Writings / Fiction: Chris Galvin

Groundnut Soup



As the shadows lengthened, Auntie Atta and her twin brother Dominic pulled up in front of my house. Auntie lugged a steaming cauldron of groundnut soup out of the trunk of their rented car and struggled up the steps. I opened the door, eyeing Auntie and her huge pot.

“They allowed you on the plane with a pot of sloshing soup when you left Kumasi? And how’d you get it through customs over here?”

“It was easy,” she said, “In Kumasi I told them it was for my son’s naming ceremony and they let me on. When the plane landed here, I just put the whole thing into my black hole tote bag and they never saw a thing.”

Dominic let out a long, loose, rolling laugh so rich I thought I felt it drape my skin like velvet.

“I told her that bag would come in useful. When I gave it to her last Christmas, she was afraid to use it at first. She said we’d never be able to get anything back, once we put it in the bag, but the salesman sold me a clicker to disable something in the bag. ‘Event horizon’, that’s what he called it.

“So when my sister needs her car keys for example, she just hits the button to disable that horizon thing, takes out the keys, then activates the bag again. Now she knows how useful it is against pickpockets, she doesn’t go anywhere without it. Normally, you could pass something in through the horizon thingy, but you couldn’t get it back out. Of course, it’s just a baby black hole. If it was bigger, we couldn’t deactivate it. Plus, its gravity is very low because it’s so small.”

“But what happens when things fall to the center of the black hole?” I asked. “I mean, doesn’t the stuff she puts in her bag just get ripped apart by the tidal forces in there? And besides, if someone really wanted to rob her, he might just grab the purse.”

His laughter rippled out around us again. “You have to see the clicker. Then you’ll understand. There are settings to increase the gravity slightly, so that any thief would just be sucked right in. We can also turn the singularity thingy on and off.”

“Well, thank goodness for that,” I said, “I thought that anything entering a black hole was doomed to move inwards to the singularity at the center, and get annihilated.”

Auntie kissed her teeth and shook her head. “All this science nonsense. Just get me some bowls so I can serve the soup. I brought lots of yam fufu to eat with it. Do you have any pepper sauce?”

She placed a big ball of ivory-coloured fufu in each bowl and ladled on the soup, so that the fufu sat like a floating island in a lava-coloured sea of spicy peanut sauce. Then she looked into her cauldron, a deep frown pulling her eyebrows down until they met on the bridge of her nose. Glowering, she pointed the dripping ladle at Dominic. “Where is it?”

“What? What are you implying, woman? And what makes you think I am to blame?”

“The chicken. Where is it? I packed eight pieces of chicken to eat with the soup. Come to think of it, when I woke up on the plane, I saw you licking your fingers. You ate all the chicken.”

“Huh! I bet you lost it inside that black hole of yours, Atta. Bet you if you look in there, you’ll find some greasy stains.”

I suggested we hop in the car and drive out to the meat-vending machine. It was still early, and if we hurried, there might be some chicken left, though it was usually the first thing to sell out. Auntie Atta fussed about her perfect fufu. “It’ll be stiff and cold when we get back.”

Dominic bent down and carefully brushed a speck from his polished brown wingtips. As he straightened up again, he slid his long, delicate fingers into his pocket and brought out a mickey of akpeteshie. “Forget the chickens, Atta. Have a slug of this and watch your troubles melt away.” He tilted the bottle and I listened to the akpeteshie glug-glugging as he took a long pull before holding it out to his twin.

Auntie snatched the bottle from his hand. “Akpeteshie bekum wo,” she said, “Akepeteshie will kill you.” She opened her tote bag and dropped the bottle into the yawning depths, then pressed a button on the remote control. The space around the bag appeared to bend outwards and glow with a dim reddish light.

We heard a loud whoosh and then a crunching noise. Dominic’s face became suffused with blood. Clenching his fists, he turned to Auntie. “When we get back to Kumasi, I’m going to rip the gate right off your coop and eat every one of your chickens. I’ll eat them feathers and all.”

Auntie turned a dial, then clicked a button on the whirring remote. The shimmering red light around the tote bag winked out, and she opened it up wide. I had no idea that such a small bag could have such a big opening. She hollered at Dominic. “You want your akpeteshie back? Then take it. I don’t care!” She held the bag out to him. As he reached for it, she flipped some more dials, then threw the bag on the floor.

The last rays of the setting sun streaming in through the window flashed off Dominic’s chunky gold watch. A tiny diamond at the tip of the second hand glittered, throwing a rainbow across my shirt. I saw the hand stop in its tracks. Dominic reached into the bag in slow motion.

First his hand with the watch went in, then his arm, followed by his head and neck, which elongated and stretched away from the rest of him. His lower body was still standing before us, while his upper half had disappeared into the bag.

Auntie and I stood transfixed as, in what seemed like an eternity, his legs and feet followed his torso into the void, and finally the bag snapped shut behind him. With a faint whisper, like wind in tree leaves, the bag evaporated.

Auntie kissed her teeth in a long tsssk. She dusted her ample bosom as if brushing off snow, or dandruff, then grabbed my hand. “Let’s eat that fufu! I’ll just run out to the car to get the chicken from the cooler.”

7 Responses to “Writings / Fiction: Chris Galvin”

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  1. Mark says:

    What a fun story! Except for Dominic…

  2. Seven years in Ghana says:

    Having spent several years in Ghana, I loved this story. I miss the peanut soup and the floating island of fufu in the middle SO much! Could taste it when I read it here. During my years there, a kind woman, big and brash when she dealt with the men in her life, took me in. She was always kissing her teeth. This story reminds me of her and of evenings sitting around with her older relatives listening to some amazing story-telling.

  3. Soli says:

    I could use a purse like that ;) Fantastic storytelling!

  4. marousia says:

    Love this! Poor Dominic :)

  5. wonderful writing. strong stuff.

  6. Quirina says:

    Loved this story, Chris, the juxtaposition of a phenomenon in outer space in the bag of a lovely African woman, whose character truly comes alive in this story and who has come to nourish her relatives … no matter what. :-)

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