Somewhere on a narrow strip of land between the sea and the lagoon, there is a small village. They say it was a bigger village. But with every crash of surf on the shore, the sea claims a sliver of the village. The lagoon stretches as far as the eye can see and it swells up whenever it pleases. But being the kind mother that the people believe it is, it drains out with just as much surprise.
That is why the people of the village are often heard to say, 'The Sea will only stop when the Lagoon agrees to marry him'. Yet the people would not leave their village. The courtship between the sea and the lagoon is good for them, they say. The sea provides good fishing, while the lagoon supplies other delicacies. The soil too produces excellent vegetables for the market.
Sosu lives in the village with his parents, one sister, a younger brother, a dog and scores of chicken. Their house, like most other houses in the village, is only a stone-throw from the sea.
Most of the things he knows about the village are from the days when he was small enough to be carried around on his mother's back. That is a long time ago, when everyone fondly wished him to stand up on his legs and walk. But that did not happen.
So for many years, he only saw the world from inside the house. He saw the tall coconut palms waving their fronds in the breeze, high above the roofs. He saw the sky that seemed to end nowhere, the birds that floated free, the sun and the clouds.
In the mornings he sat by the door as everybody went away. Ma and Da were the first to go. Fafa and Bubu followed shortly as they went to school, with Fusa their dog, running after them.
The dog was always back puffing and its eyes shining with the satisfaction of having been outside! It was this more than anything else that made him envious. What good is a boy without a pair of good, strong legs?
Everyone cared for him. Da particularly did everything possible to make him feel like a normal boy. He taught him to repair broken fishing nets. Then he took him in his small canoe to paddle and fish in the lagoon. But one day while fishing with Da in the lagoon, two stern looking men drew up alongside and said, 'We don't think it is wise to bring that boy of yours out here. It is unlucky enough to have the likes of him in the village. We doubt if the lag oon Spirit is pleased to have him sitting here as well! We think you must keep him in your compound'.
Then there was that awful night. The moon was a shiny pearl in the sky and everything was awash with its light! Even the tumbling sea had a silvery crest to its waves. So when the drums boomed and echoed, the message was clear: Come out to play! Come out! Come out to play!
Without thinking, Sosu had dragged himself out of the compound. But while going towards the drumming in the moonlight, a girl appeared from nowhere and screamed so loudly that like flies to rotten fish, people came scurrying to the scene! Apparently, she had taken him to be a creepy spirit!
This made him feel so miserable that even Fusa tried hard to cheer him up. Whenever he was by himself and quiet, the dog would insist that they play a game. Except even that did not help. All he did was throw a corncob as far as he could. The dog then ran and leapt into the air to catch it before it touched the ground!
So often while the dog still hung in the air, feet, tail and all, he would whistle for the chicken to come. He enjoyed watching them, perhaps because there was nothing to envy about them!
One thing he liked to do was get lunch ready for Fafa and Bubu, when they came home from school. It meant Mama having to set everything up for him. Often while they ate, they told him every new thing they had learnt at school. That is how he too learnt to read and write, nearly as well as they did.
In the evenings though when everybody was home, it was a different matter. It seemed then, that those with good legs should do everything. He could then very well be a new born baby or even, a spirit that had to be served by others!
But one day, all of that changed. Well, nearly. It was a Monday, so everyone was away as usual. The men were out fishing, the women were hard at work on their gardens and the children were at school in the neighbouring village.
Everything looked all right. But suddenly, Fusa became restless and began to whimper and bark. The chicken too stopped scratching, jumped onto their perch in the rafters and remained still, except their muted clucks and cackles.
Then a sudden darkness fell like a blanket across the sky! The usual lazy yawn of the sea turned into an angry howl. The coconut leaves flapped and rustled as their tops bent and swayed desperately in the wind. And now the surfs boomed and thundered as they crashed heavily against the sands!
As if that was not frightening enough, there was a loud bang! And with it, the old wooden gate shot across the yard like a massive kite! It only stopped after spinning and smashing into a wall, well away from everything!
Luckily, nobody was hurt and Sosu took a deep breath with relief. But his heart jumped, when a churning tide of water spilled halfway into the yard! The sea was already at the village!
Something had to be done. And fast. But what could he do? The only other people in the village at this time were those who were too old and frail to do anything. There were many like that in the village. Often, they were left with very young children. They could all be trapped and drowned if the sea continued to rise.
He tried to shout, but he could hardly hear his own voice! He stopped for a moment to think. There must be something useful that even he could do. But what was it? Perhaps Fusa was aware of what was going on in his mind. It has stopped the whimpering and barking in the meantime. Now it looked relaxed and there was a knowing and reassuring look in its eyes.
That was the moment Sosu got his idea. 'The drums!', he said to himself, or perhaps to the dog, loudly. It meant getting out and trying to reach the drum shed behind the chief's house. With the swirls of frothy water everywhere, that could be dangerous even for a person with good legs!
But now, he could only think of the many young children, the sick and the very old people and of the animals that were all in serious danger. The look in Fusa's eyes did not only say flat it knew where to find the drums. It also said, 'Don't be afraid. We will be all right!'
So with the dog leading the way, Sosu got out of the compound and on into the storm! The water reached to the heels of the dog and the screaming wind blew and tore at anything in its way.
But the dog would take several cautious steps ahead, stop, turn to look assuringly at its friend and wag its tail to say, 'Come on. It's safe. Trust me. We can do it!'
And so even today, Sosu does not know where the strength came from to strengthen his weak limbs, or the courage that drove him on! Somehow, he dragged himself along, leaning into the howling wind and sloshing through churning water! Nothing happened to them and they reached the drum shed dripping wet, but safe. The shed was built on a raised platform, so it was dry inside and Fusa looked really pleased. But now as the dog stood and wagged its tail, Sosu was faced with a different problem. He had never played a real drum before and did not know how to make it talk.Again, Fusa made the first move.
As if to say 'There is no time', the dog stood up to its full height on its hind legs and scratched at a medium-size drum with its paws.
When the top of the drum tilted towards Sosu, he had to stop it from falling on top of him. After that, he took the two sticks in his hands. He struck the top of the drum with one stick, then the other. He played it slowly at first. But suddenly, the storm, the pounding waves of water, the young children, the sick, the old, the animals, the crashing fences and snapping trees, all came rushing to him like moving pictures!
So he struck the drum harder and faster until he heard it above the shrieks and howls of the wind:
belem-belem-belem! belem-belem-belem! bem-bem-belem!
The drum was heard by those at the farthest end of the lagoon and by those working in the fields. They were aware of the storm, so they said, 'The drumming is coming from our village. This is unusual. There must be trouble there. Let's go!'
It was heard by the people in the neighbouring village. They too said, 'That drumming is from the village on the sandbar. They are in trouble. Let's go!'
So through the rain and storm, they all came rushing to the village.
And what a shock awaited them! Waves as high as roofs were pounding the village! Some compounds were so flooded that it took a number of strong men to reach them.
They worked hard, moving from compound to compound, as they searched for those who were trapped.
They said, 'We were just in time, thanks to the drummer!'
'But who was the drummer?' somebody asked.
Suddenly, one of the men said loudly. 'The boy who can't walk!'
'Oh, and his dog!' another added.
'But there was nobody at their house except the chicken in the rafters. The boy and his dog must be somewhere. Let's look for them'.
The anxious men soon found them, thanks to Fusa's sharp ears and short, excited barks!
'Here they are!', the men said excitedly, 'The brave drummer and his friend! Well done! Well done!'
He was soon riding on strong shoulders, with Fusa leaping into the air to reach him!
That was the beginning. Everybody heard about him. The newspapers and people from the Radio and TV came all the way to the village, just to see him and talk to him! And of course, they took many pictures of himself, his friend Fusa and his family!
He remembers being asked many questions, including why he did something so risky and silly. And when asked about what he would like the most, he remembers saying something about being able to walk and going to school! In the weeks that followed, the broken houses and fences were all rebuilt and mended. Best of all, the once dusty, bumpy street of the village was scraped to make it even and smooth and it was extended right to the front gate of Sosu's house.
Then there was the big day at the village square! There was much singing, drumming and dancing. But suddenly it stopped and the chief stood up and spoke.
'People of this good village, we are all here and happy today because of one brave, little man— and his dog!'
Before he knew what was happening, Sosu was on shoulders again! Everything else that followed was like a dream! He was carried right across the square for the people to see and cheer.
When the strong arms finally lowered him down, it was not onto the hard, dusty ground. There was a gleaming, new wheelchair in front of him and that is where they put him!
Now, he too goes to school, pushed gladly in his wheelchair by the other children of the village. He is just one of the boys of the small village, somewhere between the sea and the lagoon!
Accra, Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2007