*episode 4 *
I was scared to tell Nma ( Mother) that I had failed primary five, she would be angry and disappointed with me. I made her believe i was promoted, she was very happy and used the little money on her to buy me new sandals, khaki uniforms and books. I felt so guilty when she called me and gave me the items. I was tired of school already, the only thing on my mind is money, see how Koku was viciously kicking little Pam because he had money. If only i could find a way to make money things will be better for us, Nma ( Mother) won’t have to go hungry, Little Pam would have fine dresses and Albert could go to the university.
I saw Albert sometimes in the field, we would sit down in silent, there’s everything to talk about and at the same time there’s nothing to say. He knew i had failed, Ama was in my school and she must have told him. I wondered if Albert was still going to school, one noon i hid in the bushes to see if Albert would come out of his school gate, i was happy when i saw him and his colleagues coming out of the gate.
They were gisting animatedly, something had them excited and i wondered what it was. But I was happy at least one of us is making Nma proud. Some Sundays I scrub up real nice and go to the Catholique Mission church, not because i want to hear about Jesus or his disciples but because i wanted to discover the secret of wealth. Am sure there’s a secret about it if not why would some people be so rich while some would be poor? Why was i born into a poor home when some were born with glittering diamond spoons in their! Sometimes i wonder if i offended God while i was still with him in heaven.
I won’t mind being poor too much if only i had a little more to eat, i hate the sharp gnawing pangs of hunger, the way it sucks the life out of you making you so weak, most of all i hate the dark and filfty smell of hunger. After one evening mass i walked up to Father Flavi, determined to get an answer to the many unanswered questions in my head.
” Bonsoir Father Flavi” I stopped beside him. He looked at me and smiled, he was a white man but he had been in Togo for so long we stopped seeing him as a white man and accepted him as one of us.
” Bonsoir Kojo, how are you today?”
” Am fine Father, i am curious about some things sir” I began.
Father why does God make some people poor and some rich? did the poor ones offend him?
He smiled and beckoned me to follow him to his office. He led the way into his office at the back of the church, he sat down and motioned me to sit on the chair opposite him.
” Kojo you have asked a beautiful question, you see in the sight of God we are all one. We are equal in his sight and he loves us all equally that is why he sent his only begotten son to die for us all’ he looked at me smiling.
” If we are all equal
why is my own family poor? that’s not equality to me.”
” Kojo if only you could see how rich our Father in heaven is, his wealth belongs to us too if only we do things according to his will”
” So if we do things according to his will we would be rich? How about the heathens that are rich sir, where do they get their own wealth from?”
” Kojo the bible tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and every other thing shall follow, whoever is not for God is automatically against him. Not all wealth are from the Lord, some are gotten from the devil”
” The devil!” My eyes almost popped out of my head, the devil also has money?
” But those Ill gotten wealth don’t last and the repercussions are grave, it eventually leads to the loss of everything and death! It is better to wait on the lord”
” Thank you sir” i stood up. I was glad to discover one of the secrets of money, the devil also has the money. If only i could make him give me some without paying for it with my life. I got home to find Nma and Little Pam eating like royalties, i wondered if they had gone to someone’ s burial. The only thing celebrated these days are burials, there’s no money for birthday parties or wedding ceremonies but if you die then be rest assured a party will be thrown for you.I can’t remember when last i ate rice was it three years ago? Or two years?
” Efo (bro) Kojo your bowl of jollof rice is in the room” little Pam said with her mouth full.
I ignored her. ” Nma where did the food come from?”
” Doji the taxi driver brought us half bag of rice with cans of tin tomatoes and groundnut oil this evening.”
” Why did he bring them Nma( Mother)?
” My son i asked him the same question too, we are not related in any way but he said the lord laid it on his heart to do so”
The next evening, Yaovi the hunter brought us two big grass cutters saying he had more than enough meat at home. Nma was reluctant to accept it at first but he insisted and she thanked him after collecting them. I was sent to the market to sell one of them while we used the other one to make soup.
Five neighborhood guys in total brought us different food items that week, maybe the good lord is tired of me asking him endless questions and decided to feed us through the guys so i could keep my mouth shut.
The guys were Doji the taxi driver, Yaovi the hunter, Francis a lecee ( poly) lecturer, Seyram a government worker and Lyon a Lecee student and also a palmwine tapper.
We dined like royalties throughout the month. The five ‘ God sent’ guys kept bringing us food items, at a point Nma got scared because times were hard for everywhere but i easily assured her that all five of them were bachelors with no responsibility. Seyram, the government worker took it upon himself to register little Pam in the Catholique beginners school in my home town, he bought her all the necessaries she would need.
NPA( Father) is still not talking to us, when i greet him he doesn’t respond. These days all he does is to drink to stupor and curse everyone from the government down to us. Sometimes he would sing Lucky Dube’ s prisoner at the top of his lungs. One night i saw him in pants dancing and singing ” I am a prisoner” at the top of his lungs, Afine came out of her hut and tried to take him inside but they both ended up on the floor. I couldn’t resist laughing, i laughed so hard that I didn’t know when Nma walked behind and slapped me on my back.
The next day i went to the Lecee (Poly) Gate and waited for Albert. He walked up to me under the tree i stood.
” Charley wassup? He said in English.
” I see you learnt English today. ”
He shrugged ” Yes. What are you doing here? ”
” When are you coming home?”
” I don’t have a home, is Nma alright? ”
” She is okay but she is not happy with you staying at cousin Mensah’ s place you know.”
” As long as she is okay i see no reason to come home. What is going on with you? I heard you stopped schooling”
I looked away. It was a very sunny day, beautiful birds were chirping all around us .
Albert sat on the grass and I followed suit. ” Listen to me Kojo, i want you to go back to school and i want you to be a good boy for Nma….you hear me? tell Nma that i love her and i want you to promise to take good care of her and little Pam when am………”
” When you are what Efo( bro) ?,” I suddenly became scared. ” Efo what is going on? ”
” Ah Kojo! I don’t know! I …..can’t talk to about it. ”
” Does it have anything to do with those guys feeding us?”
He suddenly looked sick. ” Just do what i told you, there’s nothing like a good education ”
” Will you at least tell me about Afine? I know about her, you talked in your sleep ”
He sighed and got up. ” She was in my class, her family moved here last year. She’s the …..the first girl my heart ever beat for. I dreamt of her all the time, I wanted to be her all but i get tongue tied whenever i see her. My friends advised me to brag about my father’ s farm, our large barnyard, how my father had millions stashed away somewhere.
Unknown to me, her family was going through a rough time and somehow my bragging got to her family but they felt why marry the son? When you can Marry the father and inherit it all. Only thing is the joke was on them! Turns out our father is a stingy poor man. ”
I stood up. ” Why didn’t you discourage her from marrying him?”
” I tried Kojo, God knows i tried. ”
” I promise to go back to school if you promise to give up whatever it is that you have gotten yourself into now”
” Kojo…..have come so far, I …..I can’t. Let me tell you a story. ” He sat down once again and I did same too. ” Kojo, there’s a man who sent his daughter to the university, this man spent all the money he made from tapping wine on his beautiful daughter. One day a bad powerful man came to the school. ” he paused for effect and looked at me.
Is this Bella’ s story? I nodded and he continued ” The powerful man cast a spell on the palmwine tapper’ s daughter and carted her off to join his legions of wives.
When the mother of the girl heard it, she was heartbroken. She went to the bad Man ‘ s house, do you know what he did to her?
I shook my head no and he went on ” He cast a spell on the mother too. In fact he got the both of them pregnant”
This man is so evil. How could he commit such a taboo? ” what happened next Efo ( bro)
” The palmwine tapper went to his house to demand for his wife and daughter but he cast a spell on him too and made him his gate keeper. ”
” The man is so terrible!” i said in anger.
” There are other families that he has done terrible things to too, what would you do Kojo? if you were the palm wine tapper’ s son, what would you do?”
” I will try to get my family back”
‘” That is not an easy feat boy, not easy, the evil man also cut off the manhood of a young man who fell in love with one of his daughters. He sent it to the young man ‘ s family. See I could go on but time is against us and you have to go home to help Nma fetch and carry.” We both stood up.
” Who is this powerful evil man bro? ”
Albert acted like he didn’t hear me ” Give this chalks to Pam” he brought out some colour chalks from his bag and handed them to me ” Remember to tell Pam i love her too”
My eyes filled with tears. What is going on? should i speak to Nma ( Mother) about it?
Micheal Jackson comes to town
I was running but i couldn’t meet up with the tall man in black robe walking ahead of me, dead bodies littered everywhere, a woman sat on the bloody boulevard cradling her dead twin boys, she was wailing at the top of her lungs. The 17 or 18 year old twin students had been shot through the head. Where is little Pam? I felt something streaking down my left arm, it was blood.
” Kojo help me! Please help me!”
I ran towards the voice trying not to step on the litters of dead bodies on the ground how could only one man have the power to destroy so many lives? who gave him the power? I kept running towards the voice, i got to the end of the street where thousands of dead bodies had been dumped. Where is Albert? i moved bodies after bodies but i couldn’t find him. I was almost giving up when i looked up. His body, or what was left of his body was hung on a tree nearby. His manhood had been slashed off and tucked into his mouth. His legs had been cut off at the knee. I opened my mouth and screamed.
” Kojo! Kojo! ” Nma shook my sweat drenched body. ” Its okay son, its okay, its only a dream”
I sat up on my tattered mat, wiping sweat from my brows.
” Kojo what is it about? these horrible nightmares you have been having, what is it about?”
” Nothing Nma ( Mother), its just some silly things”
She gave a loud sigh and gathered me into her arms ” Son you must stop watching horror movies at your friend’ s place. They are the reason for the nightmares”
Early that morning i knocked on Npa ( Father) ‘s door, it was opened by a sleepy Afine. I greeted her and entered the hut.Afine is no longer the haughty wife she was when she newly married my father, her ‘ newness’ is slowly wearing thin so father is showing her his true colors now.
My father was on his bed, he sat up and asked her to excuse us. I was shocked to the bones but i maintained my cool.
” Bonjour NPA ( Father)”
” Whatever you have to say, it better be worth it” he grumbled.
” NPA i have been having terrible nightmares concerning Albert”
He snorted. ” So you came to disturb my sleep because of that mad boy?” He made an attempt to stand up but fell back on the bed. ” Get out!”
” He’s your son! Your first son! Where is your conscience father!”? I stood up in anger, i have never talked this way to my father before but i was so angry i couldn’t help it.
” Kojo you have also grown wings ehn? You want to beat me too? ” He staggered to his feet ” In my own house? You want to climb me and ride me like a horse in my own house ehn!?
” What did we ever do to you? We used to be happy father…..although we had nothing we were happy and content with it until you decided to snatch your own son’ s girl! ” I paled at the look of horror on his face. I didn’t mean to say that, it just came out and from the look on his face he had no idea of what i was saying. Did Albert lie to me?
” Snatch whose girl! Afine? Talk to me boy! oh am getting it now! her family approached me and offered her to me! is that the reason Albert came charging at me like a mad bull? over a slip of a girl? ”
I went out of the hut while he shouted at me to come back. Nma( Mother) would understand better but i was reluctant to tell her because i don’t know how she would handle it. I thought briefly of going to see cousin Mensah about the reoccurring nightmares but i decided against it. After all they were both in it. Nma ( Mother ) was washing clothes at the back of our hut, little Pam had gone to school . I took a stool and sat beside her.
” Nma ( Mother) there is something i have to tell you ”
She stopped washing and gave me her full attention, anxiety was written all over her face. This was one of the reasons i was reluctant to tell her.
” What is it Kojo?”
” Nma its about….. ” i trailed of as we both heard a woman’ s voice shouting Nma’ s name at the top of her voice. Josey, a short and stocky woman in her forties ran to us. She was a distant cousin to my mother. She was also known as the town’s gossip, if you want to know the latest happening in Town all you have to do is buy her a small bottle of alcohol and she will relay every relevant and irrelevant gist to you.
” Nma Albert! What my eyes saw today you have not seen it! Wonders will never end in this our country! ” Josey exclaimed amidst pants. ” Come and see for yourself! Your Ataga ( brother_ in law) has been exposed! ”
” Ataga ( brother_ in law) Kamasa?” Nma asked her.
I sighed. Women and gossip are like five and six. Kamasa is my father’ s step brother, Mensah’ s father, he is short, almost like a dwarf. He has short stumpy legs and he is as dark as sin.
Fortunately for my cousins they favor their mother. Uncle Kamasa is rarely ever home, he is a hardworking farmer who is so obsessed with farming that he built a small hut there and comes home once in a while. Everyone wonders how he was able to get Mami a lovely fair skinned Ghanian lady to marry him.
Josey pulled on my mother’ s hand and they ran out of the compound, my Usain Bolt legs followed suit.
Mami sat on the bare floor crying and pulling at her hair. Ama sat on the stone step of her room, a stony expression on her face.
Cousin Mensah stood arms akimbo looking at his mother. I saw my ugly looking uncle pacing up and down and muttering to himself. A crowd had gathered, since nothing good ever happens word spreads quickly like a wild fire when something does happen.
Some women tried to lift Mami up but she pushed them away. ” You have ruined my life! Kamasa you have finally done your worse! ” She cried out.
Nma and some other women lifted her up and took her to her room. I saw Albert walk into the compound and i ran up to him.
” What happened Efo( bro)” I asked.
” This morning, Mami asked Ama to sweep Ataga ( uncle) ‘ s room. Ama saw a calabash under his bed. She brought it out of curiosity to her mother. Upon seeing the calabash Mami started screaming, asking where am I? What am i doing here? She started acting weird”
” What does it mean? did Ataga( Uncle) cast a spell on her or what?”
” Obviously. she does not recognize her own children anymore. The only person she recognizes is uncle because she knew him before he cast the spell on her and brought her here to be his wife”
” Awww, that is so bad of uncle, you know i have wondered how a beautiful woman such as Mami would marry our ugly looking uncle” i said.
” The painful part is, she said she was betrothed to someone when uncle came to ask for her hand in marriage. She told him she was engaged to another and that is the only thing she remembers of the past. She has no recollection whatsoever that she has been in Togo for almost 28 years. She kept asking after her parents and when Mensah tried to hold her, she pushed him away asking who he was. Its a terrible thing”
I left my brother and went to sit beside Ama. ” come let’s go”.
I held out my hand, she hesitated for a minute or two before placing hers on mine. I led her out of the crowdy yard. We walked in silence until we got to the empty big field where football matches hold on weekend. We sat down on the green grasses quietly.
” Kojo its all my fault. Why did i show Mami the calabash? This is all my fault!” She started sobbing gently. I gathered her into my arms while she sobbed her heart out. Wow! the beautiful and sassy Ama was sobbing in my arms? Unbelievable!
” Shhhh….none of this is your fault Ama….. don’t cry now Cherie ( Sweetheart) i patted her on the back gently while my heart kept somersaulting.