SOMEWHERE IN MADINA
As Effe leaves the residential area behind she looks into the driving-mirror at her son.
So, my sweet boy, where are we going exactly?
Effe looks surprised. She glances at him again and sees he is almost crouched on the seat and clutching his blue piggy bank because he is too excited.
Didi’s? The fast foot joint?
Effe shakes her head with confusion.
But they stopped selling food. There’s a FOR SALE sign on it.
I know! Didi’s stopped working because when they opened that new giant restaurant down the street people stopped going to Didi’s.
So why are we going to Didi’s? Or you want us to go to the new restaurant, TASTE BUDS?
Nooooo! TASTE BUDS food is hoooooooorible! It made me pooooopoooo the whole night!
And that is when Chris’ laugh fills the car. It is that laugh which has captivated Effe’s heart in the past so much. It is rich, it is deep, it is from within him. It lights up his face and dimples his cheeks, and transforms that handsome face into something of ethereal origins. It is a laugh Effe hasn’t heard in a very long while, and as short as it is, she is greatly surprised when it brings sudden tears to her eyes. Sometimes, when Junior is very happy, he laughs like that, but his voice is yet to attain that bass quality his father has, and always that laugh from her son brings a lump of remembrance to Effe’s heart.
She turns her head and looks at Chris, but his head is on the headrest and his eyes are closed, and he does not see her looking at him. Junior pops his head forward again, sees his father’s happily shining face, and then he sits back and grins wolfishly.
When they get to DIDI’S Effe parks in the now abandoned car park. There had been a time when there had been cars on that car park almost constantly. DIDI’S had been one of the best food joints. However, a little over a year ago, a super food joint called TASTE BUDS had opened just across the street from DIDI’S, and with its offer of spicy continental, Asian and Italian cuisines, it had slowly strangled DIDI’S and put them out of operation.
There is a white KIA Sportage parked in front of the abandoned food joint. The wooden structure that forms DIDI’S is still standing intact, though.
It is huge, and has a functioning kitchen, an interior eating space, an external veranda eating space, and even a semi-circular drive-through.
There had been a huge FOR SALE/RENT placard in its front glass window, but it is gone now. Effe turns to Junior, still looking confused.
Well, here we are, my love. What now?
Junior cranes his neck, looking at the abandoned structure.
Well, can I please use your phone, Mommy?
(raising her eyebrows)
Who are you calling, dear?
Junior scratches his head.
Well, the other day, when we were coming from Abel’s birthday party, you remember?
Yes, I remember very well. What happened?
(with a big sigh)
You remember there were a lot of cars here, on this road?
Yes, I remember. There was a terrible traffic jam. There was an accident on the road. And?
Aha. See. I saw the sign in the store that they’re selling this place? So because there was traffic, I wrote the number down in my jotter. Then, on Daddy’s birthday, in the evening, I used the phone you gave me to call the number.
Chris is now fully erect and looking back at his son. Effe is watching her son too, and she feels a coldness spreading over her. She can understand where the conversation is going, and it chills her to the very core.
Champ. What happened?
Junior starts to speak again, but just then the main glass doors of DIDI’S flies open, and a smartly-dressed elderly woman of around sixty years comes out. She is in black trousers and a blue top, and her hair is iron grey and tied back in a homely bun.
With a cry of joy Junior opens his door and bounds out, running towards the woman, holding out his piggy bank. Effe and Chris exchange startled looks, and then they both get out of the car hurriedly.
The woman, now holding the piggy bank Junior has given her, notices them and begins to meet them with a huge smile on her face, and tears glistening in her eyes. She stretches out her hand to Chris first.
Hello, I’m Didi. And you must be Chris, and you Effe.
Chris shakes the woman’s hand.
Yes, I am, Ma’am. Glad to make your acquaintance. Quite frankly I’m a bit in the woods here.
Madam Didi laughs and wipes traces of tears from her eyes.
Well, then let me explain. I used to run this place. I own it, I must say. Now my daughter in the UK wants me to join her permanently, and I’ll be leaving in a month’s time, and so I put this place up for sale. I must say I had a lot of offers, but the money just wasn’t right, if you know what I mean. Well, a couple of days ago I received a call from a brave young boy who told me his father just came out from prison and has no work, but his father knows how to cook now, and he saw the place is up for sale, and so he wants to buy it for his father!
Effe’s mouth falls open and she stares at Junior who is now looking down at his feet and swinging both arms in wide arcs in obvious discomfiture.
Well, Madam Didi, we’re terribly sorry. We didn’t know he was bringing us here. He said he had a surprise for his father and so we came. I’m terribly sorry. Please forgive us for wasting your time.
Madam Didi laughs and then she puts an arm around Junior’s shoulder.
Oh, you have a wonderful boy here! I’m so very impressed with him. I told him he would need a lot of money to buy this place, and he told me he will buy it because if he doesn’t his father would go and fight Goju and he might get hurt. And so he promised me he has a piggy bank filled with a lot of money which can buy the place, and so I said okay, bring the piggy bank and your father and let’s negotiate!
They all laugh, and Chris moves forward, looking at his son with wonder. He bends low and puts a loving hand on his son’s right cheek.
Thank you, Champ. I appreciate what you tried to do very much.
Once again, our sincerest apologies, Madam Bibi. Now, if you don’t mind, we’ll leave now. We wouldn’t bother you any longer.
Well, it is a deal then. I mean, I’m leaving Ghana in a month, and I’ve settled all my financial obligations to my creditors and my family. I love this place, and I want it to be filled with love and hope, and no love comes bigger than a child’s love for his father, and no hope comes bigger than a man who has lost it all and come back from prison to start life afresh! So yes, this place is sold to Mr. Chris Bawa Junior, for one piggy bank full of money!
(stunned, eyes bulging)
Oh! You mean it? You’re really really really giving it to my Daddy?
There are tears in Madam Bibi’s eyes as she pulls Junior close and hugs him.
Oh, yes, my dearest boy! Oh, you’re such a special boy!
YAPPITY YAPPITY YIPPPEEEEE!!
He throws his arms around Madam Bibi and hugs her tightly.
Effe is touching her lips with a trembling hand as she looks at Junior and at Chris. There are tears in her eyes.
Chris is shaking his head sadly. He drops to his right knee and looks earnestly at Junior.
Champ, listen up! When I learnt how to cook from my prison pal, I was learning to cook for you and Mommy at home alone, okay? I am so touched by this gesture, my son, and I love your golden heart, but I’m not a chef, Champ. I’m a fighter, a Goju Warrior. I’ll never cook. How can I work in a kitchen, cooking for a living? No. Not me!
Junior’s face suddenly crumbles. The happiness vanishes, and his face is an epitome of dejected despair.
Effe stands beside her son and puts an arm around his neck.
My Prince, what you have done is really amazing! It’s the most amazing show of love I’ve ever seen a child make, but we must also think of Aunty Didi. I don’t think what’s in the piggy bank alone can pay for this place.
Madam Didi walks forward rapidly and stands by Chris’ side.
Oh, you guys, come on! I don’t really need the money. I’m going uptown to join my daughter, remember? I would’ve given it out freely, but this boy’s act has touched my heart so much. Surely, if any business has such a foundation of pure love, then it is bound to succeed. Mr. Bawa, please, listen to your son.
But Daddy, I really really really don’t want you to fight Goju. I’ve been having dreams sometimes, and in my dreams I see that you’re hurt very very very bad, with blood all over your face. I really really really don’t want you to fight, Daddy. I don’t want to see you that hurt, please. You can cook and your food is very sweet. You will have many customers because your food is the best. Your food is nice, even nicer than Mommy’s!
Oh, thank you very much, young man! From now on you’ll cook your own food!
Madam Didi laughs, and Junior looks at his mother with sudden chagrin.
Oh, Mommy, Junior didn’t mean to be ungrateful!
Effe puts her arms around him and hugs him hard.
Oh, shush, my precious. I’m not angry. Just pulling your legs. You know what? I agree with you. I’ll pay whatever difference Madam Didi wants for the place. You just have to convince your father.
How many times do I need to tell you folks I’ll only take the piggy bank and whatever is in it? It’s the best blessing I’ll ever receive! Mr. Bawa, you better not make your son sad! Doesn’t the tears he’s shedding bother you?
Chris gets to his feet and turns away, throwing his arms in the air with exasperation.
What’re you people talking about? I don’t belong to a kitchen! That’s a woman’s job!
To be continued