I built an OTC blog.

Hello there. As you might have surmised from the title of this post, I have built an OTC blog. Its URL is akotowaaotc.wordpress.com and I have no doubt people are going to be getting confused because of how similar that URL is to this one. But ah well.

The reason I built an OTC blog is because I think the project is now too big for this blog. This is a good thing; it’s been the intention ever since the release of the first Kuukua story. Its first phase was the 8 Kuukua short stories I released monthly from May to December in 2017. The second phase is going to be a different product than the type I’m usually associated with, so I have no way to predict how the audience (that’s you, my loves) is going to receive it. Thankfully, I don’t have enough energy to be too concerned about that right now. LOL, I just want to launch it and then go to bed.

In the mean time, keep your eye on the OTC site, tell a friend about Kuukua and Yaw if you like them, and, if you’re interested in the forthcoming second phase, you might want to prepare for it by refreshing yourself on (or introducing yourself to) Kuukua Annan’s escapades, via the Complete Kuukua Collection PDF that’s now live on the site. The art, by the way, is by Kaz, who also did the art for If I Could Kill My Feelings…. I’ve been privileged to work with two of my favorite illustrators (Kaz and Xane Asiamah, who did the original Kuukua illustration) on OTC, and it’s not even close to done yet!

Issa litness.

Spider Kid out.


Kuukua and the Killjoy Kente

Yes, I finished the series! Now I can end the year in peace!

(Update: individual OTC stories are no longer available, but you can download them all in a single PDF collection on my OTC site.)

Back of Kuukua and the Killjoy Kente

Snippet below:

Kuukua and the Killjoy Kente

Charlotte was on the ceiling of Mr. Dotse’s office. I didn’t understand how she had become so brazen, risking being seen by someone random. She had already surprised me enough a few months ago by deciding to befriend my roommate, Nana Konamah, but that, at least, was understandable; it was only decent to make sure someone knew all their roommates, human and non-human alike. But as for my school principal dier, I had no idea why Charlotte was frolicking so freely in his presence.

I was so tense about Charlotte being seen that I almost forgot the true reason for my anxiety: the fear that I was in some sort of trouble. There weren’t many other reasons I knew for students to get called into the principal’s office in the middle of the week. I almost felt like I did whenever I heard my mother yelling “KUUKUA ANNAN!”  from downstairs, a surefire sign that I was in deep trouble. Now, I was trying to backtrack, see if I’d done anything worthy of being summoned by Mr. Dotse. The closest I had come to punishable trouble was yesterday’s skirmish with Ken, but as far as I knew, no teachers or staff had been around to witness that.

Ken, my classmate formerly known as Kennedy, had been getting on my nerves lately. This semester, I’d realized something about being in boarding school: annoying people start feeling more annoying, not because they’re becoming worse, but because you can never really go home from them. It had been easier for me to ignore Kennedy during JSS. Now that he’d transformed into “Ken” and I had to see him in the hostels even after school had closed, my tolerance seemed to be withering. It was as if nothing could properly humble him, not the trick Yaw and I had played on him during the long vac, nor the way our seniors treated him here. As soon as he got over anything, it was right back to the my-father-is-richer-than-yours attitude, and it irritated the hell out of me.

The exams this semester had rocked him roff, and it was as if he didn’t know how to deal with it in any other way than complaining plenty. Yesterday, he’d been making strings of ridiculous jokes about how if he could have his way, he’d have left school long time, just that he was afraid of ending up career-wise something “wack” like a mechanic or a carpenter.

Maybe it was the stress of exam week and sleep deprivation thanks to everyone who had been demanding my assistance with maths and physics over the past few weeks, or the fact that my Ananse training hadn’t been allowed to slack a bit even during the exam period. Or maybe it was the synchronized nightmares Yaw and I were having. Either way, the very second after Ken passed his comment, I was already getting ready to slap him.

I stood up threateningly, and interjected very loudly with, “And what is so wrong with being a mechanic or a carpenter, ehn?”

Ken had obviously been taken by surprise; he hadn’t even known I’d been listening, much less emotionally affected. To save face, he quickly recomposed his expression from shocked to haughty again and said something that made me even angrier. With his signature sneer, he asked, “Ah, where is Yaw Connor? He should come and collect his girlfriend before she comes to beat me, oo.”

When I lunged at him suddenly, people actually had to hold me back.

In my defense, this wasn’t usual behavior; I was just too stressed not to ignore him. In any case, I hadn’t had the opportunity to lay a finger on him, so I didn’t think that was quite the reason for my having been called to Mr. Dotse’s office.

I was still scanning through my possible grave offenses as I watched Charlotte carefully, even as I tried to pretend I wasn’t watching her. Drawing Mr. Dotse’s attention to whatever I was looking at was the last thing I wanted.

“So,” Mr. Dotse said to me, “Kuukua Annan.”

“Yes, sir?”

Because he was sitting down, I could manage to look at his face as I responded to him. In other circumstances, I would probably have been severely distracted by the mystery of how such a young man could possess such a huge stomach. He was my dad’s age, so he was only in his forties, but Mr. Dotse’s stomach made him constantly look like he had just finished a meal consisting of about two whole horses, drowned down with some omotuo and light soup.

Charlotte dropped a few inches without warning from a thread she had just spun. Although I was used to her doing this often in the confines of my bedroom, over here, my eyes shot back up to the ceiling in anxiety.

“Surely the spider knows how to take care of itself?” Mr. Dotse asked. “They are usually far smarter than you Annans like to give them credit for, you know.”


Download the story to read the rest! 🙂



Akotz the Spider Kid.

Kuukua and the Whistling Woodmen

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.)Back of Kuukua and the Whistling Woodmen


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?”

“Playing catcher!”


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.



You know the drill! Go back to the top and download the distin! 😀


Kuukua and the Difficult Doors

Number Six!

(Update: individual OTC stories are no longer available, but you can download them all in a single PDF collection on my OTC site.)

Back of Kuukua and the Difficult Doors

Sneak peek?

Kuukua and the Difficult Doors

There were invisible threads on the ceiling now. My roommate Nana Konamah and I had gotten fed up. The architects of this hostel must have had some sort of sense impairment when they were designing, because this nonsense of the light switch being on one side of the room and the fan switch being on the opposite wall had been making our lives unnecessarily difficult. If the room was too hot or too cold during the night, NK would have to walk all the way to my side to regulate the fan speed. If she fell asleep with the light on, I would have to walk all the way to her side to turn it off. I’d never liked sitting down and doing nothing about problems that could so easily be solved with thread, so now our room had a very small-scale version of the complex thread system I had built in my room back home. It proved immensely helpful in instances just like this one…

“Felicia is coming!” NK whispered urgently. The next second, I pulled a string from my bed and the light went off. NK hadn’t even had to sit up.

“Don’t say anything,” I warned Princess, who was beside me in the dark now.

It was way past lights-out, and I was exhausted, but I’d promised Princess I’d help her with her physics homework when I had time. It turned out 11 p.m. was the earliest I’d been free enough to help anyone on a Monday night, and Princess wasn’t even the first person I was helping tonight. I was not, however, ready to get in trouble for it with Felicia, my hostel prefect. I already did enough weeding and gardening throughout the normal week; I wasn’t about to add gutter scrubbing to my schedule just because I’d decided to be a nice, helpful classmate.

I heard Felicia’s footsteps as she did a brief walk-through, passing in front of all the rooms in the building. If she didn’t see lights or hear voices, she just moved past each door after a few seconds. I listened keenly, made sure she was way out of sight and hearing before I pulled another string and the lights switched back on.

“Ahahn, so which question were we on?” I asked Princess, suppressing a yawn. But Princess’ mind was far from Newton’s laws of motion at that moment.

“How did you do that, with the light?” she asked with a mixture of curiosity and fear.

“Magic, anaa?” I replied, bored, irritable, and tired.

“Kuukua, be serious.”

“I thought everyone knew I’m a witch by now. See eh, let’s continue with the distin. It’s due tomorrow morning, and frankly, m’abrɛ.

“So you won’t explain?”

“Ei, Princess. Do you want to finish this homework or not?”

Her facial expression reflected the struggle she was going through, trying to rationalize what had just happened, but then she gave up, clearly also weary and looking forward to sleeping. “Fine. Let’s continue.”

“Great. So, we know that force is equal to mass times acceleration….”

I could have explained – at least about the spider-silk thread – but that would have led to even more questions. How did I know how to build this switch-flipping system? Why was the thread invisible? Where did one acquire spider-silk thread? Why did I have my very own pet spider?

I wasn’t ashamed of the strangeness that came with being the future Ananse, but truthful explanations were long. Claiming the rumor my cousin had started – that I was a witch – was much easier. So was evasion.

I turned the lights off again when Princess went back to her room. I hoped she wouldn’t get caught breaking curfew.

I thought NK was already asleep, so I was surprised when I heard her say, “Wo dwen sɛ wo yɛ Kwaku Ananse.”

When I heard that, I sat up briskly, my heart hammering loudly in my chest.

“What did you just say?”

“You think you’re Kwaku Ananse. It’s something my mother says a lot to me and my siblings whenever we try to get away with messing with someone. Because, you know, Kwaku Ananse was a trickster.”

“Interesting.” I let the silence breathe and tried to process.

“You remind me of him, though. Kwaku Ananse. Except you’re cleverer. From the stories Mummy told me, the way Kwaku is always getting outsmarted, he doesn’t seem particularly intelligent to me.”

“That’s what Ntikuma wants you to think,” I muttered, repeating my father’s words after the last time he’d told me an Ananse story.


“Erm. Nothing.”

NK didn’t know about me being the future Ananse – but she knew almost as much about my quirks as my grandpa, my father and my boyfriend. I’d only known her for about three months, but it was a consequence of living together. My room was the only place I could do some of the weirder assignments my father set for me.

The previous week, for example, I’d spent hours on end at my desk trying to master the process of extracting only the sticky kind of silk from my orb weaver spider, Charlotte, and turning it into spider glue. My grandfather, who used to be a chemist, would videocall me sometimes to teach me how to make varying kinds of spider glue, from mildly sticky to stuff stronger than wood glue. After she’d witnessed everything I’d messed around with at my desk, keeping the Ananse definition and its relation to my family from my roommate felt incredibly stupid.


NK had helped me construct the web. It would have been a struggle otherwise, because I didn’t have access to ladders, and the only movable furniture in the room were our desk chairs, and they simply weren’t tall enough. But I’d had to get on the ceiling somehow. As I’d struggled to think of how to manage it, NK had looked at me and said, “Kuukua, don’t you ever think of the body as a tool?”

“The body as a tool?” I’d repeated.

“Yeah. Same as a ladder or a hammer or something.”

“I use my hands and fingers a lot.”

“You use them to manipulate things you consider tools. But you’re always looking for things. Machines. Sometimes, the thing you need the most is a functional human body.”

“Sista, why are you speaking in parables?”

She’d laughed, then extracted her chair from under her desk. She’d knelt down in front of it, and at first, I was on edge because I thought she was bowing down to me or something, but then she instructed, “Get on my shoulders.”

I did. Then she got on the chair and stood upright, and when I raised my hands, I could reach the ceiling with ease.

Installation had taken more time than it would have if I’d had a ladder, because Nana Konamah needed to take breaks from holding me up. It was altogether a precarious situation, but I was used to precariousness. Yaw would have said, “A week that passes where Kuukua doesn’t put herself in danger of breaking her neck at least once, is that one too a week?”


And for the rest of the story, download via the link at the top of the post. Happy reading!


Kuukua and the Cavorting Cups

I like the beginning of this story particularly because it’s a foreshadowing of other things I plan to do with the whole On the Ceiling project. It’s (hopefully) more than just an 8-part short story series, although it’s that too. For this reason, I’m going to post a longer “sneak-peak” excerpt than I usually do.

(Update: individual OTC stories are no longer available, but you can download them all in a single PDF collection on my OTC site.)
Back of Kuukua and the Cavorting Cups

Kuukua and the Cavorting Cups

I kept my eyes fixed on one spot on the ceiling to help me concentrate as I strained my abdominal muscles. My father’s weight was concentrated on my feet, his hands on my knees, steadying me as I did fifty sit-ups according to his count. Chale, this workout regime dier, he was trying to kill me. I’d never signed up for this.

I wanted to complain, but couldn’t, partially because I was panting so heavily, and also because I knew that if I opened my mouth to speak or took my eyes off the ceiling for even a second, I would lose concentration and collapse.

“…forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty.”

My father released my knees, and I flopped to the ground like I would never rise again. The physical aspect of training hadn’t yet stopped being shocking. When I’d found out I had to go through training at all, I hadn’t known that intense physical workouts would be part of the package. For months, I’d been going through several strands of training – the kinds that didn’t leave me drenched in sweat and breathless. They’d involved community service, lessons in spider biology, and learning the secrets of the trades of my father and grandfather. But this P.E. strand had been as surprising as the method by which it was introduced to me.

It had happened a few weeks ago. During our lesson times, my father and I usually made our way to his workshop – our repurposed second garage – or sometimes, my grandfather’s “office” – the repurposed Boys’ Quarters that had been my grandfather’s makeshift chemistry lab for several years. This time, however, when he led me outside, we passed the garage right by and continued to our backyard, where, instead of explaining right away, he swung himself, surprisingly nimbly, onto a branch of our mango tree.

“What the hell!” I exclaimed, beyond shocked.

He ignored my surprise entirely, asking me instead, “Do you remember the story of Kwaku Ananse and the Pot of Wisdom?”

How was I supposed to be thinking about some stupid Kwaku Ananse story when I couldn’t even barb how my father was perched in a mango tree? I didn’t give a flying pesewa about Kwaku Ananse stories; they bored me to death, and I usually put more energy into trying to erase them from my memory than recalling them and their stupid morals.

“Daddy, how did you get onto the tree? Why are you on a tree?”

“Kuukua, focus! Do you remember the story of the Pot of Wisdom or not? Your mother and I read it to you before bed several times when you were younger.”

I was almost certain the baby Kuukua had tried her best to fall asleep quickly so she wouldn’t have to be put through the agony.

“I don’t remember.”

“Then I shall refresh your memory. One day, the spider-man, Kwaku Ananse…”

“You seriously cannot be trying to tell me a Kwaku Ananse story right now,” I said in disbelief.

“Kuukua, can’t you see I’m trying to teach you something? Just close your mouth for two minutes and listen, la!”

I sighed and pursed my lips shut. Maybe if I kept quiet, it would be over sooner.

My father launched into the story:

“One day, the spider-man, Kwaku Ananse, collected all the wisdom in the world and put it into a pot. He was greedy and wanted to keep all the world’s wisdom for himself so that he could use it when he wished and be the World’s Wisest Man.”

Well, in my opinion, it wasn’t very wise to believe that all the world’s wisdom could fit in a single pot. The story here had ended badly before it had begun.

“Kwaku Ananse wanted to hide the pot of wisdom where no one would find it. And so he decided to hide it at the top of a very tall tree. He strapped the pot to his front, against his belly, and proceeded to climb, but never got much higher than the ground before he slipped back down.”

Hoh. Common sense would tell you that climbing a tree with something strapped to your belly was a mark of true idiocy.

“But Kwaku Ananse’s son, Ntikuma, happened to be passing by, and saw his father struggling with the pot. So Ntikuma suggested to his father that perhaps it would be easier to climb with the pot strapped to his back instead. Ashamed, Kwaku Ananse realized that of course, Ntikuma was right. Once he put the pot on his back, climbing became very easy. But when he reached the top, he realized that it was all useless; for one thing, now that Ntikuma knew where the world’s wisdom was being kept, it was no longer Kwaku’s secret. For another thing, Kwaku realized he had scammed himself – for if he really had gathered all the wisdom in his pot, how come Ntikuma, on the ground, had wisely solved a problem he himself had been unable to get around? When he realized this, he was so shocked that he dropped the pot, and wisdom was once again distributed throughout the earth. And that is the end of the story as it’s commonly told.”

“And so the moral is what, that Kwaku Ananse is an imbecile who rarely realizes it until it’s too late?”

“Well, the traditionally accepted moral of the story is that no one man – or spider, or spider-man, or woman – can have all the wisdom in the world. But the conclusion that you just came to is what Ntikuma wants you to think.”


“Have you ever heard the saying that until the lion learns to speak, the tale will always glorify the hunter?”

“Yes. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Much more than you yet realize. You see, until Kwaku Ananse himself is the one to tell his own stories – which may indeed never happen, due to the nature of things – the tales will always glorify Ntikuma. Now, let me tell you what really happened: one of our ancient ancestors, an Ananse from several generations back, started out as a talented trickster, just like the rest of us. He was clever, the best in the village at cracking puzzles, solving riddles and interpreting and inventing proverbs. Every trick he ever played, he played with his mind. But as he grew, he realized that it wasn’t only nyansa that could get you far in life, although it had done well for him and his ancestors so far. As the tale goes, he sought out all the animals of the kingdom and learnt the wisdom of their ways – in both mind and body – with patience and diligence, until he had wholesomely educated himself with everything wise he could pick up from every creature around him. One of these creatures, of course, was the Monkey, and the Monkey’s lesson was agility. Although this Ananse was patient as he tried to learn how to climb a tree just like the Monkey did, he failed often. And I imagine more than one person witnessed his numerous failed attempts to climb the tree – any one of whom could have recreated the story the way they wanted his falls and failures to be perceived. I assure you, our ancestor learnt agility successfully in the end, though unfortunately – and this is the case with most of our ancestors – he failed to prevent the spread of the… what do we call it these days? Err… ‘fake news,’ is it? Anyhow, since his generation, physical training has always been part of the wholesome Ananse training program.”

Go back to the top of this post to download the full story! Lots of love,


Kuukua and the Sliding Sneakers

Welcome to the 4th short story in my On the Ceiling series!

(Update: individual OTC stories are no longer available, but you can download them all in a single PDF collection on my OTC site.)

For a snippet of the story, continue reading below.

Back of Kuukua and the Sliding Sneakers

I had my eyes on the ceiling as if I believed it could save me from all the kwasiasɛm going on around me. Ghana’s school wars were so, so tiring.

We were on day three of what had to be the longest five-day program in the history of the world. I didn’t know why parents thought sending their high school children to a university campus to be taught “leadership skills” right at the beginning of long vac. was a good idea. We’d had like two minutes to breathe after graduation last week, before we were told to pack our suitcases and go live on a campus in the middle of nowhere for five days, learning something I wasn’t even sure could be taught.

The entire first day had been dedicated to team-building and mingling exercises, and you could tell exactly what the professors and uni student facilitators had been trying to do with and to us. However, it seemed that no force above the sky or below the ground could have prevented what was always bound to happen whenever high school students from a range of schools and backgrounds came together: division. And, as was the norm among us, the division wasn’t even over social class precisely; it was over perceived social class. The assumptions almost always stemmed from the same misconceptions and thus, were incredibly predictable.

As usual, there were two factions: the public school kids and the international school kids. People assumed that everyone else assumed the international school kids were richer than the public school kids, that we thought we were superior to them in every way, that the public school kids were generally more connected to Ghanaian culture than the international school kids, and the list could go on and on.

It was a battle I wished I could say I was finally about to dodge, given that my class had finally graduated from JSS, and after passing a competitive entrance exam, was now going to be enrolled in what was rumored to be the best high school in Ghana. Unfortunately, I would be dodging no bullets, since though the school was a boarding school – unlike the one I’d just graduated from – it was still an international school. At least I wouldn’t have to endure it all alone. My closest friends, Yaw and Keshawn (called Kess for short), had also passed the exam, and in a few months, we’d still be together, which was quite a relief for me. Unfortunately, though, it also meant that I wouldn’t be able to escape from my drama queen of a cousin, Ntiwaa, who had also been accepted. It figured. She was the smartest girl in the class in terms of academics, and so there was no way in hell she could have failed that entrance exam.

Personally, I knew for a fact that some of these public school kids’ parents could buy my parents’ businesses out if they wanted to. I mean, it wasn’t like my father worked from some prestigious international company or for the government. He was a carpenter, for goodness’ sake. Carpenters weren’t particularly known for being millionaires.

This social class war was playing out in two parallel streams. The first was verbal: slurs, jokes and thinly veiled insults were flying back and forth between both camps, most of them by the partially naturally selected, partially self-appointed “spokesmen” of both camps. For the IS camp, there was a boy, unfortunately from my school and grade, called Kennedy, whom I had never wanted anything much to do with. He was perhaps one of the only people who so perfectly fit all the assumptions people had of international school kids in the first place. He was yet another person I wouldn’t be able to get away from, since he too had passed the entrance exam we’d taken.

On the public school side was a guy whom everyone simply called PK. I didn’t yet know what those initials stood for. All I knew was, with these two boys too close to each other in a single room, a civil war was nearly guaranteed to break out.

The other stream of the war, the non-verbal one, was all in the attire. Everyone who wanted to impress seemed to be competing for the title of Best Dressed. It was a one-week leadership camp. Why were people trying to look like they were either on their way to church weddings, or modelling for an urban clothes magazine? Today was the third day, and when we’d woken up and filed into the classroom for our morning warm-up session, my eyes had been stressed out by the assault of colors, materials and range of styles. It all seemed way too disjointed, as if we all didn’t belong in the same place. People were trying to use their clothes to make statements, as if that would prove or disprove anything about their family’s money, or how connected they were to their roots.

Far ahead of me, I spotted PK wearing baggy, sagged trousers, a sports jersey and a baseball cap turned backwards. “Street” was his style, and he tried to look as extra as possible within it, every single day. His aesthetic didn’t stop at his clothes; it went all the way down to the way he talked. He spoke pidgin English at every opportunity, until he was threatened punishment if he didn’t speak English. He did it obviously and obnoxiously, as if he was trying to prove something by it, too.

It didn’t take long after seeing PK before my eyes found Kennedy, dressed in a white button-down shirt, slightly crinkly to give him that formal-while-carefree look, and I sighed, prematurely exhausted of what was going to be a long day. All of this nonsense was even threatening to make me the tiniest bit self-conscious about what I wore each day.

Out of the crowd, my best friend, Yaw, fell into step beside me. I was almost irrationally happy to see him; he made me feel at ease in this sea of strangers.

Want to continue reading? Download the PDF hyperlinked above! 🙂


Kuukua and the Haunted Hair

Hello, and welcome to the third installment of my On the Ceiling series!

(Update: individual OTC stories are no longer available, but you can download them all in a single PDF collection on my OTC site.)

[Slightly related: two rather old blog posts that have a similar theme to this fictional tale: Why Some Ghanaian Kids Don’t Speak And Don’t Want To Learn How To Speak A Ghanaian Language and Another Language Rant (Which I Should Have Released in September 2015.)]

Back of Kuukua and the Haunted Hair

“You have a pet spider, and it lives on the ceiling,” Yaw wanted to confirm. And, as insane as he sounded, he was perfectly right.

“Yep,” I confirmed.

“And her name is Charlotte.”

“Also true.”

He was merely repeating the facts I’d just told him back to me. Apparently, this is a thing people do when they’re struggling to grasp something: repeating things that are somewhat impossible to believe the first time you hear them. Maybe saying them out loud, from your own lips, makes them more mentally digestible. The conversation was going very slowly thanks to this, but I decided to be patient with Yaw because honestly, I’d done this too, a few months ago, to my father, when I’d found out the thing I was now preparing to tell Yaw.

Truth be told, I didn’t know how to handle the situation, or how to explain, or where to begin. So, instead, I started rambling: “Charlotte is a golden silk orb weaver. It’s one of the most common kinds of spiders, really, and the reason it’s called that is because of the circular shape of the finished web – you know, like an orb. And golden because the webs glint golden in the sunlight. Of course, you can’t see it glittering right now, because we’re inside, but if we weren’t…”

“Kuukua,” Yaw interrupted.


“Shut up.”


“How and why the hell do you have a pet spider? I’m very sure you hate spiders.”

That was kind of true. Spiders had always made me uncomfortable, and I preferred to stay away from them. When I’d woken up one day, a couple of weeks ago, to find this huge orb on one corner of my bedroom ceiling, I’d been alarmed. I’d gone right downstairs to get a cobweb brush to scoop the web up. In the middle of this cleaning process, its builder had appeared, and upon seeing her (I didn’t know how I knew it was a her, but I did), my heart rate accelerated. She wasn’t Aragog kind of huge, but she was way larger than any common spider I’d ever seen. All six of her red eyes seemed to be staring right at me, her black-and-yellow legs suspiciously still. Taking a deep breath, I’d gently swiped her too onto the ceiling brush, taken her outside, and let her go off into some garden. By evening, I had a new, huge orb web in my room in the exact same place, and its maker sat quietly at one of its edges; I was sure it was the same spider. She would not be uprooted.

It had taken me ages to get used to the fact that there was a spider living in my room and that there was no way to get rid of it. I’d called my father into the matter, and he was the one who’d told me of its species, characteristics and so on. He hadn’t been surprised in the least. The spider, he said, was mine, that all the Ananses usually had one or more of their own “personal spiders” which turned out to be very resourceful. “You think we own so much spider-silk thread in our family because we buy it?” Daddy had asked. “No. We extract it, from our very own spiders’ spinnerets. I’ll be teaching you how to do that soon, now that your own spider has appeared.”

I had thought, when I’d been told about this whole Ananse business, that there was nothing really supernatural about us; we were all just regular humans with above-average gifts. But the part about being so specially connected to arachnids? That sounded a lot like a superpower to me, and less explainable as “coincidence” than even the trend of born-on-Wednesday Annans.

To help myself get used to it, I’d decided to name “my” spider, and, awful as it was, the first name that had come to mind was Charlotte.

“She just appeared,” I told Yaw, truthfully.

“She just appeared?”


“You know none of this is making sense, right?”

I sighed. I should just tell him now, I thought. Once and for all.

“Yaw, there’s something I need to tell you. Like, a lot of things.”

“Damn right. It looks like there’s been a lot of stuff happening with you lately. Nowadays, you’ve just become more…unavailable. I’ve been feeling like something is going on, and that if it is, you really shouldn’t be afraid to tell me, because you can tell me anything. You know that, right?”


“I mean it, oo. Like, anything. You don’t have to keep avoiding me.”

Avoiding you? You think I’ve been avoiding you?”

“That’s the vibe I’ve been getting. And if there’s anything I’ve been doing that’s making you feel uncomfortable, you seriously should just let me know.”

“Ah, what are you saying? How can I be uncomfortable around you? If anything, I’m more comfortable around you than anyone.”

“Really?” His facial muscles looked like they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to break into a smile or scrunch up in anxiety.

“Yes. Ah. Are you okay? I’m starting to get worried.”

“Erm. Well…” And then, strangely enough, he suddenly became unable to properly meet my gaze. His eyes began roaming all over the place, and in a few seconds, they landed once more on the spider web.

“Aha, the spider!” he exclaimed, like he’d only, right that second, remembered it. Is that not what we’d been talking about this whole time? “Why do you have a pet spider? I still don’t have an explanation.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about what’s on your mind?”

“What’s on my mind right now is the spider. I need explanations.”

Read the rest by downloading the mobile-friendly PDF linked at the beginning of the post. 🙂