This morning they cleaned our playground. They do it when it’s dark, so you never know who, or how, or when, but by the time Ma walks us to the school bus at 6, the sand looks nice and fresh like my homework book. I never do my homework.
Today, teacher Kofi sent me home. Yesterday he told us he will give us extra classes because we are foolish and we should be happy to pay him for his kindness. And that we should bring a passport picture for registration. I forgot to tell Ma. Today, he came after assembly to collect the pictures. Kadi and I had to walk all the way home. We didn’t mind; Daavi gave us some of her fat yellow mangoes when we passed her stall. When we reached the playground, Kadi kicked me intentionally and my mango fell in the sand. The playground now has a mango hole in the smooth sand with yellow juice splattered around it.
When I got home, Ma wasn’t around. Da was sitting at the back drinking. He’s always drinking. Now his teeth are yellow like Daavi’s mangoes. I asked him for money for the passport pictures. He said I should sit down so he draws me. Then he laughed with his yellow teeth. I just turned and walked slowly to the empty playground.
Auntie Aggie came by the playground with Kafui. That boy is stubborn. He’s always running around. Even today Auntie Aggie was pulling his hand so he stops running. He looked like a stubborn dog on a leash. He wouldn’t stop pulling. Finally, he broke his leash and run onto the playground and started throwing sand around. You could see his two-year-old footprints deep inside the sand. His mother pulled him by the hair, slapped him and dragged him off the playground.
At lunchtime, Kadi came to find me. His parents had taken him to school and insulted teacher Kofi. Nobody was happy about it, especially not Kadi. We all know what happens to a child after their parents attack teacher Kofi. Kadi showed me the marks on his back and legs when he came. He didn’t want to go back to school today and he couldn’t go home too, otherwise, his parents will attack teacher Kofi again. Then tomorrow, teacher Kofi will kill him. So we sat at the playground.
After school, the children came to play. The sand became messy. When it was getting dark, they stopped playing. Their school uniforms were very dirty and brown. We knew this evening there would be another round of tears and screams of “yes ma I won’t do it again”, but they’ll still be here tomorrow.
Before that normal chorus of screams could start, tonight, we heard a different scream. It was different, but not new. The piercing scream drew closer and closer. It sounded full of pain. We could feel it. It was deep; unlike the one I feel at school when I don’t do my homework. The scream materialised into two figures at the edge of the playground. There was Da, standing upright but swaying slowly as he pushed forward. You could see his red eyes. They sparkled like little rubies in the darkness. Like little evil rubies. His hand was stretched out behind him, and there was Ma holding on to her hair under the part that her husband was using to drag her. Her hair was bleeding from the roots. She was bleeding all over.
I looked at the playground sand. The part where my mango fell was now orange. There was a trail of blood from the edge to the centre. The trail ended in a pool at the centre, right next to Ma. I run to her and knelt at her side. She looked up, smiled weakly, and croaked, “Don’t worry, my child. Tomorrow morning, they’ll clean the playground”.