(Update: individual OTC stories are no longer available, but you can download them all in a single PDF collection on my OTC site.)
“What’s that over there?”
“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.
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