The young man in the well-ironed blue shirt and black neck-tie walked briskly on the paved side-walk. The slender fingers of his right hand were clasped around a black leather bag. As he took his strides, his well-starched trousers made a silent swish sound in acknowledgment. A gold-plated watch with a black leather strap enclosed itself around his left wrist.
Like many of the civil servants who trudged along the sidewalks of Accra’s Ministries roads, he had earphones plugged in his ear and a concentrated look that revealed one fact: he was listening to the morning news.
Wofa-K saw the young man in the blue shirt approaching from about a hundred meters away. He had observed him come along this path every weekday morning since two weeks ago. His punctuality and taste in clothing meant only one thing to Wofa-K; the man was a new employee in one of the ministries. As the man took a few more strides forward, still with a concentrated look on his face, Wofa-K picked up the pair of black Armani shoes from his assorted collection arranged on the pavement, and dusted it one final time.
He had been planning to do this for days and a couple of reasons spurred him on. For starters, he was an experienced shoe-seller. He had spent five years selling at Tema Station and two at Kantamanto, till the infamous fire seasons struck Accra’s markets. All of his leather had been incinerated. By a stroke of luck, he had found this pavement in front of PMMC abandoned, and after passing around a couple of green cedi notes, he now decorated the pavement blocks with fifty pairs of the finest synthetic leather shoes his now largely down-sized budget could afford. As an experienced shoe-seller, he knew some buyers simply needed a suggestion or two. Wofa-K also saw one thing in this man which almost everyone else never saw or paid no attention to; The man always wore a brown pair of plimsoles. Wofa-K thought this to be highly unofficial, and he was ready to complete the final initiation of this guy-guy young man into proper corporate fashion.
The young man was ten meters away now and a premonitory smile carved itself on Wofa-K’s face. He boldly stepped forward to meet the young man. The young man was momentarily perplexed at the sight of this new figure directly in his path. He looked set to walk right around Wofa-K but the shrewd shoe-seller took one more step forward and shoved the pair of black leather shoes in his face.
“Chale, Original leather- Straight from Italy- Cool price,” Wofa-K confidently advertised.
The young man immediately shook his head in reply to Wofa-K’s presentation and side-stepped to walk past the shoe-seller. But Wofa-K was defiant. He stretched out an arm and placed it on the young man’s shoulder. What happened seconds later was a first for Wofa-K. The young man grabbed Wofa-K’s hand and twisted it behind the shoe-seller’s back. Wofa-K winced as his muscles and tendons seared with the pain of a classic hammerlock.
“Massa, if sombro make wild, you no dey see? If I go buy shoe, no be you go tell me!” the young man growled into Wofa-K’s ear from behind him.
Wofa-K felt the young man’s grip tighten sharply, and then loosen. He remained speechless and watched in shock as the figure in the ironed blue shirt and well starched trousers walked away.
“Ei! Wofa-K? Aden?” Adanu, who sold shoe-polish and brushes meters away, asked. He had quietly watched on as his friend was locked in the strangely physical negotiation.
Wofa-K simply shrugged and dusted the shoes for which he had endured short physical pain.
“Small boys are young,” he replied softly with a tut.