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Welcome to MissKorang. I’m thrilled you’re here—because I have so much I want to share with you. I’m here to make a life out of what I love, and what I love is blogging. My writings are anything from fiction to real experiences to opinion.

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Tears of A crocodile and laughter of a Hyena IV

 Read previous episodes here


The news spread fast and far; the crocodiles were not immortal after all. They didn’t age and turn to droplets of water as was thought, they were kill-able; some new comers across the river had killed one of them and lived to see several more days. The birds carried the news to squirrels on the trees, the squirrels told the antelopes, the antelopes told the buffalo who told the jackal, who told Pem. She however was too preoccupied with hyena politics to bother about crocodile-killing beasts, she chuckled at the ridiculous news and went on with her life.

Cjon picked her dead babies, one after the other, and with each one, made a trip to Ghawa and tossed into the water. Better rot in the bowels of mighty Ghawa than be eaten by vultures, flies and other opportunistic scavengers. Back in her den, she could not rest, the sight of Pem’s paws imprinted in her beloved Zinzim’s blood made her own blood boil. She called Cabuk and all her loyal followers and together they headed to Kasana, a desolate mountainous area in the East of Utanko. There they made their home. Cjon and her bandits threw every hunting rule to the wind and killed the young, the old, the strong, the frail, the pregnant and even babies. One day, Cabuk looked at Cjon and said, “let’s make babies, you were and still will be a great mother”. She replied, “not now dear Cabuk, not now; I am already pregnant with revenge”.

News of Cjon and her band of bandits reached Pem. She heard reports of how they had violated hunting laws and were causing the grass eating animals to disrespect her authority. Pem was distressed, she wanted everybody’s respect, especially the buffaloes; they were the cream of the herbivore society. As it stood, Cjon and her outlaws were making it impossible for Pem to compare her leadership to Babone’s, and this troubled Pem endlessly. One bright morning, she and her sons conferred and decided to extend an olive branch to Cjon. They sent a meeting request through the vultures, the response was positive, Cjon wanted to meet. This made Pem both hopeful and nervous.

The day of the meeting came and Pem, her sons and the strongest among her followers prepared to meet their archenemy. Before they set off, Sidfe decided it was too dangerous for Pem to go, she vehemently protested, but finally gave in and stayed behind. Edan, Sidfe and their followers set off to meet Cjon and her gang of outlaws.


King Kunti watched closely as a bask of crocodiles drowned two adult buffaloes drinking on the banks of the river and tore them into pieces in minutes. He admired their coordination in killing and eating, how they helped each other tear into tantalizing flesh by holding opposite sides of the prey and rolling over. He observed them swallowing chunks of meat in their feeding frenzy, bathing in red water, enriched by the red fluid of the life they just took. He whispered to Kusanda his wife, “these beasts are the only reason we cannot risk crossing the river to the island, they are ferocious. If we try, they will kill us all”. “I agree. We might as well stay here and hunt them, their flesh tastes good”, she replied. King Kunti licked his paws and eyed his wife, something about the crocodiles made him uneasy and his wife’s indifference about his unease annoyed him. “I don’t think we should hunt them, the one we killed and fed on was a stroke of luck. Those beats make me uneasy, I will not be hunting any of them anytime soon!”, King Kunti angrily retorted. “Is King Kunti, the proud lion, leader of a pride afraid of lizards with teeth? Who knew you were such a coward?” Kusanda mocked her husband, and with that response, strolled away from him towards the banks of the river.  Shortly, her sons Kumarti, Kusha, Kubo and her daughter Kaitu joined her. Together they stood at the banks of the river and patiently waited.


Mswavi, a  young adult male crocodile caught a whiff of carcass in the air and decided to investigate. He swam out of the water and strolled majestically, headed in the direction of the scent. Kusanda and her children watched in amazement as Mswavi went, they couldn’t believe their luck; the prey they awaited had left his sanctuary and had made their mission quite easy, or so they thought. When they got over the pleasant surprise, mother and children followed the crocodile. They attacked; it was coordinated, one they had used in several hunts and perfected over time, but they had never hunted an adult crocodile and thus were not prepared for the fight that ensued.

Mswavi lashed his fattened, powerful tail out, it landed squarely on Kumarti’s jaw, sending him tumbling several feet away. With powerful jaws wide open, he turned towards Kusanda, intimidating teeth bared and meant to injure, but Kusanda skillfully swerved and climbed on his back, making vain attempts of biting into his back. Another thrash of the tail sent Kusha hurling into the air and shook Kusanda off his back. Kaitu stood at a safe distance and watched, she was too unskilled to make any moves, she just waited patiently, hoping for the meal to be ready.

On and on the struggle continued, with crocodile giving lions the tail flogging of their life, and yet with each humiliating blow, the lions recovered and kept attacking. Alas the jaws of Mswavi caught Kumarti’s hind leg and severed it. Watching from a distance, King Kunti decided the embarrassment to his family was enough and joined the attack. It wasn’t long before he bit into the back of Mswavi’s head and forcefully turned him over, revealing his delicate undersides. Kusanda bit into his throat, snuffing the life out of the crocodile. Kaitu and the rest of the pride joined in, they tore into the soft skin of Mswavi’s belly and ate his organs as well as the fattened tail.


Themba watched the killing and desecration of Mswavi from the safety of the water, she blinked, tears watered her eye and she mused, “Our liver is supposed to be poison, why are these small waisted beasts making food of our poison?”.

Kumarti could not join the feast, try as he did. His severed leg bled profusely and no amount of prodding from his mother or encouragement from his siblings could get him to limp over to the carcass of the crocodile that took his leg. He laid  quietly under a tree and closed his eyes. In the wee hours of the night, Kumarti convulsed painfully and died.

To be continued.

©MissKorang. All rights reserved.





Read previous episodes here

The morning dawned bright and beautiful. The sun rose early and smiled, warmly and affectionately, bathing Utanko in rich, golden and glorious rays. The birds chirped happily and spread their wings in the sky, warming themselves in the golden rays of the sun. Butterflies perched atop blooming sunflowers and warmed their wings. The snakes came out too, stretched along pathways, fangs ready and alert, they too soaked the blessings of the sun. It was undeniably beautiful a day, but in the shadows cast by the sun, evil lurked.

The three cubs tingled with excitement when they saw Pem enter their den, they thought it was going to be a day of endless play and fun. A second look at Pem’s slow menacing walk, bared teeth and risen back hair caused them to instinctively back away and ran to the farthest corner of the den. The most brazen among the three, Yenyi, shielded his two sibblings, Laruzi and Zinzim, and prepared for the inevitable. Pem lunged at them; Yenyi was the first to go, his baby teeth and under-developed claws were no match for the jaws of many moons and many hunts; he didn’t even have time to howl for his mother, his death was swift and brutal, one bite to his throat and he was lifeless, his blood spilled into Pem’s mouth, his tongue came out. Pem flung his lifeless body across the den, spat his blood out and made for Laruzi and Zinzim.

Everybody knew Laruzi was a coward. She was afraid of her own shadow, she was afraid of the mice, she even feared the pieces of carcass their mother brought into the den. Today however was not one of her cowardly days, she did not intend to go down without fight; she let out the loudest howl, calling for Cjon to come home and save her and her brother. Then she and Zinzim made a run for it, with Pem at their heels, it was a frenzied chase in the den. Zinzim got cornered and strangled, unlike Yenyi his death was slow and painful. Pem stepped on his throat, and while he suffocated, she disemboweled him. With his heart still beating, Pem soaked her paws in his blood and marked the den with his blood, making paw shaped blood impressions all over the floor. This gave Larunzi the chance to make a beeline for the exit, but there, she ran into Sidfe and Edan who bit into her little back and left her for dead.

Cjon heard her babies’ call and ran to her den as fast as her legs could carry her. Cabuk followed closely. They didn’t get there early enough, Larunzi had only enough breathe in her to mutter, “Pem”, before closing her eyes forever.

Ey and Rosah perched atop a tree and watched the strange activity on the ground. Rosah chirped excitedly about ‘the big well’ and wondered how humans managed to stop Ghawa long enough to dig such a huge hole. Unlike Rosah, Ey was silent and sad, she knew what this was. “This isn’t a well Rosah, it is a dam”, Ey said, “it will only spell doom and damnation for those of us downstream; humans seem to love these dams, but they are not good for us animals”, she continued. “Don’t be so dramatic Ey, it is only a big hole, once these humans are done with their hole, they will leave and life will continue as usual”, Rosah responded. “Give it time young bird, you are about to learn a very difficult lesson about these two legged, furless, featherless enemies of nature. Babone was the exception, all humans are evil”, Ey responded. With that, the two birds headed home to Utanko.


Ghawa the mighty river slowly began to succumb partly to the forces of the harmattan and the dam upstream. The impregnable Ghawa, the Goddess that flowed eternally began to dry up. Thirsty animals from both sides of the river flocked to her to quench their thirst. The crocodiles took advantage and preyed on animals big and small, this was fattening season. Themba, the greatest and oldest amongst the crocodiles, took it upon herself to train the young ones on how to hunt; it made sense, after all this was their season of plentiful. The young ones were more than happy to oblige her, after all it was Themba, fearless, experienced, wise and old as a fossil. Among her eager students was the beautiful Mummin, Themba’s great-great-great granddaughter and Themba’s favorite.

One day Mummin saw a strange animal drinking from the river and decided to attack, she wanted to impress Themba and cement her position as the most intelligent student. She failed woefully, she was too naïve and weak for her chosen target, King Kunti himself; thus the predator became prey and targeted prey became the predator. King Kunti killed Mummin with the help of Kumarti his first son and Kusanda his wife, they dragged Mummin out of the water onto a nearby hill and tore into her flesh.

The notorious Kuntis had arrived and made their presence known by killing the non-killable.

Themba watched the killing of Mummin unfold from a safe distance, she was wise enough not to intervene, she didn’t live this long because of rash decisions; she knew a lost cause when she saw one. She however knew Mummin could fight back even in death and so she prayed, “Ghawa, giver of life, let these fiery haired, small waisted idiots, eat Mummin’s bile”.

Themba shed tears, but nobody knew for sure whether it was real tears or just the lubricating of a crocodile’s eye.


To be continued.

©MissKorang. All rights reserved.

Tears of a crocodile and laughter of a hyena- a tale of greed and hypocrisy (Part II)

The crocodile does not shed tears because it is sad, neither does the hyena laugh because it is happy.

Read the first part of the story here


Whispers of a humongous well being dug upstream began to circulate among the birds of the air. Rosah, a canary, notorious for exaggerating the most ordinary news into extraordinary bulletins was the first to bring the news to Utanko. She gathered her flying friends and said to them, “humans are digging a big well upstream, in the middle of Ghawa, close to the village of Barbag, the town of the fisher folk. They are using strange animals on four legs that move the earth with their movement and make loud, strange humming sounds. The well is so big that by the time they finish, Ghawa will stop flowing to our part; they are building a rock wall to stop Ghawa from flowing to Utanko, we are all going to die of thirst and hunger in the coming year!”.

But very few believed her, Ahq, the young melodious red factor canary rolled her eyes and resumed singing. Soli the young raven cheekily asked, “how much pepper did you eat today Rosah, your head must be spinning, given the way you are concocting stories”. Most of the birds present at the little gathering agreed this was a rather long tale; farfetched and ridiculous. To them Ghawa was too mighty a river whose flow even humans could not block. Ghawa was impregnable. Ey, the mother Raven was however slow to dismiss Rosah, the story rang a bell and when she noticed the fear and concern etched in Rosah’s brows, she reasoned there had to be some sort of truth behind her story.

Ey arranged for Soli, the beautiful, youthful and kind hearted raven to babysit her chicks. She and Rosah flew north towards the village of Barbag, she wanted to ascertain the truth for herself. It was a beautiful harmattan morning, the sun shone bright and yellow from its abode; flying over the forest, Ey couldn’t help but notice the beauty and splendor of Utanko, the place she had called home for so many years. The leaves on the trees were browning in response to the harmattan season, and occasionally, the trees would dance in unison to the winds. Vapor arose from the forest and formed a fog around the surrounding mountains, making visibility poor, the air humid and the flight dangerous. The two birds were however not deterred, each for their own reasons. Rosah wanted to prove a point but Ey had another reason, she wanted to see if this was the making of another man-made catastrophe, where humans tinker with nature for their selfish gain and leave animals to pay the price. Over mountains and forests and along the banks of mighty Ghawa they flew. Rosah chirped and chatted excitedly but Ey was quiet; she couldn’t shake the feeling of trepidation; she silently prayed in her heart, ‘God of the air please let not this thing Rosah speaks of be the making of a dam’.

With Babone gone, the hyenas ruled Utanko. They tried to keep everybody in check and ensured Utanko worked just as it had when Babone was there. Among the rulers however, there was neither unity nor peace. Three eldest hyenas each fancied themselves worthy of being the overall ruler, the ultimate, the king, to be worshipped and served, to be given the best part of a catch and to do nothing but rule. Pem, a matriarch with many children and grandchildren considered herself the best option by virtue of being a direct offspring of one of the original females brought to the island by Babone, royal blood flowed through her veins – a queen by birth. Cabuk , a patriarch, virile and proud thought himself suitable, after all he was male, testosterone flowed in his veins, he was father of many young hyenas, he was the rightful king. Cjon was a much younger, strong female. The hyena community loved her; she was a fearless, no nonsense personality, she had the young hyenas behind her. Cjon felt the leadership of Utanko should be hers, she had the energy and love for the job.

And thus the hyenas struggled for power among themselves. One fine evening, Pem and Cabuk got into an argument over a piece of buffalo carcass, before long, it escalated into a full blown physical fight and Cabuk took the beating of his life. He slid into his den to lick his bite wounds and nurse his sore balls – his precious balls had taken a deadly blow from Pem’s fore legs. The biggest wound though was the blow to his ego, Pem had embarrassed him to no end. As he nursed his wounds and balls, he cursed under his breath, “how dare that bitch! I will teach her an unforgettable lesson. I will declare my support for Cjon and together we will push her out”. He laughed ‘heeeeheeeheeehee’ not because he found the situation amusing, it was a warning to the younger hyenas in the den to leave him alone. And alone he was, hatching his plan and waiting for the crack of dawn to make his move.

Elsewhere, Pem called her sons Sidfe, Moa and Edan to a secret meeting and together hatched a deadly plan intended to drive Cjon from the cackle and ultimately kill her. Mother and sons unanimously agreed it was good plan, one that will benefit the peace of the entire Utanko, and so they spent the entire night going over the fine details of their plot.

On the far east side of Ghawa lay Udemma, a massive grassland, home to varied animals including the notorious pride of lions named The Kuntis led by King Kunti. Udemma had been hard hit by the harmattan and wildfires, causing many animals to die of thirst and others to migrate elsewhere. It was time for The Kuntis to migrate too, food had become scarce. King Kunti sat on his hind legs, raised his head, closed his eyes and sniffed the air for a good one minute. When he opened his eyes, he said, “I caught a whiff of male buffaloes, we go West”.

The notorious Kuntis headed westward, towards Ghawa, destined for Utanko.

To be continued.

©MissKorang. All rights reserved.

Tears of a Crocodile and Laughter of a Hyena- A tale of greed and hypocrisy (Part I)


Once upon a time, long, long ago, when animals and humans understood each other’s language, somewhere far, far away lay the beautiful Island of Utanko. The Island was surrounded by the mighty Ghawa river which flowed thousands and thousands of miles through ancient lands, serving varied and important purposes to all. To the inhabitants of these lands, Ghawa was a mother, some even said she was a goddess. Ghawa was adored and beloved by everyone she touched, she was a lot of things to a lot of lives. To the people of Barbag, she was the giver of fish; all kinds of fish. To the inhabitants of Ekoba she was irrigation and the giver of bumper harvests. To the warmongers of Sban, Ghawa was easy transportation and a safe hideout.

As the Ghawa flowed, she formed binding allegiances with other rivers, big and small. As she journeyed on, Ghawa became bigger, mightier and exceedingly powerful. Along her journey, she came across a beautiful, vast plateau and as she flowed around it, she nourished this plateau, now an island with her moisture and nutrients, she gave it a little bit of her spirit; to welcome, to love, to nurture and grow everyone who came by. She also left a few crocodiles at the base of the island to guard the land.

One day a gallant soldier from the warmongering tribe of Sban was found guilty of an attempted mutiny and banished from the tribe, his name was Babone. The lone soldier travelled many days and nights on a raft until he came upon the plateau left fertile by Ghawa, there he decided to settle. For many moons he planted trees on the land, Ghawa nourished the land even more; the trees grew big and tall and together formed a formidable forest. Next, Babone set traps on the banks of the river and caught animals of all kinds who came there to quench their thirst. He caught antelopes, deer, squirrels, buffaloes, hyenas and many more. But try as he did he could never catch a lion or a tiger, so he made do with the hyenas as the top predators. In the absence of a lion, the hyenas reigned supreme. The animals grew and multiplied. Soon the forest teemed with animals of all kinds. Birds of the air needed no invitation, they flew in by themselves. Babone called the island Utanko, one word with varied meanings in the Sban language. Utanko, exceptional. Utanko, unique. Utanko, success. Utanko, hospitable. Utanko, unbeatable.

Utanko, the island of a lone soldier and many animals flourished for many, many years. Ghawa was proud, she gave the island her best. Rain fell in due season, causing Ghawa to swell and sweep bare lands, but she never overflowed her banks where Utanko her beloved Island was. In due season, the sun smiled from its abode, high up in the skies.

Nature balanced out perfectly. Life was ordered, the ants and termites swept the forest floors, squirrels ate nuts and left their seeds on the ground to germinate, grow and bear more fruits. Even subconscious agriculture flourished. And the hyenas, they ruled; fresh meat was in ever constant supply. When they made a catch, nature became red in tooth and claw. As they ate in groups, they laughed amongst themselves; high pitched rapid series of monosyllabic “hee-heee-heee” sounds. Who wouldn’t laugh when there is abundance of fresh meat and tasty blood?

The lone soldier, Babone, became old and frail. When time came for him to join his ancestors, he bid the Island farewell; all the animals on the Island were sad to see him go, to them, he was the grandfather of their beautiful home. Babone got on a boat; he hoped to float on Ghawa and gaze at nature’s wonder and splendor and die peacefully. His wish was never to come true. Just as he begun rowing away from the river banks, the crocodiles ganged up and overturned his boat, then they drowned him and tore him into pieces. It was a feeding frenzy! Everyone wanted in on the action; who knew soldier flesh was so palatable? As they swallowed chunks of Babone’s flesh, tears fell from their eyes. The crocodiles wept.

Somewhere near the banks of Ghawa, a mother raven and her chicks perched atop a chestnut oak and watched the crocodiles. The mother raven cawed, she croaked, she screeched and she cried. She knew she had just witnessed an abomination. She was sad and felt trapped; trapped because her chicks were not old enough to fly away with her. She thought to herself, “alas Ghawa has cursed Utanko”.

To be continued.
©MissKorang. All rights reserved.

I am my Mama’s Daughter, I am not my Mama



I have a vivid picture of my mother in my mind, maybe even in my heart; a steely black woman going about her daily chores, a slight frown on her face that leaves a permanent furrow between her eyebrows. She has on a long, worn floral dress that reaches her ankles; this dress tells a story of its own, stories told by numerous stains and patches. She has on black flip flops, also patched. Her short brown hair is in a messy ponytail, held together by a purple scrunchy. Her nails are cut short and kept tidy, mom has not time for pedicures and what-have-yous. As she works she sings cheerfully, it’s her favorite song that goes like “make good choices and be honest, you’ll reap the benefits on life’s road ahead”. I love to hear her sing, not on account of her voice or even the song, it keeps her in a good mood which is good for everybody.

You see, when mom isn’t singing she’s most likely to talk to herself, and these monologues are usually an argument of some sort that leaves her agitated for whatever reason. That agitation also implies physical and verbal abuse for any child who dares cross her and that child is very much likely to be me, so yes, mom please keep singing.

Mom is cooking beans and fried plantain for breakfast; yes, breakfast on Saturday better be heavy because we have work to do. I am summoned to fan the coal pot which I obediently oblige. My elder sister fries the plantain. Soon breakfast is served and all five children are called to pick our plates, laden with beans, palm oil and plantain.

With full tummies we follow her to the farm. Each in an oversize wellington boot dad brought mom from his work – the mining company. Yes, mama is a subsistence farmer and daddy is a hotshot in a reputable mining company.

We grow most of what we eat and buy only what we can’t grow. The rains have failed us this season so the girls fetch water from a nearby stream to water the vegetables, okra, garden eggs and pepper. The boys pull out weeds growing amongst our precious vegetables. Mama hurriedly clears a weedy area and makes mounds in readiness to plant yam as soon as the rains fall. Then she harvests plantain and cassava, cuts and binds five bundles of dead wood – one for each child. We need firewood to supplement charcoal. Charcoal is expensive, we cannot afford to depend on it solely.

By sundown we march on home. Mom has a large basin filled with plantain, cassava and other assortments on her head. We follow with our burdens of firewood.

Back home we set our load down and my stiff necks lets me know it doesn’t appreciate overload, so I complain: “mom my load was too heavy, my neck is stiff”. The response: “shut your big mouth and get your fat cheeks and ugly face the hell out of my sight”. Need I tell you she isn’t singing anymore?

We eat a hearty supper of boiled yam and left over palm nut soup. It is delicious, i love it. Well I’ll be honest, I love food, period.

Before she bathes, she feeds and waters the sheep – sheep my daddy keeps as a hobby, then cleans their pen. She takes delivery of a barrel of palm oil and painstakingly measures it into gallons and returns the barrel to its owner. Tomorrow, she will call her customers to come get the gallons of oil.

We all bath and my siblings and I retire indoors. I can still hear mom’s footsteps in the corridor, she’s probably setting things in motion for tomorrow. Finally, the lantern on the lamp post dims and I hear mom’s door shut and the click of her lock. She is finally going to get some sleep, hopefully.

As I lay on my mat, my twelve-year-old mind began to wonder, why does she work so damn hard? Why can’t daddy be here? Why did she accept to move into this house and neighborhood with no electricity? Why does she talk to herself? Why is she always so angry? Could she just speak up and not be so afraid of daddy?

Thence my resolve; I will never be like you mom. I will use my voice. I will be strong. I will cower before no man. The one who marries me better be present or forget it.

And yet two decades and some later, here I am. Married and single parenting three children for a myriad of reasons.

Did I become my mom after all?

A Snake, a Tree and a Daughter of Eve


It is mother’s day today and as we do every Sunday, my children and I went to Church. Service was amazing, the sermon was electrifying and uplifting, and, of course dedicated to all women in the church. Despite the ban on noise making, we still managed to sing and dance heartily. The men prayed all sorts of prayer for us. I had a good time at church today. The fact that my younger sister was on hand to help with the kids is not lost on me. Happy mother’s day to me.

Back home I call my Mama. “Happy mother’s day Mama. I pray you live long and enjoy the fruits of your labor”.  “Thank you my daughter, I also pray you and your siblings live long and prosper beyond my wildest dreams. I want you all to be happy which is why I was always so determined to beat the odds and give you a good start”. I ask about my daddy, we talk a little more and say our goodbyes.

 Later in the day I get a couple hours of solitude as my children nap and I find myself reflecting on my phone conversation with Mama. I know all about that “determination to beat the odds”, oh yes I do. I have so many memories of Mama bending over backwards for her children; some of them stick out like a sore thumb.

 Let me take you on a journey to Soldier Line, a suburb of  Nkawkaw in the early nineties. The small community is situated close to the base of the Kwahu mountain.  It is evident this area was a rich forest in the not  so distant past. The trees are huge, the plants and grasses are tall and teems with all kinds of wildlife; my favorite are the birds, they are so colorful and sing so beautifully at the break of dawn. The yellow canary is the champion of them all; it has a loud distinct sound, and like clockwork, it starts singing at exactly 6a.m. Who needs an alarm clock when you have a cockerel and a canary.Houses are few and far in-between. Everybody knew everybody; we looked out for each other. The community has neither electricity nor running water. We make do with kerosene lamps and a nearby stream.

 My home, a three bedroom house, is situated on a large plot of land. Ever the farmer, mom has planted plantain, cassava and pawpaw all around us. In the middle is a large tree with many branches that I love climbing. It provides us shade from the scorching sun and many a family lunch and supper has been had under my beloved tree. Sadly, mom will end the poor tree’s life one sunny Saturday without a second thought.

 It was a Friday afternoon, i had just returned from school and Mama was getting ready to go to the market when a fish monger waltzed into our compound. Before Mama could tell her she didn’t need fish, the woman exclaimed “Hey Yesu!” to which Mama asked, “Sister, what is it?”. “A big black snake lives in the burrow under your tree, it just attempted to come out”. On hearing this dialogue i quickly change out of my uniform and go out, ensuring to stand a good distance away from the tree. I am here to take it in, because i knew good and well  that it will be a cold day in hell before Mama will let this snake live another day in such close proximity to her home, to her children.

In no time mum puts on her beloved wellington boots and hands a pair to the fishmonger who has graciously volunteered to help in this snake assassination. Then she brings out two long sturdy sticks from an oak tree felled in the community recently and hands one to the fishmonger. This isn’t Mama’s first snake assassination, she came prepared. Before proceeding, she shouts at me to go inside the house, but of course I refuse. Mama shoves her stick into the burrow with such brutal force, one, two, three, four then steps back. Nothing happens. She repeats it, this time with much more force. I begin to feel sorry for the poor snake.

Dear snake hiding under my favorite tree, I hope your burrow has another opening, else you are a dead snake slithering. If you really have no other opening, i hope your last meal was a fat rat or maybe even a quail, because Mama is going to murder you.

Mama’s third attempt produces result. The snake comes out hissing furiously. My oh my! I did not need anyone to tell me to go inside the house this time.  I went inside in reverse. I did not even have the nerve to turn my back to that beast. I run in reverse and shut the door firmly behind me. I swear that snake was over eleven feet long and it looked angry. It could have wrapped itself around both women and still have some length to spare. It must have been shedding its skin because it had dead skin hanging off its grayish black body. I no longer felt sorry for it, I was afraid for my Mama.

I stood on a chair and watched through an open window. Mr. Snake had coiled itself, raised its head and formed a hood. It kept making circular motions with its coiled body, probably to distract the two legged beings standing ready with sticks. It kept hissing while turning its hooded head from one woman to another. Then it opened its mouth, hissed and lunged at the fishmonger, that’s when Mama struck, hard. It turned toward mum, and the fishmonger struck. It kept thrusting at the two women who in turn kept pounding at it.

From its body language i could sense the snake saying: just make one mistake, one mistake, dear daughter of Eve, and let me get you with just one fang, and see how long you will live to kill another snake.

Today is not your day dear snake. You are not getting any sort of bite out of these two-legged daughters of Eve. Adam has beaten you to the game this time. He has hardened them with all sorts of life lessons. You are going down.

And so Mama and the fishmonger pounded the big black snake to death. They doused it in kerosene and as it burned Mama found her voice and gave the dead snake a message:”Go and tell whoever sent you that me and my children’s flesh are inedible, in fact it is bitter”. Who knew Mama was so superstitious?

The ashes of cold blooded big black snake were buried in the bushes somewhere. The very next day the big old tree was felled and burnt. It didn’t surprise me, I mean if you’re going to harbor snakes, then you deserve to die too. 

It will take almost two decades before I will learn it was the infamous black mamba that Mama and her counterpart killed. They basically danced with death on me and my siblings’ account and lived to tell the tale.

Daddy and his ugly duckling

That memory is fresh in my mind, fresh like it was just yesterday; one of my brothers telling my mum how he denied I was his sibling because my ugly face embarrassed him so. He said: “mum, some of my school friends asked me why Adwinpa is so ugly and I said she’s not my sister, she’s our maid. We call her The Ugly Duckling”. Mum laughed. Heartily. She thought it was funny.

 I wept. Bitterly. I didn’t think it was funny. It hurt, and somewhere inside, my self-esteem took one of the many deadly blows that will send her into a deep, deep coma so many years to come.

 I waited patiently for Daddy to come home. I wanted to complain to him, let him know it hurt. As evening dawned I begun to dread Daddy’s return and my resolve began to shake. What if he also thinks it’s funny? That will give my brother all the ammunition he needs to taunt and bully me. Maybe I should let it go. Maybe I really am that ugly. If only my cheeks weren’t so big and only if my lips were smaller and eyes slightly bigger, no one would call me ugly. Maybe it’s all God’s fault. Maybe He was tired when I was due for creation, so He delegated to very inexperienced cherubs who did the best they could. A best that has turned out to be my worst nightmare.

Ugly duckling, ugly duckling, ugly duckling. Big lips, ugly. Kinky hair, ugly. Fat cheeks, ugly. Sunken eyes, ugly. Small ears ugly. My ugly self sat outside in a cold December evening, waiting for Daddy to return and lend a listening ear. Before long he appears in the driveway and I am bathed in the harsh glow of headlights. I cover my face, the lights hurt my eyes and bring unwanted attention to the ugliness.

Soon as he’s out of his car, I ran to him and with tears streaming down my face, I tell him my new name, Ugly Duckling. He smiled and said: “don’t cry. Why are you crying? Do you know the story of The Ugly Duckling?” I respond in the affirmative. Of course I know the story. But Daddy disagrees, he says: “if you knew the story, you wouldn’t be bothered by your brother calling you Ugly Duckling”. Let me finish eating and tell you the story of the Ugly Duckling”.

This wasn’t the response I was hoping for. I expected my brother to get a good talking to and a stern warning, maybe even a few slaps here and there. But I am intrigued, is there a different Ugly Duckling story I don’t know? Well hurry up and eat Daddy, you are going to tell me today!

 He takes his sweet time to savor the meal of groundnut soup and rice balls. I linger in the dining area waiting for him to not only finish and tell me his version of the story but also hoping to be the one to clear his plates, Daddy’s leftovers are very popular. As he washes his hands I quickly dash for his plate, I am not disappointed, he left a piece of fish in there. I stuff the fish in my mouth before any of my siblings get close, then I clear the table and carry the plates to Mama in the kitchen.

 Daddy is seated in the family area watching TV when I return from the kitchen. He has a chewing stick in his mouth. He asks me to recount the Ugly Duckling story I know.

 “Once upon a time, a mother duck sat its eggs awaiting their hatching. Alas all but one hatched and out came beautiful yellow ducklings. Mother duck was tired but she sat on the one unhatched egg still. The egg was much bigger, harder and looked different. Mother duck’s friends advised her to abandon the egg, they said it might be a turkey and turkeys don’t swim! But she persisted until the egg hatched.

 To her dismay this duck was big and ugly, looking nothing at all like its sibling or mother. She began to believe it was turkey’s stray egg that had rolled into her nest. Mother duck was disappointed but she loved her duckling just the same. Nonetheless, she couldn’t help but wonder; why is this duckling so different, so ugly, so big, so tall?

 To her relief, when he took her brood to the water, her ugly duckling swam happily alongside her siblings. Yes. Relief. A small piece of victory. It is not a turkey after all, just a very ugly duckling.

 Before long everybody saw this very different looking duckling and they couldn’t help but notice how ugly and awkward he was. They didn’t hide their opinions, they let the duckling know he was weird and ugly.

 The poor duckling suffered cruelty and abuse from all corners; the farmer’s wife refused to feed him, the farm hands threw stones at him, neighboring ducks were mean to him, dogs barked at him, his sibling made fun of him, Mama ignored him and the turkeys called him every horrid, insulting name they could think of.

 Finally, the Ugly Duckling ran away, in hopes of finding acceptance elsewhere. But every farm he settled in, the story was no different. He was scorned, disrespected and abused.

 With time, the lonely, tired and depressed duckling begun to accept the belief that he was worthless and deserved all the abuse and wickedness meted out to him. He just wanted to die. He kept to himself and shunned all company for a long while. Time worked its wonders, the Duckling grew stronger and his wings became more powerful by the day. He could now fly higher and for longer. He spent a lot of time flying, up in the air, no one bothered him.

 One lovely summer day, as the Duckling flew over a garden he saw a pair of magnificent birds swimming in a pool. They were long necked and had the most beautiful snow-white plumes the Duckling ever saw, they swam so gracefully, they held their heads high on those long graceful necks. To the Duckling, these were regal birds; the most beautiful he ever saw. They were swans. The sight of such beautiful birds further saddened the Duckling, he thought to herself: “if only I were this graceful, this beautiful, the world would be kinder”.

 Defeated and dejected, the Duckling decided to fly to the majestic birds and plead for them to kill him. So fly to the water he did. As he swam towards the swans, they outstretched their wings in welcome, but the Duckling, so accustomed to abuse assumed they were readying to attack him, so he bent his head and cried out, “kill me, because I am ugly; better be killed by swans than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter”.

 But in that moment he caught a reflection of himself in the clear water and no longer was he a grey, dark bird, offensive to look at, but a graceful, regal swan. So he joined his new friends and enjoyed acceptance and love for the first time in his life. And when children came to play by the pool they exclaimed, “look another swan has joined the two, and he is the most beautiful of them all.” They threw bread and cake to him in the water and the two older swans bowed their heads to him.”

 Daddy: “so what did you learn from the story?”

Me: “he was not a duck; he was a swan all along. When he grew, he became beautiful and the people who threw stones at him then, threw bread and cake at him.”

 Daddy: “what else did you learn?”

Me: “he was no longer lonely or sad. He didn’t want to die anymore. He had friends who loved him.”

Daddy: “and what again?”

Me: “well that’s all. Nothing else happened. The ugly duckling is a happy swan now. Period.”

 Daddy: “No that is not all. There is more. Everything you have said is true but you missed the most important lessons.

 First lesson: being born in a duck’s nest on a small farmyard is of no consequence to a bird, if that bird is hatched from a swan’s egg. Being born in a duck’s nest does not make a cygnet a duckling. And if the ducks couldn’t or didn’t accept the cygnet, that’s ok because, acceptance would have crippled the cygnet and kept it from soaring. If the ducks had accepted it, the Swan would have remained in the small farmland, comfortable, never to realize its great potential, never to venture out and see the world. The swan would have remained a “duck”.

Second lesson: People are ignorant and yet opinionated. Do not let random opinions define you. Because the ducks and everyone else had no idea the Duckling was actually a cygnet, they called it ugly and abused it. Had they known, their attitudes would have been different, they would have been nice to it so they could later boast to friends and say “look, I am friends with one of the most beautiful birds on earth.” So define who you are for yourself, knowing you will grow into a beautiful, graceful woman.”

 Well I wish my young mind could have wrapped itself around such profound wisdom and insight but nope, I walked away disappointed. I was looking for revenge not advice. Just slap the stupid boy already. He insulted me for God’s sake and there you are, speaking in parables and what nots. I wish I could run away too, just like the Ugly Duckling; but I can’t; I have school tomorrow.

 And that is how I allowed my self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect take blow after blow, abuse after abuse till like the Ugly Duckling, I began to believe the random opinions of others as my reality, and began to behave as such. If only I had understood Daddy’s lessons, I could have avoided tons and tons of heartache.

 But I get it now. It took me two decades and some to get there, but I am there. Like the Ugly Duckling, I feel glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enables me to enjoy so much better all the pleasures and happiness around me.

 Like the Ugly Duckling, I can finally say, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

 Thank you Daddy.

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