A Thorn in the heart


Art by Berina Ogega

PART I

Mzee (Old man or Old Baba) stepped out of his hut slowly and coughed. Everyone that heard him ran in different directions, to hide. He placed his right hand over his eyes and squinted, no one was around to assist him. He stretched, then yawned loudly. He almost fell backwards, the door frame saved him. His bones were failing him. His body fluids were drying up. His heart was slowing down. He could not walk for long without getting tired. When he was lucky, a good boy or girl would help him by walking behind him with a three legged stool on which he sat after every few steps.

Nyanya (Old woman or Old Mama) had just finished pounding goat meat in a big pestle. Her husband ate soft meat because his teeth were no longer very strong. She walked out of the hut, sat on a three legged stool and waited for Mzee to reach the living hut.

“Why don’t you ever help me walk?” Mzee asked every day, because he forgot that he had asked the previous day.

“I will not answer that,” Nyanya would reply walking into the hut. Many times she had answered… “I love you, but if I walked beside you I would become a statue and a statue, cannot cook for you, keep you warm, clean you, massage you and remove those little sneaky insects from your blankets.”

Mzee would shake his head. “That is not love.” He would say, smiling weakly. “You stopped loving me a looooong time ago.”

“One thing, my love, just this one thing, makes you think I don’t love you,” Nyanya would respond, “If I didn’t love you, I would not be here with you. I would hide like all the others.”

Mzee would close his eyes, raise his head, breath in and smile. Nyanya wondered if he was forgetful or just wanted to hear these word every day.

PART II

Not long ago, children waited outside Mzee’s hut to help him walk.

“Do not forget the stool,” Mzee would remind them. “When I get tired on the way, I will sit on it.” When Mzee sat, and Nyanya was not watching, a bored child would wonder away. “Ee! Do not leave me here,” Mzee would shout, “ants will finish me.” He would try to unsuccessfully lift a leg. Some children would come back because they were sorry and others returned because Nyanya appeared. Mzee would hold on to them tight, never letting go until he reached his destination. His grip was painful sometimes.

Soon Mzee came up with a plan. He had never bribed anyone when he was younger and stronger. (Old and weak come with many undesired deeds).

He spoke to Nyanya, “Please go to the shops and buy sweets for me. The children do not want to help me anymore. I will start awarding the one who assists me, every day.” Both knew bribing was wrong, but what were they supposed to do?

Nyanya bought sweets, not all the time though. The first time she refused to go, the reason…. “My love, the shops are a quarter of a mile away. When I am tired, I cook bad food, because I cannot make another journey to the shamba to pick spices,” Mzee nodded sadly.

“Here,” Papa stretched his hand. “Take these, sweets will give you enough energy for the journey.

“No,” Nyanya shook her head slowly, “Sweets are for children.”

“But you are still my little love.” Mzee teased, returning the sweets under the blanket into a small bag tied around his waist. “When we were younger, I remember, these sweets would make you do anything for me.”

One day Mzee picked a spear from one end of his hut thinking it was the walking stick. He stepped out of the hut and placed the stick on the ground for support, it got stuck. He called out to Nyanya. “My girl!” She raised her head and saw Papa at the door and thought,

‘Ah! My love is out; time for exercise,” she continued pounding meat and looked up again. “Today he does not want to move at all.’

Papa called out again. “My love!”

Nyanya stood. “Eeee…” and entered the hut, put the goat meat and herbs into a pot of boiling water. Mzee’s grandson, Gonzalez, heard Grandpa and was curious. He peeped from the door and saw Papa struggling with his walking stick. Remembering the sweets Grandpa gave, he rushed to papa to see what was holding the stick to the ground.

“Get my stool!’ Mzee ordered Gonzalez.

“Grandpa, that is a spear,” He had the stool in one hand and the walking stick in the other. He took hold of the spear and tried to pull it away from Mzee’s hand. Mzee held it tight.

“Not another trick,” he turned slowly to look at Gonzalez.“You think you are clever, you are planning to take my stick away from me, so I can stand here the whole day, you, mischievous little boy…. I have not forgotten that the other day you exchanged my large piece of meat for a dirty piece of towel?” You spoiled my stew and risked my health. What if I got Cholera?” Gonzalez almost let out a chuckle.

He pulled out the spear every time it got stuck in the ground and placed a stool behind Mzee every time he wanted to sit.

“I do not know what happened to good children,” Mzee complained as he sat. Gonzalez took a step behind him and tiptoed away a few metres.

“We can go on now,” Mzee stood after two minutes. No response. He raised his weak voice a little.  “We can go on!” He turned around slowly, “Gonzalez!” He was frozen in his tracks. He removed two sweets from under the blanket and showed them to Gonzalez. Gonzalez rushed back.

“Don’t play games like that with me.” Still thinking it was the walking stick, Mzee had a tight grip on Gonzalez’s hand and poked him with the spear several times.

“Aaaaaah! Grandma!” Gonzalez shouted. Grandma rushed out.

“Grandpa is killing me!” Gonzalez fell and hit the grass.

Grandma stepped out of the hut, ran as fast as she could and snatched the spear from Mzee’s hand. “You want to kill Gonzalez? Have you forgotten that his parents feed us? We would starve to death if you killed him!”

“But I can feed myself,” Mzee retorted, “I have two hands.”

Nyanya slapped his hand lightly. “I do not mean that. Look ,this is their land, we get food from their shamba and they buy us food sometimes.”

Mzee nodded several times, “Ooooooh!” He looked at the spear Nyanya was holding and gasped. He turned to see if Gonzalez was badly hurt.

PART III

“Uuuuui!” Gonzalez’s mama screamed from the gate, dropping a small kiondo (handwoven bag made from sisal) she was holding, behind her washer husband.

“Why are you killing my son?” she shouted running towards the group. “They are killing my son,” Her husband was calm.

“It was an accident!” Mzee defended himself, giving Nyanya the ‘we are going to die soon’ look.

“Grandpa killed me!” Gonzalez shouted getting up from the ground. “I was dead, he pierced me here and here and here,” he pointed at several places on his body.

Nyanya stared at him in shock, mouth agape. She stepped towards Mzee, picked up the walking stick and placed the stool behind him. Mzee sat. Everyone was speechless.

Mama Gonzalez rushed towards his son and looked for blood. “I was kind to you when I brought you here,” she looked at Mzee then Nyanya. “You are not grateful. Looks like I am going to have a grave in my compound soon, my son’s grave. That shamba…” she pointed, “is for food, not a graveyard.” ….Silence.

Mzee shook his head. “I knew many strange things were going to happen during my last days, but did not know… my grandchildren turning against me was one of them.” He thumped his chest several times. “What sins am I paying for?”

“Stop turning this around,” Mama was angry. “Who was holding the spear? You hate your grandchildren!” Baba Gonzalez held Mama’s arm and turned her to face him.

“Mother of my children,” Baba looked her in the eyes. “Let us go slow, let us start from the beginning.”

Immediately Mzee and Mama had finished telling their story, a small voice was heard from behind Baba….

“And the other day Gonzalez wanted to kill Grandpa.” It was Gonzalez’s little sister, Marisela. They turned. Gonzalez made a threatening face at her.

Mzee wiped his nose several times as he narrated the dirty piece of towel incident. Nyanya lifted the edge of her leso and wiped Mzee’s forehead. Mama walked quickly into the living hut and came out holding a thin strong smooth stick.

Gonzalez looked at Mzee, “Ha Grandpa, you will know why the cow eats green grass, but produces white milk,” wicked laughter. Baba was silent.

“I am tired of the drama that I find in this compound every time I step out for a few minutes.” Gonzalez nodded slowly like a grownup, feeling very important and special that Mama was defending him…. and getting more excited that he was going to see an old man whipped.

Mama lifted the stick high up in the air, Gonzalez jumped up and down on his feet, his hands held together on his chest, grinning, waiting for Mzee to be punished. Mama brought the stick down, hard on Gonzalez back.

Chwaa!

Gonzalez wriggled. “Now the traditional dance you had started performing is getting better!” Mama lifted the stick high, again.

Her son rushed towards the path that led to the bushes and hid behind some shrubs. She, hot on his heels caught up with him and landed the stick vertically on his back.

“Aaaaa!” Gonzalez screamed and ran as fast as he could towards the river.

Mama ran a few feet after him, then stopped… “He will be hungry,” she thought aloud, “he will come back to eat.” She turned and almost bumped into her mother.

“How did you get here so fast? I thought you did not have any strength left in you.” Mama was surprised.

“Shhhhh….!” Nyanya placed her hand on her daughter’s mouth.“If your father knows that I am still strong, he will never do anything for himself. I want him to stay active…. Is that your son you were hitting or a  snake? I rushed here to make sure you do not kill him.”

“I am tired of hearing Gonzalez did this, Gonzalez did that, every day.” Mama was annoyed.

Mother and daughter walked back side by side. Mama stretched her hand and plucked three terere (amaranth) leaves she had missed earlier on.

She tried very hard to hide her smile. “Why are you smiling?” Nyanya had a mild headache from the day’s events. “I hope you are not laughing at us and our old age. You know… one day you will be like us.”

Art By Berina Ogega

PART IV

“I am not laughing at you,” she laughed and dared not say why.

Mama had secretly followed her husband to the river that morning to watch him take a bath. Every time she wished to accompany her husband, he forced her to stay behind. “You must take care of things around here, you must make sure there is no trouble, especially from Gonzalez who enjoys harassing those around him, including Marisela.

She felt that her husband was up to no good and wanted to find out if her feelings were correct. She suspected he bathed naked for all women to see. The more her husband insisted that she stays at home, the more suspicious she became. She could not take it anymore, she picked her kiondo and walked down the river, hid behind a tree and watched.

Baba Gonzalez placed his bathing bag near a bush and fetched water from the river. He carried the pail to the bush and took out two lesos from the bag. He tied the ends to two small trees, and plucked some soap leaves from a nearby bush. Covered by the lesos, he washed himself.

There was nothing strange or mysterious to see…. no trouble, with her husband behind the lesos. Her eyes wondered to other men and women. All the men bathed in their underwear, and women, in their petticoat. Nothing unusual.

Her husband emerged from behind the lesos, he had finished bathing… she ran, a few strides on, she knocked a stone and rolled backwards, down the path to where she had been hiding. She stood up and looked behind to see if her husband had heard the thud and rustle in the bush. Her husband had disappeared.

A few metres from home, she saw her husband approaching. She swiftly turned left and picked the leaves of terere beside the path. The husband should never know that she was spying on him.

“Aaah…, my favourite vegetables,” her husband picked too. “You are cooking early today I see.” Mama smiled and nodded.

They walked home together and chatted happily until Gonzalez screamed.

“You have not stopped laughing,” Nyanya was puzzled. She jolted her daughter’s mind back to the present. Mama could not hold her laughter anymore, she laughed out loud. “Something funny happened today when I went to get terere. You will not want to know.” She looked at Nyanya.

PART V

They entered the compound. Eyes were staring from the half open wooden windows of the huts. It seemed after the spear accident, no one would come to help Mzee, in a long time. They also knew that it would be worse after Gonzalez went around saying how he died and rose after Mzee killed him with the spear.

Baba walked beside Mzee. Marisela helped carry the stool. She got three sweets, and an extra piece of goat meat from Nyanya.

“I learnt my lesson never to ask that boy to help me serve you food.” Nyanya said, they laughed, Baba was not amused.

“Every time I drunk the soup, with no meat in it, I thought your love for me had faded,” Mzee chewed his very soft piece of meat.

“You should have asked,” more laughter.

“You know…. women are unpredictable” Mzee sipped his soup. “I did not know how you would have reacted.”

“And the boy never grows fat,” Mama joined in. “He must have eaten a whole goat by now. I thought Marisela wanted more meat all the time she complained that she had none on her plate.”

Baba almost chocked on his soup. “Is that why Gonzalez does not eat with us? For how long has he been stealing meat from Mzee and Marisela‘s plate?”

“For a whole year,” Marisela shouted. “He sips my milk too when no one is looking.”

“I hope you know what a year is,” Mama threw the clean terere leaves on the fried onion and covered the pot. She turned to face Marisela, “Why didn’t you tell us?”

“He said he’d beat me if I did.” Marisela handed her empty calabash over to Mama. “I want some more!”

“No,” Mama took the plate and placed it near the fireplace, “That space in your stomach is for porridge.”

“There is no space,” Marisela replied quickly.

Mama smiled and poked her small tummy, “Aaaah, and where were you going to put the soup?” Silence.

Gonzalez appeared on the doorway, Mama stretched her hand and touched the stick, Gonzalez disappeared.

Baba sharpened his tools. Mzee sniffed his tobacco. Mama stirred the terere. Nyanya weaved the basket. They talked.

An hour passed, Nyanya helped Mzee out of the hut into the mid-morning sun.

PART VI

“Who goes out on a mission in a bright yellow garment?” Baba placed the machete he was sharpening on the floor close to his foot.

“You want us to go catch Gonzalez,” Mama stopped turning the terere. “Let me finish this,” she scooped some soup, blew it, poured it on her hand and licked it.

“No,” Baba looked up. “I saw you at the river,” Mama almost dropped the cooking stick. Baba stared at her.

 “That was not me,” Mama lied.

“Anytime you wish to hide in the future, wear a dress that cannot be easily noticed.” Baba tried to stifle laughter. “You were spying on me.”

“No I was not,” Mama tried to hide her face from Baba.

“Who will keep me warm at night?” Baba frowned. “Who will take care of our kids if you died?”

“Are you planning to kill me? Forget it,” Mama removed the pot from the fire and placed it a few feet away.

“When you rolled down the path,” Baba looked up at Mama. “I thought you were going to have a concussion and drown in the river.” Mama was embarrassed. “I am surprised you are still alive and cooking.”

“And kicking,” Mama corrected him.

“I don’t see you kicking,” Baba smiled. “I only saw you rolling and now…. cooking.”

Mama laughed out loud, clicked her tongue, scooped out a little terere from the pot, tasted some and handed the rest to Baba. “Don’t tempt us with that laughter,” Nyanya shouted. “We will come back to the hut,” They ignored her.

“Something good came out of the mission though,” Baba handed the ladle back to Mama. “I get to eat one of my favourite leaves at lunch time.”

PART VII

Gonzalez approached his Grandparents. “Life would be better if you did not live with us. I would be eating more meat.”

“Are you sure?” Mzee asked. Nyanya shook her head in despair.

“Yes,” Gonzalez was confident. He turned and found Baba standing next to him.

Baba pinched his ear and pulled him into the hut. He got a small rope, tied  his hands, his feet and forced him to sit on the floor. Marisela, who had been sulking on a stool at one end of the hut, grinned. Mama washed the dishes.

Baba walked to the cowshed and came back carrying a cowbell, which he hang on a nail above Gonzalez’s head. There was a knot in Gonzalez’s throat. Tears flowed down his cheeks.

“That is how Grandpa felt when he was choked by that dirty piece of towel,” Baba squatted in front of his son. He pointed to his tied hands and feet, “and that is what he would have felt if he had gone into a comma…. Hit the bell several times, when you have the urge to go to the latrine.You will know what Grandpa feels when he calls and sometimes nobody is around to assist him.”

“Mama! Mama! Mama!” Gonzalez cried. “Mama! Mama!” Mama stretched her hand and touched the stick. Gonzalez stopped shouting and sobbed quietly. “Baba should have tied that bell around your neck.” She picked up one of the stools in the hut and sat next to Baba.

“Can I have warm water for massaging Mzee’s feet.” Nyanya stood at the door. Mama got up and walked to the fireplace. “Eeeh!” Grandma exclaimed when she saw Gonzalez. “I see… I will be having company…. for the next how many days?”

“One year,” Baba suppressed laughter. Gonzalez cried louder. Mama hid her smile.

“Aha!” Nyanya nodded as she took the basin of warm water from Mama.

Marisela walked to the bell and hit it three times. Gonzalez tried to cover his ears. “Can I massage Gonzalez’s legs too?” Mama wore an expressionless face, tears of laughter welled up her eyes.

Baba was fixing the fishing net. He paused and looked at Marisela. Mama held Marisela’s shoulders from the back and pushed her back to where she was seated. “If you ring that bell again, we will take you to the pit latrine. That is what the bell is for.” Baba pursed his lips.

“I will never mistreat Baba again,” Gonzalez spoke between sobs. It did not seem like anyone heard him. “Baba,” silence. “Baba.”

“You’ve only been there a few minutes.” Baba looked at his son and raised his eyebrows. “In order to grow, we must be disciplined…. Talk to me after one week.”

My Art Teacher and Editor: behance.net/KenOmollo

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Invisible Pain

Art by: Berina Ogega

PART I

Analia did not give a thought to the drops of dew that fell on her face that morning when Balthazar was proposing to her. His arms were around her when he spoke. This was the first man to truly care about her.

“There are many girls who are more beautiful than me,” Analia was sad. She uncomfortably shifted on her feet. She raised her hand and touched her hair, looked up lovingly at Balthazar.

“My hair is never beautiful like the other girls,’ my clothes have been handed down to me ever since I can remember, I have never had a decent shoe…”

Balthazar placed his hand over her mouth and “shhhhh… I have always offered you money to do whatever you wish with it; you do not take it, ”he held Analia’s face up and looked into her eyes. “Marry me, and things will change.”

“You know it would be useless for me to make my hair, with the dust and ash,” Droplets of dew fell of Analia’s face. Balthazar wiped them off. “Decent shoes and clothes would not last a week. The long walks to the river, and the many hours I spend collecting firewood would not spare my shoes. How can I wear a new dress, the firewood tears my clothes?”

“Marry me, and you will not have to do that,” Balthazar persuaded Analia.

She held his arms, removed them from her waist and took a step back. “If I agreed to marry you, it would not be for change, I do not deny that I want a better life, but I would marry you for love. You have been very kind to me.”

Analia never thought beyond loving Balthazar.

PART II

When she came into the world, her parents were very young and poor. The pregnancy had not been planned, just like all the other pregnancies, conception was always a surprise. Very few people understood this. The villagers were angry. How could people start having sex when they were so young.

How could they have known that sex at such an early age was not allowed if no one had told them? They found themselves alone, building a hut out of reeds. Villagers whispered and gossiped as Analia’s mother’s belly grew. Her parents knew it would be easy to take care of a baby. After all people were getting babies all over the village…. and if the baby did not have food, he would suckle the mothers breast up to the age of sixteen, they decided.

The baby came, love did not bring food, love did not feed the baby. The milk disappeared and Analia’s father started fishing and hunting for food. Every day that passed they were angrier and bitter towards the villagers for shunning them away, for just one mistake.

“You are the one who enjoyed the sex,” they reminded them all the time. “We were not there, carry your own cross.”

“I do not care about myself,” Analia would cry. “Please have mercy on my child. My child is innocent. She does not have to go through this.Please give me food, for my child.” No one cared.

Sometimes Analia’s father would go the whole day, searching for food and come back with very little.

One evening he spoke to his wife, “You know we cannot go on like this.” The wife’s eyes were red and swollen from sobbing. Her two-year-old girl held on to her sagging empty breast.

“What are we supposed to do?” The wife asked resignedly.

The next morning Analia woke up. The door was half open. She opened it further and stepped out of the hut. “Mama!” she walked towards a covered small hole that was supposedly the pit latrine behind a tree. Mama was not there. Analia, having brought up next to her Mama’s breast, never cried much. She did not cry even then, she walked slowly back to the hut and sat on the doorway.

Villagers passed by, not one noticed that Analia was alone.How could they, when no one visited them, when no one bothered to find out how they were doing? Analia dozed off, slept on the floor near the door, sat up,dozed off again, but no one cared. Night came, she did not see Papa or Mama.Society tends not to notice the very intelligent children. Analia was intelligent. She closed the door and sat on the bed. She was hungry, lonely and confused.

God protects little children, she slept safely. (As I was writing this story I thought a horrible animal would come at night and maul her, but it did not.)

PART III

In every terrible village and market, there is always this person God chooses to be a Guardian angel. Everybody has one. Boys like small children, and Balthazar who was twelve years old at the time, always visited Analia’s home to play with her. That day, he found Analia alone. He thought her mother was running an errand. Analia did not look well and did not want to play that day. Maybe Mama had gone to get the medicine man. Balthazar waited.Evening came, Balthazar knew Mama would worry. Without a second thought he rushed home.

“Where are you going to?” Balthazar’s mum was surprised that he was going out to play very early in the morning, the following day.

“I am going to water the mango tree,” Balthazar, the previous day after the last meal, worried about Analia. He did not sleep well. He wanted to know if Analia was okay.

“Make sure to be back before the porridge gets cold,” Mama said as she stirred.

Balthazar rushed out and ran all the way to Analia’s house. Analia saw him, stretched her hands and started to cry. Little sound came out;her voice was very weak. He carried her, rubbed the back of her head and sang a song that he had heard the village women sing to their babies. Analia was quiet, but tears rolled down her cheeks. Balthazar placed her at the foot of the bed, removed a stinky, wet leso from the bed, rushed out and spread it on one of the shrubs outside. He ran home.

Analia lay down on the bed. Drops of tears fell onto the reed mat. Villagers passed by Analia’s hut, without a care, without turning their heads towards that direction. It was Analia’s parents’ fault that they had had sex at an early age. They were an embarrassment and shame to the village. The villagers would never be caught, even looking in that direction.

“Isn’t the sugar in the porridge enough,” Mama was worried. “You are taking longer than usual.”

“The sugar is fine.” Balthazar lifted the calabash to his mouth. “I am trying to change my eating habits, I am a grown up boy now,” holding the calabash carefully, he walked to the fireplace, picked a sweet potato and cut it into two.

Mama frowned, then shrugged, “I see,” she said as she walked to the cowshed.

With the calabash half full, Balthazar dipped the sweet potato into the porridge, covered it with Mama’s leso and rushed to Analia. Analia ate the porridge slowly, and remained some. The sweet potato did not go down well. Balthazar put it aside for another time. He brought food to Analia many times, until Analia learnt to fish at ten years old. Balthazar hunted.

PART IV

God protects anyone he knows will continue to have a beautiful soul till death.

The villagers wished bad things would happen to Analia, so that she would die. They said the spirits would be annoyed one day because an outcast lived near them. A manner less girl who wore boys’ clothes…. They hoped Balthazar would tire one day and not visit her at all, then she would die. They even planned to kill her one time when drought struck, but no one had the courage to do it. They feared Analia’s parents would be watching from afar.

Analia jumped up and down with joy the day Balthazar brought three old dresses he had stolen from Mama’s wooden box. Mama had forgotten about them, she never realized they were missing. Soon Analia was wearing plastic shoes after Mama threw them away because they were outdated. Analia never wore a knicker, nobody had thought of giving her one, but she always tied her mother’s old and worn out lesos around her waist. These good deeds are the reason why Analia never accepted Balthazar’s money.

“You have done enough already,” she would always say.

The men of the village who had been afraid that the wrath of the evil spirit would strike them if they were seen near Analia’s hut, started noticing that Analia was a beautiful flower. The worn out dresses and lesos did not keep them away. Yes, there were many men knocking at Analia’s door at night. (Who knocks on a door made of reed) They did not feed or dress Analia,but they wanted to have sex with her. Analia never opened the door, let alone get out of bed. With the expert and feared witch doctors, nobody forced his way in.

She had gotten used to having very little and had decided to live with the very little. Men whispered promises at the door, but it did not matter to her. They should have been there for her earlier.

She also knew about temptations, so she avoided long,useless conversations with the men. When Balthazar visited, they sat outside,on the grass. When they were in the forest hunting, Analia dressed well with all the tempting parts of the body hidden well. She never brushed against Balthazar, always kept a safe distance. One day she inquired why no one loved her.

“Your parents had sex without permission,” Balthazar explained. “but I am beginning to think that is not the reason. People will make excuses, not to get involved with unfortunate people…. because they do not like to help. The hatred for you gives the villagers something to talk about, something to gossip about. A tale for their offspring. Don’t you worry though, you are beautiful, you are kind.

Analia was very afraid of sex; she knew sex brought very bad things with it. She loved to look at the villager’s beautiful children, but swore never to have her own. The villagers will hate her children. She did not know the right age to have sex, nobody would tell her and she did not want to suffer like her parents.

PART V

Analia’s mind was jolted back to the present by Balthazar’s squeeze on her hands. They were soft despite the hard work.

“I know you will want to have children.” Analia was in deep thought. “They will be cursed before they come out of my womb. The evil spirits will kill them.”

Balthazar who was now thirty years old, had spent half of his life researching about the evil spirits, curses and witches. He wanted to help Analia. He had learnt that the evil spirits and witches attacked a person,only if the person allowed them into his or her home or if a person was bad. Analia was safe.

“I will let you think about it,” he handed a piece of roast chicken he had brought from home to Analia. “Then I will ask again and again until you say yes.”

She laughed amidst worry. “You are the only person I have had in my life. Marrying you will be boring.”

Balthazar pretended not to hear, his smile was well hidden. He would never marry anyone else. He wanted Analia. She was beautiful, hardworking and passive. She hunted and knew how to roast any kind of meat well. He walked behind her to the door of the hut. He held a bunch of reeds firmly and shook the hut, it was weak and about to cave in. It had served its time. Beside the reed hut, they started building a thatched mud hut the following day. Balthazar moved in with Analia, came with a big bed, after he informed Mama that he had found a place to live.

PART VI

When the elders visited Mama, Mama did not know why. A few minutes later, without mincing their words, they informed her that her son was living with a monster and the monster should die…. because they did not want to have little monsters running around the village spreading evil spirits. The evil spirits should not use Mama to destroy the village. Eighteen years had passed since the village had a good harvest. Analia was the reason, they said. They spent many hours in Mama’s house planning how to finish Analia.

As expected, Balthazar’s mother was wealthy and could not bear the idea of her son marrying a pauper. She visited her son. A very beautiful and well-dressed Analia opened the door. Her skin glowing and radiant. Mama knew she was with child. Her heart fluttered with excitement, because with the pregnancy, it would be easier to kill her. Analia smiled and gave way.

They had expected her to visit, but did not know when. She had come.

“I can see you are fine, my children,” she looked around the house and nodded.

Balthazar did not bother to talk about his marriage or introduce his wife. “Yes we are fine” He knew his mother was here to oppose the marriage.

“Analia has lived alone all her life,” Mama began. “I think it would be better if she lived among us now.” She continued. “She belongs to us now, we are one.”

The lovers were speechless. They did not expect this.

“All the villagers have agreed,” Mama paused searching their faces. No expression. They had trained themselves not to have facial expressions when a third person was around. “I can also take better care of her before she bears child. I will also teach her how to be a good wife”

Balthazar loved his Mama. Mama had taken very good care of him. No shouting, no quarrels, polite correction, and words of love now and then. Now that Mama was on his side, it crowned his joy. They moved in with Mama. Balthazar was confident that his wife was in good hands, so he extended his working hours from three to twelve hours a day. He moved back to his hut because it was near his work place. 

PART VII

Two week later….

“Analia! Analia!” Mama whispered from her bed when the cock crowed. “It is time for milking, let’s go, I want to show you how.”

Mama got up, followed by Analia. Outside the cowshed, Analia bent over and threw up. She held her stomach.

“Do not worry,” Mama said politely. “The first few months of pregnancy are the hardest.” She pointed at the mess, this will stop, soon.

Analia woke up every day when the cock crowed, threw up, milked the cow, cleaned the compound, went to the shamba, fetched water from the river and cooked. She never rested, she never had enough time to eat comfortably. She was Mama’s servant. Mama enjoyed herself so much that she forgot she was supposed to kill her, in fact, she did not want her to leave or die. Mama could now sleep most of the day and have her food served, sometimes in bed. She noticed that Analia’s legs were swelling and she had grown darker, but that was not her concern.

Balthazar visited every week, and brought with him many fruits and vegetables for his wife, from the neighboring village. He gave Mama money for emergencies too. He wanted a healthy baby. Mama kept three quarters of the goods to herself and never spent a cent on Analia. The villagers had a good time eating what her son brought. They came with their beautiful daughters hoping Mama will kill Analia and pick one of them. One day Analia fainted, they thought she had died, but the medicine man shattered their dreams when he announced that Analia was suffering from exhaustion and needed to rest. Mama did not pay him. When Balthazar asked,

“Why?” surprised that he left enough money to settle the medicine man’s bills for many days.

“You know your wife has to eat,” Mama was manipulative. Analia cried every night under the blanket. She asked God everyday why she suffered and Balthazar had taught her that kindness will be rewarded. Was she was going to suffer forever she and her child? Why did God not answer her prayers?

Analia wanted to get away from Mama. She wanted to talk to Balthazar every weekend when he spent the night with her, but he was worn out all the time and did not want to trouble him. Mama was clever, she never left them alone during the day. She made sure to escort Balthazar to the road every time he left.

“Rest Analia,” she would smile. “Sometimes you and the baby need rest. Let me walk your husband to the road.” Analia never had a mother to guide her, but she knew that older people were to be respected and obeyed. Every day her lover left, she would sit near the fireplace and weep. Every time Mama came and counted the money that Balthazar gave her.

“I was given some to bring to you.” she would spread her hands as she showed her the money, “but I will keep it for you, because running the errands around here, does not leave enough time for you to go to the shops.I told him you are a good person, a hard working wife.” It did not bring comfort to Analia.

Analia loved sugar, she wanted porridge and black tea with a lot of sugar. The medicine man said sugar was okay for her. Mama said sugar was bad for her health. One day she wanted to steal a few notes and buy sugar for herself, but Mama kept the money in a small bag that hang around her neck.

PART VIII

After treating Analia, the second time, the medicine man visited Balthazar.

“When was the last time you talked to your wife?” there was concern in his voice.

Balthazar was afraid, “Has something bad happened to her?”

“She is not dead, she walks,” there was sorrow in the medicine man’s voice, “but she has no soul.”

“It is a mistake, Mama would have told me” Balthazar fetched some water from the pot with a cup and washed his face. “or someone else. Maybe Mama is too old to see.”

“You say someone else,” the medicine man shook his head. “Who?”

It is when Balthazar realized that no one had ever spoken to him about his wife and no one would. The earth swayed under him. He wished he would fly to Analia. He stood still and tried to calm down. He and the medicine man walked slowly and parted at Mama’s gate.

Balthazar stood at the gate and watched. He watched his wife running up and down fulfilling duties in the compound. Sometimes strength flowed from her, she would sit and cry. She realized Mama kept appearing at the door now and then to check if she was working.

‘Mama never cared about the shamba?’ he thought trying very hard not to approach the hut until his anger had died down. ‘Why is Analia going to the river and I give Mama enough money to pay someone to fetch water?’he thought aloud.

Soon visitors arrived and interrupted Balthazar’s espionage.They were excited to see him, the generous son who brought nice things that could feed half the village. He walked into the house alongside them.

When Analia said hallo to her husband, it was without a smile, without excitement. Her husband realized that many days had passed without him seeing her smile. He was very sad, disappointed with how things had turned out to be, but did let his mother know, he went on as usual. Analia stood to serve the visitors.

“Oh Analia, rest,” Mama looked at her son. “You know, I insist every day that your wife should rest, but she doesn’t. I do not know what I will do with her.” Balthazar wanted to scream. He fidgeted on the stool. He did not say anything because he wanted to part with his mother, peacefully. He smiled now and then, until the villagers left.

PART IX

“Mama,” She turned face him. “I would like to go home with my wife. I miss her. I have no one to spend my free time with. I have no one to serve me a warm meal when I come home from work in the evening. I have no one to talk to. My house is cold and empty.”

Tears stung Mama’s eyes. She knew what she was going to lose with Analia gone.

“But she is almost bearing child.” Mama wanted to cry. With her back facing Balthazar, she looked at Analia threateningly.

“Analia, do you wish to leave?” she blinked more than ten times.

Analia nodded.

“I am sorry Mama.” Balthazar stood and stepped outside the hut. “Analia, I will be waiting for you out here.” Mama followed him and he knew what Mama wanted. He took out a wad of notes from his pocket and gave it to Mama.

“Don’t you see the danger your wife will be in, if she does not rest the last few months?” Mama tried again. “How will she handle everything alone?”

“Analia has been alone all her life,” he did not turn to look at Mama, “she will manage.”

Without saying another word, Mama walked into the hut. She met Analia on the doorway and whispered, “One day, you will need me.”

Analia looked straight ahead. She was silent. Balthazar took her bag from her and held her hand. He stopped in his tracks. Those were not the hands she knew. He took them in his and looked. They were rough, with bruises and blisters. Some fresh and some healing.

A knife cut through his heart as they retraced the steps back home.

A few months later Balthazar built a strong reed fence and a wide trench around his compound. He disowned his village. Every time a visitor from his village knocked at the gate, he knew he or she was coming to ask for financial help or food. He made sure to send Analia, and the person would be too ashamed to make his request and walk away.

He continued to work as a guard at the village border and made many friends in the next village.

“Everything will be alright,” Balthazar assured Analia every morning, and every evening.

They had five wonderful children who became very successful and served in the neighboring village.

(Many women suffer in the hands of their Parents in law, but they cannot speak out, because they are afraid to lose their husbands and many times, they have nowhere to go back to, especially those who grow up as orphans)

THE END

Editor: behance.net/KenOmollo

Restless

Image result for Traditional kenyan hut

PART I

The sun penetrated through the small gap in the grass thatched roof. The ray of sun woke her up. She shielded her face with her hand. Atarah was glad it had not rained for two days. She had given her steel pail to Bernice her neighbour. The pail she used to trap water. Bernice had only one steel basin. She wanted to wash her clothes in the basin and rinse in the pail.

“Bring it back,” Atarah had reminded her. Bernice nodded.

Atarah placed her hand on Bernice’s shoulder as she handed over the pail. “I tell you that all the time, you nod, but you do not return it. Do you know that there are times I do not want to get out of the house at night? Sometimes the pit latrine seems very far.

“Yes,” Bernice nodded, “You told me…. and because of Zebadiah, you do not want him to see you at night and…. you tricked him into buying you five pieces of roasted cassava.”

“Yes, Yes,” Atarah said quickly. “Now go, I would like to rest. He kept me up past midnight talking about the village fights and how his muscles are getting stronger every day.”

“You are lying,” Bernice looked at Atarah suspiciously.

“We did nothing, we just talked,” Atarah said. “I know you love to think of bad things all the time, let me not hear a word about this.”

Bernice was hurt, she spoke no more. She thought she was walking out until she hit the wall on the other side of the hut. She mumbled, turned and walked out the door.

Atarah needed her pail. She sprinkled water on the earth floor, every day after sweeping, to keep the dust down. She got out of bed, stretched, raising her short night dress to above the knee. She was about to walk out when she noticed that the rays of the sun were shining directly from the top of the hut.

“It is mid-day!” she exclaimed. “Goodness!” ‘I hope my neighbours have not noticed I overslept,’ she thought. ‘Men in the village will think I am lazy.’ In her heart, she knew it was one man. When she woke up early, she opened the squeaking window as noisily as possible, so that the man would hear that she was a very hard working woman. On this day, she tip-toed, which did not matter because she walked on an earth floor and was wearing rubber shoes.

PART II

She moved the window lock back slowly and supported the window up as she opened. Sospeter and I were walking hand in hand on the path outside her house eating roasted maize. I had bought this because I loved to watch Sospeter chew, with his mouth closed, concentrating on each grain. Then we saw the window open.

“Uuuui Atarah! Is this the time you are waking up,” I rushed to the window; she banged it shut. The loud bang echoed throughout the village. I pushed the window in from outside, she tried to keep it close from inside.

“Sospeter!” I hit the window with my fist. “Come quickly”

Sospeter thinking I was in danger, rushed to where I was. “Please lift me up”

“No,” Sospeter shook his head. “The reason why these windows are placed high up, is that no one can peep into other people’s houses.”

“Please,” I begged Sospeter.

After clicking his tongue, he lifted me onto his shoulders. Making sure that I was steady, I pushed the window hard. Atarah had let go. In a fraction of a second, my hands slid along the window frame, the hem of my dress caught Sospeter’s head, banging it against the hard wood. He pulled my dress off his head. I fell to the ground, with all my weight. I thought I had cracked the floor.

“Khai!” he cried as he put his head inside the window. “My head!” He rubbed his forehead “I hope your curiosity has been satisfied. You broke your back, who will split the wood and cook supper? I am not paying for any donkey to carry you home.” He walked away, then after a few seconds, “I hope you are happy now that you can talk to Atarah face to face.”

I do not know what Atarah was doing under the bed, I wanted to laugh, but a sharp pain shot through my back radiating to my thigh.

“Come out,” I said gesturing. “Nobody is going to eat you.” Atarah crawled out.

“Berina!” then a knock, Atarah jumped and slid under the bed again. “Open.”

“I can’t stand,” I shouted. Sospeter appeared at the window, his forehead started to swell. “Atarah, can you open the door,” Atarah shook her head. “Atarah, men have been brought up to climb through the window. You are not safe.”

She crawled out slowly, opened the door and rushed back under the bed. Sospeter walked in. Without attempting to help me up, he sat on a three legged stool near the fireplace. He stared at Atarah.

PART III

“You should know, that I know, that you stare at my son through that window.” Atarah’s head dropped. “You know; my son cannot love you.” Sospeter shifted on the stool. “I know you want him.”

Atarah shook her head and thought of how annoyed she gets when the son prolongs his visits. She wondered if Sospeter knew. I forgot my pain and turned a little to look at Sospeter, then, Atarah. Atarah wanted to cry.

“I also know he comes here.” Sospeter leaned forward. “You are not good for my son.”

“Aiiii, Sospeter…” I placed my hand on his knee. “Leave the girl alone,” I said. He pushed my hand away and placed his elbow above the knee. With the other hand, he stroked his beard while looking at me, then said,

“Big mouth,” I shrugged my shoulders. “It would be better if you shut up. You are the reason we are here. You are the reason I am forced to look at that manner less girl’s thighs as she exposes them from there,” he pointed at Atarah’s thighs. She tried to pull her dress to cover her knees, but it did not budge. She pulled it again, harder than before, and tore it at the seam. She tried to pull the pieces together, another inch of her body was exposed.

“Wah! Atarah!” I said as Sospeter looked away. “Will you stop that,” I whispered “and come out of there.” Atarah looked at Sospeter and crawled out slowly. Her legs were numb. She limped a little before she sat on the bed.

“Were you wearing that short dress for my son?” Atarah looked at Sospeter angrily. It did not bother him.

“You know we are not rich.” I gestured to Atarah to help me up. “If you think I am going to give you the cow I paid as dowry for my wife….” Atarah came behind me, bent and tried to lift me up.

“Take those things away from me!” Sospeter shouted as he pushed Atarah forward. Atarah stretched hands forward, pushing my head down, causing my lips to hit the knee. She held the edge of the bed firmly and saved herself from falling. Tears of pain ran down my cheeks joining the trickle of blood that was coming out of my lips.

“I will not only miss supper,” Sospeter complained. “but also my kisses…. And you,” he stood, walked to Atarah and poked her head three times. “I don’t want to see you near my son. You wake up late, you wear short dresses, you bend towards men and your house is full of bad luck.” He walked to the fireplace, took the lid off the pot that stood on three cooking stones, picked three sweet potatoes and walked out.

“I am dying today,” I sobbed, “I am sure, I will die today. I should have known when I saw that black cat dragging a dead black rat across the path. It looked direct into my eyes, as if to tell me something, but I ignored.” Atarah placed her hand on my shoulder. “I should have changed paths. Go and tell the villagers to come, I will die today!” I wiped off my tears.

PART IV

Atarah picked a leso from a reed basket in a corner and stepped outside the house. “Atarah,” I called. She turned. “The long grass outside your compound, why don’t you take advantage of your beauty and get one of the them to trim it for you?”

She turned and smiled, “Those sobs scared me. I am glad you still have a sense of humour”

She walked away to Bernice’s house. She knocked… silence. Knocked again… silence. She opened the door. Bernice was sitting on a table on one side of the hut, head on the wall, snoring. There was a plate of very few boiled maize and beans left over by her side. I picked up my pail and kicked her foot lightly.

“Aaaah…” Bernice groaned. “I am so full. Si I have eaten!” Atarah looked at her stomach and flinched, she tried very hard to keep a straight face. Bernice’s stomach had hang a little to the left. “I think my stomach is going to burst and I am going to die.”

“Seems like several people will die today,” Atarah said, “You will not be the first one, there is another one dying a few metres away from here. Why didn’t you return my pail?”

“I wanted to return it,” Bernice answered, “but I can’t stand. I feel like a big stone just dropped in my stomach. The food has not been digested at all since I ate.”

“You should have brought the bucket before eating.” Atarah was annoyed. “Maybe, if you had, I would have woken up earlier.”
“Woooi, how can I get this food out of my stomach?” Bernice groaned in pain.

Atarah looked out the window. “Phew! I thought someone had stolen your pit latrine, I cannot imagine you depositing all that food in mine,” she pointed at Bernice’s stomach.

“Look behind you” Atarah turned. Zebadiah was standing on the doorway with his friend Barak.

Atarah remembered she had not combed her hair, she unconsciously touched her head, then made to untie her leso. She stopped when she remembered why she had it on.

“I thought you did not care about this body builder?” Bernice whispered, shifting the weight of her stomach to the right.

“Are you sure you are not pregnant and in labour?” Atarah whispered facing her briefly. Looked at Zebadiah, smiled, looked behind at Bernice and made a face.

“You are beautiful…. Still.” Zebadiah smiled. “Even with that hair, and the leso.”

He turned to Barak. “This is the girl I was telling you about. Isn’t she beautiful?” Atarah smiled. She walked towards the door, Zebadiah made way, they started to walk away, when….

“You can’t leave me like this! Atarah please. I will die!” Bernice tried to stand but could not.

“You refused to return my pail,” Atarah shouted as she walked away.

“What is happening?” Zebadiah was surprised.

“Your Mama is hurt,” Atarah said.

PART V

My lips were swelling. Zebadiah bent to look at them. “I met Baba on my way here, were you two fighting?

“You do not want to know! Trust me” Atarah said placing the pail on the floor. “Let us lift her up to the bed.”

I was on the bed when I heard a donkey trotting, then footsteps approaching the house. “Your husband sent me here to treat and take you home,” the medicine man said.

“Thank you for coming,” I tried to get up.

“We will help you,” the medicine man said as he approached the bed. “That is what I am paid for,” Zebadiah and Barak placed me on the cart behind the donkey.

“You want to make more money?” Atarah asked. “Come, let me show you. There is someone dying in there,” Atarah pointed at Bernice’s hut.

“There is a gap in your roof,” Zebadiah whispered to Atarah on the way. “I will mend it for you tomorrow.” Atarah nodded.

“What is wrong with her?” the medicine man frowned when he saw Bernice’s stomach. “She will explain later,” Atarah replied.

Atarah, Zebadiah and Barak entered the hut. They held their noses. The medicine man was modest, he held his breath, walked straight to Bernice and helped her up. He placed his arm round Bernice’s back and supported her to the cart. He wriggled his nose.

As they were passing outside Atarah’s house, Sospeter joined them.

“I came to check if the roasted maize I dropped while lifting my stubborn wife is still there,” he pointed to the grass under the window. “Seems like the ants got a free meal. I also think I accidentally stepped on it, because it is half buried in the soil.”

“Was it a wrestling match?” Zebadiah was amused.

“Shhh! No,” Atarah shook her head. “I will tell you later.”

“Was she peeping too?” Sospeter asked pointing at Bernice. “And what’s that smell?”

Silence….

“And you!” he turned to Atarah. “What are you doing here?”

“Leave her alone.” Zebadiah and I said simultaneously.

“The medicine man shouted. “I almost forgot to pass a message from your husband to you, Mama Nyakundi. He said, the money he had saved for your leso, scarf, necklace and rubber shoes, is what will cover the medical bill.”

Silence…

He turned to find out why everybody was quiet, and wondered when Sospeter had joined them.

“Sorry,” he murmured.

Out of the Abyss

Image result for Pulling someone out of a hole

 

One day, I listened to a writer’s interview. The writer was asked if there are any stories in his computer that he has not published, he replied….

“Ninety percent of my work is in the computer. If I wrote for a living, all of it would be out there, but I do not write for a living, I write because I love to write. My dad pays for all my expenses, that is why I am in no hurry.”

Many rich parents throw their children out of the house after school, they are grown, they say, they will become a burden. At this time, a child has dreams, but they never give them time to work on them.

Years back, I would have envied the writer because… when I was younger, I prayed for someone who would take care of my expenses while I built my career. My writing career. I prayed to grow old in a farm, a quiet place where I would write peacefully and when I am not writing, a walk on the grass and my hands in the garden. Earth is my second passion. So obviously, I prayed to get a husband who would eventually live in a farm.

When your career is your passion, it does not matter what it is, science, art, engineering, sports… you want it to be fine. If you had your wish, you would never long to earn your living from it. You would want to take your time doing it, you would want it to be great. You would want it to have a tremendous impact on people, you would want it to change people’s lives. You would want to produce something that people would look at, with awe, a smile and tears in their eyes.

We all have dreams. We all have something we wish to do, from a very early age. But if we are surrounded by the wrong people, people who do not understand the importance of career building, or the importance of following your passion, life becomes an empty vessel, a sad journey. To them life is all about making money, and those you live with, will talk about making money, and making it quickly, before you get old and have nothing in your old age.

Passion does not generate quick money, so you are forced to do what you do not love. Like a robot you wake up in the morning and go to work with a heart as heavy as a bag of cement. Having lost hope in achieving your dream. You are existing and surviving, not living. There is the high that you get when you are paid, but after the money, it dawns on you… that this is not what makes you happy. As long as people see you earning quick money, they will always think you are fine.

Most creatives among us, the very intelligent and passionate people in our society are left to rot. They are the unluckiest, yet we, humans need them most. Food will never get anyone out of depression, alcohol and drugs will take you to a different world, but only for so long, money will never bring any significant transformation to our lives, to name but a few. If we keep ignoring the people that can change our society, if we keep forcing people to take careers that they are not interested in, we will continue to have more cases of depression and suicide.

We must teach. It is knowledge that changes people’s lives. Some of the things that get us out of this hectic world are experiments, projects, adventure, good music, acting and books. Activities that many of us think are a waste of time.

Then… there are those that discourage you. Those that wait for you to make a first step in what you love most and… ouch! they step on your toes. They keep reminding you that you will never rise if you are poor, little do they know that money has nothing to do with it. If you do not have anyone by your side to remind you that the haters must be ignored, you will give up. That is why I am writing this, mainly to tell you not to pay attention to haters, no matter what they think about your passion. Whether it is gardening, or building a rocket, do it. Remember, haters are people who have nothing to show.

While some of us stay in a dark hole all our lives, by the Grace of God some of us are lucky to get someone to pull us out, at an early age. We get that one kind person who spots us and lift us up before we get deeper into this hole. So no one gets to push us into making fast money, and making the wrong decisions. For some of us, it is different. By the Grace of God, our dreams are fulfilled at an old age, after we are done with making that quick money.

Just like the writer I have mentioned above, most people seem to be slow in what they do because they are covered in many ways. Others, want to produce the finest work while they make their living from something else. Some just do not think money comes before everything.

There is a Swahili saying that goes, “Ukiona vyaelea ujue vimeundwa” meaning, “If you see vessels afloat, remember they have been built.” If you see someone taking their time to fulfill their dreams, remember, there is a reason. Do not conclude that they are not clever, or they have little knowledge, or they are lazy, or have been rejected by the spirits as most people say.

For those losing hope because their dreams are taking too long to come true, keep in mind that it takes time to build a fine, beautiful sea vessel. It is not easy to keep things afloat. Make it fine, so that your dreams do not get washed away. If you want a fine garden, work with your hands, add manure, weed it and water it. If you are drawing, make it different, make it new, make it neat and beautiful. If you are writing, make it wonderful, make it mysterious, and engaging. If you are working on a science project, make it real, and do it right. If you are planning to be a home maker, be graceful, learn to love. Everything needs careful planning.

One important thing, Prayer changes things and for prayers to be answered, you must be kind. Kindness brings peace. Peace fulfills Dreams. Dreams give us Hope. Hope makes us alive. We were created to make lives better. Let people rise.

There is hope for everyone, and right now I am grateful for the two pairs of hands that are pulling me up, not forgetting my faithful readers. You will never know who will spot you. Pray, work hard, smile and be patient, there is always a reward.

Grounded

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I stood still staring at the tree hoping it was clean. I had just washed it. I hoped the sun would shine. I had been instructed to wash it because, out of the blues, Sospeter wanted to climb every day……

After coming back from the shop he dropped the package in the house, picked our nine-month old son, Gizzard Matumbo, and went straight up the tree, with him held tightly against his waist. I walked to the tree, looked up and shouted….

“My darlin Sospeter!!!!!” …..

“Yes, wife!” he answered looking down, almost slipping….

I jumped back very fast because I did not think Sospeter’s weight would have spared my life…… and there was this meat that he had brought.

I did not want to die before eating it…

“What are you doing up there?” I asked, “Can I join you?” ….

“No! Women do not climb trees! Go and do what you do best, gossip!”

Sospeter said looking over the fence at Mama Mwikali’s compound….

I did not say anything. I walked back to the house and cleaned the dishes. From where I was I could see Sospeter through the window. He was rocking the baby, singing…

Shhhh baby don’t cry,” he sang rocking Gizzard, smiling down at him.

(the baby was not crying)

“Daddy loves you….

But if you will not be a good boy….

Daddy will feed you to the crocodiles…

Try and see, try and see…”

Ai Sospeter!” I shouted, “What is that you are telling Matumbo…?”

Sospeter turned his head slowly to face me and shouted, “Let us see who loves him more. If you love him get him.”

He placed the baby between two branches on the tree, looked over the fence at Mama Mwikali’s compound and climbed down the tree….

sospeter2

My heart was in my mouth. I was short of breath…… Matumbo was quiet. Thank goodness. I walked very fast towards the tree. Very angrily I thought of how I would put chili in Sospeter’s mouth tonight when he falls asleep on the sofa…

I climbed up the tree, carefully stepping on the branches towards Gizzard

I was only a few inches away from Matumbo when the branch I was standing on gave way and I fell….

Whatever Angel directed me to wear a dress that morning was truly God sent… The hem of my dress was caught on a branch saving me from sudden death….

I was swinging clockwise………stop.

Then anti clockwise………stop.

Clockwise………

Gizzard chuckled. “I will not scream…” I whispered to my heart. “I will not give Sospeter the satisfaction of seeing me suffer….”

I looked towards the house in time to see my husband’s hand placed over his mouth. He looked very scared. He pretended to yawn and entered the house…. I stretched my arms as far out as I could and got hold of a branch. I pushed myself up the tree and moved towards Gizzard in little steps….

He looked up at me, smiled and held out his arms… I picked him up, kissed and held him tight….

I looked for a nice place to sit on and breastfeed my child….

My eyes wondered over the fence into Mama Mwikali‘s compound. And therein was a ball….

A football….

Sospeter stepped out of the house carrying a mattress. He placed it exactly under the branch I was sitting on.

“There!” he shouted. I ignored him…

He left…

‘Maybe this is what Sospeter was looking at…’ I thought, ‘He is planning to steal that ball…. No way…. I must get to it first…. My children need something to play with….’

After a while Matumbo was full and we climbed down the tree. I did not feel like I wanted Sospeter’s help so I jumped clear of the mattress on to the grass….

“Wooooi.” I whispered as I felt the tiny painful needle pricks from the soles of my feet to my ankles…

“My ancestors wake up! your daughter is in pain…!!!” I lamented and kicked the mattress very hard. I kicked again, but this time I missed and hit the uncovered root of the tree with my big toe. I almost dropped Gizzard… “Oooooh…. my ancestors!” I screamed, “how long does it take you to wake up…. Oooooh come with everybody! Your cows, dogs and cats…. The angel that saved me by the hem of my yellow, green flowered dress! Where are you…???” I was shaking my foot, my mouth blowing fhoooo fhoooo!! Which was useless because my toe was nowhere near my mouth….

Gizzard was smiling….

Sospeter was at the door again, looking at me in amusement…

After a while I knocked on Mama Trevor’s door….

“Mama Trevor! Mama Trevor! Quick!” I whispered, “Finally! Our kids will no longer get bored.” Mama Trevor was excited. She raised her eyebrows at me in puzzlement, “Come, let me show you……”

We knew Mama Mwikali‘s family had gone to visit their relatives in Machakos….

This was easy….

No one would find us…

I kicked the small gate open with the sole of my foot and went in very excited, with Mama Trevor behind me. I ran towards the ball….

Matumbo was happy too. He chuckled again…. I was preparing to kick the ball with my left foot when it screamed….

“Uuuuuiiiii!! Do not kill me!” I was so startled I took a step back, tripped over the root of a tree and fell backwards throwing Gizzard into the air…. I was already preparing an imaginary funeral for the child when Mama Trevor jumped forward and caught him……

Asiii!Mwikali exclaimed. “Achi! Achi! Achi!”

I stood up rubbing my sitting muscles.

“Goodness!! Mama Mwikali you scared me!!! What are you doing there buried in the ground…?” I asked, very shocked….

“Get me out! Quick!” Mama Mwikali seemed quite frightened. “The jembe and panga are there behind the door….!!”

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“I thought we stopped curing skin diseases like this…Is it serious….?” I said looking at Mama Mwikali’s face to see if there was any rash or big pimples…. She was silent…

I walked towards the house and got the jembe…. Mama Trevor was where I had left her. Frozen like a statue and staring…. I walked towards Mama Mwikali and hit the ground with the jembe once…. Then stopped.

“Why are you planted here?” I asked.

“It is Sospeter” Mama Mwikali said angrily in a low voice…”I was supposed to go home and join my husband yesterday but he buried me here and said I’d never leave… I must stay here and cook the fermented porridge for him everyday…”

I turned to look at Mama Trevor to see if maybe she knew something I did not know… She seemed confused like I was….

“Is there a kitchen underground…?” I asked, looking around to see if I was missing something…. I hit the ground again, dropped the jembe… “Do you have a rope?”, I asked….

“It is in the kitchen, hanging on a nail behind the door.” Mama Mwikali answered. I rushed to the house to get the rope… I tied the rope around Mama Mwikali’s chest and pulled and pulled… I wanted to give her a piece of my mind about my throbbing toe that was beginning to turn purple, but I changed my mind….

“Mama Trevor come and help me!”, I shouted, “This is not a human being…… this is a rock. I think she has grown roots…”

“Mama Trevor, don’t move!” Mama Mwikali shouted with fear, Mama Matumbo is going to tear me apart…” I realized I had not dug deep enough….

I stopped pulling, picked up the jembe and continued digging. I heard a faint sound of a branch about to break and the rustling of leaves… I stopped, looked back over the fence towards the tree…. and…. there was Sospeter watching us… Mama Trevor looked at me, worried….

I went back to digging…. “Promise me….. (dig)… that you will never…. (dig)…. call my husband …. (dig)….. at four o’clock …. (dig)…. to take your rotten porridge….” I stopped and stood upright, looking at Mama Mwikali, waiting….

“I promise,” she said slowly….

“And….. (dig)…. if he gives you…. (dig)… an avocado…. (dig)…. you will not even look at it…. (dig)….. promise, promise….” I stopped and pointed the jembe at Mama Mwikali, “You! You! You will know you don’t know!”

“I promise”, Mama Mwikali in a shaky voice….

I placed the jembe aside and stretched my hand. Mama Mwikali held it firmly and climbed out of the hole….

The three of us turned and looked at Sospeter….. He was still up the tree staring…. I looked at Gizzard and wanted to breastfeed him, but my hands were not clean…

Mama Trevor and I got out of Mama Mwikali’s compound and parted ways. Sospeter was already in the house. He seemed angry, but it did not bother me. I walked to the kitchen, washed my hands and sat on my three legged stool…..

I was deep in thought, wondering why Sospeter was such a bad man sometimes…. At the back of my mind, I knew there was something I was supposed to do, but could not remember….

After a few minutes….. There it was, hitting my mind like a stone shot from a catapult….. I had not changed Matumbo’s nappy…. I stood, got a fresh nappy and rushed to Mama Trevor’s house…

Art by Ken Omollo from behance.net/KenOmollo

Till Keg Do Us Part

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I was suddenly woken up by a scream that sounded louder than it should, in the morning silence….

I rushed out of the house to the road. Trevor was standing outside their gate, screaming at the top of his voice, and his mum, with her head out of the left window, was trying to shut Trevor up…

“Shhhhhhh… Shhhhhhh…. you will wake up the neighbors!” she whispered harshly. “Look, one is already up.” she said turning her head to my direction… I looked at Mama Trevor with my arms folded across my chest.

Trevor ran towards me, wrapped his little arms around my legs, buried his head and sobbed quietly. Mama Trevor mouthed the words, “Take him inside pleeeeeese…” I pointed at the man on the wheel, bit my finger and passed it across my neck (the murder sign)…. Then pretended to hold a bow and shoot an imaginary arrow at the man….

I bent slightly, took Trevor’s hand in mine and went into the house. My husband Sospeter was already awake. I placed Trevor on one of the chairs at the dining table, kissed Sospeter on the forehead and rushed to the kitchen…

I fried two eggs for Trevor.

Sospeter stretched his hand across the table and wiped Trevor’s tears…

“Stop crying,” he said, “Eat.”, as I placed a glass of milk next to Trevor’s plate….

“Why doesn’t my new Baba stay at home with me like you stay with akina Nyakundi…?” Trevor asked, with sadness….

Sospeter looked at me with the expression, ‘help me out here’. With my eyes wide, I made a gesture towards Trevor, who was now enjoying his breakfast….

“You know Trevor,”, Sospeter began, paused and continued, “your new Baba and your mama have been going to the church for marriage lessons…. and I am sure new Baba goes to work to get money…” Trevor was silent, not so sad anymore…

Since Mama Trevor met Baba she had stopped drinking because Baba too had stopped now that he wanted a serious life and also wanted to start a family. They wished to have their wedding in church and were encouraged by the church elders to get saved which they did with no qualms at all. They loved each other so this was a small sacrifice….

Baba bought nice things for Mama Trevor… Mama Trevor did not wear trousers all the time now… Her hair was longer and neat all the time. Trevor rarely ate chips and Pizza. He had healthy meals. Mama Trevor was becoming a good mother. The wedding ended splendidly with a long kiss and three beautiful smiles, Trevor’s included. I loved every part of it. A honeymoon in Lokichogio crowned it all…

After a while they were back. Two nights passed by then Baba wanted to go out and meet his old friends, “You know, I do not want them to to think I don’t like them anymore now I am married. A man has to continue to be a man” and he left for the club. Mama Trevor told me this over a maize roasting get together we had that evening….

Mama Trevor was getting anxious. It was late and Baba was not back yet…

 

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Suddenly a car pulled up outside the gate. “I believe I can fly…” someone sang at the top of his voice, “I believe I can touch the sky…..” the drunken voice went on as we rushed out of the gate, “I think about it every night and day….” It was Baba, arms spread wide with a bottle of alcohol in one hand…sip…. sip … “Spread my wings and fly awaaaay…” Baba went on, looking up, swaying on his feet….

By now Mama Trevor had reached where Baba was and she was attempting to turn him round so he would go into the house…

“Don’t touch me!” Baba shouted. He tripped over the iron bar across the bottom of the gate and fell on his stomach….

I rushed into my house and pulled Sospeter out to where Baba was…

We lifted him up and dragged him into the house…. And that is how life was for Mama Trevor for some time…

Baba had gone back to his old drinking habit. But his wife kept away from the drink…

Then one morning I was woken up by Mama Trevor’s singing. Her voice was trembling.

“I hit a wall,” she sang, “I never felt so low, so low.” I walked towards the fence and peeped. “Mama Trevor” I whispered. She sat on the stairs, her legs bent in her arms, head resting on her knees. Tears streaming down her face. She went on as if she had not heard me, “Like a waterfall, my tears dropped to the floor, the floor..” beside her was a bottle of whiskey which she sipped after every sentence. I walked up to her and picked the bottle…

“This is not happening.” I told her shaking the bottle, “You can’t do this. He is not worth it.” I threw the bottle over the fence onto the road….

“I did not open the door for him last night,” Mama Trevor sobbed… “I don’t want him anymore.” The door opened. Trevor appeared, hugged his mother and whispered a soft “good morning mum.” and a “good morning Aunty” to me…

“Good morning Trevor. Come…both of you.” I said smiling, “Lets go make breakfast. Then we will roast some maize in the afternoon.”

“Yeeeeeeah!” Trevor shouted and went skipping out of the gate. His mama walking slowly behind him.

BEER PRESSURE

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When I was 19 my neighbor asked me to attend his wedding night celebration in a certain club… When I say celebration I do not mean accompanying him and the wife to a room in a hotel… It was to the wedding night party..

So when we arrived and had settled down… [I can not remember if I had any money on me..] A guy of Asian origin approached me and asked.. “What would you like to take..” [No no no no no, let me rewind…. let me say exactly how he said it.] “Wee takunywa nini?“..

I answered, “sprite…”

You should see the look he gave me.. You see that look that someone gives you when you tell them…

“I have not been feeling well since Monday.. I have been having a headache.. Feeling dizzy.. Hot… Vomiting.. Severe stomach ache.. Red teary eyes..”

Then the person asks you.. “Have you seen the doctor…?” You answer, “No. I have been eating apples. I’ll be okay” You see the way the person looks at you?

That is the look the Asian gave me and left.. I think he had vodka or whiskey in his hand.. I could not differentiate them at that time…

So I sat alone on the sofa listening to music… Knowing that I could not go home because it was already 10 pm… And that was not a place matatus traveled.. Only Taxi…

After a while a friend noticed that I was not taking anything.. She bought me sprite..

At another club, many years later… Two men approached us and offered to buy my friend and I a drink… My friend took beer and I krest.. The man I was with told me.. “You are a complicated woman. I wish I took your friend.. It is women like you who wait for men to get drunk and steal from them later..” I laughed… After two sodas morning came…

When I reached the road and broke off from him to take a taxi he shouted.. “You stupid woman, you think I am foolish?” I did not look back… That is how it is when you do not take alcohol… I have always noticed when I am in a group of people, it is very easy for them… to buy alcohol for 5 thousand shillings than buy that one soda that costs 50.. I must carry my own money for drinks when I go out, because if I do not… I will die of thirst….

Woe unto you if you are invited to a party that is in a bush, where shops are far, far away.. And then you see the car that went to town to get drinks coming back with crates of beer only… And you want sugar… Soda sugar…

I have taken Redds many times… Not in clubs though… At home and at private parties… it is my favorite alcoholic drink… But I stopped… I stopped because I discovered that coffee, juice and chips taste better than alcohol… These days you ask me, “what do you take? ” I’ll ask, “Do they sell chips here?”

I kept thinking, ‘men find me boring because I do not drink. That is why I do not have a boyfriend…’ And I tried very much not to tell any person I was dating…… to stop drinking… Because I was afraid he would leave me… The smell of alcohol is not very pleasant…

But God works in mysterious ways… I learnt that you do not have to drink to get a man… Or keep a man… There are so many men who do not drink.. I also learnt it is not wrong to not drink… Alcohol will cause people to make the wrong decisions..

I mix with a lot of people who drink… Because I do not hate them.. But I will take soda or juice only… In every party… Because I know… I do not have to mess my life to fit in a group…