= 1276

A friend of mine submitted this story to me. I could not turn him down. so I have to publish it.


Kebwore sat  on the doorway  in front of his hut. The midday sun rained fiery rays that competed to dig deeper into his bread-shaped head. His thin, long, fragile arms rested on his thighs. His head fell forwards as he tried unsuccessfully to fight drowsiness that was slowly overpowering him. He had bushy eyebrows and beneath them was what once radiant eyes were. Now they had been replaced with frightening reddish balls-swollen and twitching from time to time.

Meme the she-goat came running happily through a tiny gap on the fence from a neighbour’s shamba. The goat was carrying a big, fresh cob of maize precisely held by its small mouth .A big stone landed heavily on its side, missing it by inches. Behind it followed a long trail of curses from a fuming woman. Kebwore had got used to this, therefore he did not bother to get up and attend to the goat. Instead he belched loudly and a bitter, yellowish substance filled his mouth. He swallowed it back almost immediately, enjoying its rich taste. He stuck to the belief that what the mouth has accepted, the gut should not reject.

Strong pangs of hunger reminded him that his wife Sabina had not yet returned from the shamba to prepare the afternoon meal. He felt his small intestines attacking the big ones. He then fished out a remnant of cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit it. He suck at it greedily as a kid sucks at its mother’s breast. The smoke choked him. He coughed and spat a clear, slimy, thick substance which formed a round brown ball on the dusty ground. He stared at it for a long time and smiled ruefully. Then almost immediately, a fat, black fly landed on the wet, brown ball and quickly dug a hole into it.

Kebwore’s thoughts drifted to a scene earlier in the day at Nyabera’s. He was drinking busaa with his friends from a pot using drinking pipes. As he sucked wildly at the pipe, something sharp pricked his throat. He coughed out a rotting hairy caterpillar. He gave it a momentary gaze before resuming his drink. The other drinkers giggled and went on drinking as if nothing had happened. To them, this was like a flavor additive, what they most feared was poison and this tiny creature was not one. However of late, Kebwore had felt that the busaa of nowadays could not compare to that of old times. It burnt one’s throat like rat poison. Nevertheless, he did not care.

A fortnight ago, Kenguru the assistant chief had collapsed right infront of his doorstep as he returned home from Nyabera’s. His wife found him with his head twisted and a dark, grey liquid flowing slowly like a tired stream of water negotiating a bend. Kenguru’s relatives claimed he was poisoned but “Ground network” knew better. The old man had taken too much than his want. The man of course never used even a single coin to buy the drink. Those who wanted favors from him bought him busaa. In the end of the day, he could have gulped down a full barrel. But people did not stop whispering. How for example, had Ogendi turned mad? The poor man was now seen walking along the village paths half naked, all the while chanting ceaselessly tales of his own greatness. Was it not Nyabera who had laced his drink with some magic potent medicine? Again the woman wasn’t attractive, but how come that men visited his bed in droves?

Morebi was lost in thought that he didn’t see Pastor Amen approach. The man of God was clad in an oversized, wrinkled grey suit and a red tie tightly strapped to his shirt sleeves to strangling point. His smooth, dark skin reflected the sharp afternoon rays of the sun. On top of this, he wore his smiling shoes that never parted from his legs except bedtime hours.. Numerous, thin, dry and cracked lines stretching on the surface was evidence that they had seen better days. It’s said they were a gift from white missionary who served at Nyanchwa mission during the pre-independence era.

He was now standing a few paces from Morebi. He then coughed somewhat professionally, the intent being to announce his presense. Morebi on his part remained unmoved, his gaze was directed yonder to the Nyambene hills.

“How are you my brother?”

“I am well.”

The pastor hesitated before going on. “I am here to request you to join us in our church on Saturday.”

“Pastor, let me be frank with you, I will not come to a church full of women alone”

It’s true that Amen’s church was almost full of women and children. Therefore men avoided it on this pretext. You could hear a man shouting to his wife as he hurried to a busaa den to be remembered in prayers a the church.

“No Morebi, God is for all of us and not the way you are putting it. If you come today, your friends will join you tomorrow. In this way the church will grow-for Christ said, come to me those who hunger and thirst, for I will give you rest.”

Amen paused and then went on with a low, imploring tone. He was unaware of Morebi’s naked kids standing behind him. They had been uprooting premature sweet potato roots behind the hut. Their stomachs protruded like those of well fed new-born rats. They were almost of the same age. Their entire bodies were covered with brown dust, only their big, rude eyes made them look human.

And they stood thus boldly to protect their father from this stranger with sharp digging sticks. One of them crushed a sweet potato which produced a sound like that of a dog breaking a dry joint bone with its molars. The pastor looked round shocked. “How are you, my sons?” he greeted them smiling. They didn’t answer, only hostility was registered on their faces.

“You are not our father!” they shouted in unison.

It happened in a fraction of a second. They moved forward and grabbed his feet and knocked him off balance. Amen found his mouth kissing the dust without realizing how. Then the frisking began. Tiny emaciated hands pulled out pockets. They were lucky to get some money. After getting done with him, they removed his smiling shoes and disappeared the way they had come.

The pastor rose up and hastened out of the compound. He glanced back once from a safe distance. He could vaguely see Morebi still seated with eyes closed in half sleep. In his thirty years of service, he had never encountered anything like this. He swore not to tell anyone about this. But what about the Underground phone? Word could soon go round the village that the pastor was fasting-walking barefooted.

Sabina, Morebi’s wife, was returning from the shamba when she almost collided with Amen leaving her compound. She was balancing a heavy load of firewood on her head. On her right arm she was carrying a heavy pumpkin, on her left hand, a basketful of Irish potatoes.”How are you pastor, what’s all the hurry for, didn’t you find my husband at home?”

Amen mumbled something incorrigible and quickened his strides. One could think he was fleeing from Mansamu-that animal used by witches to travel to distant lands at night to attend cult meetings. He looked back once more. Sensing no danger in sight he vanished behind a corner, unaware of the hot gravel that was burning his feet.      

A friend of mine submitted this story to me. I could not turn him down. so I have to publish it.                         

-photo credit:gutenberg

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