African Grace


My husband does not drink water before getting to bed. He says that the people who take alcohol and roast meat are the ones who are attacked by the heart. I am afraid of having a heart attack so I make sure to take a glass of water before getting to bed. That is why I have these nightmares quite often, of looking for a toilet  which I never find. Last night I found the toilet in my dream, and as I was about to…

I suddenly woke up to find myself squatting on the bed, a few more seconds, and I would be over with my business. Thank goodness! Everyone has an angel who wakes them up. “Berina! Berina! You are almost wetting the bed. Wake up!” I turned to look at my husband Sospeter who was fast asleep. He was lucky, I thought, there is no time he has ever stood on the bed in his sleep because he dreamt that he was about to…

I got out of bed to warm some water for milking the cow [it has to be milking the cow, that is how we are taught in school, we cannot say milking and stop there, we must add, the cow, which makes me wonder if there are other animals that are milked] I carried the little pail with warm water to our milkman, Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebby! Nebby!”I called out.. “Nebby! Where are you?” I could not enter the milkman’s house, you know what would happen if Sospeter found me coming out of there. I turned to get Sospeter, but he was standing there, two metres away from me. His right hand on his waist, moving his hips from the left to the right and back again, his head slightly bent to the left, sneering. He mimicked, “NebbyNebby…” sounding like a cat. “When did you start calling him Nebby! Why was I not called to the baptism ceremony?”

“Aaaaah.. my darling, it means nothing,” I said, “dont I call you Nebb.. sorry, Schwarz sometimes?” He clicked his tongue grabbed the bucket and rushed to Nebby’s house..

Ondieki! Ondieki!” Sospeter shouted as he entered Nebby’s wooden house. I followed him. Ondieki was not in. He walked to the latrine, me following him closely. No one was there. Sospeter gave up on the search, walked towards the cowshed and started milking the cow.

I watched Sospeter milk, his face filled with anger. I felt sorry for the cow because I could imagine all the anger directed at the tits. There was a time I thought they would be pulled to the ground. Poor cow.

Milking was over with four liters in the pail. Sospeter stood up and attempted to move backwards, only to trip over the stone he was sitting on, and backward, he fell.. “Uuuu! Chini![Down]” I exclaimed as I rushed to save the milk, a quarter of a liter, the soil and the cow-dung drank the rest faithfully. The ground was thirsty. The thought of taking black tea, suppressed my laughter as I helped Sospeter up. I knew only two people were going to take white tea that morning, Sospeter and the mother.

Breakfast was served. Every cup had tea. Just as I was about to take a sip, I heard, “Let us pray.” My mother-in-law, decided to pray. I raised my head up, and looked at her, my eyes wide open, I turned my head to look at Sospeter, my eyes even wider. If eyes could pop out of the socket mine would have been on the table. I waited for Sospeter to say something… nothing!

The mother started praying… For Nebby.. For the cow.. For the fire that cooked the tea.. For the tea.. For Sospeter’s Ugali and beans.. For the kids bread and beans..

The children and I quietly started taking our breakfast. Sospeter opened his eyes, looked at us and closed them again..

She went on, for all her children, and finally Sospeter.. Blessings for Stavros, another name for Sospeter that she loved to use. She prayed for Stavros’ health, property and manners. Finally the prayer was over and we all said “Amen!” as I thought how awesomely patient God was.

Sospeter’s tea was cold, his mother’s too. He stood up, picked the two cups of tea, walked to the kitchen and placed the tea on the stove. His mother stood at the door. “What are you doing?” she inquired. We all stared at her, “we are supposed to eat immediately after the prayers. Now see all the blessings are gone.”

“But mong’ina, [a name used while speaking to elderly women to show respect] we cannot eat cold food.” Sospeter answered as he walked to the table to get the food. The chairs were empty, except mine. Curiosity almost killed me.

The food and tea was warm. Sospeter carried it to the table. Mother followed. They sat, ready to eat. Before Sospeter could sip his tea, the mother asked, “Stavros, are you fed well? Do you get enough food in this house?” “Yes.” Sospeter answered. He had gained weight so much that he added the name Schwarzenegger to his birth certificate, that is why I called him Schwarz, sometimes.

He raised his cup, as it touched his lips, he heard, “Let us pray.” The prayer started with an apology for burning the blessings from the first prayer, Nebby

I placed my hand under my chin to support my head and watched mother and her son, Sospeter, Stavros, Schwarzenegger, pray.


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