Join us at the Pagya Literary Festival as we launch the print version of our “Kenkey for Ewes and Other Very Short Stories” anthology.
Join us at the Pagya Literary Festival as we launch the print version of our “Kenkey for Ewes and Other Very Short Stories” anthology.
What is the world coming to…I ask you!
This afternoon I was walking naked down the street, minding my own business, when an annoying incident occurred. I was on my way to watch the concluding part of a chess game that had been going on every Saturday afternoon for the past three weeks – my calculations showed that one of the players would certainly put his opponent in check today. I had been part of the tournament earlier on but had been beaten to third place.
My mind was entirely on the game as I strolled leisurely through the streets of the neighbourhood where I lived. To me the conclusion was foregone: there was only one way to win the game. Last week the losing player had put up a surprising display, almost turning the tide. He had in fact put himself in a much stronger position, but I doubted if he could win the game or force a stalemate.
As I walked on, however, I sensed some agitation amongst the people around me. Of course I’d realised that being naked, I would attract a little attention; indeed I’d have been slightly flattered if someone had come up to me with civilised comment: ‘I am quite pleased with your appearance today: your penis especially is big, straight, and looks well nourished.’
To which I would have answered with a smile, ‘Ah, what. I only just noticed it myself this morning when I was undressing, and I quite agree with you.’
There was no reason to turn down a well-intentioned compliment, especially as I had taken considerable pains at my toilet today. I was well shaven, anointed with ointment, powdered, and perfumed – all to avoid disgrace, of course.
Then again I wouldn’t have minded answering a polite question as to my state of undress. With equal politeness I would give a few reasons, only for the sake of civil discourse, for it really was nobody’s business. However, I would add an important point with a smile: ‘It certainly allows flatulence to disperse with ease.’ Or I would be expansive, and further state: ‘Unencumbered by layers of textile, different in texture, thickness, and absorbency.’
I had also considered the possibility that someone would come to me and say, ‘You are naked and must be ashamed of yourself.’ I would respond thus, ‘Why must I be ashamed? Have you not read the Holy Scripture, where in the book of Genesis chapter two verse twenty-five it says, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” Besides, prior to the creation of the woman, doubtless Adam was naked and neither was he ashamed.’
I was prepared for civility, but not the brutish, unenlightened reaction I encountered when suddenly I heard some shouts behind me, and I turned around. A policeman was running at the head of a group of three well-built men, and was calling out to me, ‘Hey, you there! Stop!’
Surprised, I concurred. The last thing I wanted was to cause a scene. Moreover I am a law-abiding citizen, and I was sure it was for some trivial matter that the policeman had hailed me.
The foursome soon drew up to me, a bit short of breath. I cast a questioning look at them, waiting.
‘You are naked!’ the policeman suddenly declared.
Now one thing I cannot stand is foolishness. ‘But of course,’ I said, wondering why they bothered to run all this distance to tell me something I obviously knew, something that I was architect of.
‘This is unacceptable,’ the policeman continued.
‘Unacceptable? Not to me, certainly,’ I said nonchalantly.
‘But the public, the public…’ the policeman said. I suppose it was as a result of the run that the policeman was speaking nonsense in short gasps.
‘What public? You do not mean to suggest that my state of undress might cause distress to members of the public? But how preposterous a thought that is! Every member of the public observes their nakedness at least once a day, and I daresay are mighty pleased with what they see.’
‘I am sorry, but I must put you under arrest,’ the policeman said, shaking his head.
I was quite irritated. ‘My goodness! Listen; there is no reason for all this. I am a peaceable citizen, on my way to watch the final of a chess tournament. The game is very engrossing, and I must find out if some of my hypotheses will be proven.’
‘You sound very educated,’ the policeman began. ‘It is rather unfortunate that you should act in such a manner. Do you not know that you will corrupt the little girls?’
‘I will not touch them, I assure you. I only do such things at night, and even then she must be above the age of majority, and has to give her consent.’
But the policeman had made up his mind. ‘I am arresting you for indecent exposure,’ he said. He paused.‘You may require psychiatric evaluation, but you do seem … rather sane.’
‘Of course I’m sane,’ I retorted angrily, but before I could say more the three others pounced on me and forced me into a knee-length over-all. I was further infuriated, because one of them touched my penis during this exercise. I was then frog-marched, no less, in the direction from which they had come.
‘You will get the chance to telephone your folks from the station,’ the policeman said kindly.
‘I demand to be released to go and watch the game,’ I shouted. ‘For three weeks I have intently followed the game, and today, today when the champion will be decided, you arrest me?’
‘Have you always attended the games naked?’ the policeman asked.
‘Today is a special day,’ I replied, ‘Do you not understand that?’
After a short distance the three gentlemen took leave of us, and thereafter the policeman put me in handcuffs. It appeared that the other three were members of the public who had assisted the policeman in performing his duty.
I was very angry by the time we got to the police station, but I had decided not to speak to the policeman. This decision could not be maintained, however, because the policeman made me sit in a rickety old chair behind the counter, and proceeded to question me, writing my answers on a police report form.
So now here I sit, in detention. I’ve made my telephone call, written down my “statement”: it all is a very small matter, but I still have to be bailed. An unnecessary interruption of my well-planned day, and the most unfortunate thing is that I’ve missed the start of the game by now. How terrible! And all because of this nonsense…! To think that I took such pains to make myself look presentable! My body fairly glows with the excellent care I had taken – even going as far as rubbing down with alcohol after bathing.
What a world…eh!
Martin Egblewogbe is the co-founder of the Writers Project of Ghana. He is also an editor with the “Ghanaian Book Review”. He enjoys writing short stories and poetry in his spare time and has contributed to several anthologies some of which have been published online, in anthologies and in newspapers including “Look Where You Have Gone and Sit” co-edited with Laban Carrick Hill (Woeli, Ghana: 2011).. He is the author of the short story collection, “Mr Happy and the Hammer of God” and his short story “The Gonjon Pin” is featured in the Caine Prize for African Writing 2014 collection titled “The Gonjon Pin and other stories”.
Uncle Akrofie talks about the night my parents got married every year. According to him, it was the greatest night of his life.
“Kojo, I tell you: that was the grrrrreatest night of my life! No shaking, no lie!”
I love the way Uncle Akrofie rolls his Rs when he says “great”. It’s like his tongue is a speed boat revving on the banks of the Volta River.
Ever since I was a child old enough to care, he would re-tell the story of how my father threw the greatest engagement party Accra had ever seen. Every year the details of the story got more elaborate. Last year he drank 12 bottles of Star beer. At this year’s recounting, he had imbibed 14.
“Hei! Kojo. And there was all kinds of food. Different, different food o! Food we have never seen!” he exclaimed with delight.
“What kind of food, uncle?” I asked in amazement.
“Oh…I mean jollof rice, several kinds of kenkey…and DRINKS!” Uncle Akrofie threw his head back and lost himself in the memory, just as he did in the year 1977. “And the music, Kojo? What! I tell you…any music you wanted to hear, the DJ was playing it!”
“What kind of music, uncle?” I asked breathlessly, knowing the answer.
Uncle Akrofie giggled before he answered. “I mean; James Brown, Ambolley, Kool and the Gang…”
(This was my favorite part, where my elderly uncle would struggle to his feet and shuffle a little two step with an imaginary partner and holler the words to the hit song of the night.)
…Geddown on it. Geddown on it!! Sha , shababadum!
Uncle Akrofie composed himself long enough to get to my favorite part of the story: the end.
“Kojo, I say that night eh? I got so drunk that I couldn’t walk home. I say I slept in the gutter.” Uncle Akrofie clapped his hands on every word for emphasis. “I. Say. I. Slept. In. The. Gut.Ter!!!”
“And no one robbed you?”
“No!” he wheezed in delight, explaining how he woke up with his watch on, tie askew and the bright sun in his eye the following morning.
It didn’t matter that my parents had been divorced for almost 15 years. Uncle Akrofie still celebrated their nuptials on the eve of their wedding anniversary. It was the greatest night of his life, after all. Mehn! I wanted to have a night like that of my own: to have a fabulous story to tell my nieces and nephews when I was 65 years old. I was 23 when I decided to make my fantasy a reality.
My cousin Marvin was marrying one of the Baah sisters. Their father owned a quarter of Ghana, and a small part of Spain. They were (and are) a disgustingly wealthy family. In the face of such wealth, there was sure to be an abundance of alcohol and more different kinds of food than Uncle Akrofie could ever imagine.
My god, I drank in ways I didn’t know were possible.
There were shots of top shelf Tequila, a beer garden (an ACTUAL garden constructed of chilled beer bottles!), jello shots, and kegs of rum. I ate crab legs and king prawns until I became Mami Water or her sidekick Tigali, the ocean god. Marcia Baah had hired some Swedish chef to make little pastries of chocolate and lemon. I decimated the whole display. I was a disgrace and didn’t even care.
Finally, it was 3 am when I decided to stagger home. I was doing it. I was living the greatest life of my life, just like Uncle Akrofie!
The first thing I had to navigate was the road. I only lived three streets over from the Baah family house where the party was being held in Labone, so my journey by my calculations should have only taken 20 minutes.
Everything was so LOUD.
The mosquitos, the guy on the small motor…everything was magnified by a thousand percent. And who authorized the street lamps to burn so brightly? My retina felt like they were on fire. I thought perhaps if I just took a short break and rested, I could make the trek with a little more ease. As soon as I sat down, I puked all over my fine trousers.
“Chale, are you ok?”
A man was speaking to me in Ga, inquiring after my welfare. I waved that I was alright, and then changed my mind.
“Massa, abeg. Help me stand up.”
Seeing that I had lost total control of my faculties, the stranger quickly moved towards me and pulled me to my feet. Then he snatched my cell phone and wallet from my pocket and ran. What was I supposed to do? Run after him? No.
I sat by the gutter and cried.
That’s when the prostitute came by and asked me what the matter was. I thought I sounded perfectly coherent and gentlemanly, but I think I said something about her privates smelling of fish and that her weave looked like a bath mat. That’s when she kicked me into the gutter and insulted my mother.
Oh god. What was that wet sensation coursing down my back? It was sewage. RAW SEWAGE. The city had not come by to collect the refuse and I was literally being shat on by the neighborhood borla. I lost consciousness, overcome by the acrid stench that clung to my body and in the air. Let’s just say it was a night I will not soon forget.
Malaka is a hybrid Ghanaian/American author and blogger who resides in Atlanta with her husband and four kids. Her greatest wish is that Ghana would rapidly achieve its MDGs in order to facilitate the development and creation of the warp core. She firmly believes that an African will usher in the next age of space exploration. She is the author of “The Daughters of Swallows” and “Lover of Her Sole.”
I boarded the plane and walked down the aisle looking for my seat. I hoped the flight won’t be very busy, so I could have the seats on my row all to myself. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts.
I found my seat by the window and settled in, arranging my bottle of water, ipod and reading material. I was looking forward to this trip for many reasons. This was the first time I was returning to Ghana in eleven years. But more importantly, I was going to meet my love interest for the first time.
I’d been introduced to Kofi through Facebook by a mutual friend. We became friends and started corresponding occasionally, but over a few months our discussions became more frequent. Soon we exchanged phone numbers and Blackberry PINs, keeping in touch, talking, chatting or texting each other throughout the day. My feelings for him grew and I was happy when he confessed that he had been interested in a relationship with me right from the start. This trip was going to be the beginning of something really special; I could feel it.
I was disappointed when an elderly gentleman stopped by my row and glanced at his boarding pass. He was allocated the seat next to mine. He smiled at me, as he stopped to put his cabin bag in the overhead locker. I didn’t want to return the smile, he looked like one of those men who liked to prey on young, naive women. I nodded faintly and turned my face to the window.
He sat down. “Hello, young lady.”
I turned to look at him and said a cold hello back.
“How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you.” I didn’t want to be rude, but I wanted to put an end to the conversation. I started reaching for my iPod.
“Sorry, do you mind me asking? How old are you?”
I frowned and turned to him warily. Then I noticed his eyes looked sad.
“That’s good. I have a daughter about your age.”
“I’m travelling with her today.”
I looked around in confusion, half-expecting his daughter to join us.
He must have guessed what I was thinking, because he said, “Oh, she’s not in the cabin. She’s in the hold.”
The realisation dawned on me. For the rest of the flight, I forgot about my own issues, and talked to the father who was grieving.
Tolulope Popoola is a writer, blogger and a passionate lover of books and literature. Tolulope grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and moved to the United Kingdom in 2000. After venturing into a career in Accounting and Finance for a few years, she started blogging under the pseudonym ‘Favoured Girl’ in 2006 and rediscovered her love for writing. A few writing classes and an online fiction series soon followed and in 2008, Tolulope quit her Accounting career to become a full-time writer. She now writes short stories, flash fiction, and articles for many print and online magazines.
She set up Accomplish Press in 2011 to publish her first novel, when she realised that there were not many mainstream publishers in the UK willing to take a chance on “ethnic” writers like her. Accomplish Press offers publishing and consulting services to writers, as well as services for hybrid authors.
Her first novel, “Nothing Comes Close” was published by Accomplish Press in 2012. Her latest collection of flash fiction “Fertile Imagination” has recently been published.