Unchained

It was dark, the pitch darkness that often follow the end of full moon. Up there, in the grim sky faint view of submerged stars broke the monotony of blackness. Black Forest school was quiet, deathly quietness that was expected after the prefects had patrolled the halls and the form two’s whispers had died down. Ham had wanted to go out to visit the convenience but he just would not get the courage to do it. Someone with malicious intent could be larking out there in the dark he reasoned. His restless mind relived the day. The school had been awash with the pressmen at break time. The prefects had loitered checking if anyone would open his mouth to speak to the press. It was under control until a pressman had cornered him.

”hey, what happened? Was he your classmate? Was he in form one Blue or Red? Do you have any information about this molestation in your school? How many form threes are gay, do you know?” The press kept following him as flies swarming around to a bad smell. Ham wondered in his mind if he had any role in their presence in school.

Ham had waved his hand weakly suing them away like he usually did to the pestering blue flies in the school main ablution. When they did not go away he opened his mouth and said, “Please leave me alone I am just a form two and I don’t know anything you are talking about. Please, please.” that’s when the prefect saw him and booked in his role of offenders for the day. Speaking to a strangers was out of the question even Ham knew it was against school rules at Black Forest School.

Hams mind rested on something else, the prefect that had booked him. He had followed him to class then stood in front of him sneering. His big black pimples looked darker and riper. Ham could tell that he was in deep trouble. With a menacing grimace the prefect had announced, “You will face the music. Tomorrow. See me at lunch time”

After the nine O’clock news that evening things had taken a turn for the worse. Ham had settled in the main hall after dinner to view news-bad news. This was part of the reason sleep would not come. Ham stayed awake in his bed, gazing from the decker bed through the grilled window his head rested on the window ledge. He gazed into the emptiness. Sleep had deserted him and much as he willed to sleep, it was the dark thoughts that kept crowding his young mind and chased sleep away. Then his mind went back to the news of the evening.

The whole school was here watching. The bad publicity his school had attracted had brought a sense of gloom and fear and unity in different measure to the whole school. The pictures were there, as clear as daylight. The pressman chasing him, the equipment hanging above his head. Then the news came in quick sharp short sentences that shocked everyone initially. The juicy part, was Perhaps what they had intended the public to know “Which class would you get most gays in the school?” the newsman appeared to ask Ham on the TV screen. “Form two” Ham appeared to have confirmed. The whole school listened in a lull, then a student giggled and a burst of loud roaring laughter filled the hall.

The news had been edited Ham could tell. He had been fixed into a corner.  Even with that knowledge of impending punishment his thoughts refocused at the laughter. The whole school laughing at itself, at how low it had sank to the abyss of moral decay. He worried that this piece of news and the laughter would make the following day’s lunch date with the deputy captain more complicated.

His mind drifted to yet another direction, piecing the pieces of how it all started scrambling. This make believe face of Black Forest that had stood the test of time as an edifice was slowly falling apart. This lie that had gone on for far too long was being unmasked and it was shocking even to him.

It was the last Saturday before school closure the previous year that this heavy burden befell him. He had wanted to share his own experience with Jay Po his best friend in form one before the school closed but he did not. Now Jay Po had fallen a victim. Last week on Friday to be exact Jay Po could not walk to the dispensary anymore. His wounds had soared, spread then became septic. The deputy headmaster had advised him to take two weeks bed rest. He had assured him that it would be alright.  He was just there sleeping in the dormitory when the rest of the school was in class studying for night preps.

On the night Jay Po escaped Ham had sneaked back into the dormitory to help him park. In whispers Po had shared.

“I had intended to use the ablution next to the lab one when they attacked me” he had said in a weak voice

“Who were they did you see their faces” Ham asked anxiously

“Yes, the deputy captain and four others, I could see their ghostly faces in hoods in the dark. His stocky rugby muscles was evident and his voice gave him away”

“What did they do it, those brutes, how did they hurt you this much, why Po why did they do it?” Ham inquired

“I really cannot tell why. They pulled me to the wilderness. That deserted dark place where form fours study-under those dark shady trees. There, they forced me to a scrum position. The deputy captain forced my neck between his knees like an ox on the yoke. Then the others kept pulling down my shorts. I could hear them scrambling like hyenas do over carcass as they tore my shorts then soft tissues with their sticks. Then when they finished. The prefect helped me with the short. He said.” “My friend if you try to tell this to anyone, we shall come back for more. This time you will be dead.” “I could hear the steps of their shoes fade away as they varnished with slight cackles of vultures after a voluptuous meal.” Po said then paused for breath “Then who helped you back to the house. Did anyone notice?” Ham asked in a low tone. “No. So far no one knows this other than you and the deputy headmaster. I reported it to him directly. He has not taken any action even with all the details I shared with him. I think he is protecting the perpetrators. I am leaving this school tonight. I am sneaking out before I die here”

Ham had helped Jay Po sneak out. Together they staffed a few belongings into a plastic bag then they tiptoed to the fence. Jay Po frame faded away and vanished into the night as he hobbled his wounds weigh on one leg. Then he melted under the cover of darkness. Ham had walked back to class and pretended to study but his mind was with Po. Would he tell his parents? Would he die quietly from his wounds? He could not tell. He had not opened his mouth to anyone on this matter until today when the pressmen appeared in his school.

These pressmen who talked as if they had more details than he did surprised him. Now as he lay in his bed gazing into the dark sky he was sure someone else perhaps another student had seen him escort Jay Po to the fence. How else would the press just pick on him? How else would he be the one to be interviewed by this unethical journalist? Still it was a mystery to him.

A bat flapped and swooped through the gaping holes that the louvers had once occupied and snapped the mosquitoes that had been buzzing about his head.  His mind wandered and strange as it sounded even to himself, he was now thinking about his school-To be a student in Black Forest School was no cake walk, he thought. It was not what his father had described to him earlier. The Black Forest school that had straight paved walk ways lined with flower beds and painted stones and working hot showers with flashing toilets was a lie. Instead he found many things missing, security lights were long dead the pit latrines were full and fat white maggot’s wriggles on the floor every time he visited. Everything about it was a miss even seeing the head teacher was a chance.

The gong of the assembly bell went before winks of sleep could form in his eyes. Students prepared and rushed out to assembly. The headmaster walked in carrying a copy of the Daily News. His face evidently cold as and tense as a corpse with anger. He spread the front page of the paper for the student s to see. “Student Gang Rape in Black Forest school-Confirmed”.

The headmaster was waving the paper wildly and swearing. He said, “This is the work of a student in form one who sneaked out of this school at night to spread falsehood and rumors about our school. This is what they do when their rich parent force them to schools they don’t like. They will not succeed with their bad motives. This schools reputation and success has been built on my sweat.  A lot of hard work and painful sacrifices of the board, parent, the old boys association plus the Ministry. Under my watch I shall not and I repeat shall not allow a few misguided form ones to ruin this school. My own legacy has gone into making this school one of the best in this republic. We shall expel you from this school if you do this kind of thing. That student Ham in form two who spoke to the press see me in my office at ten” he concluded. The prefects who were lined next to him nodded. The teachers applauded then the students clapped in appreciation. The assembly dissolved.

At ten Ham arrived outside the headmaster’s office trembling like a malaria patient with high fever. To his surprise his father was already seated on the outside bench waiting to see the headmaster. His father called him outside a few meters from the office. He could tell his father was visibly annoyed and in his mind he was sure that perhaps he had received the expulsion the head-teacher had talked about in the morning assembly.

“My son I need to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” Ham’s father said anger chocking his words. He coughed to clear his voice then continued, “Did you confirm that the school had gays? Was that you talking to the press? I am an old boy of this school and I can tell you without fear of contradiction that it is total rubbish. This is a respectable school which has produced best brains in this country. Those who matter. The best leaders. Do you want to demean all that my son?” Hams father paused shaking his head in wonderment.

Ham kept quiet. He had wanted to share. To tell his father everything about the school. But still he hesitated. Will he believe it even if I tell him? Will he accept that his Alma matter is a pale shadow of its old shelf? He just did not know how to go about it. His father was in such foul mood.

“My son speak up. My patience is running thin. Tell me what happened. Was there a case of rape here?’

“Dad,” Ham called his father softly then said, “I have two stories to tell. One for Jay Po, the story in the newspaper you are holding and my own story. Which one do you want?”

“I want your story son. Tell me your story. What did they do to you? I will listen and I will not judge you. Please tell me,” Hams father said in a mellow voice his attitude in an about-turn.

“It was the last Saturday of first term last year when I was in form one” Ham started to narrate his story his voice cracking in pain and with tears flowing on his face. “Three weeks after you dropped me in school. It was a dark Saturday. The prefects had organized night entertainment. We were dancing in the hall. “Sinamakosa” the re-mix by Cool James was playing. There was this form four who had been very friendly to me in the dormitory. He was not a prefect. He had been sharing his bread and even butter with me. I thought we were close. I trusted him Dad.” Ham paused. “Tell me son what did he do? Did he hurt you? Tell me now” Hams father inquired sympathetically his hands on his son’s shoulders in that loving way fathers do.

“He did more Dad, he damaged me.” ”What exactly?” his father asked in panic. “He asked me to escort him to the toilet. It was dark, security lights don’t work in this school-you know. Behind lab one, he started groping me. I told him to stop but he did not listen. Then suddenly he became violent. He pinned me to a wall behind lab one. He …he.” Ham stammered. Pause.

Ham’s sobs had escalated into shrieks of loud mourns. His father produced his handkerchief and dabbed the tears, wiping it clear from his face while kneeling next to him. His father egged him on. He said, “Tell me my son, and just tell me now. What did he do?” Ham’s father asked again his voice shaking fearing for the worst. “He produced his pipe” Ham continued the story amid pain. “It was hard as a rock, this pipe. He kept jabbing it at my navel, chiseling it away until it became red hot from friction. At some point I thought he would barrel his way through my gut. He was pinning and strangling me. I tried to fight out but he was way too strong. Then things changed. His breath became heavy. His saliva started dripping continuously on my chest like that of rabid dog. Then to my utter dismay his pipe enlarged like a puff under about to bite with a venom. Then his pipe burst open and poured a hot sticky mass of magma on my clothes. Immediately he pulled his short and ran into the darkness and back to the hall.”

“I cannot take this anymore. Wait here my son. We are leaving this school this very moment. Ham’s father said. “But before we leave I will put some sense into the head of that head teacher. I must teach him a lesson or two.”

Ham’s father walked away in a hurry back to the administration block. Ham stayed. His mind wandered in and out of Black Forest School. He wondered if his father was perhaps late on his rescue mission. He could tell that darkness had descended in his heart. The experience behind lab one he had changed him to a different Ham. He felt numb, depressed and unloved. Twice he had sneaked into the night behind lab one to try and pin down a form one to understand what kind of darkness had driven that form four to do it to him. A silent voice had called him from doing it even when he had posed like a praying mantis to pin his target. It was that hymn in the Golden Bells that had kept him sane, away from the strong urge to pin down any form one behind lab one.

Ham’s father emerged from the administration block. Ham started singing the Hymn and his father joined in:

How can it be that I should gain, an interest in thy savior’s blood….

Died he for me who caused his pain…

Bold I approach the eternal throne…

No condemnation now I dread…

La la lala..Lala…Lala….lala..lala la..la

As he sang a calmness started sweeping through his body and into heart. His father sang louder clapping with praise. His tears dried and a small smile started dancing on his face in the place of sadness. The grip of darkness began to loosen. The links of the heavy burden became lighter. By his confession HaWP_20170603_10_06_44_Pro[1].jpgm had been unchained.

Running with the hare and hunting with the hounds

I arrived in Konyango the evening before to a pleasant sunny weather. The beauty that had bewitched my childhood over a decade earlier had not diminished. As I sat enjoying the sunset view from Odire hills, the mild rays of the evening had turned restless low clouds to umber hovering over Konyango Village ominously. The quill birds still flew in schools in the evening like before with speeds that whizzed like turbines. I could tell that the evening tranquil or the appearance of it was deceiving, somewhat a contrast of the turbulent story I was here to cover.
The next day, in the afternoon we sat under the Baobab tree waiting for the Chairman of Konyango clan to arrive. Mistrust had made everyone look for who to blame since Akwoyo died. People were in broody mood talking in measured tones in groups. Others lolled about waiting to pounce on any unguarded words. Painful words flew from all directions as hearts hardened and then noise of abuses had sent it all to disarray. For over two weeks no solution was anywhere near.
Will it loosen, this naught? Will it end up in court? Would a negotiated settlement do? I questioned in my mind. No one could tell. Not even the journalist could. After three futile meetings, it had acquired a life of its own -engrossing and rolling to every direction like a rolling stone that gathers not mores.
A match hissed, bombing a cigarette that flamed for a few seconds then died. A white thick smoke flowed from his nostril, lazily then curled upwards to the space above and vanished. Someone in the crown coughed, a quick fix cough to clear the throat but did not speak. Otolo rose to his feet and paused for several seconds.
Otolo began to speak. “Listen,” he boomed with his commanding voice that called the meeting to order, “This matter is inside, right inside our house as Jokanyo’ngo. Akwayo was a man of the people. He was the head of our hut as the grandchildren of Jokanyo’ngo. You cannot take that away from him in death. If you burry him Kanyasembo (The last wife home) he will be demeaned. We cannot and shall not accept that. He paused. Okode listened intensely his gazed blazed and fixed on the Otolo eyeballs. “Mmm.” “Mmm,”he mumbled.
“Wait. Hold your thoughts.” Arwaro interjected launching into the issue hammer and tong. He started to go the memory lane to appeal to reason. “Akwayo had divorced this first wife forty years ago. The woman went and remarried. The second man in her life planted enough seeds inside her womb. They had six children with this man. In Konyango she only had one son. But her new husband was a lazy useless man. When he died, Nyauyoma’s hut was falling apart. Eventually she had no house. Then she remembered she had left a son behind in Konyango. That’s how she ended back here. Not to be a wife. We had rejected her in toto, with her genes and all. We received her back as good Samaritans. She is simply a neighbor. Not part of Konyango not any more”.
The meeting got stormy. Dark clouds gathered in the west to signal rain. In this community traditions had resisted religion while polygamy was no enemy to monogamy. Here, clan pride had ensured male domination and school influence had not threatened that order not until this incident broke out.
Otolo stood up promptly his head erect like a warrior matching forward to war. The chairman, Dia’nga Oyonjo was still shifting in his chair uneasily digesting when he started to dispel the untruths he thought came from the floor. He said, “But Akwoyo agreed to accept her and gave her land. By that act, he had restored her status. She was back not just dead-even with Nyasembo. No. She had restored more than mere parity. Mikayi Kiloki. (You never change the order of and status of first wife.) ” Dia’nga empathized his finger poking the air as if to beat the point to death, using traditional sayings to cement his position.
Akwayo was survived by Nyasembo who was present at this meeting. Though he had divorced the traditional way, the first wife was alive, she was unwell and did not attend the meeting. The elders allowed women to sit in the meeting. However, they were not allowed to advance a position one way or another much as the matter at hand was really about them and their children. Their only chance to influence the outcome of the meeting was through lobbying.
“Rubbish.” Arwaro shouted, back on his feet, waving his hands wildly as if suing away an attacking bee. He added, “This woman had been rejected by the husband and even the clan. Akwoyo only provided land for her to put up a home. He did not sleep in that house, not even once. How can you even have the audacity to say that Nyauyoma had restored her first wife status? It cannot be, not by tradition or any other means close to reason. He provided land to her simply on ethical grounds because he had a son with her this did not in any way negate his earlier decisions. The son had stayed with us in this clan. The son is part of us but not the mother. Do you get that? Can you get it inside your head?”
No one knew exactly what to make of these shifty position or how the decision would eventually unravel. One thing was getting clearer though, restoring parity after divorce would be a hard nut to crack. Everyone had an opinion of his own about this evolving story of divorce in African setting. A divisive subject you would say and with high stakes at that. Talks dragged, unmoving positions gridlocked with intra-clan fights that bred discord and tested unity. Konyango clan was working at cross purposes again as if on a mission to self-destruct
“No.”Otolo replied angrily. “But listen,” Arwaro continued, “On moral ground, Akwoyo must have thought it wise to be nice. The wisdom that comes with age. It is the semen not any other thing that binds a marriage and breathes life into it. If he didn’t even sleep in that house then? In the same vain it is the age of the dung and not heaps of it that tells who owns a home. At your age you should get that. Stop misleading people. Or are you a fool.”
As tempers flared, it became clear that the gaping divide would not be bridged. Faint fault lines had become bolder and clearer, even deeper. One of the villagers later confided in me in confidence. He said, “You see Otolo is a contradiction in himself. He has no moral locus to stand here and preach to us anything, least of all morality or even traditions. How can be running with the hares at night and hunting with the hounds in daylight? He paused. Then he went on. “He is a bishop in his own church where he professes monogamy, secretly he has two wives and has also inherited a third. Now how can a fellow like that be the arbiter of tradition or religion? What hogwash?”
In groups, more hardliners were recruited on the sides of sectarianism or clannism or relations or common law “ism” each side digging in to outdo the other- about the demise of Akwoyo. His burial place. His unwritten will. His bequeaths and or his two homes and wives or wife. Were they two for a fact? At the heart of it the big question I had no answer for. Does a traditional divorce count for anything at death? Does it really exist amidst claims of siring?
“This is about access to his wealth and land. It is a fight with no winners’ only losers the children. These people fighting here are not grieving, just pretenders. They want to align themselves on the side where their bread will be buttered. They are settling old scores with this family.” A female mourner said softly within ear shot. I could see her point but I kept my cool in my training of journalistic neutrality.
The day had matured into a late afternoon. The shadows of the Baobab had enlarged and under its cool umbrella of foliage all the villagers now found refuge. A slight wind blew intermittently making the leaves shuffle and rub in a constant conversation gently with a distinct stillness unlike the villagers. The clouds collected and scattered aimlessly above in the same manner the ideas that had coalesced and dispersed in the heads on Konyango burial committee. Two weeks from now, on a Saturday to be exact the body of Akwoyo would to be laid to rest. Where exactly, no one could tell at this moment. Would clan tradition win over and restore a marriage after death? Do the clan have any role in uniting a couple after the demise on a spouse? And is it in their place to do so anyway? These series of questions formed the bitter mental cuds I was chewing even as the story began to crystalize in my mind. Then something else completely unforeseen happened. Something more surreal that would tip the balance one way or the other.
Nyauyoma, one of the wives in contention kicked the bucket that very afternoon. The news threw the committee into further confusion even though a new sense of soberness prevailed. Now they had two burials in a home which was disunited and a clan torn between culture, church and change mostly of traditional laws and customs. As I was still brooding over these maters unsure how my story would pan from here, Father Wanakeya arrived.
After saying a short prayer and a flailing his hand to do the sign of the cross, he cautiously waded into the mucky waters of the burial at Konyango. “Akwayo entered into the holy matrimony thirty years ago. As far as the church is concerned he is married to one wife Predencia (Nyasembo) who is present in this meeting. I want to appeal to the clan to be sober. Marriages do not dissolve at death or because old acquaintances reappear at whatever time, stage or condition. What God has brought together let no man put asunder.” The Father concluded his sermon and sat patiently.
Sobriety was beginning to take root as calm wind of goodwill stated blowing to calm the nerves. The village headman Oyuga Obudho stood up to speak. “I second the Father on this point. More specifically from a legal stand point. As a representative of law and order, I wish to convey and confirm that where a marriage certificate exist, it is binding and final unless revoked or contested in court. If two such certificates exist then the matter is complex. We could be talking bigamy here. It could be that this woman Nyauyoma who has just passed also wanted this burial to be peaceful. She has taken her final bow at the right time to show respect to the legally existing Marriage. It cannot be broken at death as she has just confirmed by “stepping aside’. It is self-evident that this controversy is totally unnecessary and unwarranted. It is now fully settled, we will bury Akwayo infront of Nyasembo’s house.”
“You have spoken well” Okore was saying as he rose on his feet. “Traditionally, the only recourse open to Nyauyoma after the divorce happened was to retain the bride price. Akwoyo did not ask for a refund of the bride price recognizing he had a son with the woman. That stood in the place of what the western culture call alimony, this woman was fully compensated. She cannot have her cake and eat it. You cannot punish the husband at death by forcing back a union which he could not stand in life. That cannot be the place of the clan or the relatives. It would be double jeopardy. Mano duoko dhaing e ich min-you can never return a new born calf back to the cow’s womb. The process is simply irreversible. Live with it. If Akwoyo wanted some sort of reconciliation leave alone coexistence with his former wife he would have simply involved the clan to do so. He did not and no one can or should purport to do so on his behalf after his death. This body should be and must be buried at Nyasembos home.
There was silence, dead silence. A stray rooster flapped its wings as if to fly but stayed rooted. The bird straightened its neck to crow but it became a cropper. The wind got stronger and carried into the sky some dead leaves and dust that chocked the eyes of the custodians of traditions and religion alike.
The Father made the sign of the cross and rose to leave, his aid perhaps a catechist following in tow. Otolo attempted to speak again but the tide had changed, from the man of the cloth then by the man in the uniform. The villager’s hearts slowly got around to accept that Akwoyo would be buried in the second home where he himself had chosen to live. It was still sinking in when Okore got the final seal of approval. He said, “Father, please do not leave before you bless Akwoyos resting place. Demarcate for us where to dig his grave. He was a man of peace and his peace shall follow him” Okore said his voice full of solemnity
Then people rose on their feet to leave. A white chested crow patched on the Boabab with a series of caw-caw noises as if to declare the meeting outcome final like the death that had gathered us together. The dark cloud that had spooled in the distant began to dissolve. The warmth of the day was dying down and the chill of the evening settling in. I stood still feeling the air and sensing the quiet that had pervaded the area after the crowd melted.
Then as I picked my note book to start scribbling the story. A sad feeling gripped my heart. A little voice that had been persistent in my head asked me to do a self-assessment. It said. “What will they do when you die Japap? What shall they do to the legacy of the writer? Will they obey your will? Will they seek peace over war or embrace greed over grace?” As this voice got louder I wrote faster fearing my own inner thoughts. 049

Love Litmus Test

A boy sat crouched on the verandah his legs merged forming a Y. Up above his knee on the soft meaty thigh, the match-stick slid to put the finishing touches to his car drawing. Nearby, a girl craned her neck to fault the art as she munched a doughnut absentmindedly. Next, a child stood tightening her lips to restrain her cry. She blinked rapidly cutting out the flood of tears flowing into her face. This girl’s desire was telling from the extended begging hand and the throat as it moved.

The verandah was continuous connecting a line of housing six in number back to back that formed Lucky estate in the dusty outskirts of Kampala city. In one of the double rooms Kamlus, his wife Flo, son Amilo and daughter Siate lived.  Aunty Rosa a sister to Kamlus lived here too.  Amilo was still putting the finishes on the car when Aunty Rosa walked in from college. She often came over the weekend and during long college holidays.

“Move the utensils to the common sink. Stop playing now. Stop dreaming of cars.” Flo told Amilo in a hash tone as she made way for Aunty Rosa to come in. “Tell that stupid girl to stop punishing my daughter with that tasteless doughnut.” Flo addressed Amilo before she turned to speak to Rosa in a lowered voice. “How is school? My sister, you just walk in. Not even greetings” Flo was saying when Aunty Rosa squeezed past her to the other room. She paused. Stared in her direction intently, waiting for her response.

“So so” Aunty Rosa replied in a low bored voice in the slang manner of slum youth speak. The swagger in her swing with high heels exaggerated the wiggle of her ample hips. The scent of her strong perfume wafted and won over the stuffiness of air in the five square feet room.

“Food, is there cooked food here.” Aunty Rosa asked no one in particular. Siate who had stopped crying and moved inside the room lowered at her from the red painted toe nails to the red painted lips perhaps expecting a doughnut from her. Aunty Rosa looked past the girl as she scanned the room with an impatient look.

“Check the pots. There may be some of boiled beans that Siate left,” Flo said with an even tone.

“You know I don’t do beans. Not here. Not in the hostels either” Aunty Rosa replied her glare smeared with rising anger.

“Well that’s what your brother buys for us around here. Beans and low grade rice. You know his class, don’t you? But maybe he should consider a better diet for his sister.” Flo replied in haste

The children called her Aunty Rosa, that’s the name their mother insisted on from the date she joined Makere University to study Actuarial science. Her brother simply called her Rosa. Flo called her Sister without the in-law part which was rather sardonic considering their lukewarm existence. Often she reverted to Rosa to ease verbal exchanges at high wattage that always hovered about them like noisy flies.

The sun had sunk partly. The mellow breeze nagged the palm fronds outside the house that shuffled and charted endlessly. Half of the yellow sun patched above the Malago Hill like a crown on the head of the crested crane. It was exactly at this point when Kamlus walked into a boiling pot of a verbal duel between Flo and Rosa. This was not uncommon here in Lucky estate. This evening it was unbalanced- Rosa was winning. Kamlus could see it from a far, the odds were stacked heavily against his wife. As he cleared his throat to even the scores, his sister cut in to muddy the waters further.

“Finally you have come my brother. Teach your wife some decorum. She needs to behave. Perhaps it is schooling or what? Which is the problem here,” Aunty Rosa said clapping and clipping her fingers in style to a snappy sound to emphasize her point. Her neck straightened like a dog on point.

“Rosa. Rosa. “Kamlus called his sisters name twice the deep  base sound that was his manner of speech betrayed and configured to high pitch. “You are the problem,” he said curtly then sighed. “Tone down. Show some respect to my wife. Climb down from your high horse. We live in Lucky, not some leafy suburb in Kampala.” Kamlus stammered choking on his words. He flopped on the hard wooden chair. Unconsciously, he picked an old newspaper on the table and leafed through the pages without reading. “This conversation is over” Kamlus added finally as if addressing himself.

“I knew it. You always support your wife no matter what.  Every time I try to put some sense in her head. I have had enough of it. I am out of here.” Rosa countered, the firmness in her voice resolute. She moved back and forth between the rooms as she packed in a hurry. Kamlus kept mum torn between filial feelings of the only learned sister and family. He shifted uneasily on the chair then called out to Siate. “Siate. I need some water, drinking water.”

Kamilo watched Aunty Rosa leave her bag hunched on her back like a hump. She had gathered her other belonging into plastic bags and hauled them out. No one in the house knew where she was going, not that it mattered to anyone at this point.

Across the road two streets down, in Maweso estate Rosa had a fiancé by the name Jere. Jere had lived in Lucky previously before he upgraded to Maweso. Back then they had dated only casually, the kind of dating that dies with distance. Kamlus did not think much of the affair after Jere moved out. This evening, from his window, as he saw Rosa board “Apiko”, Motorcycle going to Maweso he could only guess. Guess that his sister was perhaps eloping to marry this man he did not approve of. This man he had believed always boxed above his weight. This man whom he rated out of his depth in every way would carry his burdens going forward. He could tell that part of his sister’s stubbornness was born out this glum love that had dulled with time.

Jere was at home when Rosa arrived. “Ahh look who is here,” Jere exclaimed heartily, then added, “my sweet thing. The only ying in my yang. A special ripe apple in my orchard. I was not expecting you.” Jere was laughing a toothy merry laughter, the kind overfed hyenas exude in the wild. He opened his arms wide to embrace Rosa. “Yaa. I am from college. We are on long “hols” and well I thought I would pass by. Say hallo before I move to my brother’s place.” Rosa lied, her smile skimpy across her baby-face. Jere could feel Rosa was a little brittle in some unsure sort of way, not responding well to his efforts. “Prepare dinner,” Jere said easing his embrace.

Back in Lucky it was dark, the night gripped by moonless stillness and gloom. Flo was thinking now about her sister in-law as she wrestled with insomnia. Her thoughts floated back to the earlier days when they had just moved to Lucky and Kamlus had a good job. The relationship easy and gelled. Back then, she ached to please Rosa to clutch firmly onto Kamlu’s smitten heart. Those days she cooked meat often and served her the sweeter bony parts she loved. Then, she did not have to sue away those children that now made Siate cry as they ate doughnuts with bragging rights. Things had morphed around the faster than they both could have imagined. “Share that doughnut or go right inside your house and eat from there. You are not going dry up my child’s saliva from lust.” She was recalling what she told the neighbor’s children in the day. That had become her tag line to shield Siate from pain.  Her life had seesawed from plenty to want in quick succession in a short time. Her in-law had not made it any easier.

“Jere will not be good for her. He had cheated her that he is a pilot. That man is part of the ground crew. He works in the airport alright but he is a loader. Not a pilot. “Flo was telling Kamlus coyly not knowing how he would react to this backbiting. Naively, she thought this pillow-talk would help Kamlus assuage his guilt of that unceremonious departure of Rosa. But it was not going well. Kamlus had been quiet since Rosa left unsure of what to make of it. “Maybe they shall be fine together. Perhaps he will find happiness with the loader. He could not find it with us” Kamlus said calmly in a measured tone lost in his own thoughts as the night dragged.

In Maweso, Jere lived a double life, full of deceit but in his world it was fun. Maybe that’s what Rosa found attractive about him. He was a tall well-built man with a persuasive streak and cool mien that made for a lady killer. Rosa was fully aware of his slyness but the more she starved herself of him the more she got addicted to him. She had already heard the rumors. Jere had another girl friend on the sides. The boys who visited his digs and hanged out with him called her his side dish. Jere did not approve of it. “Sally has this feminine delicateness about her that make for a permanent liaison. I think she is my missing rib” he told his friends often in her defense ending with a boyish ha-ha laugh that has no humor.

Sally was a nice girl, well-bred with strict mannerism of church and parental guidance. She worked in one of airlines that plied Entebe airport where Jere also worked. The affair was just warming up and Sally had only been to Jere’s place once. Jere did not tell sally that Rosa had moved in the week before. He had no reason to, in any case he expected her to move back to college or back to his brother’s place any time. In this game Jere was sure he had the last card and he could call it at his will. That was the case until this unlucky day happened.

Two weeks had passed since Rosa moved in with Jere. It was a sunny windless Saturday afternoon, a perfect weather for swimming that Jere knew he would utilize to improve his breast-stroke style and the six-pack shape. Sally thought he could surprise Jere with a visit and perhaps use the afternoon to accompany him swimming. That was not to be.

“Knock- knock open G, surpriiiise” Sally called out at the door with a lovely voice, her hand behind her back holding a flower shaking with excitement. Sally and Jere were on first name basis. She preferred to shorten his name simply as G-which fed well into her “crush” fueling the inferno of love. Rosa opened the door.  And sure there was surprise, only of a different kind cutting both ways. Sally froze momentarily. Rosa moved her head back raised and poised like a rattled snake ready to strike but adjusted fast into position. Her territorial feminine instinct kicked in and counseled for smart smooth moves. “Subterfuge is the name of the game. Your opposite number must never see you coming,” Rosa reasoned in her head.

“Please come in.” Rosa invited Sally politely then added, “Make yourself comfortable. You can put the flower in the vase with some water, Jere will find it fresh.” She continued, “My name is Meg am his cousin,” Rosa lied again. Sally tiptoed inside, ready like a trim tab. Her womanly sense was working overtime, she could tell that this territory had been marked from the last time she was here, a bra there and a camisole too gave it away. “This girl cannot possibly pass as G’s Cuzo,” Sally was saying just in her head, “or am I just freaky?” She questioned quietly.

“I will make you tea” Rosa said. Before Sally could accept the offer, Rosa had disappeared to the kitchen. The water boiled to a creamy brownish mixed tea. Sally had in the meantime pulled out her phone and was texting Jere her seventh sense on wits end. From the side, her blind side she saw a feet and made to rise but she was a fraction of a second too late. Hot mixed tea brewed with masala scalded her face, part of her cleavage and her backside. “Oh my. You imbecile.” Sally yelled rising fast on her feet, “You have burnt me.” Sally shouted, lunging forward to restrain Rosa. The pan fell from Rosa’s hands. The pain sheared across Sally’s spine. She numbed unable to move then she collapsed in a heap-prostrate. The shouting matches, the flurry and furry of a women scorned got the neighbor’s attention.  The spectacle opened a new chapter in both Rosa and Sally’s life as the police moved in to cordon off the crime scene. The wheels of justice began to spin albeit slowly to unravel the sticky parts of this love circle.

 

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Kamlus arrived from work in a vile mood. He looked disturbed and Flo was anxious to ask what could be the matter as he served him a cup of tea. “I need to share this with you. It is weighing me down.” Kamlus said. “What is it now? Another problem at work?” Flo asked. “No. It is Rosa. She sent me a letter from Lusira maximum prison”. “Prison. Rosa. Arrested. Why?” Flo inquired perplexed. “You will soon know. Let me read the letter” Kamlus replied anxiously and started reading the letter.

-“Greetings to you my brother, my sister Flo, Kamilo and Siate from Lusira remand prison. Time is scarce so this will be short. Jere played me in. I did not know he had another woman in his life. She showed up and we ended up in a messy fight.  They have charged me with attempted murder. It is not true. It wIMG_20150822_170151as just a moment of madness. Call it a crime of passion. I am really sorry.

You need to get me out of here fast before I die. I could also be pregnant with Jere’s child.  When it rains, it pours. Jere is also locked up with a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit a felony.

Please plan to visit me. The beans and low grade rice we are served is too little. I would really appreciate it if you brought me any kind of food. Your loving sister Rosa”

“So what shall you do with this one” Flo asked comically.” “Well we shall not sit her twiddling with our fingers. This is my sister in distress you know!” Kamlus replied.

The days of double Joy in Uloma

The days of double joy in Uloma

It had rained, all night long. Big pellets of hailstones and raindrops pounded the earth as thunderstorm rumbled like drums of war overhead. When the rain abated lightning sparkled the dark night with darts like big shooting stars. Arika felt as if the sky was settling an old score with a bad neighbor till the sun rose to put a stop to the war. When she stepped out of her mother’s hut that morning, the soil was still wet with thin rivulets, smelting on its surface. In her heart, Arika compared this flow to the anointing oil that covered her forehead the day of confirmation.

The air felt moist and crispy to her nostrils. Above the hills, up there, she could see more clouds pile and roll over one another lazily with a warning of more to come. In this slowness Arika could tell the start of advent sessions. The holy month had again sneaked in this sleepy village in the heart of Inde clan. Despite the balminess of the weather the village was well aware of preparations, of celebrations, but more so of the holy birth.

Arika walked with a slight bend tracing carefully with his stick to pock the lacewing molds on the soil. She picked nguen as they emerged following in twos. The insect trails on the mud left nestles in small colonies that Arika picked with keenness of a gatherer her face playing with a small smile.

When it rained in Inde just before Christmas it was a double joy to Arika and the entire village. The unmistakable smell of overripe mangos that fell in session hanged in the air. The small insects in company of lacewings like the praying-mantis and onyoso thrived in plenty. In groups the children made their own preparations for the celebrations. The money from fulo –The proceeds of the remnants of farm produce that children gathered after harvest belonged to them. From these savings they could buy yoyos, tam-tam and all the goodies that came with Christmas, new clothes and all.

As the morning matured and the sunrays warmed the wet surface to a steamy haze more children emerged from grass huts, their over oiled faces beaming with happiness. The wrinkled new cotton clothes marking them out. Christmas in Inde for the children was about looking the part and joy and receiving coined in two words “miya chrismass”

In Inde things warmed up from charismas eve. Adults were not left behind. The meal for the day was ready the night before. The chickens and fish was stewed by daybreak of charismas. In Inde the celebrations were communal. It had to be. This had been passed down through generation. Like other rights of birth and naming and marriage or death, the unique celebration of charismas in Inde had stood the test of time from both the traditionalist and the Christians alike.

That notwithstanding, the young and young at heart found the fried lacewings irresistible and so they made it their duty to collect them nicely and early before church when the rains came. It made the celebrations special if not different.

The other children Osino and Kalara joined Arika to gather the wingless lacewings that had flown and dropped. This group activity that bound the village tightly together had its origin in the Inde traditions, what would follow good fortune of bumper harvest or big dowry.

“My basket is half full” Arika was saying as if to himself with a stifled giggle as he knelt to pick some more. “I will catch up in no time” Osino chimed working at his own pace. “There is enough for all of us. This is the season of sharing,”Kalara added as she moved closer to egg them on to hurry and pick-up pace to fill baskets.

Dragon flies flew low to excite the children also in competition to gather lacewings. Noisy Mire and Ude birds swarmed in schools which caught the attention of Kalara. Alongside Osino the white chested pied crow walked in coordinated steps pecking, its wings hanged loose like an oversize coat of the village magician. Also in the mix, the red-neck gecko swallowed rapidly the same insects with its sticky tongue. In between the small boulders and yellowing stones the lilies had sprang with a full bloom of purple that signaled the peak of advent. The village beauty, a blend with gifts of nature was at its best at advent.

In the middle of the kraal a mound of dung fire smoldered stacked with cones still in their keels. In the main house Asendu the mother of Arika had packed the food in small baskets for the long journey to the main church in Uloma. To make it for the night vigil mass Asendu and the other women of the woman’s guilds had to leave early as soon as the sun reached the mid-point in the sky. They would congregate at the riverbank in Awach before matching in a longline line like an armyworm in migration to Uloma.

“Arika, Arika” Asendu called with a loud voice piecing the air and reverberating across the village. “Come back and prepare for church” She commanded. “We shall certainly be late if you continue gathering insect. What time will you have even to roast” she said agitation rising in her voice.

The sun had battled its ways past the midsection of the sky when Asendu and the other church goers set on this annual pilgrim to Uloma. The church goers in full flowing white robes made a convoy that looked like a river of white flowing uphill from afar. The believers powered their way across river Awach, through the meander paths and narrow charnels like gorges of Kadero. They sang noel songs, their voices off tune but energized and happy just to be part. Over this season missing out was not an option. The mood buoyed by the soloist who at this time was in the middle of the trek leading in lamo. They had passed the posh mill in Kondik and soon they would close in to Harambee market. The songs of Alleluia and Alleluia rent the air. The Church would not be far off from here.

As Arika passed these familiar paths windy and narrow, her mind revisited the year before. The time she had to travel this path every Monday on school holidays to Uloma. Together with other children, Anditi and Masaro running to Uloma barefoot covering the ten miles each time. They would stay in boarding five days in a week for all school holidays over the three year period. This was the time required to complete the cateism classes before she could be admitted for the Holy Communion family. The songs they had sang after and the memorizing the church doctrines played in her mind. Now in this journey she was harming them as they neared the church her heart welling with joy. She yearned to take over from the soloist and bring back the memories of the time, and she did.

“Who created you” Arika put the question mimicking the catechist.

“God created me” the group chorused back.

“Why did God create you” Arika went on.

“So we could adore him, love him and work for him while on earth and to be happy with his glory in heaven forever and ever”

“Repeat” she intoned her heart warming to the tune and happy that she could still remember the routine and the rehearsal of the year before.

That was the opening line back then. She had passed the test. A test of faith which the Father in Uloma had said demanded sacrifice and pain. The wisdom, the Father had said, would bring everyone to the feet of Christ. Would put fingers in his wounds, and would make them dwell in his agony and passion as Mary Magdalene did. And that is the part Arika had like most.

Over that period of unlearning the old and drinking the new, some suffering was not only called for but even desirable Arika was thinking closer to church now.

“Ah Arika did you remember to pack my smoking pipe?”Asendu asked, stopping her walk suddenly

“No. but I thought you had put it together with the rosary in the bag. Not so?” Arika replied.

“Not really.” The mother replied looking distraught at the thought of missing the swig on this journey.

“I will have to share a pipe with someone. I know the others have their pipes,” Asendu added and resumed the walk.

Arika’s mind went back to Uloma, to dwell on the formation days. She recalled how as an aspirants she had come to like the togetherness, the amiable people that prayed for all and not self. The sons and daughters of God that Uloma had created. The evangelism she had sworn to spread after. She had brought younger souls right in by sharing her stories. The journey back then still fresh replayed in her mind. Like the others before her and in her age, she had to carry her own food, mainly sardines and maize meal which they could prepare easily in groups in minutes. The life skills she picked sometimes when they ate raw food in the breaks in between intense prayer sessions and adorations came to her mind now as they approached the church.

Arika did not believe that this was some form of radicalization or even indoctrination as Masaro thought. When Masaro said as much she casted her like she would demons and directed her to Gahena where all non-believers and blasphemous souls were roasting in the eternal fire. Now closer to church she replanted herself back in time and memories came flooding back again.

The church was draped in deep purple, the color of advent loud. There was a big purple candle lit at the church compound visible from a far. Outside the main entrance the nativity had been erected with long Olenge grass. For now it would be out of bounds till the Virgil mass would be over, Arika was aware of the order. Asendu removed her Rosary, kissed it and made the sign of the cross as they crossed the church gate. The others joined in saying “Amen, Amen,” immediately after as if competing to be the one to complete Asendu’s prayers.

As they approached the church entrance Arika’s mind revisited the day he had passed the entrance exams to join the Holy Confirmation family. The best noel of her life as he could now recall. Her white church garments Asendu had bought for the occasion was so special more than any of her Sunday best. She recalled the Father breathing air on her face. Pouring oil on her nape. The slight cheeky slap on her cheeks then calling her name. She could remember the glance at her mother when the eyes met. She could not hide her pride welling her heart, her face pasted with a big permanent smile.

Asendu and the other women had changed from songs and were saying Hail Mary’s. The joyful mysteries in the run-up to the holly birth. On the third decade they had stopped at the church entrance to separate their loads. Their food for the offering, the food for the convent and the food for their own stomach and the gifts for the Father.

“Sons of God, You’re the holy ones, gathered here in the family of the lord” Asendu joined in the chorus stepping in the spaces to find a suitable spot for herself and the child Arika. The church was packed to capacity with human bodies packed like reeds making the granary. “Eat his body and drink his blood, as you sing hallelujah” the echoes of the carols rang inside and Arika parroted in nodding his head and moving his body to the rhythm. The celebration was gathering pace. The celebrants sang louder now as the mood peaked to the beginning of the holy mass.

Arika mind drifted back to the village. Here she could see the other children, Kalara and Osino frying the lacewings in the black pot over the dung fire. He maize roasted by the same fire would have been ready by now and the village celebration would be going alongside almost simultaneously with the mass. That was the experience he had the year before when he had evaded the pilgrim to Uloma as the other two friends. She had instead joined the Ago-odi group to celebrate with the others in the village, the traditionalists.

“Chrisantus mento tuo,”the Father was saying in Latin disrupting Arikas thoughts. “Ameeeeen” the church chorused back not knowing what the Father was crooning about.

In the village in Inde, Arika could see in her mind the other children Masaro and Kalara in the procession, moving from home to home singing the village songs of love and the traditional ones, of removing the six lower teeth and of birth and adulthood. The soloist would have to be Radi, he was so good at it the year before, she thought. His shrill voice would be piecing the quietness of the night, dressed in the traditional regalia, the drums getting louder and the bowls of food breaming with delicacies. That is how it was and has ever been, donations from the village well-wishers were pooled together to be shared.

“Ago odi, eeeh Koso arem gi Oko?” Radi would pose

“Karebo, Ka” The other children would chorused back. The cheer of the season of love and sharing in their voice

As was the tradition in Inde, the doors of huts opened. The homes of the haves and have-nots each apportioning their special food to the children according to their needs. Then the children gathered it all together in trays and baskets and pots. The gathering would climax at the home of the traditionalist of Inde, the Oldman they only called the Jadolo. Here they would sit, children from different villages of Inde clan to learn about tradition of good brotherhood. To learn the history of Inde and its pride. To know one another and to bond the Inde way. To take a solemn oath of keeping pure of all vices. “You must know your roots. Respect your elders. Keep your girls pure and chaste. Be loyal to the Ruoth (Ruler) and wake up early to work in the farms”, the clan elder would concluded the lessons by saying those truths. The drums started beating louder. And the soloist started on a new song in Arikas head.

“Gwony gwony na ngeya. Gwony Gwony na ngeya’

“To ti agwony ni ngeyi, to buth meru wan’g, Nyathi meru ywak”

“Scratch, scratch my back, scratch scratch my back”

“But how can I scratch when my hands are full. Your mother’s pumpkins are burning in the fire and the child is unattended”

Asendu stepped forward stepping on Arikas toes in the process to disrupt her reveries. The mass was well underway. The lighting was twinkling to highlight the purple drapes. The glitter of the stars at the nativity more pronounced now. She could see the three wise men from the East and Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus and the few miniature cows in the manger. The Father was raising both hands open wide and high to give blessing his chasuble unfolded like the skinny wings of a bat. As the mass progressed in Latin more people got wearier and succumbed to the lull and the warmth and soon they fell asleep one by one apart from the groups in the front pews and the choir.

Asendu fell asleep. Half the church was in infect asleep.

Arika was awake and his mind wondered with many possibilities away from the father at the altar. She revisited the village celebrations again. In her mind she saw the Father to be in fact in Inde and not at Uloma where he was blessing the celebrants. He had come to the village in Inde for the first time to attend the village ceremonies that coincided with charismas. He had met the village elders the Jodolo of Inde. Here in thoughts, there was a combined celebration of the traditionalist and the Christian. The old and the new. The young and the elderly. The poor and the rich mixing, dancing in Inde. She was very happy to have a taste of both worlds at the same time. She was jerked back to reality when her mother spoke.

“Arika. Arika. We need to leave. It is morning. We must leave now and catch up with the village celebrations after mass. Asendu said disrupting her train of thoughts.wp_20151225_18_13_54_pro

Black Ant Venom in my Varicose Vein

Glorious sunny Thursday afternoon with clear blue cloudless sky in this late part of August finds me at home. I look around for companionship but De is not here. He should have arrived by now, I casually question in my mind. As a freshman joining college in days to come I of course give an allowance to be with friends. “He could just be around the corner discussing aspects of engineering they will probably only learn in the second semester.” I muse myself in the couch. “That’s what we did didn’t we-back then?” I look back and wag my head, then I perish the thought.

The sun is sinking beyond the hills. The day is dying a slow death. I pick a book, Akpan’s book and read the headline again the way bargain hunters do before a purchase decision. “Say you are one them,” I read it aloud and a sense of anxiety grip my heart.

We have been bonding more closely lately with De. Often, we find ourselves on nature trails together. I teach De “Luo kitgi kimbegi” and we have to read it together. De has secured a short work contract close home so I make effort for us to eat together. For a long time our lives have been crossed but for now we are one with my son.  Routinely, he welcomes me home in the language I love.  In his baritone booming voice he says,”Aaah Dad isedugo.”- “Dad you are back. Welcome.”

Then De travelled just last week and now his absence has made this house hollow.

It is getting late to read from the verandah with dimming light. My body gets itchy with mosquito bites. A chilly air has descended from Ngong Hills to dampen my spirit further ebbing low with De’s absence.  Inside the house I notice the clock on the wall above the fireplace strike nine and De is still not here. In that same instance my phone rings.

“Has De arrived?” the mother ask. “No” I reply with urgency expecting an explanation to follow.  “There was accident around Molo. I have just learnt on Radio. It is a Toyota Wish PSV. But he does not board such.” The voice trail then the call drop.

At slightly past midnight the next call comes and finds me in the living room waiting for De. It is a short brutal call, from the mother. “The child is dead. Did you hear me? The child is dead”. The line has cut again, I try to call back but it is permanently busy. In confusion I stand and sit alternatingly as a class pupil obeying a teachers command.

In the spur of the moment I run upstairs to De’s room to confirm that the call I have just received is a hoax. “De must be sleeping in his room.” I hear a voice in my head. The college letter in bold “School of engineering” meet my blank stare. The receipts for the hostel I paid last week lie neatly on the stool like it has just been placed there a few minutes ago. “No. Did I miss something? What was that?” I say to myself then I take the stairs down in twos back to the living room.

I look at the phone with popping watery eyes bidding it to ring to undo the news it has just brought.  Then I see it beeping about to ring. I grab it hurriedly, it is my elder son calling.  “Which child is dead? But it can’t be De. We spoke when he left. What?” I say loudly alone.

“Yes. Which child is dead? I repeat again. De is not one of them is he?” I blart and sigh at the same time trying my best to control the rush of words spilling from my mouth. My breath quicken, mouth dry, my heart race. I am chocking at my Adams apple.

“De was involved in a road accident around Molo. He did not make it. The body is at Molo Mortuary”. He explains in short sentences but still am not understanding, my brain has blocked. I hear the caller break down in bits and crumble like a poorly baked cake in the sun, his words reduce to shrieks of pain. Slowly I sit down, placing my limp arms over my head. It is as if my arms have become too heavy to hang by themselves besides my body.

The clock is ticking breaking the dead silence in the house. A rush of chill travel through my body and I begin to shake like a leaf in the wind, my lips are trembling hard and I have to close my mouth tightly to stop my teeth from chattering.

Darkness has consumed the room and am not sure if someone switched off the lights. I hear some people speaking but it as if their voices are coming from a far. I cannot recall how this happened but am in a deep sleep with fleeting bad dreams.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Am sitting in the front row in this tent we have made into a church for De’s farewell. The church choir is singing somber songs and the liturgical dancers are putting their best feet forward to give De the last respect that everyone will remember and which everyone knows he deserves. The friends of De are dressed in black T-shirts embossed with his picture. He is laughing and looking directly ahead his head held high as he always did in his time. My mind dwell deep in his laughter that always lightened my heart in the “pre-body” period.

“We need to move the “body” closer to the dais before we start the mass” a church elder says but I hear something else- paradise. I shiver at the word “body” that is how everyone now call my son. The uniformed friends and his former classmates carry the casket to the alter area for the service to start. In this post De period when people now refer to him just as the “body” a sudden numbness has taken over my soul and is controlling it. The defensive mechanism my body has built to survive the storm the word “Body” has brought in my family is queer. I still talk of De in the human form like I did in the “pre-body” era.

“Let’s make for De a special home”, I said yesterday as a paid the grave diggers to do their work around the spot with the ripe yellow Sodom apple fruits. “Let’s get special tent to house De with special deco” I said to the event’s organizers as we discussed the arrangement. “Yaa, De liked flowers. Let’s bring special flowers to delight De.” The sister said in cracked inaudible voice that was too faint for others to hear.

This interlude period before burial is full darkness. Fatherhood does not get any lighter sitting next to my son’s body in the dais. The Father is delivering the homily but I can neither remember the first reading nor the second. To my surprise even the “fwanjili” upon which he is delivery this sermon in the post De period is lost in my mind.

In a bolt my mind is back in Molo. It has escaped from the village where the ceremony is in progress. Inwardly I wonder how I will survive these few hours with De before he varnishes forever.  In Molo inside the morgue my rioting spirit have this difficult conversation with the mortician.

“My son arrived here alive so why didn’t the doctors save his life why”

“Yes he did. He came in very serious condition. He was unable to talk. The pulse was faint. The nurses tried their best”.

“You mean there was no doctor or what? Do you have any oxygen here? Did you try CPR?”

“I am the only doctor here. I had just finished my rounds. The nurses called. I responded immediately. “

“The injuries on his body don’t look serious. Surely with better facility he could have been saved”

“That’s true, perhaps he could have. But this is a sub-county level hospital. Many life savers are not here. We have no ICU facilities. It is something the government is working on”.

“Yaa there we go again. The government this, the government that. Scapegoating. What exactly caused the death of my son?”

“His thoracic cavity was completely crashed. The rib cage squashed. This could have punctured the lungs and chocked it with blood. That’s is why he was oozing blood in his mouth and ears. The impact of that crash must have been heavy. “

“Tell me, is it true, what was reported in the press. That the vehicle was escaping NTSA drag-net. That they were chasing this public vehicle to pay more bribes. That my son died because of bribe thirsty public servants”

“I have no comment on that. I don’t know”

The doctor is demonstrating now as the autopsy process gets underway. He is pressing De’s chest and blood is oozing through the mouth, ears eyes to prove the point about impact. The Father is speaking loudly now to climax on his homily about service to others. In this mix I see the Father in a sketch his chasubles and stalls dancing in the wind. His hands flailing and pocking in the air as if he is pointing at invincible crevices where the Satan that killed my son is hiding. I want to be back permanently on the burial site but my spirit has refused to come back. It is stuck at Molo.

My body, this empty shell is beginning to behave badly again minus the spirit. The breathing has upped the pace and I feel a loose liquid traversing my gut with rushing sound like flush floods in a gorge. “I need to sit through this,” I command my spirit sternly but it is not interested in my voice.

I scan around to see if anyone has noticed my breathing difficulty or the tears that now fill my eye socket and spill over into this dabbing wet handkerchief. No one is looking. The crowd is mammoth, people sit in an expanse of a lawn under the ten tents surrounding the graveyard.

Earlier I felt peace when colleagues put their arms around me and held me tightly in a hugged. Many of them, close friends and family. This far I have stood on the pillar of their love that has no price. I had wanted to tell them how indebted I am but I couldn’t get the words. Hoarsely I croaked, “Thanks for coming.”

That time passed quickly. Now things are happening fast way faster than I can process and am feeling completely alone like fisherman balanced on a log floating dangerously in deep-sea following a boat wreck.

Am back in Molo in spirit that is and the cutting of autopsy drain me of all energy. My look is unfocussed starring blackly past the crowd. It is as though I am walking alone in the dark in the bush at night and I have stopped at a standstill to allow this wild animal passage without raising any attention to self.

In a split second I see a black ant walking about menacingly. It has no wings but the mandibles are well developed. With audacity it is going round perhaps trying to locate the entrance to its blocked hole. This poisonous insect is within reach. A weird idea of injecting this ant’s poison in my system comes to my mind. I pick it and place it in my left wrist where a varicose vein has bulged. It sinks the stinger into the vein and spreads the venom. A warmth rush through me and I feel the mane at the back of my head stand. The pain is different from the one sitting in my Adams apple for over two weeks now. My spirit still oscillates between Molo and the graveside.

“This world is not our home. It is fleeting like the days of youth. Before you realize, we are gone.  Do your best for others while you are still alive. Like De did in his short life. The laughter was a gift to many a hearts.” The priest says, but I am with him very briefly before I leave again in spirit to Molo.

In Molo I have covered ground. At the Molo police station the view of this mangled wreck of a car that brought this cup upon me holds my gaze, hypnotized with grief. Inside this twisted metal with sharp shrapnel like remnants of a bomb blast I seek to find closure. At the back seat or what remained of it, there is an abandoned cap and I recognize De’s shoe, just one side the left one. Under the cap, the power-bank that De had picked from the house the day he traveled is untouched. I pick it up and study it as a lab technician confirming the Lisa test result of a patient. De is so close to me I feel I can touch him now. The conversation of last Thursday replays in my head.

“Dad, can I borrow your power-bank.  My phone charging system is bonkers. Can I borrow,” he ask again then he laughs in his usual thunderous boyish laughter.

“My son I can see you have it already. That is not 064how you ask. First you request and wait for the answer. Anyhow ensure you bring it back” I reply amid chuckles. De knows he gets his way almost all the times with me.

This power-bank ties my last memory of my son tightly, it is worth more than a mere charger. I blame myself as to why I had insisted he brings it back. I blame the blood suckers, the ambulance chasers for not carting away everything the way they did with his watch and phone and money and clothes.

I want to say something to someone next to me to disrupt my daydreams. Something almost mythical and illogical. “See he brought this back. This phone charger,” but I only manage to say it in my heart. My lips work up and down but words fail save for short whispers that are meaningless. The venom in my vein is doing a fine job, my blood pressure has stabilized and my heartbeat is near normal.

“May the lord give him permanent rest? May the soul of Dairus that you have taken among us find peace” The father said.

“Amen” the friends responded

Yweyo mak rum migie ruoth. Ler mochere mondo ilerne.”

“May the family now pick the soil in their hands?”

The casket slowly descend into the ground. A large red sun hang over the hills dying to set as the day began to retire into the night. The choir sang slowly, faintly it is a diminuendo chorus. The father said, “You are dust and dust shall you return. “  We repeated in dull weary voices, “Dust to dust”. I picked on the chorus and began to sing louder than the soloist. The sharp pain in my heart began to dull and my voice began to clear. I know it is the hand of God that has lifted this darkness in the session of tears. The sun will rise and the grass will grow.

 

It was last Saturday-Dairus

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Last time we spoke, the car had not left, the journey was on course

Last time I saw you, the morning was bright and the sun had taken its course

Last time I looked into your face, the smile was as always big and the energy of cause

Last time we talked, we discussed college the enrollment, the hostel and engineering in due cause

That changed within hours, journey back turned tragic and the road carnage took its tall

That changed when a call by a friend past midnight turned our world into grief, shock and chill

That changed with the finality of death so reckless eye witness point graft web to your fall

That changed the moment we arrived in Molo morgue the mourning pain gripped us all

It was your love of life that opened our eyes to the sharing spirit that bound us all together

It was your lesson of the future as an engineer so clear we bought books to take it further

It was your laughter so reverberating it soothed our hearts more than your personality larger

It was your liking of nature that made us follow nature trails and riverbanks like game ranger

You taught us to be calm even in tight spots for you always wanted to take things easy

You took sharing seriously for giving came naturally to you as an alter server in a church too busy

Your tender talk sawed peace for your peace went before you in school as a leader never in a hurry

Your time came too early even before we could share enough, love enough and so we are angry

Have ever been so hurt it numbs and your heart sinks so low you almost can tell you will never recover?

Have you ever been so down, time stand still and never to rise even as the world pass you over?

Have you ever known the depth of pain, raw it chocks and cuts so sharp you wonder how it came over?

Have you ever been so alien, people cry and laugh at the same time but you know you are a loner?

That’s the place we were last Saturday by your grave Dairus when tears flowed like rivers in pain

That’s the shock we found when the priest said “dust to dust” and we had to repeat it again

That’s the grim part that your death brought when we knelt and placed wilting wreaths before the rain

That’s the story that keeps recurring in our hearts like a bad dream but we shall remain

Last Saturday turned a new chapter in our lives but we turn to God knowing that he is the comforter

Last Saturday remain in our memory but we focus on the positive prints you left in us engineer

Last Saturday we laid you to rest but time the healer and grace of God shall suffice in prayer

Last Saturday shall shine like morning star to give us hope to touch other lives in time as your legacy