Dial Episode 48 is warm…
She reached out for a cloth on the bed and without looking down there or at me she draped it across my lower body. She put the towel back into the bucket of water and carried it outside.
I thought she was gone, and I was about to lie on my stomach when she came back. She sat down on the edge of the bed, took a container of pomade, and then she began to pomade my body, and she never looked into my face, not even once.
She stood up and went outside, and a moment later Tawiah entered the room, and smiled at me.
“Oh, I thank the gods!” he said with a smile. “Today you have fully opened your eyes. Here, let me help you into your shorts.”
She picked up a pair of baggy shorts, made from flour sacks and absolutely horrendous, and helped me get into them.
“How long have I been sick?” I asked quietly.
“Oh, almost two moons, Opanyin,” he said, startling me.
“Two months?” I asked, horrified. “That’s impossible! Surely I couldn’t have been delirious for that long!”
The doorway darkened, and Maame Ntiriwaa came in, her face excited.
“Oh, Yao, Yao, Yao!” she said, her face elated. “Oh, I didn’t think you would make it!”
I smiled at her as she hugged me gently.
“I’ve been told I’ve been out for almost two months,” I said with horror.
“Oh, yes, you have,” she said with a gentle smile. “That man, the one who cursed you…”
“Nana Bosomba,” I said softly.
“Yes, he came back, and gave me some herbs to mix with your food. He said it would keep you sedated for two months, and by that time the wounds in your back would’ve healed to give you no pain. He didn’t want you to walk around with much pain.”
I nodded gratefully, aware that Abena Adobea had come to stand in the doorway and looking at me with a funny kind of look.
“Funny man, isn’t he?” I asked bitterly. “Cursed me to die slowly, and yet takes it upon himself to help me deal with the pain.”
I sat up fully, and I didn’t feel that much pain in my back.
“Seems like his medicine worked,” I said softly.
All three of them made a strange gesture then, flicking their hands across each shoulder once.
“And what was that?” I asked, amused.
“Oh, a gesture that keeps evil away,” Tawiah said with a giggle. “We’re scared of that man. The medicine he gave us for your back…the one in the gourd, it never got finished no matter how much we poured out. He told us it would get finished yesterday, and it did get finished yesterday.”
“And he said you would wake up fully today, and you have,” Maame Ntiriwaa said with joy on her face. “Are you feeling hungry?”
“I can eat an elephant,” I said with a smile.
“Ah, I prepared mpotompoto for you, with rabbit meat!” she said. “Well, actually, Adobea prepared it.”
“Adobea?” I enquired with raised eyebrows. “She can cook?”
Maame Ntiriwaa and Tawiah laughed, but Adobea scowled darkly at me.
“What do you take me for, old man?” she asked icily.
“Actually, I didn’t think you could use your hands for anything else except for slapping people,” I said.
She glared at me, and then she turned and left the room in a huff, and we all giggled.
“Come, I’ll serve you,” Maame Ntiriwaa said. “Come for fresh air.”
I looked at Tawiah with puzzled eyes.
“Remember seeing you here, Tawiah,” I said. “The last time I remember you were scared to come down here.”
“Oh, they’re all here now,” Maame Ntiriwaa said sadly. “They were banished. Tawiah and his daughter were banished because he came here the other time. The two guards who helped to carry you from the palace have been banished, and they are also here. Prince Kwamepia and his mother have also come here. You remember them, don’t you?”
I nodded. Of course, the rightful heir to the throne who had been accused of killing his own father, and banished out of the village to settle in another village.
“Two friends of mine didn’t come looking for me, did they?” I asked carefully.
“Oh, they had been coming,” Tawiah said. “They are city people, and we were scared of them. Scared that maybe they might get us arrested if they saw how badly you were wounded. We told them you travelled out of the village but said you would be back, so they said they would come and check up on you from time to time.”
And then Adobea came hurrying back into the room.
“The two men that came the other time,” she said with a worried voice. “They’re here! They are coming again!”
I stood up and took a shirt from a peg on the wall, and put it on. It irritated my back a bit, but it felt okay. I was very grateful; it meant the wounds on my back had healed considerably.
When I got to the veranda I saw Brian Acquah and Kuuku Dawson in the yard, both of them dressed nicely. Their faces had been worried, but when they saw me they hurried over with smiles.
Brian reached out to hug me, but Abena Adobea quickly stepped forward protectively and put a hand on his chest, her face concerned.
“Please, don’t hug him…he…he hurt his back, please!” she said hurriedly.
We all stared at her, most of all me. Her mother and I exchanged sudden glances.
“Oh, okay, alright,” Brian said, smiling with puzzlement as he reached out his hand. “You okay, Boss?”
I smiled as I shook his hand.
“Told you about the ‘boss’ thing, Brian,” I said, and shook Kuuku’s hand too.
“Hello, Yao,” Kuuku said.
I saw that five wooden rooms with palm fronds and grass as roofs had been put up in the yard. I smiled ruefully. It seemed the nsamanpowmu community was growing.
Already the two burly guards who had been splitting firewood in the yard were approaching warily, and so were a handsome young man and a buxom elderly lady.
“Yao, meet Kwaku and Onyina,” Maame Ntiriwaa said, indicating the two guards.
“Hey, guys,” I said, shaking their hands. “Thank you for helping me out. I can definitely tell you that you won’t regret it.”
They smiled guiltily and shook my hand.
“And this is Kwamepia and his mother Ena Kobbi,” Maame Ntiriwaa said, and Kuuku Dawson burst into laughter almost immediately.
“Oh, you really have funny, funny names in this funny area,” Kuuku said.
We all laughed as I shook the hand of the prince, and embraced the elderly woman.
“How’s the project, Brian?” I asked quietly.
“First phase is done, Yao,” Brian said. “Like you said, we brought down the machines, made a way through the mountains. Full workers, working twenty-four hours in four shifts. Been a joy, I can say.”
“Machines!” Kwamepia said, looking at me. “Are you the people with the machines?”
“You’ve been scaring us!” Tawiah said. “Are you in the nsamanpowmu? That place is cursed! Haunted by ghosts, dwarves and evil spirits!”
“We didn’t see any, though,” Kuuku said with a giggle.
I looked at the faces around me, and I smiled gently.
“Well, when Maame Ntiriwaa told me the nsamanpowmu has never been claimed because it is believed to be evil, I bought it,” I said.
“You bought the grave of the dead?” Kwamepia asked with sudden fear.
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“Yes, I did!” I said gently. “And I’m going to stay there! In fact, I’m going to eat my mpotompoto there!”
They all made that hand tossing over shoulders gestures, their faces cold and scared.
“You can’t go there, Yao, please,” Maame Ntiriwaa said with horror. “You would die! People who go there die!”
“We’ve been there for two months!” Brian said. “Nothing happened to us.”
They exchanged glances, still looking worried.
“Really?” Tawiah said.
Aba came out of room suddenly and ran toward us. She stopped suddenly, looking shy.
“Hello, Aba, come and greet uncle,” I called to her.
She came shyly, and I hugged her.
“Look, I’m hungry,” I said with a gentle smile. “Pack my mpotompoto and let me go to the nsamanpowmu.”
Their fear was palpable, but I didn’t give in. Eventually, Maame Ntiriwaa packed the food into a basket, and Tawiah picked it up.
I followed Brian and Kuuku up to the cocoa trees, and down a narrow path that led deeper into the forest. Maame Ntiriwaa and the others trailed fearfully behind me, and it made me sad.
That adults could be so scared of a haunted place really shook me up, but I perfectly understood the power of customs, and the belief of the supernatural. Being exposed to Nana Bosomba let me know just how much easy it was for a whole lot of people to be swayed by one man with supernatural powers.
I was getting a bit tired as I walked, but suddenly we came out of the woods, and spread below me was a most magnificent sight!
“Oh, jeeeeeeeez!” I whispered with awe.
“Like it?” Kuuku asked proudly.
“Love it!” I whispered, absolutely impressed. “Wow! This is beautiful!”
“Glad you like it, Boss…ei, Yao,” Brian said, his face filled with happiness. “The workers are working on the other half.”
“I’m so glad to see this,” I whispered. “Damn!”
In two months they had transformed the woods into a thing of beauty!
They had built habitable houses, making use of the greenery.
This was like a modern community, the ten houses neatly arranged, low walls separating them. There was a larger house on one side, and they were all nicely painted in beautiful even shades of ash and black.
There was a central modern pump-operated borehole. The floors were cemented. They had created a superb garden toward the end, with both natural and artificial flowers.
“We put in a plant to provide light at nights, Yao,” Kuuku said proudly. “We’ve harnessed water from the borehole that pumps into the polytanks on the roofs, supplying water into the rooms.”
My face split open in a wide grin.
“So I can take a shower now?” I asked, awed.
“Right on, boss!” Brian said, obviously happy at the expression on my face.
“You guys just earned yourselves salary hikes!” I said with pride. “And vacations with your families, all paid. Give bonuses to the boys, to make them finish with the other houses quicker.”
I saw the stunned looks on their faces, and I nodded to myself.
“Your house is the one down there,” Brian pointed to the bigger building.
“Yeah,” I said, nodding. “See, we have a prince here too. Now I’ve got another plan, guys. A damn wicked king and his cohorts got ugly with me. And it is payback time. I want you to build a palace down there in the center. We’ll build a hospital, an entertaining center. Bring in television. The prince will take the palace, and we’ll build more houses, for every citizen in that damn village. I want all th people to migrate here, live in comfort, and leave that crumbling village for the king and his fetish priest alone to live there.”
They looked at each other and nodded.
“Free?” Brian asked softly.
“Free, my brother, free,” I said softly. “Unlimited budget allocation, bro.”
“Ei, Awurade Nyankopon!” Kuuku shouted. “Am I listening to Yao Biko? Somebody hit me with an iron and wake me up!”
We all laughed, and then I heard the strangled gasps behind me, and I turned.
They had come out of the forest with great fear on their faces, but when they saw the incredible sight below, they all came and stood by my side, gaping with mouths wide open.
“You did this?” Maame Ntiriwaa whispered, barely above a whisper, her eyes almost popping out of her face.
“The big house is mine,” I said in a happy voice. “The one next to that is for Maame Ntiriwaa and her daughter. We’re going to build a palace, but for now the prince can select a house for himself and his mother and live there temporarily. The other houses would be first come, first served, so Tawiah and the guards can have whichever they want. Prince, since you’re going to be the king here, you can name the town, but please, I beg of you, don’t use any Etwe or Kote, abeg!”
In a flash Tawiah and the guards began to run toward the amazing place, followed by the king and his mother. Maame Ntiriwaa and Aba followed at a more leisurely pace, their fear forgotten, their faces split with great happiness.
“Hey, Tawiah, damn it, take care!” I shouted. “If you spill the mpotompoto I swear I’ll skin you alive!”
Their cries of happiness drowned me out.
I remained still as Abena Adobea came and stood by my side. I looked at her, and there were tears in her eyes.
She reached out suddenly and took my hand in her soft one.
“Can I call you Yao?” she asked softly.
“Won’t have it any other way, Adobea,” I said softly.
She brushed tears from her cheeks and nodded.
“I’m very sorry for what happened, Yao,” she whispered quaveringly. “For every little bit of pain you felt. If I hadn’t hit you, the snakes would’ve killed you.”
“I’m not holding anything against you, Abena,” I said gently.
“But I want to hear you’ve forgiven me,” she said, her voice lost, like a little girl.
“Yes, Abena Adobea, I’ve forgiven you,” I said gently. “I’m happy I brought you down a peg or two, you damn beautiful, haughty witch!”
She stood by my side, and she smiled.
It was a fine day.
Yes, indeed, it was a pretty fine day.
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