Fodder for the Farmer

She staggered and fell, flat on her face. Straight ahead on the mad covered lane just after the main gate and the security light post that had swarms of insects, she struggled and regained a semi erect posture. Then she stooped and bent over, her hand had fulcrum her body on her knee. She wobbled again then squatted, the baby still piggy backed on her back. Achecho stopped the car just behind another car that was driving ahead of him. He stepped out of the car. The big woman in the car ahead was already out with the woman with the baby gently holding her hand to steady her to stop her from falling over for the third time. She was making great effort to restrain her from tipping backwards to save the baby.
Achecho hurriedly pulled the hand braked, unbuckled, got out of the car sensing an emergency. He stepped forward leaving his car unlocked rushing to the spot. He asked the big woman already at the scene, “What’s is the matter. Is she unwell? Can we call for help?” The big woman did not answer. Achecho had seen it unfold before his very eyes. The way the slender woman with the baby had wobbled and lost balance, her image still fresh yet hazy in his head. His heart had raced in a rush of fear for the baby and the woman. That was the time he had seen the big woman ahead of him in 2nd Avenue stop her car.
It now replayed in his head like a slow motion of a rewound film. In the blink of an eye, he had seen it all fall apart. The way the big woman had taken hurried steps like a balloon floating to the spot. He had seen the slender woman with a baby on her back falter in her steps then stagger and slip and fall in a heap the baby still on her back. Achecho had expected that the big woman with would have been enthusiastic for his help or at least want to converse. Even so, he found her unresponsive, unwilling even to share her initial prognosis. Her lips remained glued. She did not show any signals that Achecho could interpret. The big woman did none of those
Achecho came close, leaned over. That’s when the big woman spoke. When she did, her voice was distant and flat, devoid of feelings. It was as if the woman had discovered some truths that she also wanted Achecho to learn, know and perhaps to smell.
“She is drank,” the big woman said suddenly, Soft. Softly, in a plain professional voice the way trained counselor would say, she added “her case looks serious.” Then she kept mum ignoring all else around her.
“The baby, untie the baby” the slender woman sprawled on the wet muddy grass said pointing at the knot where the cloth was fastened. She struggled to raise her face partly covered with mad. She was unrecognizable, even her close relatives would not have immediately told who she was.
Achecho leaned forward to touch her hand, to gauge her senses. He found her hand limp almost lifeless. He straightened up and sighed loudly. He bent again to touch her forehead, to remove the smear of mud and unmask her. He did it in a cold sort of way the way you would touch a dead snake with a stick to test whether it is dead or alive. The thick smell of cheap liquor hit his nostrils and made him scowl as if his face had been splashed with cold water unexpectedly. On her other hand still lying on the mad the slender woman still gripped a small plastic bottle. When Achecho splashed his phone light on it, he read the label loudly, “The undertaker.” “This must be the tipple that has done the damage,” Achecho whispered to himself.
“The baby please, the baby,” the slender woman said. She tried to rise but lost balance again and fell awkwardly to the ground
“I will release the baby. Stay calm. Do not blank out on us. We need some details to help you” The big woman was saying as she worked frantically to loosen the baby on the back in an awkward position.
“The baby,” the slender woman said one more time, this time with slurred speech that carried some weight of an impending danger. She was talking as someone fast falling asleep but still trying to sustain a conversation. Then, her body become crumbled and rolled over. Her eyes closed in and she became placid. She lost consciousness, in a drunken stupor.
The baby cackled. She threw her arms about perhaps an invitation to play. Her smile and playful mien displayed in the beaming light of the car and the security light. She had a toy a soiled little plastic jingle toy. Achecho observed that the toy’s handle was partly broken but still the baby had a tight grip on it the way adults do to their best earthly possession. The baby shook the jingle and it rang loudly, the sound very similar to the bell the altar servers ring at communion to bring stillness and holiness to congregants. This bell brought to Achecho an almost similar feeling but of a different kind. Of the grim reality of the situation. Of fear of the unknown and of the ungodliness of a drunken stupor that spoke of death. There was a brief stillness. The shrill cries crickets pieced the air. A pig snort became repetitive in a nearby home. The big woman retreated from the sprawled slender woman on the ground as if to reassess the situation.
Achecho stepped back. Many what ifs started to play in his head? Was she perhaps poisoned where she was drinking? Was this smell of “The undertaker” really alcohol or death poison. What if it turns out to be suicide or a police matter? Did he really want to get into this mix? A woman who drank herself to death and with the baby perhaps 2 years and he is the key witness? Did he really want to get into the mess? How messy will it get, and what about his work and or family? How would they fit in to the scheme of things that was fast unfolding. Will the police hold him for days as a key suspect to the crime? Will he be a villain or a hero by knowingly tangling himself into the web? He just did not know.
“Is she able to speak?” Achecho found his voice and asked the big woman now loosening her skirt and bra. His question directed to her as if she was the omniscience. The last Samaritan with a combination of gifts even to read the minds of drunken people.
“No.” she answered.
“Do you know her?”
“No”
“Have you ever seen her around in Second Avenue?”
“No.”
The big woman answered without looking up at Achecho, without even acknowledging his presence. The scene played as they do in drama, or sole role play, questions were coming from some remote place in another world and the big woman being prompted to answer fast and accurate while still attending to her patient. The big woman started fanning the slender woman sweaty face using her bare hands the way moneyed urban women do in social gathering with hand held fans.
Achecho got worried. In his mind he could tell that the big woman was administering the wrong fast aid. Treating a drunk as if it was a case of fainting or perhaps anorexia. He weighed his options. He was not sure if he could jump in and what exactly he could do? Achecho could already tell he was not helping by asking these questions, the way cops do to eye witnesses in accident scenes. He got a sudden urge to leave. He walked back, got into his car and squeezed his car past the big woman’s car and drove slowly through 2nd avenue to his gate. He hooted and got in.

Just before he parked his car his mind went back to the scene. He asked himself. Why didn’t the big woman ask me to help? Why did I run away from a helpless person in need?
Earlier, AChecho remembered. That day he encountered that grisly accident at Kinungi Black Spot when he was driving to the village to attend a wedding. He had behaved the same way and later scathed himself for it. He had been the fourth person on the scene. He had stopped. He had seen the driver lifeless body seated his hands sprawled on the steering wheel as if he was just resting. His unblinking bulged eyes had been directed at him as if warning him over something. The radio was still playing. It was the hit number of Eric Wainaina, the one he himself had memorized over the years. The song, chiding about runaway graft that had torn apart the nation’s fabric, the same ill that had made Kenyan roads death traps.
“Inchi ya kitu kidogooo”
“Inchi ya watu wadogoo”
“Ukitaka chai….enda limuru”
Just when he made up his mind to drive off, the woman who was writhing in pain on the ground her leg severed from the body had had held him transfixed and confused. Her shrill cries had rendered his heart to the point of shock. When the crowd that had gathered around the scene told him to take her to the hospital, he had hesitated. Others had stopped briefly but took off immediately after confirming the dead were not their relatives. The mob had coerced him and cajoled. He had changed his journey plans and drove her to the hospital. The wedding had been over by the time he arrived in the village. He was thinking. Relating it to this case of the slender woman to make him decide one way or another.
Later, nagged by his thoughts, he got out of his compound. He flashed his touch on Second Avenue. Craned his neck to see all the way to the main gate but here was nothing. The car was gone. The woman and the baby gone. All was clear and eerily and silent save for sporadic distant howls of dogs in the dark night. It was as if the scenes he had just witnessed were a figment of his own imagination or some ghosts he did not want to be part of. His heart rested.
A week had passed. Achecho had travelled to the village to visit his parents. It was the day Achecho arrived from the city. He had some errands to run in the local market. He saw a large charged crowd swirl around a man. The man at the center was bleeding on his forehead his blood covering part of his face. One man was trying to place an old bicycle on his head but it failed to stick. The man stumbled, staggered and hobbled along, he did not make any attempt to clear his eyes now filling with blood. He did not plead for mercy or forgiveness. He adamantly refused to confess which is what the crowd was demanding of him. The man walked along obediently more loyal than a dog. Achecho enquired from a villager following from a distant.
“What sin has he committed? Why are people stoning him?”
“He is a thief.” The man replied nonchalantly
“What has he stolen?”
“A bicycle”
“They are going to kill him for stealing that old bicycle”
“Yes”
“And you are following them to witness the whole thing”
“Yes”
After a few meters the bleeding man staggered and missed steps. He collapsed. Achecho drew nearer and saw more stones land at him until the convulsions stopped and the body heaving evened out. Still he saw his body rise and fall slowly in faint breaths, the same body partly covered by the stones. Achecho picked a small stone almost the size of a pebble. He closely examined the pebble in his hand. Then he threw it towards the body. He did not check to see if it hit the target. He did not know why he did it. He felt he needed to be part of this something he could not exactly tell at that moment. To belong. To be filled with hysteria and be wild with achievement the way the mob was.
The hysteria did not come. What came instead was consolation. He felt fulfilled just thinking that he had contributed in a small way to kill a thief. He felt it inside him, that voice telling him that it was needless looking holy in a sea of sinners. The blood of this man he reasoned would be on his head if he did not throw that pebble. If he did not wash his hands off him. But having accomplished that feat, it began to pain him. His conscience gnawed him. What if he was still alive and his stone was the one that carted away his soul? What if the mob was wrong about this allegation of stealing a bicycle? He felt a deflation of his spirit transform in his heart and eat it up. It was a replay of the weak before, when he walked away from that drunken woman and the baby. He turned to walk away. He took his few steps not wanting to look back at the dying man.
Facing him with tears in her eyes was the woman he had walked away from in Second Avenue. He recognized her as the slender woman he had walked away from or at least she really resembled her. He was beckoning him, asking him to come to her aid again. To help her get to the police station and get some police to restrain the mob to save the dying man. This time he felt obliged to help.
“He is still breathing. The engineer is not dead. If we rush him to the hospital, we can save him” The slender woman begged Achecho.
“Do you know him?”
“Yes”
“Who is he?”
“Engineer Don Albert K’Omuga Haya. He is my husband”
“K’Omuga Haya” Achecho repeated his hand rising to his head in shock.
“What do you mean? They have stoned K’Omuga to death over a bicycle?”
“Yes. Do you know the engineer? He is schooled. Lots of books. University of Nairobi. First class. Engineering. 1990” She yelled.
This was not adding up to Achecho. It was not making sense. Villagers stoning one of their best brains over a bicycle. Achecho stopped. He turned his head, the way cockerels do before warning the hens of eminent danger. He straightened his head and tilted it again to direct his earlobes to hear the noise from the mob, to really confirm that Don Albert K’Omuga Haya had been stoned to death over a bicycle and he was the person to throw the last stone.
The crowd was melting away now. An eddy of wind swirled about and threw a plume of dust to the spot where the engineer lay. Overhead, the noon sun was at midpoint, hot and unrelenting, in this late part of July. The high humidity made most faces moist, perspiration collected in beads and drips, running down the engineer’s face. From his stone wounds, the engineer bled, his life ebbing away each minute. The slender woman dragged Achecho to the police station.
“I know him. I know Engineer Don Albert K’Omuga Haya. But surely this must be a mistake. How can they kill him over a bicycle? It is not possible. How now?” No one spoke. Achecho was saying all this to himself.
The crowd had long gone when they returned to the spot where K’Omuga lay. Someone had thrown a twig, a fresh green leafy twig that partly covered the face of the engineer. The Police removed it. His eyes were closed. His beards bushy and unkempt. His face thin and bony and bruised, caked in dried blood. His shirt color smudged in dust, jeans trousers were ripped open at the crouch his dirty inner garments exposed. A boulder covered his manhood where a stream of blood was oozing from. The engineer lay still.
The Police turned K’Omuga over to feel his pulse. “There is a faint heartbeat.” the policeman announced in a firm voice. “If we rush him to the hospital, he can make it.”
K’Omuga flinched, tried to turn his head but it dropped back on a freefall on the dust with a thud. His eyes were still closed. He mumbled in delirium. A soft murmur that Achecho heard faintly like a distant dream.
“No. no. no. The comrades should understand. It was only two million. Just vegetables. That’s what the farmer confirmed. What they claimed I picked was rubbish. Just rumors from the mills. No. facts are stubborn. There was no empirical evidence or mathematical data, or solutions. Zero calculus. Call it that.
No. Not everyone can get to dine at the table with number one. Only the chosen few like engineer Don. You see!
No. The lecturers had their own share. Why did they feel jealous of my take? Why did they stake claim to my share? No. no, why they refused to mark my project? And my CATS and my assignments. They shall pay. They shall surely pay. No truce. No peace. No surrender. This war shall continue to bitter end.”
K’Omugo stopped the mummer. It was as if he had won this argument and there was no need to push it beyond the limit. Silence followed. Grief clothed it.
Achecho and the slender woman helped the police load the engineer to the police van and they made it to the hospital. K’Omuga was immediate admitted at the high dependency unit
He did not know how to start discussing this. Achecho did not know what part of the story would be better left unsaid. He scanned it all in his head. The parts of the engineer’s life that he could share with this slender wife were scanty and fuzzy that’s what he thought. The bits that carried the story of triumph and victory and the side that carried pain and suffering, even the planks that portrayed him as a betrayer of the course of democracy mixed in and greyed it. As they sat outside the referral hospital each in his own world Achecho saw the positive side first. The bit he wanted to share with his wife. He started to share the story with the slender woman. The story of engineer Don Albert K’omuga Haya.
We were in the same year as freshmen from the same village. While I went to Kenyatta University the Engineer was admitted at the University of Nairobi. During those days we just called it uon. He was the best student in our county that year, the sharpest brain I have ever known. Not only was he academically gifted, he had unparalleled leadership skills. Siaya University students Association was his brainchild. Soon all the other districts copied him and formed such associations to encourage literacy at the grass root level and to play mentor to the leaners. The engineer was at the forefront of fighting ignorance poverty and disease. We had many workshops and seminars in the district that the engineer organized. He loved education and he volunteered his time to teach especially mathematics in home schools to raise academic standard. His intentions were noble. Engineer had it all worked out with a heart of gold. What pains me is how the politicians hijacked him, manipulated him and eventually ruined him.
The regime at that time had no time for independent thinkers. There was only one thinker, who became farmer number one, teacher number one. Doctor number one. And later they even elevated him to a deity, they called him prince of peace. Engineer Don Albert K’Omuga Haya was not just a thinker. He was a philosopher. He lost his compass and even himself entirely at the instigation of the regime. Over this period you had to choose either to play ball and support dictatorship or lie low like an envelope and live. If you refused to toe the line, you would get marked with a Z fire mark like a cow fit for elimination from Rift Valley fever.
Initially, when he tried to right all the wrongs, they labelled Don as a Mwakenya. He went underground to stay alive to escape the dungeons of the toucher chambers. He needed to pursue his degree and escape the debilitating poverty back home. But the odds were stacked too high up against this brainy brother. The few student leaders who did not act fast or resisted or double crossed the regime like Atia Joe, Adungosi never made it out of the university alive. It was a dark period for the student’s leadership.
It was after Muruli the firebrand student leader was kidnapped from his room murdered, brought back at night and a suicide note left on his table that K’Omuga began to warm up to the regime. The engineer reasoned that it would have been a small price to pay to help multi party come. He was blinded to cooperate with the regime and that was the beginning of his fall. He converted like Saul from a regime critique to a regime diehard. His die was cast. The engineer had slept with the enemy and there was going to be only one outcome. We all could see it miles away but the engineer did not. When he did, it was too late, he was already beyond redemption, beyond turning back. Achecho stopped talking but in his heart the conversation went on.
In his head he saw the engineer take charge of the delegation the last and the only time he ever visited statehouse. The engineer was addressing the students. He was in his crisp back suit and his booming voice matched the power he oozed. He commanded,
“Gate C. All students from Kenyatta will enter from Gate C”
“Gate B. All students from Uon and Moi, and Egerton will enter through Gate B”
“All of you must wave the one finger salute of loyalty. When a roar Jogoo you must respond Jogoo”
That was the engineer leading a delegation of over 1000 students to pay homage to the farmer number one. Once the students had settled in, he took to the podium, in his style of gusto and bravado.
Father of the nation from the beginning of time
Front keeper of our unity and love and master of our peace time
Fellow students from all the four public universities and all leaders of our Time
Following our own free will and mindful of our Nation. We shall follow you all the time
Forgive them master those who criticize you and lead us to prosperity throughout our lifetime
Achecho had thought then as he was thinking now that it was the most ridiculous, most scandalous and barbaric speech that a student leader had ever made to the head of state. But he clapped. Everybody clapped. The area Member of Parliament Rudhi Kaliech clapped. It rang in Achecho’s head and produced a queer sort of hum. For clapping had a meaning which drew the line between loyalist and decedents, honor or horror, life and death.
The area MP loved it. He loved their zest too. The decibels were way above the loyalty levels which he confirmed through his humorless jokes. Then he capped it up by his famous philosophy. He said, “Your excellency this is the footstep we are all following. In our language it is called Ndeta ta Ndeti, meaning nibble me I nibble you back. Eat me I eat you back. Your Excellency this is all in line with the sessional paper No.10 of the famous Ominde report of 1969. Your leadership is the best thing that has happened to this country since the discovery of sliced bread. It is now my humble duty and pleasure to invite you baba to talk to your students. Father you are teacher number one”
The farmer number one rose. He cleared his groggy throat. He Said, “Siasa ni maisha. Siasa mbaya, maisha mbaya. Politics is life. Bad politics. Bad life. Be good to me. I will be good to you.” He waived his club and Achecho and the other students waived one finger salute. That was the signal they had been waiting for. The signal of total submission the way a stray old toothless hound submit to the dominant male. A security officer emerged from the inner sanctum of power with two sacks full of notes. The two sacks were handed over to Engineer Don Albert K’Omuga Haya.
The Doctor walked out of the ICU door and interrupted Achecho reverie. He said, “Don Albert has passed on. We tried our best. He had internal bleeding in the brain. We could not stop it.”

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Musings of a writer

IMG_20140418_113807The last interviewee walks out, his face folded in disappointment. We look at each other in empathy then disdain dissecting, an after action review of sort. I close my folder in a hurry, the boardroom door bangs behind me as I rush to my desk spirits lifted by the day’s fan of interviewee’s scripts. I find a steamy conversation in progress in the open sitting area. I join without a qualm and speak mostly in jest. I push hard my agenda and laugh at my own arguments. This tends to be the trend at the tail end of a good days work. Banter, drama and small talk that make me smile then chuckle in my usual boyish ease.

Semalala throws a shy smile then a hearty laugh, he teases. “You- can you do art?” “What art, that’s a mute question” I shrug. Then more thoughtfully, I retort with a filler sound “eeehhh”. He is not amused. “Omwami” I refer to him with his pet name “Do you mean literature-the written word,” I ask. His smile dims then bounce. His dimples dance. His voice rise this time to baritone but it quivers and dies off in a mumble. I hear nothing; the woman opposite my desk following the exchange is unimpressed.

Omwami looks at me indifferently. He begins to speak with a serious staccato tone unhurriedly. His voice now booms with clarity. His ivory-rimmed spectacles glitter on the yellow rays reflecting off the “Shelter Afrique” glasses. His youngish face on an oval head is nodding, waiting for an answer. The debate gets serious while tempers begin to flare. Egos on both sides prick as attitude changes to winner takes all.

I pause. Then I consider his questions with more thought-rhetorically. I force a deft smile to deflect the pressure I feel. Who is a writer?  The question pops up from a mouth within the room triggering more debate.

I evaluate my response with carefully chosen words. Something lingers in my head. I squirm, the words that had formed deform. The sentences mellow then disappear. I begin to hummer the keyboard in haste in a bid to answer the question and be a writer. My pen glides with ideas like a professional skier on the Alps. The minutes drain with the punches. Am right here doing art. It is ten minutes to five.

“Yes I can do art,” I yell amidst the charters of the keyboard. “I do write for fun when a get a gap in a story. I fill it up. Perhaps with words that inspire. Someday I will write a longer story, better narrative just to aspire. That will make a mark before I expire. Mark my words as you read my lips. May be then you will believe I can do art that does not tire”.

Semalala considers the response, he sneers challengingly, and he is not convinced. He counters, “What happened to your book. You have not written anything since the Cockroaches of Garsen.” I try a smile but manage a grin. He is right. “My story has been long coming” I respond. Then I pause this time more prepared with a prose. I type on.

“You see today, this morning, in the midst of a dreary drizzly chill I delivered my story to the reviewer. Dodi who works for Kenya literature bureau is my private consultant.  I look around for more defenses; I tap John on the shoulder hopping for concurrence. John ignores, he is concentrating on the reconciliation. There is a yellow file on his desk. It is marked confidential. The file is full; the springs strained. It cannot close but John Keeps it close. “Here is another writer of a different kind,” I tell myself. Something lingers in my head yet again. My prose gets plump and then it wilts away like a marigold flower. My punch is slower than usual.

I review the road I have travelled to have any piece I have penned published. I review each publisher one at a time. The rejection counts on my finger to ten. “The queue is long. The panel shall get back to you in three months.” I recall my mishap appointment last week. The woman I had met at the reception echo in my head. I recall the acknowledgement letter in a letterhead. The editorial manager signed the letter in Manila paper. Good sign I mistakenly thought. I run through the ten cases in my mind, the thorns in the path that have pricked and the accompanying pain replay. I scathe myself in self-blame.

“There is no parking here in Westlands. My car is on the sidewalk. Police shall tow it away any minute. Please allow me to see the manager-the publishing manager. I need to drop this manuscript “I said in panic in another visit to another publisher. The lady in a tiny reception area obliged. I walked in. The man was bespectacled. He spoke in West African accent. Hesitantly he picked my hand and gave it a cold handshake-amiable but distant.

“So what’s your story?” the publishing manager asks suddenly throwing me off balance. “Well it is a complete bundle. It baffles and smites readers with equal measure. A real offering that tackles joblessness, urban squalor, money and vanity, corruption, dysfunctional families, faith-the works.”

“Who told you about the bit of smiting readers? Writers can never be judges in their own cases,” he said softly, solidly. He is right but am angry with him, for pointing it out, for not biting my bait. My confidence shaken by his truthfulness. As I look at him with intent-“eyeball to eyeball,” he adds with disinterest, “Your themes are overdone”, he says simply then looks the other way away from my script.  As he swivels in his chair playing with a marble on his desk, he adds, “Look for a new horizon something around the social media, the socialite craze, I mean “facebook” anything around technology. That will sell. As for this one I will call you when I look at it,” he concludes with finality.

Two months later, I call back before he calls, he belch out a whooping laughter like an overfed hyena as if mocking. He reminds me again using the same words, “I will call you.” In my head, I can see his hands spread out in exaggerated gesture then freeze as if by an invincible force the same way he had spoken last time.

Now I remember the lats visit to the tenth publisher was close to a deal. I recall in details. The publishing manager had said emphatically “The editor was impressed. You need to work with him to polish the few areas and we are on.  The sentences are a bit too long. The words too deep and over applied. In fact, the word he used was verbose. Work on those. I have a slot for two novels this year. You have a real chance,” she had said with real conviction.

Later, I had picked the manuscript feeling vindicated at last. I recall calling my friends to announce my new status. Yes indeed my arrival has been long waiting. I am now here in the literal scene for all to see, I tell myself in self-praise. I resist the temptation to call the other four publishing houses that had rejected my works. I am burning to brag if not blast them. My conscience whisper again to admonish, pitch for restraint. My excitement tapers off.

“The jinx has been broken,” I say loudly then whistle noiselessly. My spirits rise and fall in rhythmic waves like sea waves on a windy day. Then bravado eases to a whimper fearing to count my chicks just before they hatch. I brood on.

My imagination sets me free as it happen when one breaks imprisoned wind from an upset stomach. I see my picture on the back cover of my novel. I am smiling in the pose like those posters of evangelist announcing crusades for planting seeds, their necks twined with their wives. “My time has come,” I muse silently. I consider the attire and look at my own dressing lovingly like a bride in the isle. “This is my mirror to the world. This is the work of my hand in my style at my own time,” I speak to myself in monologues. My dreams are valid.

Like all artist I get the kick that follow fame and fortunes. I see people pointing at me in social places, in malls, in churches and hospitals recognizing me. “There, he is the author of the “Rings of Grass”. Some of them run to shake my hands. I hug a few, selectively- especially the enthusiastic women. I hold them close. Still, I allow them to run their delicate fingers on my forested chest. I tap their backs in appreciation and love like a new mother encouraging a newborn to burp.

My imagination runs wild further. I accept invitations to give public lectures and mentor ship to budding authors. While at it, I accept small favors like a round of drinks. The saying that “a cow eats where it is tethered” comes to mind. My royalty is a paltry nine percent, still am over the moon, I brag to myself not doing well in containing my excitement. I whistle silently in containment like a newly ordained pastor at the altar. I see my flock (readers) asking me in surprise “How did you do this”. I smile and answer in pride. “Hard work pays. Sheer hard work”, I repeat as if chest thumbing.

I review the launch of my book with the publishing house. “We will not give you any written script. You are a writer. Just walk to the podium and do your thing. Play with words. It is your stock in trade,” the publishing manager tells me. “You mean there is no protocol or some formal speech.” I say, tongue in check, not willing to give my naivety away.” “Ammmm, it is all up to you. This is your day you know. If you want to make it formal, be my guest. I see majority of writers just walk up there and talk their fame,” he speaks with authority. “OK that’s fine with me, I will make it cool like a free reign you know, some Lessie-fare of sort” I throw in some misplaced economic thoughts to sound the part.

The visioning takes me to the big day and am right inside cloud nine, “Ndaani Ndaani”. The lights are obliterating. The cameras roll. I hear the floor manager shout-“lights…action”. I strut at the podium proud like a power hungry politician my left hand high up in the air- “the Obama wave.” The right hand is holding microphone in position in style-the Nilotic pride is untamed. The crowd responds in the Mexican wave. I am nervous but doing my best to wrestle it down and keep it in check.

On the front raw, I see my contemporaries, Adichie, Binyavanga, Gazembe, Biko , Adhiambo and Oduor all solemn like doctors in a stem-cell research seminar. I am willing to trade-off my fame to hug them bear chest or vice versa. I dream on. Alas, they do not seem interested even bothered by my arrival to the stage. That is not a role they can assign themselves, hell no. They are here to play critique, to climb me down from my rock pedestal, the high horse.

At the far right, I see the scribes. Among them, I can tell makers of news and spreaders of rumors from their cold faces and the scribbling speed. From the same faces, I know I am hardly scratching the surface to get to the byline. In the papers hidden pages the day after, I see the slant towards a slander. “Debut writer sweats on stage.” The traders of lies kill my enthusiasm even just thinking about it before the real big bang.

I resist the urge to test the microphone. Like a clown, I have exaggerated body movement ahead of my words. The crowds are over the moon-just in my head. They are clapping now. They rise in a standing ovation. The applause is thunderous. “Thank you, thank you”, I say repeatedly humbled beyond words. I gain my confidence in this reverie and deliver my speech with pomp and aplomb.

My thoughts flood back in like the returned of a high tide in the ocean beach. I look around the office open area- people are still at work. It is well past six o’clock.

I cannot hold my horses any longer. “I have to get the answer right here right now,” I tell myself in silence. I shake my head and call the publisher my hands shaking in excitement my palm greasy from sweat.

“Hi sir, this is Chris. I gave you the refined copy after we worked with the editor. I hope the decision has now been made.” “Yes we looked at your work, unfortunately it did not make the cut,” the lady on the opposite side says in a cold, spine chilling voice.” “But how, the last reviewer was excited with the work.” I plead almost in tears. ”Yes, you see we have to use a gentle language when communicating with writers. We code to limit the damage. The jury is still out there, are writers born or are they made?

The questions she has raised are poignant but my mind has blocked and cannot digest such flex words. The other jabs she has directed at me rewinds in my mind “We avoid hurting writer’s feelings. That kills creativity. The plot of your story is not interesting but we needed to give you a soft landing. It would have been different if any of your writings were published earlier. Even a primary school revision series of some sort would have made all the difference,” she says with a sigh. Words chock in my throat. The phone goes mute.

I further consider the challenge of proving that I am a writer, my defense falls flat. Semalala looks at my direction almost mockingly I notice his mustache- trimmed razor thin flicking with his every word. His goatee is sporty but still trendy. His shirt classy yet unbuttoned and with not a neck tie. His name tag hang dangling at an angle with his abandon gestures. He has a cool aura around him. I consider his gauntlet yet again. I decide to pen something to prove my case that I indeed wrote the “The Fall of a Hunter”. That it was no clone or reworked part of my art.

My computer clock reads seven on the dot. I glance back. Omwami says,”Tuma Kitu bwana, where is the story”. I feel pressure to put the last full stop and fill the gap in my story.  A chill rush through my spine, I feel a small tingling, a tiny perspiration forms in my pit. His shout gets caught in laughter to produce a nasty yell like a high school bully. The sounds float in space- echo like in a horror movie in my head.

“May be this mocking is the motivation that was lacking all along,” I tell myself as I work with the determination of a wounded buffalo. I put the last full stop, I cross the T and dot the I. I justify my story. This is my last lacuna. The gap that was missing in the story I gave to Dodi this morning.

 

The King’s Return to Port Florence

IMG-20160829-WA0001The King’s Return to Port Florence

The luxurious bus had stopped briefly at the valley viewpoint. The passengers in first class preferred it here for meal breaks and nap rests in between the journey. It was an exciting time for me, a first timer in this luxurious bus in first class.  During the break, the bus served canned beef and canned fish on the lap tables with small wet warm napkins for face and hand cleaning. Wine came in special wine glasses, which I relished then topped it up with a chilled canned beer.

Everything around it was luxurious this bus. The TV that sat on an elegant hoist had a large flat screen. The pictures could not have been clearer than this and our eyes engaged to the full glued all the way. Most men in the bus had massive bellies, fat shinny faces, roundish at the oval chins. The women were more luxurious with golden necklaces and studs of diamonds on their noses that drew attention to self. Their dresses had silk or denim decors and their bangles laced with silver jingled with sounds of belled goats when they moved their arms about in that provocative manner as I could observe.

They all sat in the front, breathing heavily and sweating Ajo had pointed out to me as part of orientation in first class before the bus took off. I wondered why it did not occur to them to put on their personalized air conditioners that bulged at the roof of the bus.  An imaginary line like the equator divided them into two halves of class, the middle haves and the lower have-nots. Then progressively the classes lowered to second and third and so did the seats sizes and comfort of the spacing. Even the air became dense, stuffy, and acrid as you moved away from first class.

Ajo my cousin had paid for my ticket in first class just so I could get the hang of it, I mean of first class life. He is a generous man this diminutive business mogul from Kothacha. We sat side-by-side talking in maffled tones as I kept inquiring about one thing or another in the luxurious bus. Later I switched and we talked about our village-Kothacha

Ajo stretched then belched loudly from overfeeding but failed to apologize. “That would not be expected or even necessary in first class,” Ajo said after he sat back and relaxed. Then he added with a slight sheepish chuckle, “You only apologize in first class if you break wind and only when it is loud you know. People pay for these things to relax!” He said this last part of his sentence with defiant twist in his tone as if someone had asked him to explain his misdemeanor in first class.

Ajo moved back and forth uneasily in his luxurious seat. His lips worked tellingly but words did not form. He appeared coy, and lost in thought his face blank and expressionless and so I thought he would perhaps drift off and sleep, but I was wrong on my assessment. He swiftly turned around thereafter and said to me, “Thadayo, tell me about Amollo OKol. Spin me that yarn that you weaved so neatly before the break. It has the ingredients that can easily stir sleep inside watery eyes and bring peace inside weary soul.”  Therefore, I resumed the story. The story of Amollo Okol

Amollo Okol had worked with the Indian Coolies in the last mile on the metal snake-that is what the villagers called the railway line when it first hit Port Florence in 1911. The queen had come all the way from England to flag off the first train my father told me. He was there just to see Amollo OKol stand tall towering above the coolies and the rest of all the migrant workers from our village. My father was more than pleased when Okol from Kothacha village was the only black who interpreted the queens English to the audience accurately. Putting the icing on the cake Okol did a dry run on the first train at Port Florence. Imagine, just imagine Amollo Okol allowing the metal snake to slither with ease then jack to a halt to loud cheer from crowd and my father was there just to witness the whole thing. Okol could drive a train.

Okol retired shortly after and retreated to the village much to the disappointment of my father. However, he soon made up for his early retirement. It was such a seamless change over as a power switch between heavy loads of high voltage.  “How did he do that? Retirees from Railways often had conflicts. I mean adjustment issues. Not fitting back to reality.” Ojo said in a flat dull voice.

“Okol was different,” I said then continued with the story. When he arrived in the village, our lives became Okol and Okol became our lives. He was the earth around which our world revolved. To cover his back the village provided the axis that allowed him rotate and together we had a small peaceful universe in our village in Kothacha. Whenever there was any medley noise, we would be sure it would be the motorcycle of Okol ferrying merchandise to his shop save for thunder.

Okol was adept at business, exploiting to the full the connections he had made working with the Indians at Port Florence. He had the charm and charisma that watered his young business ideas and it thrived beyond the wildest of dreams, his and ours.  Soon Okol had a name, larger than life itself. Our village in Kothacha became synonyms with Okol. At that young age, I was already aware that Okol was the oxygen we breathed. Besides, he had a big heart of a philanthropist.

When Okol distributed free sugar on the dictum of one hut one-kilo plan, we wondered how he would ever make money failing to see his vision. Old women from the village asked in wonderment, “So when does he get time to collect the eggs of white ants. Taste so nice”. Later they began to crave the same sugar to make tea and they looked up to Okol to do the needful. Okol did not disappoint. Not once.

When Okol started stocking matchboxes, it created quite a revolution; the passing of embers from one home to another fizzled out. Akol was changing the village in a way that no one had ever done before. From one home to another and from one thing to the other, everyone adored him. He did honest business met us halfway on prices most of the times. His business empire expanded. The villagers had a saying, “if you do business, do it with the heart and mind of Amollo Okol”

People created a poem to praise Amollo Okol. I recall it now. It went something like this

“You need a sweat scent, burn the woody with a fragrance of Amollo Okol

You have no food; no provisions- open a credit book with Amollo Okol

Your son has a wedding get a gift pack from the shop of Amollo Okol

You are on a journey get a ride from Amollo Okol”

You could say that Okol was our king and we were in a way his subjects.

“So what happened after this empire expanded? Did he open more shops in other markets?” Ajo asked as we approached Port Florence.

“No” I replied then continued, “like good stories with bad endings Okol’s journey ended with a wicked twist at the tail end.  Allow me to continue this story on our return journey.”

The luxurious bus ate up tarmac and gobbled the miles. The bus cut through the force of opposing wind with a whiz like a power turbine. Before we could turn and yawn for the second time in this journey, Port Florence was staring at us from the distance of Kano plains. Right before our very eyes, the magnificent red lights in the famous red light street beckoned us. The shiny silvery water surface reflecting with a bewitching elegance in the moonlight teased us. In the horizon where the clouds kissed the lake slightly a color change from greyish pink to yellowish umber signaled the break of dawn. This amazed me as if I had expected the night to continue unchallenged by day. The bus sneaked in Port Florence with the quietness of the night still enveloping it and the chill of break of dawn made our fingers tremble with cold. It was four am, a gloomy Saturday morning in the early part of May.

Ajo accompanied me to the supermarket, the only one that operated 24hours in Port Florence. We needed to have a quick cup of coffee to warm ourselves up before proceeding on our journey to the village. At the entrance, a sentry welcomed us with wide-open arms; a thin cynic smile played on his lips his mouth agape.  He said, “My lords, I cannot frisk you for I am not worthy. I cannot put any metal detectors on you. That will be injurious to your reputations and lower your dignity. I have seen you alight from the luxurious bus and that is all I need to know. I am your loyal servant. Just give me ten shilling coin and my soul shall be saved.” He concluded. I looked at his face in awe. He was wearing a beaming smile now with a winner’s confidence, his white big teeth exposed to the pre-molar.

First, I was baffled. Then amusement overtook me. I looked at Ajo. He was nodding the way good listeners do as if agreeing with every word this man was saying, matching the guard eyeball to eyeball. This peaked my curiosity that quickly changed to surprised then humor in that order. I started with a slight chuckle, which escalated quickly to a high laughter. It got louder by the second then boomed so loud I got worried it would boomerang and wake other sentries curled up in sleeping positions in the verandah of the mall. I laughed until I could not stand straight. I laughed until my body shook as jelly desert on a flat saucer and my ribs ached.

I groped and reached for Ajo to steady myself even as I laughed some more. It was amusing that just by boarding the luxurious bus; all our sins were gone, in a flash. I found it funny even shocking that this bus had made us white as snow. It had in fact elevated my standing to the level of a lord, perhaps a landlord. I was still laughing when Ajo pulled out a fifty-shilling note and staffed it in the hands of the sentry. Then Ajo turned round and I saw his face reincarnate into an ashen of annoyance.

“Now listen up and get this straight into the space between your ears,” Ajo began to scold me in a firm voice his index finger waging at my face. “You are the people who don’t get it. This is wrong, very wrong for this country. When you trust the security of people or even a country on the hands of beggars. You are toying with a time bomb literally. Do you see what I see? This whole supermarket can be bombed off to smithereens because of a ten shillings coin. Can you see how obnoxious our security system is?” He asked looking straight into my iris his pupil dilated with fury.

My laughter trailed and waned then I froze. My thoughts jammed into confusion leaving a sour taste on its aftermath in my mouth. I remembered that I was a beggar like the sentry he had just paid alms and I needed to earn my keep on an account of good manners. Therefore, when we eventually ordered coffee in the café I had shriveled back to my place and the lofty feelings I had acquired from the luxurious bus had actually evaporated.

We sat and sipped coffee in silence. Ajo pulling and sucking the liquid from the plastic mugs loudly to cool the hot black coffee that burnt the tongues but tasted so nice with sweet aroma. The sound from the tight pulling and sucking of hot coffee made audible syllables. I kept hearing “fuuss….kwoot, Fuus….kwot, fuus….kwot”

Silently in my heart, I thought about Ajo’s overreaction to my laughter. I could not allow it to dwell and take root in my head for long. Beggars, I reasoned have no such luxuries and so it thawed and flowed away like rivulets from rainstorm from my heart.

Twenty minutes later, after serious haggling Ajo agreed with the taxi operator on the charges to take us to Kothacha. Ajo sat in front next to the driver. I sat in the middle, the back seat were unoccupied. We started on light banter again. Kids talk clothed with urbanite humor was my forte and I usually used it to full effect to warm my way to Ajo’s heart for I know that people who give nothing gain nothing. I give joy. This day the taxi man was beating me to it. He led the discussion that meandered around love, lies of ethnic politics and deceit of election stealing. To his credit, we also weaved some yarn about women leadership, the confluence of money and religion as well as significance of wine to a social being.

The ease with which Ajo often made friends made me think that it was perhaps the sole reason he was so successful in business. Moreover, this could also be his blindest spot, I was thinking about it more deeply now. The duplicity of this double edge personality played in my heart. This driver matched him word for word, joke for joke as the miles drained with the minutes. The encounter with that weak-kneed sentry in the mall recurred in my mind and I tried to sue it away like a bothersome fly but it just would not go. I chewed the mental cud Ajo had deposited in the space between my ears. These humbling thoughts emanating from Ajo’s foul language hounded me like a bad smell on this trip.

Ahead in the beam light of our cab on this journey, a young man raised his hand to stop our taxi. He was well dressed like someone on a mission.  A big gunny bag was at his feet and a travelling bag dangled from his shoulder gave that impression of an urban dweller. “Ah guys let me pick this man, he is going our direction. I could make some money. You know you really squeezed me so thin on the rate I charged you. I can make up with his pay.” The taxi driver said in a pleading sort of way. Ajo considered his request for a while. He said, “Ok. Pick him and pay yourself.” The driver stopped slightly ahead on this lone early traveler. The man came over tagging his load with him.

The traveler pulled the car boot and put the gunny bag. From the way he hauled it, I could tell it was a heavy load. He closed the boot quickly and took a seat at the back.

“Where are you going at this early hour?” the driver asked. “Ndori, I have business there. I will pay you five hundred. Here it is.” he replied as he gave out the note to the driver. What he had offered to pay was rather excessive and it got me wondering. Why would he be so generous?

After he closed the car door and sat, I felt raw power ooze from this strange lanky fellow’s presence. I could not explain it but I could feel its palpability. The driver ignited the engine and the car accelerated to full throttle. Something odd draw my attention more and more to this man. He was smartly dressed but he still looked queer under scrutiny. I switched on the inside light to study him. His eyes were bloodshot and his eyelids puffed up and bruised. His shirt had some sprinkles of bloodstains and his shoes were muddy. Something was not right about this eyebrow bender of a man.  I could see Ajo craning his neck backwards also pointing to the danger that his act of good heartedness could bring us harm.

The man we had just picked was reeking of alcohol. A strong smell of Famous Grouse brand that exude from him permeated and took over the taxi. There was also another subtle smell.  An odd expensive women perfume that lingered from the back. This smell in my estimation was perhaps from the boot where the traveler had deposited the gunny bag. I thought it could be a camouflage. The further we traveled, the stronger the smell got and it was unsettling. I could not hold back my thoughts anymore, I opened my mouth to ask but Ajo shot straight ahead of me.

“Wewe, where do you work? What business do you do?”

“General business and brokerage,” the man replied without hesitation. He fell short of giving specifics

“Why are you up this early, who opens a shop or a brokerage at five am,” Ajo drilled further

“Ahhh, I do this all the times. Ahhh. Ahhh.” The man stammered and again filed to complete his sentence. We became alarmed but more so scared.

The man shifted in the chair. I saw his hand slip into the lower pocket. I was now studying his every move. Total silence descended in the taxi even as the driver stepped on the gas. He focused grimly ahead. In my mind, I could only guess that he would do the most sensible thing; drive all of us to the next police station just to ascertain what kind of guest we had just picked. I was again dead wrong on both the guesses my head was tabulating and the direction our journey would take. Our nameless guest had smarter plans up his sleeve.

At Holo market just as the car slowed down on the road bumps, the stranger in our taxi yanked the car opened and he jumped out. He yelled even as he stepped out with the precision of a trained movie star. “No. No. No” he was shouting at the top of his voice as if we had just taken him captive. The driver stepped on the breaks and the car skidded to a creaky stop. I attempted to open one door but he had ran and stood next to the car to commandeer it. He shouted with the command of a general, “Don’t move. Stay right where you are”. I looked out of the car window and that is when I saw the gun barrel directed at my head. Instinctively, I dived down and took cover and so did Ajo. The taxi driver took cover too.

In the dead silence of the morning dawn, the sound of a gunfire rented the air. I kept my head low, my ear pricked like a trained dog, and I picked the sounds of footsteps of him running away. My heart was beating so loudly and hard threatening to burst through my chest. I could not tell if one of us had suffered gunshot wounds. It bothered me just thinking what his target could have been. My main concern at this point turned to self-preservation and so I touched myself continuously all over as if I had just lost my fourth sense of feel. I did confirm though that no blood was oozing from any opening in my body. Ajo recovered fast and said, “Remove that gunny bag from the boot. It could be a timed bomb. “

The man kept shouting as he ran away towards the shops in Holo market then he disappeared from our view. When the noise had died down and our shock abated, the taxi driver opened the boot and hauled out the gunny bag. “Please size it up. Just touch it to confirm what could be inside” Ajo instructed the driver while still seated at the co-driver.

“Parts” the driver said

“What parts” Ajo asked anxiously

“Body parts, I think” he replied.

“Get back here and let’s get moving, you greedy fool. Your thirst for money is the cause of all this mess,” Ajo snapped at the driver his bossy class voice coming back on the fore.

The driver banged the door and started the engine again. In the haze of dawn, shadowy figures of people emerged from all directions on hearing gunshots. Some people started running towards our car perhaps thinking, the stranger had harmed us. “What is it? Who has been shot and why.” One of the people shouted, but we gave no answer, instead we sped off at breakneck speed towards our destination.

Inside the car, we all could not just comprehend what had just happened. We all started talking at the same time each of us asking question and talking in tongues like the disciples did the day of the Pentecost. Adrenalin coursed through our veins and added to the incoherence of body and soul. I felt Ajo’s breathing pace heighten, then he became restless, cross and bullish like a caged lion.  He heaved loudly and sighed but no relief was on sight. When he was done with shouting obscenities and curses at the driver, I asked gently afraid to agitate him further, “Why don’t we report this matter to the police? Escaping from the scene of crime could make us co-perpetrators or even criminals. What do you think sir?”

“You are right, this ignoramus has just plunged us into deep hot shit. It is neck-deep,” Ajo said then sighed so loudly again, I thought he would box the driver at the nape from the back but he did not. Instead, he said, “If we are lucky we could get away with it. We are innocent. Even God knows, but the law is an ass”

“What if someone took the car details and called the police. Those people who had come there could do us in. We would be in a worse position. Let us drive back.”  I said more reservedly. The driver slowed down to allow us make the decision. As we were still mulling over the possibilities and our chances of escaping with murder literally, a reflector shinning far ahead warned us of danger. Then we saw the signs-“STOP POLICE CHECK”.

Two police officers on either side of the road raised their hands, pointing skywards signaling us to stop. A third hauled out his riffle from the leather hanger over his shoulders and held it on the ready. The taxi driver started to slow down. In panicked trembling voice he said, “Give me all the money you have all of it.” I fumbled with my pockets, fished out all the coins in punch scoop, and poured them on his lap. Ajo gave him his wallet with wards of notes so fresh crispy you could smell them a mile away. The notes popped out above the wallet neatly arranged in denominations of various currencies both local and foreign. The driver lowered his window as we approached the checkpoint. The spikes blocked the road from one end to the other.

“Open the door and come out slowly. Put your hands where I can see them. Do not try any games with me. This is a .33 Russian caliber machine and it is automatic,” one of the officers shouted. We got out of the car as instructed and leaned face down. “Turn around and put your hands behind you.” The other officer commanded.

As he reached out to his handcuff to lock us up the driver attempted to give him Ajo’s wallet full of notes and bulky the size of a mini brick. The police officer looked at it briefly and said, “Stop that temptation. Why are you putting my profession to test? This is blood money; we do not touch blood money, only clean money. Take that wallet away from me,” The driver allowed it to slip and dropped on the ground on its own with a thud. No one attempted to retrieve it, not even the police. The Police locked us up and put chains on us the way they do goats heading to the market for sale. Ajo had not said a word from the time he gave out his wallet, his face sullen and blank. The taxi driver attempted to say something but squirmed and gave up. I thought I had sufficient courage to raise some sort of defense for all of us and so I said.

“Afisa, Afisa,” I stammered searching for the right words to use. “We have just alighted from the luxurious bus. My name is Thadayo Makus from Kothacha and this is Ajo Mbuta from Kothacha. We hired this taxi to take us home but on the way, he picked a criminal. We are law-abiding citizens’ sir, I pay tithe every month, ten percent sir. My boss is the main beer distributor in Gem County, a respectable man with family and wide business interest in Port Florence. You could actually say that he is the king of Port Florence. He is a man of means. May I add sir, that he is very honest? He neither takes nor gives any bribes. He is a religious man sir and his wife is very prayerful and a member of the women’s guilds. As for me, I go to church every Sunday and fast twice a year sir. We cannot be part of this criminality. We are innocent sir”

The police regarded me for a while and my hopes of freedom flickered like an oil lamp with a dirty wick. “Balderdash, cork and bull story” the police bellowed and with those words, my heart sank. After I had finished stringing those words and breathed another sigh, it occurred to me that I had sounded very much like the spineless sentry at the mall. The only difference this time was that instead of asking for money, I was the willing giver even to my last coin. I looked up to the officer’s face pleading with my eyes for his heart to soften and move towards forgiveness. Bidding him to buy my bull story, but he stood firm un-swayed by my platitudes.

When I saw that the officer had in fact ignored my pleas, I resigned myself to fate and spoke less. We were quickly bundled into a waiting police car. At the scene of crime, the police retrieved the gunny bag a key exhibit the police marked with a felt pen. Exhibit 34A and another unknown to us they marked 34B

Ajo and I arrived in Senoma police station remand cells awaiting charges. The officer was kind enough to inform us that we would be arraigned in court the following day at Port Florence. That evening on TV our news was the leading item. The area OCPD had called a press conference detailing what in his view had transpired. How he had just unearthed through an undercover operation a serious crime ring. Ajo and I looked confused and clueless on the screen that displayed this saga. The TV journalist gave it a screaming headline, which was scrolling at the base of the screen.

“Traffickers of albino body parts arrested on Tanzan road.” The OCPD said when he finally came on screen, “Our officer on patrol arrested these dangerous criminals. We have trailed them for some time, but we have not been successful. Today at dawn, the officers acting on a reliable tip-off from the members of the public made this very daring and significant arrest. These are notorious criminals who have been kidnapping small children mainly albinos and ferrying their body parts across the border to sell to witches to do witchcrafts. We shall meet them with the full force of the law.”

It bothered me a lot that Ajo was not saying anything, just shaking his head in wonderment sometimes whistling in disbelief as well. In my mind, I got thinking how the police was using the power of TV to ensure that our incarceration was completely beyond redemption. I imagined they had instructions to do this neatly even before our case could get a mention in court. I imagined how the judges having watched TV would be prejudiced and how our fate would have almost sealed with this TV exposure.

That evening, as we slept in a cold concrete police cell, fleas, louse and bedbugs feasting on us Ajo had slowly recovered from shock and he began to speak again. He said, “Thardy finish that story. Tell me about the last part of our story. Tell me about Amollo Okol. How did they fix him? Was it similar to our story?” Ajo always called me with that special name whenever he needed a small favor from me, you know like a sweet story.

However, this evening I was in no mood to tell any story. I did not want to tell Ajo that the same villagers Okol had uplifted so much broke into his shop and murdered him in cold blood. I did not want to reveal to him that the police who were accomplice to this murder were the same people investigating the same. I could not bring myself to tell him that they had paid Okol with pain and torture and humiliation. That would only make our stay in the cell more miserable so I chose to say nothing about Amollo Okol, the King of Kothacha.

In my mind, I considered something completely different. I wondered if these fellow remands had ever boarded the luxurious bus. If they ever stopped at the Valley View, point and drank wine and beer. This was particularly critical for me because I did not see any line imaginary or real that divided one prisoner and another on status, class, fame, or fortune. A prison cell I could now reveal was the ultimate equalizer better than the equator.

Later I slept very briefly-a deep twisted nap that complicated further my visit to Port Florence. It was just before dawn. I dreamt that election was over at Port Florence and post-election violence had started immediately the tallying computer had spewed fraudulent linear numbers stupidly. Instead of Joy and jubilation, it had brought in its aftermath chaos, human suffering, human displacement, and police brutality. Police officers occupied very empty space armed to the teeth at Port Florence.

In my dream, I saw an officer take aim and shoot at a child playing in the balcony. I saw a girl’s body fall lifeless like a bird hitting power lines at high speed. Then I saw the boy who was playing with the girl walking up to one police officer who was shooting people indiscriminately using human targets as practice objects to sharpen his skills on long-range shooting.

The boy stood in front of the police and said in an even voice, “I think the body bags you had stockpiled before the elections will soon run out. You may need replenishment urgently. See those ones are already rotting. Vultures are feeding on their eyes. Their relatives will have nothing to bury.” In my dream, I saw the police officer in Port Florence size up the boy. He directed the gun on his head, but the boy did not flinch. Instead, he said, “Go ahead and just do it, scatter my brains and eat it for pudding but it will not stop us from separating. Why are you afraid?  Hate is holding you back because I have come to you with love. You see, for fifty years, it has been the same story. Hate that has made you profile all the people from Port Florence. The same hate that has made you practice ethnic cleansing here. Your boss is using you to further his agenda of exclusion, discrimination purely because of my creed and tribe. I am here to tell you that time is up it is over. Freedom is coming tomorrow.  Can’t you see that flag, that flag we hoisted today in the pelvic hole of those rotting bodies.” The boy stopped talking and stood at ease arms akimbo in defiance.

The officer in my dream moved towards the flag, it was flapping joyously singing with the wind. The flag was singing the Kavirondo song. The officer moved closer to study it. It had a dark shade reminiscing the people here, the bright clouds at one corner was kissing the lake gently. In between where the silvery lake emerged, there was an ember and an emergence of a red sun signaling the break of a new dawn. At the base the officer could see the writing now very clearly. He read the words in the flag in capital-The Republic of Kavirondo and it sounded strange and bitter in his mouth. He turned around to face the radicalized boy again. The boy said, “We are divorcing you. This slavery like slave trade must end. It is abusive, stale, biased for far too long. We are breaking away; it is no use sticking together anymore.”

In my dream, I saw the officers face break into a cynical smile then he grinned then laughed loud and hard. Harder than the laughter, I had had in the mall the day before. Suddenly he changed swiftly, his face grim with anger the way Ajo had behaved at the mall. The officer beckoned the gunships and the tanks. They started rolling down flattening the uncollected bodies and smearing them on the tarmac as they rumbled ahead and took position. The boy stood still unmoved. Then there was a loud noise as if one of the planes flying over Port Florence had dropped a bomb. I shook my head and woke up from the dream, the deeply disturbing dream. I desperately wanted to share it with Ajo so I shook him to wake up.

Instead of sharing the dream and possibly seeking an interpretation, which was what was in my mind, I said something else completely different. I said, “Ajo, we need to prepare our defense. We really do need a lawyer and fast. We have a bad case in our hands”

The following day the Monday of the Pentecost, our time had come. In my mind, I considered the King’s triumphal re-entry into Port Florence.

“All rise,” the court orderly said and the people in the court obeyed including the King. Then he said, “This is the matter of Ajo Mbuta and Thadayo Makus and others verses the state case file number 34C.” He handed over the file to the prosecutor.

The prosecutor in his starch pressed uniform put a watertight case against us at Port Florence main court. He said, “Your honor this is a matter of grave National importance comparable only to some degree to the management of electoral process or bungled elections to be sure. The issues at hand are grave and concern human dignity, life and death. A case your honor becomes complex if it involves loss of life. The people before you have profited from exterminating life of law-abiding citizens. This they have done through a web of deep-rooted cold-hearten people. We shall need time to unravel it. Your honor I make a prayer before you that the two accused be remanded for a further two weeks to allow the investigating officers to complete the investigations.” The prosecutor rested his case.

The courtroom fell silent. I looked across the room and a saw our relatives Ajo and mine. I looked at Ajo’s wife in luxurious dressing exactly as those women I had seen in the luxurious bus. I wondered why it had not occurred to her that what we needed most at this time would be a good lawyer to get us out of jail instead of cat-walking in expensive clad revealing a lot of flesh. Inside me was a boiling volcano that wanted to erupt any minute to consume everyone especially after seeing my wife and Ajo’s. I wanted to shout at them and tell them that we were starving and sleeping on cold hard concrete. I desperately wanted to tell them this was no place to play seductive cards-it was no luxurious bus. Nevertheless, as you can already tell, time and tide waits for no man. I looked at Ajo and I saw the King’s lips pot and form as if he was sipping that nice coffee with sweet smelling aroma at the mall. In my head, I could hear the sounds and even the syllables of Fuuus…Kwooot…fuuus…kwoot, Fuuus…….

The judge looked up. He held file 34C in his hand. In a half a tick he said,” On the prayer of more time to investigate. The court finds the request reasonable. The mattes conversed are weighty. The court grants both prayers” He stopped mid-way in the sentence. Grief gripped my heart and my inner spirit bolted.

My mind drifted in a flash back to my weird dream of the night before. I could touch the radicalized boy in my thoughts. His words came back bouncing hard at me. Slavery, freedom, divorce, flag. As I tried to make sense of them, I could hear clearly the Kavirondo Song, loud and succinctly.

“Justice be our shield and defender..”

“Dwell in unity, peace and liberty..”

“Plenty be found within our borders..”

 

The judge raised the hammer and I knew time had come for him to auction our souls at the fall of the hammer. I wondered if he would do it to the highest bidder. At a closer look, I discerned that it was a gavel. The judge held it suspended in the air a sad look in his face. I could tell by the design of this gavel that it could in fact dispense justice to those who desire and deserve it. I willed him to do the right thing. I saw his arms that had hang in the air to infinitude began to descend as I waited my heart in my mouth. The gavel fell on the table and the court rose up in adjournment.

A visit to Port Florence

The luxurious bus had stopped briefly at the valley viewpoint. The passengers in first class preferred it here for meal breaks and nap rests in between the journey. It was an exciting time for me, a first timer in this luxurious bus in first class.  During the break, the bus served canned beef and canned fish on the lap tables with small wet warm napkins for face and hand cleaning. Wine came in special wine glasses, which I relished then topped it up with a chilled canned beer.

Everything around it was luxurious this bus. The TV that sat on an elegant hoist had a large flat screen. The pictures could not have been clearer than this and our eyes engaged to the full glued all the way. Most men in the bus had massive bellies, fat shinny faces, roundish at the oval chins. The women were more luxurious with golden necklaces and studs of diamonds on their noses that drew attention to self. Their dresses had silk or denim decors and their bangles laced with silver jingled with sounds of belled goats when they moved their arms about in that provocative manner as I could observe.

They all sat in the front, breathing heavily and sweating Ajo had pointed out to me as part of orientation in first class before the bus took off. I wondered why it did not occur to them to put on their personalized air conditioners that bulged at the roof of the bus.  An imaginary line like the equator divided them into two halves of class, the middle haves and the lower have-nots. Then progressively the classes lowered to second and third and so did the seats sizes and comfort of the spacing. Even the air became dense, stuffy, and acrid as you moved away from first class.

Ajo my cousin had paid for my ticket in first class just so I could get the hang of it, I mean of first class life. He is a generous man this diminutive business mogul from Kothacha. We sat side-by-side talking in muffled tones as I kept inquiring about one thing or another in the luxurious bus. Later I switched and we talked about our village-Kothacha

Ajo stretched then belched loudly from overfeeding but failed to apologize. “That would not be expected or even necessary in first class,” Ajo said after he sat back and relaxed. Then he added with a slight sheepish chuckle, “You only apologize in first class if you break wind and only when it is loud you know. People pay for these things to relax!” He said this last part of his sentence with defiant twist in his tone as if someone had asked him to explain his misdemeanor in first class.

Ajo moved back and forth uneasily in his luxurious seat. His lips worked tellingly but words did not form. He appeared coy, and lost in thought his face blank and expressionless and so I thought he would perhaps drift off and sleep, but I was wrong on my assessment. He swiftly turned around thereafter and said to me, “Thadayo, tell me about Amollo OKol. Spin me that yarn that you weaved so neatly before the break. It has the ingredients that can easily stir sleep inside watery eyes and bring peace inside weary soul.”  Therefore, I resumed the story. The story of Amollo Okol

Amollo Okol had worked with the Indian Coolies in the last mile on the metal snake-that is what the villagers called the railway line when it first hit Port Florence in 1911. The queen had come all the way from England to flag off the first train my father told me. He was there just to see Amollo OKol stand tall towering above the coolies and the rest of all the migrant workers from our village. My father was more than pleased when Okol from Kothacha village was the only black who interpreted the queens English to the audience accurately. Putting the icing on the cake Okol did a dry run on the first train at Port Florence. Imagine, just imagine Amollo Okol allowing the metal snake to slither with ease then jack to a halt to loud cheer from crowd and my father was there just to witness the whole thing. Okol could drive a train.

Okol retired shortly after and retreated to the village much to the disappointment of my father. However, he soon made up for his early retirement. It was such a seamless change over as a power switch between heavy loads of high voltage.  “How did he do that? Retirees from Railways often had conflicts. I mean adjustment issues. Not fitting back to reality.” Ojo said in a flat dull voice.

“Okol was different,” I said then continued with the story. When he arrived in the village, our lives became Okol and Okol became our lives. He was the earth around which our world revolved. To cover his back the village provided the axis that allowed him rotate and together we had a small peaceful universe in our village in Kothacha. Whenever there was any medley noise, we would be sure it would be the motorcycle of Okol ferrying merchandise to his shop save for thunder.

Okol was adept at business, exploiting to the full the connections he had made working with the Indians at Port Florence. He had the charm and charisma that watered his young business ideas and it thrived beyond the wildest of dreams, his and ours.  Soon Okol had a name, larger than life itself. Our village in Kothacha became synonyms with Okol. At that young age, I was already aware that Okol was the oxygen we breathed. Besides, he had a big heart of a philanthropist.

When Okol distributed free sugar on the dictum of one hut one-kilo plan, we wondered how he would ever make money failing to see his vision. Old women from the village asked in wonderment, “So when does he get time to collect the eggs of white ants. Taste so nice”. Later they began to crave the same sugar to make tea and they looked up to Okol to do the needful. Okol did not disappoint. Not once.

When Okol started stocking matchboxes, it created quite a revolution; the passing of embers from one home to another fizzled out. Akol was changing the village in a way that no one had ever done before. From one home to another and from one thing to the other, everyone adored him. He did honest business met us halfway on prices most of the times. His business empire expanded. The villagers had a saying, “if you do business, do it with the heart and mind of Amollo Okol”

People created a poem to praise Amollo Okol. I recall it now. It went something like this

“You need a sweat scent, burn the woody with a fragrance of Amollo Okol

You have no food; no provisions- open a credit book with Amollo Okol

Your son has a wedding get a gift pack from the shop of Amollo Okol

You are on a journey get a ride from Amollo Okol”

“So what happened after this expire expanded. Did he open more shops in other markets?” Ajo asked as we approached Port Florence.

“No” I replied then continued, “like good stories with bad endings Okol’s journey ended with a wicked twist at the tail end.  Allow me to continue this story on our return journey.”

The luxurious bus ate up tarmac and gobbled the miles. The bus cut through the force of opposing wind with a whiz like a power turbine. Before we could turn and yawn for the second time in this journey, Port Florence was staring at us from the distance of Kano plains. Right before our very eyes, the magnificent red lights in the famous red light street beckoned us. The shiny silvery water surface reflecting with a bewitching elegance in the moonlight teased us. In the horizon where the clouds kissed the lake slightly a color change from greyish pink to yellowish umber signaled the break of dawn. This amazed me as if I had expected the night to continue unchallenged by day. The bus sneaked in Port Florence with the quietness of the night still enveloping it and the chill of break of dawn made our fingers tremble with cold. It was four am, a gloomy Saturday morning in the early part of May.

Ajo accompanied me to the supermarket, the only one that operated 24hours in Port Florence. We needed to have a quick cup of coffee to warm ourselves up before proceeding on our journey to the village. At the entrance, a sentry welcomed us with wide-open arms; a thin cynic smile played on his lips his mouth agape.  He said, “My lords, I cannot frisk you for I am not worthy. I cannot put any metal detectors on you. That will be injurious to your reputations and lower your dignity. I have seen you alight from the luxurious bus and that is all I need to know. I am your loyal servant. Just give me ten shilling coin and my soul shall be saved.” He concluded. I looked at his face in awe. He was wearing a beaming smile now with a winner’s confidence, his white big teeth exposed to the pre-molar.

First, I was baffled. Then amusement overtook me. I looked at Ajo. He was nodding the way good listeners do as if agreeing with every word this man was saying, matching the guard eyeball to eyeball. This peaked my curiosity that quickly changed to surprised then humor in that order. I started with a slight chuckle, which escalated quickly to a high laughter. It got louder by the second then boomed so loud I got worried it would boomerang and wake other sentries curled up in sleeping positions in the verandah of the mall. I laughed until I could not stand straight. I laughed until my body shook as jelly desert on a flat saucer and my ribs ached.

I groped and reached for Ajo to steady myself even as I laughed some more. It was amusing that just by boarding the luxurious bus; all our sins were gone, in a flash. I found it funny even shocking that this bus had made us white as snow. It had in fact elevated my standing to the level of a lord, perhaps a landlord. I was still laughing when Ajo pulled out a fifty-shilling note and staffed it in the hands of the sentry. Then Ajo turned round and I saw his face reincarnate into an ashen of annoyance.

“Now listen up and get this straight into the space between your ears,” Ajo began to scold me in a firm voice his index finger waging at my face. “You are the people who don’t get it. This is wrong, very wrong for this country. When you trust the security of people or even a country on the hands of beggars. You are toying with a time bomb literally. Do you see what I see? This whole supermarket can be bombed off to smithereens because of a ten shillings coin. Can you see how obnoxious our security system is?” He asked looking straight into my iris his pupil dilated with fury.

My laughter trailed and waned then I froze. My thoughts jammed into confusion leaving a sour taste on its aftermath in my mouth. I remembered that I was a beggar like the sentry he had just paid alms and I needed to earn my keep on an account of good manners. Therefore, when we eventually ordered coffee in the café I had shriveled back to my place and the lofty feelings I had acquired from the luxurious bus had actually evaporated.

We sat and sipped coffee in silence. Ajo pulling and sucking the liquid from the plastic mugs loudly to cool the hot black coffee that burnt the tongues but tasted so nice with sweet aroma. The sound from the tight pulling and sucking of hot coffee made audible syllables. I kept hearing “Fuuss….kwoot, fuus….kwot, fuus….kwot”

Silently in my heart, I thought about Ajo’s overreaction to my laughter. I could not allow it to dwell and take root in my head for long. Beggars, I reasoned have no such luxuries and so it thawed and flowed away like rivulets from rainstorm from my heart.

Twenty minutes later, after serious haggling Ajo agreed with the taxi operator on the charges to take us to Kothacha. Ajo sat in front next to the driver. I sat in the middle, the back seat were unoccupied. We started on light banter again. Kids talk clothed with urbanite humor was my forte and I usually used it to full effect to warm my way to Ajo’s heart for I know that people who give nothing gain nothing. I give joy. This day the taxi man was beating me to it. He led the discussion that meandered around love, lies of ethnic politics and deceit of election stealing. To his credit, we also weaved some yarn about women leadership, the confluence of money and religion as well as significance of wine to a social being.

The ease with which Ajo often made friends made me think that it was perhaps the sole reason he was so successful in business. Moreover, this could also be his blindest spot, I was thinking about it more deeply now. The duplicity of this double edge personality played in my heart. This driver matched him word for word, joke for joke as the miles drained with the minutes. The encounter with that weak-kneed sentry in the mall recurred in my mind and I tried to sue it away like a bothersome fly but it just would not go. I chewed the mental cud Ajo had deposited in the space between my ears. These humbling thoughts emanating from Ajo’s foul language hounded me like a bad smell on this trip.

Ahead in the beam light of our cab on this journey, a young man raised his hand to stop our taxi. He was well dressed like someone on a mission.  A big gunny bag was at his feet and a travelling bag dangled from his shoulder gave that impression of an urban dweller. “Ah guys let me pick this man, he is going our direction. I could make some money. You know you really squeezed me so thin on the rate I charged you. I can make up with his pay.” The taxi driver said in a pleading sort of way. Ajo considered his request for a while. He said, “Ok. Pick him and pay yourself.” The driver stopped slightly ahead on this lone early traveler. The man came over tagging his load with him.

The traveler pulled the car boot and put the gunny bag. From the way he hauled it, I could tell it was a heavy load. He closed the boot quickly and took a seat at the back.

“Where are you going at this early hour?” the driver asked. “Ndori, I have business there. I will pay you five hundred. Here it is.” he replied as he gave out the note to the driver. What he had offered to pay was rather excessive and it got me wondering. Why would he be so generous?

After he closed the car door and sat, I felt raw power ooze from this strange lanky fellow’s presence. I could not explain it but I could feel its palpability. The driver ignited the engine and the car accelerated to full throttle. Something odd draw my attention more and more to this man. He was smartly dressed but he still looked queer under scrutiny. I switched on the inside light to study him. His eyes were bloodshot and his eyelids puffed up and bruised. His shirt had some sprinkles of bloodstains and his shoes were muddy. Something was not right about this eyebrow bender of a man.  I could see Ajo craning his neck backwards also pointing to the danger that his act of good or hardheartedness could bring us harm.

The man we had just picked was reeking of alcohol. A strong smell of Famous Grouse brand that exude from him permeated and took over the taxi. There was also another subtle smell.  An odd expensive women perfume that lingered from the back. This smell in my estimation was perhaps from the boot where the traveler had deposited the gunny bag. I thought it could be a camouflage. The further we traveled, the stronger the smell got and it was unsettling. I could not hold back my thoughts anymore, I opened my mouth to ask but Ajo shot straight ahead of me.

“Wewe, where do you work? What business do you do?”

“General business and brokerage,” the man replied without hesitation. He fell short of giving specifics

“Why are you up this early, who opens a shop or a brokerage at five am,” Ajo drilled further

“Ahhh, I do this all the times. Ahhh. Ahhh.” The man stammered and again filed to complete his sentence. We became alarmed but more so scared.

The man shifted in the chair. I saw his hand slip into the lower pocket. I was now studying his every move. Total silence descended in the taxi even as the driver stepped on the gas. He focused grimly ahead. In my mind, I could only guess that he would do the most sensible thing; drive all of us to the next police station just to ascertain what kind of guest we had just picked. I was again dead wrong on both the guesses my head was tabulating and the direction our journey would take. Our nameless guest had smarter plans up his sleeve.

At Holo market just as the car slowed down on the road bumps, the stranger in our taxi yanked the car opened and he jumped out. He yelled even as he stepped out with the precision of a trained movie star. “No. No. No” he was shouting at the top of his voice as if we had just taken him captive. The driver stepped on the breaks and the car skidded to a creaky stop. I attempted to open one door but he had ran and stood next to the car to commandeer it. He shouted with the command of a general, “Don’t move. Stay right where you are”. I looked out of the car window and that is when I saw the gun barrel directed at my head. Instinctively, I dived down and took cover and so did Ajo. The taxi driver took cover too.

In the dead silence of the morning dawn, the sound of a gunfire rented the air. I kept my head low, my ear pricked like a trained dog, and I picked the sounds of footsteps of him running away. My heart was beating so loudly and hard threatening to burst through my chest. I could not tell if one of us had suffered gunshot wounds. It bothered me just thinking what his target could have been. My main concern at this point turned to self-preservation and so I touched myself continuously all over as if I had just lost my fourth sense of feel. I did confirm though that no blood was oozing from any opening in my body. Ajo recovered fast and said, “Remove that gunny bag from the boot. It could be a timed bomb. “

The man kept shouting as he ran away towards the shops in Holo market then he disappeared from our view. When the noise had died down and our shock abated, the taxi driver opened the boot and hauled out the gunny bag. “Please size it up. Just touch it to confirm what could be inside” Ajo instructed the driver while still seated at the co-driver.

“Parts” the driver said

“What parts” Ajo asked anxiously

“Body parts, I think” he replied.

“Get back here and let’s get moving, you greedy fool. Your thirst for money is the cause of all this mess” Ajo shouted at the driver his bossy class voice coming back on the fore.

The driver banged the door and started the engine again. In the haze of dawn, shadowy figures of people emerged from all directions on hearing gunshots. Some people started running towards our car perhaps thinking, the stranger had harmed us. “What is it? Who has been shot and why.” One of the people shouted, but we gave no answer, instead we sped off at breakneck speed towards our destination.

Inside the car, we all could not just comprehend what had just happened. We all started talking at the same time each of us asking question and talking in tongues like the disciples did the day of the Pentecost. Adrenalin coursed through our veins and added to the incoherence of body and soul. I felt Ajo’s breathing pace heightened, then he became restless, cross and bullish like a caged lion.  He heaved loudly and sighed but no relief was on sight. When he was done with shouting obscenities and curses at the driver, I asked gently afraid to agitate him further, “Why don’t we report this matter to the police? Escaping from the scene of crime could make us co-perpetrators or even criminals. What do you think sir?”

“You are right, this ignoramus has just plunged us into deep hot shit. It is neck-deep,” Ajo said then sighed so loudly again, I thought he would box the driver at the nape from the back but he did not. Instead, he said, “If we are lucky we could get away with it. We are innocent. Even God knows, but the law is an ass”

“What if someone took the car details and called the police. Those people who had come there could do us in. We would be in a worse position. Let us drive back.”  I said more reservedly. The driver slowed down to allow us make the decision. As we were still mulling over the possibilities and our chances of escaping with murder literally, a reflector shinning far ahead warned us of danger. Then we saw the signs-“STOP POLICE CHECK”.

Two police officers on either side of the road raised their hands, pointing skywards signaling us to stop. A third hauled out his riffle from the leather hanger over his shoulders and held it on the ready. The taxi driver started to slow down. In panicked trembling voice he said, “Give me all the money you have all of it.” I fumbled with my pockets, fished out all the coins in punch scoop, and poured them on his lap. Ajo gave him his wallet with wards of notes so fresh crispy you could smell them a mile away. The notes popped out above the wallet neatly arranged in denominations of various currencies both local and foreign. The driver lowered his window as we approached the checkpoint. The spikes blocked the road from one end to the other.

“Open the door and come out slowly. Put your hands where I can see them. Do not try any games with me. This is a .33 Russian caliber machine and it is automatic,” one of the officers shouted. We got out of the car as instructed and leaned face down. “Turn around and put your hands behind you.” The other officer commanded.

As he reached out to his handcuff to lock us up the driver attempted to give him Ajo’s wallet full of notes and bulky the size of a mini brick. The police officer looked at it briefly and said, “Stop that temptation. Why are you putting my profession to test? This is blood money; we do not touch blood money, only clean money. Take that wallet away from me,” The driver allowed it to slip and dropped on the ground on its own with a thud and no one attempted to retrieve it not even the police. The Police locked us up and put chains on us the way they do goats heading to the market for sale. Ajo had not said a word from the time he gave out his wallet. The taxi driver attempted to say something but squirmed and gave up. I thought I had sufficient courage to raise some sort of defense for all of us and so I said.

“Afisa, Afisa,” I stammered searching for the right words to use. “We have just alighted from the luxurious bus. My name is Thadayo Makus from Kothacha and this is Ajo, Ajo Mbuta from Kothacha. We hired this taxi to take us home but on the way, he picked a criminal. We are law-abiding citizens’ sir, I pay tithe every month, ten percent sir. My boss is the main beer distributor in Gem County, a respectable man with family and wide business interest in Port Florence. He is a man of means. May I add sir, that he is very honest? He neither takes nor gives any bribes. He is a religious man sir and his wife is very prayerful and a member of the women’s guilds. As for me, I go to church every Sunday and fast twice a year sir. We cannot be part of this criminality. We are innocent sir”

The police regarded me for a while and my hopes of freedom flickered like a lamp with a dirty wick. “Balderdash, cork and bull story” the police bellowed and with those words, my heart sank. After I had finished stringing those words and breathed, it occurred to me that I had sounded very much like the spineless sentry at the mall. The only difference this time was that instead of asking for money, I was the willing giver even to my last coin. I looked up to the officer’s face pleading with my eyes for his heart to soften and move towards forgiveness. Bidding him to buy my bull story, but he stood firm un-swayed by my platitudes.

When I saw that the officer had in fact ignored my pleas, I resigned myself to fate and spoke less. We were quickly bundled into a waiting police car. At the scene of crime, the police retrieved the gunny bag a key exhibit the police marked with a felt pen. Exhibit 34A and another unknown to us they marked 34B

Ajo and I arrived in Senoma police station remand cells awaiting charges. The officer was kind enough to inform us that we would be arraigned in court the following day at Port Florence. That evening on TV our news was the leading item. The area OCPD had called a press conference detailing what in his view had transpired. How he had just unearthed through an undercover operation a serious crime ring. Ajo and I looked confused and clueless on the screen that displayed this saga. The TV journalist gave it a screaming headline, which was scrolling at the base of the screen.

“Traffickers of albino body parts arrested on Tanzan road.” The OCPD said when he finally came on screen, “Our officer on patrol arrested these dangerous criminals. We have trailed them for some time, but we have not been successful. Today at dawn, the officers acting on a reliable tip-off from the members of the public made this very daring and significant arrest. These are notorious criminals who have been kidnapping small children mainly albinos and ferrying their body parts across the border to sell to witches to do witchcraft. We shall meet them with the full force of the law.”

It bothered me a lot that Ajo was not saying anything, just shaking his head in wonderment sometimes whistling in disbelief as well. In my mind, I got thinking how the police was using the power of TV to ensure that our incarceration was completely beyond redemption. I imagined they had instructions to do this neatly even before our case could get a mention in court. I imagined how the judges having watched TV would be prejudiced and how our fate would have almost sealed with this TV exposure.

That evening, as we slept in a cold concrete police cell, fleas, louse and bedbugs feasting on us Ajo had slowly recovered from shock and he began to speak again. He said, “Thardy finish that story. Tell me about the last part of our story. Tell me about Amollo Okol. How did they fix him? Was it similar to our story?” Ajo always called me with that special name whenever he needed a small favor from me, you know like a sweet story.

However, this evening I was in no mood to tell any story. I did not want to tell Ajo that the same villagers Okol had uplifted so much broke into his shop and murdered him in cold blood. I did not want to reveal to him that the police who were accomplice to this murder were the same people investigating the same. I could not bring myself to tell him that they had paid Okol with pain and torture and humiliation. That would only make our stay in the cell more miserable so I chose to say nothing about Amollo Okol.

In my mind, I considered something completely different. I wondered if these fellow remands had ever boarded the luxurious bus. If they ever stopped at the Valley View, point and drank wine and beer. This was particularly critical for me because I did not see any line imaginary or real that divided one prisoner and another on status or class. A prison cell I could now reveal was the ultimate equalizer better than the equator.

Later I slept very briefly-a deep twisted nap that complicated further my visit to Port Florence. It was just before dawn. I dreamt that election was over at Port Florence and post-election violence had started immediately the tallying computer had spewed fraudulent linear numbers. Instead of Joy and jubilation, it had brought in its aftermath chaos, human suffering, human displacement, and police brutality. Police officers occupied very empty space armed to the teeth at Port Florence.

In my dream, I saw an officer take aim and shoot at a child playing in the balcony. I saw a girl’s body fall lifeless like a bird hitting power lines at high speed. Then I saw the boy who was playing with the girl walking up to one police officer who was shooting people indiscriminately using human targets as practice objects to sharpen his skills on long-range shooting.

The boy stood in front of the police and said, “I think the body bags you had stockpiled before the elections will soon run out. You may need replenishment urgently. See those ones are already rotting. Vultures are feeding on their eyes. Their relatives will have nothing to bury.” In my dream, I saw the police officer in Port Florence size up the boy. He directed the gun on his head, but the boy did not flinch. Instead, he said, “Go ahead and just do it, scatter my brains and eat it for pudding but it will not stop us from separating. Why are you afraid?  Hate is holding you back because I have come to you with love. You see, for fifty years, it has been the same story. Hate that has made you profile all the people from Port Florence. The same hate that has made you practice ethnic cleansing here. Your boss is using you to further his agenda of exclusion, discrimination purely because of my creed and tribe. I am here to tell you that time is up it is over.  Can’t you see that flag, that flag we hoisted today in the pelvic hole of those rotting bodies.” The boy stopped talking and stood at ease arms akimbo in defiance.

The officer moved towards the flag, it was flapping joyously singing with the wind. The flag was singing the Kavirondo song. The officer moved closer to study it. It had a dark shade reminiscing the people here, the bright clouds at one corner was kissing the lake gently. In between where the silvery lake emerged, there was an ember and an emergence of a red sun signaling the break of a new dawn. At the base the officer could see the writing now very clearly. He read the words in the flag in capital-The Republic of Kavirondo and it sounded strange and bitter in his mouth. He turned around to face the radicalized boy again. The boy said, “We are divorcing you. The relationship has been abusive, stale, biased for far too long, fifty years, and counting. We are breaking away; it is no use sticking together anymore.”

In my dream, I saw the officers face break into a cynical smile then he grinned then laughed loud and hard. Harder than the laughter, I had had in the mall the day before. Suddenly he changed swiftly, his face grim with anger the way Ajo had behaved at the mall. The officer beckoned the gunships and the tanks. They started rolling down flattening the uncollected bodies and smearing them on the tarmac as they rumbled ahead and took position. The boy stood still unmoved. Then there was a loud noise as if one of the planes flying over Port Florence had dropped a bomb. I shook my head and woke up from the dream, the deeply disturbing dream. I desperately wanted to share it with Ajo so I shook him to wake up.

Instead of sharing the dream and possibly seeking an interpretation, which was what was in my mind, I said something else completely different. I said, “Ajo, we need to prepare our defense. We really do need a lawyer and fast. We have a bad case in our hands”

The following day the Monday of the Pentecost, our time had come.

“All rise,” the court orderly said and the people in the court obeyed. Then he said, “This is the matter of Ajo Mbuta and Thadayo Makus and others verses the state case file number 34C.” He handed over the file to the prosecutor.

The prosecutor in his starch pressed uniform put a watertight case against us at Port Florence main court. He said, “Your honor this is a matter of grave National importance comparable only to some degree to the management of electoral process or bungled elections to be sure. The issues at hand are grave and concern human dignity, life and death. A case your honor becomes complex if it involves loss of life. The people before you have profited from exterminating life of law-abiding citizens. This they have done through a web of deep-rooted cold-hearten people. We shall need time to unravel it. Your honor I make a prayer before you that the two accused be remanded for a further two weeks to allow the investigating officers to complete the investigations.” The prosecutor rested his case.

The courtroom fell silent. I looked across the room and a saw our relatives Ajo and mine. I looked at Ajo’s wife in luxurious dressing exactly as those women I had seen in the luxurious bus. I wondered why it had not occurred to her that what we needed most at this time would be a good lawyer to get us out of jail instead of cat-walking in expensive clad revealing a lot of flesh. Inside me was a boiling volcano that wanted to erupt any minute to consume everyone especially after seeing my wife and Ajo’s. I wanted to shout at them and tell them that we were starving and sleeping on cold hard concrete. I desperately wanted to tell them this was no place to play seductive cards-it was no luxurious bus. Sadly, I did not get the time to. I looked at Ajo and I saw his lips pot and form as if he was sipping that nice coffee with sweet smelling aroma at the mall. In my head, I could hear the sounds of “fuuus…Kwooot…fuuus…kwoot “emerging from Ajo.

The judge looked up. He held file 34C in his hand. In a half a tick he said,” On the prayer of more time to investigate. The court finds the request reasonable. The mattes conversed are weighty. The court grants both prayers” He stopped mid-way in the sentence. He raised the hammer and I knew time had come for him to auction our souls at the fall of the hammer. I wondered if he would do it to the highest bidder. At a closer look, I discerned that in fact it was a gavel. I could tell by its design that it could dispense justice to those who desire and deserve it. I willed him to do the latter and I saw his arms hang in the air to infinity as I waited my heart in my mouth. Then the gavel fell on the IMG-20160829-WA0001table and the court rose up in adjournment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Kulu kulu birds, Baby mongoose and Iguana

Kulu Kulu birds were everywhere no matter where you looked. The whole village of Nyasmwa was one big swam of birds flying in threes and fours, with an irritating ghoulish noises on their trail. They were strange, stranger than fiction these birds. Pink chested, big black winged with large grey claws. On their heads marble large eyes patched and bulged out roundish to see in three D. Their beaks were rather short and curved shapely and sharper than the hawk’s.

No one had ever seen them before. No one knew where they had come from, and worse still no one had a name for them. As they flew low and fast then changed course and sored up and down and cawed Kulu kulu kulu kulu kulu we stopped and wondered in awe. I asked piously, the way one would ask a religious monk or a priest at confession. “Okelo, Wuod Agoro, tell me- which birds are these? What do they want in our village? How did they arrive here? What would be their agenda, food, home or what?”

“Yaa,” He sighed and said, “No one knows from where they come or where they are going. They must be wind, ill wind. These birds of sadness have been here since the army worms invaded the crops. Could they be following the worms? But they also feed on corn.” Okello’s remarks and his tamed voice got me thinking and premonition came to mind.

Kulu kulu birds had taken over the village swooping and pairing. We stood still me and Okello studying these monsters that we had nicknamed Kulu kulu, for their manners or lack thereof. I wanted to tell Okello that this was a bad sign of sadness. That from our folklore, strange bird’s invasion was prophetic for pain and mourning but I did not. Instead I told my son to look up and study the sky. “See this looks like an eclipse.” I said pointing to the sun and without guessing which one it really was, of the moon or of the sun or of the Holy Ghost? The sun had clouds around it, round like an enclave of the hedges in our village. The rays pierced through the clouds with beams which were dim and yellowish and it felt lukewarm the way it happens at sunrise but it was now approaching midday. At class six my son knows the story of the eclipse of the moon and of the sun and of the earth

Okello and I shifted our attention from the Kulu kulu to the eclipse and back to the cows. The cows started mooing loudly in unison like they had conspired all at once to start a riot and break away from the tether ropes. I had never seen my cows this wild like prisoners on a prison break mode. They gored fiercely, their horns in the air with raised tails as they jumped on three legs, one leg tied to the ropes. Then they puffed loudly from the widened hollow noses. The sound was scary and ominous-“Fuu, fuu, fuu” and the birds went, “kulu, kulu, kulu kulu.”

“Release the cows at once.” I instructed my son and he moved with haste to obey the command. But this day nothing was going right. The cows pulled Okello along and fell him down in a manner that I had never seen happen before. I thought he had broken his rib on that fall. The cows were riotous like the Kulu kulu or perhaps incited by them. I could see the corner of Okello’s mouth turn in a shape to start a cry but my son managed to stifle it. The other cows rioted too. “Okello, Okello, be careful, set the cows to the lawns and come home at once after watering.” But my son disobeyed and failed to take the cows to the grazing fields. He ran off in opposite direction totally unexpectedly to my shock.

As I walked following the riotous cows to the grazing fields I watched the Kulu kulu, chase away other birds. I could see that the other birds were silent, Cowed and muted by fear of the Kulu-kulu. The village was eerily peaceful with the sort of stillness that precede dawn but it was now well past noon. When the wind started to blow gently, the trees stared unmoved. The awry stiffness of the tress that stood still and disobedient never to sway and salute the Kulu-kulu or their master caught my attention. The loud conversation of monsoon would normally shake the trees, the shrubs and the branches and they would dance to its tune alongside the grass that would swivel to share secrets. This time it was absent.

The Kulu-kulu had upset the order of things in Nyasmwa village. I got worried that perhaps it was not just the trees and the birds and the air and the sun that would be under the grip of the Kulu kulu. The brief talk that had gone on between Okello and me about the Kulukulu invasion in our village was laden with fear of the unknown. This same fear was slowly getting the better of me. I tried to act normal ignoring the increased pumping rate of my heart in my chest but I could hear it in my ear lobes.

When I arrived in the hut after watering the animals, Seruya my wife was missing. Okello was nowhere to be found. A hen scratched the earth next to the hut and picked some feed with speed so fast, I could not see it with my naked eyes. That bothered me too. Cheru, our heavily pregnant cat mewed loudly following me everywhere I went as if it had a message to pass. But I was too restless to calm down and receive it. I searched the rooms looking for Seruya calling her loudly in fear. “Seruya, Seruya,” but there was no answer. Outside the hut the Kulu kulu birds still cooed and preened, Kulu kulu. In the confusion I was hearing them differently. It was like they were now calling my son. “Okello okello Okello Okello.”

When I became frantic and searched deeper, throwing everything everywhere  hither and yon in a huff I noticed that  the big baby bag which we had bought with Seruya at Bindo and packed with new baby things like, pampers, nappies, bibs and small clothes was nowhere near, it was actually missing too. Immediately I felt relief, my breath speed eased and paced well and the tense muscles around my nape relaxed. I concluded that Seruya must have gone into labor when I was out in the fields attending cows. I called in the boda-boda (moto-bike rider) and soon I was on my way to Bindo.

On the way to Bindo my thoughts wafted and sweat daydreams floated and rested on Seruya and the baby. My heart melted with excitement, I felt peace and pride at the same time. I prayed silently for safe easy delivery, for Seruya cutting my prayer intermittently to swoon over my love- Seruya. “Okello will have a follower and his indiscipline and perhaps tantrums would mellow “I said loudly and the bike rider thought I was addressing him.  “What?” he enquired. ““Forget it. It is a monologue. My own private thoughts” I answered.

In my mind I had plans for Okello and Seruya and the baby. Okello should flower the way “Obongo’S”-one boy family should. I turned ideas in my head. My thoughts visited the discussions we had had with Seruya on the names for the baby. The lullabies I had formed in my heart for the baby, milled in my mind and I smiled. Silently, I started to hum the lullaby in whispers.

“Eeh Galy galy a sweet girl

Eeh Galy galy a small girl

Eeh Galy galy a smart girl

Eeh Galy galy a secret girl”

In no time I was at the maternity in Bindo. “My wife came in here a while ago. Has she gone to the delivery room” I inquired from a nurse at the reception desk.

“Name please?” the nurse asked.

“Seruya-Seruya Aol and my name is Matias-Matias Aol the husband” I volunteered the details anxious to get the news, smiling from ear to ear.

“Yes, she came.  She is expecting twins. There was a small complication which we could not handle here. We have transferred her to the referral hospital in Miyumo. She went in our ambulance. I have just called the team. She is doing fine. They are done with rapture and the first baby is out. They should be in the hospital by now.” The nurse said.

“Thanks you so much. I must join them right away. I will see you when we return to the village” I said giggling shyly in happiness. I left at once by public transport to Miyumo.

At the referral hospital my lightheadedness quickly evaporated and gave way to heavy heartedness. I was referred from one desk to another before someone could even confirm that my wife was admitted in this facility. Finally, a male nurse called me outside. That was a red light right there. I could tell from his uneasiness that the birds of sadness had followed me to Miyumo and they were ready even to build their nest on my head. The nurse shaped his mouth as if to speak but stayed silent and it was extending to eternity in my mind, this suspensive silence. I directed my glare at his face trying to lock and pin his eyeballs and wrestle them down. His eyes shifted and he became evasive. I cursed wondering why he was taking a whole day to say a word. I tried hard to swallow saliva but my mouth was completely dry. He was still focused on a blank wall right in front of us when I felt a sharp pain prick my heart and hold it tightly. I pushed down the esophagus to contain a bulge of hard lump climbing up my throat as I waited for him to speak.

He opened his mouth but stammered. He said, “They. They did not make it.”

“Who” I asked sharply feeling my lips quiver and the other words that had formed in my mouth dissipate. He took the advantage of my faltering and went full throttle, speaking a mile a minute explaining how it all happened. His words were floating in space as echo in my head. Bits and pieces of his words. “The boys were fatigued. The mother had undergone severe bleeding. We rushed her to theater. We had to make decisions very fast. The hard decisions even to save the mother. The first one came out still breathing but shortly only shortly. The second one was dead before birth…” He was going on and on and on. But my mind had blocked. He was here with me but his words were distant and faint and meaningless.

“Where is my wife? Where is Seruya/” I found my voice finally and asked. “She was is still recovering in the recovery room after theater, we shall wheal her back to the general word shortly”

Later they wheeled Seruya to the General Word. I was waiting willing with all my willpower to stay calm and comfort her at this dark moment. When I spotted her from a distant, laying still, the sight of her looking completely famished from fatigue, pain and blood loss and all that emptiness around her, I cracked. I cracked on looking at the big baby bag still full of unused clothes and wipes. I cracked at seeing her timid face and her eyes searching, looking for someone to say something. No one talked. You could hear a pin fall. Tension was thick in the air, you could cut it into two equal halves with a blunt knife.

“Honey I am here” I managed to say with an unfamiliar voice unsure of what to tell and even how to frame it.

“Give me the girl I need the girl first.” I could see her hands searching the bed, then she massaged the breast as if preparing to start breastfeeding right away. My wife was asking me and the nurses for the baby firmly, sure that she was at the nursery but the nurses were taking too long to bring her along. It dawned on me that no one had told her about this story of death that was peddling around hovering over our babies like the Kulu kulu. As I battled in my head about how I would break the news, I got thinking. My wife could remember every details of it before theatre. Baby girl. Her first cry. She even had a name, then theatre came and took it all away, all that was now lost in a haze of the stories of the nurse. Then I recalled the conversation I had with the nurse at Bindo. Something was wrong. Seriously wrong.

I looked at the nurse, the male nurse who had passed the bad news to me, then I turned and looked at my wife. Who was fooling who? I asked myself quietly still in shock as to the possibility that our children could well be alive somewhere in another person’s arms. But where are they? Why is this nurse playing stupid games? Who could he be working for or with? How deep or high up does this ring, child trafficking ring go? Anger was boiling inside me. My fingers started clenching into a tight fist in my pocket. I wanted so much to punch this nurse at the mouth and I became afraid that I could lose control completely any minute. I moved closer and sized him up, then I did something completely different.

Instead of taking aim, I knelt at the bedside next to my wife. I looked at her in the eye and said. “Honey, they all went to be with the lord ahead of us. We shall join them in the fullness of time. I have just been told by the doctor that they were both boys. All died at birth, one a few minutes after delivery. The other, stillborn.” Something stopped me dead on my trucks, I could not continue this conversation anymore. This filthy narrative stated to taste bitter and nasty in my mouth. I felt guilt, guilt of betrayal. I felt hate, self-hate of a pathological liar. It overpowered me and it was in the process of swallowing me up. Something screamed and snapped in my head with tough questions. It yelled, “Why are you playing the mouthpiece for child traffickers, why Mathias?”

“Lies. All lies. I gave birth to a baby girl in the ambulance. I held her in my arms before I went to theater. I don’t want any funny jokes. This is not interesting to me or to anyone. I need to see my girl at least the girl -now.” My wife snapped.

The doctor came along together with the lead nurse. In a baby stretcher they wheeled in the doctor pealed back the shoal and then the bodies gleamed. They were both boys dead black tiny dark boys with funny curly hair, one looked more like baby mongoose. The blackness confirmed that they had stayed in the morgue for too long. At close look one appeared premature with a long head of an iguana. The other was of a completely different decent, they could not possibly have any of my genes. None. I wanted to shout loudly and repeat what my wife had said earlier or even do combat with the doctor but something held me back. It was as if I had become a puppet of some sort controlled remotely by some invincible strings, quite against my will.

The nurse said in a weary voice, “Can we move them back to the morgue”. My wife tried to protest but she was too weak to speak. Her lips quivered and her body was shivering continuously with emotional turmoil fever. Her arms rose and fell limp and lifeless on the bed. The doctor said, “The bleeding has resumed. We must take her back to theatre. Lose of a two children can be very traumatic. She may suffer bouts of severe depression or even temporary insanity. It normally occurs in most women after giving birth due to intense labor-pain.”  The doctor’s words floated in my head, but I could see them as only callous as the crocodile tears that they were. I chewed them like bitter cud but spat them out with disdain.

The nurses administered more anesthesia as they arranged to wheal Seruya back to theatre. The doctor also recommended some medicine which he said would calm her down. The nurses worked frantically to put drugs through her shriveled veins in drips. I panicked that they would inject her with something else perhaps to rub her memory or even to comatose her altogether to cover their trucks. I wanted to hire a private sentry to keep watch over my wife but I did not know who to trust anymore. I just sat there helplessly, muted and blank staring at a blue fly on the wall.

Later, on the journey back home my mind wondered about the day. It was dead in the night when I arrived in the village empty and lost. The kulu kulu birds had taken a nest rest while my wife was now on bed rest. I wanted so much to understand the meaning of this day, just so I could get some peace in my heart but nothing was making sense. Nothing.

Okello was still awake. He opened the door for me sheepishly perhaps afraid that I cold punish him for his earlier sins. Then he asked about his mother and the baby and the emotions rushed in over me like a flash floods over the river bank. I held him tightly afraid that he could also varnish, fearing that if I answered him I would burst out with loud wails. Instead I called him and said, “Wuod Agoro, Wuod Agoro. It is well.” Then I set him to sleep.

The following day, the relatives and villagers from Nyasmwa assisted me to bring the iguana and baby mongoose to the village in small wooden boxes which would not fit the description of coffins. One villager said, “If these are not your real children, a hyena would pull away the tomb stone and eat them up at night. You wait and see”. But I did not answer him. In a shallow grave at the spot where the cows had fell Okello, we buried them. Against my advice fellow villagers conspired and invited the pastor to conduct a brief funeral service. As he sang I could see his chest pull in air and rise and fall with Holy Ghost.

“Look and liiiiive, my brother liiiiive ….

“Look and live my brother live, I have a message from the lord hallelluuuyaaa that you must look and live”

In my head the words were different. It was

“Look and liiiiiive ..

“Galy galy live. I have a message…and Live”

Early in the morning the day that followed, I woke to be the first at the tomb side like Mary Magdalen. I had hoped that I would find the tomb stone moved and the tomb empty. I was wrong. The stone was in place and the soil was more compact.

Three weeks later on cold miserable Friday evening, Seruya arrived in the village crest fallen and down spirited as a captives of war arriving at the victor’s camp. Her arrival in Nyasmwa unannounced would set in motion a chain of events that would change our lives completely just like the Kulu Kulu did. It was the day Cheru our cat had given birth to two kittens. Okello had said, “Daddy one is a boy and the other is a girl,” as he played with the kittens. The mother cat was calm, and contented and cool licking the kittens and mewing softly.  Seruya, looked at them carefully like a lab technician does the slide of a smear test. By studying this cat and her kitten, my wife’s brain opened, a curtain was drawn back, and a window of wisdom emerged in her head. She said, “Honey I recall now. I should have remembered this in the hospital. I had done a scan on the third trimester. It clearly showed we were expecting a boy and a girl. Yaaa. Let me get for you the ex-ray film”

We were expecting fraternal twins. The films were clear, twins-a boy and a girl, fully formed, but in our backyard we had buried two premature boys. The same day we went back to Miyumo armed with our burial certificate and the scan and the discharge documents. We were greeted with real shock, the hospital had no record of Seruya, none. It was like all this story about giving birth was a figment of our own imagination, a pipe dream. No one was interested in looking at the documents we had, we went back home more determined than ever before to trace Galy galy.

That week we sold half our herd not on a draught offtake program but in a bid to raise funds to come to the city to follow leads that were pointing towards where our daughter and son was. Thadayo, my uncle who works in the city had said, “In this town everything is about money. You will need money to get the appointments booked, the files opened, the networks oiled and the system working for you.” That week we arrived in the city, we had an appointment in a lonely establishment, with tall white buildings and policemen with big guns at the gate. I recall the forest opposite the huge gate and the tranquil that surrounded those imposing white building, with not a dot, not a shade of any other color. In my mind I reasoned that the white signified purity and integrity and that their dealings would be above board. But I countered by chickens too early before the hen could even start to brood.

“The rings a target the rural folk. Mostly ignorant women who arrive in the hospital unaccompanied” The inspector said.

“We have documented cases of elite families from urban areas losing children to these cartels in high end hospitals. It is a very complex ring.” The assistant pathologist said

“The trend is worrying. Some of these children find their way to the Pacific Coast and even West Indies” the lead investigator said and my heart skipped several bits before in evened back.

“It is alarming. About 0.5% of children born in LDCs are lost to child traffickers at birth. This is according to the statistics available in the world health organization website” The statistician confirmed.

I sat there next to Thadoye in this air conditioned office absorbing what sounded like a descriptions right from hell but the chief investigator calmed my nerves. He said, “We shall get to the bottom of this. We shall put together a competent team from the CID, NIS, The assistant and chief pathologists, The military police and the Global Police organization-the local chapter and have this done in under one month.”

In under a month, one hot Saturday afternoon in early part of October, the team arrived in Nyasmwa to exhume the iguana and the baby mongoose. I wondered why Thadayo had not informed me of their coming. When I called him and asked why he had not given me prior notice, he answered. “Don’t worry, we have it all covered. On the sides I have also hired a private investigator and a private pathologist to give us independent results. They are part of that team. Allow them to do their work. We shall fix these goons.” “Do we need a journalist, a photographer or even a lawyer? What if they double cross us” I enquired fearing that the web could be complex and deep. “No.” he replied. “These guys are professionals. They will do a good job.” He insisted.

The “Professionals” opened the graves and took samples. They cleaned everything up tracking and picking every born with meticulous detail of a surgeon. That day the Kulu kulu birds returned to the village with a vengeance. They kept booing and laughing above our heads as the “professionals picked every bit of the Iguana and baby mongoose. I looked up the sky but there was no eclipse of the moon or of the sun just one line of thin cloud in a clear blue sky. I kept asking questions but they kept referring to one another. “Will you bring back the bodies and rebury them “I asked as they staffed everything into gunny bags and zipped them up cleaning without a trace. In my mind they were messing up the evidence packing it away.

“We need to have this stored safely for future reference,” the lead pathologist said. His answers was vague and calculated. They were friendly with one another and I could see them laugh and share jokes with careless abandon. This bothered me quite a lot. How could my children’s theft be painful and funny at the same time? I just kept asking myself and I could not get it.  They promised that they would give the results of their findings in one month. A month came and went, then three then six passed and a year elapsed and there were no results.

I called Thadayo persistently, bothering him daily about this Ponzi scheme. At some point I almost thought he himself had been sucked in the ring. But when he came back to the village, he sold his two cows and he told me to sell the entire heard to beef up the war chest. He said the next team would be more robust, more accountable and energized with the kind of money we had assembled from the sale of our cows. He said, “I will assemble another team from the EACC, Dir. Of CID, Dir. Of NISS the Interpol, the pastors, the journalist and the lawyers and the prosecutors. We have to get to the bottom of this”. I believed him and that’s when I started writing this story of the Kulu Kulu birds, the iguana and baby mongoose.wp_20151225_13_11_22_pro