By BORUSEI KIPKIRUI
Some memories are hard to be kept without scorching one’s heart, and one particular memory etched in his mind. The sun blazing hot, sweltering temperatures on that summer afternoon gave himself soporific state. Torrents of wails formed, a talon directed to his eyes came closer, closer than he could imagine: and as suddenly as a marble broken he shouted: ‘death of dearth!’
The man felt the ignominy of losing his child, on grounds that seemed an eternity to all. He rose, took out his cap and strode around the compound. The headstone shone with a carefully inscribed palindrome: the name of his child, who died three days ago. The line trees swayed gracefully as if irking his lost happiness, toads croaking maar the kind that swallowed his wife yesterday, and a busy sunbird singing soles, soothing his memories.
From a distance, I watched him with visible gait in his strides. His muscular dystrophy showed each time he lifted his arm to wipe tears that formed in his cheek. And I would wonder how a man, especially a policeman, weeps painful tears yet no one plans of death. Occasionally, I could see him cough a generous cough and spit heavy gobs and sit on his thighs….
No wonder, I never saw him cry when his mother died the other month, after she ailed from cancer that bit her to her crotch: he just shrugged shoulders and whisper whimper of a nomenclature I still do not remember. As a village boy who lost the only hope to the world, my recourse was to look after my grandmother’s goats and later in the night sit down to pen my day’s activities on my voluminous book, that I one day will make it a published memoir.
I was sitting that afternoon on the hedge near the man’s house. I heard laughs like a eunuch’s trumpet that was being blown by a traveler shouldered with a big belfry.
“This house is a den of owls!” a voice from the house boomed.
“Jackals, crows are cawing each night…” another voice reasoned with the first one.
The timber that had started rusting showed on the front face of the house. Termites had eaten almost halfway of the trusses of the house had hazily been broken, and paint that was once creamy then stood lazily. The women in the house patted the new angel, who was a first born to the house, whose birthday was announced in almost fatal consternation.
At a distance, a caterpillar was moulting, and a beautiful butterfly born. The man was there, slashing a hedge that had been dormant of thrones and home of thistles that were sprouting with vitality. The twittering of birds complimented his sonorous whistle that had as tune and strokes of the slasher hitting the fresh ears of the Kay apples sounded like a glockenspiel being played. Occasionally, he felt he did not belong: like as if he lacked a key to unlock a redemption padlock.
The man turned on his side facing his two houses and saw some doves walking on the roof, each one running after another, cooing incessantly. The coo continued, and the man hummed a tune:
“I’m not free yet, and I won’t be…
A dead touch would revive me yet, Do dooo…”
He murmured soberly without blinking his eyes. What he could not comprehend was that memories are not painful, but the unnatural speed of forming peritonitis of it. He stopped a bit, his face looked raddled, rather irretrievably old and his eyes looked long time putrefied. Let me just say that the ‘thing’ in his mind had shortened the span of his birth to death in a twinkle of an eye.
And suddenly, he heard wails from his house. Smoke rose in pride, jealousy meandering to the sky, and it’s embers licked the grass thatched roof with a harsh echo that went for miles. Another voice said: “Mama…” coming out, like a cup full of blood that is hit by a mischievous boy.
Wetting his lips in disgrace, he ran, hollering among the hillocks, then faster than a bolt that had just fallen from a fast moving van. Over the barns, he saw a rather definite shadow of a human being running, wadding through a puddle of mud that were ominous, and soon, the grotesque figure disappeared. The embers of the flame consumed the whole roof as he finally stepped his heavy feet on the compound. Angry. Desolate. Glowing redbrick, the mud that had stood there, home of cockroaches, crickets, lizards, and spiders smelled of burned furs; feathers from a rotten chicken!
The villagers stood stopped, women murmured in low tones as if they were compiling a play to a playwright. Men, in defence of obstinacy, shrugged their shoulders, behaving as if obsequies had just been concluded. I sat there, whetting, sweating profusely together with the village boys whom we went for water at a nearby fish pond, only to be chased by the mkulima claiming his petrol was not wasted pumping water so as a witch’s house to be extinguished.
“I saw an arsonist as I went back,” a plump woman said as the man wiped a heavy spittle that had formed in his mouth.
“Forget it,” the man shouted, “I’ll blow your nose if the mucus stuck in it is a burden to you,” the man whetted in a rather chaotic manner.
“Not again, husband,” his wife cut short.
“So you know of it?” asked the man. Long silence. And then he cleared his throat and spat a gob. “If we can get to terms…” he stopped to sniff, “let’s get to the bottom of this, then it would be a jealous thing to live here even for an hour.” Another long silence.
The crowd that had just dispersed pushed to see what the man had to say. I do not know of you have ever been to a group of boys who are cheering a dog fighting competition. Each and every boy shouts at the top of his voice, encouraging his dog to note and bite, and when the dogs seems to be afraid, one of them would probably hit the ground, and the dogs in pretense, holler and grunt a long growl before brawling with its opponent. And this was life in our village: especially that afternoon, the man was being preached at, a woman could not be allowed to evangelize murmurs with a bearded man! The man ordered that his compound be negative of people, and the crowd subsided.
The man, his wife and his mother stood at a corner, where simsim grew. The man pointed westwards, grins visible on his face and complimented by his wife’s nose that was twitching like a dough being kneaded, rather, pummeled! Whispering women oozed imperfections in their houses, save for one, cursing their leaden of men who drank sheer gobs from their cunts! Another sighed when her friend mentioned of a night stampede that recently occurred and it turned out that the man’s wife who was milking her neighbour’s cows at midnight. Long sighs…
At short paces, the man instructed with a kind of grunting, as if there were hard blocks forming under his scrotum demanding for freedom. “I must say,” the man began, “I must say that this is somebody’s hand.” He paused with growls of displeasure pushed from his throat. “I have heard you, woman!”
“Stop! Foolishness…” his mother pulled his hand as he tried grabbing his wife’s lace on the neck. “Leave the universe to rot itself. Balance not your wife, God is the performing artist!” The old mama sighed her say, with her flabby breasts that suckled thirteen children, with the man being the last enjoying the dirt of saliva that had stained on her skin, whilst wetting his mother’s thighs.
I stood there. A sojourner to those environs. With a bit of puzzled frown, I was shaking with anger. After all, men are standing skeletons. They pity themselves when their wives are brazenly adulterous, yet in a time not in the deepest past, they were burrowing through mothers’ wombs, trembling, smelling faeces and diseased blood. So why should they pity women, I mean their wives, shaking heads and pondering? I wondered how a man in his own unjustifiable bearded mouth holler, holler at his wife claiming she is adulterous, does she know of her mother’s ignoble desires when she was not yet married to a rather chaotic father: who, too was a temporary block of a man who was born our of wedlock? And to add a calcified horror, that struggle went past generation and soon the habit was no longer news. This reminded me of my mother who left us a cat and asked us to call it a father, the day my brother and I asked of the whereabouts of our biological father. Out of senses, we could check our earlobes, eyes, birthmarks and point out differences between us. This act of defiance guaranteed my saying that I rather be a baboon who does not know what circumcision entails, to be called an element of grotesque nature: but then, grandfather was there, and would not allow any boy in his household to be a moron!
My eyes saw a lot. A new house had been set up by the rather strange man, who was not actually stranger, but his life was more of an introvert. The house was set like commiserating on mere pictures that hurt till date: itching furs, which are no stranger to me. Unnaturally, the man was said to be humble like a willow’s catkin: and I would wonder, there should be something that hinders progressing of the heart way from the granaries of deer grain to man who and no deceit nor guilt
I hitched up to the barns that by grandfather owned with gait and pride. He was one of those men who believed in obstinacy; who would not even at the comfort of a jazzy rusted mathree and would not even allow my grandmother to decide on the disciplinary action on me whenever I let goats wanted to the villagers’ farms. He would not take breakfast brought by a woman, and I would wonder, who prepared the meal? Obstinacy sometimes needs minds that are broad at thinking. To aid this momentum, I would sneak to his bedroom and steal his tobacco, but he would say the ancestors took it to refurbish their lungs!
Then at the comfort of that hedge, I saw Paulo’s, the man, wife come out. He instructed a lazy girl who sat knitting a crotchet in her compound to run to a chemist.
“This is what you should do: bring me two tablets and ask the doctor to come by, at around four.. “I heard a hardly incoherent sound from her house. She was our neighbor. “Please do hurry, I need…him a bye!” the last words I got to hear fumed
I sat there. Then a woman in her late twenties, rather early thirties came out as the beautiful girl ran through the gate. She was pure like a primrose and had a slight limo on her steps. She suspended a leso over her bulged belly she limped two strides and stopped to receive a call.
“Yes…the area is good…”
I left her talking over the phone to bring my grandmother’s billy goat that was up to some mischief. On my run, I closed my eyes as if I grew bit by bit some form of disease: a childish way of guessing the way to an ordinary place. I wondered how a man employed in a discipline force build two houses, no paint, no lavatory; yet I hear they swindle money out of people’s pockets. And a thought of my grandfather came:
‘Remember that all tendrils are not meant for support, but lush grass are tangles of poison to cows’
I recalled, then sitting back after a maize stalk bore my ankle. I saw a brown sleek car approach Paulo’s home, and a white man came: the village ‘veterinary doctor’ a name we village boys called him, the doctor.
The man turned to my direction, his long nose protruded, probably, he would not be in for a coffee invite that entailed drinking from filled glasses, more often I heard my grandfather say that whites had ants’ bellies; only a mouthful of watery tea satiates them. His brown hair covered a small part of his head, and he closed his car after wiping off a trail of dust on his Italian coat, and he went straight to the house.
I craned my neck to see his welcome, but I only heard a small chuckle pooling up to a big laugh, echoing like a trumpet blown. I no longer stood the ominous gaze the girl in that homestead gave at me. I sang a hum of hope, closed one eye as I scratched my belly that growled enough for the beautiful girl to hear. The other eye itched for sleep too and sleep overtook me: spittle completely covered mouth when I woke up and found that white man gone, only a statue of a woman stood at my feet.
“Boy, let not a word come out of your rotten mouth. Okay?” Every ballast of her words was heavy like she had swallowed a live toad and got stuck at her throat.
© BORUSEI KIPKIRUI
Watch out for Part Two of this intriguing story