Dial episode 59 is rolling…..
I followed more slowly, and walked along a short corridor that opened into a homey living-room. It was huge and had huge beautiful leather seats, framed photos and drawings depicting Biblical stories.
The rug was rich and of good quality. A huge curved HD television was tuned to a Christian station with the volume turned low.
A short flight of stairs to the side of the living-room led to the huge dining-room. A woman, probably in her late thirties, was setting the table for breakfast. She was wearing a sky-blue dress that stopped above her knees, her skin fair and lovely. A scarf was tied around her hair, and as she placed a ceramic pot filled with milk on the table she turned and looked at me.
She was indeed beautiful, and she smiled at me. I smiled back as I hesitated uneasily. The Holy Man had taken the seat at the head of the table, and Attah Panyin sat to one side of him.
“Come, Yao!” he said, beckoning. “Come and sit with me and take some breakfast.”
I shuffled forward slowly, and realized the woman was looking at me intently with eyes that were almost sad, but when I looked at her she dropped her eyes quickly and almost turned her back on me. I scowled, wondering what was up with her.
Slowly I lowered myself into the chair the Holy Man had indicated.
“We have oats, tea, milo. Weetabix and cornflakes, Yao,” he said as he poured a generous amount of milk into his oatmeal. “Choice is yours.”
“I love oats,” I said.
“That’s the bowl of oats,” he said gently. “Help yourself.”
I took a small empty bowl and ladled some oats into it. I added a cube of brown sugar, almond nuts and stirred. Finally I poured some milk on it, and reached for a toasted bread in a beautiful tray.
I put the toast into my mouth, about to bite, but the Holy Man looked sternly at me.
“I don’t know what you do in your home, Yao,” he said in a flat voice. “In my house, however, we pray before we eat.”
I nodded sheepishly and took the toast bread from my mouth.
He offered a short prayer, and then he nodded at me.
“You can eat now, Yao,” he said.
I dug in with a spoon, scooped up the oats and almond seeds, and then I just held it suspended near my mouth and a great sadness began to spread over me as I just sat there holding the spoon.
The woman was staring at me, her beautiful eyes wide with sudden concern.
“Are you not eating?” she asked softly. “Is there something wrong with the food, or something you don’t like?”
The Holy Man chuckled as he bit into toast bread and scooped oats into his mouth.
“He’s sad because he can’t eat the food,” he said with a merry glint in his eyes.
“Why not?” Attah Panyin asked with confusion.
“He put almond nuts in it,” the Holy Man said as he laughed suddenly. “He forgot he had just three teeth in his mouth, and he put in nuts! I was watching him, wondering how he was going to chew the nuts!”
Attah Panyin, formerly Okomfo Basabasa, saw the funny side of the situation, and began to laugh softly.
“Just leave him alone, would you?” the woman said with sad eyes.
The Holy Man looked at the woman as the smile disappeared from his face, and then he pointed his spoon at me.
“Yao Biko, my offer still stands,” he said quietly. “If you will marry my sister, your curse will break right now, and you’ll be able to enjoy your oatmeal. Otherwise, the curse remains.”
I looked at him sadly and dropped the spoon into the oatmeal. I had tears in my eyes as I looked at him silently for a while.
“It is not negotiable, Holy Man, or whoever you are,” I said as tears slowly spilled down my cheeks. “I’ve lived a life of evil, and I know different now. I’m going out there, even if I have one day left, and I’m going to marry Adobea, because I love her. Your sister was the best thing that ever happened to me before I fell in love, but I’m sorry, I love Abena Adobea. If it is okay with you, I’ll leave now.”
I stood up suddenly as my tears threatened to turn into a dam.
“And that is your final answer?” he asked quietly, his eyes hard.
“Not negotiable,” I said softly. “I love her, and I’ll live with her.”
“Even if you die,” he stated; it was not a question.
“To my last breath,” I replied.
He continued to look at me, and then he smiled broadly and nodded.
“I’m proud of you, Yao,” he said softly. “You’re almost the man I set out to change you to. Sit down and enjoy your food. At least you deserve to have teeth.”
I felt a slight sensation in my gums immediately, and felt something filling my mouth. I clicked my teeth with sudden awe, and slowly raised my forefinger and ran it across my teeth…
Incredibly, I had a full set of strong teeth!
“Sit, Yao, eat,” the Holy Man said and resumed eating himself.
As I lowered myself slowly into my seat, and scooped oatmeal with almond nuts into my mouth, and chewed slowly with relish, more tears brimmed in my eyes. I had always taken my teeth for granted, but losing them and having them back had taught me just how precious they were, and just how much precious life was.
I was scooping food into my mouth, and I was biting toasted bread, when I saw the woman’s sad eyes on me again, and as I looked at those eyes realization dawned on me finally.
And then I groaned with sudden, horrible shock and dropped the spoon and the bread, my body jerking as I stared at her with my mouth full.
I swallowed hard, feeling my body going cold all over.
“Dede!” I said, almost choking as my eyes threatened to pop out of their sockets.
She uttered a strangled gasp, dropped her spoon, and got to her feet. She kept her face averted as she quickly hurried out of the room, but not before I saw the tears on her lashes.
I pushed back my chair and held out my hand, and then I followed her.
“Sit down and eat, Yao,” the Holy Man said, but I ignored him as I hurried out on my old legs, shuffling after the hurrying back of the woman.
I eventually caught up with her in the breath-taking garden. She was sitting on a park bench near a clean, bluish pool with swans and ducks gliding serenely on its surface. She looked up at me again and smiled wanly as she gently cleaned the tears from her face.
I stood staring at her for a while, and the more I looked at her the more I became convinced that this was the woman who had appeared to me as Dede.
“You must go and finish your breakfast, Yao,” she said softly. “It would get cold.”
“I don’t understand what is going on here, please,” I said in a pained voice as I lowered myself to the bench, sitting quite close to her. “You’re Dede, and don’t try to deny it!”
She raised a hand and touched my wrinkled cheek tenderly.
“Oh, Yao,” she whispered with a shaky laugh. “I am very glad that you recognized me. At least, it tells me that I’m still there somewhere in your heart.”
“But why the deception, Dede, my God?” I cried with much pain. “You look different, you look older! And you looked exactly like Akos when we met, when we made love, when we fell in love! What is the meaning of all this?”
“My brother will explain everything to you,” she said quaveringly and turned to face the pool of water.
“No, Dede, no!” I said in a fierce whisper. “I have been so disoriented! First I was told you went to Canada, and that you were going to marry a white man! And then your brother, if indeed he is your brother, appeared and said I had a choice to either stay with Abena Adobea – the lady I love now – and dying, or marrying you and staying alive! And now I learn you’re not even who you claimed you were! How could you people deceive me like this?”
“We didn’t deceive you, Yao, my dear,” she said softly. “I’m Mansa, and he’s my brother. Akos is the daughter of Nana Bosomba, but she grew up here, with my brother, and he saw her as a daughter. Through her we’ve converted many of the non-believing members of her family to Christianity. Her father is proving very stubborn, but my brother is working on him.”
“But he came to me in the guise of Nana Bosomba, a fetish priest, and put this damn curse on me!” I cried furiously. “He brought you in, somehow changing you to look like a young beautiful woman! You slept with me, Dede or Mansa or whoever you are! Do Christian women go round fornicating with men they’re trying to convince?”
She looked at me then, her face tortured, filled with agony, and when she shook her head tears fell down her face.
“No, Yao, no!” she cried. “I wasn’t meant to sleep with you! I was married, yes, but my husband died, just like I told you. Since then, I had been faithful to God, helping my brother in the vineyard of the Lord. Believe me, I’ve had many proposals, but I chose to remain single so that I could serve the Lord better!”
“Then why the hell did you sleep with me?” I shouted, very much agitated.
“Because I fell in love with you, damn you!” she shouted right back in distress. “My brother made me look like a young woman resembling Akos, passing off as her aunt, which in a way I was. I was meant to simply leave you, and then you would be directed to the village for the testing period. Sleeping with you wasn’t part of the arrangement, but I was so weak around you, Yao. So weak and vulnerable, and then I fell in love with you. And then I sinned, and you put me on the Dial List! I disrupted the arrangement my brother had planned for you. That was why he was so angry!”
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“But why, Dede, why?” I cried bitterly. “Why was it so necessary to make me go through all this torture, all this heartache? Making you look like a younger woman and coming into my life, making me love you, and then leaving me! He passed himself off as a Fetish Priest, for crissakes! I could have died in that village with the stupid name! He put a damn humiliating curse on me! Look at me now, an old man in my twenties! Why? Why, Dede, for the love of God, why? I simply can’t fathom it out! Why did you people do this to me?”
“Because he wanted to change you into a responsible, God-fearing man, Yao!” Mansa cried earnestly. “When Akos died we were all so devastated, and my brother was in much pain, so inconsolable! And when he found out what you did to Akos, and had been doing to other girls, he decided to make a good man out of you, Yao! And so he came for you in the guise of a fetish priest.”
“Well, I understand if he was angry and hurt after Akos died!” I cried. “I understand if he wanted me to come here and weep on Akos’ grave to make her earn a better funeral and burial! Yes, I understand all that! But for a man of God, he had no right to make me suffer like this! Surely, there are other ways he could’ve used to achieve the same purpose!”
“No, there wasn’t,” came the calm voice of the Holy Man behind me, and I turned round in my seat.
He had come to stand behind the bench, and then he put his hand gently on my shoulder.
“There was a time, Yao, a very long time ago, in a hospital call Adom Clinic,” he said gently. “My mother had just given birth to my sister Mansa, and we had no money to pay for her hospital bill. My father was dead, and I was then a student at a theological seminary, and I had absolutely no money. The hospital administration refused to let my mother leave until her bill was settled. They therefore tossed her out and imprisoned her, sort of, in a narrow corridor. A young man who had delivered some chairs and beds to the hospital was waiting for his money when the incident happened.”
The Holy Man came round the bench and sat down beside me, and then he smiled as his eyes took on a reminiscent light.
“I’ll never forget that young man,” he said quietly. “He saw the plight my mother was in, and he inquired about what was going on. I told him amidst tears. He was holding six roasted fingers of ripe plantain and two small sachets of peanuts. He gave three fingers of plantain to my hungry mother, gave me two, and ate only one. Hmm, he gave a sachet of peanut each to me and my mother, saying he was alright, he didn’t need any with his.”
The Holy Man snapped his hand suddenly and plucked a green apple from the air. He rubbed it absent-mindedly on his chest, and then bit into it with a satisfied grunt.
He chew reflectively for a while, and then took another bite.
“It didn’t end there, Yao,” he said gently. “That young man told the authorities not to pay him, but instead offset his charges for the furniture he had supplied against my mother’s medical cost. You see, we had no way of finding money to pay that debt, but that young man selflessly helped us, even though it was evident he needed the money so badly.”
“Quite a story,” I said, unimpressed. “And what has that got to do with me, if I may ask?”
“Well, everything, actually,” he said with a little smile. “I never forgot that man. Later in life I searched for him, but I couldn’t find him. You see, he gave his name as Kyekyeku Kweku, but later in life he changed it to Kweku Biko.”
It hit me hard, and I could only stare at him blankly for a moment, unable to speak.
“My Pappy?” I asked hollowly.
“Yes, your father, Yao,” the Holy Man said sadly. “Later, when I heard Akos was dead, I wanted to find everything about you, and there I was, totally shocked to see that the son of the young man who had helped me and my family so long ago was now an irresponsible womanizer taking women for granted and misusing them. I owed it to that man, a man I wished I had seen again, to make sure that his son at least became a good man in the world. And so I decided to do everything God would allow me to do, just to change you, Yao Biko. I owed it to the good deed your father did me a long time ago.”
I could only stare at him with a gaping mouth.
Suddenly, a lot of things made sense to me…absolute and perfect sense.
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