Thursday, August 03, 2006

Osei's Lesson - Part 1

I am honored to tell you of the first task I performed for my King. I was charged to serve Osei, an intimidating man of an overbearing size. He was brought in to see the King by his village’s elders who said that he routinely mistreated his wife and many children. The King asked many questions about his children; their names and ages. He was particularly interested in Dansia, the man’s three-year-old daughter who He learned was very afraid of his father. The King’s ruling was that the only food that the man could eat for a month was the food that Dansia gave to him by her own volition. I was the one he chose to ensure that his ruling was carried out.

I followed Osei home-although he twice tried to lose me in the crowd-and found that his family had taken the opportunity of the trial to vanish with their belongings. He growled and threw the remaining bowls at the walls. When he reached for the bowl with a heel of bread, he withdrew his hand with a hiss, as though it were hot. He first looked stunned by the welt that was growing on his hand, courtesy of my walking stick. Then he acknowledged me for the first time.

I did not allow him to vent his rage upon me, since that was not the role I was asked to perform. So, he was only given a step before the rage and consciousness was taken from him by a swift blow of my walking stick.

I then stood still and meditated for an hour on the face and habitat that Osei created for himself. I saw the anger-lines etched deep around his eyes through years of overuse. It will take many more years to smooth them out. I saw wear-marks through the handles of the family tea cabinet. I understood that the dowry must have been a great sacrifice for the wife’s family. That twine meant to keep the tea set safe was continuously torn off and retied. I smelt the sweat of the father overpowered the rest of the family’s sweat. I smelt the lavender water used to diffuse the air of soiled diapers.

Osei came to and shivered as night had settled. He eyed me wearily and put fuel in the oven. With his back turned toward me he tried to slip a sunflower seed into his mouth. The walking stick struck the nerve running behind his jawbone, making the muscles in his cheek collapse temporarily. He had difficulty drinking his tea since he couldn’t close his mouth and he returned to ignoring me.

In the morning he went to work constructing the defense walls around the city. There wasn’t much room on the top of the wall and so he complained loudly that I was in the way. He also tried hard to jostle into me and shove me off the wall but I found myself where he wasn’t at all times. One time when he was relaying blocks of stone up a steep path to the top, he swung his stone wildly, trying to catch me off guard. He would have lost his balance and fallen if I had not pulled him back by his belt. After that his fellow workers had given me the name “Osei’s Ghost” which the neighborhood adapted.

During lunch one of the workers tossed him a fig, noticing that he had not brought a lunch. I caught it with the stick and looked at Osei with my eyebrows raised. Anger came from Osei as he looked back at me. “It’s no use, Gramel. He wants me to starve to death. I saw him kill an old man because he asked me if I’d like an olive.”

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