The Machine Gun Preacher…
THE MACHINE GUN PREACHER
Jon Fii could feel the animosity, hatred, and absolute rancour when he stepped into the courtyard of the palace.
Messengers from the palace had come to inform him in the church that he had been summoned to the palace of Nana Bosoma of Obosomfie that evening.
Jon had known immediately that it was as a result of his taking down of Kwame Essuman, the son of the Nifahene.
“You see what I was talking about?” Pastor Atoklu told him fearfully. “Now, you’ve put the existence of the church in Bosomfie in jeopardy! I won’t be surprised if they order us out of Bosomfie for this!”
“Sir, you worry too much,” Jon Fii had told him calmly. “If it is the wish of our Lord to remain here, we will remain here.”
Jon Fii had taken a bath and then retired to his makeshift room to pray and call on the face of the Lord before going to the palace. He had spent almost three hours on his knees praying fervently to God, and then he got up and got dressed in black trousers, black shoes, and a white shirt. Lastly, he fixed his clerical, and then left for the meeting at the palace.
Pastor Kwabla, Bobo, and some of the new congregation followed him, but they were not allowed to enter the palace with Jon.
They waited for him outside the palace, and Pastor Kwabla told them to pray for their pastor silently.
And now here he was, standing in the middle of the courtyard of the palace.
They had not even offered him a chair to sit on.
It had been built in a square with rooms on all sides, forming a square courtyard. Three verandas – the one facing him, the ones on each side of him – were filled with people, mostly aged.
He noticed that they were all wearing red or black cloths, a symbol of the serious nature of the meeting. The only person in white was the fetish priestess, Sophia,
She was wearing a lovely white dress, and she was sitting on a low stool on the left of the king, her cold eyes fixed on the tall, handsome pastor who was standing calmly in the middle of the courtyard.
On the king’s right was the Queenmother of Obosomfie, an elderly woman called Mensiwaa.
Filling the other chairs were Elders, Kingmakers, and sub chiefs of the land.
Jon Fii did not see a single friendly face in the gathering.
He noticed that in the middle of the courtyard was a hideously-crafted god that looked like half-human and half-beast. Its legs were smeared with thick blood that had congealed partly.
He could feel the pull of evil in the palace fiercely, and he knew this was a very trying moment that could make or break the power of the church in this district.
The linguist was a short, bald-headed man that was holding a long staff. No one was allowed to speak directly to the king; all communications with the king was done through the linguist.
Standing behind the group of people were the fierce, muscular, and scary Obrafos, the executioners of the palace! They were wearing shorts, and their faces were hideously-painted. The swords in their hands looked extremely wicked. Their fierce, evil eyes were fixed with murderous intents on the pastor.
Jon Fii sighed deeply and walked a little forward to be near the king.
“Stop right there, stranger!” the linguist bellowed furiously. “Not another step forward! Do not anger the gods!”
Jon Fii ignored the linguist and still walked forward.
The executioners growled with ominous threat, and Jon Fii saw them brandishing their swords.
Again, Jon ignored them and walked to stand in front of the king.
He spoke calmly.
“I am a man of soft voice. I cannot stand over there and shout, Nana. So I have to come a bit nearer so that you can hear what I say.”
Some of the executioners were approaching, but the king waved his hand, and they retreated to their positions.
The king was draped in huge, red cloth. On his head was his crown, and around his arms were amulets and gold ornaments. He was a stocky man with fierce, close-set eyes and lips that were thin.
His eyes blazed with fury as he pushed his cloth off his shoulders and leaned forward slightly.
“You impudent, little oaf!” he said fiercely. “You disregard our customs! Do you not know that you cannot speak directly to the king?”
Jon looked right back at the king without baulking or batting an eye.
“Indeed, I do know the customs, Your Majesty, and I beg you sincerely to forgive my impudence, but I meant no disrespect to you. I do believe that right here, as we speak, everything is against me, and my presence here in your town. And I feel that unless I speak to you directly, as your humble son, perhaps my words would be misconstrued by an interpreter!”
There was an angry gasp all around, and Jon felt their wicked fingers being pointed at him, especially by a tall, grey-haired man sitting beside the Queenmother. This man bore an uncanny resemblance to Kwame Essuman, and Jon had no doubt that this might be the Nifahene.
The king scowled and held up a hand, and the dark murmurs died. He leaned forward again and glared fiercely at Jon.
“Alright, let us talk, young man,” he grated in a cold voice. “How come you’ve been in my town for a number of days, and you have not shown the respect due me by presenting yourself and your credentials? Don’t you know that as a pastor, you were supposed to call on me first? Or because you’re a man of the Word, you impudently think you’re above the customs of the land?”
“I was informed that you gave an order, several years ago, that you do not wish to receive any pastor in your palace unless you expressly demanded it, Your Majesty,” Jon said calmly. “If that order has been revoked, it was not communicated to me. I stayed away because I respected your order, and waited for the appropriate time to call on you, Your Majesty!”
The king snorted, and for a moment he looked disconcerted as he remembered that indeed, he had issued such an order based on a directive by his Fetish Priestess. He leaned back in his throne and put his fingers to his lips as he looked at Jon Fii.
Sophia kept looking at this young man, this man who showed no fear, this man she had buried alive! She recalled other pastors who had been summoned to this palace, and who had stood in the middle of that imposing courtyard quivering with fear.
But this man knew no fear!
Indeed, he seemed to command an air of confidence and charisma that was beginning to unnerve the grim members of the palace, and this was beginning to make Sophia angry.
Who was this man?
“And since you came here, you have only sought chaos instead of peace!” the king said grimly. “We heard the sounds of gunfire here, and learned you were firing a gun!”
“Indeed, it was so, Your Majesty,” Jon said. “But there were no bullets, only rubber bullets. The men refused to leave the church, and I had to drive them out. But, Your Majesty, Bobo is now my friend, and a member of my church. He was the leader of a bad gang in this village, but now he has changed, and I guess that is preferably better than what he used to represent!”
“It may be so, Pastor!” the king said fiercely and leaned forward. “But I hear that today you assaulted a royal son of this land! You have beaten Kwame Essuman so badly that he is in the hospital right now! A man of God, a man of peace, and you’re responsible for this chaos? Are you out of your mind?”
“Kwame Essuman is a fool,” Jon said calmly.
Even Sophia gasped at this insolence!
There was a loud outcry from the people all around the palace!
They gesticulated with fury and rained insults and curses on the young pastor. One old man even stood up and spat in the direction of Jon Fii.
“Your insolence is abominable, young man!” the Queenmother spoke angrily and pointed a finger at Jon Fii. “Your mother should be ashamed for raising a son like you!”
“He is a goat!” cried Opanyin Essuman, the Nifahene, father of Kwame Essuman. “He is an accursed goat! An imbecile! He should not be allowed to stay a second more in this village of ours! You fool! If I had my way I would have you beheaded right now!”
“Start with beheading your son!” Jon Fii shouted now, his voice so furious that every other voice was silenced. They gasped, startled, as he took fierce steps to stand facing the Nifahene. “Your son is the goat, sir! He has been beating Aba Dade for many years, and you never saw anything wrong with that! Are you aware that Aba, who’s not his wife, but a girlfriend, is in the hospital right now with a broken arm, a broken hip, and a dislocated jaw? If you raised that goat of a boy, then you deserve to be beheaded, sir!”
His rage was palpable as he glared at the Nifahene, who suddenly licked his lips with trepidation, aware that the young man’s words had held enough ire to cow the others into silence.
The Queenmother turned and looked at the Nifahene with sudden horror.
“Agya Essuman!” she said quietly. “Is it true? What the young man just said… is it true that your son beat up a young girl that badly?”
Opanyin Essuman sank back slowly into his seat, and there was a cagey look of guilt on his face as he shook his head numbly.
“Oh, my Queen, it was just a little domestic misunderstanding,” he said weakly.
“Domestic?” Jon Fii exploded. “Domestic you said? He is not married to her! He has refused to marry her but forces her to live with him as his wife, and beats her mercilessly! Who in this palace will allow his own daughter to be treated like a slut, like this man’s son has been doing to Aba Dade? Who will tolerate that?”
And he looked around threateningly at the faces of the men, and he saw them wilting under his gaze.
The king narrowed his eyes as he looked at this young man.
Certainly, this was not what he had expected, and things were not going as they had planned, and executed. This man was dangerous, as the Fetish Priest had informed him, and his continuous stay in Obosomfie would spell further doom to his people.
The advantage, he saw, was fast slipping, and he needed to set things right immediately before this man scuppered their plans.
“Thank you for bringing that injustice to our attention, young man,” the king said grimly. “But, you erred! You had no right to touch a royal! The best you should have done was to report Kwame’s behaviour to any of us, and we would have served punishment to him! For raising your hand against a prince of this town, young man, you have greatly displeased the gods, and the only punishment for that is to ask you to leave this land and never return! If you had been one of us, we would have flogged the hide off your back right where you stand!”
Jon Fii scowled and came to stand in front of the king again.
“Do I take it that a royal son of this palace can punish Kwame Essuman for his wickedness?” he asked grimly.
“You do not ask me questions!” the king bellowed with rage and leaned forward furiously. “But yes, you impudent whelp! Only a royal can punish a royal in this town! And you will be marched straight to the lake and put on a canoe and taken out of Obosomfie for daring to raise your hand against a royal son of the land!”
And then Jon Fii did a very curious thing.
He unbuttoned his sleeves and began to roll them up his hairy arms.
The executioners roared and brandished their swords again.
Sophia watched him, and this time her eyes narrowed.
Jon Fii finally looked up at the king.
“You cannot banish me,” he said grimly. “You cannot drive me out of here!”
Again, there were furious cries from the crowd.
Several of the aged people removed their sandals and threw them at Jon Fii!
Many of them spat at him!
“Guards!” the king roared with wrath. “Take this piece of cow dung away from me and throw him into the lake if you must! He will not spend another day here!”
The executioners rushed at Jon Fii.
One grabbed him by the shoulder, and Jon spun around and crashed a blow so devastating into the man’s jaw that he crashed to the ground and remained still.
And when he bent and picked up the sword the executioner had dropped, and pointed it at the other advancing executioners, they stopped dead in their tracks with confusion and stared at him.
“You cannot touch a royal of this town!” Jon Fii screamed at the executioners, intentionally turning his back on the king. “My mother’s name is Adwoa Nipayede Mensiwaa! And she was going to be the Queenmother of this damn evil town, but my father fell in love with her, and took her away, and she never wanted to set foot here again because of your wickedness! And, in her stead, her younger sister became Queenmother of this land! I am more prince than Kwame Essuman, and I’m more royal than he will ever be! And if I beat him, I had every right to, because I come straight from this palace!”
And when he dropped the sword and turned around, the Queenmother was on her feet, and tears were streaming down her face, and her hand was clasped to her breast.
“Ah!” she moaned as her face trembled, her tears flowing wildly now. “Is that you, Yaw Bosomfi? Oh, oh, oh, oh! Is that really you?”
There were tears in Jon Fii’s eyes as he held out his arms to her.
“Hello, mother!” he whispered in a choked voice. “I’m home. Finally.”
The Queenmother screamed, and she launched herself from off the veranda, and Jon Fii caught his aunt in midair, and they embraced tightly as tears fell down their faces.
The king’s eyes were popping out of his head as he leaned back weakly.
“Gods of Obosomfie!” he whispered with shock.
“Yehowa!” the Nifahene whispered as his old face became greyer, and he put trembling hands across his face.
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