Once upon a time there lived two good friends, Bra Kakroch (Cockroach) and Bra Fol(fowl). They were living happily together in one isolated village called Dunkoma deep in the hinterland of Sierra Leone and sharing and doing things in common. Then both of them bought a piece of land on which they proceeded almost immediately to set up a farm from where they hope to earn their living. But Bra Kakroach started developing some wily and selfish if not lazy ways. He would leave most of the odd jos to Bra Fol to do whilst he kept making excuses whenever it was time for work. In as much as Bra Fol was not a dictator and would not wish to be so, he would allow Bra Kakroach to have his way most of the time.
Then famine struck the land and food became very hard to come by. Hunger took control of the land. Fearing that they would die of hunger, Bra Fol one day called Bra kakroach and suggested: “Bra Kackroach, you know what? Let's go out into the farm and start doing some serious farming. One may never know what might come our way. Perhaps God will help us find some food. "
Having become used to laziness, Bra Kakroach started pretending to be ill and replied:
"Bra Fol, you know that the place as well as the weather is very cold these days. I'm even very sick right now as I'm talking to you. Even my feet are becoming cramped. And to tell you the plain truth, I'm really not well. "
Feeling very sorry for him, Bra Fol took to the fields alone and did some farming there with hopes of surviving the bitter and cold months ahead when farming will be impossible because of the harsh weather. But every time he would come back home from the farm he brought back Bra Kakroach some grains to eat.
As the harvest season approached, Bra Fol made sure everything was in place for them to enjoy a bumper harvest. He visited the farm regularly, watered and weeded the plants and chased pests off. In all these periods, Bra Kakroach's condition never improved. On the approach of harvest time, Bra Fol called on Bra Kakroach asking him to help him in bringing the harvest home. Bra Kakroach still pretending to be ill, hastily wrapped himself up in a thick blanket feigning trembling. Bra Fol then left him, went to the field where he did the much-needed harvesting from morning to evening before returning home tired and sweating profusely.
Upon getting home, he met Bra Kakroach who seeing the bountiful harvest that Bra Fol had brought home remained still in bed. Bra Fol told him about how bountiful the harvest was and Bra Kakroach shook his head slightly whilst laughing to himself quietly.
The next morning, Bra Fol decided to take a rest after undergoing all the rigorous farming alone. In his dishonesty, Bra Kakroach thought of a trick that would make Bra Fol go away from home at least for a moment so that he, Bra Kakroach would steal and eat all the harvested grains. He told Bra Fol: “Bra Fol, you know the wicked foes living up those hills up there. Believe me, they ran down here yesterday in great rage looking for you and swearing when they could not locate you that they will surely catch you and eat you the next time That was after I had told them that you had gone on patrol. . I overheard them saying that they will be coming back the next day, so I would advise you to go and hide in the bush immediately and not return till evening. "
Feeling very frightened, Bra Fol started trembling. He entrusted his bountiful harvest to the care of the Cockroach and quickly made off for the fields to hide.
As his back was turned and was going off, Bra Kakroach started laughing. He laughed, laughed and laughed and then started eating the harvest grains his friend had entrusted to him. He took no time in eating all leaving absolutely nothing, not even a seed, for his friend. Having satisfied himself so well, he began to sing thus:
A make fol fool ooh kongosa (ORIGINAL VERSION IN KRIO)
A say a sick oh kongosa
Sick oh or nor sick oh kongoa
Eh ! EH! A kongosa
I made a fool of fowl oh kongosa(gossiping) (TRANSLATED ENGLISH VERSION)
By telling her that I was sick oh kongosa
But then to say the plain truth I was not sick at all oh kongosa
Heh! Heh! Hear you all this I was never sick oh, bongos
Bra cockroach continued singing and dancing until the time came for Bra Fol to return home.
Towards evening Bra Fol feeling very despondent, returned. Not far off from the houise he had started hearing Bra Kakroach singing. His entering the house surprised Bra Karoach who quickly dashed into hiding himself on hearing Bra Fol's approaching footsteps.
Bra Fol, now inside the house, checked Bra Kakroach's bed but was surprised not to find him there
Then he had an instinctual thought and he dashed for the harvest bin. As he opened it he was shocked to find it completely empty with not a single grain left there.
Realizing that he'd been fooled, he dashed back into the house to look for Bra Kakroach. But he had just escaped out of a window and was fleeing away at great speed for dear life. Bra Fol did not give up. He rushed out and set chase after him.
Then he neared him after a stout and long chase and threw his hand out wide to get a hold of him. But the dashing Cockroach knowing that would mean his end swiftly slipped jogging out and slipping swiftly into a hole in a hedge deep into which he disappeared never again to be seen for a very long time. Bra Fol now in great rage and vengeance declared cockroach his enemy swearing that any time he should see him or his kind are found he would eat them.
Arthur Smith was born and was schooled in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He has taught English since 1977 at Prince of Wales School and, Milton Margai College of Education. He is now a Senior Lecturer at Fourah Bay College where he has been lecturing English language and Literature for the past eight years.
Mr Smith's writings have been appearing in local newspapers as well as in various international media like West Africa Magazine, Index on Censorship, Focus on Library and Information Work. He was one of 17 international visitors who participated in a seminar on contemporary American Literature sponsored by the U. S. State Department in 2006. His growing thoughts and reflections on this trip which took him to various US sights and sounds could be read at lisnews.org.
His other publications include: Folktales from Freetown, Langston Hughes: Life and Works Celebrating Black Dignity, and ‘The Struggle of the Book’ He holds a PhD and a professorship in English from the National Open University, Republic of Benin.