The Adventures of Charles Seth Ofori (Part II): Acting Fishy

Once again, my awesome grandfather’s birthday is here. But, you may be thinking, I thought that was last year. The funny thing about birthdays, though, is that they tend to happen annually. Last year, I published The Adventures of Charles Seth Ofori: Pipes No Dey Flow. (It might be interesting to know that since then, he managed to donate another envelope full of money to the water-closet.) This year, I present to you…

The Adventures of Charles Seth Ofori (Part II): Acting Fishy.

When young Charles Ofori was in elementary school, a Presbyterian boarding school in Kpando, in the Volta Region, ten miles from Vakpo, his hometown, rules were very strict, and discipline was strongly enforced. This did not, however, stop Charles and his friends from being some of the most inspiring rebels ever.

As students in boarding schools tend to do, Charles and three of his friends wanted to go home. Don’t ask questions. Don’t expect explanations. Sometimes, people just want to go home and eat food and…just generally not be in school. Laws of human nature. So he and his three friends decided to go home unofficially. You might think this would have been a tough act to pull off, but really, no. They just got up and left, or, as we like to put it in modern Ghanaian slang, they ‘bounced.’ Let’s not pretend we don’t know about all the ‘kuluulu’ in our systems. Yes, we know how it is when we like to negotiate with people of authority so that we don’t get into trouble with other people of authority. These four hooligans left for Vakpo very early in the morning, telling the monitor that he should try and cover for them while they were gone. They were hoping to be back before 6:30pm, anyway, just in time for roll call.

Oh, getting to Vakpo was easy enough. In the afternoon, however, that is when the problem arose: they had no means of transportation to get back to school in Kpando. Here, you can just imagine one of the four placing his palms dramatically on his head and exclaiming, “Yie! What are we going to do?”

What else was there for it but to begin walking? But walking ten miles, as we can guess, is tedious, slow business. By 7pm, a half hour past the roll call, they were only halfway there.

[Interlude: Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Meet Me Halfway’]

The situation seemed beyond salvageable. Suddenly, to their delightful surprise, they were able to stop a lorry which was going in their general direction, and they hopped on. The lorry was coming from Keta, from whence also came the fresh fish of the Volta region. Apart from the driver, the lorry was full of women. These women were traders of kenam (essentially, fried fish). They bought their kenam in Keta to come and sell. The women were also in the very front of the lorry. But herein lay the problem: behind them were their baskets of kenam. Behind them. With four boys who were mischievous enough to play truant. Hmm. Not a smart move.

The seats the boys were given, too, were directly behind the baskets of fish. Nigerian man will say, “Trouble don come.”

Though, in order not to be caught, they couldn’t necessarily speak out loud, here’s a direct quote from Grandpa, who told me laughingly, “It was not difficult to communicate, you see.” What did they do? They made a hole and started eating. Just like that.

Forbidden fruit tastes sweetest, though, and we know when we sin, we tend to want more. Unsatisfied with all the pilfering they had done during the ride, upon getting to Kpando, they began to fill their pockets with some more kenam. Then innocently, probably putting on their most cherubic faces, protected by the darkness of the night, they paid the lorry driver and left.

Of course, it was way past curfew back in school. They went inside, and, trying not to make noise, went off to bed without bothering to change clothes or do anything at all of the sort.

Here’s the catch, though: Kenam, as we have already mentioned, is fried fish. Fried fish is fried in oil. Sleeping with oily fish in one’s pockets, more often than not, will leave great, unmistakeable evidence of one’s crimes. They woke up the next morning, and all their shorts were dreadfully soaked with oil. This would have been much less of a serious problem if they had had some spare shorts. They did not. So they pooled all their remaining fish together and ate it secretly. Then, they washed their shorts and left them to dry.

In my opinion, they pulled all this off with rather impeccable swag. I believe their fitting reward was the fact that they didn’t even get punished.

Since many traditional Ghanaian storytellers insist that fables must have morals, I shall conclude by saying this: the moral of the story is that whenever you choose to break rules, break them with impeccable swag.

[Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the story’s subject matter shall not be held accountable for any student’s expulsion as a consequence of reading this story. It is, after all, not their fault that you are deficient in swag.]

-Akotowaa =)

My Grandfather Was a Yellow Journalist Rascal

Recently, in Language and Literature class, we began to learn about the progression of mass media communication, which led also to a discussion on yellow journalism.

Yellow journalism is basically tinted pure journalism (duh. Hence the yellowing). Newspapers became less serious, so to speak. Rather than being grave and professional, journalism became humorous and sensational. It appealed to an audience who not only wanted to be informed, but wanted to be entertained.
Now this grandfather of mine, Charles Seth Ofori, bore a certain dislike for this prefect/monitor of his, and so he got together with some of his friends and decided to publicize their dislike for him in the form of a…newspaper. They got permission to do this under the pretense of the desire to enrich their writing and journalism skills. Ha!
I may be mistaken, but I believe this newspaper was called “The Monitor.” (Doesn’t that sound just a bit stalkerish to you? Beautiful double entendre though.) It badmouthed this monitor, and revealed things about his life and his actions. They hand-write it (they had too much time, chale) and they pinned it up periodically on the notice board.
I suppose you’re wondering how come, if their intents were so unholy, they were allowed to keep The Monitor going on for so long. Well, see, nobody could actually form legitimate claims against them, because they changed the names of everyone involved in the stories. As far as anybody was concerned, all they were doing was creative writing. Rascals.
-Akotowaa =)

Perfect Prefect Shenanigans

Grandpa was not an innocent boy in school. This is one of many shenanigans, soon to be released, now in his retirement, when nobody can catch him. LOL.

I thought this particular one would be better if written from the perspective of my grandfather, Charles Seth Ofori.

I never quite understood what it was that set prefects and monitors apart from the rest of us civilians. They got extended time before lights-out to study. As if we didn’t all attend the same classes and write the same exams. Even worse than that was the logic-lacking allocation of resources. Every once in a while, the Powers That Be of Achimota School provided us without necessary toiletries. But for some reason I just couldn’t not fathom, the prefects and monitors always got more toilet roll than the rest of us. You can’t imagine how incredulously I laughed when I discovered that.

“Ah!” I bellowed. “Is it not the same food we are eating? What makes them think that a monitor can shank more than the rest of us?” And I continued to laugh.

What irked me the most, however, had to have been their beds.

I don’t know what the girls had in their dormitories, but we the boys, our beds were made up of three wooden boards placed across two adequately spaced trestles, before a mattress, blankets and sheets were placed on it. I think that should have been fair enough accommodation for all of us – but clearly, whoever put the prefects in charge did not share my opinion.

The prefects, when given their position, were allowed to elevate their beds – like pedestals, as if their sleeping arrangement gave them the right of precedence over us. They did this by placing blocks under the four corners of their trestles. It raised them a worthless further six inches or so off the ground.

The only benefit I ever could see of these raised beds was an avenue for the playing of practical jokes, which is exactly what we used it for.

………….

The sentry stood at the mouth of the door, watching the figure of the older boy disappear down the hallway.

“Is he gone?” I asked.

“Shh!” he reprimanded. The five of us in the room waited for a few more seconds, until the sentry finally said, “I can’t see him anymore.”

We all sprang into action then – the sentry remained at the door; the other four moved to the four corners of the monitor’s bed, while I remained standing, to supervise. It was a delicate task, really. Each person had to shift just one block of the three under each corner far enough to be unstable, but just right to keep the illusion of stability. The whole plan would go to shreds without the power of optical deception.

“Hurry up,” I told them. “He could be back any minute!”

Just as they finished, our sentry whispered in alarm, “He’s coming!”

We all briskly returned o our beds, lay there obediently and pretended to read. Even I must say now that we must have looked like we were definitely hiding something. Upon entry, the monitor regarded us with suspicion, but, finding nothing exactly askew, he disregarded his gut feeling.

Misplaced blocks.
Misplaced blocks.

“Put your books away,” he commanded. “It’s lights-out.” He did not leave his position in front of the door until, after thorough scrutiny with those beady, over-analysing eyes of his, he assured himself that everyone was present and in his bed, with his eyes closed. Satisfied, he turned off the lights and went out to study for a few more minutes.

Nobody had moved a muscle by the time he returned, but I can assure you that not a soul was genuinely asleep. Pretending, with our eyes closed, we waited in anticipation for the climax.

The monitor closed the door behind him, and he walked towards his bed. Ever so slightly, every head inclined.

Then it came – the mighty “GBAN!” that signalled that the King had indeed fallen – literally – from his throne.

Every dorm heard our laughter that night. We must have woken up the whole wing. My own stomach cramped up from laughter. I can never, ever forget that day.

He became a doctor, that prefect. And I’m eighty-one right now, but I tell you that still, whenever I see him, I make sure to have a good laugh at him before we separate – not because he deserves it, but because, quite frankly, it was HILARIOUS.

-Akotowaa

The Price of Insect Pleasure

This is a true story, told to me by the one, the only, **drumroll** Charles Seth Ofori.

When Grandpa Charles was a little boy in Vakpo, there was a certain delicacy that almost all in the village were familiar with: locusts. (Darling, don’t scrunch your face up in disgust; my mother confirms that they are absolutely delicious.) Because they were familiar with this peculiar erm…dish, they also knew the uh…adverse effects it had on one’s digestive system. Charles knew this too. A certain friend and neighbour of his, however, did not.

This person was not named in the retelling of this story to me, but for the sake of this story, I shall christen him with the easiest Ewe name I can think of: Togbui.

So, Togbui was not only ignorant about the locusts’ effects; he had, in fact, never tasted any. Then one day, an individual whom I assume was either very pitying or highly sadistic, introduced Togbui to fried locusts. I’m sure you can tell that what ensued was a kind of painful pleasure.

Take your current favourite food. Imagine as much of it in front of you as possible. Now erase all memory of its taste in your head so that when you dig in, it will be like the first time. Just imagine it. Will you be able to ever get enough? If your imagination is wide enough, maybe you can understand Togbui’s ecstasy and powerlessness to stop eating. I must here resort to borrowing an overused quasi-pidgin phrase to describe his fervency: “He dey go oh!”

Eventually he stopped. There are limits to all the human body’s capacities, after all. Togbui had had his fill. However, what we are aware of that he probably wasn’t was this: a great many good things come with equal or larger prices.

…Which would explain why, the next day, more than an acceptable number of people could hear his loud grunts of agony from the latrine.

Don’t laugh. Someone is there, genuinely suffering in a wrestling match with his bowels, and you dare to laugh! What cruelty! But Charles laughed. My goodness. Why didn’t anyone warn him, eh? Is that how mean people are? I don’t know how long he stayed on the toilet, but I can confirm there was much pain and sweat involved. They should have fed him pawpaw.

That’s the other thing. Not many industrially manufactured medicines were available, but there were, of course, the herbs and the natural laxatives – but even those often took a while to take effect. Our poor Togbui was hence forced to endure that pain until the waste decided for itself that it was ready to depart from his body. Meanwhile, Charles Seth Ofori continued to laugh his head off.

I think it would be safe for me to stay away from locusts as much as I can help it.

-Akotowaa =)