ got me cracking as it brought to mind a similar occurrence I once had. But for the Good Samaritan in the person of the traveller’s neighbor, his story may have ended with a different outcome. ‘The Target’ is another sorry story. Though we may want to turn a blind eye to it, this is what actually happens. I particularly like the fact that the author did not give it an idealistic ending but a realistic one. ‘The Expatriate’ tells about the fawning sycophancy establishments in Nigeria pay to any foreigner employed by them no matter their economic or academic status.
Various other themes are touched in this fresh air-like collection of stories. Corruption, injustice, the deadness of Nigeria’s ministries, departments and agencies, racism, academic decadence, unemployment and its resultant effects, regret and lots more.