It was New Year’s Day, the day Atteh Mumui, the mute of Mangoasè, ottofisted his way to go talk to his creator at the Zimmerman. He wore a dirty shirt and baggy Levis, old and torn at the hem. His mouth was uneven: the upper lip coiled inward like a snail in its shell, and the lower lip curved outward, covering half of his chin. He sat down beside the stained-glass window, the window reflecting the last-supper canvas. While the parishioners prayed, Atteh Mumui fastened his eyes on the Last Supper, salivating.
Atteh Mumui—middle-aged—mimicked his community in reverse. He would giggle when they groaned, cry when they sang, and dance off-beat when they sat in silence, meditating. He brought chaos to tradition, order, and rituals. Frowning faces filled the front, and the youth at the back could not hide their displeasure. Even the three most prominent families in Mangoasè, the Asamoah’s, the Edusei’s, and the Martey’s— families always projected on the big screen—hid their faces from the camera this time. The church felt handicapped.
Atteh Mumui’s feasting continued uninterrupted until the priest took to the pulpit. While the sermon was on, he stood up, took out a rusted metallic whistle from his back pocket, and faulted the priest as if he was a football referee, pointing out faults only he could detect. Atteh Mumui was slow by nature but on this day, he had a spurt of energy rushing through his bones in a thin, powerful stream at certain intervals. Sermon triggered. The old catechist sitting nearby shushed, and he got mad. He became a live wire left in light rain when he jerked up and faulted again. The priest kept calm and said, “leave the mute. Have you not read if he stops praising, I will raise up stones to praise me?”
The church accommodated this arrangement until they could take it no more. They preferred stones praising to the mute splitting the silence with a whistle. Some grey-haired women tried to take away the whistle, but they backed down as soon as they saw his mournful face and teary eyes. Unable to hide his rage behind a verse, the priest banged the pulpit. The watchman rushed in, grabbed Atteh Mumui by the ottofista, and threw him out.
When he reached for the balustrade to get back in, the watchman punched his face, and he fell backwards, rolling down the stairs.
The watchman said, “as huma beings come dey talk to God, you too you come som. Clear off. Get awaay. What you go fi tell God? Just come dey disturb Keke.”
Atteh Mumui sighed, coughed up blood, and sorrowed. The watchman pounced and wrestled him for the whistle, but he defended it. He trembled on the ground for some time before bursting into tears. He reacted as if whistling was his means of reaching God or faulting God for not giving him a voice, and taking it away would be taking away the only voice he knew, muting him twice. And that thought frightened him.
He lay in the scorching sun, sweating profusely, tearing uncontrollably. He raised his head in a lizardy fashion, threw himself back to the ground, and groaned. It was difficult to tell if his groaning came from the punch or the pain the church had caused.
The season was harmattan and dry leaves swept through the dusty roads, the blackbirds whistled out of the trees, and the sun like a mother’s heart pulsated. It was the time men were making merry, and lips were cracking that Atteh Mumui, the mute of Mangoasè, was out there, wailing.
Image: Monika Sturm via Pixabay