But for the Marks
February 1, 2016
February 1, 2016

A Misstep in the Music

The air reverberated with sounds from a construction site. It was 1981, and a single man tread a path through a nearby mangrove forest, his footsteps unable to add a beat to the construction music. He shuffled along in beaten down clothes, a rifle slung across his shoulders, humming all the while. Suddenly he heard something; a misstep in the music. He slowed to a crawl. It seemed to be coming from his left. His face lit up as he scanned the forest, his eyes narrowing and muscles tense, ready to spring. A shadow flitted across his vision. His hands found his rifle and seconds later it was in line with his cheek, his leading eye the only one open.  The well-oiled locally made rifle kicked into gear. A loud bang filled the air. Birds scattered. The deer fell to the ground before the gunshots’ echoes died out. A perfect shot.


Amos smiled inwardly; this was a great day. He could not remember the last time he actually came home with a kill. He arrived at his house in record time. Well, calling it a house would be terribly generous. It was a roughly put together mud hut, which did not look like it could survive the next storm, but it was more than enough for Amos. He had no family, and he doubted that would change anytime soon. He chuckled to himself as he put the deer on the slab. What followed next was a mixture of art, hunger, and skill. In no time, the deer was well packaged and on his head, in an unrecognizable form. He started towards the construction site full of himself.

Several men in blue uniforms walked about the site, carrying all sorts of equipment and speaking too fast for their own good – in Amos’ opinion at least. Most of them ignored him as he walked past, too busy to notice or care. He arrived at a white house at the edge of the site and went round back where he dropped the deer and knocked on the wooden door. A short heavyset man opened the door and upon seeing Amos, nodded and waved him inside. Amos picked up the deer and quickly stepped in.


He was greeted by the familiar sight of women moving about frantically, shouting to each other while all sorts of food cooked in large earthenware pots. They moved about like he was not there, and he purposefully placed the deer down by a shelf in the corner. He looked out for Enam but she did not appear to be around.  The heavyset man quietly handed him a wad of cash and Amos was out of the kitchen and on his way soon after. He counted the money when he was outside, and placed it in his pocket with a fully formed grin. He walked to the edge of the dam and took in the scenery with a deep breath. Amos would never let them know, but he had a deep admiration for the work surrounding him.

He remembered when they first set foot in Dekpor, his homeland, about six years before. The village had been collectively wondering who would eventually occupy the newly built quarters and Amos had already decided that he would get on the good side of whoever it was. When he finally laid eyes upon them the first time, he could not understand what was happening. They were not even Ghanaian, but here they were in his country, about to stay in a building better than any in his village. He was livid and remembered getting into a fight with Akakpo that night, both of them drunk on palm wine. But it paled in comparison to when he discovered that they were not just regular Chinese men, but Chinese prisoners no less. It still surprised him today that he had not fired a single shot from his rifle that day. Surprisingly still, no one seemed to understand why he was angry, their reason being that Akosombo had flourished after the construction of the dam. Therefore, they said it did not matter who built it. “Snakes could be building the dam for all I care,” Akakpo had said, bursting with laughter. Amos had considered getting a new best friend after that, unsure of how he ended up being friends with Akakpo in the first place.


Soon after, the Chinese had begun construction on the dam. Every day like clockwork, they would hammer away in their blue uniforms, and neatly organized ranks, with obsessively structured order. Inasmuch as Amos despised their presence he could not deny they were impressive at what they did and gradually, he hated them less. He eventually started making money off them after Enam, his one hope for a family life, started working in their kitchen. She convinced him to hunt for wild meat and bring to them, as they paid handsomely for that kind of thing. Amos owed her a lot, Enam – He was certain he would not still be alive if it were not for her. Yet she had refused to accept his marriage proposals, and it bothered him more than he let on.

Now Amos admired the dam taking shape, hoping it would shine brightly as a beacon in the Volta region. Not as much as Akosombo maybe, but still bright enough. He imagined the village filled with tourists, all here to see the magnificent Dekpor dam, and, of course, the Chinese would not be present anymore. That would be something he would love to see. He turned away from the dam and set off towards home. As he strode through the site, he noticed two of the Chinese workers glance at him speaking and giggling in hushed tones. Amos’ facial expression changed instantly.

“What are you laughing about” He demanded, speaking Ewe – a local language. One of the men scrambled away, his face white with fear. The other man, however, sneered at Amos and muttered something under his breath. This was particularly notable as Amos was widely known for his absurdly short temper.


Amos stormed towards him shouting “What did you say, you Chinese criminal?! What did you say!” He stopped just in front of the Chinese man, his eyes blazing with anger.  The Chinese man did not back down however and turned to face him, chest out. Amos snarled and tackled the man, sending them both crashing into the sand. Shouts echoed all around them, as people realized what was happening. Amos drove a punch into the man’s face and heard a snap. The man howled in pain as blood started flowing from his nose and retaliated with a flurry of punches and presumably Chinese curses. One of them found Amos’ jaw, and he winced as his teeth cluttered into the lining of his mouth. The Chinese workers were pulling Amos back before he could respond, and his cries were muffled by the blood filling his mouth. He struggled with them, wildly throwing punches and taunting the man he had been fighting with. He gave up after a bit, when he noticed Enam in the distance, visibly upset.

Amos growled and stopped struggling with the men. He spat out the blood and broke away from their grip, glaring at the Chinese man. He was mildly sated by the blood flowing from the man’s nose, and with a lopsided grin, he turned around and picked his now empty pack. He did not try to look for Enam in the crowd, fearing the disappointed look on her face.


As Amos trudged away the construction music resumed, as if it had never left. His footsteps were still unable to add a beat to the music, and birds chattered in the forest around him. A few minutes later, there was once again a misstep in the music; a loud cry this time. It was the result of Amos patting down his pocket to feel the reassuring response of a wad of cash, and meeting nothing but his skin. It was his anguished cry upon realizing that he had been scammed.

By Tonyeli Tay, #360WritersChallenge Participant

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