Do you know the smell of hunger?
My name is Kojo.This year I turn fifteen. This is not a good year for my family, the rain was late last year so we didn’t have a fruitful harvest, this was the year my father decided to take a second wife. He gave a larger portion of the farm produce to his new wife, while my mother, my siblings and I had to live on the meager portion given to us. My father had been in Adofo ( wrapper) ever since he brought in the new wife, she is from Aneho, a riverine area in Togo. Aneho women are known for their beauty and my father’ s new wife is not an exception.
Every evening, my father would seat in his apasame ( hammock) listening to radio while gulping down some sweet palmwine. Afine, the new bride is usually in the kitchen this time making his evening meal of akple with Ademe. My Nma had warned my brother Albert, my little sister and I not to take anything from the new bride.
Every morning my mother would wake us early so my brother and i will do some house chores before heading to school, my brother is already in lecee but he won’t be there for long, my little sister pamela who is almost eight years now hasn’t started school yet. We would eat the left over akple usually cut into small lumps in the soup pot by Nma because the soup won’t be enough for the three of us otherwise. After we have eaten, my brother and I will trek to school while little Pam goes to the farm with Nma.
Nma sells Anake which she gets from our farm, even though she sold each bundle cinq franc it wasn’t enough to chase the wolves from our door. We are almost out of the meager portion of farm produce given to us by my father, Nma couldn’t sell Anake whenever it rains because nobody wants to buy woods that won’t catch. She went to my father one evening to ask him for some money so Albert ( my brother) can buy some books but he refused. My father’ s way of saying no to any request is with his fist.
When Albert and I came back home from the field where we had gone to play football, we saw Nma lying on a mat in her small hut, the left side of her head was battered. her left eye was purple with blood and she was missing a tooth. Albert got angry, now when Albert gets angry things happen_ bad things! he ran into the hut we share and came out with a shiny cutlass. He ran into our father’ s hut but he wasnt in, little Pam said he went to the market with Afine. Albert ran out of the compound wielding the cutlass like a mad man, little Pam started crying. Nma tried to get up but she couldn’t.
” Kojo. She said in pain. Go after your brother, stop him! Please… ” Nma la!d back on the mat groaning in pain.
I ran out of the compound. My heart was pounding heavily. I didn’t know which route Albert had taken, I ran to the end of our street, nosey relatives called out to me saying my brother had gone mad. I stopped long enough to find out the direction my brother had taken. He had gone to Azigame ( the main market).
” Kojo! Kojo!”
I was almost at the Azigame now, when Afine ran towards me crying. Her hair was scattered, her blouse was torn and she was in her under skirt. Good for you! good for you I thought!
” Efo Albert has gone mad! he came to the market wielding a sharp cutlass! See what he did to me! She choked on tears. He’ s back there now beating Tonton( sweetheart).”
I looked at her in disgust….. For some seconds I almost pitied her! this was the girl my brother had fallen for! Only for her to string him along and eventually Marry his father. Nobody knew this, even Efo Albert thought I didn’t know but he has the bad habit of talking in his sleep. I ignored her and ran faster, Efo Albert was beating Npa ( Father) almost to a pulp. The crowd was afraid of getting closer to him because of the cutlass.
” Awoooo, Awooo, Albert la wum! O la wum lo ooo” NPA screamed begging for mercy. He was almost naked now. I was scared too. I was scared of this Efo Albert, he’s nothing like the gentle and easy going Efo Albert that I know. I saw the chandamaries coming, somebody had gone to call them. I pushed through the crowd and edged closer.
” Efo Albert! Efo Albert” I shouted. ” The police men are coming! Let us leave here now!”
Efo Albert instantly let go of our father’ s almost lifeless body, he grabbed my hands, holding his cutlass with his left hand and we ran, the crowd parted for us like the red sea. We weaved our way through the narrow corners in the market. We ran towards the catholique mission church. Why are we not heading home? then it occurred to me that the policemen won’t think to look for a cutlass wielding young man in the church.