Kujo Frimpong spent the first five minutes of every morning outdoors on his front porch. It was a habit of his, one that he had picked up not from his father or mother—for he had known neither, but from a high school Biology teacher. The teacher, Mr. Badu, had once declared during a class that early morning air would help you live well into your hundreds. By virtue of the man’s field of expertise, Kujo had taken the words of admonishment quite seriously for years. That was, of course, until news had come of Mr. Badu’s passing. Died at forty-three of lung cancer, the rumours said.
Pity, Kujo had thought upon hearing the news. Perhaps he really should have laid off those cigarettes.
Still, Kujo came out every dawn and, more often than not, found himself counting his blessings. Twenty-eight and still alive, that was something to be thankful for. Other than the occasional wrestle with genetic anemia, health-wise, everything was so far so good too. At his age, he was doing rather well for himself. The quintessentially suburban two-bedroom house he resided in was on a decent street; in line with several other quintessentially suburban two-bedroom houses. He had a car, a new (well, new-ish) Opel saloon that was gentle on his petrol budget. He had a good job—he was one of five assistant editors at a small but reputable publishing firm in the city. And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, he had a fiancée: a gorgeous, hips-that-swayed-like-a-pendulum, hair-that-sheened-like-velvet, fiancée who was currently snoring softly in his bed.
Kujo smiled. An urge to stare upon his fiancée overtook him quite suddenly. This was not out of the ordinary. He was often inspired to gaze upon the woman he was to marry when she was sleeping. Kujo believed that she was most beautiful in her sleep. His friends did not disagree. “She is the most beautiful when she is asleep,” they often laughed, “because it is the only time that she is keeping her mouth shut.” Kujo only shrugged their jeering off. His fiancée’s was a unique soul, he always said. They wouldn’t understand. “Sure, sure,” they chuckled, and guzzled down their beers. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
Feeling his nostrils going numb now from all the frigid air, Kujo returned inside and headed for the master bedroom. As he stepped into the room, his eyes fell upon the half naked body of Kesewaa Wiredu on the mattress.
Ah, Kujo sighed. What a daughter of Eve.
Even in the dim lamplight, Kujo could make out the contours of his fiancée’s shapely frame beneath the cotton sheets; the subtle rise and falls of her ample chest. Her long, lustrous hair was spread out rather evenly on all sides of her head, framing her face like a halo. Full, perpetually moist lips were partly open, providing a sneak peek to her small, milk colored teeth. Her skin was dark chocolate, and it gleamed softly even despite the insufficient light. Kesewaa might as well have been a recently materialized angel, and Kujo would have been none the wiser.
Sitting in a chair right opposite the bed, he watched her sleep for a couple of minutes. Somehow she must have sensed his stare because it wasn’t very long before her sharp, cat-like eyes snapped open and she was staring right back at him.
“Kujo”, she said, her voice surprisingly crisp for someone who had just woken up.
“Yes, my love?”
“What are you doing?”
Kujo offered a weak smile. “I was going to fry some eggs for breakfast. Do you want any while I’m at it? I know you like onions in your omelets.”
”What have I told you about staring at me without my make-up on?”
“That your mother told you it can turn you ugly,” responded the man who, once upon a time, had been sure his fiancée meant the statement as a joke. “You’re beautiful with or without make-up, Kesewaa. You’re beautiful just the way you are.”
The woman kissed her teeth so hard, it was possible that the whole neighborhood had heard her. “Please, I beg you, park. Does this look like a motivational seminar to you?” She kissed her teeth again, rolled over and buried herself beneath the blankets.
Kujo smiled and rose to leave. ‘Park’ was what she snapped at him every time she wanted him to stop talking and go away. It worked fairly effectively.
Slinking into the bathroom, Kujo turned some of the unwanted attention on himself. He examined his face in the mirror: the eyes still crusty with sleep, the oily nose, the puffed up lips, and cringed. He always looked terrible after a night’s sleep. Semi-consciously, his fingers moved to stroke the patchy, poorly kempt beard forming over his chin and jaws. Not for the first time, he wondered why he had allowed Kesewaa to talk him into growing it. She insisted daily that the beard would fill in eventually, but the past six-month attempt had began planting doubts in his head. And anyway, it looked atrocious. Often, at work or at the shops, he would spot some disheveled looking vagrant staring right at him and wonder if he had any change to spare. It usually took a good five seconds for Kujo to realize he was staring into a mirror.
With a sigh, he brushed his teeth and took his bath. Kesewaa was still buried beneath the sheets when he returned to dress for work.
“I’ll leave your eggs in the microwave, okay?” he said, applying a few last tugs to his tie.
She was either asleep or ignoring him.
The kitchen was by far the nicest corner of the house. It shared some space with the living room, but what it lacked in size, it more than made up for in style. The counters were black granite, and the cabinets were maple. Stainless steel gleamed in place of everything else, and when a person stood in that space, they had the sneaking suspicion that this was where gods came to cook. This had not been Kujo’s choice. Apparently, the house had previously been owned by a caterer who liked her workspace to have class. Kujo had not moved into the house a cooking man, but the granite counters had called to him. Now, he was a cooking man…if you called frying eggs cooking.
Ato was sitting at the kitchen island, hunched concentratedly over several large sheets of paper, when Kujo walked in. “Morning, morning,” Kujo greeted cheerily. “You’re up earlier that usual, aren’t you?
Ato mumbled something incoherent.
Kujo noticed the paint splattered all over the counters and kitchen floor. “Another project?” he guessed as he grabbed two eggs from the refrigerator.
“What does it look like?” Ato snapped under his breath. Like his sister, he was a world of charm in the morning.
“What are you painting this time?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
Ato looked up, his countenance grim. “I never know. Art is the expression of the heart…the soul. Haven’t I already told you that?”
“I do not know what secrets my genius has to share with the world.” His lashes fluttered dramatically as he talked. “This cold, cruel world.”
“It is rather cold out this morning,” Kujo admitted.
“My art should feed the world,” the artist sighed, his eyes fixating on something in the air only he could see. “I am like a mother, guiding my nipples, overflowing with sweet milk, into the mouths of those starving for truth. Kujo, are you starving for spiritual food? Would you feed on the nipples of truth?”
“I’m having eggs, but thank you.”
“You can never be too full for truth,” Ato said, waving his brush about like a wand.
Kujo smiled and broke his eggs into a heated pan.
“You remember that gorgeous painting you received a few years back?”
Kujo just stared.
“The one of the woman at the river?”
“The one you gave me?” Kujo flipped his eggs. “Yes, I remember.”
“It was a masterpiece. Of course you remember it.”
“It’s hanging in the sitting room. I can see it from here.”
“It left its impression on your heart,” Ato insisted. “It burned its message into your soul.”
“It’s a painting of a village girl with abnormally proportioned breasts. The message wasn’t very complicated.”
Indeed, the artist’s works did seem habitually focused on unusually endowed, rural bred girls.
Ato nibbled thoughtfully on the end of his brush as Kujo packed his breakfast into a bag.
“Today,” Kujo said, “you should try something different, something new.”
“It doesn’t have to be a permanent change in style. Just something to test your range. Get your creative juices flowing.”
Nibble, nibble, nibble. “You mean like city girls?”
“Or something else.”
Ato stared at him as though he had suggested chewing bricks.
“You’ll think of something,” said Kujo quickly. “Where is Yaw by the way? Is he awake too?”
Ato waved lazily in the direction of the living room before returning attention to his empty canvas.
Yaw, Ato’s twin brother, was sprawled out atop the living room couch, his mouth hanging open, possibly to trap flies. He wasn’t snoring but there was so much drool dripping down the side of his face, Kujo found it a wonder he hadn’t drowned yet. He was cuddling his guitar, which made Kujo think he had probably fallen asleep composing something. Like a button nose and spindly fingers, Yaw shared his brother’s love for the arts.
Yaw was an aspiring lyricist and musician. His genre of choice was reggae (or at least that was what he called what he played). He wasn’t very good on his guitar but he knew three basic chords and according to him, that was all he needed. His signature pattern of song was two rhyming verses and an endless harmonization of ‘oh, na na na nah’ at the end. This had sparked auditory miracles such as:
I lost my heart to love, To an angel sent from above, oh na na na nah
Why do you dash our hopes like biscuits, when we have trusted you and risked it, oh na na na nah
And of course Kujo’s personal favorite:
Our government only lies, cheats and steals. They can burn in hell, oh na na na nah
To be fair, Yaw tried to keep his music ‘legitimately reggae’ by throwing in the words “revolution”, “freedom” and “ganja” randomly and without warning mid-song. It took a bit of time for Kujo to explain to his poor neighbors that the sounds they were hearing on a regular were not the sounds of tortured felines, but really were the beginnings of the upcoming smash hit ‘Hot, reggae, pimpin’ (Oh na na na nah).
Kujo tapped gently on the younger man’s shoulder. “Yaw?”
It took a while, but Yaw finally slit open an eye to glare at the irritant hovering above him. “Hmph. The world had better be ending.”
“Good morning to you too. I thought maybe you’d like to move to your room?”
“Eh? Why the bloody hell would I want to do that?”
Ato laughed loudly behind them.
“Because,” said Kujo, “it’s morning, you’re in the living room, and your boxers are revealing far more than I wanted to start my day with.”
Yaw lifted his head just enough to glance down his torso. He grunted, adjusted his underwear and curled into the fetal position. “Are you happy now?”
“Did you finish your new song?”
“Massa, massa, it’s none of your business. Don’t you have work to go to? Reading books or whatever nonsense it is you do at that office?”
Kujo scratched his head. “I was only asking. Kesewaa told me you were going to meet up with some big producer in town and I wanted to congratulate you.”
“Who? Papa Zonto?” Yaw kissed his teeth, sounding remarkably like his sister in that moment. “Nah, that deal is off. The man is a fool—a conceited rat of a bastard.”
“He didn’t like your songs?”
“The idiot didn’t even get to hear them. Just because I winked at his girlfriend. I tell you, these days people take things too personal.”
“Too personal!” Ato echoed from the back.
Kujo blinked. “You winked at his girlfriend?”
“She was smiling at me, what was I supposed to do? Man, you should have seen her. Those legs! Eh! What are golden thighs? I swear, when God made some women, he was just showing off.” Yaw was fully awake now, and his head shook in wonderment as he relived the memory.
Kujo’s sigh was long and deep. “I should forget about you and your brother moving out any time soon then?”
Ato‘s laugh came from behind them again, louder this time.
“Oh boss, you rush too much. Do you know you rush too much?” Yaw chuckled breathily. “You’re trying to sack your own brothers-in-law? Who does that? Is that your lifestyle?”
“Oh no, no. It’s just that…well, you two have been here for so long now…”
“What? Please, how long has it been? Six months? Seven months?”
“It’s been three years.”
“Has it?” Yaw feigned surprise. “Time flies when you’re with family eh?”
“I don’t think that’s how the saying goes. Look,” Kujo could feel a headache coming on. “I’m not trying to pressure you or anything. I just think that Kesewaa and I might be getting married soon and…why are you snickering?”
“Eh? Oh nothing, nothing. Continue.”
Kujo narrowed his eyes. “Like I was saying, when your sister and I finally get married, we might want to…you’re laughing again. Is there something on my face?”
“My friend, just go to work, okay? We’ll move out of your house as soon as we can”
“You’ve been saying that for three years.”
Yaw sat up now. “Success is like a woman, Kujo. You don’t go chasing after her anyhow oh! You tease her gently and let her come to you. Just be patient. Success is going to find me herself.”
“You’ve been saying that for three years too.”
Yaw curled up again and turned away. “Go to work.”
Shaking his head, Kujo headed for the door.
“Oh, and Kujo.”
“Get me some kebab on your way back okay?”
The door closed firmly behind him.