…from yesterday’s picture post
“Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.” – Titus 2: 9-10
Île de Gorée, Senegal, 1756
Kofi woke with a split head in a room with more than twenty others. He knew them all. Dried blood, cracked bones, lacerated skin, swollen, putrid sores, and scabs had defeated unspoiled flesh. Kofi looked for his brother, Quaquo. Seeing him, he could not speak as he made to call out his name. Silent. Voiceless. The cell was still, save the occasional, sustained, shrieks and cries; invocations to their Gods and to their ancestors – their ancestor Gods.
Kofi’s father, Ganda, woke and scanned the cramped claustrophobia for his sons. He could not see them. He could not speak. His club was gone and with it, his link to the past and to his sons’ futures. Kofi would understand now. He knew that. Kofi could use the club now. He wanted to tell Kofi, because Kofi would understand, now, just as Quaquo had when his older brother, Eboe, Ganda’s first son had died.
Kofi swallowed hard and drew saliva into his mouth to lubricate his throat. He let the saliva rest between his distended, cracked, black lips and a bubble of blood rolled, past missing front teeth, down his chin on to his wounded thigh. He and Quaquo blew balls of spit when pole fishing by the creek that ran through the village. Quaquo’s fish were always bigger. Maybe, it was because he knew things that Kofi, then, still did not. Once, months before the rains, Quaquo had caught a Marico Barb; Kofi caught nothing. Kofi had wanted to catch a fish for his father; for his mother to boil in a stew. Kofi stayed by the creek ignoring Quaquo, waiting, and hoping, until the light had skulked behind the trees beyond the village. Ganda had sought him, seen him, and beaten him with the barren fishing rod. His father had asked him, ‘Why don’t you understand anything? I have told you and then told you again. So, tell me, why do you not listen to me? Do I not make any sense to you? Do you think that you know better than I do? You have seen nothing. You have been nowhere, but at you mother’s breasts. Why do you think you know more than me, Kofi? Kofi could not answer; the pain dulled his voice, but alerted every sense. He could hear the rod swish through the air, could sense the exact moment that each lash would strike him and where. Kofi could locate the pain before it struck. ‘I wanted to catch you a fish, so I could be a man, like you. I wanted to catch a fish for you, so that I could hold the club,’ he wanted to say.
His skin split and blood pushed towards the surface to protect him. ‘I wanted to catch you a fish, so I could be a man, like you. I wanted to catch a fish for you, so that I could hold the club. I wanted to help you and mummy and Quaquo, and Saybah’ he said.
Kofi didn’t know why he had thought of the fishing trip and Quaquo and Ganda, Saybah, and his mummy. He knew that he was alone and he knew that he needed to speak. He would speak when his voice returned. He could see Quaquo, but could not see Ganda. He tried to raise his hands, but they were tied with vines. Quaquo’s bound in metal in front of him. He saw his father. Ganda lay on the piss-stained, shit-swilled floor between them, blood oozing slowly and silently from a five-inch gash above and across his left eye. The eyeball, dislodged from the socket, limp on his cheekbone. His right eye closing, opening, staring, closed again. His spear-slashed side pumped blood onto the detritus. His body, once so lithe, now rigid. Motionless. Soundless. Expiration. Kofi tried, again to stand, tried to think, and tried to speak, but every action, every automatic response, failed him. He thought of sleep. He seldom slept. Sleep would help him now.