Musah sits up straight in my blue lawn chair, large stick in hand, surrounded by all his hoodlums. “As of right…now, I am chief. Chief of the small boys. These are my boys.” Musah Na (chief Musah). Shall I bring you chief shoes? Musah narrows his eyebrows and nods his head without looking at me. I dust off the Ashanti chief sandals that my host family bought me months ago, I have been waiting for a reason to get rid of those things. Musah grabs for the sandals and forces them on his feet, they are clearly too small for him. They don’t fit you. Musah does a little dance and replies, “Oh, they fit. Are these for me to keep?” Musah Na, chief of the small boys, they are all yours.
Most young professionals, nurses, teachers, PCV’s and the like, will have a child or preteen that is kind of like their right hand man, someone who will fetch them water, sweep, cook or run errands for them. While all children are considered small boys and small girls, if you find yourself in this particular role, you are their very own small boy or girl. Sometimes a small boy or girl will even live with that person. They tend to worship the ground they walk on, hoping one day to aspire to be a young professional themselves. Musah is my small boy, and while I love him dearly, he hardly worships me. As we go on almost daily crocodile hunts to the dam (followed by all his hooligans), he frequently and quite randomly tells me that he will beat me up. And if I trip on a root or branch, which is often, like clockwork he says, “Madam, I was hoping you would have tripped. Aghahahahahaha.” Our conversations usually go like this: “Madam, where is your laptop?” I don’t have a laptop. “Madam, lies! You are telling lies!” It has spoiled, I sent it to Tamale. “You have greed. I know you have one” Nope. “Then swear to Gowd!” Or like this: “Madam, why can’t you fetch your own water?” Musah, I don’t know, it’s too heavy. “Ha! You have no strength! You have no energy! You are weeeeak! I am the strongest one in the world!” And then there was the day that he chased after me with a freshly decapitated lizard and in turn I threatened to end his life. He regularly bullies the small boys that follow him around like lost puppies, which is when I shout, MUSAH! Enough! Someone bigger than you is going to come and beat you one of these days! It’s called karma!
Despite his charming mouth, Musa is the world to me. I can count on him for anything. He often brings by a small basket of guinea fowl or duck eggs and we fry them up for dinner. Usually one of three has a little bird in it (oops), but that’s how free food is here in Ghana. He has made me a small guitar that I proudly display on my kitchen shelf. He played it outside my window for half an hour while I was trying to take a nap, until I finally came out to acknowledge it. And there was that time a bat flew into my kitchen as I was washing dishes. Instead of running outside, I ran into my room and screamed until someone came. Musah heard me from probably a mile away and wasn’t so impressed by the source of my terror. We have just started a garden together outside my house, which now only has a small mango shoot that he stole from someone’s farm. He spent an hour chopping down garden sticks to build a fence around it. “Tomorrow morning I am coming again, and we will plant maize and tomatoes and ochre.” Sounds good to me. “And then you will make me tea and we will eat bread. See you in the morning.” Whatever Musah. See you tomorrow.
One afternoon, I sat on the grass, leaning against the tree that Musah had climbed. As he threw down berries for me, he asked, “Am I just your water boy? Who am I to you?” He was referring to hours previous, when he told me his grandfather is sending him to a school in another town. He always talks about this grandfather, who makes all these unmet promises that Musah holds on to. I told him it was out of the question, who would fetch my water if he was gone? He never answered me.