CAGED

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So, Ama Ata Aidoo is 80 years old. Yay!  I have met her just once. Well, I can’t really say I met her. She visited our school (Wesley Girls’ High School) one time when we put on a show of her play, The Dilemma of a Ghost. And I was seated on the first floor balcony of Waldron House and she had the best seat in our make shift open-air theatre. She was the front row seat, right in front of the stage. It was dark, I could barely see her face. Tell me, what do you call it when you see someone from a distance but, you know, you guys are within the same vicinity? It’s still met, right? Anyways, I don’t remember much about that night but thinking back on it, one thing comes to mind. One woman from Saltpond wrote a play that permeated so many stages in the world. This fills my heart with hope that my stories, no matter how uniquely told, will also find their audience. Here is my own piece to celebrate her and the impact she has had on my writing.

He trapped a cricket between two fingers, placed it in a jar with its other trapped comrades and shut the lid. He shook the jar and put it to his ear. He smiled as the merry chirps tantalized his ear buds.

“Kelvin, Kelvin!” Now this sound, he did not like.

The rawness in the voice foretold of dire consequences for his afternoon rendezvous into the fields. He run back towards the house as fast as his feet, a little too tiny for his age, could carry him. He found his mother standing in front of the house, face bruised with a cut lip.

Kelvin, wait. She threw her hands around wildly as she communicated to him in sign language. Your father is not well again. You need to go straight to your room when you get into the house.

He frowned, knowing full well what his mother meant by father is not feeling well.

I am twelve, not dumb! He gestured back angrily.

Don’t play smart with me. Go to your room now!

 

He clutched the jar to his chest and stomped away, every step a declaration of rage and disdain. The decaying wood of the staircase and porch creaked in assent to his sentiments. Blinded by his fit of anger, he hit his leg on the doorsill and stumbled into the house. The crickets chirped loudly in response to the onslaught.

“What the…!” His father roared from the hall. “Kelvin is that you?! What the hell are you bringing into my house?”

Menacingly slow steps approached him.

He stepped back onto the porch. His father stood at the door and looked down at him. Bloodshot eyes locked with little terrified ones. Kelvin made to flee but large hands seized him by the chest right in the nick of time.

“What”

Slap

“makes”

Slap

“you”

Slap

“think”

Slap

He heard his mother scream but her piercing cry was muffled by the ringing in his ears. Everything split into two before he dropped the jar to the ground and collapsed in his father’s grasp. He heard a crack as the jar fell from his grip and blacked out to the blurring cry of caged crickets.

When Kelvin regained consciousness , the dark skies had taken the place of the blue afternoon bliss. He sat up quickly and had to hold his head when everything began to dance in circles around him.

Soon enough his brain registered the thunderous chirp of crickets by his side. Picking up the jar, he inspected it by holding it to the moon. It revealed a single crack at up bottom of the jar. He hugged it to his chest in joy.

Kelvin entered the house. His father was sitting on top of his mother, pounding furiously into her. Something slick and dark had pooled under his mother unresponsive body.

Something raw and broken welled inside him and escaped from his lips. The sound was foreign to his ears. It sounded like a roar but had a yawn quality to it.

His father turned sharply to look at him then.

“Your mother,” he shrieked, “She fell to the ground a-and broke her head.” His father never stammered.

The foreign sound hit his ears again, louder and more of a roar now. He could scarcely believe that it was his own voice.

“No, you have to believe me!” His father in a panicked effort stood up and took a step away from his mother’s body. Kelvin immediately stepped back.

“I will never…” He made an attempt to grab hold of Kelvin but missed and slipped unto the floor. He made several unsuccessful attempts to get up. “Let me explain. I didn’t do a…” He only splurged further in the dark goo as he made desperate attempts to get back on his feet.

Kelvin did not wait to hear the rest, he dashed out of the house and headed for the woods. Their neighbours cabin wasn’t far off. If only he could only get there he would be safe.

He had not taken five steps away from his house when he heard his father yell, “If you know what’s good for you, you won’t take another step, boy!” The threat was immediately followed by the sound of two pumps of his father’s old shotgun.

We turned to face his father who was pointing a shotgun at his head.

Don’t. Kelvin’s arm flailed wildly.

“You better speak up, boy!”

I can’t! He gestured before throwing the jar angrily at his feet. The jar broke open and the crickets immediately hopped out, glad that once again they were free to frolick with no restrictions. However, most of them simply jumped at his father who for the life of him could not tolerate anything that crept, flew or jumped.

As he swiped the insects away from him his hand lightly pressed on the trigger.

The impact of the bullet pinned Kelvin down to the ground. As Kelvin fell, he saw the gun also fall from his father’s hand. The second bullet was discharged. Then his father also hit the ground.

The crickets stopped chirping and the wind stopped blowing, for nature itself wanted to listen in on what had just happened.

Kelvin laid still in the grass as did his father.

“K-kelvin, help.” The silent spell was broken. He run to his father but the grass made slicker by his father’s blood caused him to slip and fall. His two hands found the gun instead of the ground when he sought for support to get off the ground. He got to him just as his eyes glazed over.

He heard sirens blare, he saw the men in uniform, he even felt the graze on his shoulder. But nothing made sense anymore.

“Okay, load up those two.” The officer pointed at two black bags that held the bodies of his parents.

“You can finish bagging up the evidence, I’m taking the kid to the station for questioning.”

He led Kelvin to a car and put him at the back.

When he looked around and saw the glass windows that surrounded him he suddenly felt nauseous. He felt like one of his crickets. He had jumped from one jar only to land in another.

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