“From The Backseat” by Akosua Brenu.

“Dada! Dada! Look, plantain chips!” I screeched from behind father and kept bouncing up and down on the black leather seat of his Benz. The seatbelt stretched to its limits to hold me in place.
“Shut up! Shut up! Can’t you see Daddy is on the phone!” Ama, my teenage elder sister scolded and pinched me in the arm to keep me still. But I was having none of that. I shoved off her pinching arm and called out again.
“Dada! Dada!”
I heard him mumble for someone to hold on. When he turned to face me, it was difficult to tell if his furrowed brow was because of the slow-moving traffic or because I had interrupted his call. I was soon to find out.
“Listen, both of you! You Adjoa especially… I am in the middle of a very important call. I don’t want any mprepre agoro at this time. When we get home you can make all the noise you want!”
“But Da-”I started.
I folded up into my seat. I was shocked and scared at this sudden outburst. He turned away, still fuming, and returned to mumbling to some obviously important person on the phone. “They take after their mother, I tell you,” I heard him say.

No plantain chips meant no reading, and no reading meant I would stare out the window till we got home. Today was just one of those dull ones with father. It would not be the last. I will survive again today, I thought to myself.
I looked on absent-mindedly as the PK chewing gum- seller tried in vain to get Daddy’s attention. Next was the guy with the shoe polish and brushes, a packet of socks hung out from his back pocket when he turned his back to us. I saw another Plantain Chips seller approach our car. I quickly looked away. She chorused her ‘Yesss plaintain’ and I covered my ears with my fingers to avoid the torture. I turned to my right side to face Ama. She had dozed off after Daddy had scolded, and her gaping mouth made me chuckle. I looked outside her window now.

There were two men flopping arms in each other’s faces metres away from the window. They were planted on the second floor of a building that seemed to be under construction. Scaffolds had been arranged at odd angles along the breadth of the walls. A number of cement bags had been carefully arranged at one corner of the floor where the two men stood. One of the men wore a white helmet, and blue overalls. The other looked rather dirty in his grey overalls. He wore a pair of very large goggles and I wondered why he didn’t take them off to talk to the first man. They seemed to be having a very heated argument. The man with the helmet drove his finger into the face of the man in goggles but it was struck away from the latter’s face with something that looked like the spanner Daddy often used to fix my bicycle’s chain. A look of shock was painted momentarily on the face of the man in the white helmet. All of a sudden, he pushed the man in goggles, in the chest, with his two hands. But he did not push hard enough, for the man in goggles simply stood his ground. Then, in a flash, both men lunged at each other and began to struggle on what now became clearer to me as the balcony of the building.

I turned to Ama; her eyes were wired shut and her gaping mouth was already dribbling on the leather seats. Father was still on the phone and clearly angered about what he was hearing. He yelled ‘unbelievable!’, ‘nonsense!’and ‘ridiculous!’ in quick succession. I refocused on my scene as I felt our car begin to trudge again along the road. The two men had now locked arms and seemed to be wrestling each other. Right before Daddy accelerated farther enough to erase that view, I saw both men lose their balance and fall off the balcony. I gasped and rapidly tapped father repeatedly on his shoulder. He turned around with fury in his eyes and threatened, “ADJOA! I’LL BEAT YOU!”
I sank back into my seat and shut my eyes.

“A Day After Work” by Alfred Benneh.

The traffic jam was choking. He could have easily passed out thinking about how far he was from home, and how sluggishly the Benz 207 bus moved. With horns blaring, drivers yelling insults at each other, and a brusque trader right at the side of the window squawking “Yeesss pure! Pure!’  Nana Kofi knew his night had just began.

The fact that he had stayed in line for an hour to board an Adenta bound bus from the 37 station was not a worrisome predicament to him; he wondered why he was still at airport as at 7:30pm.

He stared at the awesome buildings that sprung up on each side of the road. His posture adjusted as his eyes feasted on the Silver Star tower, the Unique Trust building and the Una home, and he longed once more to own just a room in any of the luxurious apartment edifices on the left side of the road that seemed to be yelling at the average Ghanaian worker: “You Can’t Afford Me! You Can’t Afford Me!”

If there was to be a ghanaian rendition of the famed Times Square, then this would be it: the perpendicular stretch from the mall to the Max-mart supermarket. With buildings light years ahead of Ghanaian architectural knowledge, and impeccable waste management on the street; that is in no way ubiquitous to the rest of the city.

But trust the Ghanaian, to tarnish a perfectly bedazing situation with a cockeyed excuse of the struggle for survival. Down, in between the rows of cars of sweltering engines longing to be rid of the scourge of this gridlock, were young men and women (seldom toddlers); hoisting provisions, toiletries and frankly any modest item one could think of, on their heads. These items were mounted on flat tin pans, and the weighty load was cushioned by a careful folding of a piece of rag into a broad cylindrical shape to fit the head. These were the hawkers that traded on these streets to the chagrin of their faces in times past, but had now wrenched this very street into a market of sorts.

‘If only I had the power.”

Right away, he was faced with the challenge of reaching for his wallet in response to the conductor’s timed hissing at every single passenger. Only then did he realize that he was swamped by two rotund individuals on either side.

He remembered a scene from his childhood. He was about eleven or twelve. Returning from a class trip to the Aburi gardens, he shriveled like a leaf in between two bullies on the bus who kept on squeezing him and rubbing the sheen of sweat that had covered their arms against him.

To turn a soggy night damp, a makeshift salesman emerged from the front seat with an elixir in his right hand, a magic drug concocted out of the need to end hunger and swindle money into one’s pocket. With eyes red with desperation, and his lips churning out verses of falsehood, the salesman claimed his drug could cure headache, backache, tooth decay, diarrhea and well; any disease that the body finds itself suffering from.

Nana Kofi squinted in amazement as a middle aged woman from the last row entreated him to pass on her GhC10 in exchange for the drug. To think of why anyone would actually fall for such nonsense was an endless mystery to him.

His grief was truncated as the driver dutifully parked at his junction. Rather gaily, he hopped off the bus and took out his I-phone. Dancing to his favorite Asa song “No one knows tomorrow”, he virtually shut his eyes as he sang along and approached his gate with each dance move, ideating how he would slide into a hot shower, then warm his week old Tuo Zaafi in the microwave, and finally resuscitate a stressed and aching body by having supper in the couch: tuned in to his deary ‘‘Mma Nkomo.” But before he could start picturing the day’s audience, he froze right in front of his house…..

ECG had struck again!