Join us at the Pagya Literary Festival as we launch the print version of our “Kenkey for Ewes and Other Very Short Stories” anthology.
On the eighth day after the birth while the moon was yet to evanesce, kinsmen thronged the now famed compound to witness the miracle baby. It was a replica of a shanty town; unplanned cluttered dwellings with very good asphalted roads flanked by open drains.
“Did you find it easy to get here. Here, taste this.” I was greeted at the wooden gate by my fiancée, Dede, offering a calabash of fresh, hot, dark corn wine she had fetched from the cauldron sitting on flaming logs, yet to boil fully.
“Oh yes,” I slurped a little. “I told the driver I was headed for Asere in Ga Mashi…Lante…”
“Lante Djan We”, we synchronized. “Yes, yes!”
By now kinsmen and friends, all clad in traditional white had carved a crescent seating formation, leaving the middle of the compound bare, where I noticed a ring of ash. I took a seat.
“That’s my Uncle Kwei Mensah and his wife, Nyɛkwɛ Kai”, Dede nodded. They were old and grey; I could say almost or a little past three-score.
“It’s indeed a marvel”, Dede explained. “She has been childless for decades, and my grandmother has given her no rest at all.”
“Your grandmother has patience the size of my baby finger”, one lady behind us interrupted our conversation, unwelcomed. I could detect an ample doze of tartness in her voice. She sounded salty.
“I know, Nyɛkwɛ Amateokor. Let’s not ruin today”, Dede, skinning her teeth, was not one to take offense at a first jab.
A towering old woman came hobbling across the compound clutching a baby wrapped in a piece of white calico safely to her bosom. The rite was set in motion. The moon was still blessing us with good light. She commanded much respect, for everybody either rose to bow or wave at her as she lurched into the ring of ash and rid the baby of its cloth.
She held the baby up towards the moon and chanted, “We present this infant to the Supreme Being”, then laid the baby down in the circle of ash, repeating the process twice.
“Oh it’s beautiful…it’s lovely. Our ears will rest henceforth”. Nyɛkwɛ Amateokor was still casting vengeful subliminals, this time echoing it across the entire compound.
A bowl of water, signifying rain was thrown unto the aluminium roofing sheet and allowed to dribble on the baby. Next, the aged woman gently tapped the back of the baby and repeated, “Never lie, steal or cheat. Take after me.”
I stared at Dede. “She is held widely as the eldest kinsman of good repute,” she explained. I nodded.
“This is water, and this is wine. Know the difference.” I saw the baby suckle on the old woman’s finger as both corn wine and water were put in her mouth. “Henceforth, you shall be called Lamile…Lamile Amoaben-ajaaku.”
The uproar which erupted was thundering.
I followed as the kinsman handed the baby over to her mother, slapped the cork of a bottle of schnapps and offered libation on behalf of the infant.
“Agoo Ataamei ke Awomei. Tswa Tswa Tswa omanye abla’o Tswa Tswa omanye abla’o. Tswa omanye aba, Osoro (Osu) Ahatiri, Obu Ahatiri, Oboro dutu wokpe, Wodsebu wodse nu, Wo ye wo nu wo kodsii adso wo, Gboni bale etse yi ana wala, Enye yi ana wala, Esee tuu, Ehee fann, Eyi aba gbodsen, Ese aba halaann, Wekumei wona faa ni wo fa le, Eba tsu eha wo ni woye, Eko atasi ni eko aba, Ganyo humile koyo tsua dani owieo, Tsua Tsua Tsua manye aba!”
“Hiao!”, the guests said Amen to that!
After the neighbours had chucked down enough meat and emptied the cauldron of its corn wine, and everybody was dancing to the E.T. Mensah’s “Abele”, I noticed Nyɛkwɛ Amateokor had locked Dede’s grandmother in a seemingly fond embrace, both swaying to good hi-life music.
“Look at them,” Dede sniggered. “This baby has made brothers of Nanumba and Konkomba.”
Arms forward stretch. Arms sideways stretch. One logologo line.
Inspection. Neat collar. Clean handkerchief. Let me smell your armpit. White singlet. White socks. Black shoe. Brown shoe. White socks. Black camboo. Brown camboo. White socks. Black sandals. Brown sandals. Where is your badge? Whip-whip-whip!
“God bless our Homeland Ghana.” “I promise on my honour.” “Our Father who art in Heaven.” “And can it be.” “Fairest Lord Jesus.” “We are marching to our classes.”
‘Good Morning Class.’
‘Good Morning Sir.’
‘How are you?’
‘We are fine, thank you. And yooouuu?’
‘Sit down. Where is your homework?’
‘It was too difficult, sir.’ ‘Father left my book in his car boot, sir.’ ‘Father did not sign, sir.’
Teacher banza. Driver banza. Father banza. Whip-whip-whip!
Students’ companion. Companion of teachers. Foe of students.
Homonyms. Bear. Bear. Bank. Bank. Homophones. Key. Quay. See. Sea. Antonyms. Arrive-Depart. Adore-Despise. Attack-Retreat.
Synonyms. Abandon-Leave-Desert. Astonished-Surprised-Perplexed. Flabbergasted? Whip-whip-whip!
Collections. A bunch of? Bananas! A troupe of? Monkeys! A bouquet of? Err…err. Whip-whip-whip! You monkey!
Mental. Square root of? LCM of? HCF of? 12 Squared plus 5 Squared minus 15 Squared plus 10 Squared minus 2 Squared times zero? Whip-whip-whip!
Break time please!
Auntie please one bread. One meat-pie. One rock buns. One bofroat. Tampico. FanYoghurt. FanChocolate. Fanpop. Fanice…so nice nice nice.
Green Green grasses. Kwaku Ananse Stories. Change your style. Change your style. Be like that. Be like that. Boys play football. Girls play Ampe. Mother jeega nobody!
Break over please!
School Prefect. Compound Prefect. Bell boy. Cupboard Monitor. Blackboard Cleaner. Class Prefect: Sweeping Rooster. Class Prefect: Names of talkatives. Kojo Mensah-DP. Adwoa Mansa-TP. Your head is hard. Your head is hard paa!
Midterm Break. Midterm Holidays. Midterm Homework. English Homework. Maths Homework. Social Studies Homework. Integrated Science Homework. Agricultural Science Homework. Technical Drawing Homework. Catering Homework. Graphic Design Homework. French Homework. Ga Homework. Twi Homework. No-break Midterm. No-holiday Midterm.
You like that paa. You too you like that paa! You are someway papa. You too you are someway papa! I won’t say anything. Me I won’t talk. I’m going to come. I’m coming. I’m coming right now okay? Go tear, it is sweet. Herh! Who spoke vernacular? Only English! Speak only English!
Who Fla-tu-lat-ed? Flatulence. Farts. Boys at the back. Maybe girls at the front. Do females fart? Does Queen Elizabeth fart? Who knows? We never know. Nobody ever knows.
Farts. Silent farts. Loud farts. Smelly farts. Korle Lagoon farts. Lavender Hill farts. Oblogo borla farts.
Mosquito romance. Tease the girls. Chase the boys. Chase him all around the classroom. Slap him in the back! Pinch his arm! Oh no! There is a teacher! Oh yes! There’s a teacher! Sir, he was teasing me. He was teasing me, Sir. I don’t like that. I do not like that-o. Yoo.
Digestive. Hob Nobs. Rich Tea. Shortbread. Coke. Fanta. Sprite. Oh, gimme some of your Malt ehh?
Speakers. Microphone. DJ. Dancing Floor. Dancing Competition. Jams. Who let the dogs out? Wo! Wo! Wo-wo-wo! Oh nananaana! It is our day.
Vacation classes. Vacation classwork. Vacation homework. Home-work. Go home and work.
It is seven-thirty in the morning. Lomotey is strolling out of the house with his bucket; he is going to fetch water. He has a wedding to attend. As he makes his way out through the gate that never closes, he drops the bucket, rotates a full one-hundred-and-eighty degrees on his left foot and is dashing back into the house, “Wɔn mo ba oo! Wɔn mo ba oo!”
He hurriedly opens his front door and disappears behind the closed door. He dashes underneath his bed and covers himself with the blanket that is now covered in bed fluff.
“Okay, sika no nie,” says Senyo outside and bids farewell to the TV license collectors.
“Next time wai.”
As Senyo returns to his room, he puts his face to the window of Lomotey’s room and says, “Lom, they’re gone now; I paid for both of us.” He strolls into his room.
Patrick arrives at the auto-mechanic’s place. The auto-mechanic is not there. He snorts in exasperation.
“Oh, you dey search Aka? E no dey o; e say e go e hometown for funeral. Buh me I see sey de only funeral wey e dey be de one e dey run from – de one give e moni. E know sey de TV license people dey com today so e run,” supplies the shopkeeper who sells nearby.
“I have a flat tyre and he has my spare.”
“Oh Chaaale!!! Den you for wait am. I sure sey e go com by twolve o’clock. Make you wait am. See, make I giv you seat make you wait am,” offers the shopkeeper as he goes to get him the high stool he has by his shop.
“No. I will go and wait for him at home. Please tell him to call me.”
Patrick leaves with his face contorted by exasperation mingled with indignation.
Naa is climbing the stairs to the chapel. Her right leg buckles on her ankle. Her heel is broken. She rushes out to a nearby store to find a replacement.
“Sister, wei deɛ me hu sɛ ɛsɛ sɛ wo kɔ fie o. Wontumi nhyɛ chale wɔtey ne w’atadeɛ wei. Ɛnfata wedding no nso,” says the shopkeeper.
Naa sighs, thanks the lady and finds her way home to replace her broken footwear.
Lomotey emerges from his house dressed in a purple lace top and trousers with matching purple shoes. “Senyo, com see. How I dey look?” he requests.
Senyo peers through his louvers to see the attire. “Well, you look posh. It’s nice. All the best Chale,” furnishes Senyo.
Lomotey departs – through the gate, around the bend and to the bus stop. He stops a taxi and boards it. He arrives at the wedding reception grounds – Naa and Patrick are waiting.
“We’re all late,” both chorus as Lomotey approaches them. They’re about to explain when Lomotey waves it all away. They shake hands. They find a table and sit.
“We picked the wrong table oo,” complains Lomotey. Naa and Patrick nod as they reach the serving table to find that the food is finished though they are not the last in line. As they go back to their table with their soft drinks in hand, they see other tables with plates half-empty. Lomotey frowns; Patrick pats him on his shoulder.
“Cynthia, send us the photos on WhatsApp,” Patrick requests.
It’s two days after the wedding. Patrick and Lomotey send Naa the photos they have just received, both with the caption, “Can you believe it?”
“So I broke my heel just for a handshake?” Naa replies to the photos that show Cynthia’s hand being shaken by her groom during the kiss-the-bride segment of the ceremony.
I hated my school. I hated my teachers. I hated my classmates. I hated the boring Social Studies books. I hated the difficult Math lessons. Every day, I would count the hours till school was over. Then I would run to Boadu’s house. Boadu was always at home. He went to school at home. I wish I could go to school at home too.
Boadu’s house was big. It had a big compound and many trees. He brought his big Case-five football and we played Dribbling-to-goal. Boadu won all the time. It was because he was always at home. If I stayed at home, I would win too.
Once I played for too long in Boadu’s house. Boadu’s mother said to me, ‘Koku, its good you’re here today. Supper is ready. Come and eat.’ I said to Boadu’s mother, ‘Thank you Auntie Akos, but I’m not hungry.’ I lied, but Boadu’s mother said, ‘Silly boy’ and brought us a big bowl of Omo Tuo with groundnut soup. We ate it outside in the porch. The Omo Tuo was delicious.
Mother came to catch me eating Omo Tuo at Boadu’s house. She smiled and said ‘Hello Akos’ to Boadu’s mother. Then she pulled me by the ear to our house. Mother said to me, ‘Did I not tell you never to eat in people’s houses?’ Then she beat me with a stick. I cried and cried.
One day, Boadu and I got into trouble. We were throwing little pebbles at each other on our street. We did not see that Doctor Awuah’s car was parked close to us. Our pebbles cracked his windscreen. We tried to run away but it was too late. Doctor Awuah’s daughter saw us. She told her father and her father told our fathers.
Later in the evening, I could hear Boadu screaming as his father beat him. Then father called me to the hall. I was afraid. But father was smiling. He told me that I had been a bad boy. He told me that anytime I did something bad, I should feel sorry and never try to hide it. Father told me to close my eyes and pray for forgiveness from Jesus. I closed my eyes and prayed. Then, father beat me with his leather belt. I cried and cried.
My cousins came home for the Christmas holidays. I shared my room with Kojo. Awo and Adzo slept in the guestroom. It was the best Christmas ever. There was so much food. Mother killed many chickens and father brought home many cartons of Malta Guinness. On New Year’s Day, mother baked a dozen cakes. She put the cakes in three baskets and sent us to all the neighbouring houses on our street. The baskets were very heavy. At each house, the neighbours gave us something in return. We came home with the baskets full of Soft drink cans, bars of chocolate and tins of Danish cookies. Mother clasped hear hands together and said, “God bless them o!”
We had a big dinner that evening. Everyone was satisfied. Everyone was happy. Father kissed mother on the cheek and mother said, “Dee, the children!” Then father laughed with a deep voice, and said to us, “Go to bed! All of you!”
The following week after New Year’s, Awo, Adzo and Kojo had to leave. They did not want to go. I did not want them to go, but Uncle Ganyo came with his car. He said their school was reopening.
My school was reopening too. I did not want to go to school, so I stayed in bed and pretended to be sick. I could not fool mother. She opened my door and ordered me out of bed. I cried and cried and went to school.
When my great-grandfather was laid in state he had a sly smirk and a near-wink on his face. I mean…the man married nineteen women, acquired seven concubines, begat fifty-seven children, read Songs of Solomon every night before bed, and smoked probably mega tonnes of tobacco his entire lifetime. So whisper in his corpse’s ears why he should not spread a satisfied grin on his face. He had lived fast but died slowly, smiling his way to the pearly gates.
But he left me a lesson; ‘You’re only betrayed by friends you once trusted’. This axiom did not dawn on me suitably, until…
I remember when we were just boys. Osa was my best friend, and Elizabeth was my dream wife. Although an inch taller than I, Lizzy was a human plethora of intellect, ladyship and grandeur. Her skin glowed, her smile appeared carefully carved; thin, bubble-gum pink lips behind shiny dentures… and when she walked, she almost hopped; toes on ground, heels afloat. She flicked her braids frequently, and it killed me. Lizzy and I could walk and talk for minutes after school, with Osa trailing jealously behind, feeling like the second fiddle he actually was.
“I saw Lizzy first,” he would grumble. “But she spoke to me first,” I’d retort. My instincts cautioned that Osa was nursing something lethal inside.
The annual war was on. Our rival neighbourhood riff-raffs from Ola Balm had called our bluff. The war was a war of paints. The more warriors you drenched in paint, the closer you were to winning the war. Well, the previous year they had welled the eyes of my warriors with paint-bombs, captured a sizeable number and demanded an agreed ransom of a spanking new case-five football. We were determined to win the war this year.
We broke sweat every day after school; scaling walls, practising manoeuvres and paint-bomb throwing, with utmost precision. I mapped out our war strategy and surveyed the battle grounds; an uncompleted duplex house on a no-man’s land with several corners, long corridors and various escape routes. We were winning this war. Every one of my warriors beamed at the thought of winning the agreed ransom, which had been raised a notch higher. The captives were to pay for five tickets to the Christmas Kiddafest my parents could not afford. I had promised Lizzy I would take her to the kids festival, and then plant on her wrist the silvery bracelet I had stolen from my mother’s box. So we had to win this war, and the tickets.
A day prior to the battle, we carved assault rifles out of wood, made our paint-bombs, cut our ropes to size and set traps all over the battle-ground. As commander-in-chief, I mapped out the plan of the uncompleted duplex house on a wide sheet of brown paper, and marked areas my warriors could lay ambush and attack upon my signal. But I had a winning strategy only Osa knew about. It was long-range water-gun my mother had bought for me for Christmas. It could squirt paint many inches off. I had filled the barrel with ample paint, and planned to drench as many enemies as I could with this subtle water-gun, which I irrationally placed in Osa’s custody, as second in command.
“Pampanaa”, the battle cry was a poor shriek from a hungry orphan, but we heard it anyway and set off to lay ambush as planned. Our enemies from Ola Balm were bigger and fierce, and never missed when throwing paint-bombs. They had Rambo, a towering, robust and ruthless 13 year old I was so determined to capture with my water-gun. He would not have to see me. I would creep up to him so silently and generously spray him some paint before he could get time to react.
Osa and my water-gun were supposedly safeguarded at the North-eastern section of the battle grounds, waiting for Rambo to strut his muscles into the arena. I heard a few paint-bombs detonate, followed by hollering and chants of victory, but my eyes were so affixed on Rambo I had no time to probe further. As he tiptoed into the trap, I crept up to him from behind, but my water-gun was nowhere near where I had placed it, and Osa was at large. Has he been captured?
Suddenly, in a flash, the distance between me and the brawny Rambo was the width of human hair. He had me helpless in a deadly chokehold, as one of the enemy riff-raffs appeared with my water-gun, and copiously splashed a concoction of water and ground pepper in my eyes. I was blinded momentarily, and the pain I felt echoed through the duplex like a lost hiker on Mount Everest howling for help.
Later that evening I learnt Osa had betrayed the squadron for thirty cubes of ChocoMilo. Goodness! Thirty bloody cubes of ChocoMilo. The next morning en-route to Sunday school, I chanced upon Osa and Lizzy in her mother’s shop, spitefully chewing those chocolaty chunks of fun. Such a Judas!
I intend to knock, but my knuckles, of their own accord, give off a loud banging sound. He opens the door and recoils as if he has seen a ghost. He mumbles inaudibly. I present my face like a weapon.
We exchange cold handshakes and stand silently on his veranda. He pulls up a stool resting on the side of the wall and offers it to me. I reluctantly accept and ensconce myself on it. He pulls up another and sits uncomfortably on half of his buttocks. I do not shift my gaze or smoothen my furrowed brow. My lips are still pouted. He knows why I am here. I do not need to tell him.
He asks if I want anything to drink- Water, Beer maybe? I shake my head. He asks if I want some fruits; His wife bought some oranges from the market, he informs needlessly. Still, I shake my head to refuse his offer. He rises up from his stool and excuses himself momentarily. He returns with an old and dusty Oware set and pulls up a little coffee table. He blows dust off the wood and opens up the set. No marbles.
He yells out at his wife about the marbles. She yells back at him; She hasn’t touched the Oware set in ages. He rises to walk out again. I clear my throat and say to his face matter-of-factly, “Kofi, my money.” He nods shamefully and stutters, “I-I-I-“. I tighten the nots on my forehead, clench my fists and breath out fire from my nostrils. “I am going to bring it,” he says obediently.