Zac 29:: Episode 1

Zac 29

Aaron Ansah-Agyeman


Episode 1

Zachariah was really unhappy on his birthday.

He had cried the whole morning. His heart was filled with pain. He had never been so miserable in his life.


Zachariah was twelve years old, and he was an orphan. He had lived in the Zongo Orphanage all his life. Mistress Ohenewaa, the Keeper of the Orphanage, always took great delight in telling Zachariah how he had been born.

“Stop your snivelling, you wimpy little fool.” she would scream at Zachariah with droplets of spittle flying from her mouth. “It’s no one’s fault that you were born on the twenty-ninth day of February. Why, it was a dreary day, I remember so well, with the rains hammering this building and the thunders smashing the skies.

The door of the orphanage flew open, and as I was going to close it, in stumbled the dirtiest, saddest little woman I ever laid eyes on. Her belly was fit to burst. She was pregnant. We carried her to the dining room and laid her on the table. Old cranky Mr. Boateng was the keeper then. She gave birth to you right there on the dining table. On the twenty-ninth of February, can you believe that?

The only leap-year child we’ve ever been cursed with in this orphanage. Mr. Boateng asked where she came from, but the only word she ever uttered was Zachariah. Poor soul, she passed on five days later without another word, and here you remained. And Mr. Boateng said your name will be Zachariah, and so it has been.”

Everybody called him Zac now.

Being born on 29th February, a leap year, meant that his birthday only came around once every four years.

This made Zac very sad indeed. Life in the orphanage was very hard. They ate only twice a day. They took porridge and bread in the morning and then ate supper in the late afternoon. Sometimes when people donated food to the orphanage, they would eat lunch, but it was not often.

They all knew that when food was donated to the orphanage Mistress Ohenewaa and the workers sold them at lower prices to market women and shared the money. As a result, the inmates at the orphanage were kept hungry.

Each year, inmates who celebrated their birthdays were given pastries, candies, and even toys by Mistress Ohenewaa. They also got to eat a bowl of rice and chicken twice a day and had a pair of new clothing.

Each year, every child in the orphanage enjoyed their birthdays. Only Zac was left out. Sometimes he pleaded with Mistress Ohenewaa to let him celebrate his birthday on the twenty-eighth of February, but she would only laugh at him or say hurtful words.

Some of the other inmates were sometimes mean to Zac. They made fun of him and teased him about being born in a leap year.

Kwaku Obi was nineteen years old. He was also an orphan, and he was a bully. He was muscular and strong and he always picked on the younger inmates. He bullied Zac the most and took great delight in making Zac’s life difficult.

Zac did not remember much of his birthday when he was four years old. His birthday had come around again when he was eight years old, and because Mr. Boateng had still been the Keeper, a party had been organised for him. He had really enjoyed it. Soon afterwards Mr. Boateng retired, and Mistress Ohenewaa was appointed the new Keeper.

Now it was  Zac’s twelfth birthday. He had been looking forward to it so much.

But then something terrible happened. On the dawn of his birthday, Mistress Ohenewaa called all of them to the Assembly Hall. They were fifty-three in number. She was holding a letter in her hand.


“Now listen, you lazy cocoons.” she snapped in an irritated voice. “This letter came a week ago. We’ve been invited to the National Museum. All the orphanages in the Metropolis are attending. The National President will be there for an inspection. The bus will be here in an hour. Get yourself ready. Wear your best clothes. Anybody who isn’t ready in thirty minutes will be left behind. Now snap to it.”

The inmates began shouting with joy. Being kept at the orphanage for so many months was terrible. They only went out when school reopened. Now it was vacation and they had been inside for two months. The greatest news they had had in a long while was an opportunity to go on a bus ride to the city.

All of them were excited … but Zac was not.

He was stunned.

It was his birthday. He had waited four years for it. If it passed he would have to wait until he was sixteen years before another 29th February came along.

Tears of anguish blinded him. He stumbled forward and stood in front of Mistress Ohenewaa. With her were two female staff and a security warden.

“And what’s the matter with you, you snivelling nincompoop?” she asked harshly.

“It’s my birthday today,” Zac said in a sad voice as tears fell unchecked down his face in torrents. “Are you going to let me celebrate it when we come back? Will I have my candies and bowls of rice and new clothing? I’ve waited four years for this day.”


Mistress Ohenewaa’s hand flew out and smacked Zac hard across his face. Zac fell down with the impact and began to wail.

“Get off my face and go and get dressed, you rat,” she screamed and stormed off.

The two staff laughed, the warden laughed, and some of the inmates laughed. None laughed louder than Kwaku Obi, who took hold of Zac’s right ankle and began dragging him across the floor, laughing loudly as Zac struggled feebly to free himself.

Kwaku Obi began to sing the birthday song for Zac with his own lyrics:

“Happy Birthday to you,

You were born in the zoo

With the monkeys and donkeys

You look like them too.”

“Hey, leave him alone.” cried a little girl called Araba.

She was ten years old and was one of Zac’s best friends.


She began hitting Kwaku with her towel.

Kwaku Obi dropped Zac’s leg and gave Araba a knock on her head.

She grunted with pain but did not cry.

“It’s okay, Zac,” she consoled him. “Please stop crying. Let’s go to the museum. Maybe something good will come out of it.”

That was why Zac was so unhappy on his birthday.

He sat beside Araba on the bus.


The journey to the museum took a long time. Kwaku Obi and his friends kept teasing Zac, and even though he tried not to cry, he was too sad and heartbroken, and his tears fell nonetheless.

There were other children from other orphanages at the museum. There was a short ceremony when they arrived. The National President of Orphanages spoke, and they were given pastries and drinks, and then taken on a tour around the museum by an old grey-haired man called Mr. Adokoh. He said he had worked at the museum for fifty years.

Soon Mr. Adokoh took them to a small musty room. It contained strange objects displayed behind glass containers.


“This room of magic has artefacts, charms and ancient objects that were once believed to hold magical powers.” Mr. Adokoh said.

He pointed to the first object. It was a green bottle with a tiny opening, but amazingly there was a huge stone inside it. Mr. Adokoh began to tell them what the strange bottle was, but Zac barely listened.

He was suddenly feeling so sick. His head ached terribly, and his tongue felt swollen.


Zac 29: Episode 2
My Klever Handwriting Buddy Series

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