“Grief” by Myers Hansen.

Shaayoo came out onto her porch, where a bucket of water and washing implements had been set. A boy of about six was waiting by a basin, naked and silent. She was clad, the woman, in an old anniversary cloth and a fading blue t-shirt which traced out large drooping breasts to their nipples, no slippers on her feet nor activity on her face.

She pulled a stool toward her and sat on it. She then pulled Osa into the brass basin and began to rub anagosamla into a moist sponge.

Her phone rang. It had been ringing since two nights ago, when news and rumours about Ataa Oko’s death started spreading; news that a sewage truck heading toward Lavender Hill had knocked him down while he was staggering across the street. Rumours that he had held on to a bottle of dry gin and shitɔ loo right to his death. That his scrotum had stuck to a rear tyre. That his penis suddenly became erect, though everyone knew that he had become impotent since the birth of Osa. That it was a painful death and there were no last words…only a long belch.

She had ignored most of the phone calls, but she would answer this one, for no particular reason. She untied the exhausted phone from an ear of her cloth, the same end where she kept taakotsa money. It was Naa Ode. She picked up.

Both women knew what this conversation would entail; Naa Ode would mention cautiously that she had heard what happened. Shaayoo would confirm the news with a meaningful “hmmm” and then burst out into loud sobs. Then, her friend would attempt to console her and promise that she was coming right away.

But something else happened.

Once Naa Ode had said a solemn hello, there were seconds of silence, and then Shaayoo started to sing.

woyemokoniatseɔ le yesu

woyemokoniatseɔ le yesu

woyemokoniatseɔ le yesu

shi le nɔɔebaafee

Naa Ode sang along, like they had done many nights as teenagers at Palladium, and lately, at women’s fellowship. They sang this old Ga hymn with a spirit and odd joy, this same song they had sang into each other’s eyes even at a prayer meeting, days ago. Today, they both had found a song, an expression of their grief and word, in this song -this song about a Jesus they knew, who was able to do, who was able to do.

That is all that happened, and all she needed this very moment.

She ended the call and stared at the screen of her phone for longer than a moment, and then a tender smile occurred on her face. She tied the phone back in place and took up her washing implements again.

Osa watched his mother’s face with the eyes of a child. The phone call had both confusedand made him afraid. He stretched out a palm and touched Shaayoo’s cheek, and then a tear, which even she had been oblivious of,disappeared.

“Ambush at Sunset” by Kojo Nyatepe.

The sun was setting and the natural light was slowly giving way to the natural dark. We should have called it a day, but it was unanimously agreed that there was time enough for one more round of gunfire before the darkness enveloped us. We split into our designated groups, clutching our weapons tight and disappearing into the dense thicket of plantain and banana trees. The trumpet sound was mouthed loudly to call both sides to combat.

I emerged from one of the many trees supplying a jungle ambience to our combat zone. I imagined the impending spillage of blood on the green leaves and how the stems would be ridden with bullet-wounds. It made me chuckle, but not loudly or long enough. A true commander knows such reveries are not strange on the battlefield. However, they have to be quelled so the mind can concentrate fully on dangers on-hand.

It was hard to spot them at first. They had worn black t-shirts and we had stuck to our brown. In the shade of the setting sun, both troops were almost invisible. That was where my work really began. As commander, I had to be able to spot the enemy’s positioning and then covertly signal my troops for an appropriate attacking strategy.

It was easier than I expected. I squatted under the nearest dense group of trees and squinted into enemy territory meters ahead. Nothing moved for minutes, but when I saw trees walking like men, I knew I had the enemy in sight. They looked about in the shade, just as confusedly as my troops. They would soon be at the mercy of our gunfire; these dark figures gently pushing away branches with the barrels of their guns.

My troops were taught to keep their eyes on me and await my silent orders. I immediately signalled with my right index and middle fingers by pushing them towards my eyes, almost poking my eyeballs. My troops understood instantly.

I knew the black troops would stay true to their aggressive strategies. We had long since figured how intently they held on to their ‘Forward Ever’ mantra. We had suffered many losses in their previous waves of attack. When my troops froze in their spots and stared for my next order, I raised my trigger finger and spun invisible circles. They began moving into their positions for our ambush.

I inched a foot forward and could see them clearly now as they drew closer, tiptoeing on the dried leaves and soft tropical soil. My troops had deftly formed the circle of ambush I had ordered for. I nodded my satisfaction thrice.

We started firing away as we hopped from behind the trees, staining them red-blood red, bright even in the near darkness. We watched them humbly fall to their knees, and those who could manage, fell on their faces. We shot them all. Every single one of them in black t-shirts. A perfect ambush.

“Chale, let’s go. Mosquitoes are here,” I called out, and began trotting out of the thicket.

I was closely followed by my troops, happily holding their guns and sporting their brown shirts with no red stains.

Then, the black team emerged, their t-shirts spotted with the poster paint I had brought from my Father’s art studio. They slung their guns by their sides and sauntered along like zombies from some old time horror movie.

“The Ride” by Tsiate Totimeh.

When the man stepped into the car, I knew there was something wrong. It was not his dressing, he looked decent, but there was something wrong; I just could not put my finger on what it was.

I looked out the window as the colourful scenery whizzed by, seeing what everyone in a speeding Accra car sees. A market-woman here, oranges there, delectable salmonella-riddled sugarcane chunks all neatly wrapped up and packaged; a road side industry. The “manufacturers” stood guard by their products, fabricating new packages right before my eyes.

I leaned back in my seat, wondering how and when I was going to tell daddy the bad news. The driver took a sharp turn, and my stomach did a little fillip as he levelled out nonchalantly – oblivious to whatever discomfort his driving exploits were causing his poor passengers

Then the man sitting next to me spoke – just a phrase – and filled the car. The pungency was fierce; I could touch stench.

The entire cabin became suffused with one gallon of strong akpeteshie.

“Drivers of today…”

I realised my stomach muscles had knotted seriously. Suddenly, I found myself hoping frantically that at least for the rest of the journey he would keep his mouth shut.

“Em…could you roll the window down for me?”

Oh, oh, oh. I held my breath and rolled down the windows dutifully, only after suffocating minutes of finding out what connection the metal rod lying on the floor, had with the glass window.

After labouring to get some air into the car, I released my breath and gulped in what I thought was supposed to be fresh air. It was not. Now I really understood what mosquitoes go through when Raid comes into the picture.

The air-alcohol mixture was not reducing in potency.

“But you how you fit booze like that?”

That was from the back. I turned, and looked full indignation in the face. The poor man’s eyes were watering and popping as he stared furiously at Mr. Akpeteshie gallon.

“Who told you I was drunk?”

Oh dear me, and he spoke good English too…

“You think I am like those drunkards who drink in the chop bars and cannot walk home?”

By now, everybody was reaching for a handkerchief. My nose had started running. I breathed through my handkerchief and realised it was useless. Nobody dared question him on why he had had gotten so drunk. Nobody could risk an increase in the potency of the gaseous alcohol. It was all I could do to keep my head in the air and not to thrust my nose out for some sweet air.

“Driver, next stop eh…”

Oh thank God, oh. I felt like clapping for joy. He reached into his pocket and took some money out.

“We are two”, he said.

The driver gave him his change. Who could be the one walking with this distillery? I had to stop myself from looking behind. I knew there were three passengers behind me. Who could it be? I knew it was definitely not the short man in the middle with red eyes.

The car stopped, the driver having stomped on his brakes in his usual uncaring way. I had to get down so he could come out. He tottered unsteadily.

I have seen quite a few beautiful women, but the one who got out, well, I do not know how to say this, but once in a while you see a beauty that makes you blind and yet not blind at the same time. She held the man’s left arm, putting her right arm around his waist and they stood there, a strange pair, waiting for our car to move.

As the car left them, I looked back. They were walking slowly. The woman was almost carrying the man. A sigh seemed to thread its way right from the back of the 7-seater Peugeot estate to the front.

I got down at the next stop. My father was on the veranda. His face lit up when he saw me walk up.

“Hey I have been waiting for you”, he said

I gave him a half-hearted smile.

“How did the results go?”

I looked up at him and shook my head.

“Daddy I failed the exam.”

He was shocked for an instant. Then he hugged me, let go, held me in his arms and looked in my eyes with love.

“But son, you should not have gone drinking akpeteshie because you failed this exam! I am surprised at you!”

I hugged him back. I did not know how to tell the story.

“Purgatory For The Innocents” by Akosua Brenu.

Hurry up, Kofi,” the girl said to her little brother. He was always doing this, but she had learnt to remain patient with him. He was still only eight years old. He trudged along behind her, stopping and swinging his foot at stones and watching his feet slip through them each time. They got to the T-Junction.

“C’mon Kofi” Naana called out to him yet again. The red car they had come to see was approaching from about 500 metres away. Kofi glided nonchalantly to her side, still trying to kick at stones.

“Why do we have to come here again?” he asked, after slipping his feet through another small mass of little stones.”You know why Kofi. We have to find out what happened.””I don’t like coming here,” shrieked little Kofi. Then he stared at his feet and pouted his tiny lips.

“I know Kofi … I know,” Naana replied in sympathy. She slid her palm into his and held on tight, “It will be over soon, I promise.”

She spoke the words with little confidence. It was simply to soothe him. She had absolutely no idea when it will all end. She hated living this nightmare over and over again each year. You have to find out what really happened, The Master had said. She didn’t understand it. They had been coming on the same day for the past five years. Still, there was nothing different to see. She had no new revelations and neither had Kofi. He had always shut his eyes at some point, yet she reasoned that if there was something to be seen they surely should’ve seen it by now. After returning nine times already, The Master’s insistence was becoming tiresome. Naana doubted if there was indeed anything that had escaped sight.

As they stood holding hands, the red Toyota Corolla was now within 200 metres of the T-Junction. On cue, the Tipper Truck poked its front bumper up the horizon of the Hill, from the right connecting road of the T-junction. The voices in the car soon became audible to Naana and Kofi now, and they could hear their mother singing from the front passengers’ seat.

They saw their father nodding in that eternally funny way- his head bobbing up and down just like the bobble-head dog toy stuck to the top of his dashboard. And in the back seats, flailing their short arms all over the place and chanting to their mother’s singing, sat Naana and Kofi from exactly ten years ago.

Kofi wore the same Ben 10 shirt he was wearing now. Naana, wore the same pink t-shirt with the big red love symbol embroidery on the front. Naana leaned forward from the side of the road and readied to peer carefully at the imminent scene. She felt Kofi try to slip his hand from her grip, but she held on tight and squeezed softly.The climax was staged in all of thirty seconds. Their father had spotted the Tipper Truck coming slowly from his left side and he judged accurately that he could move on ahead before the truck got to the intersection. Also, he expected the driver to slow down. But he had succeeded in getting to the midpoint of the crossroad before something punched the back side of his head above the head-rest of his seat. His head jerked forward and he lost control of the steering. The car suddenly spun to one side and lay directly in the path of the truck as the engine died. The shrill screams from within the car blocked any impulsive decision. The crash was as loud as Naana and Kofi remembered it, and the screams as piercing as ever. Naana turned away from the scene and dropped to her knees. She felt Kofi’s hand slip out of hers, but she didn’t try to hold on this time.
She covered her face and began to weep into her palms, but there were no tears, only sorrowful gasps.

Kofi stood with his mouth blank open. He had seen it. The scene had stayed the same for ten years, but he had finally seen it today. He had always shut his eyes just before the crash, but not today. Today, he had watched and finally seen it. Guilt enveloped him as he sunk to his knees by his sister. He wrapped his arms around her and sobbed out the tearless pain. “It was me, Naana. It was my fault!”

“Noooo. It’s okay Kofi. It’s okay. We’ll keep trying. We’ll come back again. Next year.” she tried to calm him, empathizing with his exhaustion.

“It was me. I d-d-didn’t know! It was me!”

She hugged him tighter, “It’s okay. It’s okay. We’ll be fine. We’ll-“. He gently pushed himself out her arms and stepped a couple of feet backwards. He covered his eyes as he spoke.

“No Naana! Listen! It was me, Naana! I looked! I saw it! IT WAS ME! I-I-I WAS THROWING MY HANDS AROUND. I HIT DADDY! I HIT DADDY! MY HAND HIT DADDY’S HEAD! OH GOD, PLEASE FORGIVE ME. IT WAS ME, NAANA!”

Tyres screeched all around them as cars broke into a halt around the scene of the crash. His little voice sobbed above the wailing voices. He dashed to her and she collected him in her arms. The world suddenly began to grow silent around them, and the air around them began to spiral into a ball of spinning wind. They were swept up in their lock-arm posture, soaring into the clouds and fading into the sky above.

Aside

“20 Years” by Tsiate Totimeh.

Akosua Yanteh, No 2 Aburi close. That was the address she gave me. I folded the page I had extracted from my diary and tucked it back into my breast pocket. I got out of the jalopy that my wife is so ashamed of and stepped
onto to the exquisitely checkered block-work for the walkway leading to the solid wooden door. It was an imposing house. It was one of those mansions that
make you think life is unfair. In the blinding sun of the typical Ghanaian 2pm it stood tall and colossal. Its tinted windows seemed to wink at me, reminding me that the coolness inside would not only be due to the split unit air-conditioners.

My leather soles squeaked against the tiled walkway and as I looked down at them and saw my face staring back at me, I was struck by the acute elegance and subdued extravagance. Akosua had never struck me as a modest person, but this was definitely another realm of luxury. My former classmate and close friend had definitely made it; like she had always said she would. She had always been that kind of person. Akosua, beauty and brains, then more brains and then even more beauty.

The first time I met her I was speechless. She offered her hand first. I am sure she realised from the stare in my eyes that I had forgotten I had hands. It was our first day in school and that euphoria that comes from having a full chop-box and a full pocket at the same time was rich in the air. She spoke first, with a bemused smile on her face, and in all the years of school after that, she would end any serious argument we had with her impressions of that confused person she met that day.
Her voice was deep, and yet feminine. I have never heard a voice like that anywhere; 20 years down the road of this temporal journey we call life. I know my wife will get jealous, but that voice… that day… there is magic in
strange places in this world. Akos was magical in her own way, and the fact that she was brainy gave her a little something that some beautiful ladies do not have.

As I knocked on the solid mahogany door, I remembered the good times we had had. School and its pressures has its strange way of bringing people together, making friends closer than they would ever have been.
I remembered Akosua most for her beauty, but this was the one thing that had gotten her into the most trouble.
The boys… oh the boys. They chased her everywhere she went. I am sure I must have had a crush on her at one time or the other… I think I accepted on more than one occasion, that her friendship was too good to lose.
She would tell me about this guy whom she had to bounce and the way that other guy talked and sometimes I would wonder whether she ever saw me as a guy at all!

The teachers joined the fray once in a while… the huge host of male species chasing the trophy;Akosua. A few times I know, for a fact, that she had to accept bad marks in a subject she would normally have excelled in… because of a disappointed elderly teaching Romeo marking her paper with extreme absence of bias.

One day, in our final year of secondary school, I was sitting behind my books in the classroom when she rushed in, her hair in disarray and eyes awash with
tears. She spent the afternoon on my chest weeping uncontrollably, pushing my books aside and telling me the story.
A teacher she had been running away from for the last two years, had finally caught up with her and made a pass. A struggle ensued… and she had freed herself and ran like the wind – with evidence. She had the chewing gum that had fallen out of the teacher’s mouth in an ill fated kissing attempt. It was badly chewed, but it was all she had. She would not tell me who it was, but I found out later… it was Mr. Odenke. Our school’s august English professor. The language seemed to flow out of his mouth like choice spring water. When she got over this event, I remember her vowing never to go near English in her life, in university, in the world.
I could now hear her footsteps… the reminiscing faded into the past, as I looked blankly at the expensive door… wondering how she would look like when she opened the doors.

I held my flowers up like an expectant school boy. The door swung open and there she was. After 20 years she had not changed… she was still as beautiful as ever. She screamed like a banshee –and hugged my flowers into a paste between us. After a century of moments we finally separated and then she was screaming urgently for the husband to come and see the naughty classmate she had been incessantly talking about the whole day.
He came down the stairs. A broad smile on his face. He had not changed much. I kept a fixed smile on my face. It was Mr. Odenke.

“If I’m Being Honest” by Linda Asante.

I look into my girlfriend’s face wondering how far to go with my truth telling. This pub we’re in is in downtown Accra and always bustling with people heading in and out. This is a safe place to be; she wouldn’t want to make a scene. As I watch her lick her lips, I hyper imagine her salivating as she waits for my words. As I do not express myself a lot, this is a rare occasion and she tries to keep her excitement in check so as not to scare me off.

I laugh out loud at her effort. My second Guinness bottle is almost empty now so I don’t care about much, but most importantly I am ready to tell her.

She giggles back nervously unwilling to break the silence by asking me anything that will change the subject. I glance at the wooden board behind the barman, and on it written in chalk are the words “Odo Nti” (Because of love). I chuckle at the irony. She laughs again.

“I know you,” I finally say.

“I know you do” She replies sweetly.

“And I love you; I mean I have said I love you”

“I love you too”

“No, I do love you. I love you a lot sometimes. Like when you worry I’ll get a cold because it’s raining outside and I’m running through it. It’s really sweet. Or when you cook me Jollof and go through the trouble of covering the bowl with lace. Or when you buy me shirts and compliment my looks because you noticed I started to care about that… Basically whenever you show me you love me, I love you.”

“Well, yeah it’s because I do lo…”

“You have to let me finish.” I cut her off.

“I actually don’t love you though. Because all the other times of you being you, I only just like you, and sometimes not even that. I like that you can sing, you are smart, and you are pretty. I like it all, but it’s not enough. I don’t think you’re the best singer in the world. I don’t want to hear you sing all day, please stop. I don’t think you’re the prettiest, and I don’t think you the smartest. But I should right? I should adore the ground you walk on. My problem and the conflict is sometimes I do. Like when we’re kissing with our eyes closed, or making love with the lights off. But every time I come up for air I can’t ignore that pang when I look at you and you look at me and I know that I don’t love you. Not the way I know you want me to; because I know you. Not the way I even want to love you. But I can’t claim to know me. Because sometimes I really think I do love you. Like when you’re crying because I’m sick, and I’m crying too because you’re crying. Or when we’re out at Kaneshie market and the boys catcall you. Or when I can’t stand thinking of you with any of them. Or even back when we were in high school and everyone adored you. Those are the few times that I care. But the other times, most of the time, when I see your saggy too small butt in the shower, I know that I…I just don’t love you. “

I look back at her, but I barely notice her.

“Don’t cry.”

I hear her yell that she will never cry over me again, but she sounds so distant. I hear her say other things but they become progressively unintelligible to me, because I no longer recognize her voice. I no longer care.

I chuckle and take the last swig of my Guinness. They always want the truth but they can’t handle it. And she will cry. I know she’ll cry.

“Playing With Fire” by Fui Can-Tamakloe.

I loved walking in front of him on my way from school, mainly because he’d stop whatever it was he was doing to stare at me. He was big, and quite muscular too. Most of the time he wasn’t doing anything really, just relaxing under the shade of the Neem tree outside his house, watching passersby for entertainment. I was his favourite passerby, I believed. Every time I walked in front of him he’d raise his head from his slumber and just stare. Stare. With hunger in his eyes. And I’d pretend I didn’t get a thrill from it. I’d just sashay my little pubescent body slowly away, with waist movements designed to entice his hunger. To increase it. I was his little temptress. It was a game for us. He never spoke to me, nor I to him. He’d just stare, hungrily. And I’d happily fuel his burning desire for my flesh, safely from a distance of course. There was no telling what his hunger would make him do.

Everyday from school I’d walk on his street alone because my friends would never accompany me that far. And when we finally met in front of our houses, for we all lived on the same street, they’d tell me how much of a show-off I was.

“You be there taunting him, one day when that dog decides to chase you, you’ll see!”