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The fishmonger's perfume - Short story

By The Mirror

It was over a month now, since Dzatugbui lost the case against Agbui in Keta. She hated being called Dzatugbui. She preferred being called by her Christian name Margaret, Maggie for short.

Despite this attitude of hers, her own parents still called her Dzatugbui and she responded. Dzatugbui, like most youth of her age, was facing an acute identity crisis. She was fighting an emotional or psychological war against herself, her family, her country and her colour.

She is a victim of a very powerful self-imposed emotional conflict. She hated the fact that she was a Gold Coaster. She found it difficult to accept her background. The Gold Coasters were poor, primitive, afflicted with diseases, ignorance and superstition.

She had resorted to bleaching of her skin to enable her to come closer to her own definition of a recognised and acceptable human being.

She had often wondered why God did not create her a white lady. If she had been born in London, New York, Paris or Berlin, it would have been much better and the story of her existence would have been entirely different. She was extremely uncomfortable with being born at Denu, in fact at Adafienu.

She told people she was a Brazilian staying in Lome, where she owned a big house built for her by a Brazilian businessman. The relationship ended when she quarrelled with his Lebanese wife, who referred to Dzatugbui as a morally bankrupt bitch, roaming about beaches, corrupting other people's husbands with her EMBA (Extra Marital Business Association).

Dzatugbui had been a salesgirl to Nazario Roberto De-Souza in Lome for about five years. In the fifth year of her stay in Lome, something very traumatizing happened to her on the day she was supposed to get wedded to one Afro-American. Unknown to Dzatugbui the man was married with two children in Accra. The wedding was scheduled for Lome to prevent the double marriage from being detected. Unfortunately, the man's wife had wind of the idea and decided to challenge the marriage.

She was in Lome the day before and managed to get to the chapel without being noticed by her husband. When the pastor asked that anyone with a reason for which the marriage should not take place should come out and state it, the woman walked forward with her two children to the surprise of the members of the congregation.

"Five years ago, I got married to this man under the ordinance law, which makes it criminal for him to marry as long as both of us are alive. Here are pictures of our wedding, our marriage certificate and our two children," the woman reported with much disapproval. The allegations were investigated and found to be true. The wedding was discontinued, much to the embarrassment of the couple, invited guests and the congregation. This singular incident so much traumatised Dzatugbui that she decided not to trust any man and had vowed to take revenge on all men.

Dzatugbui's attitude of self-rejection created a vacuum in her, which she struggled to fill with material things, association with the rich and powerful, shunning the company of the poor and seeking after treasure, leisure and pleasure.

She was an influential businesswoman who took advantage of her beauty to make money. At 35 years, she was already famous for her wealth, but she was without a child or a husband. She was nevertheless respected for her wealth and admired by some people for her independence of thought and action.

The story is still told in Agbovega of what happened between Dzatugbui and a fishmonger from Denu. Dzatugbui once came home to Adafienu for a funeral in a posh car from Lome. The fishmonger, who had five children, was unlucky to have had one of her children using charcoal to write I 2 3... on the bonnet of Dzatugbui's Lincoln Continental car.

This angered Dzatugbui beyond what her countenance could accommodate. She considered the conduct of the child as an act of an unpardonable provocation and thought there was a compelling reason to put the untutored child and her unlettered parents where they belonged on the ladder of social stratification. Dzatugbui referred to the little girl and her parents as dirty, good for nothing and primitive Homo sapiens.

The fishmonger, who knew Dzatugbui from infancy, told her that with all her wealth, she could not purchase the perfume that she used. The fishmonger warned her to learn to respect women of integrity who did not thrive on the bread of idleness.

The bluff of the fishmonger infuriated Dzatugbui who summoned her at the chief's palace to produce the type of perfume which she could not purchase. The woman appeared in court that day with her last born.

When the matter was put to her, she simply restated her claim that with all her wealth, Dzatugbui could not buy the perfume that she used. Thereupon she was asked to produce the perfume she used. She brought her child forward; gently squeezed her nose and phlegm came out of the nose and she showed it to the gathering as the perfume that she used. She then smeared it all over her body. Dzatugbui broke down in tears and went home without any further claims. It was clear to everybody that with all her wealth she could not buy a child, let alone benefit from the use of the phlegm from a child's nose. Her ego was completely deflated by the fishmonger. She could not bear the humiliation and broke down in tears.

Her mind went back to the three abortions she had had and the warning the doctor gave her against the third one. She refused to heed the doctor's advice and went ahead to have her third consecutive abortion in two years. This was because she could not afford to have a child without a wedding. Now here was a traditionally married but unwedded fishmonger, belonging to the category of people she despised most, publicly ridiculing her for barrenness. Dzatugbui could not bear it. And she wept.

Credit: Simon Amegashie-Viglo (The Mirror)