“Clarity” by Priscilla Adipa.

It happened unexpectedly. Eventually. Unlike his commitment to Augusta, the discovery took time. When he uncovered the reasons behind her phone calls and averted eyes, he saw that this point would have been reached sooner, if only he had not been overly confident in his ability to hold Augusta’s attention.

He stood in the rain, his temper rising as the raindrops on top of his head grew heavier and heavier. He opened his mouth and received the rain. The weight and saltiness of the water in his mouth brought on memories of tongues locked in passion, bodies pliant to the desires of the other. Hungry for more, he pushed out his whole tongue and held it still in space. When recalling became painful, he pulled his tongue back into his mouth.

 

Augusta returned home to find Kwasi’s drenched form stretched out on their doorstep. As soon as she saw him, she knew their journey together was over. She hesitated in the car. Somewhere deep inside her, a breath of relief and of regret came alive. Being in harmony with Kwasi had become tedious, so tedious that she had looked elsewhere for what he no longer provided. Yet Augusta wavered. She had to be sure she was ready to let go.

Slowly she turned off the engine. She opened the door and placed one foot onto the wet ground, and then the other. It had stopped raining. She walked towards Kwasi, her face filled with sorrow. She tried to read his thoughts, but this time it was impossible. The force that had connected them was broken, and his mind was shut from her probing eyes.

“Kwasi.” His name escaped quickly from her lips. She was breathless, as though she had run a marathon and was struggling to get her words out. “Kwasi,” she called again.

He said nothing. On his face was etched a hardness Augusta had never seen before.

“Say something.” She searched for absolution, a sign that all would be well between them.

In response, there was only the heavy sound of breathing and the cricket song that filled the air when the rain clouds receded.

He decided to help her out. “As long as you are happy,” he said, almost too softly for Augusta to hear.

She waited for him to say more. But these were the only words that revolved around them in the growing darkness.

They stood on the doorstep, framed by the arches of the veranda. They had stood there countless times on days they escaped outside when their small house became too hot inside. The doorstep was Augusta’s favourite spot. It was there they sat on Fridays after work to eat kelewele bought from the woman down the road. It was there they spent evenings with no power, and, with just a candle and a mosquito coil between them, cursed ECG and anyone else responsible for the unending dumsor.

Augusta walked past Kwasi towards their front door. He had anticipated what she would need. Four suitcases stood near the door. One of the suitcases was made from a synthetic beige material with red stripes. It had remained pristine over the years. It was the suitcase Kwasi’s family brought to her parents’ house the morning of their engagement. It was the one they had packed with kente and cloth she hadn’t yet taken to her seamstress. All these years she’d kept the suitcase covered with a large see-through plastic bag. Now, she had to drag the suitcase on the muddied cemented ground to her car.
Again, Kwasi thought ahead of her. He grabbed hold of the bags and packed them into the car.

“Goodbye,” he said, as he slammed the boot shut and made to walk back towards the house.

“I’m sorry,” she said, as she placed a hand on his arm. Then, encouraged by the softening in his eyes, she leaned over to trace the angry lines on his forehead. He flinched when her hand touched his face.

“Just leave,” he said, and Augusta quickly got into the car, realizing his patience would not last.

She pushed the gear into reverse when he entered the house. Her left leg shook as she lifted it off the clutch. She had all her belongings, but still it felt like she was leaving a part of herself behind. The car stalled. She put the gear again into reverse, and pulled out of their yard. She did not stop even when she looked back and thought she saw Kwasi step out onto the doorstep.

“Breaking the Silence” by Daniel Hanson Dzah.

After she had been buried, and the funeral over, and he had managed to evict all the relatives artfully ensconcing their way into permanent residency, he would sit in his wooden grandfather chair kept under the large mango tree in his compound, breathing in the tropical breeze and cooling off under the shade of the green thicket.

He would sit all day, silent. Sometimes he would daydream for hours, floating freely between patchy nostalgia and pitiful hallucination. Sometimes he would slide into a deep sleep and only be jolted awake by an unusual swoosh of air. Then his stomach would rumble for lunch and he would obediently go into the kitchen. But he would be back soon after lunch, a good deal before sunset, and resume his posture under the mango tree.

The neighbourhood children would return, heartily retailing anecdotes about school or most often, sharing mean jokes about their teachers and classmates.

They would notice him, but they would not greet him.

He wished to scold them for their lack of respect but he no longer had the strength or conviction. Sometimes, thoughts of how things had changed in the last few decades would float to his mind’s surface and spread themselves over its banks. But his body would soon wear out his mind and the two would walk hand in hand in resignation to the times. He would look up at the flower panicles. A tired wrinkly smile would plaster itself unto his face.  

 

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

 

They were late.

At first, he thought the sun was setting earlier than usual. It was nearing the cold season after all. He tried to lift himself upright but paused halfway. The laughter and chatter were not as loud as always, but they were familiar. It was the school children. He sank back into his chair.

They had just laughed off a quick round of jokes and inadvertently toned down their voices to near silence as they approached his compound. Then they heard him call.

A hoarse version of the same sukuu nkwadaa they often heard older people call them. School children, he called out to them again. They stopped, momentarily unsure of what to do. He called them over as any old man would – in a tone of cordial invitation with a tinge of authority. They bashfully moved their human caterpillar towards him.

It was nothing after all. Just old people talk as usual. What were their names? Where did they attend school? What classes were they in? Who did they want to be in future? He mentioned that he had been trying to get their attention every time they walked past his compound, but they never seemed to hear him above their racket. They respectfully apologized. He accepted their apologies and made them promise to greet him tomorrow. Then he dragged his left hand behind his chair and pulled out a black polythene bag.

As was evident on the tree, the mango season had started. He was gifting them the first ripe fruit he had plucked himself. He joked that he was an expert tree climber. They giggled, shy at his grey humour. He counted them. Four boys and two girls. There was a mango for each. They thanked him profusely as they would their own grandfather. He nodded his approval. He would see them tomorrow. His regards should be extended to their parents, he added with a wobbly wave.  

 

************   



Two of the children managed to speak before they, like the others, foamed at the mouth and danced for the last time.

When the wailing brought the entire neighbourhood together, when everybody learned what the children had said and where they had last been and what they had last done, a furious whirlwind of bewildered men and women swept towards the old man’s house. They stopped short at his compound. Silence fell on their numbers. They only gaped, the venom drying in their throats.

A street lamp shone brightly on the mango tree. Two feet like ripe fruit dangled low from its branches. Some young men straggled to the tree to bring down the body. A single loud wail pierced the dusk and broke the silence. A torrent of ululations followed.

“Grandpa’s Face” by Edwina Pessey.

There he lies. He could have been asleep. He really did look like it. Although slightly bloated. His chest area looked robust for an aged, dead man. Grandpa was almost smiling. He always managed to see the humour in any situation. That was something Aba had picked up. It was this face, now inanimate, that raised his granddaughter.

 

When Aba was six, Grandpa’s bespectacled face towered over her’s. He had just found her on his bedroom floor with his upended first aid box beside her. Her lips were chalk-white.

Aaaa,” Grandpa said. “Open your mouth. Aaaa”. Aba opened her mouth to reveal a white mash on her tongue. She unfurled her fists to reveal round tablets with a big ‘G’ embossed on them. Aba’s eyes began to water. He had caught her. Grandpa burst out laughing and offered her a hand so she could stand. Aba’s grandmother would later medicate her with the Bentua to ease Aba’s constipation.

 

Presently, Aba notices the neatly folded Kente at the foot of the coffin. Her cousin told her that beneath the Kente was money that Grandpa would use in the spirit world. She had rolled her eyes at this. “Really?”

 

She turned her eyes to the corner. Grandma sat surrounded by consolers all keeping wake. Her eyes returned to Grandpa…

 

When she was nine, Aba kneeled and faced Grandpa to watch him eat pawpaw. She had her elbows strategically placed on the table to support her chin. This was a tactic she and her cousins devised — silently willing Grandpa to give up his food so they could devour the rest. That day it was soft pawpaw with evaporated milk; the day before that it was Abiba’s Waakye. “Fine. Here you go,” Grandpa resigned and pushed the bowl towards his granddaughter. He chuckled to reassure her that he was not annoyed. Aba grabbed the bowl and dashed behind the longest couch. She would be hidden from the eyes of her cousins if they came prowling.

 

Mourners circled Grandpa’s body. Aba allowed little room between herself and the coffin so the slow march circled her too. It looked like a dance; the kind of dance which involved shuddering shoulders, dragging feet, and the occasional dab around the eyes and lips a handkerchief or the back of a hand.

Some mourner-dancers were more energetic than the rest; they loudly proclaimed their wish to go with Grandpa. Aba’s mother was one of them. “Ei! mini sane nε,” Aba thought, while struggling to smother an emotion that had started to well up in her. She returned to her late grandfather’s face.

 

Her childhood rushed like a flood in her mind as she stared. Aba screwed up her face as though to sneeze, or cry—possibly the latter. The sound that erupted was not of a sob. It was unmistakable laughter.

“The Things that Came with the Light” by Ewurama Amoonua Adenu-Mensah.

I lift a handful of sea water to my face and cringe as it settles into the rubbed-raw cracks underneath my eyes. But I do not feel the sharp stinging I prepared for. I do not feel anything. I look up and squint and hope that what I had just seen was merely a sleep-induced hallucination. But it is still there, and it still shines, a light brighter than anything I have ever seen.

I must be dying.

I scoop up more handfuls of the cool water and this time I wash my entire face. The water shoots painfully up my nostrils and I feel a coppery saltiness course down my tongue. I sink down onto the shallow sea bed and the wet sand shifts to accommodate my bony form. I briefly contemplate praying to the ‘ɛpo sunsum’ but I get the immediate sense that even the sea god cannot command this one away. It feels far too real, far too close. It’s certainly much too late for a prayer.

“Ato, bɛsen ma yɛnkᴐ”, I hear my friend Atta call from beyond the grove of palm trees we lay under to watch the sea at night. I hear heavy panting and the retreating slaps of bare feet against soaked earth as he continues to call for me to join him run back into the village to tell someone, anyone of this light charging steadily in my direction.

I feel it come closer and yet I do not move. I cannot move. It is mesmerizing, this growing brightness. I truly must be dying.

I am humbled by this light. It is brighter than a thousand fishermen lamps held together, faster than Paa Quansah’s paddles during the Bakatue canoe races, scarier than the fetish priests performing the morning rituals and I am humbled by it. I do not move. I cannot move. I simply stare at it.

I am definitely dying.

I decide to resign to my fate. The gods must want me back and I am not about to challenge their authority. I feel the cool water seep into every inch of my cloth as I lower myself with my arms spread out and lift my knees off the soft sand of the shallow sea bed until I am floating. I close my eyes bravely, awaiting the next phase of the dying process.

I feel a sharp jerk and the tender flesh under my arms and above my ribcage throbs. I know that when you die, your soul has to leave your body but I never thought this would be an actual physical process. Interesting. I wonder which other part of dying will turn out to be much different than I imagined.

I hear the garbled commands of a voice that sounds remotely like my father’s but I am not entirely sure. This out of body experience is amazing. Maybe I am at my funeral, and maybe the voice is the last call to my dead body to rise before I am mistakenly buried alive. I hear it happens sometimes. I wish that this call would work, that I can wake up and run into my mother’s arms. She is probably weeping bitterly, my poor mother. I am her only son. But I cannot change the ways of Death and as much as I want to stay, I must leave. It’s funny how I don’t even know where I am headed but I know it’s only a matter of time.

I feel a heavy pressure on my back and it builds steadily with every passing second. Maybe it’s the mud piling up on my back. I surely am being buried. The pressure builds. It feels surprisingly very real, almost painful even. It’s crazy how real this all feels, these processes of dying. I always thought death would be painless when I was alive. The pressure still builds. This is more painful than I thought it would get, this steady thudding at my back.

“Ato, bue w’enyiwa”.

Definitely my father’s voice, a little too coherent, a little too close. He wants me to open my eyes. The heavy threat looming in those three words he speaks is enough to scare me into trying. My eyes open just as his fist crashes into my lower back and I let out a strange, strangled sound. I am not dead.

I follow his eyes to see the light that shocked me into thinking the gods were calling me. It’s attached to a Big Canoe, a looming wooden structure wedged in the wet sand at the shore. In the dark, I make out the figures of other men from our village craning their necks from their crouched positions behind the thick-stemmed palms to watch the Big Canoe.

A thing emerges from behind the light and I hear the quickly gathering breaths of confused people. It looks like a man, two hands and two long legs like my father’s. But it is different. Its skin looks like the inside of a freshly cut yam and its hair runs down its back in waves, just like the sea. It reaches the shore and we stare in puzzled amazement. And then it screams. It did not speak Fante or maybe I haven’t fully regained my hearing because of the water that still stands stubbornly in my ears.

After it screams, other things like it jump down from the Big Canoe and tread towards the shore. The last thing I notice is the different colors of their hairs as my father yanks me up from his lap and drags me along, barely missing the palm trees. On his face is a look of pure panic, possibly terror. I have never seen him look so scared. We speed as fast as our legs can carry us to the house of the king to tell him about the things we just witnessed on the shore. The king must know what they are. He knows everything.

“Ebi Time” by Fui Can-Tamakloe.

Politicians dey vex me. The fact say if you no go school you no dey fit get better job dey vex me. The pastors wey dey preach for inside trotro dey vex me. The old women wey dey see my hair wey dey call me thief den wee smoker dey vex me. I no be thief walaahi. I be gameboy. Ebi ein I dey get money small small dey take buy the wee I dey smoke. But that no dey mean sey if I dey pass you for call your kiddies make them come house. Weytin concern me plus the kiddies? Them sef dey vex me.
You go fi see sey plenty things dey vex me. But nothing dey vex me pass policeman. Koti. Fire bon dem marafackas. Them wey dey stop me for car inside ask me for papers. Them wey dey like searcha me sekof rasta man always get some grass for ein pocket. I no be rasta man sef. E just be say I shon dey comb my hair. Five years this I never touch my hair plus comb. But if you talk this thing koti go slap you sey you dey diss am. Obey before complain! Them go shout put your top. But that thing sef be lie. Them just dey want make you obey, period. If you be man, complain. Them go carry you go counter-back make you chop some cool weekend for there.
The koti dey vex me pass anything for this world inside.

That be why today me then some kotifight. I dey cabbie inside wey the driver dey speed. Me I no dey drive some, I just dey pay the man wey dey drive. But as the policeman stop am e no spy am sef. Ebi me e dey want harass. But goddamn today no be good day give am. Today be the day I dey go my auntie ein funeral. This be the woman she take care of me my entire life as my mommy disappear. Poppy never spend
kaprɛ for my top. My kiddie time sef I see am like three times . So ebi this woman wey raise me. Then this koti want fool. He dey searcha me an tins. Of course today of all days some small tree go dey my pocket. I get funeral go. I no want feel some tins. I try explain give am he no soak. I try tap the cabbie inside he bore wey e push me. Ein e make I bore. You know me some place? Why say you for push me? I give am some one two one two blows make e conf. Then e no dey fit me. How he go fit sef? The Bukom boys sef hear my rundown. Like e no be say fraud good, I go turn boxer take claim money from them white marafackas them dey America. Money Pakayo an tins. By the time I finish am then he dey floor dey beg me. Koti dey beg me. You ever hear some before? I try tap the cabbie inside make we lef but opana lock the door wey e speed lef me. Then the matter be simple. I for weigh another cabbie. I stretch my hand sey I go stop another one, but the car wey stop for my front be police car. Be like them come relieve opana from post.

My story no plenty. E dey end for here. I hear say the way people cry for the funeral there?? Stop! But then I no fit go. As the other policemen see what I take do demma guy, how them go make I go? Them beat me for there nɔɔ. Them damage my eye sef. I no be boxer but rydee I get eye problem. Them make I bedcounter-back like one week. Every gbɛkɛ them go come beat beat me. Wey be like God touch demma heart make them release me. The beatings no touch me sef. Weytin man no see before? The only thing e bash me be say I no go Maa Dina ein funeral. My last chance wey I go fit see am but some koti mess me up.

Hm.

Ebi time.

 

“Urban Hunters” by Jesse Jojo Johnson.

I woke up for the third time that afternoon. Okyerewaa no longer troubled my sleep: this time I did not dream.

When I opened my eyes, the motor of the ceiling fan had just gone off: the comforting hum was gone as the blades spun to a halt. The heat must have roused me, I thought, shaking off my covers, pulling the shirt off my back.

I was too lazy to actually get out of bed. My pillow was damp, the old mattress too depressed to provide any more comfort. I lay there adjusting to the dim room. I was thinking of Okyerewaa.

My next action was mechanical. I picked up my phone pretending to check the time. That goddamned icon. My heart beat faster anytime I saw a notification. After six months I’d pavloved myself into a mild frenzy anytime I got a message from her.

No new message from Okyerewaa this time. It was the nuisance of those groups I was too worried to leave, lest I draw needless attention to myself. I let the phone slide out of my hand. My eyes clouded and I wandered on the threshold of sleep.

We moved to North Legon nearly a year ago. Our house is a story building at the edge of the Madina Zongo. In front of my house is Malam Issaka’s signboard, complete with two phone numbers (MTN and Airtel), an email address (Yahoo!) and a crudely drawn image of him draped in a white jalabiya dancing in front of a snake-infested pot.

A red arrow on the signboard points toward my house. Malam Issaka doesn’t live with us, no. His enterprise is actually behind our wall. You skirt the razor-wired fence till you meet a footpath. It’ll lead you to a large gutter that has three wooden planks across it. Crossing that bridge takes you behind my house and into my favourite attraction.

Anytime the lights are off, I sit by my window and look across the gutter. There’s a forest of TV antennae sticking from the roughest housing I know. There’s a dusty, fenced park with two wooden, faltering goal posts that displays talent better than our premier league. There’re the loose girls who sit on the boys at Fuseina’s and cackle loudly at jokes I cannot hear from the distance. When I don’t want to think of Okyerewaa, I sit there and distract myself.

Today was a slow evening: the sun had beat us all to submission. Two old men drank quietly at the notorious spot. A pretty girl bathed her little sister in a basin in front of their house. I panned to the left. The park. Six boys sat on benches near the imaginary touchline, bored as I was. Perhaps the blackout had driven them out too.

A dog strayed into the park. A seventh boy, barely ten from his height and manner, closed the park’s gate. He stayed outside.

The boys inside the park stirred to life. It was then I noticed two of the oldest playing with two large sticks. What conversation they were having grew more animated.

One boy broke from the group and walked toward the nearer goal post. I did not notice when he picked up the stone. He had already broken into a light run. Then he stopped and turned to his friends, like he was about to say something. He spun and flung the rock hard as he could. It struck the dog dead on its thigh. The creature howled – I heard it – and broke into a run. The hunter chased after it. He had another stone in hand.

The dog crossed the center line and made for the farther half of the field, edging closer to the touch line. It might have noticed the fence was too high. It made a large arc near the right of the penalty box. The hunter cut across the arc and stopped the hound in its tracks.

The dog barked and bared its teeth. The hunter teased attack, brandished his missile, faked another run to confuse his target. He feigned a run to his right, then threw the second stone with his left. The dog, more agile, sprung toward the missile, which only grazed its back.

The hunter slipped and fell in the sand. His cohorts were roused. Five strong men broke out in two flanks. The eldest held the center. The dog ran down the touch line toward the nearer goal post, howling all the time. The hunters chanted back a vicious chorus as the two youngest ran to meet it head on. They had no sticks, no stones, only intimidating faces and savage grunts.

The two older boys meant to intercept the dog as it tried to get away from the younger boys. The oldest, trotting along with an aura of experience brandished his staff with haughty flair. He was meant to clean up operations when both his flanks failed.

Our fallen hunter meanwhile was busy looking for stones to direct their victim’s run if it didn’t favour the pursuit. The youngest boys charged without care at the dog. It stopped in a cloud of dust, danced this way and that in a moment of confusion, and dashed in the opposite direction, right into the other flank.

Or so I thought.

In a moment of instinctive brilliance our dog made for the gap between both flanks. The nonchalant leader of the gang broke into a run and swung his club once, twice. There was a howl. A human cry. He was floored. His stick flew from his hand and landed worthless a distance from him.

The dog bolted free from the attackers and made for the left corner of the field, towards the farther goal post. There the fence was lower. A few leaps to the end of the run the dog collapsed in a tangle of its own legs, in dust, and with a cry that caught my breath. The fallen hunter spun another stone at an angle. It must have hit the beast right on the spine: after another cry, it stopped moving entirely.

The ten year old who had closed the gate was reaching over the fence, stick in hand. The hunter with the stones gestured to him to get back. Instead, he rushed to the dying dog. He smashed its head in with his stick. I counted all six blows without flinching.

The five boys, dusty from the hunt, walked towards their prize.

My phone vibrated the frame of my bed and pulled me out from the surreal tragedy. I reached for the lit screen like a jewel in the dark, my thoughts alive again with Okyerewaa’s name.

“Homework” by Andrew Teye.

Assembly.
Arms forward stretch. Arms sideways stretch. One logologo line.
Inspection. Neat collar. Clean handkerchief. Let me smell your armpit. White singlet. White socks. Black shoe. Brown shoe. White socks. Black camboo. Brown camboo. White socks. Black sandals. Brown sandals. Where is your badge? Whip-whip-whip!
“God bless our Homeland Ghana.” “I promise on my honour.” “Our Father who art in Heaven.” “And can it be.” “Fairest Lord Jesus.” “We are marching to our classes.”

‘Good Morning Class.’
‘Good Morning Sir.’
‘How are you?’
‘We are fine, thank you. And yooouuu?’
‘Sit down. Where is your homework?’
‘It was too difficult, sir.’ ‘Father left my book in his car boot, sir.’ ‘Father did not sign, sir.’
Teacher banza. Driver banza. Father banza. Whip-whip-whip!

Morning drill.
Students’ companion. Companion of teachers. Foe of students.
Homonyms. Bear. Bear. Bank. Bank. Homophones. Key. Quay. See. Sea. Antonyms. Arrive-Depart. Adore-Despise. Attack-Retreat.
Synonyms. Abandon-Leave-Desert. Astonished-Surprised-Perplexed. Flabbergasted? Whip-whip-whip!
Collections. A bunch of? Bananas! A troupe of? Monkeys! A bouquet of? Err…err. Whip-whip-whip! You monkey!
Mental. Square root of? LCM of? HCF of?  12 Squared plus 5 Squared minus 15 Squared plus 10 Squared minus 2 Squared times zero? Whip-whip-whip!
Break time please!
Auntie please one bread. One meat-pie. One rock buns. One bofroat. Tampico. FanYoghurt. FanChocolate. Fanpop. Fanice…so nice nice nice.
Green Green grasses. Kwaku Ananse Stories. Change your style. Change your style. Be like that. Be like that. Boys play football. Girls play Ampe. Mother jeega nobody!

Break over please!
School Prefect. Compound Prefect. Bell boy. Cupboard Monitor. Blackboard Cleaner. Class Prefect: Sweeping Rooster. Class Prefect: Names of talkatives. Kojo Mensah-DP. Adwoa Mansa-TP. Your head is hard. Your head is hard paa!

Midterm.
Midterm Break. Midterm Holidays. Midterm Homework. English Homework. Maths Homework. Social Studies Homework. Integrated Science Homework. Agricultural Science Homework. Technical Drawing Homework. Catering Homework. Graphic Design Homework. French Homework. Ga Homework. Twi Homework. No-break Midterm. No-holiday Midterm.

 

You like that paa. You too you like that paa! You are someway papa. You too you are someway papa! I won’t say anything. Me I won’t talk. I’m going to come. I’m coming. I’m coming right now okay? Go tear, it is sweet. Herh! Who spoke vernacular? Only English! Speak only English!

Who Fla-tu-lat-ed? Flatulence. Farts. Boys at the back. Maybe girls at the front. Do females fart? Does Queen Elizabeth fart?  Who knows? We never know. Nobody ever knows.
Farts. Silent farts. Loud farts. Smelly farts. Korle Lagoon farts. Lavender Hill farts. Oblogo borla farts.

Mosquito romance. Tease the girls. Chase the boys. Chase him  all around the classroom. Slap him in the back! Pinch his arm! Oh no! There is a teacher! Oh yes! There’s a teacher! Sir, he was teasing me. He was teasing me, Sir. I don’t like that. I do not like that-o. Yoo.

Our day.
Digestive. Hob Nobs. Rich Tea. Shortbread. Coke. Fanta. Sprite. Oh, gimme some of your Malt ehh?
Speakers. Microphone. DJ. Dancing Floor. Dancing Competition. Jams. Who let the dogs out? Wo! Wo! Wo-wo-wo! Oh nananaana! It is our day.

Vacation classes. Vacation classwork. Vacation homework. Home-work. Go home and work.