I’m heavily influenced by the books I read. I mean, this should be obvious to people who know me. I’ve called myself a witch, a demigod, Artemis Fowl’s wife… (those last two still hold) and many less outrageous things. I have, however, never been a werewolf or a vampire. But I will advocate for the genius of the Twilight series, which is NOT, in face, about werewolves and vampires, which any metaphor-respecting person should have realised by now…well, that argument is for another day.
Today, I am talking about my Inkworld influences. Two days ago, I completed Cornelia Funke’s Inkworld trilogy (Inkheart, Inkspell, Inkdeath) and I’ll write about my thoughts later. During the ride through the series, I fell in love with the protagonist called Mortimer Folchart, who was a very dedicated bookbinder, who accidentally became bound by a book! (The irony.)
You know these things have ways of subliminally planting things in your head, and I fell asleep, and woke up the next day determined to be a bookbinder. The thing is, this idea wasn’t in the least as outrageous as other wishes I’ve woken up with, like wanting to fly or having raptor vision (oh, the cursed life of the near-sighted) or elastic bones. Wanting to be a bookbinder was actually very logical, and more importantly, very doable! So it was done.
I took a bunch of A4 sheets, stapled, sellotaped, and that was it, I had created the inside of the notebook. I left that for a bit and printed about twelve of my short stories, most of which are already published on my blog, and made them two pages to one sheet. Using Nescafé, water, a baking tray, a straw and a paintbrush, I thematically stained each printed sheet to make them look artistically like old parchment, or pages from very old books.
Then I took an old cardboard box, cut out two rectangles from the side, and covered them with newspaper using sellotape. I painted a black ballerina for the cover and stuck it to one of the cardboard rectangles, after which I attached them to the outside of the book’s pages to make the hardvoer.
I spent the rest of the night sticking the stained stories in the book’s pages.
So there. I’m a bookbinder. Can I be Mortimer Folchart now? In fact, I’m creating an alter ego called Ivana Folchart to add to the collection. YES.
This book is a joke I am playing on myself by pretending its an anthology of my rare, earlier works after I’m dead, hence the staining. But hey, if you’re ever in the mood to just do some spontaneous creation, I highly recommend binding your own book. It’s so much fun.
The adder reared its head and poised to strike. Its eyes were vicious and its tongue flickered out menacingly, possibly to try to get a taste of its victim. Behind it, the copperhead swayed lazily, having just been woken from slumber by the irritating sound of the rattlesnake’s tail shaking.
The victim didn’t show a bit of fear. The adder’s tongue flickered out and in once more, but she paid that no heed. Instead, raising her hand to signal that the copperhead and rattlesnake should quit quarrelling and pay her attention.
Carefully sweeping her mousy brown hair away from her forehead, she picked up her flute – and in that second, the adder decided it was tired of waiting to make its move. It darted to the side, almost brushing the woman’s left shoulder, then, as if having thought better of its decision, swiftly zapped itself back.
The flute player sighed, wondering again why she had given the adder the lead role in this dance. It was so much more wilful than the other snakes, and she supposed that was what had appealed to her initially, but she felt the adder was somewhat…unpredictable. Though it had always performed its role without flaw, one could not exactly tell when or whether it would spontaneously decide that routine wouldn’t suit it anymore.
But the key was to remain calm, as her Hindu teacher had always told her, during the time she spent in India training under him. “If the snake senses your fear, he knows he has won,” he told her. “If you stand your ground, he will doubt his strength.”
So she had continued, nevertheless. She played her flute, and even she was tempted to dance to the seductively hypnotic music emanating from it. Of course, the tune was very Indian. Sometimes Indian music was the only kind the snakes wanted to obey…
The snake-tamer became lost in her own world, oblivious to the trivialities of her environment, pleased that she had managed to come this far. But still, it was not far enough. Heavens knew she hadn’t spent so much time with these dreadfully beautiful creatures just to have them dance for her! Oh no! Very soon, they would need to perform a far more elaborate series of movements as an integral part of a very powerful ritualistic curse. She laughed to herself, “Ha! The Africans think they are the only ones with real magic.”
Her thoughts were interrupted by a sound far too mechanical to have come from her flute. Jolted from her daze, she played her most practiced bar of music – a seven-second finale – and the snakes all lay down. Then, with a few more tunes, she cajoled them into a box, and hypnotised them to sleep.
The doorbell rang again. Oh, these impatient Ghanaians! Ceaselessly demanding to be minded, they were.
She made her way to the gate and opened it. Standing there was a short, skinny, chocolate-skinned girl, with her long, permed hair pulled back into a ponytail, to reveal the full swell of an overlarge forehead. She was only about six or seven years old, averagely the same age as her daughter, Hannah.
“Hannah!” the snake-tamer called. “Ivana is here to see you!”
Soon enough, feet were pattering down the stairs, and a little Caucasian girl with blond hair appeared.
“Hi, Ivana,” she said. “Come on, let’s go play Barbie!”
Then, pulling Ivana along behind her, Hannah went into the attic, where all her toys were, and they played for hours.
The snake-tamer sighed when they were finally out of view. She wished her dear next door neighbours, the Oforis, would stop insisting so much on forming bonds with everyone who lived on their street. This façade was bothersome. Who said neighbours had to be friends anyway? But no matter; she wouldn’t have to put up with it for much longer anyhow…
Later that night, she opened her gate to see a Hindu man in a turban looking expectantly at her. “Are you ready to embark on your final, most important journey?” he asked. “It will be very dangerous. The Volta region won’t be as docile and easily manipulated as Accra has been.”
“I am ready to face the Ewes,” she said with unconvincing bravado. Then, to hide her betraying eyes from his scrutiny, she turned her back to him. “Hannnah!” she called. “We’re leaving!”
Apart from her voice, there wasn’t a sound in the air. Of course – her master had frozen time.
Hannah appeared, looking forlorn. “Can’t we say goodbye to the Oforis?” she asked.
“I’m afraid they would be better off not knowing where or why we’ve gone,” her mother responded. “Now, help me get my snakes into the truck.”
Hannah was mad. They moved so much that she hardly had any friends. And whenever she did find one or two, she would eventually leave without saying goodbye, always on mother’s orders. Well, this time, she would deliberately do something to spite her for it.
When there were only two snake crates remaining, she picked one up, and made her way to the truck. Her mother met her on her way out.
“Is that the last one?” she asked Hannah.
Sweetly, Hannah replied, “Yes. It is.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: For the irregular readers of my blog, or the very forgetful ones, let me re-explain the inspiration for this story. As I said in Cats and Dogs, my grandfather bought two identical cats, Melinda and Belinda to chase rodents and snakes away from our house. They were always coming in from the abandoned house next door to us, which has been left untended to for so long there’s a jungle growing in there big enough for snakes to reside in.
I have only fuzzy memories of our Caucasian neighbours who once lived there, although they didn’t own it. The owner is some woman who has never physically visited the house; at least, according to my parents, and not in my lifetime. She lives abroad. But I thought the weird snake-house would make a good story, hence the senseless imaginings you just read…
Maybe, soon, I’ll write about one of my own real-life encounters with one of these snakes…
And remember, guys, you can make a story out of anything.
You have so much faith. Seriously. It’s crazy, the amount of faith you have. It’s in so much abundance that you don’t even notice it any more than you notice yourself breathing. You don’t believe me? Faith is ridiculous and unfounded, you say? But you have it. Let me prove it to you.
Remember that time when you left your homework for the next morning? You were so sure that by the next morning, you’d been in a healthy enough condition to complete it. On that night, some people woke up in the middle of the night with asthma attacks and were rushed to an ER.
What about that time you told a friend or a family member that you’d see them when you come back, right before you stepped on board for a flight? Some Malaysian Airlines passengers surely must have done the same.
Each time you have sat inside a car, you chose to believe that you would arrive at your destination. Each time you step out onto the street, you are sure that you won’t be hit by a meteor. When you go outside in the rain, you don’t even consider the possibility of being struck by lightning.
You exercise your faith each time you say the words, “I’m going to” or “I will” or “see you later…” Each time you draw a breath, you believe it won’t be your last.
You believe the sun will rise on cue and the moon will take its place on schedule; you believe that the sea will remain wet and the Sahara will remain a desert, that plants will grow from soil and that in ten minutes, your lungs will be able to function as properly as they are now.
Though you may look at me incredulously because of what people call ‘my faith’, I think you have so much more faith than me. After all, I am less sure than the sun will rise than I am that the sun was made by Someone who can switch it off.
I like pizza. I am also some kind of vegetarian. I don’t actually know if there’s a definite class for it yet, but I don’t eat meat. I do, however, eat eggs and all seafood, and diary products. It’s not pescatarian, it’s not strictly lacto-vegetarian, it’s not ovo-vegetarian. Whatever. I’m going to stick to calling myself a ‘flexitarian’ because it’s more encapsulating.
If you want to become a vegetarian for fun in Ghana, chale, it won’t work. But if you’re like me and you genuinely can’t stomach the meat – as in, the thing you have chewed refuses to go down your throat – then your life, like mine, will be problematic.
My brother likes pizza too. The problem is, he likes meat. But…must man always order two pizzas every time Ivana and Delali want to eat some? It shouldn’t be so, right?
Everywhere else I’ve been, it has never been a problem. When you order a pizza, you just tell them to make half-pepperoni, half-margarita, and bam, you’re sorted, so eat up!
In Ghana, it’s always a different story. Once I open my mouth to suggest a half-pepperoni to any of these pizza people, they look at me like I just ordered a Martian from Venus. Time and time again, I am met with a response such as, “No, we can’t do that,” or “I’m sorry, it’s not possible.”
Not possible? NOT POSSIBLE?! Sure, man, it’s not possible to sprinkle pepperoni on only half of a pizza instead of all of it (and still have me pay the same price)! Yes, it is possible. You’re just a doofus, ya doofus! …But of course, I never say that. But chale picking the pepperoni off the pizza gets tiring.
Aside from the pizza ranting, I have one more story to share .It’s about a family member, but not my Grandpa this time. This story is about Chalz Quesy Ofori, my uncle, who regularly goes by the nickname Q. (Don’t ask me why he changed the spellings of his names. How should I know? How does on understand an Ofori? Oh stop your accusatory stares; I know what I said.)
I don’t remember where exactly this story took place, whether in Ghana, USA or Singapore, but I do remember the content, and I think about it whenever I think about my pizza struggle. Here’s how it goes:
One day, Uncle Q walked into a café. A waitress greeted him with a table and a menu. Q didn’t have to glance at the menu to know what he wanted. He didn’t touch it.
“I’ll have a cup of hot milk, please,” said Q.
**Insert earlier comment about Martian from Venus**
“Hot milk?” questioned the waitress.
Isn’t that what I said? thought Q. “Yes. Hot milk.” He spoke slowly this time, to make sure he didn’t stumble over his words, in case he had before.
The waitress was still confused. “I can’t get you hot milk,” she said.
Q raised his eyebrows. “You can’t? Why ever not?”
“It’s not on the menu.”
It was Q’s turn to be baffled. It wasn’t on the menu, and so what? Was it so impossible to heat milk and put it in a cup? He said as much to the waitress, who, again, responded with the same, stubborn “It’s not on the menu” excuse.
Q sighed. He was going to have to do this the hard way. But if she insisted on letting him make her feel stupid…
“Fine,” Q said. “In that case, may I have a cappuccino?”
[Background info: A cappuccino is a drink of espresso, hot milk, and steamed milk foam.]
The waitress was finally at ease. “Yes, sir, we can do that.”
“Wonderful. May I, however, have the cappuccino without the foam?”
“Of course.” After all, many customers frequently requested that they hold back on the foam.
“Oh, one last thing,” said Q. “I’d also like the cappuccino without the coffee. Can you do that?”
She frowned. “Yes, I suppose we could do that.”
“Great. I’ll have a cappuccino with no foam and no coffee.”
The waitress went and came back with a cup of hot milk. The moral of the story? Ofori always wins.
This is the part where I say: I love my family and you can’t be like us.
My Grandfather, Charles Seth Ofori, never could fully comprehend the narcissistic tendencies of the female mind. But that didn’t bother him much when he was a teen in Achimota School.
Charles was too poor to own shoes, so he went around barefoot. Going barefoot didn’t really bother him much — but being broke did. It meant that as his friends bought peanuts from the seller outside, he’d have to sit and watch enviously. But when he did get money…who cared about shoes? He bought his groundnuts.
And on one fateful day, a flash of wisdom came upon him and he decided, “You know what? Today, I’m not going to spend all my money on groundnuts, I’m going to use my money to make more money so I can buy more groundnuts!”
So, do you know what he did? He took his money and he went off to buy a simple camera for fifteen shillings, and he joined his school’s photography club.
It shouldn’t be very hard to imagine girls swooning over a guy who knows how to work a camera (S/O to Nana’Shutter, who will probably never read this, but whatever.) It wouldn’t be very difficult, either to imagine a gaggle of giggling Ghanaian girls stuck in JHS, desperate to feel like models for a few minutes. And this part, Charles was totally fine with.
During the weekends, the girls would ask him to take photographs of them, a nd later, he’d go and develop them and collect money in exchange for their portraits being delivered to them. It was an efficient system. The hardest part about the job was keeping his mouth shut as he went on with his photoshoots; constantly battling the voice in his head that never ceased to comment on the pointless vanity displayed by the girls.
Charles would take one full-frontal picture. He would be satisfied. The girl would not.
She would proceed to turn to the side. Charles would take the picture and be satisfied. The girl would not.
To amend the dissatisfaction, she would then place a hand on her hip. And still, Charles would take the picture. He would think, “This must be it, now.” The girl would not.
She would turn her back to the camera and twist her head in a futile attempt to make her gaze meet the lens, and tell Charles, who would be staring in baffled wonder, that she could not hold this pose all day, and that he should take the picture.
What Charles thought, but didn’t ever say: “But you paa, how many pictures do you even want to get? And next week too, you’ll be back because you don’t have a picture of yourself in that particular dress? But with the pose you’re holding, can anybody even see your face? Even me, the photographer, I wouldn’t recognize you. Ei! Another one again? And you want me to print every single picture? Why, are you building a shrine?”
[Author’s Note: Okay, fine, I added the shrine part myself, but that’s what I would have thought.]
But for every photo he developed, the more money he would get and so he never complained. It was all business, after all.
And in Grandpa’s own words, as he told me the story a month ago, “I gave them the pictures, and I bought my groundnuts!”
They always said the girls handled the breakups better; they’d rant and cry to their friends, watch countless romance movies and eat a lot of ice cream, and maybe, occasionally send the enraged text message to the ex in frustration. The boys, they said, when they weren’t completely passive or short-term mad and restless, could go completely over the edge.
The statistics for the number of male murderers/suicide shooters was not at all close to negligible. Whether to take it out on girls who had broken up with them or refused to go out/sleep with them…the particular reason did not matter. Multiple innocent people could get killed for something they nether knew about nor deserved.
Michael, scrolling down a website full of statistics on teenage murderers and shootings, shuddered, then shut down his laptop without even closing the browser. He had been browsing Twitter before, and couldn’t even remember how he had gotten onto that site. All he knew was that he didn’t want to return. He didn’t want to think about anything like that happening with himself and…
His girlfriend, Mariah, saw him shudder and walked over to place her hands on his shoulders. She gave him quick peck on the check.
“What’s wrong, Mike?” she asked.
“Nothing that can’t be fixed by a kiss from you,” Michael responded.
Mariah was beautiful. That is an understatement. Mariah was drop-dead gorgeous. Her chocolate-brown skin was astoundingly spotless, except for a few birthmarks that could not be seen unless one got really intimate…she was classically beautiful, with slender limbs and medium height. Her hair, as was most girls’ these days, was constantly changing in style, but never took away from the beauty of her face. She was the kind of girl who would walk into a room and have every eye staring at her – the males with appreciation and the females with envy.
Michael counted himself absolutely lucky to be with her. He still couldn’t believe that after almost a year, she still chose him, as physically unexceptional as he was.
But aside from the physical, they had come to love each others’ minds and personalities. Mariah had always seemed a bit closed-off to him, and she liked to gloss over specific events in her past. It was a wall Michael would have loved to break down – but he respected her privacy too much, and wouldn’t pester her until she herself was ready to tell him.
Though he was only twenty-nine, Michael had risen to a good, well-paying position in an entrepreneurial business and it required him to travel a lot. He always got anxious about Mariah when he left for even the shortest time. He told himself it was because of paranoia. He believed himself – until three days later, when he came back from his two-day trip to Abu Dhabi.
Mariah taught in a primary school. She was good, and children loved her. She couldn’t imagine any job more perfect for her.
And neither could Simon. How else was he supposed to find her so easily?
Simon would hardly call himself a psychopathic stalker. He had driven by once and seen her walking into the school. Recognizing her, he made a few enquiries and discovered that she worked there. Since then, he had only visited once or twice. Surely, that wasn’t over-the-top. He had only wanted to see her.
Because damn, was she hat! And believe it or not, once upon a time, she had been all his, anytime he wanted. It was a glorious few months, and Simon believed it was perfect. He couldn’t understand when Mariah broke up with him. His brain couldn’t even register the reason! Something about them being emotionally incompatible and she needing to be ‘understood’ or whatever – what kind of bullcrap was that? If you lived, made money and had a sex life, what else was there to be understood? It just wasn’t fair.
His style of coping with the breakup had been to delete her from his memory. After their relationship, he’d been with more girls than he could call by name. It worked for a while, but he couldn’t get Mariah out of his head completely…
But whatever had happened in the past, maybe he could erase it today. He had finally mustered up the courage to go and visit her. He had a whim and decided to follow it, thinking that he might never actually feel that way again. If he chickened out, it could be forever.
Simon walked up to the school gates and right through them. It was as easy as that. A teacher hew as unconcerned with realized he was a stranger.
“May I help you?” she asked, cordially.
Simon flashed a friendly smile. “Actually, you may. Which classroom does Mariah King teach in?”
“Oh, class 3. Look, it’s right over there.” She pointed.
“Thank you so much,” Simon gushed. Grinning nervously with anticipation, he pushed open the door.
All heads turned towards him, but it definitely wasn’t the snivelling kids he was interested in; it was the woman standing in front of them. He was speechless for a second, captivated by her beauty, so close after so long. The years had only done to her good things. He waited for her to recognize him.
“Simon!” she said, as the face clicked with the memories.
Simon’s eyes were drooping with sorrow. “It’s me, baby,” he said. “Why did you leave me?” He was overcome with anger then. “You shouldn’t have. We were prefect. You should never have left me.” He was shaking.
She lifted a petite, manicure hand –one that had once caressed his face — to gesture to him to calm down, but he was having none of it.
“You really shouldn’t have left.”
He brought his weapon out of his bag, aimed clumsily, and pulled the trigger. She fell like a stone. Yup, she was drop-dead gorgeous, alright.
Then Simon went haywire, shooting at nothing and everything at the same time, while ignoring the screams. In a final epitome of grief and madness, he aimed the rifle at his temple, and, without allowing himself a second thought, pulled the trigger.
I know that the ending of this story was predictable. But I didn’t write it to be a shocker. I wrote it for the joke of the puns in the last two paragraphs. 😉