Would You?

After the game, the King and pawn go into the same box.
(Italian proverb)

Abena walked past the porridge seller right in front of the only Ecobank bank in the Dansoman area. You would think the loud thumping of Daddy Lumba’s Abin Woha seeping through the vulcanizing shop down the bank’s road would distract her. At the very least, stop her from the continuous repetition of her mother’s heated words offered to her on a heated plate of desperation. “Good Morning”, Kwaku said with a broad smile: Kwaku has been her crush for two years in a row, His smile was enough to melt Abena’s heart into a watery mix. But Abena was determined not to be distracted even by Kwaku who was attending to a customer in his mother’s shop. She walked on with just a mere wave of acknowledgement. Kwaku was obviously hurt but what could she have done?

Abena had been sent to deliver a message to Auntie Memuna. She sold waakye close to the vulcanizing shop down the street. Like a trail of breadcrumbs, all Abena had to do was follow the loud music and voila “you have reached your destination”.

Business was very brisk for Auntie Memuna on days like this. The cluster of schools had just finished writing their exams and had about a week to go on vacation. So like clockwork, all the kids from Dansoman Basic School would throng to get their fill of her waakye as classes were done for the term. The workers from the Ecobank up the road were certainly not left out of the chaos that ensued as Abena arrived at Auntie Memuna’s Waakye Boutique. The Sun’s rays did a little dance over Abena’s face and with each increasing intensity of the heat that could be felt by all, she mastered the courage to speak.

“My mother sent me here to come remind you of the Fifty Cedis you owe her”. Silence was the response. Abena took in a second deep breathe. “My mother sent me…” Auntie Memuna quickly interrupted her. “Is it because of Fifty Cedis that your mother sent you all the way from her tattered two by four mud house to come embarrass me while I do business?” The confusion at this point was quite evident on Abena’s face. “Has she forgotten?” Abena asked herself. “Maybe I should remind her”. Abena mastered even more courage, “But Auntie Memuna, I just said I was sent to take the Fifty you owe….”. “Oh shut up over there! What fifty Cedis do you speak of? I don’t blame her anyway. That mother of yours!” Memuna said bluntly. At this point, all attention on the bank street was directed towards Auntie Memuna’s Waakye Boutique. Even the old woman, who sat in front of her house close by, and would not be phased even if a tornado passed, lifted her frail self-up to find out what was happening at Memuna’s kiosk.

“Oh! I know why!” Auntie Memuna gave out a short cheeky laughter. “No wonder she sent you to do her dirty deed. Her Waakye business is going down meboa? That’s what happens when you use juju to attract customers to buy your food! As for me, it is by the grace of God that I still flourish! See the customers I have?” She said with all the pomposity of the Eiffel Tower at night. “They have all seen the light and now walk all the way to me just to purchase my food instead of your mother’s dirty shop. Tell Adwoa, your mother – aka Abena Maame – that I have heard and equally, I will also send my son to return that puny Fifty Cedis I made a mistake of borrowing just because the banks were closed on Friday”. Abena just stood there feeling stupid and confused. She didn’t know what to say or do considering she knew Auntie Memuna was only acting this way because she had many customers trooping in at the very moment she decided to appear. Abena beat herself up in her head. “Wrong timing! Sigh!”

“But Auntie Memuna… the banks were opened on Fri…”Abena said in her defense. “Oh shut up over there…” Auntie Memuna screamed again. “In fact, here is the Fifty Cedis! Take it and go give it to your pauper of a mother! I know she only wants to embarrass me but go back and tell my enemies that it didn’t work! Tell her the fly she sent to come and destroy my business has been squashed like a bug!” Abena felt cheated. Why was she just insulted in front of all these people? Some of whom she knew very well and grew up with.

Obed, the youngest of the four kids was stricken with dysentery. Abena began to rumble, as she walked back home – “Mom didn’t sell any food today hence no money in her purse. So what is wrong with reminding you to pay back money that you already owe her so we use it for Obed’s hospital bills? I mean, you came begging for her to lend you some money so you could buy yourself a new glass window for your “Waakye Boutique”. To me, unnecessary but to mum a beautiful idea and since you are her friend, she wanted to see you flourish. Now that you are flourishing you have grown wings. Oh women! It seems trouble loves our company!

And just look at the way she embarrassed me in front of her customers! A whole me! Today of all days when I wore my Easter blouse that Father got for me. Oh God! And Kwaku was staring! Oh God oh God Oh God! Why did his mother’s provision shop have to be so close and why did he have to be the one to handle the shop today of all days?!… I hope no one on Facebook saw me”.

As her thoughts trailed off, she suddenly was startled by her brother, Obed, staring back at her. He looked pale and frail. The other siblings stood in the corner of the Master bedroom. Simultaneously yet unaware, they all heaved a heavy sigh of relief at the sight of the Fifty Cedi note. “I hope she didn’t give you much trouble when giving you the money. I know Memuna can be a bit extra when it comes to paying back money…” said Abena Maame. It’s typical to have mothers called by the name of their first born child with Maame (mother) attached to the name. This was done to signify their first child being their first blessing from The Almighty. And Adwoa – Mother of Abena – her first child of nineteen years – was no exception.

“Maame… she… hmmmm… she was ok and sends her regards” Abena lied. “Oh good, now help me take Obed to the hospital so we find out what exactly is causing this dysentery before our ancestors decide to carry your brother on their shoulders. Make sure you grab my purse as well”.

“Madam, I believe your son must have ingested spoilt food hence the dysentery. We try and educate the public on buying food from trusted sources and always look to their surroundings when buying food. Can you recount the last thing Obed ate before his first symptom?” Abena Maame looked very worried at this point. She fixed her wrapper even though it needed no fixing. She began to wonder if she had poisoned her own son with her own food. And to think that was the day she had decided to take a break for a while from selling so she could rest. She figured even if it was her cooking, the others including her husband, would also report sick. “Madam Doctor, indeed, you know I do cook and sell on a commercial scale. Mostly waakye and sometimes plain rice when I feel like it. But as you can see, all my kids apart from Obed are healthy and this is the same food I feed all of them including myself and my husband.

Akwasi! You are the one always playing with Obed, did you boys not eat the food I gave you yesterday morning?!” Abena Maame’s eyes were glazed at this point. A feeling of guilt washed over her but she needed to be sure she wasn’t the cause of what was happening to her son. She felt irresponsible at this point.

“Mama, we did eat the food you gave us… but…” If there was a poster for “guilt”, Akwasi would be the face on it. “Herh! Kasa!” retorted Abena Maame! “Speak!” she screamed this time! “Oh Abena Maame, calm down and let the boy speak, he will speak! Akwasi, we just want to know what caused this to your brother”. Akwasi looked very scared as he stared dead straight at the tiled floors. He knew what the doctor said was supposed to calm him but also he knew it had just made matters worse. His mother was now not only going to beat him for having a “but…” at the end of his statement while talking about her food, but also for embarrassing her in front of their doctor. Making her look like a bad mother. Yet, he knew he needed to say something.

With tears streaming down his high cheekbones down his developing teenage body, “After our breakfast, we went to play at Auntie Memuna’s house with Ahmed, her son. We played until 10am when Obed started complaining he was hungry again. Ahmed then said there was food in the house from the previous day and that he was going to heat it for Obed to eat so we could continue playing in peace. And so he did. I think it was the stale waakye from what his mother couldn’t sell the other day. He was fine Maame! Until this morning when he started vomiting! I promise!”

During supper that night, Kofi Takyi, Abena Maame’s husband ate in silence and would occasionally shake his head. “What’s the matter my husband?” she said. “Hmm the salary is still not in and it’s been 5 months already. I’m worried Adwoa”- Kofi calls her that when they’re alone and are planning for the future. After their “couple-conversation”, they reached a consensus that Abena Maame would sell cereals (wheat, tom brown, oats, etc) in the morning and Indomie noodles at night. She was done with the waakye business. It had nearly cost them their son and times were hard. The government was also refusing to reduce gas prices even though gas prices globally were cheaper now. Cooking on a large scale such as waakye was certainly out of the question. A new strategy was needed to generate more income.

Auntie Memuna was giving instructions to her son Ahmed to properly clean the glass covering the front side of her kiosk. “I want my customers to see my special waakye from afar”- she really stressed the “special”. One of her chat buddies, Serwaa, showed up- her eyes were filled with excitement- that feeling you get when you finally get rid of a product you thought will be difficult to sell.

“Abena Maame is no longer in the waakye business. She could not stand the competition…your competition. Your presence made her quit.” Exclaimed Serwaa. She had no regard for passersby whatsoever. They both laughed. “I told her she couldn’t win this battle. Ei…you joke with Memuna and you’re joking with kpakpo shito. Hmm she hasn’t heard of my exploits eh?” She tightened her loose wrapper. “In my last area, I made a macho man wail like a baby because I put shito in his eyes for calling me a slow woman”. She added, “She has not seen anything yet”. They both laughed and Serwaa asked for her leave.

The clouds were gathered. The wind was blowing profusely and light objects were flying all over. Everyone who owned a kiosk was closing early so they could make it home in time including the profit oriented Memuna. The wind wasn’t friendly at all. There was a downpour. This rain was quite different. It sounded angry- if I can put it that way. It was a pissed rain. It took some buildings’ roofing sheets off. Memuna was in her room with her son Ahmed. The rain interrupted the network receptions- no calls went through and no calls came in. It was one of those days you start reflecting on your sins and start confessing them because you’re sure God might appear any moment. Memuna’s kiosk was affected by the tenacity of the rain. Her special glass covering on the kiosk was broken. It could not withstand.

Unaware of the misfortune that awaited her, Memuna was humming the chorus of Shatta Wale’s Dance Hall Commando. Suddenly, “Maa…mmm…Maa…mmm…ajeiii”. Ahmed, her son, was in pains. He was holding his tummy and crying. “My son what’s wrong with you? Ahmed talk to your mum what’s the problem?” She said, alarmed. “My tummy Maa. It hurts!” Ahmed said painfully. He began throwing up in the room. The lights suddenly went off.

“Ei Ei my enemies want to kill my son and I ooo” she wailed. Memuna looked through the louvres and realized it was still raining profusely. Memuna was perplexed. She didn’t know what to do next. She tried tracing her steps so she could remember where she put her phone. She finally remembered. In her effort to reach the phone she stumbled on the center table. She didn’t bother about the pain, she was focused on getting hold of the phone. She used the petite light from the phone to properly look at the state of her son Ahmed. “Ahmed! What’s wrong? Please speak to mummy”. Tears run down her face to her thick lips. She sniffed. Ahmed was unconscious at this point and could not respond. At once, Memuna knew if she didn’t act fast she would lose her son. She tried calling the people who came up to mind in her confused state. The network interruption would not allow her reach the people. She broke down in tears.

“Memuna! Memuna!” “My ancestors, is that you?” Memuna whimpered under her breath. “Memuna let me in! it’s me, Abena Maame! I came to talk to you about something urgent”. “How did this woman make it through this crazy rain?!” Memuna opened her door. “Thank you my friend!” Abena Maame added. “I was on my way to buy drugs for my boy who was stricken with dysentery and the rains caught me off guard. Since your house was close by, I decided to seek shelter here while the rains danced their fill and fed our grounds with the joy of rain.” Abena Maame noticed Memuna hadn’t been listening to her the whole time. She figured whatever she had to say could wait. “What is wrong my sister?” Memuna was latched to the floor with Ahmed in her hands. Rocking back and forth as Ahmed continued to grow paler.

Abena Maame didn’t even have to think twice. She knew exactly what was going on seeing as her son had just been through the same symptoms two days ago. “Memuna, I think your son has dysentery.” “How do you know? Did you do this to him you devil? I knew…” Abena Maame cut into her statement.”Shut up and listen for once…” As she narrated the whole story as told by Akwasi, her son, Memuna began to scream louder as each fact was offloaded on her. She wailed even louder at the thought of what she had done to her own son who had obviously eaten reheated food she was supposed to throw away. She didn’t want to “waste money” in making a new batch of waakye every day, she had found herself reheating three day stale food to be sold to her customers instead of throwing whatever was left out.

Abena Maame was pained by this revelation. To think she gave Memuna the benefit of the doubt thinking it was an obvious mistake their sons had eaten spoilt food. She stared at the drugs in her palm. Then back at Memuna and her son. “Should I?”

The End!

@mr_asante @IamSurrey