“Dada! Dada! Look, plantain chips!” I screeched from behind father and kept bouncing up and down on the black leather seat of his Benz. The seatbelt stretched to its limits to hold me in place.
“Shut up! Shut up! Can’t you see Daddy is on the phone!” Ama, my teenage elder sister scolded and pinched me in the arm to keep me still. But I was having none of that. I shoved off her pinching arm and called out again.
I heard him mumble for someone to hold on. When he turned to face me, it was difficult to tell if his furrowed brow was because of the slow-moving traffic or because I had interrupted his call. I was soon to find out.
“Listen, both of you! You Adjoa especially… I am in the middle of a very important call. I don’t want any mprepre agoro at this time. When we get home you can make all the noise you want!”
“But Da-”I started.
“DID YOU HEAR ME! I SAID BE QUIET!”
I folded up into my seat. I was shocked and scared at this sudden outburst. He turned away, still fuming, and returned to mumbling to some obviously important person on the phone. “They take after their mother, I tell you,” I heard him say.
No plantain chips meant no reading, and no reading meant I would stare out the window till we got home. Today was just one of those dull ones with father. It would not be the last. I will survive again today, I thought to myself.
I looked on absent-mindedly as the PK chewing gum- seller tried in vain to get Daddy’s attention. Next was the guy with the shoe polish and brushes, a packet of socks hung out from his back pocket when he turned his back to us. I saw another Plantain Chips seller approach our car. I quickly looked away. She chorused her ‘Yesss plaintain’ and I covered my ears with my fingers to avoid the torture. I turned to my right side to face Ama. She had dozed off after Daddy had scolded, and her gaping mouth made me chuckle. I looked outside her window now.
There were two men flopping arms in each other’s faces metres away from the window. They were planted on the second floor of a building that seemed to be under construction. Scaffolds had been arranged at odd angles along the breadth of the walls. A number of cement bags had been carefully arranged at one corner of the floor where the two men stood. One of the men wore a white helmet, and blue overalls. The other looked rather dirty in his grey overalls. He wore a pair of very large goggles and I wondered why he didn’t take them off to talk to the first man. They seemed to be having a very heated argument. The man with the helmet drove his finger into the face of the man in goggles but it was struck away from the latter’s face with something that looked like the spanner Daddy often used to fix my bicycle’s chain. A look of shock was painted momentarily on the face of the man in the white helmet. All of a sudden, he pushed the man in goggles, in the chest, with his two hands. But he did not push hard enough, for the man in goggles simply stood his ground. Then, in a flash, both men lunged at each other and began to struggle on what now became clearer to me as the balcony of the building.
I turned to Ama; her eyes were wired shut and her gaping mouth was already dribbling on the leather seats. Father was still on the phone and clearly angered about what he was hearing. He yelled ‘unbelievable!’, ‘nonsense!’and ‘ridiculous!’ in quick succession. I refocused on my scene as I felt our car begin to trudge again along the road. The two men had now locked arms and seemed to be wrestling each other. Right before Daddy accelerated farther enough to erase that view, I saw both men lose their balance and fall off the balcony. I gasped and rapidly tapped father repeatedly on his shoulder. He turned around with fury in his eyes and threatened, “ADJOA! I’LL BEAT YOU!”
I sank back into my seat and shut my eyes.