It’s truly amazing how religious Ghanaians are. We erroneously assume it’s just the women, but no, there are some men who can perform spiritual somersaults. Juggling traditional mysticism and their Abrahamic faith effortlessly.
My dad was one of these men, he could pray with a fervor not displayed by any of the apostles, he would have you wondering if he was an apostle reincarnated. An improved version mind you. When he prayed the house shook, not because the “holy spirit” descended upon us but because he was so loud.
The neighbors of course complained, and there his mystical side took hold. It was either they were witches or pagans. In a burst of inspiration he once called one of them Anokye’s nephew, the one who had disobeyed Anokye just so he could inherit. The man had never lost his greed and was jealous of his praying prowess apparently.
It wasn’t limited to just the neighbors, let him lose something and all the kids would be called to his room, threatening us with curses and withholding God’s blessings. On the other days, he was a normal loving father. And like all African fathers he wanted to be served 24/7 if you will.
We lived in a house with the living room, dining and guest room located on one side. The bedrooms were on the other side separated, by a corridor. Whenever he needed someone he would shout a name until he got a response. We usually closed our doors and pretended not to hear. It wasn’t loud enough we said.
Wanting to be served, he took measures. From the corridor that lead to his room, he had an intercom connected to his bedside table. Any time he needed one of us, no scratch that. Anytime he WANTED to bug one of us, he pressed a button and whoever was the youngest around had to stop whatever they were doing and answer his summons. The intercom made this loud buzzing sound that you couldn’t ignore. It was louder than the doorbell outside.
This went on for quite a while, we suffered in silence. Chafing under the rule of the bell but not being able to do anything. My little sister suffered the most being the youngest. Getting up at dawn to answer the summons, ignore and he will keep pressing. I sympathized with her but not being the youngest, I wasn’t so bothered. As long as someone was suffering more than me, I could handle it.
It so happened that my kid sister got sick, and suddenly I was next in-line for the bell. There was one more kid before me but I knew it was only a matter of time. Like prophecy it came to pass just as I had thought. Louisa, the sister just before me also got sick. And now I had inherited the bell.
My life was hell for three weeks. I wasn’t sleeping well, I had started hearing the bell wherever I went. In school whenever they rang the bell I started a little. Once while napping in class, the sound of the bell had me awake and rushing for the door, only to realize I wasn’t home. That was the last straw, I decided do something about the bell.
So on a day when I knew everyone would be a little late, I left school a little early, just so I could have some time alone at home before everyone got back. Getting home, I threw my bag into my room and went to stand in front of the intercom. I hadn’t decided on what to do about the bell. My first thought was to bash it up, but that wouldn’t work. It had to be so it couldn’t be traced back to me. Looking at the intercom, I saw the wire disappeared into the ceiling, that gave me an idea. If I could find a way to get into the ceiling my problem would be solved and I could have a good night’s sleep. I tried my parents door and found it locked.
I went to the back of the house, and found the old ladder we used when cleaning the poly tank. After heaving and pulling for a while, I was able to get the ladder in place, right behind my dad’s bed. Through the window I could see my bane, the intercom, sitting on the bedside table looking all innocent. With the ladder in place, I climbed up and proceeded to make a hole in the eave with a knife I had taken from the kitchen earlier. Once in a while I paused to listen if anyone was in the compound.
Finally I was done with the hole, I snaked my hand through and quickly located the wire. Wasting no time I cut it and went back down. I put the ladder back and went to lie in bed.
I couldn’t sleep, I kept thinking I hadn’t done enough and that it could be traced back to me. This prompted me to come up with another idea.
I got out of bed, went to get the knife from the kitchen and went back to the backyard. I managed to pull the ladder into position and gathered some dry grass and put it in my pocket. I climbed the ladder and located the wires again. This time around I didn’t cut it, I removed the insulation from the cut ends. It took a while as I couldn’t see what I was doing, but I got it done. I then took the dried grass from my pocket and stuck it in the hole I had made in the eave. I descended, removed the ladder and inspected my handiwork from the ground, it looked good. No one could tell it was a humanmade nest and not a bird’s.
I went back to bed then, knowing it was a job well done.
Five days went by with my dad confused as to why his intercom wasn’t working, five days of pure bliss. Nothing could dampen my mood during those five days. Everyone had perked up considerably. Sisters had miraculously gotten well, big brother suddenly stayed home a lot more and Mum was smiling every time. Everyone but my dad was happy.
Dad hadn’t been idle though, electricians had been coming by everyday to examine the intercom and hopefully fix it. He prayed unceasingly too. You could hear him at dawn casting out the spirits that had infested the house and the intercom specifically. He had my brother and I join in sometimes, he reluctantly, me with relish.
On the sixth dawn of this Pax Romana, my dad called my brother and I to pray with him. It was during one of the lulls in this prayer session that we heard it. A weird squeaky sound from within the ceiling, my dad got fired up then and started shouting;
“Ma b) wo Sumsum tu, POW!
Ma b) wo Sumsum tu, POW!”
My brother and I joined in, shouting the POW with him. The louder we got, the louder the squeaking also got. We were at it till the dawn broke, with the light came some sanity. My dad asked us to go get the carpenter. The squeaking still hadn’t stopped when we came back with the carpenter.
The carpenter removed the ceiling and we saw the culprits, a scurry. The mother squirrel was dead hence the incessant cries of the kits. With the mystery of the sound solved, my dad now wanted the carpenter to check all the ceilings at home to find the point of entry. And that is how my dad found my hole.
I was in the kitchen when I heard him shout my name, I was of a mind to ignore but sense prevailed. Not knowing what was afoot I went to him with a big smile. I got there to see my dad asking my brother some questions as he shook his head, confusion written plainly on his face. My dad turned around and I saw the reason for all the fuss.
He had in his hand the knife I had used in my liberation struggle and my pebble (I had this really colorful pebble I always carried around in my pocket, I had made a lot of fuss about not finding it the day the intercom stopped working), as well as some of the insulation from the intercom’s wire. The look on his face said it all. He had it all figured out.
Saying nothing, I turned around, hoping to make a break for it. All I had to do was get to my mum. And what do you know, the carpenter was right behind me, arms stretched and grinning from ear to ear.