They murmured in unison as he opened the door. He arrived home in time to lead Bible study. It was the only time he felt like the head of the house. He had four children, a wife and a mother-in-law yet his clothes would hang on the heaters for days. Unlike his son, he’d become numb to the word ‘SECURITY’ stitched starkly onto the epaulettes of his now stiffened shirts as he passed them in the hallway. He caught everything that life had thrown at him and he held it. He changed into more comfortable clothes: suit trousers with an unbuckled belt and a blue pinstriped shirt. His granddaughter bounced out of his armchair as he approached. She passed him the remote with her right hand – an artefact of respect – he smiled a warm thanks. With a groan he sunk into the armchair. He sat facing his graduation picture kept in the mahogany glazed display cabinet with the decorative plates and other ornaments they never used.
who art in heaven
“Yes, and we put him there.” He remembered half-jokingly telling his son this when he asked whether there was a God in heaven. He believed if there were no God we would create one. We need one. So that our misfortunes might be mistaken for providence. He needed one.
hallowed be thy name.
He had changed his. From Kofi Ansah to William Elliot. He picked it from a character in Persuasion by Jane Austen. His daughter told people it was because he struggled to get a job with his real name when he arrived in this country in the 80s, but he had changed it long before. He changed it when he left home for Monrovia. He was trying to be a Liberian; they liked English names. He had never brought it up but his daughter enquired after she read Roots in Year 9. She wondered why they (who were not the descendants of slaves) had white people’s names. She didn’t give him this backstory. She simply asked, “what’s our real name?” and he replied easily, “Ansah.” She nodded.
Thy kingdom come,
He closes his eyes at this part. He was not afraid of death but he staved it off with a diligence that begged to differ. He kept a photo album of newspaper clippings from the Daily Mail and the Metro of foods that were harmful for the human body. He ate a strict diet. Breakfast: fruit (pawpaw was his favourite), medication. Lunch: Fufu or Ampesi. Dinner: a single potato, black tea, medication. Lots of water. No alcohol. Sometimes he had chicken and chips because life is long and short.
thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
He thought about that line, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”. It seemed to him that he had been making God laugh all his life. He couldn’t understand what was so laughable about his plans, but his faith assuaged him.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
He hopes to be forgiven for marrying somebody’s daughter and never giving her the life he was supposed to.
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
He doesn’t hear the rest as he begins to prepare the Bible study. He usually collects issues that cropped up at home during the week to analogise the scripture and further his own parental agenda. He was a good father to his children that he lived with. He looked up from the Bible at them. His biggest fear was that they would be the only souvenirs of his existence. When they had finished praying he instructed them to turn to Matthew 6: 31-32.
Alice Yaa Fosuah is a book-reader, lawyer, essayist and writer of fiction
This peice was inspired by Alice Walker’s ‘Roselily’
Related country: Ghana, Liberia