“The Selfish Child” by Yaw Busia.

Funerals are the fuel of family feuds.  The intensity of a funeral is an emotional fire hazard.  In the Duah family, Adwoa had always been the fiery, outspoken one.  No-one was surprised to hear her yelling near the coffin on the day of Daddy Duah’s funeral.  The drummers did their best to mask the disorder but stoutly-built Adwoa had a powerful voice that rose above theirs. The dancers also tried, alternating between drowsy and delirious dancing. But Adwoa’s large limbs in mad motion held the attention of the mourners. It was to be expected. The only surprise was in the victim of Adwoa’s anger: her own younger sister Akosua, who was kneeling in fresh tears at their deceased father’s side.

“Here too?  Here too?” Adwoa shouted.  “You still want Dad all to yourself?”

Hearing this commotion, Adwoa’s other siblings, Abena and Kofi, rushed to Little Akosua’s defence. (Although in her forties, the family still called her “Little Akosua” – as their father had done all his life. She still had a girlish, small body. She had never been a big eater – in an effort, perhaps, to be deserving of her father’s pet name).

“Adwoa, have you gone mad?” asked their brother, Kofi.  “Have you forgotten our childhood? Little Akosua was the one who never asked for anything for her birthday.  Even as a grown-up, year after year, she never asked for anything expensive – like the rest of us did! Always, Dad would take her aside and spend ages discussing her life plans with her but she never made any request …” “Exactly!” Adwoa interrupted. “Don’t you guys see it now?  She never asked for anything!  She was so selfish. She got all the ATTENT-I-O-N!  She got exactly what she wanted: Daddy’s precious attention. We never had that.  Don’t you see? She was diff-er-ent!” Adwoa rocked her head sarcastically as she glared at Little Akosua. “You see,” she continued, “she’s not even dressed like us.  That’s a darker shade of red exactly like dried blood. She thinks she’s a martyr!”

Hearing that, Akosua started sobbing silently but with a violent shaking of her body. Seeing that her younger sister had been wounded, Adwoa’s breathing became normal. The fever left her. It was as if illness had transferred from one sister to another.

Loyally, Kofi spoke to Little Akosua gently, with special concern, just as their father had always done. His deepening voice sounded like an echo of Daddy Duah: “It’s alright, Akos. She didn’t mean it. Grief is making her say these things.” Meanhile, Abena the middle sister watched Little Akosua with increasing suspicion.  She had not spoken up until now: “In fact, Akosua, I think you’ve had your fair share. Get up from there. Let some of us also spend time with Daddy. You should have asked for something.  Why were you so stubborn?”

It seemed as if the invisible axe of envy had come down on a fallen tree and split whatever had been solid in it.  After many hours without eating or sleeping, and with this latest cut, Little Akosua finally collapsed and was taken to her room. Adwoa wasn’t there to see it. She had herself been led away by Abena to eat a heavy meal and fall asleep, exhausted.

Daddy Duah was left unaccompanied in his coffin – in peace, for a while.

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