“Kuntu’s Halo And A Set Of Devil’s Horns: Part 1” by Nii Moi Thompson.

Kuntu felt his halo turn steadily into a set of devil’s horns. His clerical garbs of neatly pressed Kaspar shirts and pairs of gentlemanly trousers – with lines so sharp they could cut with the slightest brush of one’s finger – were slowly changing into devilish robes.

Butre was alive that morning…it had always been bursting since Crudolle plc, an oil exploration and mining company from Europe started extracting offshore black gold some few months back. At first the bubbliness was with much excitement and hope, as locals would wake up before the first golden ray broke the dawn, to cheer a truck-load of miners bumping along the dusty roads to the mining site. As Kuntu would later narrate , ‘wives danced to herald an era of better jobs for husbands, babies cackled in blind optimism…even the cocks clucked in anticipation of yellow corn.’

He turned left. His eyes caught Asabea’s, the beans and fried plantain seller. She smiled coyly, lowering her gaze unto her bosomy frame standing and serving behind the wooden kiosk. Kuntu thought he should have engaged her traditionally instead of Afrakuma, his present lover who was leisurely dicing his heart valves with a bread knife. Sheer wickedness! Yet a wide-ranging grin lit up Kuntu’s face when he reminisced some of the good times he shared with Asabea. He leaned against the kiosk and covertly rested his hand on her hump.

You see these storytellers, eh…after the vague promises, they are now blowing dust into my concrete”, one old man broke Kuntu’s erotic thoughts. He covered his edible ‘concrete’ as Crudolle’s truck sped by. His food was miles away from rich, Truth; just small beans, lots of oil and gari with two slim slices of fried plantain, yet no one was getting dust into his bowl.

Kuntu agreed with the old chap. A year on, after the sea had been milked of its first crude in thousands of barrels, the roads were still bumpy – even a bicycle speeding off emitted much plume of dust -, the adults largely unemployed, and sites for the proposed health facility and public school still overgrown with nim shrubs, stubs and assorted weeds.

I am gradually losing my patience old man…one day eh…Just one day”, Kuntu was boiling.

Cool your temper, young blood!” the old chap cut in sharply as Asabea tapped his back to calm his nerves. “Blame your chiefs and the government. The dialogue was all about wades of fresh cedi notes in individual pockets. They never thought about you. Tweaa!”

Kuntu suddenly felt the weight of sorrow threatening to break him down. Asabea noticed it too, for her eyes could read his mind and soul, and it was a dark, forlorn soul. As he trod down the sandy path to Crudolle with head hanging low in deep thoughts, the old man whispered to Asabea; “Err. Forgive me o…I’m no gossip, but is he not the young lad whose mother died from rotten legs last five years?”

Hmm…He is!” Asabea recounted. “After his father disappeared soon after his birth, it has been one tragedy trailing another for that family. His mother was the sole bread winner until she was diagnosed with that sugar disease…

Asabea story was truncated by an angry toddler tugging at the hem of her cloth.

You want fried plantain eh…look at your head! Kuntu come and fight your rival oo”, she shouted after him. Kuntu turned to give Asabea’s son a quick wave and a broad grin. That boy could have been his had he not been swayed by Afrakuma’s wild seductive devices. He walked leisurely towards work, inspired by the laxity within his own soul. It was a hopeless situation, he sighed. He took left. It was a longer but tarred road, with no dust to brown his shoes or puddles of sewage to plod in. It was the plush community where managers and senior workers of Crudolle lived, mostly Europeans and a few locals Kuntu described as ‘pawns’. The small river, Obrἐ, snaked through the neighbourhood. It had lost much of its crystal clarity to small scale mining, yet it failed to steal the pomp the neighbourhood was engulfed in. Kuntu thought why the special bank and clinic northwards, with European doctors and city bankers, was only open to workers of Crudolle. The answer hit him without much brainwork. No one in mainland Butre could afford to operate an account at the bank, or pay those European doctors. His mother had been probably the first wretched victim. He raised his head and sniffed to fight back the tears! It was no time for sorrow. He had to be spirited and forward looking. He came across his boss’s apartment. Mr. Cooke!

He should have been named Crook. Mr. Crook!” Kuntu was talking to himself. Kuntu felt he was always overworked, paid less and maltreated. Moreover, since his fiancée commenced work as his office cleaner, Mr. Cooke had been unusually nice to Afrakuma and less kind to him. Kuntu shrugged off thoughts of any amorous encounters between his two headaches.

Mr. Cooke…Mr. Cooke”, Kuntu banged on the heavy gate. The security guard signalled to indicate Mr. Cooke had left for the office. That was remarkably early of him, Kuntu wondered. He had to race, and when he got to the office he was soaked in his own sweat and gasping for breath. He asked the secretary whether Mr. Cooke was in his office.

No…I have not seen him this morning. His door is locked”

It was true. Mr. Cooke’s office door was locked. Before Kuntu decided to hold the knob to confirm, he thought he heard a thump on the office desk, and a little whimper, so he pinned his ear to the door. Yes! He could hear subtle noises from the office. He motioned the secretary; He had caught a thief. His eye scanned the corridor for Mr. Cooke’s abandoned golf club and with weapon in his right hand, office keys in the left; he quietly inserted the key into its hole, before turning it with such swiftness the door flung open in a flash.

His teeth and knees rattled at the sight of his bare girlfriend, Afrakuma, sprawled on the office desk under Mr. Cooke, who was wearing nothing but a confused face which later transmuted into a red one with knitted brows. He could neither cry nor growl. His jaws were on the marbled floor, assuming the same awe-struck countenance as the Israelites when Moses’s rod smote the red sea to divide it.

Get out” was the order. He obeyed like a dog on leash.

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“Defining Pain: Episode One” by Akwele Patricia

I saw her. I could almost feel her pain pierce through my soul, but I didn’t have enough strength to carry such a load. They say the eyes are the windows to one’s soul, well; she looked lifeless to have a soul, her eyes almost inexpressible only for the tears that run down the same lines falling to her ears every time she blinked.

Akwele: Oh my! Look at you, what have you done to yourself? Who did this to you? How… how long have you been like this? C’mon girl, talk to me.

Finally her eyes turned to look at me. The swift glare caused my heart to miss a beat whiles sending chills down my spine. A sudden breeze of heavily weighed down emotions just covered my entire body and for a moment, I almost looked like her; lifeless. A series of plausible scenarios that might have caused her state flashed my mind; pregnancy, terminal illness, rejection, theft, failure, suicidal attempts…

Nana Esi: I… I had to speak with someone

What happened to her voice? When was the last time she spoke?

Akwele: Speak to me. I’m here. We’ve had 4 mid-semester exams between last week and yesterday. You aren’t in good shape Nana Esi, talk to me, I’m listening.

Nana Esi: I have a story for you and I want it written and published so my message could be sent across. Akwele, I messed up. I messed up real bad and I need you to forgive me first but try not to judge me. I thought and considered ending my life, have I sinned?

Akwele: hey… hey… hey..! What’s that supposed to mean?

Nana Esi: Answer me

Akwele: umm… you haven’t done it yet and I can’t judge you as well so I guess it’s a NO.

Nana Esi: Mother kept me in the dark all this while. She said I had a biological father and that my twin brother’s my half brother. According to her, my mother was also her best friend and died when she delivered me, and that was about the same time she delivered Akwasi so she adopted me and made me hers. A week after this confession, she took me to my real dad’s house to meet with him. When we got there, he was ill, very ill. She told me he’d a few more days to go so had to tell me the truth. My biological dad is Mr. Smith. Who would’ve thought my favorite uncle would be my real dad? /coughs/

How long has she been like this? Her breath smells like the debris of a whole month’s meal stuck in between her teeth. Her lips gave the impression it’ll be torn apart the moment she utters her next words. I offered her some water. In lifting herself to take the drink, I realized her skin tone took two different shades of her pretty flawless chocolate body. The part that was exposed looked worse and dirtier than that which rested on the bed.

Nana Esi: About 2 days after the visit, he passed away. I felt… well, I don’t really know how to describe what I felt. You are the writer so find me a vocab. His wife for some weird and unknown reason detests me, and warned me to stay away from her family and not to show up for the funeral. Some days later, I felt really sick and was rushed to the hospital. After several days of tests and examinations, the doctor said one of my kidneys was malfunctioning and the other is infected. He advised a transplant and said I could live with just one. That was the same week my other dad started his medical treatment for HIV/AIDS. School was resuming the following week so I needed to psych up for the semester. But then my mother and other dad had a big fight after she caught him cheating on her again. How could he? He’s infected!! Mom wanted to leave the house. Hmph… She actually left and left me behind. All that while I was quiet and said no word about the occurrences. I didn’t know it was eating me up so bad. My medication got finished so I’d to purchase more but dad said he had no money. I started feeling sick again but I held on to the pain and relied on my singing gigs and paintings for money. I started well /chuckles/

Akwele: what of your boyfriend? Didn’t he know?

Nana Esi: he didn’t need to. He cheated on me with Ewurasi

Akwele: you’re kidding me, right?

Nana Esi: I met another man. He was sweet and nice to me, and would do anything for me. But I took advantage of him. I seduced him and dumped him, found a silly excuse not to be with him since I felt I wasn’t good enough for any other man. I mean, look at me, a true industrious Ghanaian man wouldn’t want to get involved with a girl who’s unsure about how far her education was going, a girl with unstable health and… and a painter /shakes head/ no way!

/silence/

Akwele: so what happened?

She looked up at me again. This time I could read eyes; pain, agony, remorse, only that the tears didn’t drop but stayed and filled her eyes. I bet she cried so much till she couldn’t.

Nana Esi: I slept with other men, Akwele. I loved sex. I love the way it takes my mind off the issues and doubts and uncertainties. But they weren’t random men. Alex came hard on me and said I was really sexy and asked me out on a date. Jason thought I loved him but well, he’s just fine. Peter /giggles/… Peter and I’ve got some sort of attraction so I just saw the opportunity. Kwame was just hot. He invited me over for a little family and friends get-together. I don’t think you know Theo, umm he came back from the States after school and I actually don’t remember how it all happened but umm yea… who else… who else… /shakes her head/ I lost count.

You sure did mess up.

Nana Esi: I decided to go low on the sex but interestingly, I took to drinking. I had a drink every night so I could sleep. My favorite was Vodka, Malibu and Bailey’s /smiles/ but then the doctor had already warned me not to drink or smoke. My illness worsened. My urine was painful and bloody, my abdomen and back hurt all the time, I coughed blood at times, with other funny symptoms yet I couldn’t stop drinking. Last week, the doctor told me I needed an urgent transplant else…

A tear finally drops from her left eye but too short to run down her cheek.

Nana Esi: I didn’t mean to destroy my body. I didn’t mean to sin against my body. I didn’t mean to sin against God. The sex and drink only satisfied me and made me forget all those worries for a moment. You see, at times when the burden is so heavy, you just wish you could lay it down for a moment and be relieved however it’s your burden and you’ll have to take it back. You’re the first person to hear all this. I’m sorry about my appearance; I’ve been in this same position for over a week now because I don’t know what to do, I’m financially unstable and stranded and I don’t have enough time anyway.

Akwele: pray, Nana Esi…

Nana Esi: Pray? With all I’ve done, I don’t think God will ever forgive me. And oh! I bet my illness is the price I have to pay. But why did he do this to me? Why did God give me this load? Why did…

Akwele: I know you’re going through a hell of a time right now but hey even the elephant has to fight off flies. Life… life is /stuttering/ life is… the

Joshua: Cut! Cut!! Cut!!! What happened to you? It was going on so well. Memorize your lines well. /addresses team/ Alright guys, let’s take a short break, and resume in 30. Good start, ladies…