My Twenty-One Changing Seasons (an extract) – by Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng

In this forthcoming novel set in the 1980s in Ghana, ‘My Twenty-One Changing Seasons’, Gideon, who has just completed his ‘A’ Levels, looks back on his seven years in boarding school. The book is planned to be published by summer 2012.  Below is an extract, which recounts his day with the seniors.

                                                              *******

Monday afternoon looked like the scene of an invasion as the senior students descended on campus. We were terrified, of course-we had all heard stories of how a form one student’s life could be made very miserable. We cowered by our window, where we had a clear view of the foyer and car park. Car after car arrived on campus and disgorged the students- from gleaming Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, ordinary Toyotas or Datsuns to rented taxis for those whose families had no car to their name. But wave after wave came and we wondered whether there would ever be an end. Campus was noisy as old friends greeted each other with the boisterousness that teenage students are known for. Of course there was no parent in sight-after all, these were no novices.

By four pm all of the form one boys in my dormitory were kneeling down in the form five room upstairs, and I am sure a similar exercise was being repeated in the other five houses.  We had not committed any offences but for the simple one of being new boys.  The seniors sat or lay on their beds and interviewed us, firing humiliating questions from all angles.

‘Hey you, yes, thick lips. How many times does your father fuck your mother in a week?’

‘Kwaku Nsemfo. What kind bush name be dat?’

‘You chop pussy before?’

‘You from Tiwa? Where in the name of Jesus is that? Do you guys have water and electricity there, and how do you get there? By canoe?’

‘My God, your face no fine koraa. Your mother must cry every day’

‘Do you have any beautiful sisters I could marry?’

‘Who did you inherit your ugly, mango-shaped head from?’

And on and on the stupid questions went. Senior James Fynn, otherwise known as Joe Capito, seemed to be in charge of the pack of baying hyenas in the room. I will never forget that face and name for as long as I shall live.  He is forever seared into my memory. His questions always elicited laughter from the other seniors, however stupid or banal it sounded. He had the annoying habit of constantly picking his nose and then sticking his finger in his mouth. His voice was high pitched like the shrill of a football referee’s whistle. Tall and lanky as a pole with eyes like a cat, he had a sinister smile that sent a chill right down your spine, for you could tell that the smile was simply a preamble to some dastardly comment or act rather than any act of warmth or affection towards a fellow human being. I avoided those icy eyes.  He was perched on the edge of his bed, his long legs dangling and swaying like weeping willows in the breeze.

‘Hey you, funny ears, what is your name?’ A set of keys landed on my ears with the precision of a guided missile almost as soon as the question was asked. I yelped both in pain and surprise. In primary school I was nicknamed ‘adanko’ meaning rabbit, because of my protruding ears. Of course I hated it. Laughter erupted in the room as soon as the keys clanged against my ears. I am sure I saw a couple of my mates trying to suppress a snigger.

‘Senior, please I am Gideon Asomaning’, I replied meekly.

‘Asomaning’ He rolled my name over his tongue for a minute or two over whilst scratching a rather ugly pimple located on his left cheek. Then his face seemed to light up as if in recognition.

‘Is your father that ugly minister for urban regeneration? You look like him, rabbit ears and all.’

 ‘No, senior. My father is a mining engineer.’ It always gave me great pride to reveal my father’s profession

‘Foolish goat, so what? Is my father a village blacksmith?’ clearly the question was meant to be rhetorical, for he did not wait for a reply, neither did I dare offer one.

‘So you are a mine boy. Which one?’

‘Tarkwa, senior’

‘Your father is a gold thief. How many bars of gold are hidden under his bed?’

‘None, senior.’ I swallowed hard, affronted that this guy had the nerve to besmirch my father that way. But who was I to talk?

 ‘Come here’, he beckoned with his right index finger.  I rose to make my way to him as ordered. The room went quiet.

Who asked you to get up?’ he barked at me. ‘Crawl to me’

I looked at him, not believing what I had just heard and rooted to the spot as if my feet had been nailed to the hard cement floor. There was a good six feet or so between us, and the floor was rather pock-marked.  Within a split second, a hard cover Collins Advanced   English Dictionary was flying in my direction from his bed with the speed of a bullet. The missile narrowly missed my head and slammed against the wall on the other side of the room with such force that the back cover came off. In a flash I was back on my knees and crawling towards Senior Capito with great alacrity.

‘Open your mouth wide and close your eyes’. His left forefinger was stuck in his nostril, scraping, exploring and excavating, and that sinister smile played on his lips. I did not need a second invitation and had no idea what to expect.  My lower lip trembled, and I steeled myself for whatever this evil senior had decided to visit on me, wondering why he had singled me out for whatever he had in mind.

I drew a sharp intake of breath when I felt the forefinger of Joe Capito firmly lodged on my tongue and realized that this was his filthy finger when I felt some foreign matter in my mouth. My eyes flew open immediately and my body recoiled in disgust.  Joe Capito’s finger remained firmly lodged in my mouth, pressing down hard on my tongue. My lower lip trembled vigorously and my mouth began to fill with saliva.

‘Get up. If you are man like me with pubic hair and solid balls and who has fucked more pussies than I have, spit it out and let me see’, he challenged, fixing me with a stare that could melt seventy-seven demons.  Well, my closest experience of sex had been a sloppy, messy fumble back in primary school with Oparebea one hot sunny afternoon after extra classes, so technically I was still a virgin. However, even though I did of course have a solid pair of balls between my legs, I did not dare rise to the challenge, neither could I of course muster the nerve to swallow. I rose slowly and stared at him. As I came up his finger dislodged itself from my mouth. I knew boarding school life entailed some bullying and was prepared to take it in my stride, but this was madness.

‘Close that big smelly mouth of yours’. His shrill voice permeated my eardrums.

With great effort, I managed to bring my lips pressed together, but prevented my tongue from touching any other part of my mouth. At this point all the other seniors started laughing- a raucous laughter that reverberated beyond the dormitory walls.  Only Capito remained impassive, as if he was wondering what on earth the fuss was about. My fellow form one students, all still on their knees,  kept their eyes glued to the floor. They could clearly feel my pain, for they must have realized it could have been any of them. None of them dared laugh even if they wanted to, for that would surely have been an invitation to have something worse dished out to him.

My throat seized up and I felt as if a big lump of charcoal had been placed in its narrow confines. I blinked rapidly, forcing myself not to show any weakness and thereby give this idiot any pleasure. In my head, I rained curses on him as I stood there thoroughly humiliated. I invoked madness and disease and blindness on him. In my impotent rage, I wished he would die a slow painful death and that his rotting flesh would be picked clean by vultures and dogs and hyenas.  

Then, almost as soon as these torrential thoughts crashed through my mind with great intensity and my soul blazed with anger, I felt a tidal wave of shame wash over me for wishing these things on a fellow human being. I asked God for forgiveness. I had been brought up to believe fervently in the Lord’s Prayer: And forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who trespass against us.

 

It was at this point that the dam in my soul broke and the tears began to flow silently like hot lava down my cheeks- salty tears of pain at the humiliation that I had suffered, tears of frustration that I was unable to do anything about this or question why I had been singled out, and finally tears of guilt that I had allowed this senior to push me to the point where I had developed impure thoughts and had sinned against my God in the process. These three rivers of tears joined hands and flowed freely as one unto my white shirt.

Eventually we were released, and I headed straight to my trunk to grab my toothpaste and brush. I spent the next half hour or so vigorously scrubbing my mouth, until my gums were flooded with blood. Then I rinsed it with some dettol, like the victim of a horrendous rape who seeks to wash away with soap and water the disgusting ordeal she has just been subjected to, for I had just been violated in a like manner. And yet I continued to feel dirty, and for the next few days, eating or drinking was a horrendous experience. Whenever I did, I felt I was swallowing the filth from Capito’s nose.

 About the Author

Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Ghana and postgraduate qualifications in law from City University and The College of Law, both in London, UK. He currently lives in Accra, where he runs Walworth Consulting, a specialist UK immigration consultancy.

He has two books to his credit. His first book, Ghana at 50: A Trip down Memory Lane, was published in April 2007 to mark the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence. Abrokyir Nkomo:Reflections of a Ghanaian Immigrant, was published in June 2009. He is currently working on his first novel, My Twenty-One Changing Seasons. He can be reached at rodboat@yahoo.com

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Face to Face: Trotro Palaver – by Nana A Damoah

The engineer who designed the bus would have surely been surprised to find that one of his handiworks was still on the road years long after the assembly plant had been decommissioned.  There was the likelihood that he might not even recognize it as one of those that left his factory. A new guy at Kokompe had left his mark on the old Morris bus. The troski, with registration number ABC 4037.

“Lagos Town, New Town, Circle! Lagos Town, New Town, Circle, ready going!” Akwasi shouted, calling out in all directions, his towel on his shoulder, already soaked with sweat in the 30 degree centigrade sun. Intermittently, he would wring it to squeeze out water.

                                                                                       “Yeessssss ready going. Only two more to go, come, are you going?” crossing the street to help a lady who ended up going to another vehicle; she was headed for Maamobi rather.

Even though there were six people seated in the trotro, only one of them was a real passenger. The rest were mates and drivers in the Abedi station. Sitting in the bus was a ploy to encourage commuters to join the bus, thinking that it was almost full.

Abedi station was situated in the Pig Farm area, the area’s name dating back to the days when a nearby joint was the best place in Accra to get domedo, fried and spiced pork. It was a pork factory. Lines of frying pots could be found at the joint, and one could get the domedo hot, spiced, with accompaniment of ringed onions and pepper powder. The station was managed by the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), an affiliate of the Trades Union Congress. Some called the union Gepretu of Tuk.  The executives were usually retired, old drivers. Efo Gayon was the station master.

“Yessssss, Circle, New Town, Kokomlemle, Lagos Town, air-conditioned bus, away bus, ready going!” There were twelve people now, and the other mates and drivers gave each other cues to begin getting off strategically as the bus filled up.

The bus was actually a lorry which had been converted into a passenger bus. The capacity of the bus was written as part of the particulars of the bus on the driver’s door: nineteen, which included the driver. In the lingua of the station, the sitting arrangements were distributed sixteen back, two front. The driver’s seat was not included in the tally.

The driver was separated from the back compartment by a wire mesh. This compartment contained two wooden benches, arranged parallel to each other such that when the passenger sat, they faced each other. Even though the driver’s mate admitted sixteen passengers to occupy the benches, he would insist on sitting as well.

“Master Kojo! Master! The car is almost full, we can go now.”

The driver walked slowly to the bus, a toothpick busy in his mouth; he was using it like a ceiling brush to remove scattered cobwebs of meat stuck in his teeth. He had just completed a meal of fufu and akrantie, a specialty of Daavi Ama, who had been operating her chop bar in the station for decades.

“Mate, we are seven on each bench already. Is it not full? Are you going to sit yourself?”

“No, we are not full. It is one-man-one-seat, eight on each bench.”

“Ah mate yi paa, what one-man-one-seat? Do you understand what that means? Hahaha!”

The other passengers joined in the laughter. Soon, a new passenger joined the bench behind the driver.

“Mate,” the latest passenger, a man dressed in factory overalls, enquired, “there is no more space on this bench. How can I fit?”

Akwasi ignored him and called out for one more passenger.

“Mate, are you not going to answer my question?” The factory guy shouted. “And where are you going to sit, won’t you sit on the last available space on this other bench?”

“Ask and ask again, massa,” the lady who had asked Akwasi the same question earlier on interjected, “I asked him the same question earlier on and he told me this rickety bus of his is one-man-one-seat!”

A lady who was clearly in a hurry came running and was grateful when Akwasi asked her to sit on the little space he indicated on the bench.

With the touching of wires, the driver got the engine running. At the cue of ‘Away bus’ from Akwasi, Master Kojo took off and braked suddenly! The dilemma of inadequate space on the benches was solved immediately, as each passenger was thrown in the direction of the driver and the packing was completed!

Akwasi squeezed himself by the last lady to join the bus, half sitting, half perching, with the door slightly opened.

“Mate, I will alight at Robert Motors, how much will that be?”

“Madam, that will be the same fare as if you were going to Abavanna Junction.”

“What! Driver!

“Akwasi, what is the matter back there?”

In troskis, it was usual for the driver to communicate through his mate, like a chief via his linguist.

“Master, it is this madam here who doesn’t want to pay the fare!”

“Hey mate, did I say I won’t pay? I just questioned the fare from Pig Farm to Robert Motors. Just a stone throw, I could even have walked!”

“Akwasi, change her the fare for Abavanna Junction!”

It wasn’t a happy lady who alighted at Robert Motors. And so when Akwasi told her he didn’t have exact change for her, she blew her top. Another passenger, a mechanic who appeared to work in the workshop, also alighted at the same spot, so Akwasi gave them a combined change to divide between them.

“Hey, small boy, where do I know this man from? Is he my brother or husband? If you don’t give me my change now, you will smell pepper!”

*********

“Why do people chew garlic at all?”

“Adɛn, Auntie, why do you ask that question?”

The lady who asked the initial question tried hard not to look straight ahead, and the gentleman who sat directly opposite her on the other bench also avoided her gaze, electing to concentrate on the front of the bus.

“My brother, poverty is expensive o. Otherwise, why would one have to endure all sorts of smells in this enclosure of a bus?”

“Baaaaaaas stop! Abavanna!”

When the ‘garlic’ man got down, everyone exhaled audibly. Apparently, everyone knew why the lady asked the question about garlic. Typical of Ghanaians, everybody knew what was on everybody’s mind, yet when the question is posed, a question is asked to clarify.

At Abavanna, Master Kojo realized that most of his colleague drivers were joining the Nkansa-Djan-Pig Farm road from the road coming from the Maamobi Polyclinic, instead of the usual route from the Kotobabi Police Station. He got suspicious, and guessed that the police were at it again at the Catholic church junction.

He took off and turned right, towards Abavanna down, via Waist and Power junction.

“Yes, front…froooont, please.”

There were two passengers sitting in the front cabin and one of them, a lady, passed her fare through the wire mesh. The note was passed along to the mate. The second passenger turned to look at the driver, who kept his eyes dogged on the road ahead.

“Massa…yes, you in front, your fare please!”

“Mate, my change, before I forget it.” That was the lady in front.

Her change was exactly the amount the man in front needed to pay. Driver’s mates were experts at what was termed Kweku Ananse mathematics, substitution by shifting around.

“Madam, please collect your change from the man sitting by you, it is exactly the amount I need to give you.”

The driver still didn’t turn to the passengers’ direction at all. The male passenger in front started fidgeting – that was not how things were to happen: the driver was his neighbour at Kotobabi Down and he expected him to exempt him from paying the trotro fare.

Immediately after the male passenger gave his fare to the lady, the driver turned right after the SWAG park, towards the K1 and 2 schools, and for the first time acknowledged his neighbour’s presence in the car.

“Ei, Opia, is that you? I didn’t notice you had joined koraa o.”

Apuuu, wicked man, thought Opio. See his face like a goat! Azaa man!

The troski went past Honesty, so named because the owner of Honesty Transport used to live at that junction, his articulated trucks marked ‘Honesty’. Whether or not it reflected his personal philosophy was another matter.

Past the Providence School signpost, Master Kojo stopped at K1&2 for a passenger to alight. At Prempeh hotel, a new passenger joined the troski. Whilst waiting for the passenger to settle, Massa Kojo flagged one of his colleague drivers.

“Dovlo, are they there?” It was obvious to the other driver who ‘they’ referred to.

“Yes o, ma broda. At the Catholic church junction, just around the corner from Agbajena. They dey there. Today, there are collecting twice the normal rate. Atta Papa just got charged for not having a torchlight in his bus, this hot afternoon!”

Ewurade medaase! I could smell them from Abavanna!”

*******

“Please, can you pass your money from the left? Please don’t give me small notes.”

“Why shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t you have coins for change?”

“Madam, I think it is just a polite request from the boy. Please allow small.”

“Mate, I will drop at the Catholic church junction.” It was a sleepy voice; the passenger, an elderly man, had gone to sleep as soon as he boarded the troski at Abedi station.

“Oh Papa, we didn’t pass there o. We are now at Nkansa-Djan.”

“Ah, why didn’t you pass there?”

“Papa, I asked at Abavanna whether anyone would get down at Roman, but there was no response.”

“It was because he was busily snoring and hitting people’s shoulders with his head!” The lady who sat on the old man’s right didn’t sound amused. The other passengers laughed.

“Driver, please turn the car, I have to get down at Roman. Driver!”

“Akwasi!”

“Master!”

Wetin again? Asem ben?”

“Master, is it not this man? He has been sleeping aah, now that we have passed his stop, he wants us to take him back.”

Opanyin,” Massa Kojo tried to be polite “you know we can’t take you back, not in this traffic, even if I want to do it. I will let you get down right here. Akwasi, open the door for him. Papa, next time, please stay alert.”

“Ah, but I need some balance to take a new troski back to the Catholic church junction.”

“But you have not even paid me!”

“I paid you!”

“Ei, you this man, you have been sleeping throughout this trip, when did you pay me?”

It quickly became obvious that the old man didn’t have money on him. A good Samaritan paid for him. When he insisted that he be given money to take a bus back to his original destination, all the passengers broke down in mirth and called him Papa Oliver. The good Samaritan had to come to his aid, again. 

*********************

“Mate, why should I pay the full fare to Circle? I am using only half of my allocated space on this bench!”

The speaker was seated by a plump lady; she looked like a Makola woman who was on her way to the market. Her load of dried fish in a basket was placed under one of the benches.

“Owula, are you referring to me?”

“Mate, I say I will not pay the full fare! Take the balance from wherever you deem fit!”

“My view is that some people should pay double the fare, for the space they actually occupy, otherwise they cheat some of us.” That was Opia, who had recovered from his anger to contribute to the discussion in the troski.

“True. It is supposed to be one-man-one-seat, but for some, it is one-man-two seats!”

The Makola woman kept her cool, only a foolish dog ran after a flying bird and this was a topic she wouldn’t win.

“Lagos Town wo mu o, mate!”

At Lagos Town, Massa Kojo got down to open the bonnet of the Morris troski. A steam of vapor exuded from the engine, and the driver had to step back, almost jumping. Akwasi knew what to do, retrieving a 5 liter gallon from under his bench and crossing the road to get some water.

“Driver, what is wrong? We are in a hurry o!”

“Oh, nothing is wrong!”

“How can it be ‘nothing’ when we have been here for almost five minutes?”

“It is small ‘overheating’, we have to let the engine cool down, it is normal.” 

“Mate! Please give me my balance, I can’t wait, I have an appointment I can’t miss.”

“Oh bra, wait small, we will finish noor, and we will be going.”

Soon it was obvious that the problem was more than engine overheating. Massa Kojo took a mat from under his seat and spread it under the car, vanishing under the car. The passengers could hear some hammering.

“Ei Driver! If the car cannot move again, give us our money la!”

Massa Kojo didn’t respond. He went back to the front of the car, poured in some more water, and climbed back into his seat. After the third attempt, the troski came to life, and the journey could continue.

“Hey, keep your dirty hands off my suit! You gat me?”

“Massa, watch how you talk to me! Who do you think you are?”

“Who do I think I am? Do you know who I am? You fitters just get out of your workshop and come and sit in cars, can’t you change your overalls if you are going out?”

“I agree with you, boss. Hey fitter, see how dirty your coat is. Do you want to soil the man’s nice attire?”

“Did I not pay the same fare?” That was the mechanic. “If he thinks he is a big man, he should buy his own car and ride in it!”

“Baaaasssss stop! Mate, I will drop down at Malata!”

When the man in suit got down, Akwasi spoke what was on his mind. “Eish, these myself people! Nsem piii!”

From Malata through Kokomlemle to Circle, the journey was smooth. Almost. The fitter’s attire was the main discussion point, and he agreed that indeed he needed to have a spare attire to wear when leaving the workshop to buy spare parts. He was on his way to Abossey Okai.

Just before the station at Circle, around Odo Rise, the Morris troski came to an abrupt halt. Aponkye brake.

Reason? The fuel had run out. Finito.

With one voice, the passengers chorused “One gallon!”

Fortunately, the last stop, the Circle station, was a walking distance and as they alighted, Akwasi retrieved another gallon, he knew what to do.

About the Author

Nana A Damoah is a Chemical Engineer by training and a writer by calling. He is the author of two non-fiction books: Excursions in My Mind (2008) and Through the Gates of Thought (2010), and a contributing author to the anthology of African stories: African Roar (2010). He is working on his third book, Tales from Different Tails, a collection of short stories. He can be reached via ndamoah@yahoo.co.uk

The SMS (Part III) – by Francis Doku

“Holy Shinto! What am I to do now?” he said to no one in particular. The mechanic had promised to return that car at 3pm. “I will go in a taxi,” he said to himself and stormed out of the office.

When he stepped out of the office Jacob whipped his mobile phone from his pocket, searched the number of his mechanic and dialed. The voice response told him that it was either off or out of coverage area. He tried the second time and got the same response.

He decided to go to the mechanic’s place and get the car regardless of what state it was in. “I am sure he can continue from wherever he may have reached when he comes for it tomorrow,” he said to himself. Still standing by the street in front of his office Jacob saw a taxi approach and he hailed it. The taxi stopped right in front of him.

Bending his tall frame and looking at the driver through the front window Jacob said in Twi “How much would you charge me to Bubuashie.”

“Which part of Bubashie?” the cabbie enquired.

“There is this big fitting garage directly behind the Accra Academy School, that’s where I am going.”

“I have seen the place. Give me 30 Ghana,” the cabbie said.

“What!” Jacob almost screamed. “30 Ghana Cedis from Asylum Down to Bubuashie?”

“Massa, I am sure you have not “taken” a taxi in a long time…yes it’s 30 Ghana.”

“Can I give you 20 Ghana Cedis,” Jacob said.

“Big man, I am sure you are in a hurry, I am also in a hurry, so let’s not waste each other’s time. Meet me halfway with 25 Ghana, and I am not taking anything less than that,” he said with finality written on his face.

Jacob knew that any minute he wastes haggling with this stupid cab driver will delay his objective. “You let’s go,” he said as he opened the back door of the Toyota and sat in the back seat. Jacob looked at his Police® watch and it was 10:30am. The driver moved his automatic gear lever to D and drove off.

Jacob started to think through his itinerary for the rest of the day. First he has to get his car from the mechanic, drive home to Aburi, get Rebecca’s mobile phone from the dining table, delete the message, place it back, drive back to the office – and he need to be in the office by 3.00pm so he won’t miss that management meeting with the CEO – finish off his day and go for Rebecca so they can go home together.

“God please let this plan work perfectly,” he said.

“What did you say?” the cab driver asked.

“I said don’t you have air con in your car?”

“Ei massa, 25 Ghana with air con? I don’t have but if I did you would have paid more for it,” he teased.

Jacob dipped his hand into his trouser pocket and brought out a handkerchief, dabbed the beads of sweat forming on his forehead and put the handkerchief back. The driver saw him through his rearview mirror.

“Massa, I think it will be better if you took off your jacket,” the cabbie advised.

Jacob thought about it for a second. “I think you are right,” he said as he adjusted his body and took off the jacket and placed it on his lap.

When he decided to raise his head to check where they were Jacob realized they had been stopped by the red light at the Nima Police Station junction. “Charley, where are you going to pass? Why didn’t you make the U-turn back there at the Swiss School?” he screamed.

“Massa have patience, I am sure you have not driven here in a while, huh? That man with his long beard who thinks he knows everything has blocked almost everywhere you can make a U-turn in Accra. Didn’t you see those multi-coloured plastic blocks where we used to make that turn?”

“So where are you going to turn now?”

“Well I think I will go round the police station and come back to these lights.”

“My God! Do you know how late I am?”

“I don’t know but, what else could I have done?” the driver asked with a shrug of his shoulders.

“You could have used the Fox FM traffic lights to Calvary Baptist Church and then go through Circle. Couldn’t you?” Jacob asked.

“I hear there is a lot of traffic at Circle and so I want to go through Joy FM, to Avenor, to Melcom Plus through North Kaneshie to St. Theresa’s School to Mother’s Inn Roundabout through Kaneshie Presby Church to Cocoa Clinic to….”

“That’s okay let’s just go,” Jacob cut him short.

The light changed to green and the driver sped off. As he had promised Jacob, the cabbie went through his planned route without meeting any traffic, at least not until they got to Avenor and headed towards Melcom Plus. There was a huge traffic that had formed from the main Industrial Area street. The blue uniformed community police were trying to maintain order at the junction that led from the main street to Avenor.

“Have you seen what you have put me into?” Jacob said.

“Massa this is not traffic, it will move soon.”

“Pray it does!” he looked at his watch and it was 11:15am.

“We have spent 45 minutes already and we are still nowhere,” he said to himself.

The traffic actually moved very fast and within the next ten minutes they had gone through North Kaneshie and were at the Mother’s Inn Roundabout and before long they were at the garage.

The cab came to a stop right in front of the garage and opening the back door, Jacob stepped down. He put his jacket under his armpit, pulled his wallet from the back pocket paid the driver GHC25 closed the door and walked into the fitting shop.

He was greeted by the usual chaos that happens at fitting shops: grinding, sawing, welding and sparing. He walked over to one of the garage hands in dirty apparel “Where is Mumini?” he asked the young man.

“Master Mumuni is gone to Abossey Okai,” the apprentice said.

“How could he have gone to Abossey Okai by this time,” Jacob said more out of desperation.

Just then a grey Honda Civic entered the premises of the garage.

“That’s Master Mumuni coming,” the apprentice told Jacob as he pointed to it.

The car drove to where Jacob and the apprentice were standing and parked. The lanky man who got out in his surprisingly neat mechanic’s overall was Jacob’s fitter – Mumuni.

“Ei, Mister Jacob what brings you here by this time?” the surprised Mumuni asked.

“I tried calling you but your phone was off. I need to go home badly to pick something very important. You can have it tomorrow if you don’t mind,” Jacob cut the chase to the subject.

“My phone fell in water when we were removing you engine block….”

“Removing my engine block?”

“Yes we removed your engine block in the morning. You know, I put it on the machine to identify the faults when I came back in the morning and it detected a few things that required that we open it up. So we had to take out the engine block,” Mumuni explained.

“So have you put it back?” Jacob asked although he knew the answer.

“No we have not put it back, my people were working on it as I had to go to Abossey Okai to get some parts.”

“So what do we do now? I need the car badly. Can you put it together so I can use it now and then you pick it up tomorrow?” he sounded desperate.

Mumuni shook his head, “it will take us another two hours to put it back together.”

“I am dead! So what do I do Mumuni, what do I do?”

“Well, we can do one of two things: we either get you a cab or we arrange one of the cars we are working on for your use,” Mumuni said.

Jacob pondered over the two options for a minute – although it seemed like eternity – before talking. “I can’t stand going with a taxi driver all the way to Aburi and back so let’s see what you can arrange.”

“I can give you this Honda Civic, you only have to fuel it and use.”

“Can you go with me, Mumuni? I don’t want to drive somebody’s car,” Jacob said.

“That makes sense but, I am very busy now Mister Jacob,” Mumuni almost pleaded. “I will ask my chief apprentice to go with you.”

“He knows how to drive”?

“Hahahahaha…Mister Jacob paa, which mechanic doesn’t know how to drive? But to answer your question, yeah he does. And I believe your car will be ready by the time you come back.”

Mumuni called his chief apprentice Akomea and briefed him on the task ahead. “You will drive Mister Jacob here to Aburi and back. You know there right?”

“Oh master! I come from Tutu,” Akomea said jovially.

“Can we go now?” Jacob asked to put pay to any long conversation between Mumuni and his chief apprentice.

“Sure,” Mumuni said as he handed the keys to Akomea.

Akomea sat behind the steering wheel and Jacob sat beside him in the front seat after he had hanged his jacket on top of his seat.

They drove off from the garage at midday exactly – according to Jacob’s designer watch – towards Aburi on a journey to save Jacob’s marriage.

Just when they got out of the garage Jacob heard his phone ring. He pulled it from his pocket and the caller ID said “Becky”. “What does she want,” he murmured before picking the call.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello Jake, how are you doing?” Becky said.

“Well not much. I have been going round and round since I last spoke to you,” Jacob said almost pitifully.

“Doing what exactly?” she asked.

“I want to get home to pick the phone and delete the message and get back to work. Unfortunately my car has gone to the mechanic and I just got a new car and leaving Accra to Aburi,” he explained.

“Wow, that must be hellish,” Becky said.

“It’s more than that. You know what, let me sort this thing out and get back to you okay?”

“That’s okay, just let me know what happens,” Becky said.

“Okay, bye,” he said and he cut the line.

It was obvious from the onset that Akomea knew his way around Accra. He took the road that led to the North Kaneshie area to Kaldorf through the Tesano Police Station traffic lights and then took the turn on the Achimota overhead through the former Dimples Junction to Dzorwulu Junction to Tettey Quarshie. He took the right turn at the Shiashie taxi and “trotro” station towards the Lagos Avenue (or what Jacob refers to as Roast Plantain Avenue) and very soon they were at the Bawaleshie traffic lights.

They drove past the ICA and CIB buildings as well as the new office complex and went past the Mempeasem junction. Just when they crossed the main entrance of the Trinity Theological Seminary Jacob saw many cars parked at the junction that led to IPS. Akomea also saw it and his heart leapt in fear.

“What’s that?” Jacob asked.

“I think it is the police on operation,” Akomea said as they approached the scene.

Jacob almost fainted “Oh no, I hope they don’t stop us!”

“I hope so too because if they do we are dead.”

“How do you mean?”

“My driver’s licence expired last week and I am yet to renew it…”

“What?!” now Jacob was hyperventilating.

They got close to the police and the first one raised his left hand with the clipboard and signaled Jacob and Akomea with his right hand to stop. Akomea went forward a bit and stopped.

“Goddamn it I am dead, goddamn it I am dead!” Jacob almost shouted.

The policeman went to the driver side of the car poked his head in the open window and said to Akomea “Can I see your licence?”

Jacob heard his phone ringing but ignored it.

“I said can I see your licence?” the policeman said to Akomea again.

Jacob’s phone was ringing again. He pulled it out of his shirt pocket this time and looked at the screen. It was his office line.

“Hello,” he said when he picked the call.

“Hello Mr. Asante, please hold on and speak to your wife,” Ama said and without waiting to hear him say anything she gave the receiver to Rebecca.

“Jake where are you?” Rebecca bellowed into the mouth piece.

“Is that you Bekcie?” was all Jacob could mutter.

“It’s me, who else?” his wife said.

“Why are you on this line?” he still sounded confused.

“I came here to take you out to lunch but was told you had gone out and you know I could not have called you with my phone as I left it at home.”

“Yes sure, silly me.”

“That’s okay, but where are you?” she repeated.

“I am in the middle of something, Beckie. Can I get back to you shortly?”

“Middle of what?”

“I will get back to you shortly, please,” Jacob said and then cut the line.

The SMS (Part II) – by Francis Doku

Rebecca Asante had arrived at the work place tired as usual from sitting through traffic all the way from Aburi to Accra. When she bid her husband goodbye and closed the car door, she walked to the swing glass door that leads to the main reception of the law firm.

“Good morning to you all,” she greeted the receptionist and two other colleagues standing and pouring through the morning papers.

“Good morning,” they all responded.

“Auntie B, you look so sweet as usual,” said Barbara the receptionist, “I hope you had a wonderful weekend.”

“Well, I did and though it was also tiring. How about you?”

“Mine was good as well. Can I help with your bag,” Barbara said as she extended her hand.

“No thank you, I can handle it. I will see you later,” Rebecca said before walking through the reception to her office.

“Good morning Amerley, I hope you had a great weekend,” Rebecca said to her secretary as she entered the main office and stopped at the latter’s desk.

Amerley Wellington got up went round the desk and gave her boss a hug pulled back before replying: “I am very fine Mrs. A and I indeed had a great weekend. I hope you had same with Mr. A. and Maame.”

“Well Jake travelled on Saturday and came back late last night but it was okay,” she said as she walked through the adjoining door to her office with Amerley in her tow.

“What do we have today,” she asked her secretary.

“You have partners’ meeting in 20 minutes after which you would have to call the Attorney General on the Stephen Ayisi issue then a conference call with Eksom at 2pm,” Amerley said.

“Thank you very much Amerley. Now leave so I can prepare to go into my meeting. Can I have a cup of tea before that?” she asked as Amerley turned to go.

“I need to call Maame’s school to find out how she is,” Rebecca said to herself. However, when she rummaged through her bag for her phone it was not there. “Oh no, I left it on the dining table,” she almost screamed. She tried to remember the teacher’s number but could not.

Twenty minutes went very quickly and Rebecca went into the partners’ meeting for an hour. When she came back to her office Amerley gave her the information that her husband had called on the office line.

“Jake called here? What did he say?” the obviously surprised Rebecca asked.

“Well I didn’t speak to him, I told the receptionist to tell him you were in a meeting.”

Call him for me please. After speaking to his husband Rebecca sat in her chair for about two minutes thinking of the conversation she just had with him. She then walked from her desk to her secretary’s desk.

“Would you believe what Jake just said? He said he called to find out how I was doing and I can’t believe it,” she said.

“Why can’t you?” Amerley asked her.

“Because he hasn’t done that in so many years,” she exclaimed.

“But people do change.”

“He said exactly the same thing!”

“Well then he probably has changed. What was your response?”

“I was jolted, Amerley and though I was happy he did that I pretended I wasn’t. This was a surprise and I want to reciprocate it,” she said.

“How do you mean?” Amerley enquired.

“I mean, Amerley that, I am going to give my husband a surprise today. You see, he hadn’t done what he just did in a long time and I also did not do much to bring it out of him.”

Amerley look confounded. “So what do you intend to do?”

“I intend to appear at his office at exactly 12.30pm and invite him to lunch. Good idea, or?”

“What if….”

“Amerley, there are no ifs or buts, I have a lunch date with my husband. When you read my schedule today did I hear you mention anything that would have my attention between 12noon and 2pm?”

“No, you did not but there is a conference call at 2pm which you cannot miss,” Amerley answered.

“Well I don’t intend to miss the conference call as I will be back before 2pm. That settles it then,” she said as she walked to her desk.

“Should I call him in advance,” Amerley asked.

Rebecca stopped, held her waist and turned to face her secretary. “Read my lips Amerley, it is a surprise,“ she said teasingly and walked away.

Back at her desk Rebecca looked for the remote control of the radio and she tuned to a station playing soul music. She sat down and started going through her mails. The remaining hours went very fast and at 12.05pm she asked her secretary to call her the driver of one of the chamber’s pool cars as she went into the washroom to freshen up.

At exactly ten minutes past twelve Amerley told her boss that the car was waiting.  Rebecca put on her jacket, carried her hand bag and walked briskly to the waiting Mitsubishi Pajero and lumped herself at the back seat.

“James, how are you today?” Rebecca asked the driver.

“I am fine madam. Where do I take you, please?” he asked.

“You know my husband’s office, don’t you?”

“The one at Asylum Down?” he asked.

“Yes, that place. Kindly take me there. We’ll pick him up and go to that restaurant near Metro TV…errrm what is the name?”

“Melting Moment?”

“No not that one. Marquis Tante Marie,” she said.

“Okay, so we go to Asylum Down and come back to Labone?”

“Yes. James, let’s go I am getting late.”

“Okay madam,” James said as he changed the gear into drive.

Thankfully there was no traffic on the way hence within 15 minutes of leaving her office at Labone Rebecca was in her husband’s office at Asylum Down.

She got down from the vehicle and walked to the reception. “Hello good afternoon,” she said.

“Good afternoon madam, how may I help you?” Ama asked.

“I am here to see Jacob Asante,” she responded.

“May I kindly know if you have an appointment?”

“I don’t have an appointment. I actually want to surprise him,” Rebecca said teasingly.

“I don’t think you can do that madam, you need to have an appointment.”

“Too see my husband?”

“Oh sorry,” Ama said embarrassingly, “I honestly didn’t recognize you Mrs Asante. I’m really sorry.”

“That’s okay.”

“But unfortunately he is not in the office at the moment,” Ama told Rebecca.

“Where is he gone?” thinking she probably should have called.  

“He left about two hours ago and he said I should tell anybody who calls that he would call back when he returns.”

“He didn’t say where he was going?” Rebecca could not hide her frustration.

“No he didn’t.”

“Can you please call him for me? I left my phone at home.”

“Okay.”

Ama dialed Jacob’s number and it rang to the end without a response. She dialed again and this this Jacob picked the called.

“Hello Mr. Asante, please hold on and speak to your wife,” Ama said and without waiting to hear him say anything she gave the receiver to Rebecca.

“Jake where are you,” Rebecca bellowed into the mouth piece…..

The SMS (Part I) – by Francis Doku

“Last nite ws gr8. Cn we do it again nxt wk. will call later. Nice day” Jacob keyed this message on his phone, looked through his phonebook to the B section and having picked the name Beckie, he pressed the send key.  He made sure the message was sent before he put down the phone.

He had arrived at the office about 30 minutes earlier. “Kate,” he called his secretary in the adjoining office, “kindly bring me the folder on Klixtel.” Kate walked into his office a moment later with a blue folder. “What exactly are you looking for so I can pull it out for you?” Kate asked. “Thanks but I need the entire folder, I have to do comprehensive recons of their payments over the last one year. I hope every transaction is in there,” he said. “Sure,” Kate said, placed the folder on Jacob’s desk and walked briskly to her desk in the adjoining office.

Just as he was about to open the folder his phone rang. He picked it up to see who was calling. It was Becky. He picked the call, put the handset to his ear and he said with a happy tone “Hello” and the person at the other end responded in a not so happy mood “Hi, why is it taking so long to hear from you?” Becky asked.

“Why do you ask that question?” a seemingly confounded Jacob asked.  

“Why do I ask that question? Because it took you so long to call me after having the sex of your life, or so you claimed, last night,” Becky retorted.

“Well sorry, but I sent you an sms a while ago,” Jacob said almost apologetically.

“You have not sent me any sms Jake. Why are you lying?”

“Why will I lie to you, Rebecca,” a bewildered Jacob said in almost a whisper. “Just about ten minutes ago I sent you a text that Iast night was great and I hope we could do it again next week and then concluded that I will call later.”

“Well I have not received any sms in the last one hour which includes ten minutes ago, so yours could not have arrived. Maybe you sent it to one of your girl friends,” she said stifling a chuckle.

“No wait; you have not received any text message from me?”

“Did I have water in my mouth when I said it the first time? I HAVE NOT RECEIVED A TEXT MESSAGE FROM YOU,” Becky screamed.

“Goddamn it I am dead, goddamn it I am dead!” he exclaimed.

“Why are you cursing?”

“I think I have sent the message to my wife, no I know I have sent the message to my wife!”

“Yieee you are dead,” she said teasingly. “But how did you do that?”

“You know I saved her name with B-E-C-K-I-E and your name B-E-C-K-Y but when I was sending the message I chose her own instead of yours.”

“Yieeee you are really dead!”

“I am really dead; I will call you back okay?”

“Okay but….” Jacob cut the line before she would finish her sentence. He got off his chair and started to walk from one corner of the office to the other muttering to himself “what do I do, what do I do” for about five minutes.

He walked back to his chair, sat down and decided to call his wife. He picked the phone, went through her phonebook to the B section and having picked the name Beckie, he pressed the call button but he cut the call before it would ring.

He looked at his palm and saw the sweat. He touched his brow and felt the moist – beads of sweat were forming. He looked at the split air conditioner on the wall and it was at the lowest temperature – 16.  

He pressed the call button on the phone again and this time he allowed it to ring. The phone rang through to the end. He called again but no one picked the call. He tried the third time and yet again the phone rang to the end without anyone picking. He tried the fourth time and it was the same result.

He took out his handkerchief and wiped the beads of sweat that had now become palpable from his forehead. “What do I do now?” he asked himself. After thinking for a minute or two he picked up the handset of the Vodafone branded landline phone on his desk and dialed 0 for front desk. “Ama, can you kindly call my wife on her office line for me?” he sad and hanged up. He put his head on the desk and started to tap his left foot on the carpet pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa “cring cring” the phone rang and he picked it up in haste.

“Hello,” he said.

It was Ama the receptionist at the other end “Mr. Asante, I was told your wife is in a meeting and would call back immediately she is done.”

“How many minutes?” he asked Ama

“I have no idea, but her secretary said it won’t be long,” Ama explained.

“Thank you very much, Ama,” he said, hanged up and sighed.

He opened the folder Kate brought to him earlier and tried to make a sense of the contents. He was not seeing an anything written in there. He closed the folder. He got off the chair and walked to the door. Jacob opened the door and eased himself out of his office, walked through the adjoining office where Kate and another colleague were seated.

He turned right through the corridor and took left at the end to the washroom. He stood over the water closet, unzipped his flap, brought out his manhood to urinate but for about three minutes no urine dropped. He put it back and zipped the trousers. He walked to the mirror and looked at himself. “I think I have grown old in the last ten minutes,” he soliloquized. He washed his hands and went back to his office.

When he entered the office his phone was ringing and when he rushed to pick it up, it was his wife’s office line. He looked up to the ceiling and then picked the call.

“Hello Jacob here,” he said.

“Yeah Jake, it’s me, I understand you called a while ago,” Rebecca said.

“Yes I did…..I was calling to….to….find out how you were,” he struggled to say.

“I don’t get it Jake, its 10am and you have not done anything like that in the last four years,” she responded questioningly.

“Of course, but I mean people change, don’t they.”

“So you’ve changed, but please tell me the real reason why you called. You don’t call the entire day until you are on your way coming to pick me home.”

“Well I was trying to reach you on your mobile phone but there was no response so I called your office…”

“Just to find out how I am?” she cut him. “Well I left my phone at home. I only realized it when you dropped me off this morning and I wanted to call the school to find out how Maame was,” she said.

Jacob heaved a silent sigh and made the sign of the cross. “Actually I was trying to find out if you were able to call the teacher,” he capitalized on the situation.

“Well I am fine, but I was not able to call her because I left my phone and I have not memorized her number. I am sure she will be fine. And so if you have nothing else to say can we end this conversation so I can go back to work and we talk later when you pick me up,” she suggested.

“Sure. Will pick you up in the evening and do remember I love you.”

“I will and I love you too,” Rebecca said before hanging up.

“O God, thank you,” Jacob said as he punched the air!

Jacob Asante had been married for five years to Rebecca Amoah. Maame their only daughter was three years old. Jacob worked as an investment advisor with a brokerage firm at Asylum Down while Rebecca works as a partner in one of the leading law firms at Labone both in Accra.

They had moved into their own four bedroom home four months earlier. The house was situated at Aburi hence they decided that Rebecca would park her car so they used Jacob’s to work and back. The daily routine was that they first took Maame to her Montessori at Adenta, Jacob dropped Rebecca and then he would go to work.

A taxi driver was hired to pick up Maame at 3pm to the house where the house help, Adwoa took care of her until Jacob and Rebecca returned. They usually returned at 8pm or thereabout.  

Jacob had been faithful to Rebecca until he met a beauty therapist who was also called Rebecca about five months earlier. What he thought would be a one night’s stand ended in a long relationship that he could not extricate himself from.

As he sat and gazed at the white wall in his office after speaking to his wife, Jacob decided that the one thing he could do to save his marriage was to get to that phone before his wife did and to delete the sms he had intended to send to the other Rebecca. That means going to Aburi right away!

He got up from the chair, walked to the suit rack, took his jacket and put it on. He came back to the desk to pick his car key and then he remembered that his mechanic had come for the car immediately he arrived.

“Holy Shinto! What am I to do now?” he said to no one in particular. The mechanic had promised to return that car at 3pm. “I will go in a taxi,” he said to himself and stormed out of the office.

About the Author

Francis Doku is an entertainment writer, critic and columnist in Ghana’s Graphic Showbiz.”

Project Akoma – by Nana A Damoah

With editorial inputs from David Donkor.

=======

He was pleased with himself for making it early to the classroom. The morning was good and the milieu, silent. It had rained the previous day, so the air blew humidly into the classroom, turning the peaceful ambience into a soothing balm. For the umpteenth time that morning he was grateful to be alive.

He was alone and the lecture would not begin for a half hour yet. This was a good time to think about Akos, the second year beauty on Continental Block. It was time to reflect, to take stock, and then to re-strategize how to win that lovely girl’s love.

The heart decides, but it is the mind that plans. His heart had decided to love Akos two semesters ago. His nerves, couriers for his heart, sent the message marked “Urgent” to his busy brain. It simply read: “I have found my desire—my missing rib,” and set his brain in motion.

It had seemed impossible. Akos was hard to get—a quintessential “no-go-area.” And, what is worse, she lived on the last floor of Continental Block, where male visitors are prone to surveillance from the lodge of her uncompromising Hall Tutor. That is not all. She was already in her second year, and he a mere freshman. She took her classes in the Faculty of Arts, but all of his were in the Science. How would they find common ground to meet?

When the heart decides and the mind is in motion a course is set to reach its fruition, finding avenues, exploiting ways and creating means. Thus Project Heart was born. He recruited friends to form a team: to review extant knowledge on the object of his interest, to consider the best methodologies for securing her heart and to estimate potential gains against his likely costs.

Project Heart recommended an expensive gift. It seemed a good start because it won him her time, and the more gifts he brought won more time with her—a visit this week, two the next, then three and more. Her roommates’ attitudes were encouraging and her reception wasn’t bad, she even offered to see him off—he jumped at the chance for a quiet night stroll–everything seemed perfect and according to plan.

Project Heart said it was time to spill the beans. The moment seemed golden. The stars were in the sky. Night birds tweeted him luck. Crickets chirruped a moonlight serenade. Shrubs danced around them like cherubs in the night. And when she stopped and said, “I have to go home now, this is how far I can bring you,” he held her hand and let out, “I love you.”

The whole world must have stopped to listen: the night birds, the cherub-like shrubs, the crickets, moon and the stars; all the members of Project Heart, ears intent hiding in the shadows; his heart, his brain and the nerves that had paired them in this mission. All waited an eternity of the second before she said . . .

“No, we can only be friends”

The mind makes the plans but when it fails it is the heart that hurts. His heart had lived the hurt but it still dreamed of living its hope, and if there was any sign of hope it was in the soothing solace of the classroom in which he sat, in the refreshing air the rain had cleansed, and in the simple fact of being alive for which he still felt grateful. He had loved and lost and lived to love again. Someday there might just be another Project Heart.

 

About the Author

Nana Awere Damoah is a Chemical Engineer by profession and a writer by calling. He is the author of two non-fiction books – Excursions in my Mind (2008) and Through the Gates of Thought (2010), and a contributing author to the anthology African Roar (2010). He is working on his third book, a collection of short stories. He lives in Tema, Ghana, with his family.

A Bird’s Reluctance – by Alfred Y Kpodo

“This is strictly a business dinner and I mean it!’’ he blurted out.

“Sure, sure.”

“I mean it so don’t get any lustful ideas in your sexually liberated brain.’’

“Looks like you are the one with ideas because I haven’t said anything.”

‘’No, it’s because I know what you are thinking’’

‘’And how do you know what am thinking, Mr. Psychic? Why do you assume you are so irresistible and that I am planning a big seduction on you?’’

“Just keep your hands to yourself. I am a wonderfully, happily married man with a gorgeous wife who’d kill if she thought I was fooling around.”

Jane was amused by that last statement and managed to chuckle.  She wondered how he was going to be like if he were not wonderfully and happily married.

“Oh, I see. Is that why you come to the office every morning with face frowned like a brownie? You don’t look it at all. Ok, let’s pretend to be friends, just two friends having dinner,” she finally said.

“You just don’t get it. I am a married man and can’t have female friends, let alone have dinner with one. It just doesn’t work where I come from.”

“Why not?” she asked, surprised.

“Because that is the way it is. If my wife met a male friend for lunch or dinner, I’d tear his head off and file for a divorce.”

“Absolute nonsense!”

“You can say anything you want to say, why would I want female friends anyway?” This he said and stormed out of the restaurant with no destination in mind. He knew he was confused.

Peter Mann knew his world was caught up. He could not understand what was happening to him anymore and knew he was on the verge of an abyss and ready to plunge deep into it. Until two years ago, he was a happily married man with his own share of problems. He worked hard to provide more than his family of three could ask for. He even said that his only goal in life was to provide for his family.

He could not understand why of all men parading around, he should be the one to suffer this fate. Life was too cruel, he thought. Pete, as he was affectionately called, got married soon after obtaining his first degree. He always believed that if something was worth doing, then it was worth doing in the morning. Life was young and bliss. He was having a feel of how it felt to get home to a lovely wife who was always there, and waiting. Aside work, they went everywhere together and had mutual friends. The only ones that differed who were not known to his wife were his clients, mostly.

As he got drowned in his own thoughts down memory lane, he got shoved by Jane who had followed him out. His line of thought was broken and he apologized for his outburst and instantly held Jane tenderly on the arm and led her back inside the restaurant, to her amazement. He pulled a chair as soon as they got to their reserved table for her to sit down before taking his. Food was quickly ordered as they both needed it and also were running late on their schedule.

“What kind of woman do you want?” she quizzed.

The question hit him so hard that he had to stare at her face. He thought the question was straight forward. He was just unprepared for such a question because he’s never really had an answer to that profound question. It was just too personal and he figured Jane was prying too deep into the innermost part of his being. He was taken aback and it dawned on him that he did not know what he wanted. What a shocking truth?

He was a lawyer by profession, had litigated all the high profile cases in their firm and was held in high esteem by the senior partners because of his astuteness, sense of purpose and sense of duty. He was caring, gentle, and intelligent but has no sense of humour.  He was anti-social and only really mingled if he felt the need to. He was not into women and so got married to the first woman who crossed his path and also because he didn’t like the way his friends changed women like diapers. He knew Dzina was different but he loved her all the same without reservations. He loved her because life with her was adventurous. He was being introduced into the world of fun. That was when he realized that beginning of life was relative, it never started at forty like everybody says; yes, because he is in his late twenties and life had already started.

Dzina stepped onto the scene and swept Pete off his feet with her charm. She was very beautiful and sleek, so fashionable you might want to think she was a model upon sight. She was fun loving and adventurous. She came from an average family of scanty economic means and vowed she was going to climb to the top by all means necessary. She knew she would be stepping on a few toes but she cared less. She first had sex at the age of 12 with a 20-year old man she claimed she loved and had her first commercial sex at the age of 14 and never looked back. Through university, she was subtle in her endeavours but surely got away with everything she wanted. She wanted all the finest things in life, she wanted all the rubies, the diamonds, the pearls and all the expensive toys one could ever think of, unknowing to Pete.

Peter was a workaholic and paid little attention to Dzina. They shared quality time if they had time and hardly quarrelled even though they were odd for each other. They both accepted each other with the warts and all and never bothered about the excesses.

But something happened one afternoon that woke him from his slumber. He came home without the usual ritual of announcing his homecoming before he stepped out of the office. He took ill and decided to just go home after lunch. He got home to meet the wife in a compromising situation with a stranger. She was having sex with a man he has not seen before and realized he was not coming from any part of their town or community.

Before he could say ‘jack’, he passed out and couldn’t confront the man as he wanted to do and was rushed to the hospital. He finally came around on the third day in the hospital with some family members at his bedside. The ‘only’ witness was Dzina who also happened to be the ‘defendant’ so everybody believed what she said.

“There was nobody besides her in the house’ and that cemented the alibi. Nobody knew Dzina in that realm and never believed Pete’s story. He was only admonished to see a psychologist and, most of all, to relax because he worked under stressful conditions.

This shocked him so much that it changed his world, his thoughts and aspirations. He could not believe he had no case and worse of all was supposed to act ‘normally’ to his kinsmen. He could not find even one person who believe his side of the story and he knew that he has to think through things once again. It dawned on him that there were so many innocent people languishing in jails all over the world as a result of having no one to believe their story. Their lifestyles made them guilty even before the jury was even selected.

Damn! Yes, because he was being accused of tiredness as a result of the life he led, laughable but serious. He became a changed man from thence.

He had so many questions running through his mind but his wife was not ready to talk about them because to her, nothing happened. Her warm receptive nature changed into tight-lipped arrogance.

Everything changed. They talked only because it served functional purposes and there was nothing like the love they shared anymore because Dzina could not live the goody-goody life she was living and Pete was not ready to come to terms with what he saw that fateful afternoon. Dzina now went out with all sorts of men as long as it had monetary reward.

He also wanted divorce but for who? All of them were bound to be the same because in his world, she was the finest of all of them. She was an angel as far as women were concerned, he had thought. He was now afraid and confused.

This affected his attitude dramatically and his work output declined, because it conflicted with his goal of providing for his family. He later took to drinking till he drank like a sailor every night. His world was slipping away by the day and he was ready to be engulfed by whatever it was.

Nothing worked anymore but he always was reminded by the solemn vows they took in front of God and every member of the community to protect and sustain his marriage through thick and thin, for better and for worse.  He knew he wasn’t ready to pay any alimony to a promiscuous ex-wife who would not admit her infidelity, and he had no intentions of paying child support all his life.

He wanted to go home. Home, where he was raised, home, where Mama was, although he knew he would never live there again. There was too much poverty and ignorance. And it was intolerable the way everybody in the community was ignorant and poor, the dilapidated houses, the high infant mortality rate, the hopelessly unemployed, the unwed mothers and the unfed babies. This was what became so intolerable to the extent that he fled from the area like thousands of others and migrated in search of greener pastures, just to ease the pain of poverty.

 He knew he had endured this too far and there was Jane, her personal secretary at the office who won’t let him be. Jane who flirted with him at every instance because she considered him a fine gentleman who had a promising future and a potential lover.  She was ready to do anything to get his attention and was still at it.

 “I, I want a woman like me,” he managed to say.

 ”Like you?”

 ”Yes, like me.”

 “A woman who has same interests, a woman who sees the world through my lenses, someone who will be there for me.”

“And you haven’t found any yet?” she asked.

He thought Jane was the right person for him now, they both had same interests, advocated for people who had nobody to help them out, were always together and liked so many things except their orientation on sex, to which he was ready to indulge in now. He then realized he had loved her from afar all the while, where he always got to play safe but never really enjoyed the show. So many things made sense to him as he also resolved not to judge the motive of people for doing what they do because they might have a reason for doing them. He also realized that the love that one sought across the breadth and length of the world was usually just around, all the time.

 “You,” he answered, this time convincingly soon after the repeated question jostled him back to life, to the shock of all of them.

“You are the one I love, I’ll be filing a divorce tomorrow,” he said with a wry smile.

“Thanks for making up your mind about me,” she said with all the charm she has ever mustered in life and she became more beautiful than he had ever seen.

They ate quickly, settled their bills, held hands and sauntered out of the place into his car. Inside their car, they realized they were the only people left at the premise as the parking lot was deserted.

The neon lights that displayed “ORION’, the name of the restaurant, went off when he powered on the engine and took off slowly into the night.

About the Author

 

Alfred Yayra Kpodo was born and bred in Ghana, Accra. He described himself as “a creative and imaginative person who has style and very sensitive to my environment. I am quite adaptive to situations and very down to earth. I love to do things to the extreme once they fit into my values and understanding of what life is. I like to enjoy variety of freedom, very curious and entertaining.” He started writing after Senior High School but never got to publish any since it’s just a way to pass time. Two things of prime importance to him are comfort and change. He loves graphic designing and singing.

 

The Kente Cloth Speaks – by Kuukua D Yomekpe

Three weeks of laundry lay around my feet from my trip to Ghana. Instead of folding, I fingered the Kente cloth lying across my lap. I had discovered it discarded at the bottom of my laundry basket. I had no use for it in my new world where I was trying to assimilate. As I sniffed it, I recalled my recent use of the Kente cloth belonging to my grandmother.
**********
“Ma!” We always called her Ma even when our own mother was around.
“Do you have a shawl for me to wear over this?” I asked pointing to the outfit I had chosen to wear to my cousin, Kofi’s, engagement ceremony.
“Is that what you are wearing? That shows too much skin!” She remarked disdainfully, the corner of her mouth turned down.
“I didn’t pack any kaba and slit. I didn’t know about the engagement.”
Grandmother was always sizing me up. It didn’t matter what I wore, she always had a comment ready when I emerged from my room. I would come home from a day of shopping with a high that she would deflate almost immediately:
“You bought that? How much? What a waste of money!”
Or I’d come out of the room after severe moments of hyperventilating over clothing choices and hear:
“What’s up with your hair-do? That skirt shows too much of those calf muscles you inherited from your mother. Button that shirt all the way!”
When her health began to decline, she became even more difficult to reason with. She would wake up, light a candle and say a whole stream of prayers, and then proceed to plant herself in the pathway of all activity at the house. This vantage point ensured that she could always comment on any activities going on in the entire house.
“Oh no! You are not wearing that leaving my house! No grandchild of mine will be called ashawo!”
“Grandmother, just because I am wearing jeans and a tank top doesn’t mean I’m a prostitute!” I’d cry raising my high pitched voice an octave higher.
“Yoooo! Ko. S3 obi fr3 wo ashawo, m3mba mba k3 kyer3m!”
Me? Propositioned? Hardly! I was one of those Catholic school girls who was on the up and up, complete with a promise ring to Jesus and Bible verses in my back pocket.
“Do you have a shawl for me to wear over this?” repeating my question careful not to skim the border of rudeness.
She reluctantly dug out two stoles from her wardrobe. The colors clashed loudly with the skirt I had chosen for my cousin’s engagement.
“Do you have anything else?” I asked getting slightly irritated knowing how much stuff she really had.
“How about this?” She held out a four-strip traditionally woven Kente stole. Kente cloth held the distinction of matching everything even when it clashed.
“I think this will do,” smoothing out the stole she handed me.
**********
“Ma, medze stole aba,” I said to her later when I returned from the engagement.
“Do you want to keep it?”
I shook my head.
“S3 me ma hon bi,” confirming that she had given us each a four-strip stole when we first left for the US.
“I still have mine. I think Sheela has hers too,” I added hoping she wouldn’t ask of its whereabouts.
**********
The phone rang disturbing my reminiscing. I dropped the Kente cloth as I hurried to retrieve my phone from its charging station.
“Hey sis!” The animated voice on the other line belonged to my younger sister
“Hey!”
She was calling to check on me and to see how my trip was.
“So…how was it? How was Grandmother?”
“It was ok…not the best trip I’ve had.”
“Oh? What happened? Was Grandmother…,” she trailed off in mid sentence.
“Naaah Grandmother was not so bad this time.”
“Perhaps it was because I made her into a pitiful old lady,” I stated boldly.
“You did?” she asked with unmasked incredulity
“Yeah sort of.” I said shrugging.
“I shut her down firmly when she would go on her rants about how this or that family member hated her or had wronged her.”
“Yeah?” she said, now sounding slightly uncomfortable
“Yeah. I’d say that’s the way you feel; I shouldn’t have to shun them because of you!”
“Hmmm…” Kafui murmured on the other line.
“So how did Grandmother respond?”
“Oh she was fine.” I said nonchalantly
“I wouldn’t worry about her too much. She is quite evil and needs to be made aware of it, you know?”
“Hello? Kafui?”
“Oh yeah… Don’t you think that was a little harsh?” she stuttered.
“No way! You were there in 2007, remember? When she threw a fit because you wouldn’t pray with her?”
“Yeah, but…” she trailed off again
“But what?” This conversation was not going the way I had imagined. I was aching to tell her how I had seen Grandmother lose some of the fire in her eyes when I had treated her that way. How I had felt irritated by her when I was home this time around. I felt like as an adult, I could now stand up to G and I had taken advantage of that.
“I think I finally broke her! I blurted out! I broke the woman!”
“You did?” Kafui once again sounded distracted by her own thoughts
“Hey! Are you listening?”
“Huh? Yeah.”
“Aren’t you proud of me? I asked enthusiastically?”
Kafui was Grandmother’s favorite. Always had been. Or so it seemed to me, the darker child. Light-skinned, shy and timid, Grandmother preferred her that way. I was the insolent one, the ko darkie, always talking back. The girl on the phone today could not have been any further away from who she was when we were growing up.
“Hey I have to go!” She said abruptly interrupting my thoughts and punctuating our stalled conversation with more awkwardness.
“Uh ok. Talk to you later, I guess.”
“Yeah sure! Welcome back!”
The deafening dial tone sounds invaded my brain before I realized she had hung up.
Weird. I wonder what that was about. I put my phone back on the charger, and returned to unpacking and putting my room in order.
I tripped over the Kente cloth as I went to put a load away. I wondered if she had something to tell me.
I know I said my piece. I don’t know if she’d heard me, but I had said it. I felt I had managed to triumph over Grandmother this time by making her feel small and inconsequential. But when did I become so callous? Was staking claim to my maturity worth disrespecting my elder?
I picked up the Kente to fold it and noticed the unraveling stitching on one of the strips.

About the Author


Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe was born and raised in Ghana, immigrating to the United States at age 19. Her essays, “All Because of a Name” and “Immigrants in a Foreign Land” are published in African Women Writing Resistance. Her Masters thesis, “The Audacity to Remain Single: The Single Black Woman and the Black Church,” won the 2010 Marcella Althaus-Reid Award at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. She is proud to be an African woman and believes in equality for all peoples, especially women. She is currently a candidate for the MFA in Writing and Consciousness in San Francisco. She loves to cook, and choreographs African and liturgical dance forms. She blogs at: ewurabasempe.wordpress.com.

Ananse and the Juicy piece of meat – by Mariska Taylor-Darko

Ananse crept along the lintel of the house looking for trouble, oh Ananse. He saw a pot of soup boiling on the coal pot; he licked his lips and just yearned to have a taste.

How could he steal the juicy piece meat boiling in the pot?
Considering that he had 8 arms and legs this feat seemed impossible.

Then he spotted dopey Doggie asleep on the mat by the doorway.
“Hello doggie, how about a game of catch and the winner gets a tasty treat?”
“Leave me alone so I can sleep,” he said
“No, true, I see a big juicy piece of meat just beneath your feet.”
Stupid dog jumped up! “Where? Where”?

Turning round and chasing his tail going round in circles.
“There, in the pot,” he repeated slowly.
“I am not going near that, I will either get burnt or get a whacking with a broom.”
“Oh,” said Ananse, “then you won’t get the bone that I dropped accidentally in the pot while you were sleeping. I was bringing it to you because I couldn’t eat all that juicy bone myself, I only took a little of the meat.”
“So, what can we do?” said the stupid dog, his tongue hanging out and drooling.
“Look, I have put a plank of wood under the pot,” Ananse said “if you jump on it the meaty bone will fall out”.
Doggie asked “Is that all I have to do?”

“Yes” said Ananse, “wait till I go back up so you can have it all to yourself.”
Stupid Doggie jumped up on to the plank,
The pot flew into the air,
The meat went flying,
Ananse grabbed the meat,
The soup poured on the dog and the pot hit his head!
Oh Ananse!
He got the meat; the dog got the whip and a pot of soup over his head and a large bump the size of a coconut on his head.

About the Author
Mariska is a poet, writer, motivational speaker and a Tony Robbins Firewalker. An all rounder who enjoys the arts, writing and reading a lot. She writes both fiction and non-fiction and is in the process of getting published.

Hope Undeferred – by Nana A Damoah

Dear Kwesi,

This letter comes with a reminder of the best gift I can ever give to anyone – my heart, my love, my life. It is very late here but I am very much awake, ‘cos my dear, you are on my mind. Always on my mind. Cupid sent his arrow my way and I lurched forward with my bosom once I espied your name of the tail of the arrow; come and see the hole it has created in my heart. What sweet pain! I have heard one say that love, like a flower, quickly blooms and attracts but with the same celerity evaporates like a mirage in the Kalahari. If that is a popular opinion I walk a lonely path then, because my love for you is like the seed that forms in a woman’s womb – once fertilised, it only knows growth. Like a mixture of concrete, this love hardens and intensifies in strength as it walks hand in hand with time.

Ah! my heart bleeds with this wound of love. I want you to walk this path of ecstasy, this journey of bliss, this adventure of forever-ness with me – always. I miss you terribly, so much my dear. Come quickly, my Prince, and heal my wound, my heart aches for you, my soul yearns for you and my eyes long to set their gaze on you, again.

I want to sing it out, shout it, tell it on the mountain tops to anyone who cares to listen, to the birds so they carry it to the ends of the world – you are mine, and oh, I love you. Lemme hear from you, darling, because you are all I live for.

She who is yours,
Araba

She sat back and looked at the letter again. The words seemed to connect with her very soul, and as she focused on each line of the letter, she seemed to be imbuing the words with her spirit, to carry exactly the emotions she felt to the intended recipient. The words seemed to her more like poetry than prose, poetry both sad and meaningful, emotional, full of life, and she was trusting that these words will be her angels of plea, to bring her relief from this pain of love. It was about 1 a.m. and the entire ambience was as quiet as a stillborn baby. She did not attempt to hold back the tears that overflowed the swollen banks of her eyes, finding their way into her mouth like River Ankobra’s journey to the Atlantic ocean. The salty taste did nothing to soothe her aching heart. Her portable stereo oozed Kojo Antwi’s song Dade anoma [Metal bird, a reference to an aeroplane], connecting with the thoughts she had transmitted onto paper. She wished, in tandem with the Musicman, that a bird would suddenly appear to take her letter to her loved one. She clutched the paper to her breast, rose and walked to the window, slowly, and watched through the netting. Serene was the view outside, contrasting her feelings, the cool breeze caressing her plump cheeks.

Kwesi was two years ahead of her in the secondary school, Amenfiman High. Araba knew him as a very serious science student, who was so much in love with his books. Rarely did you see him on campus without a book – a textbook, a novel, a book nevertheless. Grave was his countenance most times, pensive his aura almost always. Even in the dining hall, where it was usual for students to chit-chat and tease each other especially before meals, Kwesi would sit quietly at table, reading while meals were being served, and eat without as much as a look around him. In Amenfiman, there were five houses each for the boys and girls, and the houses were named such that there were five pairs. It was the custom that the girls in the female houses shared tables with the occupants of the counterpart male houses. Kwesi was in Bassanyin House, whose counterpart female house was Akoaa house; providence collaborated with fate to ensure Araba and Kwesi shared the same table. She admired him but only at a distance. He was so sober, how could anyone get across to such? He seemed quite content being by himself at all times, self-contained, not caring for a chat. The impression was that he would not even have time for anyone, let alone maintaining a friendship with the opposite sex.

She overhead the conversation at the corner of Akoaa dormitory called nnipa nse hwee, translated loosely as ‘man is worthless’, as she passed on her way to the bathroom for her afternoon bath. Nnipa nse hwee (NNH) was the gossip headquarters of the school, and being the subject of discussion at NNH was of two-fold significance: the subject was important, and the worth of the subject after an NNH treatment was less than that of a orphanage dog.

“That Kwesi boy, who does he think he is?” That was Akosua, the title holder of the Kokonsa hemaa (queen of gossip).
“Which Kwesi are you girls talking about? I hope it is not my Kwesi o!” Lady Tinash was just returning to the dormitory from class; she didn’t normally patronize lunch in the dining hall, as she considered it beneath her status as a leading lady in the school. She delved straight into the gossip.
“Tinash, ah, you know your Kwesi cannot be discussed here; you know when we talk about him, and only in flowery terms!” Sexy Gogormi was the moderator for this particular topic; indeed, she was like the communications and information director of Nnipa Nse Hwee, bringing in topical issues for deliberation.
Akosua continued, “It is the Mills-Brown guy, because he thinks he is handsome and intelligent, he goes around strutting like a Manhyia peacock, thinking of himself better than everyone else.”
“Who says he is handsome?”
“Ebei, SG (her friends called Gogormi by the abbreviated form of her nickname), don’t act like the hunter who said the bird wasn’t nice afterall, when he failed to shoot it after stalking it for days. Aren’t you the same gal who used to fancy Mills-Brown?”
All the girls burst out laughing. Tinash was like that. With her choice Asanti proverbs, she could bring humor into the discussions and also cut right to the bone. And when she wanted to be caustic in her remarks, those same proverbs came in handy.
“But seriously, girls, does that boy fear girls or what? I was on the same table with him last year, he was so shy of us!”
“I don’t think it is shyness, it is pride!” SG insisted.
“But he is an SU (Scripture union) member, how can he be proud?”
“Kai, their pride is even worse, when it is covered by a false spiritual cloak.”
Hmm, it was a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the NNH council.

Interestingly, though, the more the girls discussed Kwesi, the more Araba thought of him; she just could not get him off her mind. She was beginning to understand that Kwesi’s apparent aloofness was a challenge to many and this situation to her was like wind to fire – it extinguished the small and rekindled the mighty.

The Scripture union (SU) brought most young christians on campus together; both Araba and Kwesi were members. One evening at SU, the program was Interaction time, during which members were supposed to interact with and get to know one another better. After a short time of prayer and singing, the MC for the evening asked members to chat amongst themselves. Araba turned to find the first person to talk to, and who did she face but Kwesi! Kwesi, of all the people at the meeting! Her heart missed a beat, no, two beats!

“Hello, I am Kwesi Mills-Brown, Form 5 Science,” he opened up.
“Hi, my name is Araba…Araba Frimpomaa Larbi. Three C.”

The ice was broken. They talked the entire period, a duration which many used to chat with about three persons altogether. It was a hilarious chat they had. It was as if they had known each other for years. She was pleasantly surprised by his sense of humour. Indeed, appearances are deceptive, but smell is not, and had not the elders said that it is only when you shook the nim tree (Azadirachta indica) that you smell it well? Definitely one needed to get closer to be able to shake – you can’t shake by remote control. She was struck by his quiet nature, his simple choice of words and his depth of knowledge. After exchanging basic information about each other – age, subjects offered, favourite food etc – interspersed with jokes and anecdotes, Kwesi challenged her to live for the Lord and never give up her faith, in whatever difficulty she went through; and to value her salvation, since it was the best thing that had and will ever happen to her.

Before long, it was time for the meeting to wind up, and Araba and Kwesi had to go back to their seats. He again expressed his pleasure at meeting her and promised to keep in touch.

Araba took a long time sleeping that night. She was excited. She relived the conversation they had in her mind the umpteenth time. Oh, Kwesi was so pleasant to talk to. Truly, you could not judge an object from afar, she philosophised. She resolved to know him better, for here surely was a friend worth keeping. She reasoned that it was not that Kwesi felt superior to others but that he was just not an extrovert. Only when you got close to such people did you find the gold in them. Eh, Araba, are you now a psychologist, she teased her thoughts, with a laugh. With a beatific smile on her face, she drifted into a peaceful sleep, embracing her thoughts and taking a stroll into dreamland.

True to his word, Kwesi sent a note to her the next morning.
Hi Rabbs, [Oh she remembered! Araba smiled at his reference to her nickname]

It was great chatting with you yesterday. Once again, it’s been a pleasure meeting you. I hope to be a friend, and a good one too. There are a lot of things we can share together – our challenges, our anxieties, and of course God’s word. Keep on keeping on in the Lord.

God bless,
Kwesi

That note opened the gates to a fulfilling friendship between them. Kwesi and Araba kept nothing hidden from each other, encouraging and spurring one another on. They became an epitome of friendship on campus and grew fond of one another each passing day.

Kwesi passed his ‘O’ Levels and continued at the same school. After his statutory National service, he continued to the University. He was in his fourth year in Medical school when Araba wrote the letter, that memorable letter, to him.

Araba was teaching for her National service at Assin Kabrofo after completing teachers’ training college. Her friendship with Kwesi had developed into something stronger, that ‘something’ Araba found out during this period of her service.

The National service in faraway Assin, about four hundred kilometers from the capital city, was taking its toll on Araba. Her job as a teacher in the local junior secondary school was exhausting. She was miles away from home, in the midst of unfamiliar people; she felt so lonely. Her companions were the many letters that came from Kwesi, she looked forward to them each week with the expectation of a pregnant woman in her ninth month. Kwesi had become unto her a pillar, a great companion, a balm that soothed her in times of depression and frustration. It was there, in the dense forest area of Assin, where loneliness lead her to do long reflections, excursions in her mind she called them, that she came to the realisation that she was indeed in love. In love and with Kwesi. She saw him, now, not only as a friend and a brother, but a life companion. In retrospect and with the benefit of maturity, she understood her initial feelings towards Kwesi now – it was a seed of affectionate love, right from the start.

But for two months now, she hadn’t heard from Kwesi. Had Kwesi deserted her, discarded her, left her when she needed him most, when her mind had finally accepted what her heart has been belting out for a long time, that she was in love with him? Had her love been in vain? She had heard many stories about those University guys, how they could easily forget about their steadies as soon as they feasted their eyes on those kyingilingi (slim) Varsity girls. You can’t do this to me, Kwesi, surely you can’t…but did he love her too, she asked herself yet again. “Never assume a man’s love”, she reminded herself. What if Kwesi just saw her as a sister in Christ, a friend?

Ebo Nkwantabisa was known far and wide in the Assin area. A famed hunter, it was believed that if one held a finger up, Ebo could shot it off at a hundred yards. The antelope and the deer he had killed, the gorilla and the wild boar he had subdued. He also loved to hunt another species in the land of the living: girls. And he had a similar reputation in that enterprise as well.

When he set his eyes on the new teacher of A1, one of the two local L.A. Middle School (even though the educational system had moved to the Junior Secondary School naming, the old name still stuck in the local lingua), his adrenalin level shot up a thousand notches. In the game of winning ladies, he operated with the same strategy he employed in the thick of the forest: study the intended target (likes, dislikes, sounds), observe its daily routine, draw a line of approach (including baits, traps), lie in wait patiently and strike opportunistically. Needless to say, his success rate was high. And it helped that he was the chief’s son.

Araba usually woke up at 5.30 each morning, to say her daily prayers and read the Bible, before opening her door. As a teacher, she didn’t have to go to the Ankobra river to fetch water. The headmaster had a rooster for the pupils to supply each teacher with water, firewood and charcoal. Water, the pupils procured from the river. Firewood and charcoal, they supply as a non-syllabus item he called Art & Craft. With this blanket subject, sundry items were provided by the pupils at no extra cost to the school.

Araba’s foot hit an item, in a sack, on the ground as she stepped out of her room. It was a bit foggy, as the monsoon and harmattan winds had started spreading a haze across the countryside. However, the cool wind that the harmattan conveyed brought relief from the oppressive heat. She jumped back immediately, a bit frightened. She went back into her room and waited for the day to fully break.

It was a roasted grass-cutter, its limbs linked by arrow-like sticks, spread-eagled.

“Baffour Maame!”
“Yes, Miss, maa kye (good morning).”

The village folk called every female teacher Miss, whether married or single. Araba lived in a compound house, of five families, each occupying a unit of two rooms. The entire compound house shared one bathroom, and for nature’s call, the newly commissioned communal KVIP was the place to go. It was Baffour Maame’s turn to sweep the courtyard. As a privilege, again, Araba was exempt from sweeping the courtyard or scrubbing the bathroom. Bush allowance for teachers, it was called.

“Auntie, please, did you see the person who brought this?”
Baffour’s mum smiled to herself. She knew only one person who used that strategy in Kabrofo.
“No, I didn’t see anyone drop it there. I was up when the first cock crowed but no one has come near your door.”
“Hmm. OK, can you please keep this on the top of your barn for me, so it still gets smoked? I need to find out who brought it before I do anything with it.”

After school that day, Araba crossed the school field from A1 towards the street that separated Old Town from Sikafuo Amantem. She took the path behind Opanyin Apusika’s shop, and turned left into the market. She needed to buy some dried fish for the kontomire stew she was planning to cook. Baffour Maame had given her gift of ten well-built fingers of plantain and she intended to do justice to it.

With her fish and kontomire duly bought, Araba went by Nana Potisaa’s store, to say hi to the old lady. Madam Potisaa was one of the oldest in the village and particularly liked Araba, saying she resembled her long deceased grand-daughter. Araba gave the old lady the two tins of sardine she always took to her and sat by her bed to chat for a while.

Kwame Atta, one of Nana Potisaa’s grandchildren, came in.

“Miss, Bra Ebo is looking for you.” She didn’t know anyone by that name, but Kwame sounded excited. Araba stepped out to see a tall, well-built man sitting on the veranda.

He got up and extended his hand; she shook it.

“Please, did you get the akrantie I asked Atta to bring to you yesterday?”

Mystery solved.

“Yes, I did. I didn’t know who it was from though.”
“Ah, oh, it was from me. I trapped it myself and dried it in a special way, just for you, Miss.
“Thank you, but I don’t eat bush meat.”
“Oh.”

It has been a particularly tiring day. It was about 4.30 p.m. and she had just returned from school after preparing her students for the impending examinations. Getting home was becoming a chore too – she had to watch out for Ebo, changing routes so she didn’t have to cross paths with him. He had become more than a pest; perhaps unable to realize that not all girls were his for the taking in the village. His gifts had progressed from bush meat through mutton to kente, all in a bid to win her. Baffour Maame’s soup had undergone a revolutionary upgrade since Ebo set his heart on Araba. Not hearing from Kwesi exacerbated her frustration at the situation.

It had been a week since she mailed that letter to Kwesi. As she changed into her housedress, to try and relax in bed, her thoughts turned to him almost automatically, immediately, effortlessly.

A knock on the door. Who should be disturbing my limited peace of mind at this time of day, she wasn’t pleased to wonder. She hesitated for a moment, but the knocking persisted. Sometimes her neighbours, especially Baffour Maame, could be tenacious when they wanted to ask her opinion. Again, what if it was Ebo Nkwantabisa. Her heart missed a beat.

“Not him, Lord!” she prayed. She rose and opened the door, reluctantly.

“Kwesi!”

She jumped into his arms. He nearly lost his footing; she was besides herself with joy. Kwesi smiled at her, that slow delicious smile of his that melted her intestines. She didn’t relax her embrace, and he practically had to carry her to the sofa. Araba looked up at him in sheer wonderment, it was so good to be true, Kwesi with her and such a swift answer to her prayers! Such a speedy response to her letter, far beyond her expectations, really!

He suggested they go out for a walk. She obliged and soon with her arms intertwined into his, they took the path that went towards Moseaso, by the peaceful flowing waters of the Ankobra, the waters lovingly washing the rocks in an intricate, ancient ritual, undisturbed by the passage of time. For some time, they walked in silence. Interesting, reflected Araba, that silence could be so enjoyable when it was shared with someone significant, that silence could speak when one was well tuned to its frequency, when the ambience was right. Araba revelled in the moment and wished it would not end.

Kwesi broke the silence eventually, with a squeeze of Araba’s hand. He explained why he had not written for such a long time. He had been on a team of medical students’ outreach to the Brong Ahafo region to educate the folks on malaria prevention, as part of a UN-sponsored project. They had been away for about two months and on their return, he found Araba’s letter in his pigeonhole – he came to Assin immediately.

“Oh Kwesi” was all Araba could say. She felt cherished, and all the anxiety and tension in the past couple of months seemed to ebb and dissipate.

They were now on the outskirts of the village, on the southern part. The sun was beginning his journey to his sleeping abode, and most of the villagers were returning to their homes from the day’s work at their farms, with loads of foodstuff and firewood on their heads. Araba waved back at Auntie Mansa, who had her sixth child tired to her back, with two of her children following their father, who held in his hands a freshly trapped grasscutter. A visitor of Miss was always welcome and many of the other folks smiled, waved or stopped to shake hands. It was better to shake hands, since a wave from afar was sometimes deemed uncouth, and referred to as cutting a branch of a tree! However, few stopped to shake the hands of the visitor, as they sensed that Miss wanted some privacy.

Kwesi turned Araba to face him, and he looked down into her eyes.

“My dear, know this. We may still have a long way to go but take this from me. Allow me to borrow from Scripture. Human as I am, I promise never to leave you nor forsake you. You seem to think you alone have the capacity to love, more than all men; all ladies have that false impression. Hear this: I love you back! So long have I loved you, and I have had to admit it to myself, eventually. I know I haven’t shown it much, I needed to be careful, to be sure of myself, of my commitment, to move appreciation to affection. But now I know that my love is for you, and I want to shout it out too, now!”

He embraced Araba warmly. Contentment showed on both faces as they remained in their embrace. Far above them, the sun smiled gently on those two lovebirds and gave them his blessings, as he opened the door to his house. The songs of the birds ceased, the wind became quiet, the tree branches craned their long necks, all nature seeming to come to a standstill as Kwesi and Araba walked back to the village slowly, arms linked, down the aisle of life, a solemn procession with the trees and creatures of nature as their companions and audience, back to the village, back to love, back to peace. Heartaches may still come their way, but at least they knew they had a cure – their love.