“Tatale” by Shefi Nelson.

Three more weeks and I’ll be able toBrrrrring. Maatekor jumped out of her deep thinking and rushed out of class before the bell stopped ringing. She shuffled her way through the crowd to the playground where her little sister was joining the ampe queue. “Maateki, you know we have to get home.” Her sister looked up sadly and said, “Please, can’t I just play today?” She held her little sister’s hand and said, “When we get rich, you’ll play all you want. Come on, there’s no time.” They took the shorter path through the bush to their aunt’s shop. Naa Kwarley was a thick woman with chocolate coloured skin and beautiful hair. She sold provisions and clothes near the community church. After five failed marriages due to her inability to conceive, she felt blessed to take care of her nieces. As she handed over the single rusted key, she smiled and said, “Don’t forget to leave it on top of the shed”. Holding hands, the two sisters briskly walked home in silence.

Maatekor went straight to the kitchen to make the fire while Maateki sat down to finish her homework. In the kitchen, Maatekor peeled the soft plantains and put them in the plastic bowl which had been given to her mother when she started the business. Maatekor stopped to remember her mother’s wide smile and how she used to go round the house to make sure everyone had been taken care of before heading out. Maatekor’s eyes filled with tears as she remembered the day her teacher had brought the news. It was a hot afternoon and she had raced home with her sister as usual only to find the house empty. She had managed to fry plantain for lunch while wondering where everyone was. As they sat down to eat, Mr. Amartey came into the compound accompanied by some people. That was when she knew something was wrong. Her parents together with her big sister had died in an accident on the way to their uncle’s funeral. Maateki’s pale face had prevented Maatekor from screaming and the rest was inexplicable. Suddenly, their life was brought to a standstill. She never knew how life would have turned out if their aunt had not taken them in.

Maateki’s soft touch on her arm brought her back to reality. They got to work, pounding the soft plantains. As Maateki sat down to sift the flour, her sister prepared their mother’s secret spicy mixture that made the tatale everyone’s favourite. It was mildly spicy and had this beautiful combination of peppers, ginger, garlic, sea salt and some herbs. The balsamic herbs complemented the astringent nature of the peppers. Combined with the sweet, soft plantains, her mother had made this meal a delicacy. The two sisters sang local Ga songs learnt from their parents as they fried the tatale which was made of pounded plantain, spices and flour. Before the sun set, they had gobbled up the tiny extra balls and packed the rest into the green ice chest their father had given their mother. As Maateki helped Maatekor put the ice chest on her head she touched her sister’s tear stained face and said, “You know we’ll be fine.” Maatekor placed the key on top of the shed and the two sisters silently walked to the lorry station; each lost in her own thoughts of the past, present and future.

When they got to their usual spot adjacent the Koko seller, there were already travellers queued and eagerly waiting. At exactly half past five, Maatekor opened up the green ice chest with the ambrosial tatale to the world.

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8 thoughts on ““Tatale” by Shefi Nelson.

  1. Hammond says:

    Great piece well written with exquisite grammar and construction.
    As I read this my mind travelled way back to the village and could literally see myself following Maatekor through the market to the kitchen, smelling the spicy tatale and linking my fingers.

    Keep it up Shefi my dear.

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