Fiction by Teddy Totimeh
There was a certain excitement when I got off the airplane into the blanket of sweltering
heat on a May evening in Accra. The heat had that presence that one has to
acknowledge, and then move on. Because nothing else can be done about it. Work with
it, or get overcome by it. Trying the middle ground, was losing… without knowing it.
I lugged my single bag, relieved I was not going to wait for my luggage by the conveyor
belt snaking hesitantly through waiting passengers. The lights had gone off once on me, in
this airport. Nothing happened. But darkness is disconcerting in the midst of precious
cargo. I had left quite a bit the last time I was here. This was the sixth time in a year. My
work would soon be done. But I would miss this country, with all its inconsistencies and
The chauffeur was waiting outside. He was on time, this time. His broad smile a welcome
white slit in the hot darkness.
His voice rang out. Typical bubbly Kwame.
I swung the bag unto the seat after me, mumbling a reply. He usually did not listen
anyway. I had learnt after being picked up five previous times. He would politely nod,
every time I spoke, and have no recollection at all, of anything I had said.
The darkness was relieved occasionally by the odd working street lamp, as the SUV swept
out of the airport.
What’s new, I asked, preparing myself for a barrage of complaints about the government.
He was a card bearing member of the main opposition party. And a loudmouthed one too.
I eased back into my seat, the chill of the air conditioning beginning to dispel the reality of
the heat outside into distant memory.
Long jet rides have a way of reminding one of the privilege of being on terra firma. Things
are a bit more predictable. Controllable. We were moving along at a leisurely pace in
rush hour traffic. Exhaust fumes hung around us and filtered my view of the setting sun
through the tinted window.
I must have slept through Kwame’s opening statement, because it was the bang that woke
me up. We were on open road now, and the darkness ahead was dense. The car started
wobbling until it came to a stop. It was tyre trouble. Bad tyre trouble especially because
Kwame did not have a spare tyre. He claimed it was the spare tyre that had gone flat.
From a few months ago.
Boss, I will have to make a few calls.
There is a vulcaniser just a few meters away. I can call him to come
Kwame, it is dark! Look around you!
Yes Boss, but I have to get tyre, otherwise we are in trouble.
The cars still whizzed by on the busy Motorway. Nobody would be interested in stopping
to help. These were dangerous times. Far ahead, I could see the snaking streetlights that
lit unpredictably short sections of motorway. Here we were in a black long island,
stretching a few hundred meters toward and away from us. In the middle of nowhere. And
this man’s best idea, was to carry this tyre to the nearest place, for a solution to the
problem. And leave me alone, my caucasian whiteness glaring back at all the flashing,
passing headlights of people too afraid to stop and ask what the matter was.
Kwame kept flagging down, without success. I did not even try.
I saw the lights before I heard the noise. Bright shafts of light careening crazily across the
unlit road from the opposite lane. The car was out of control and the driver in trouble.
There were sparks, and then the blood curdling screech that seemed to go on forever.
Then there was the inevitable crash. First one car hit, then a second. Then the high speed
section became a screeching mass of stopping cars, trying to avoid impending disaster.
Then, there were no further bangs. And the screeching subsided. And cars stopped.
What followed was nothing I had seen before at a crash site. People, got out of their cars,
and just run to the fallen cars, which were now lying upside down, leaning on the island.
The leading car had its remaining working headlight, trained steadily on our SUV. Kwame
had a phone to his ear.
Who are you calling?
A radio station, boss. This is bad!
What is a radio station going to do? You need an ambulance
Yes, the radio station will tell the ambulance people
Wow, Kwame! What are you saying?! There could be people dying there, and you are
calling the radio station!
Boss, that is how it works here.
By this time there was a whole crowd, around the two overturned cars. There were people
milling around, giving instructions to each other, pulling the involved people out of the cars.
I could see men carrying the injured into neighbouring cars. Forget Emergency care.
Forget neck protection. The minutes just went by, and I could not hear a siren, I could not
see a beam from an emergency helicopter. Just disorganised melee, shouts and then
some kind of evacuation.
I saw a series of cars with their hazard lights on, drive away blowing their horns.
They are taking the people to hospital
What? How far are the hospitals?
There are some which are close, but I am not sure they can deal with this kind of accident
A single headlight seemed to appear from nowhere, and the huge motorcycle chugged
lazily alongside us. Unbelievably, behind him, was a tyre. And Kwame’s teeth glowed in
Victor my broda, you save me oooh!
Within minutes the tire was replaced. I just stood there speechless. The chaos was
worsening. The traffic was beginning to build on the other side. Honking and
counterhonking added a cacophonic urgency to the mess. I presumed most of the people
had been evacuated now. I hoped. And to good hospitals too.
When I saw the furtive movement just behind our car, I was not exactly sure what to think.
Unbelievably, I had not felt threatened in anyway, throughout this interesting turn of events.
There was something about how this, that just rankled something in me. Kwame was
surprised when he heard me shout
Who is there?!
Boss, it is no one. Just somebody going home.
I ignored him and rushed on to the other side of the car.
Then I surprised myself. In the still air of the humid night, the brush shook as this
mysterious person slipped in, and I dashed in after him! I grabbed at something that
seemed to hang from him, and I could feel him trip and fall. And there was a hand bag in
my hand. Then I tripped on one of those usual insignificant Ghanaian rocks that are
strewn almost everywhere. And I was on the ground. And he was well away.
Kwame helped me up. He noticed the handbag lying by me. We picked it up and both
gasped, as the blood came off unto our clothes. It was a blood drenched Gucci creation.
It looked expensive. It contained some money. It looked like a rich business woman’s bag.
Assorted dollar and euro notes, with credit cards and a diary. Not much of a haul.
This was a victim who had been robbed.
The anger welled inside, but I did not know what for, and who against. I guess it was just
the gross immorality of it all. I got back into the airconditioned SUV, and as we moved
away, I was not sure whether I had done the right thing. I had convinced Kwame to take
the bag to a nearby hospital after dropping me in the hotel.
The night lights whizzed by, but the sky did not seem so peaceful any more.
Teddy Totimeh was born and bred in Ghana. He lives in Accra, and works with the University of Ghana Medical Centre as a doctor.
He has been writing short stories since University, and has won some Ghanian Literary Awards for short story writing.
He started the Open Air Theatre, a radio programme for literary artists on the University of Ghana Radio station some two decades ago, and it still airs.
Teddy blogs on multiple social media handles, and typically writes about the experiences of a professional in Ghana.
He is married to Maamle, and they have 3 children.
Originally published July 13, 2021