By Kemboi Victor
At first Kipruto thought it was the normal wails that at times hit his village at night when thieves invaded. But on listening keenly, he realized it was ululations and cheers that were coming out fromloudspeakersfrom a nearby church.Those were Christianswho had gone there ‘jump over the year’ screaming and shouting as they welcomed the New Year 2019.
For a little while he did not understand why he was all alone, inside a culvertnot far from his home, coiledlike a snail in its shell. He did not understand how he even came here. But he remembered, the last time he was sober, he was at Mlolongo bar, drinking. He quickly concluded that he must have collapsed there due to drunkenness which often made it difficult for him to walk home, like it had happened severally in the past.
The time was 11.33pm, but the thought of going home made him to panic.Liz, his wife and his two young boys Ben and Bobby, seemed to have ganged up against him due to his addiction to beer.
A fight between them had emerged three morningsearlier before he left home, when he pretendedto have no money to buywhat they had demanded: foodstuffs for the New Year’s Day.
“I don’t have any money,” he had said.
“Oooh,”Liz said mockingly and chuckled. She did not mind the answer.
“Now, leave my shirt alone before I countto one,”Kipruto retorted angrily and started to count, “Three…”
They were not going to miss chapati, meat and rice this time
But Liz adjusted her grip on his shirt, holding firmeraround his chest, and called her sons. She seemed to trust that the support of Bobby and Ben would give her a sure win against her husband.
“Bobby and Ben, come hear your father – he wants to go without leaving money for chapati and rice and meat,”she shouted.
The mention of those delicious meals which wereuncommon on their table alerted the boys to full attention. They dashed out of their room in a flash and before long they were adding their mother synergy. They were not going to relent. Or so they resolved. For God’s sake, it was about the New Year’s Day and they were not going to miss chapati, meat and rice this time round like they had almost missed on Christmas were it not for their mother. Their father had to play his rolethis time roundor they would cripple. They weren’t sure how they would cripple him, but they had heard their mother tell their father about this crippling severally, and thought it was just easy.
Kiprutofelt demeaned but resolved to prove to his boys that he wasn’t easy too. He angrily retorted to Liz, “If I count to one you will regret Liz, now, for the second and last time, leave my shirt or I scatter you and your tiny boys to pieces and cook the three of you as my New Year’s meal, two…”
“One,”Liz completed the counting, seizing him with her hands like he was a piece of paper she could swing and hurl away with no struggle. She no longer feared him and she had won against him several times in the past.She adjusted her grip again so that she could tightly holdKipruto in preparation for a scatter. The boys too joined. Kipruto felt totally embarrassed.
“You will not leave us here until you leave some money,” Bobby said directing his stretched catapult loaded with a stone it, which he often used in hunting birds. He was ready to release it on his father. On the other hand, Ben, his youngest boy grabbed his legs.
I promise to get you the money in the bedroom
“Okay, my children, wait,” he said upon realizing that he was not to going to win. “If all of you will release me, I promiseto get you the money in the bedroom,” he lied, hoping to run away the moment his lie worked. But he was surprised when Liz pulled him inside towards the bedroom, her hands properly clamped on his shirt as if they were part of the fabric.
The way she pulled him, you would think she had spend the whole night at the gym because sheswayed him left and right, until his old white shirt started to tear. She was so overwhelmed by emotions since the previous night whenKipruto had arrived home at 3am, drunk,and dropped to her house by Awiti his side-chick and bar owner, the woman she had suspected to be behind her woes. It now angered her the most. Why was she the only person that escorted her husband severally home?
There was no way Kipruto was going to escape the house incarceration unless he gave out the money. He had some in his pockets and some in his phone which he had allocatedAwiti, to stock her bar with more beer for more profits and for them to enjoy during the New Year’s Day. He decided to play a trick on his wife and children first to see if it could work. He promised to return with the shopping in the evening.
Liz almost slapped himon his left cheek but she decided to hold her anger. Kipruto must have understood the facial expression and he gave out the one-thousand-shillings note he had in his pockets, promising more upon his return. Liz had beaten him in the past until he knew when to expect slaps. He knew it could happen any time.
The one thousand shillings seemed to soothe Liz and the boys. Kipruto promised to return in the evening with morefoodstuff they would eat on the New Year’s Day too. He also promised to return home early and sober.
They released him, but with a warning.
His thirst for beer increased instantly
Dare come without foodstuff and you will see fire without smoke,”Liz said.
The boys too added, “We shall unplug your eyes when you are drunk and cut your ears.”
That is what they had heard severally when their mother threatened their father.They often thought it was right. The way they reiterated it, one could be sure of their actions. It sent chills on Kipruto and he regretted having such ruthless children. In his mind he blamed Liz for teaching them that.
His thirst for beer increased instantly as those words echoed again in his ears. He wanted to drink yet he had been warned not to. He also had to return home sober, with more foodstuff. He was confused. For a moment his mind went back to Awiti’s promise to stock the bar with more beer, and he decided to slash the money he had planned to give her. He had to fulfill his promise to her and he also had to protect himself from his family’s wrath.
After walking out of his house he resolved to drink, and wait until his mind would be sober to return home. He would also keep some part of the money he would remain with at the shops where he could pick thefoodstuff in the evening.
Now, that sobriety had found him waking up at the culvert, three days after, enjoying the cold and the hangovers. At that moment,he thought, home was a no-go-zone until morning when hewould pick the foodstuff.
He could not imaginehaving the beating whichLiz had promised, whichseemed like it would be more proper than the many times before; and his children’s threat too, which seemed they might innocentlycarry out if they found himeven in a slight sleep he could fall into.
It was true he had abandoned all his family duties. He wonderedhow his children had become thugs.He started to think, where else could he go as the culvert was becoming colder and colder.
He now wanted to put an end to this lifestyle
He didn’t want another fight to spring up again since it was obvious that he was going to lose it. He decided to go to the church, where the voices were coming from to pass time as he contemplated on where to go next.
The church was full to the brim.He sat at the back puzzled. The Padre had just taken the microphone and the mood in the midst soothed his mind. He felt some peace inside him build up. Something sweet he had never experienced for a long time.
At that moment the numerous thoughts he had come with, especially the thought of Liz and the boys, started to diminishinhis mindas if they were aware that he had entered a holy place.It disrupted the peace in him again as those many years which he had been so busy with the world, reminded him the fact that he had committed so many sins while under the influence of alcohol.And in fact, his family was suffering a rift that had come with his drunkenness and addiction.
He now wanted to put an end to this lifestyle. It bit him to his conscience that he had been against his wife and children because of alcoholism which had seen him having an affair with Awiti, the woman he now thought had made him evil to his family. Apparently, he had been stashing all his money to her, instead of his family. That not enough to convict him, he had also slept with a few other girls at the barnot minding his wife, the last one being a week ago. When was the last time he made love with his wife, he tried to remember……he could not remember. He had completely abandoned her. However, he could not understand if it was alcohol or lust that had driven him to commit these sins or his demons. He also did not know where Liz had been enjoying this right from since she had never bothered to ask him whenever he was available, only seeming comfortable.
“I think am sick,”
He felt a bit jealous and felt like there was someone, someone helping him in ‘the job’. But nonetheless, he blamed himself. He had been so irresponsible and perhaps his wife deserved to get out of marriage to find happiness too.
For a shortwhile he remembered a verse in the Bible: “come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest…”
From that he thought his sins would be forgiven here and his problems solved. He focused on the pulpit feeling like that night was a night he would part with his sins, a night ofredemption.
The Pastor was now preaching about the need to repent and be thankful to God as the New Year started. He was so touched that he resolved to repent and be prayed for. He continued to listen, to what he thought the Pastor was reading his actions of the past few days.
When he was completely sure that it must have been him that the Pastor was talking about, he rose up and walked to the altar and knelt down. Silence suddenly took the space; all eyes on him. ThePastor stopped and seemed to understand him.
“He needs prayers,” he said. “Let’s pray for him,” he ordered the congregation and called a few church leaders to surround Kipruto as he led the prayers. He asked Kipruto to say all his problems. What had made him to walk to the altar?
“I think am sick,”Kipruto said.
“Where?” The Padre asked.
That even made Kipruto to feel stronger
The combination of his sins confused Kipruto terribly until he could not understand whether to say he was sick or he was just having a problem with alcoholism or he was just a sinner. He thought: was the problem in his brain that controlled everything in his body?He touched his head. Or was it his throat that often felt the thirst of alcohol?He shifted his hands to his throat. But no, he resolved it in his loins, his manhood that often made him to commit the sin of adultery with Awiti?He shifted his hands slowly to his loins.
Before he was there, he feared the actions of his hands could evoke shame and laughter.He said, “I am a sinner and an alcoholic…Ask God to forgive me and reunite me with my family again,” he said that when his boys’ last words rang in his ears from his mind. He assumed alcoholism had summed up the other sins, the sins of adultery and lust. “I just want to repent.”
In the mix of his words the Pastor seemed to understand him better as the smell of his beer radiated into his nose strongly stinking.Kipruto’s hands too, shook in its effect. The Pastor prayed nonetheless.
The prayers ended with the clock indicating it was New Year and the congregants, led by the Padre shouted, “Happy New Year.”
That even made Kipruto to feel stronger. The New Year had found with him kneeling at the altar. He hoped the prayers would free him from his sins, from that moment.
He returned to his seat feeling nice.The session was dissolved shortly and people got out going home to sleep.
It was some few minutes after midnight when he entered his house. Liz and her children were already asleep. He knocked the door twice, and politely called Liz to open the door for him. This was unusual, even to Liz. She concluded Kipruto must have honored her demands and perhaps he had come with something good for the celebration.
She allowed him in and the first thing she asked after noticing that he was not drunk tonight: “Did you come with the foodstuffs?”
“We shall merry tomorrow. I bought the foodstuffs and left at the shops, we can go there tomorrow and bring them.”
“It is good you know there is no escape like the other time,” Liz said.
In his mind, he would go withher and his sons to the shop to buy the foodstuffs in the shop he left some part of his money.If some remained, he would buy his boys anything more they needed. But first, he spoke to his wife asking her to forgive him.He hoped the prayers worked…
© Kemboi Victor, 2019