Here is a response I wrote to a prompt I received in San Francisco.

Hello you,

I’ve been in San Fran for a few days now, and I was given a prompt to write on. Here is the result, I hope you enjoy it!

“That’s it my son,” Akwasí said, pointing far to the West and down the dusty road. “Do you see Kwakú? Here comes the coffin.” Kwakú and the people nearby followed Akwasí’s finger. The crowd’s bored frowns and furrowed brows lifted into smiles with wide eyes at what they saw. Kwakú pulled at his father’s hand and stood up on his toes trying to see. Still unable to make out the coffin, he crouched low, but all he saw was a forest of dark legs, thatched sandals, and old shoes.

“I can’t see father!” Kwakú said, and tugged on Akwasí’s warm black shirt.

“Come,” Akwasí said, kneeling down and lifting Kwakú from under the arms and sitting him against his chest. “Now,” he said. “Do you see it my son?”

Kwakú saw that many tents lined the road like great rectangular umbrellas, striped with pink dye and decorated with a thin red cloth, but for all the tents, there were not enough to provide shade for all the crowd. The crowd gave a roar of excitement just as Kwakú saw it in the distance, a blurred form, rising over the hill like a giant bird, smooth and constant.

Kwakú saw the small figures beside the form and he knew they must be the carpenters, carrying their work in their strong hands. The same carpenters that Kwakú snuck out to watch, each afternoon for a week before chores, and marveled at as they transformed raw wood into magnificent art with their tools. Kwakú liked the way the carpenters made something so hard into something as soft as water or a girl’s body, like coffins Kwakú had seen the carpenters craft in the years before. But Kwakú knew this time was different. This time, the two most skilled carpenters in Ghana were competing for the great honor of sending Mr. Ashong to the afterlife in their creation.

Kwakú turned and cupped his hand to Akwasí’s ear. “What is it supposed to be, father?” He asked.

“I don’t know yet son,” Akwasí said. “But it looks big. It might be the winner. Quiet and watch.”

“Yes,” Kwakú said. He turned in his father’s arms to see the precession better. It was noon and God gave hot and dry air that day, and little wind. By that time, the music had burst into rhythm, and grew so loud that the cheering of the people was matched and both noises joined into a single tone. A terrible, shaking, tone that forced Kwakú to remember uncomfortable dreams.

“It’s fantastic!” A woman’s voice pierced through the drone.

“I’ve never seen anything like it!” A man’s voice said. There were many other things said, but Kwakú did not hear. Akwasí began to bounce on his heels, and Kwakú could make out the giant throne bursting into gold as the gods bathed the chair in sun.

“How could a man make such a thing?” Kwakú thought, unable to pull his attention from this chair of the gods. “What if the gods becomes jealous of such a chair and tear apart the heavens and descend to take it before Mr. Ashong has even seen it?”

“It’s a throne father,” Kwakú said, timing the rise and fall of the waving drone of the crowd so his father could hear.

“It is a symbol son,” Akwasí said. “That Mr. Ashong is powerful.”

“Not powerful like the gods,” Kwakú said.

“The gods care little for the box of a dead man,” Akwasí said, more serious than Kwakú was apparently ready for, because at this, he lowered his face and turned his attention back to the precession. He strained his dark eyes to make out more of the throne that glided closer, driven on by the beating of the drums, and stamping of feet.

He let his eyes leave the coffin and absorbed the colorful movement of the mass like a Ghanaian lake of men, women, and children, all pushing to see. Kwakú thought the throne seemed to sail over them, unsinking, like Akonedi had in his father’s stories.

“This will not go unnoticed,” Kwakú thought. “Why does this throne scare me? I am a man. I am not afraid of the lion. I am not afraid of the chair. But such a chair, such a glorious throne, cannot go unnoticed by the gods.”

Kwakú could hear his grandmothers words in his mind.”God knows everything,” she had said. “God knows every man who makes offense to him.” Kwakú asked his grandmother what God did to his offenders, but Kwakú’s grandmother just waved her hand. “Such things are not for children.”

Kwakú remembered this conversation and it made his skin turn rough like a plucked chicken in his father’s arms.

Eventually, when Kwakú’s ears grew sore with sound, Paa Joe’s coffin came very near Kwakú and he saw it up close for the first time. He saw that it was carried on the shoulders of the carpenter Paa himself along with a group of three men, who Kwakú thought must be apprentices. He could see chips of gold paint at the corners of the throne and the base of the coffin.

“Paa can do better lines,” Kwakú thought, frowning at the work. “I have seen him strike his tool and make better lines before.” Kwakú noted several places around the triangular pattern carved onto the sides of the base of the throne, where the lines looked crooked and some places were more deeply carved than others. “Paa can do better lines,” Kwakú said, but his words were swallowed by music and voices and movement in the air.

“The gods do not need poorly made thrones,” Kwakú thought. The air was thicker than ever with rhythm and rumble, and the precession passed by and floated to the arranged showing place in front of Mr. Ashong’s home. Kwakú could just see Mr. Ashong sitting in an ancient wheelchair, half the height of the nurses and and doctors that attended to the medical equipment he was attached to.

“Yes,” Kwakú said, louder than he wanted with the crowd falling suddenly quiet.

“What is it?” The Ghanaian people were still and focused on the hill from where the first coffin had just risen. A great wave of chatter rippled from the ends of the crowds and made it’s way like wind through tall grass to Kwakú’s ears. Something much grander than the crudely constructed throne was coming and Kwakú put all thoughts of golden thrones and angry gods aside in anticipation for Dede Nunu’s coffin.

“Oh wow!” Kwakú said laughing and clapping his hands. “Father! There are dancers, father!” He looked to his father, but Akwasí smiled and bounced some more on his heels, just happy to be out with his son, and away from the street corners selling hot phones. The dancers were wrapped in Adinkra cloth that was stamped with the holy symbols of the Akan.

Akwasí brought his son close. “Dede Nunu has spent a large amount for this,” he said. “I heard it was a coffin not to be believed.”

Kwakú was fixated on the dancing girls and the bright orange dress of the holy precession. “Where is the coffin then?” Kwakú thought. A moment later the crowd boomed again and over the hill came a giant man, bigger than three regular men. He was all black with a simple shirt and pants, and his palms were turned up to heaven.

“He has resurrected Brekyirihunuade!” Someone in the crowd shrieked.

“This coffin will bring down the gods!” Another voice said.

The giant wooden god seemed to Kwakú to be looking at the entire crowd at the same time. He saw the god grow to incredible size and seize the entire people of Ghana in one great sweep. Kwakú saw this, and may have imagined more, but as Brekyirihunuade flew towards them on the backs of twenty Ghanaians, Kwakú realized there was yet another giant figure rising over the hill and down the road to Mr. Ashong’s home.

“No!” Several voices in the crowd said. “The gods will take offense!”

The crowd began to throb around Kwakú and his father, and twice Kwakú was nearly knocked out of Akwasí’s hands.

“Hold on son!” Akwasí yelled, realizing the same inevitability of panic that Kwakú did.

“Here comes more!” The crowd said. “He’s bringing all the gods down on us!”

The music was gone and all that was left was chaos of screams and shoves. Kwakú saw men, picking up their wives and running from the train of wooden coffins. Other men left their wives and ran just the same. A woman was thrown to the hard earth and crashed into Akwasí’s legs, causing him to lose hold of his son. Kwakú went rolling into the crowd and disappeared in the surge of the people.

“Kwakú!” Akwasí said, closing his eyes, bringing in his arms and crouching low to hold his ground against the hurricane of human beings rushing around him. “Kwakú!”

Kwakú hit the floor hard and his head bounced with the impact. He saw two pictures of the world around him, people fighting to escape the coming of the gods, coming to punish the crowd for their offenses. Kwakú felt the hard bone of a man’s leg impact against his face and several against his stomach and genitals. Kwakú closed his eyes, not wanting to see, not wanting to feel, waiting for the chaos to take him.

But then Kwakú felt himself rising and the familiar smell of his fathers sweat, and the comforting strength of his father’s arms were around him as his father tackled his way away from the train of coffin gods, out of the crowd, and far, far away.






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