Welcome to seven!
(Update: individual OTC stories are no longer available, but you can download them all in a single PDF collection on my OTC site.)
Kuukua and the Whistling Woodmen
It sounded like somebody was trying to pound fufu on the ceiling. Awurade, what were these kids up to now? It had only been about forty-five minutes since the adults had driven off together to their jazz bar, and already, the children were practically bouncing off the walls. Babysitting was not what I’d intended to spend any part of my mid-semester break doing, but here I was, in a house full of twenty kids, the oldest of whom was ten, and not a single parent – and whoever was jumping around on the corridor upstairs was making it seem like the kitchen ceiling was about to cave.
“Kuukua, what have you been doing all day?” Yaw wanted to know. “I’ve been calling and texting saa.”
“Mostly catch-up training,” I responded. “But also, my parents were running around because of tonight’s distin, and I got dragged into their mess.”
With a twinge of stress in his voice, he began, “I really need to talk to y—”
“YAW AND KUUKUA! SITTING IN A TREE! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” came a yell from just outside the kitchen, interrupting whatever Yaw had been about to say. Of course it was William, that too-loud, too-known seven-year-old kid who couldn’t seem to sit still if his life depended on it. I’d been tired of him ten minutes after meeting him.
Yaw and I weren’t even touching. He was all the way on the other side of the kitchen, trying to get out paper plates, forks and cups, while I was at the stove, turning the fire off on the jollof. But a second later, my brother Kwamz shouted from the top of the staircase, “Herh, Yaw, what are you doing with my sister?”
“Ah, Kwamz, kindly mind your own business, wai,” I retorted immediately. “If you want to be useful, come and help us carry the food!”
“I would, but I promise you if I leave these children alone for two seconds, one of these vases will get smashed!”
“What are they even doing?”
I started. “What was that?”
“Just a picture frame,” I heard Kess answer from somewhere else in the house. “Don’t worry, nothing broke!”
“Yeah, but I might break soon,” I muttered, so softly that only Yaw could hear me.
The noisemaking was endless, and I felt like every thirty seconds, something new was demanding my attention. I discovered I had newfound respect for every kindergarten teacher in the world, because as for me, I was ready to tie all of these children up and send them off to a different planet. Instead, here I was, preparing their dinner.
My father had deliberately waited until I came home from the boarding house for the mid-semester break to throw one of his many fundraisers, the gains of which would go towards his service projects like the volunteer carpentry he did for the disabled students of Hope Angel Special School. This time, he’d rented out a whole jazz bar to throw a private concert, and while the adults danced, drank beer and listened to Adomaa, M.anifest, Okyeame Kwame and everyone else perform until two a.m., Kwamz and I got stuck at home with everyone’s children. He considered this extra hospitality part of his duty as the Ananse.
Speaking of which, he’d made me repeat the definition to him as soon as I came back home, as if I could have possibly forgotten it in the time that I’d been at school: The Ananse is a person endowed with above-average wisdom and creativity, who must use his or her role to defend those that need defending, and build up, wherever necessary, any aspect of society that would facilitate the cultivation of wisdom and creativity, in whichever community one finds oneself, be it interpersonal or systemic.
“You know what’s great about using a concert to generate funds for service?” he’d asked me. “It’s fostering creativity and wisdom through the means and the ends, in interpersonal and systemic ways. That’s an Ananse lesson. Write that down.”
But for someone who was supposed to be endowed with above-average wisdom, it seemed a rather stupid move to offer to host twenty children in your house all night with no adults present.
Kwamz had protested as loud as I had that there was no way the two of us would be able to handle so many children on our own, but Daddy had refused to revoke the offer he’d made to his friends and invitees. So we’d reached a compromise: I could invite some of my friends over to help – and all their parents would receive complimentary tickets to the concert too. Kwamz had also tried to invite his friends, but every single one of them made up excuses, which all boiled down to the fact that they’d rather be nearly anywhere else on a Saturday night than babysitting in the Annan household. Now that I was in the midst of it, I could especially see why.
So, that was how I’d ended up here with Yaw, Kess, NK and Kwamz, trying and partially failing to manage all these children. Oh, and Ntiwaa, of course, because her parents had forced her to come.
“The night will be over soon,” Yaw tried to console me.
“It will not,” I countered sharply. “It’s not even six p.m., and you know these parents are not going to come back before one. And it’s like they all made their children drink two cans of Coke before they brought them to the house!”
“Okay, yeah, you’re right,” Yaw conceded.
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