Zac 29: Episode 4

Zac 29 Episode 4

Mistress Ohenewaa would lock him up in the dormitory whilst all the others were out on the Adoption Parade, and she would warn him to remain absolutely quiet if he did not want to spend five nights in the Star Room.

This threat always made Zac stay very silent, even when he cried. This was because the Star Room was not really a star room; it was simply ‘rats’ spelt backwards, and it was an apt description because the room was dark and filled with rats.

It was located on the northern end of the compound. It had once been a storeroom, but it had gradually become dilapidated and abandoned.

The rats had taken over, and it was a nightmare to spend the night alone in there. There was no light, and it stank. There were stagnant pools of water on the floor, and it was quite close to the bamboo trees and the Wailing River, so close that the echoes of the river’s wails always seemed to be coming right out of the walls of the Star Room, as if a million ghostly voices were wailing within the walls.

Every orphan at the orphanage therefore was terrified of the Star Room.

Zac had spent some nights in the Star Room, and like all the others he had always screamed until the time Queen Ohenewaa released him.

The orphans who took part in the Adoption Parade had hope, at least, that they could be adopted and have a family to love them.

Zac, who had never been allowed to be a part of the parade, had resigned himself to the fact that he might probably spend all his years at the orphanage, and at the mercies of the cruel Queen Ohenewaa.

He continued his hard life at the orphanage, and little did he know that on the day Kwaku Obi’s fish trapped caught a snake, his life was going to take a very different course from what anybody could ever had imagined.

On that fateful Saturday, Zac and Bobo also set their fish traps, left them in the river attached to their poles, and went away to wash their clothes.

They spread their clothes on the grass to dry, held down by stones, as usual, and then they ran excitedly back to the river to check on their fish traps.

Most of the girls and boys were wading deep into the river to pick up their traps. Different coloured pieces of cloth were tied to the tips of the branches the children had attached their traps to; the colours helped each child to identify his pole.

Bobo pulled out his pole, and it came free. The sheer look of expectant joy on his face was replaced with sudden sadness when his mesh emerged empty.

Araba whooped from the banks of the river and clapped her hands.

“A fine fisherman you are, BB!” she called out.

“And a greedy, disappointed glutton you surely are, Miss!” Bobo shot right back.

Kwaku Obi passed them around that time because, rather unfortunately, he had staked his yellow-marked pole quite near their own.

Kwaku looked at Bobo’s empty mesh with a satisfied gloat and pulled up his pole. The wire mesh trap came up with the pole and trapped in it and wriggling quite nastily was a long, fat, green water snake.

Bobo, who was nearest to Kwaku, screamed shrilly.

The truth was, everybody else was screaming.

Mr. Tito had told them the water snakes were not venomous, but a snake was a snake, and it was always a scary reptile, especially one as huge and long as the one trapped inside Kwaku’s mesh.

Bobo, like many of the children, was running for the bank of the river. The snake’s head finally poked out of the opening of the mesh and as the rest of its body began to emerge Kwaku threw the pole away from him as far as it could go with a little scream of his own.

Only Zac did not scream because he wasn’t scared of snakes, and also he found the whole spectacle so funny that it was all he could do to stop himself from hollering aloud with glee.

He stood with the laughter trapped in his cheeks, causing them to puff out because he knew just how terrible Kwaku was when he was angry, and he did not want to incur the wrath of the older boy.

The sight of Kwaku screaming and throwing the snake away, together with his trap, was comical to behold, and many of the children who actually saw it all trembled with laughter held tightly within them.

No one dared to laugh at Kwaku Obi.

Zac could see that Kwaku was scared out of his wits. The bully was trembling violently, and his eyes were glazed over with fear and shock.

Zac exhaled the laughter through his lips, making sure his face was turned away from Kwaku, and slowly drew up his own pole.

When the wire mesh emerged, Zac saw that a big salmon was inside his trap.

With a cry of joy, he began to walk toward his friends, holding his mesh up high.

Araba clapped her hands with glee, her face completely radiant with joy.

“Ohhhhhhh! That’s a jolly big one, Zac!” she whooped.

“Oh, I love to see a glutton’s anticipations!” Bobo said with a little hint of jealousy in his voice.

His tummy betrayed him though, because it rumbled when he saw the fish, and he quickly forgot his fear of the snake and came forward to meet Zac.

“Oh, I can taste it already!” Bobo said excitedly. “I have the box of matches. Let’s go grill it, Zacky! I can smell its oily grilled scent and I can feel it melting inside my mouth already.”

Other children had gathered around and laughed at Bobo’s expectant mood.

“Now tell me, who loves to see a glutton’s anticipations, BB?” Araba teased him.

“Let’s all go and grill it!” Zac said to the other children. “Come along, a piece for everyone.”

With cries of happiness, the children of the orphanage ran to the expanse of green grass where their clothes were drying.

They erected the three huge stones that would hold the fire.

Araba took the fish to a bucket of water and a few minutes later she had it cleaned of scales and cut into several small parts. Bobo had the fire going with grass and twigs. They put the pieces of fish on a flat wire mesh and put it across the stones. Araba took a little brush and dipped it into a small jar containing a mixture of pepper, salt, root spices and oil. She coated the fish parts with the seasoning.

The children squatted around the grilling fish and chatted excitedly as they waited.

Presently Kwaku Obi emerged from the bamboo trees and approached them.

The sweet smell of the fish wafted in the air. The children, about twenty in number, were no longer chatting eagerly, but they were staring at the nicely grilled fish with an intensity of want that, still sitting around the fire, made it look as if they were worshipping the grilling fish.

They were that hungry!

Some were drooling slightly, and others were licking their dry lips in anticipation of tasting that fish.

Their hungry bellies were now responding to the scent of the salmon, and although it would not even come close to scratching their hunger, a taste was all that they were looking forward to.

That was why they looked at Kwaku Obi uneasily as he walked through them with a dark scowl. When he unwound a dirty scarf from around his neck, Bobo, at least, sensed what was coming, moved forward and stood between Kwaku and the fish.

“Oh, no, oh, no!” Bobo said, shaking his head and wagging a forefinger at Kwaku like a stern school headmistress.

Kwaku did not pause.

He shoved Bobo aside, wound the scarf around his right hand, stooped, and lifted the mesh with the sumptuous fish off the fire.

When he turned around twenty pairs of dark eyes bored into him.

He smirked darkly and began to walk away with the fish.

No one dared to stop him.

They turned and watched him go. Zac watched with low spirits as tears brimmed in the eyes of many of the children and spilt down their cheeks. He sighed heavily.

“He’s so bad!” Araba whispered, fighting back tears of her own.

“He’s not bad!” Bobo said, trembling with rage. “He’s so evil!”

Zac gave a shaky laugh.

“Come, on!” he said, striving to sound happy. “Another time we will have our salmon. The sun is going down, come, let’s gather our clothes. It’s alright, dinner will be ready by the time we get back to the orphanage.”

“Dinner?” Bobo asked morosely as he wiped tears savagely from his cheeks. “You mean that pepper-laden soup and corn-paste balls? That’s no dinner! That’s just a laxative!”

The children began to laugh at Bobo’s fierce description of their dinner.

By the time they had packed their clothes into their sacks, they had all but forgotten about how Kwaku Obi had robbed them of a tasty morsel of hot salmon on a really tiring Saturday evening.


Zac 29: Episode 5
Zac 29: Episode 3

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