“Clarity” by Priscilla Adipa.

It happened unexpectedly. Eventually. Unlike his commitment to Augusta, the discovery took time. When he uncovered the reasons behind her phone calls and averted eyes, he saw that this point would have been reached sooner, if only he had not been overly confident in his ability to hold Augusta’s attention.

He stood in the rain, his temper rising as the raindrops on top of his head grew heavier and heavier. He opened his mouth and received the rain. The weight and saltiness of the water in his mouth brought on memories of tongues locked in passion, bodies pliant to the desires of the other. Hungry for more, he pushed out his whole tongue and held it still in space. When recalling became painful, he pulled his tongue back into his mouth.

 

Augusta returned home to find Kwasi’s drenched form stretched out on their doorstep. As soon as she saw him, she knew their journey together was over. She hesitated in the car. Somewhere deep inside her, a breath of relief and of regret came alive. Being in harmony with Kwasi had become tedious, so tedious that she had looked elsewhere for what he no longer provided. Yet Augusta wavered. She had to be sure she was ready to let go.

Slowly she turned off the engine. She opened the door and placed one foot onto the wet ground, and then the other. It had stopped raining. She walked towards Kwasi, her face filled with sorrow. She tried to read his thoughts, but this time it was impossible. The force that had connected them was broken, and his mind was shut from her probing eyes.

“Kwasi.” His name escaped quickly from her lips. She was breathless, as though she had run a marathon and was struggling to get her words out. “Kwasi,” she called again.

He said nothing. On his face was etched a hardness Augusta had never seen before.

“Say something.” She searched for absolution, a sign that all would be well between them.

In response, there was only the heavy sound of breathing and the cricket song that filled the air when the rain clouds receded.

He decided to help her out. “As long as you are happy,” he said, almost too softly for Augusta to hear.

She waited for him to say more. But these were the only words that revolved around them in the growing darkness.

They stood on the doorstep, framed by the arches of the veranda. They had stood there countless times on days they escaped outside when their small house became too hot inside. The doorstep was Augusta’s favourite spot. It was there they sat on Fridays after work to eat kelewele bought from the woman down the road. It was there they spent evenings with no power, and, with just a candle and a mosquito coil between them, cursed ECG and anyone else responsible for the unending dumsor.

Augusta walked past Kwasi towards their front door. He had anticipated what she would need. Four suitcases stood near the door. One of the suitcases was made from a synthetic beige material with red stripes. It had remained pristine over the years. It was the suitcase Kwasi’s family brought to her parents’ house the morning of their engagement. It was the one they had packed with kente and cloth she hadn’t yet taken to her seamstress. All these years she’d kept the suitcase covered with a large see-through plastic bag. Now, she had to drag the suitcase on the muddied cemented ground to her car.
Again, Kwasi thought ahead of her. He grabbed hold of the bags and packed them into the car.

“Goodbye,” he said, as he slammed the boot shut and made to walk back towards the house.

“I’m sorry,” she said, as she placed a hand on his arm. Then, encouraged by the softening in his eyes, she leaned over to trace the angry lines on his forehead. He flinched when her hand touched his face.

“Just leave,” he said, and Augusta quickly got into the car, realizing his patience would not last.

She pushed the gear into reverse when he entered the house. Her left leg shook as she lifted it off the clutch. She had all her belongings, but still it felt like she was leaving a part of herself behind. The car stalled. She put the gear again into reverse, and pulled out of their yard. She did not stop even when she looked back and thought she saw Kwasi step out onto the doorstep.

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“Grandpa’s Face” by Edwina Pessey.

There he lies. He could have been asleep. He really did look like it. Although slightly bloated. His chest area looked robust for an aged, dead man. Grandpa was almost smiling. He always managed to see the humour in any situation. That was something Aba had picked up. It was this face, now inanimate, that raised his granddaughter.

 

When Aba was six, Grandpa’s bespectacled face towered over her’s. He had just found her on his bedroom floor with his upended first aid box beside her. Her lips were chalk-white.

Aaaa,” Grandpa said. “Open your mouth. Aaaa”. Aba opened her mouth to reveal a white mash on her tongue. She unfurled her fists to reveal round tablets with a big ‘G’ embossed on them. Aba’s eyes began to water. He had caught her. Grandpa burst out laughing and offered her a hand so she could stand. Aba’s grandmother would later medicate her with the Bentua to ease Aba’s constipation.

 

Presently, Aba notices the neatly folded Kente at the foot of the coffin. Her cousin told her that beneath the Kente was money that Grandpa would use in the spirit world. She had rolled her eyes at this. “Really?”

 

She turned her eyes to the corner. Grandma sat surrounded by consolers all keeping wake. Her eyes returned to Grandpa…

 

When she was nine, Aba kneeled and faced Grandpa to watch him eat pawpaw. She had her elbows strategically placed on the table to support her chin. This was a tactic she and her cousins devised — silently willing Grandpa to give up his food so they could devour the rest. That day it was soft pawpaw with evaporated milk; the day before that it was Abiba’s Waakye. “Fine. Here you go,” Grandpa resigned and pushed the bowl towards his granddaughter. He chuckled to reassure her that he was not annoyed. Aba grabbed the bowl and dashed behind the longest couch. She would be hidden from the eyes of her cousins if they came prowling.

 

Mourners circled Grandpa’s body. Aba allowed little room between herself and the coffin so the slow march circled her too. It looked like a dance; the kind of dance which involved shuddering shoulders, dragging feet, and the occasional dab around the eyes and lips a handkerchief or the back of a hand.

Some mourner-dancers were more energetic than the rest; they loudly proclaimed their wish to go with Grandpa. Aba’s mother was one of them. “Ei! mini sane nε,” Aba thought, while struggling to smother an emotion that had started to well up in her. She returned to her late grandfather’s face.

 

Her childhood rushed like a flood in her mind as she stared. Aba screwed up her face as though to sneeze, or cry—possibly the latter. The sound that erupted was not of a sob. It was unmistakable laughter.

“Mobile Vulgus” by Andrew Teye.

He was dragged like an insolent goat. He felt a hard blow against the back of his head, and then another. There was a slap from behind, and then another. The voices around him were mixed and rising. All the while, the old man he heard them call ‘Old Souja’, tightened the grip he had on him. Old Souja had locked him in the classic Ghana-police ajoss grip: the waistline of his trousers had been yanked far above his abdomen and he could feel his testicles strangling towards castration. The old man’s strength was evident in his grip. There was no slipping out of his stranglehold.

A loud raspy feminine voice suggested he be burnt with a bunch of car tyres. She claimed to have a gallon of kerosene kept somewhere in her house and could send her child to fetch it as soon as it was needed. The crowd roared in agreement.

He shrieked at the mention of this, quickly pleading and breaking into sobs. He was struck immediately by Old Souja this time. The old man who had remained calm up until this point was now joining in the violence. With that fierce look on his steel face, Old Souja looked like he would have no difficulty breaking every single bone in his body. The old man was the self-appointed leader here and he yelled at the mob to calm down. “He won’t come here again, don’t worry,” Old Souja announced.

He was being dragged with the reins clinging to his genitals, by an ‘Old Souja’, the mob following closely behind stealing chances to strike him on the head. His big head- the big coconut that thought it had schemed well enough to complete a successful burglary.

So it was, up until they reached the big sandy square at center of the neighbourhood. The parade had turned into a march for justice now and from the vibes he was getting, this would not end well for him. This was the procession to his death.

****************

“I said who did this?” the police officer asked for the third time, “are you people deaf?”

Nobody answered. They simply shook their heads and shrugged. He gave up, turned to the body again and pulled out his phone. After taking some more shots, he dialed a number.

Yeh Akwasi, tell Joe to come with the Pick-up. And, with one body bag too,” he paused, and added almost as an afterthought, “and call that your nurse- girlfriend, another borla is coming so she should make space.” He chuckled silently and turned to the crowd behind him.

“So you people have decided to take the law into your own hands eh? How many of you have not stolen before?”

There were blank stares all over. The policeman felt like an idiot.

“Did you ask him his name?” he asked with little hope.

A dozen heads shook from side to side on each neck. These people were well-rehearsed. He spotted a fearsome-looking old man somewhere in the back of the crowd. He stared at the frowning wrinkled face and chuckled. He scanned their faces passively for a moment.

“Next time ask for the name and write it down,” he informed “Now everybody go home! Come on, clear off from here!” He barked and stamped his boots. They dispersed slowly in silence.

* “Mobile Vulgus” is a Latin phrase meaning “the fickle crowd”. The English term “mob” was originally derived from this phrase.

“Brave” by Gabriella Rhoda Rockson.

I’m angry. I’ve been angry for close to 8 months. Nobody knows – of course – and no one ever has to know. “She was so happy and calm,” they’d say. “We can’t believe she did that.” A tiny giggle escapes my lips. Hiding my smile, I prepare to mingle like the best friend that I am. Working my way through the crowd, I make small talk and make sure everyone is having a great time. Smiling and shaking hands, I paint the perfect picture of warm and friendly. I’d been studying Devin’s mum and I had the act down pat.

Eventually I make eye-contact with the guest of honour, my best friend. He looks so worried. I quickly give him a reassuring smile that says all is forgotten and forgiven. Before I can cross over to join Devin, I’m waylaid by his vapid girlfriend. The last time we’d met I’d felt sorry for her and so I’d sat down to listen to her go on and on about her latest worry. She was slightly neurotic bordering on irritating. She was only Devin’s girlfriend because he felt the need to settle down. Devin’s parents -my god-parents- were the kind of Ghanaians who everyone aspired to be. They were still madly in love. They were down to earth. They were also insanely rich.

Devin was unfortunately the only who might know how angry I was. It had happened yesterday. I’d been testy the whole morning, I see now that I should have had lunch alone in my room. We had been sitting outside at a small table having lunch when he made a careless joke about my scars. I lost it. I turned over the table and slapped him.
Someone else might have thought it normal for me to react that way after what I’d been through. Someone who didn’t know how I’d acted after the incident. That’s what I called it. Right after it happened I’d been calm and collected, reassuring anyone who dared to cry about how bad my skin looked. I’d smiled and comforted them, letting them know that after my skin graft I’d look brand new. Not once had I yelled or cried. So it was perfectly normal for Devin to think he could make a joke. I was always making jokes about how for someone with such a name, he tended to make crass and very crude statements in the three local languages he and I spoke.

I fled to my room and locked the door. That’s when I cried for the first time since my death. That’s what I actually called it. Waking up in the hospital and realising what had happened to me had changed me; “Deadened” me. I cried, finally allowing myself to feel the pain I’d shut away for so long until I eventually fell asleep. When I woke up the first thing I did was to check my phone to see how long I’d slept. 2 hours. I had 17 missed calls from Devin. I called him back and we talked. I said what he needed to hear; insulted him to let him know we were cool, and lay back listening to him as he talked about the party he was throwing the next day.

Yesterday’s events would cause me to shift it to a further date. There really was no rush. Making my way across the room I wondered what people saw when they looked at me.  

A dark woman wearing a spectacular gown that showed only a glimpse of her neck?

A phenomenal woman who could still socialise after a horrifying ordeal with her ex-boyfriend, who turned out to be a psychopath who liked to inflict multiple cuts on his victims, and watch them bleed to death?

Or a woman, struggling to appear placid, as she plotted how exactly to kill her ex-boyfriend, in the most dramatic way possible?

“Ona” by Akua Serwaa Amankwah.

September 2004

We started Primary Five in high spirits. School was especially fun because most of us had gotten new school uniforms and new shoes and new everything. And most people had the chance to make new friends while the rest settled for their old friends from Primary Four. I got a bubbly girl, Alice, for a best friend. That Alice was smart was a lovely bonus, I knew she would help me with my sums (I hated Math). We were thirty students in Primary Five ‘A’, and our teacher was a pretty lady called Mrs Ellis. At first we all thought she had a big tummy, until Alice told me Mrs Ellis was pregnant, and she knew that because Mrs Ellis was a patient at her mother’s maternity clinic.

Ona Salih was brought to our class three weeks after school had officially reopened. She was a plain little girl with a sour disposition. She was not in a new school uniform like most of us. Her shoes were well-worn, and they would be the only shoes she would wear. Her English was bad, her Maths was terrible. Mrs Ellis had no patience for Ona. Ona was sloppy and would fail at everything she tried her hands on. Mrs Ellis would hurl invectives at her, and the little girl would say nothing.

As time went on Mrs Ellis’s baby bump grew. She told us that she had a bun in the oven, and in a couple of months she would have to leave. We all knew Ona was no oil painting; her eyes were too wide for her small face, and her upturned nose portrayed large nostrils. Some of the kids made fun of her. She was no happy child. Once in a while I would offer her some of my mother’s bread, and she would smile shyly and shake her head. “You, nice person.” she would tell me, and then hop away. And that little smile would make my day.

Once, Ona got sick at school. She puked all over her shoes. Mrs Ellis was livid. “Why would you come to school when you’re sick?” she barked at Ona. “Ah. Who can accompany her to her house? Oh my God, someone should call the cleaner, the vomit smells awful!” she said, and I raised my hand. Whether it was genuine concern I get her home or curiosity so I find out where she lived, I didn’t know. We walked for almost thirty minutes, and then she told me she’d go home on her own. Then she smiled again and said quietly, “I will miss you.”

I chuckled. “Why, aren’t you coming back to school?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.” She waved and walked away.

The next day Mrs Ellis didn’t come to school. “She’s going to give birth soon”, Alice told me excitedly. We got a substitute teacher in the meantime. Ona didn’t come back to school again, and she was not missed by anyone in particular. Sometimes she would cross my mind and I would smile, thinking of the weird, ill-favoured girl Mrs Ellis had been so nasty to.

Just some weeks after, Alice told me her mother said Mrs Ellis had given birth to a girl. She looked forlorn, however.

“What’s wrong, Alice? Is the baby okay?” I asked her. She shrugged. “Today, after school, let’s go to the clinic. I want to show you something.” she whispered. I badgered Alice about what is was she wanted to tell me but she kept mum. I knew her mother’s clinic was not very far from school. I could hardly concentrate on what was being taught. The moment the school bell rang I gathered all my books and shoved them in my bag, trying to catch Alice’s eyes. She nodded and got up.

“We’re going to see her baby in the nursery,” Alice told me. I frowned. What was so special about Mrs Ellis’ baby that Alice wanted me to see for myself?

The nurses were friendly. Alice smiled at them as she told them she was coming to see Madam’s baby. I had never seen so many babies at once. I kept on gaping at the little ones.

“But why isn’t Mrs Ellis’s baby with her?” I whispered. I didn’t get the chance to speak again, for there was Mrs Ellis’s baby. I gasped. Baby’s eyes were very wide and she had a small, round face. I knew these features. She looked frighteningly familiar. Big nose. Big nostrils. I knew why Alice couldn’t say anything. No way. I turned to look at Alice, confused. “She looks like-like-“, I sputtered.

“Ona” we both said at the same time.

“How?” I was terribly shaken.

“My mom said Mrs Ellis doesn’t want to see the baby because it scares her.”, Alice told me. That was when I started to think of the strange Ona, and what she said the last time I saw her. I will miss you. Now my heart was furiously beating.

“Do you know where Ona lives?” I asked Alice, and she shrugged. “She’s disappeared. They’ve been looking for Ona since the baby was born”.

“Come on, let’s go before Mr Ellis comes”, Alice pulled me and we left. We had just got to the entrance when something caught my eye. I froze. “What? Let’s go”, Alice nudged me. “No. look”, I told Alice, and she looked at what had caught my eye. The poster with the title “MASS BURIAL TO BE HELD; LIST OF UNCLAIMED CORPSES.” The first name was Ona Salih, and beside the name was a picture of Ona, and she was wearing a mysterious smile. Her date of death had been listed as 8/02/04. Ona had come to Primary Five in September. I turned to look at Alice, and we both raced to school, saying nothing. I was going to ask my mom very politely.
I wanted a new school. Just in case Ona came to visit, I didn’t want to be around.

“The Race” by Nii Moi Thompson.

Alone in his grandfather’s cluttered garage, Akpiti flung his arms heavenwards in despair. “I need to train for the big race tomorrow”, he muttered under his breath. But the lawn needed levelling, and the tiles on the roof, some fixing.

“And we shall connect a drain to the gutter along the edge of the roof so we can harvest some rain-water”, his grandfather instructed, resting his elbow on the sill so he could stick his head out for better audience.

Akpiti went down in the mouth knowing he would never win the cycling race the next day. The racetrack was not entirely new to the cyclists save a few sandy diversions introduced to drag endurance beyond its ordinary limits. The only difficult stretch, Akpiti thought, for which he needed to train so badly, was the small hill close to the tail of the racetrack. Last year, his school mate and bully, Ahmed, paddled so hard that he scaled the small hill in no time and crossed the line of wood-ash to win the much coveted, spanking new BMX Mountain bicycle.

“Ahmed is strong and has very thick calves. He will scale the hill with little effort and win again”, he was complaining to his grandfather who was busy squinting at the dimensions for the new, wooden gate he was building for their home. The old man sunk the teeth of the saw into a thick plank and grinned.

“Indeed,” the old man teased as though the frailty of Akpiti’s stature was now dawning on him. “…you look to small for an eleven-year old”.

He signaled Akpiti to hand him a brush.

“No, the one with hard bristles”, he was more specific.

The old man used the brush to clean the dust in-between the thread of the giant screw he held.

“I am glad you are helping me fix the house,” his grandfather said with delight. “For that, I shall teach you how to win the race tomorrow with little physical effort.”

After his grandfather had let him in on the winning secret, Akpiti did not only help in fixing the roof, and mowing the lawn, and building the gate, and constructing the drain, but also pruned the hedge accurately. He was too excited to sleep on the eve of the race, and even before the first golden ray could break the dawn, Akpiti had washed his racer, pumped its tires, checked the brakes and straightened two dented spokes he spotted in the front wheel. This time he did not affix any water-bottle to the bicycle’s frame. ‘Drinking water during the race would just squander time’, he concluded.

The venue for take-off was littered with dozens of spectators and young bike lovers. At the starting point, Akpiti feigned indifference as most of his friends swarmed around Ahmed to admire the red BMX Mountain bike he won last year. That was his racer; the thing of beauty glistening with freshness. Akpiti was not perturbed an ounce. He assumed position on the cushioned-saddle of his own bike and did a few turns. ‘Good’, he thought. The big race was finally there, and here was himself, Ahmed, Ben, Kabutey and Peter ‘thumb-thumb’, because he was always caught sucking his thumb. There were four judges from the senior class at school. The five cyclists positioned themselves behind the starting line drawn with wood—ash.

“Pa-pa”, the clap of two wooden blocks signaled the start of the race. And just as the pigeons flew out of the woods at the sound of danger, Ahmed pushed his pedal so vigorously that he was soon leading the pack. Akpiti had to bide his time. However, he must not lose sight of Ahmed, so he tailed him closely. Again Ahmed was too fast, for he soon widened the gap. Nobody knew where Peter ‘thumb-thumb’ paddled from, but all of a sudden he sped past Akpiti to catch up with Ahmed, riding side-by-side the champion. A threatened Ahmed then performed a silly stunt, feigning a stumble in order to veer mischievously into Peter’s lane, making the poor boy screech to a deafening halt. Akpiti chanced on the distraction to close the gap between himself and Ahmed.

When the boys got to the steep slope before the hill, Kabutey came from behind to take the lead by descending in full flight- paddling so hard that his chain sometimes sent of sparks in all directions. He was so absorbed in screaming and performing the stylish, hands-free stunt that he did not hear his chain break.

Soon the boys got to the hill, with Ahmed closer to clinching a win at the expense of the two remaining cyclists; Akpiti and Ben. Ahmed glanced back at Akpiti to knit his brows at him. Akpiti smiled. He remembered the secret his grandfather taught him. It was the gear-lever, the simple device all the other boys had never learnt to use.

While Ahmed and Ben struggled and pushed their pedals so hard in a futile quest to scale the hill, Akpiti just flicked the gear-lever to its lowest gear, and realized that he could afford to paddle faster and effortlessly. He rode over the hill, leaving his competitors behind to cross that line of wood-ash. Ahmed followed several minutes later, but Ben protested fervidly, revealing that Ahmed actually dismounted his bicycle to give it a long push.

Although there was no prize that year, Akpiti learnt the difference a little domestic help, and a simple gear lever could make in the life of a frail boy with weak calves.

“An Occurrence In The Dadzie Home” by Daniel Hanson Dzah.

Mrs. Dadzie was first on the scene. Her first reaction was to gasp and then cover her mouth immediately. She turned around and darted into the bedroom to call her husband.

“Come! Come…quickly Fii, come,” she tried to keep her voice down as she hopped excitedly on the woollen carpet.

“What is it this time?” Fiifi Dadzie asked with an air of nonchalance. His eyes remained fixed on his computer screen, punching away a bit more calmly, now that he was being interrupted.

“Ohhh… Just come. You too, you can be someway papa! Just come,” Dzifa Dadzie said, almost pleading.

Fiifi sighed and shifted in his seat. He pushed away the swivel-chair with his backside and stood. He leaned back and stretched. He was definitely going to take his time with this walk to wherever. He knew Dzifa and her drab surprises all too well.

Dzifa tutted. “Where is your phone? We need to video this!”

“Video what?” Fiifi replied, with a loud yawn as he withdrew his phone from his pocket. He handed it over to her.

She ignored the phone, grabbed his arm and yanked him out of the room. He had to hold on to his loose flannel underwear with his free hand.

They finally reached the living room, and as they neared the dining hall, Dzifa paused abruptly, excitedly did a little hop and jiggle, and finally pointed at the dinner table. Fiifi gaped at the scene.

Sitting astride the table, holding a plastic finger of banana in one hand and a plastic apple in the other hand, was the latest inclusion to their family; Maabena Dadzie.

“How did she-” Fiifi started, but was silenced by his wife’s covering his mouth with palm.
“Shh..I have no idea,” she whispered.

One year old Maabena sat oblivious of her dear parents’ stares of amazement. To any untrained pair of eyes which could have chanced upon the scene, she would seem to have been making an aesthetic judgement of the two fake fruits she had picked from the decorative basket on the dinner table. To Mr. and Mrs. Dadzie, they knew she would push either replica to her mouth in a split second.

“Hurry … take a pic,” Dzifa nudged Fiifi in the ribs.

“No…video first,” he replied with a soft giggle. He set up his camera presently and zoomed in.

By this time, Maabena had seemingly made up her mind. Her grimace cleared from her tiny baby face. It was replaced immediately with a wide smile and a soft giggle. Before her parents had a chance to stifle their loud chuckles, she pushed both fake fruits to her lips and began to nibble away. Still under the watch of her parents and the smart phone camera, she nibbled and nibbled and nibbled at the plastic. She continued this way for a minute or two more till the realization hit her toddler mind; these fruits would not be munched! She withdrew them from her lips. An even stronger grimace appeared on her face. Then, she turned, and met eyes with her parents.

Her eyes lit up immediately. She reached with her tiny arms, presenting the fruits to them. And then, she did something else; Something Fiifi and Dzifa Dadzie would show to their friends and family for weeks. Maabena shouted to her parents in discernible language for the first time ever, “Fooooooooodd!!!”

Before Fiifi could catch his breath or Dzifa could wipe off the first streak of a tear drop, little Maabena slammed the plastic fruits back into the basket on the dinner table and let out a blood-curdling scream. They bumped into each other as they rushed to cuddle her.