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 Twisting Tablecloth

(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 Twisting Tablecloth

“What’s that over there?”

“Over where?”

“On the ceiling.”

It was one of my least favorite voices from one of my least favorite humans in the whole world: Uncle Vincent. I wished I could have been surprised that my first encounter with him this year was beginning with me walking right into one of his frequently-occurring complaining sessions. Today, it seemed the subject of his complaint was something on the ceiling, and my mother was the unfortunate victim of his probably unnecessary frustration. She was the one who had picked him up for the airport; my brother Kwamz was out, and my dad and I had barely gotten back home.

“Oh,” I heard my mother reply to him. “It’s just a cobweb.”

“Ei!” Uncle Vincent exclaimed. “You people allow cobwebs to form in your house? Back home, my wife and daughters clean every centimeter of my house every Saturday morning. You will never see any spider deciding to live there without it being killed in a matter of minutes. In fact, there are no insects in my house at all. They all know better. Even the ants, eh? Even the ants! You can leave a jar of granulated sugar open in the kitchen, then leave my house and come back. The sugar will still be there, untouched. Even so, my eldest, eh? She can’t stand anything that will even give insects an invitation inside. If she saw such a thing on anyone’s ceiling, eh…”

“Yes, yes, we’ll clean the ceiling. Today noor, don’t worry,” my mother cut in, clearly trying, but expecting to fail at not seeming rude. I always wondered why she put so much effort into trying to avoid offending someone who never seemed to give a flying pesewa about the rudeness he exuded by virtue of his very existence. Uncle Vincent always made her flustered, and my normally composed mother tended to lose her social balance when dealing with him, resulting in increased fumbling and decreased patience. I was already seeing the effects, though Uncle Vincent had probably only been here for a maximum of five minutes before my dad and I had gotten home.

I, personally, was not in a very good state myself, having had just experienced one of the longest days ever with my father and grandfather, doing service things, and then having my ear talked all the way off by the latter the entire way home. It was all, as Daddy and Grandpa told me, “part of my training to be the next Ananse.”

Speaking of being an Ananse…when you find out something really cool, for example, that you are the direct heiress of a title so legendary and ingrained in cultures and childhoods like “Ananse,” you expect your life to suddenly get way cooler. Instead, you end up doing boring things like community service. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. I mean I personally don’t have a very good relationship with Kwaku Ananse stories, though a lot of people consider it just about inextricable from Ghanaian Akan culture. I, however, have been exhausted for years by Kwaku Ananse’s overuse. Whenever I hear someone begin a Kwaku Ananse story, I feel like hitting something. If he was real, he’d probably even be tired of hearing his own name. The thing is that, he kind of is real, and soon, I will be him…or her.

You see, I found out a few weeks ago that my father is “Kwaku Ananse.” That sounds absurd, because of course, Kwaku Ananse is a fictional character, and my father’s name is technically Jonathan Kweku Annan. “The Ananse,” however, is a title passed down from generation to generation, so like from the first Ananse to his/her kid, to the kid’s kid and so on, all the way down to me. My ancestry is more significant than I had known it was just weeks ago, and certain things I thought were traditions and coincidences turned out to be full of intentionality. For example, in the Annan family, every first-born child is typically born on a Wednesday, thus called a variant of Ananse’s first name, “Kwaku.” That was why it had been a stunning shock when my older brother, Jonathan Kwame Annan (AKA “Kwamz”) had been born on a Saturday. My father had suffered a terrible shock from Kwamz’ birth, fearing that the Ananse lineage had come to a strange and abrupt end…but then, two years after Kwamz’ birth, I came out, thankfully, on a Wednesday, hence my name, Kuukua. My father had watched me closely from birth, to see if I was endowed with any Ananse-like quirks: cleverness, wit, resourcefulness, creativity, and of course, a tendency towards trickery. According to him, I had all of the above. I’d shown a strange affinity for stringy things nearly from birth, whether spaghetti, bra straps or shoelaces, but they had all been mere shadows of my greater love: thread.

Thread was my secret weapon, and the manipulation of it was my superpower. It wasn’t like I was interested in becoming a seamstress or something; I was on the track to becoming an engineer. I used thread in clever ways, coming up with unlikely contraptions, most of which were designed to cause the unfortunate demise of people I didn’t like very much. According to my father, I was “a clever villain, but not a very good Ananse.” But doesn’t anyone besides me ever wonder why we keep trying to burden everyone with any above-average skill with the task of saving the world? Why do we all have to be heroes, anyway? This, at least, is one thing that the legendary Ananse and I have in common: we aren’t riddled with Superman-like moral complexes; we just want to play tricks, get what we want and go. But every time I tried bringing this up with my father, he would keep going on and on about how my morals were crooked and needed to get fixed up. Whatever.

[Click that link at the top to download the story! 🙂 ]



OTC #2 comes out this Friday. :)

Hello, hi! The spider-girl is back! No, not me, but Kuukua. She’s just a few levels cooler than me.

For readers who don’t know, I have begun a new short story series that I hope I will be consistent with until it ends, in December. I released the pilot at the end of May, called Kuukua and the Magical Markers, which I kindly ask that you read if you haven’t already. And if you hate it, you don’t need to read the sequel.

But just in case you don’t hate it, the sequel will be released, right here on Friday, June 30th, and it shall be called Kuukua and the Twisting Tablecloth.

So, see you back here, on this blog, on Friday. Please? 🙂