“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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“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.

“This Love Business” by Nii Moi Thompson.

Setting:
Amu’s chamber, dirty drapes hanging loosely down the windows, and partly covering the peeling paint of his walls. Clothes lay flung across the floor and on the single, mahogany bed with brown sheets and spreads. A smiling picture of a striking Esenam used to hang up there somewhere, and he used to worship it every sunrise. It was his single photo gallery, and all his friends were forced to see it upon entry. But something happened; he cannot exactly tell what, except to battle with his left and right conscience.

Amu’s soliloquy

“My love for Esenam had drained faster than food in a colander

Yes I adored her hips and curvy contours, Yehowah!

Her lips tasted like fire

Burning with the slightest touch…Liar!

Keep mute, right conscience! Do not call me a liar

I loved Esenam with a desire

Not for curvy contours and luscious lips…never!

I speak of bells, gowns, and a priest at the altar”

“O laka lɛ! ….daabi, mi laka ko lɛ; you know

I like fair women with tall legs and long hair, although

Esenam’s skin should glow

Have blue eyes and lashes that show

Whiter teeth and fuller lips or so

Maybe I was carried away, tonight will tell…”

Setting:

Esenam’s mirror; with her reflection staring at her, wanting to burst forth and slit her throat with a broken piece. She admired the nakedness of that young, dark woman in the mirror, who had grown slender for her lover, Amu. Esenam envied her curves…maybe her freedom, for she was stuck in the mirror and away from the work love burdens its captives with.

Esenam’s soliloquy

“How such brawny arms turned so old

And the red hot flame, go cold

Is best left a story untold

I loved him…Liar! You loved his apartment and the cars he sold

Even a gold ring does corrode

But first cut was deepest; I feel it in my node

Or maybe I should hold

Tonight will tell…

Tonight, somewhere around Osu

Amu threw on a crumpled polo shirt over faded jeans, paying little attention to the Nike sneakers caked in layers of mud and filth. He chuckled and shrugged as he took his seat at the table of the eat-out where he first took Esenam. He remembered how he had ironed his shirt back then, and traced his trousers with the tip of the iron to avoid double-lines. Now he cared less, and as Esenam appeared, he realized she too could not be bothered

There was no hug, no greeting…

“How long have you been waiting?” Esenam asked perhaps innocently, while hanging her bag on the seat and straightening her messed-up hair. Two months ago, she had braided the latest, most complex rasta with expensive Brazilian wig.

“What time did we agree on?” Amu retorted.

“Let us make this short,” Esenam advised.

“Don’t worry,” Amu cut in sharply. “I have better things doing with my time as well”

Esenam rolled her eyes in disgust at Amu’s sarcasm. She hated him for that.

“Oh, like milking cows?” she wanted to hit back at him, but realized it was not working, for he just blew his nose and feigned indifference.

“I realized that we are no longer compatible. Fine, we like the same food, the same music, can carry on a conversation for hours…” Esenam started. “But that connection is lost”

“Guess we were all attracted by the wrong elements,” Amu shrugged, and that was it. They hugged and locked each other in a passionless embrace for a second or two and parted.

As Esenam left the venue, she had Bra Kwami on her mind, and yes, his brawny arms, accent, the sleek Chrysler PT Cruiser he drives and his tall stature charmed her most. Amu was on his way to Odornaa, and then head on to Nima to meet Aisha, who had fascinated him three weeks earlier with her fair complexion, near-green eyes and a curvy frame crowned with well-greased lips, as though they had just been dipped in frytol.

‘Such vain cycle; this love businesses’, the wind sighed, but they both were ear-clogged!

“Perspective” By Daniel Hanson Dzah

Maame looked into his face as he smiled. She smiled back; those dimples were irresistible.
She smiled wider and leaned closer to him, laying a soft kiss on his left cheek. He simply smiled, and then seemed to frown momentarily.

Cheeky, Maame thought. She giggled and leaned forward a second time, planting a longer peck on his feather-soft right cheek. As before, he smiled and then frowned again.
“No, no, no lip-kisses for you Mister!” Maame protested. However she pitied him and leaned forward. She hesitated at the last minute and pulled back, chuckling at his already pouted lips.

“Naughty…naughty boy,” she whispered, then leaned closer and pulled back again when their lips almost touched. She repeated the playful act and enjoyed teasing him.

Finally weary of the monotony, she leaned in for what was to be her final time. This time, he was ready for her. He thrust his short arms forward and grabbed her left breast in both of his palms.
She shrieked slightly in surprise, reached for the transparent feeding bottle with the big rubber nipple and shoved it between his lips

“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…

“Love Me,Love My God” by Nii Moi Thompson

Shaibu’s car was just like his father; an old, wobbly art of welded hardness which fumes when provoked beyond elastic limit. The 1998 Mazda was expelling thick smoke when it finally arrived at Diana’s, moving at snail’s speed, jerking off suddenly and spurting intermittently along the way. He needed to kill his worse enemy, stress; and thank God Diana’s parents had left for Men’s and Women’s Fellowship.

He combed his afro hair, tossed a mint into his mouth, rolled some deodorant under his pits and clutched the pack of fried yam and tsofi Diana had requested. He smelt fine. As he locked up, he spotted the Quran from the dashboard glaring guiltily at him. He slammed the door quickly, and slapped his back-pocket to make sure his condoms were safely stashed. A grin lit up his face.

He found Diana at the door with an outstretched arm. Guess she was used to the deafening roar of that old engine. Her outfit was inviting; a see-through blouse, with one of its straps hanging lazily down her arm, out-dooring a breasted chest. Her blue jeans shorts barely covered her flawless thighs. Shaibu gulped.

“You still keep those bears on the bed instead of me,” he joked, slapping a pair of stuffed bears positioned on the right side of Diana’s bed.
“Be glad my father is not here, Shai.” She reminded.
Shaibu inched closer. He knew he had little time till her parents arrived. He felt Diana’s lips subtly, and she responded.
“We have to talk…” she said. It felt like a stick in the spokes of Shaibu’s wheel. Not when his blood was simmering, and his members nodding.
“That can wait, dear,” he responded, and slipped an arm into her blouse, searching for whatever. She pushed him away gently. “Don’t be naughty.”

“My father does not wish I marry a Muslim!”
Shaibu sighed. “I know that man doesn’t like my kind. Why can’t I marry you?”
“Well, I will love my children to be Christians, and my husband to come to church with me,” one could realize from her tone that she had nursed this dream since childhood.
“Allah forbid,” Shaibu retorted. “I am the man. My children have to be Muslims.”
“Then I guess my father was right…maybe Christians should just marry Christians!”
The ensuing silence was long. Then Shaibu broke it, not with words, but with a dash for his shirt, and subsequent angry shuffling to the door.

Diana blocked the entrance before he could storm out. She loved him, but did not wish they will part angry at themselves. Words would just spoil the ambience at this point. She slid her straps further down, stood on her toes and offered her lips. Shaibu’s anger melted and the scene moved from the doorway unto the bed.

Before they could self-actualize, the door flung open.
“Young man!” the voice sounded like her father’s, albeit in an angrier tone. Shaibu turned to make sure.
“Walahi, trouble!”