On a dust-tainted morning filled with the clamour for Hajia Kande's wakye, between the old and new towns on whose untarred streets straddled Zongo, where a green moon-and-star minaret leaned into the blue sky and the bell to a white cathedral hung with a silent peal, in a corner among the walls washed bare by rain and fingered with shito-stained hands, a long bench sat knocked into the ground with roots of sticks, nails, and the buttocks of Swade and his three friends.
"I said it before, but none of you took heed," Nii was saying with deep furrows in his brows, gesticulating, "the pattern had already been set before it came to the fore. Every government that wins the people's mandate already has a myopic view of development, not to mention the riffraff who masquerade about with the dismantled boulders on their failing shoulders they call heads. It never happened..."
"My friend comot for there," Notin cut in, throwing an arm in his face. "You nor know shit, ma broder. Make you give dem dema respect small. We all dey here wey dem come carry you go say you steal some bro en..."
"That was an attempt to tarnish my good image," Nii insisted."Not in a million years..."
"See this short man wey edey talk million years." Notin barked a laugh, pelting Swade with spit.
"That was a manner of speaking."
"Ibi, eyi, a manner of shitting. Me I dey talk you every day. We dey talk aa, make you no come here dey do 2no plus your brofosem. You dey learn computer fitting so make we do what?"
"It is called computer ana..."
"It is called Notin!"
"Notin! Notin! Notin!" Swade and Twitter chanted, and the bare-chested young man with heavy locks met their palms in high-fives.
"You lost long ago, Papa Nii," Swade said, "there was no way you were ever going to stand up against the Tyrese of GH!"
"You see the tin eh," Notin added, and Swade saw his eyes glisten with the palpable prospects of said declaration. The Rasta man wasted no time. "As Shaibu Wellington Abukari Edris, aka Swade Kramo, ska Swade Elba, talk dier, me, u for have me my Ten Ghana. No libi libi, no laba laba."
Notin licked his lips and rubbed his palms together with anticipation. He was watching Nii when Joe Twitter spoke.
"Today, you have recounted all of Swade's nickies, abi? All because he declared you winner of some fake battle. Shake my head," Joe finished, shaking his head.
The silence that descended on the companions was punctured by the cries of a child riding on his brother's back and the bleating calls of a goat fleeing an angry mob. Twitter's gilded chain sparkled in the high sun and the metal bracelet on his left arm gleamed with a silver sheen. Swade and Notin exchanged glances. They counted and, with a chortle that drowned the shuffling feet of the crowd, shouted, "Looooool." Joe waved away their taunts with the hand that held his smartphone. Pushing his shades over his nose with a middle finger, he slid the nameless phone into his baggy jeans before Swade could make a grab for it.
Papa Nii kissed his teeth and Swade turned to find him tucking the flailing bits of his white tee into a pair of neat Dockers pants. The scar over his left eye accentuated his frowning features; thick brows and a double chin, and a small nose that contrasted from his large ears.
He said, "You expect payment for raining insults on me? Tweaa. The cheap shit you smoke has, without doubt, been laced with dream-inspiring chemical compounds. Your points lacked logic, were incongruent, and suffered from a poverty of the basic foundations with which to make argument. Simply put, even if I were drank on pito and knocked senseless by a tractor, you could not beat me at this. Rasta, me, I will not give you Koomi." Nii flicked his tooth with a thumb to drive home his point. Swade turned to Notin and saw in his eyes, a glimpse of rage he had seen all too often. He wondered, though, how it was going to end this time.
"This dwarf dey see en body Tyrion Lannister Tyrion Lannister, eh? I suwear, I go break break your face like kpokpoi. Abi you know kpokpoi? Yeah, ebi so. Hurry up den give me money make I lef here koraa."
Papa Nii chuckled and bent down to arrange his khaki trousers over a pair of black-striped converse sneakers. Rising, he pocketed his hands and regarded Notin with a sideways glance. If Swade was worried about Notin been angry, he was bothered even more by the manner of Nii's arrogance. He had an attitude twice his size, and nothing and no one, not even his mother, would make him part with a pesewa he didn't wish to lend.
"I always tell you this, Notin," he said, one arm gesturing, "there are people who might cower at this ugly face you call angry, and there are those like me, who know shit when they see it, even one with braids. Me, I will not give you a pesewa."
"Ma broder, you dey make I dey vex come, I suwear. I no talk pesewa matter bia. Make you just give me my ten Ghana make I comot go make my head fine. I no dey want no kpa kpa kpa movement oh."
It was Joe Twitter's turn to take sides. "You ain't gonna do shit, Notin," he said with a dismissive glance. "The way Swade is always taking your side I won't be surprised if you bum each other."
"Oboy, you will watch your mouth," Swade said, shoving Twitter. "What sort of rubbish is this? The fact that you don't agree doesn't mean you should be making such insinuations. Imagine say the girls dey pass wey dem hear. Ah, what dat?"
Notin touched Swade's shoulder. "Make you relax, Swade. Ebi so den edey do for the army wey dem sack am so he figa say we all be like am. He go America go shoot shoot all the women finish den he turn for the men dema top. Dat be why dem fire am long time, without prejudice. Siasem!"
"My nigga, I was not dismissed."
"Oh, comot for there, fake ass GI Joe. Yu figa say we nor know or what?"
Notin faced Swade. "You no see say ridee Hajia Kande no dey do we fine for the wakye. Joe Twitter go shoot ein pikin."
Swade started. Notin nodded. Twitter looked away.
For a while, Swade believed such a revelation was enough reason to break his friend's head. They all knew Joe Twitter to be the Casanova, but to jeopardize their livelihoods in that manner was tantamount to treason regardless of what democratic regime was in place. In a fair world, there was bound to be an enquiry into what he would call, #WakyeGate. How one could be so wicked as to deprive his broke brothers of a healthy dose of this spicy pilgrimage, Swade could not wrap his mind around it. He now understood why Hajia Kande would no longer give him wakye on credit. Ah, this deported American with a fake accent!
"What has this got to do with anything," Nii said, not to be left alone. "Massa I go sound sound you for there, short man devil." Nii bristled, his eyes rounded. "You will slap who?" He said. "You, Notin, you will slap me. Oya, slap me, now," he threatened, bumping his head into Notin's shoulders. "Charley, dis atsupui dey see in body Tyrion Samurai, eh? I go kick am into Korle Lagoon bia." "Go on and kick me, disappointed Shasha Marley," Nii went on, pushing Notin till he fell on the bench.
Notin's thin shoulders heaved, his unfastened camouflage shorts falling to reveal more than a bit of pubic hair. His flabby lips were pursed in a frown. Swade's eyes slid from the clipped nose of his friend; a botched attempt at piercing, to the balding bulge of the Rasta man's forehead, down the sideburns that framed his long head and ended in a twisted goatee bedecked with beads. Papa Nii was all over him with his own clean shaven head and neat tee, spewing great vocabularies from below Notin's chest. Swade saw the hesitation in Notin's eyes like he had seen many times before.
It was said that short man Papa Nii, cousins with Notin, once knocked his taller relative senseless in a fight over wele. Swade had never believed it, though he'd also never seen Rasta go beyond his threats whenever Nii riled him. Seeing Notin's blazing eyes and frothing lips, Swade believed this would be the time to put all rumours to bed and set the records straight.
"Pop here, my broder," Notin said, looking down at the smaller man, "I dey see you family that be why I no dey want..." He didn't finish before Joe Twitter broke down laughing, fumbling with his glasses till he stumbled over his unbuckled boots. Swade fought to keep a straight face.
"Herh, Twitter Feed, ibi me you dey laugh so? Your mother!"
Swade was disgusted. "Ah, you too why, Notin? Why you for diss en mommy so?" Notin had no ear for him. "Massa, make you comot for there. Swaduna!"
"Your life no fresh, Notin," Swade said, pushing his shorts over his buttocks. "Small tin we dey play den you take am World Cup."
"Charley make we even leave this smoker sef," Papa Nii suggested, leading the way and then stopping. "This be all Swade en fault," Joe Twitter added, pulling at his large Beats by Dre earpiece and dusting his faded jeans.
"Massa, GI Joe, don't bring this shit for my top oo. Ah, wadat? Enobe true say he win Papa Nii?"
"He won who? My friend, stop the concert. How can a wee smoker stand up to me? Why, you think it is Mr Assless we dey do for here?" He kissed his teeth."Oh, why you dey talk of my ass so?"
"Massa, do you get ass," the short man retorted. "When we are talking ass matters, don't even gbele your mouth."
"At least, I get height. If you be man, you no go dey make some Rasta man wey eno make high sef dey win you for battle. Kelewele jaara like you!"
Swade turned to Twitter who was making a hashtag sign with his fingers. "As for you, I believe you are suffering from high degree hallucinations. You dey see tins, abi? Deported American!"
"My friend you go watch your mouth oo. Who you dey call deported American?"
"You no be deported American," Swade asked. "My nigga, stop deceiving yourself. Dem bounce you visa to South Africa no dey mean say everybody have your bad luck oo. Me I get woman for..."
"Massa, you don't have any woman for there," Nii cut in, dismissive.
"Massa what do you know, you short man?"
"Oh, leave there. You go America come enobe dog you bring?"
"The dog sef no dey fit bark," Swade added. "Lef am. You, how many friends you have for Facebook top, enobe we p3? Your colleague soldiers sef have disowned you. Dem see you for American embassy today, sniper go shoot dat your fat head, one time."
"You nor know say I get bullet proof vest, eh?"
Swade broke down laughing. "GI Joe," he said, "ebi condom you dey call bullet proof vest? Herh, this borga dey shock me."
"I dey shock sef, Swade," Nii said. "See am," said Twitter, "you dey believe Swade after he say Notin win the tin. I shock give you."
"Massa, enobe say Swade he talk am. I over the short man." Nii glowered at Notin.
"Just look at him. You over who?"
"Yes, make you pop me. You dey fit see my head sef, eh?" Notin licked his lips as he stood on his toes. "Short man, you sure say enobe clouds you dey watch, eh? You dey see person?"
"See, he thinks I can't see him. What rubbish!" Nii said, looking from Swade to Twitter. Notin put a hand over his head and made a sign. "Make you talk me how mache fingers I dey hold."
Nii kissed his teeth while Notin moved his hand behind his head to deceive his cousin, the once angry face now replaced with mischief.
"You dey do cheeew. Talk eh. How mache fingers I dey zuk?"
"See am, are you not holding up three fingers... now two?"
"Apuu, you no see Notin! Ibi twedie you see," Notin said, and with it, brushed his knuckles over Nii's shiny head.
Nii was onto Notin before he knew it, and the two fell to the ground in a lover's embrace. The blows rose and fell, and grunts and invectives played from their lips in muffled tones. "Make you no make this short man over you, Notin," Swade encouraged the Rasta man whose shorts were falling to his knees. Notin's braids covered his face like he were some black apparition wrestling with his short host, and losing miserably. "My nigga, Papa Nii, show him the size of the fight in the dog," Joe Twitter cheered.
Nii slipped through his brother's arms and caught him from behind. Notin's hands flailed to get a hold of Nii, but the short man was elusive. "Nonsense, nonsense," Nii said between breaths, catching his brother in the nook of his arm. He squeezed. "He... he go kill me... Big Man kill me," Notin stammerd his face contorted with pain. Swade and Twitter broke down laughing as the two struggled in the dirt. The mob passed by again with the captured goat high over their heads like a trophy. An old woman chewing kola came through with her walking stick, watched them, shook her head, and hawked red spittle into the dirt before limping away.
Only Notin's desperate taps on his dominator's choking arm roused Swade, and together with Twitter, they freed him from the death grip that was Papa Nii's arms. The Rasta man remained sprawled on the ground, his hairy chest rising and falling while he put a manicured hand to his neck. He was talking but nothing could be heard beyond the wheezing sound of his sharp breaths. The three friends lowered their heads as Swade hoped to hear an apology. He hoped to hear Notin declare, for the first time since they had been together, that he had been beaten at a fight by a man half his size.
"Ke... Ke... Ke," the beaten man suffered to say. "Eh, what you dey talk? You wan go Kekele park?" Swade asked, laughter bubbling at the back of his throat at what he perceived already. Notin continued to stammer, his eyes cast to the sky above. "Ke... ke... Kenkey... Kenkey."
Swade was beside himself with laughter, and he fell into the dirt while tears filmed his eyes. The Rasta man continued to beg for food, and Swade guffawed till he farted. Notin pinched his nose and lifted himself from the ground.
"Kwasia, ebi my face top you dey flush?" "E check like he want chop red red sef," Nii said. "Sorry...sorry..." Swade could hardly draw a breath as he laughed. Yet, over the rumble of their voices and the screeching sound of a speeding Chrysler, he heard the distinct fake American accent. "Jigga beaten so bad he got hungry. Laughing my ass off!" Joe took his nameless, spider webbed-screen smartphone and made a two-finger sign. They all posed and took a selfie with their fallen comrade, dust and fart and all.
In the distance, the muezzin's call to prayer came like a poke in his ribs. Swade climbed to his feet and buckled his shorts on his way to the tall minaret of the Abu Bakar Siddiq mosque, all the while, laughing his ass off.