Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

A Short Story

The mission of Adolphus C.P. Jones

By Hassan Ali Ganda

One Saturday, in the middle of the morning, Adolphus C.P. Jones went to market. He walked briskly and took no notice of others. By the time he reached the market it was already crowded. He made straight for the meat seller's stall and elbowed his way through the customers until he stood directly before the master butcher. He was breathing heavily, his eyes were glazed and the beating of his heart was almost audible. The butcher shoo... shooed him away. "Am I a thieving dog?" Adolphus asked himself.

He retreated but did not take his eyes away from his objective. He waited. In a flash when the butcher was busy serving a large and sweating woman, Adolphus dashed in and claimed his sharpest cleaver. There was chaos. He, Adolphus was now the master. He, who was noticed, merely to be mocked, was now the one who mocked. The customers forgot their lust for flesh. They began to retreat, to run. The sweaty woman, perhaps out of shock, had not retreated and she pleaded that the cleaver be returned. Others were fortified by her courage and added their voices. "What an idea!" what mad people? . . . who gives away power?"

He liked the feeling of being taken seriously. He looked at them and saw only fear; suddenly his world was disturbed. A man had called out, "That's C.P. He is totally mad!" Adolphus moved forward. He wanted to see the man who had dared call him mad. There was more panic. The man vanished. The butcher must have thought that he had been forgotten; slowly and stealthily he slid his hand towards a large knife. It was a mistake. He had been seen for Adolphus was vigilant. Out of the corner of his eye he had seen the craftiness of the butcher. The image of being neatly divided in two from the top of his head to the very roots of his manhood disturbed him. He did not like it.

In a thrice he struck. The crafty hand was pinned to the wood. "Have mercy in the name of Allah. The great and merciful," cried the butcher. Adolphus liked that. He, the master, was now begging. He almost let him go. But just in time he remembered his mission and up went the blade. When it came down the butcher was without a hand and his blood mingled freely with the flesh he once hawked.

"What a crafty trickster"... Allah!... Did he know Allah? Did he know who had sent him?.. Did this simple man know his mission? He looked about. Those who were near had fainted. The market was in disarray but far in the distance he could see the approach of a body of people amongst which were policemen.

He had always had a very definite view of policemen. He feared them. He had once seen a policeman slap a man ... c-r-a-s-h. The man had urinated on the spot. He had been told that such a slap could make a mortal man forget even his own name. And there was worse. Policemen had guns and they used them to kill. He knew that he had to flee. The mission could wait.


He fled to the river. When he reached it he rested a while in order to catch his breath. Then stepped into its currents and felt their coolness. He liked it. He wished that life were always like this and that he had not been entrusted with this mission. He cleaned the blood from the cleaver. He felt its weight and balance. He had grown to like it. It felt good in his hands and he decided then and there never to give it up. He washed himself, his head, armpits, his crotch... thinking all the while about what that butcher would have done to him had he been less than vigilant.

That thought made him shiver so he shut his mind to it. He splashed his face with water and drank some of it. It occurred to him that the taste had changed. It was not right; it was not clean. He examined the water and saw that it was full of uncleanliness... of shit. "What careless people, what fools How could they destroy this very water which gave them life?" He decided to come back and clean it.

As he stepped on to the bank he was seen and the cry went up. "He is by the river." He collected his clothes and the cleaver and hid behind a clump of bushes while he dressed. He knew that he had to hurry, but he knew also that he must do things properly. He put on his shoes... the left foot before the right, his hat, his vest, his waistcoat, his breeches, his cummerband and lastly his home-made Sam Brown.

By the time he had finished rocks were descending on him. That really annoyed him. Could they not understand? Would they not understand? Were they such fools? What had he done against them? Well, he would make them understand. It was now war! They were Jebusites and he would deal with them. He grabbed his cleaver and bowed towards his enemies. A stone smashed into his face spliting his mouth. He could taste his own blood.

Slowly, he climbed towards the enemy but on seeing him they were put to flight. When he stood on top of the hill he raised his cleaver as if it were a sword and challenged them. But there was no movement and no sound. He charged nevertheless. Men, women, children, even dogs, ran out of their hiding places screaming, howling and crying. He knew then that he was in the right, if one man can put one hundred to fearful flight then the Lord was indeed behind him.

He raced through the broken ranks of his enemies. He felt joy... he felt happiness He felt excitement! He saw a rickety man. The man could hardly run "what an idiot, what a fool!" He swung the cleaver and the man collapsed. The cleaver was again covered with blood. He tasted it and it was good. He swirled and flashed his sword again and again and in a moment the ground was littered with broken bodies.

He stopped, looked around and saw that he was alone. He had shown the fool his power. They would fear him now! They had run. He was tired. But he knew that they were all tricksters and that they could come back when he was unprepared. He had to be vigilant. It was then that he saw the child crawling about under the tree. He approached it. She cried. He picked her up. "What warrior would bring a child to the battlefield?" Adolphus wondered. He felt his tiredness again. The mornings' exertion had taken a great deal out of him and he needed to sleep. He made for the bush, to the tree in the branches of which he had made his secret hiding place.


The people found him and they disturbed his sleep. Stones were hurled at his hiding place and he could see that they had lit a fire in order to burn his tree. He woke the child and held her before the crowd. The stones stopped. The fire was put out. He laughed. The child's mother came to plead for her child. The policeman who was with the crowd put down his gun and spoke that no harm would come to him if he gave the child back, "what tricksters!" Adolphus thought.

He squeezed the child to his chest and suddenly made as if to drop her through the branches. There was an audible wail from the crowd. He laughed. He liked this game. It could go on forever. He dropped the child again and again, the crowd moaned. He caught her, barely in time.

He took the child back into his room in the trees and left the people. He was tired of this disturbance. There was confusion amongst his enemies. They went for the chief to talk to Adolphus. He came and he talked but Adolphus only spat on him. They called Kowusu, the fetish priest. He came but Adolphus urinated on his pots and effigies and defiled them. When they called the Roman Catholic father to intercede, that really annoyed Adolphus and he threw stones down on the crowd and the Father, and they fled carrying away the priest. No one saw the approach of the madman.


"If you do not come down with that child immediately I will cut through your tree with my razor." A madman had seen what had been going on and as the crowd fled he had gone to the very root of the tree to shout his threats.

"Do you hear me? I say that if you do not come down here at once I will cut the life blood of your tree with this blade."

The tree was mighty but Adolphus looked down and there indeed stood a man naked but for a pair of tattered pants. The man was holding a razor in his powerful hands. Panic gripped him. He feared for the tree. This man was not like the others and he did not want any harm to befall his tree. Anything but that. It was within its branches that he had heard the voice and had been given his mission. He knew that powerful and mad man would destroy without mercy.

The image of the pain the blade would cause as it severed the living matter which was the tree made him fearful. He knew that he had to get down to deliver the child in order to save the tree. Nothing was more important.

When he climbed down the mad man took the child. The crowd crept from the trees and bushes behind which they had sought refuge. Their anger turned on to Adolphus. He was without his cleaver and with stones and sticks they beat him to a pulp. In their anger they forgot the child. The madman quietly slid away with it. He had always wanted a child. They were never seen again.

Long afterwards people would ask why it was that Adolphus C.P. Jones went to the market and why it was that he made for nowhere but the butcher's stall. As for the madman who stole the child some said that he was a spirit who had come to claim his own. To this day the mother can be seen walking in the forest, day and night, searching.

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