The Perfect Picture

by Kwabena Brako-Powers

Kofi snaked his way through the crowd towards the dais. The graduating gown hed on has swallowed his size. Or gave him a rugged look. He walked lazily as though an empty match box. The schools Great Hall seemed dead. A reeking pungent smell hung about the air. Plastic chairs have been arranged close to the original stuffing seats. Originally built to accommodate one thousand five hundred audiences, the hall is carrying inside of it three thousand audiences. The paint shows weary punctuated with lines of crack on the wall. It is giving up due to un-maintenance. The overall best graduating student is Kofi Opoku Mensah went the Emcees voice third in row. Kofi threw a gaze towards the dais. Hes ten steps away from the coveted prize.

He turned towards the crowd. He saw his mother standing bathed with tears. She flashed him a smile and reached for her blue handkerchief from her purse. Kofi violently shook his head. He rolled his eye towards Ama the kind that she will understand. The handkerchief was nowhere. Perhaps she dropped it while visiting the washroom some minutes ago. Torrent tears had begun raining on her. She moved a step forward and took her seat. Ama was by her mother. She stretched her hand volunteering her handkerchief which was in her left hand. Her grimace was locked on his brother. Maa take this. Maame Mansa raised her left hand to wipe the dripping tears. I will be fine. Other parents close exchanged sympathies with her. They have no clue what makes her cry. Their eyes seemed to be communicating something. Stop that. What is this? Dont disgrace your son. She clinched the handkerchief and soaked her tears in it.

Kofi Poku has not played guest to the nicest of life. While a student, hes been schooled by the ugly side of life. Coming from a poor home, hed no support from anyone. Was it not for the Governments Cocoa scholarship awarded to him for his performance in the high school exams, hed not have made it to that level. His father Opanyin Agyarko is a peasant farmer. A week to the last harvest, his farm and five others were set on fire by encroachers. It was rumored that the Fulani men were behind it. Nobody was arrested for the incident. The picture was clear. A decade of investment was gone. Opanyin Agyarkos life investment was gone. He resisted meal for two weeks mourning. He would cry when anybody pleaded he forgot the incident. Just forget it? he replies and then dive on the floor crying. The chief and people of Pesease mourned too. Not so much for the lost of the farm but rather the rampant nature of the attacks. A total of fifty-five farms have been smoked.

Excitement leaped within him when the news of Kofis scholarship was announced in the community. He fell on the ground this time again and dirtied himself when his son received the scholarship. He felt pained excitement dismembering him inside. Smile had eluded him often in dire moments but not this. At last theres a God who resides in the affairs of men. While in the university, Kofi kept some relationships close. He ranked his relations with Sampson whom he was seen as a junior brother of. He would protest silently with clinched teeth. During the last month of his final year, he went with Sampson to a friends party. Everyone who saw them asked Simpson if he were the elder to Kofi. Not wanting to offend him, Sampson would sprinkle a smile as if to say enough pal. Let it go. The duo exemplifies the two sides of life. Their lives stories represent the opposites of life. Sampson though from a fairly rich home admires Kofis intelligence and treated him as one of his own. My small brother he would refer to him. They will laugh and get to business.

The program ends in the next twenty minutes the Emcees voice echoed again. Kofi reached the rendezvous. He stood before the crowd and lifted his eye into the ceiling. He counted fifty soiled dots on the ceiling. He rolled his eyes back to the prize as if awaken by a sudden reality. His hand tucked behind him as responsible young men would do before their parents when summoned. He felt the gaze of the audiences rummaging his body. His legs wobbled under him.Why cant they be quick?

An usher clad in the universitys colors walked towards him wielding the prize. She chose her steps meticulously. Her high heel make a ta ta ta rhythm. The audience had grown jittery. It was obvious they were tired. A program designed to last two hours has ended up taking four and half hours. The drama performance took an hour a result of the poor sound quality caused by the old equipments. One woman whispered something to another sitting by her. Its small she replied. What have they packaged in the basket? continued the other woman. The usher stood three steps away from Kofi. The Vice-chancellor shoveled the Guest of Honor to do the presentation. He stood towering the crowd and the podium. The hall was quiet. A parent inched his plastic chair forward disrupting the peace. Others roared at him. Sorry she mouthed. The Guest had received the prize from the usher. Kofis eyes were with the prize. What could this be? For the past two years, the university has varied the prizes. Samuel Nyarko was given scholarship to the PhD level last two years. And Beatrice Naa Lamptey walked home with a GHC10, 000 prize. This year would be different. Nobody knows what it could be anyways.

Kofi stretched his left hand to reach the prize. He gave the Guest his right hand looking him in the eye. He didnt blink. The man smiled. Kofi crashed his teeth together as in battle. He retaliated back. The Emcee stood by the podium. This years recipient is walking away with Kofi fired a gaze at the Emcee after the exchange had taken place. One of the university staff motioned the Emcee closer. He whispered something to him. He nodded to what nobody knows and stretched his hand towards the audience.

Master Kofi Poku Mensah is walking home with the sum of GHC15, 000, the Emcee said. The hall was set on fire by applause from the audience. Some parents waved handkerchiefs, towels and the graduating brochure. Smile cracked Kofis cheeks towards the audience. The weight of victory ascended on him. Ama jumped in excitement. Maame Mansa was standing now. She looked better. The cheers from the crowd gained momentum. Hurray! HuRRAY! Went the shouts. Half genuine. Half jealous.

Kofi took to the high table to exchange handshakes with the Vice-chancellor and the Guests gathered. The journey is half won. However, he wonders the number of poor children who get to wear this big smile once in their life in a country like Ghana with so much injustice and dishonesty towards the deserving?

Opanyin Agyarko Mensah heaved the picture close. It was all excitement. My son is all perfect and set to take the good path. He heard a knock on the door. The unknown person drew closer throwing a grotesque silhouette onto the floor the kind of Kofi. He seemed small and skinny. He placed the picture in the album. He stole a second smile at the image before him and shook his head like a pendulum. All was perfect Kofi he thought. He reached to the door and flung it open.

There was nobody. Fear raked inside of him into panic. Whos there? he shouted. He turned himself in a Ghanaian Azonto fashion. His eyes were not playing pranks at him. There was nobody out here. The noise available were coming from the birds in the bush near and the community school signaling closing of the days business.

Reality enveloped him as he remembered his son. Kofi will not be back. Never. The accident that happened during the family outing had robbed him of his two children. Maame Mansas right leg has been amputated while he suffered some minor injuries. The taxi driver, Kofi and Ama didnt make it. He pushed shut the gate and made his way to the gravestones inside the compound where his children were buried. He stood there lost in thoughts of the impermanence of life.

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