The X Page: A Storytelling Workshop

GoatFinal copy

The Christmas Goat

by Scilla Owusu-Amoah


I am nine years old. It’s Christmas time in Accra, Ghana and as kids we all know what that means—Daddy comes alive at Christmas time.

Today he is playing Boney M loudly on the speakers inside and does a little dance, elbows out, swaying from side to side as he makes his way through the kitchen, out the back door and onto the kitchen porch. 

“Yaa Tetebea! Fa sekan no bre me!” He calls out to my sister to bring him the knife. 

I am crouched down in the right corner of the kitchen porch. I hide my face between my knees and wrap my hands around my head making myself as small as I can. 

Maybe if he can’t see me, I won’t be invited to this year’s killing.

 It’s 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, the sun is burning hot but the occasional dusty breeze of the harmattan winds cools my body and calms my nerves. 

I wonder if Jeffery feels it too? 

He stands about 20 feet in front of me, attached by a rope to a tree in the backyard. Jeffery continues to chew lazily at some fresh cassava leaves. He has no idea what befalls it but I do. 

This year it’s Jeffery, last year it was Afi the sheep and the year before Kukuwa, the chicken. They all end up the same way, surrounded by jollof rice, fried plantain, fufu and light soup, on the dining table.  

On the edge of the porch, my older sister, Abbie, is perched before two large metal basins. In one of them is hot water, where Jeremy, a large rooster, is immersed. He has already met his fate.  

My sister is ten, just a year older than me, but at that moment she seems several years older as she stands before the basins, eyebrows furrowed, working painstakingly as she pulls the feathers off the bird. Her oversized orange polo shirt is creased in perfect squares from when it was neatly folded away. The leaf-shaped blood stain in the middle of the shirt is just one of several stains the shirt has gathered over the years. She looks up for a brief second to smile at daddy as he dances past wearing his matching orange shirt with blood stains. 

They save the shirts for this special occasion. 

I think I have managed to escape being an accomplice to the slaughter of the Christmas goat today! 

Uncle DD is digging a hole in the ground to capture the blood from Jeffery. 

To the left, daddy tends the wood fire that will be used to burn off the bits of the goat. 

 I think I should stop calling it Jeffery, now. 

I look away as uncle DD unties it from the tree and walks it towards the hole he has made in the ground…It’s time.

My Dad calls me. And that is my cue, I sneak off to the front of the house and find my friends.  Outside, I can still smell the firewood and hear the rhythmic pounding of pestles as neighbours far and near prepare their fufu.  

My friends and I line up sticks in a row in the middle of the road and stand behind it, “First person to the junction wins. On your marks, get set…Go!” 

I sprint from my ready position, confident of my victory before the race even begins. 

It’s 5:30pm and the street lights are starting to come on. I sneak back into the house and head to the dining room where my family is starting to gather around the table. I help my grandparents to their seats at the head of the table and hold out the bowl of soapy water for them to wash their hands. I find my seat between my little sisters grabbing their hands as we bow our heads to pray. As I open my eyes, Abbie makes her way into the room with a large saucepan. She sets it on the edge of the table and ladles out light-soup onto my bowl of fufu. I start to eat, shoving morsels of food down my throat when I suddenly realize that the pieces of meat sitting beautifully in my soup is Jeffery the goat, cut up, spiced, and cooked to perfection. 

A delicious Christmas meal.