By Kemboi Victor
I should tell my father to help me bring Tina back, I thought later and relaxed. My father had just retired from the army and he had become a celebrity in our village. He commanded respect from every villager and no one joked with him despite that he and beer had become inseparable. Apart from that, he had mediated over people’s problems and had come out so well because of the respect people had for him.
If he had succeeded solving other people’s problems, as his son, I thought my problems were gone. So, quickly before I changed my mind again, I bathed Kimeu and dressed him properly.
We left few moments later. I had already given him another spoonful of the syrup which seemed to be working miracles, for Kimeu started to play a bit the way he would do when he was healthy and kicking. I then walked to my father’s homestead as I held Kimeu to my chest, ready to pour all my regrets and pain on him.
I found my father in the middle of a discourse with some elders: Willis and Mutemi. And you know our people say when elders meet problems get solved, so I guessed that was my time. My mother too seemed to have understood my problems and she took Kimeu from me, giving me an ample time. I wanted these four elders solve my problem before the day ended.
I ordered enough bottles of beer for elders
I realized later that there was no meeting but a normal discourse. And for nearly two and half hours my father kept narrating to these men how barracks and soldier life was. Actually, if there is any man so much of himself in this universe; it is my father. He said he had travelled to over fifty countries for peace mission, at times being sent by the president, and that he had killed so many terrorists and enemies. I had failed to believe him on several occasions but I never tried to oppose him, including those stories that looked like pure lies.
And now I could tell he wouldn’t end his lies soon so I spoke at last. As usual my father would ask for some drinks so I ordered enough bottles of beer for elders. I phoned the barman to bring beer enough for the elders and told them my problem.
“We have heard it but we thought you were okay because you’ve never said,” my father mocked me and they all laughed.
“No, I am going through problems father,” I said.
We cannot stand you living like an unmarried man
Beer was brought few moments later. Now, if you want my father to concentrate and think properly, give him a beer. He all of a sudden became so friendly and fatherly to the extent of calling me ‘daddie’. I have wondered whether beer drinking was part of the training at barracks because of my father but I still cannot tell.
“Ah, we shall help you daddie,” my father said after having his first sip and Willis volunteered to accompany him. Mutemi too decided he would love to be included in the return mission.
“We cannot stand you living like an unmarried man again when during our times we would properly beat our wives and they would not go anywhere. What has happened to this crop of women of nowadays?” Mutemi chipped in.
“Don’t even say that, we soldiers don’t entertain disrespectful wives. We have to discipline them regularly…but anyway, I know Nebuchadnezzar well, wait and see how I am going to demand my daughter in law back. Who paid dowry, me or Nebuchadnezzar?” My father was so angry all of a sudden that I believed Tina had to come back without me going after her. I could not tell whether beer had started taking effect or he was real. And before long, Mutemi, Willis and my father agreed to go to Nebuchadnezzar the following week, because they had to prepare and find a car to take them to Kakamega, one hour drive from my home Kapsabet, to bring Tina back. And meanwhile, Kimeu will stay with my mother, his grandmother.
My father reported to me the following week. But unlike the way I had thought, his pride paid no good fruits. Actually, he came with more bad than good news for me.
First, he said they had agreed that I appear myself before Nebuchadnezzar and explain in front of him why the incident occurred… Second, my father seemed to have been informed about my infidelity with Mariana, and he warned me apart from asking me to explain to Nebuchadnezzar why I was playing with Tina. He also said that they had all agreed with Nebuchadnezzar, that I got fined some money as an alternative of what our traditions demanded, to appease Nebuchadnezzar and soften his heart. In the past, he said, I would have driven Nebuchadnezzar some herd of livestock as my fine.
I was mad at my father for not bargaining well for me but all said and done, I decided to cool my nerves. What was the price? I asked.
“Fifty thousand,” my father said. “And you have to pay that for your stupidity son,” he continued. I would have as well slapped my father the way I had done to Tina but when it came to me that he had just retired from army, I thought he would crash me so badly and decided to calm down. I thought about my clerical work at the local school and felt like my pay slip was under threat.
A soldier doesn’t ask what to do, he just does it
“But won’t you have bargained for something lesser? I don’t have such amount of money,” I said suppressing the anger that was forming in me.
“A soldier doesn’t ask what to do, he just does it. That is what we were taught at the army: be discipline and follow instructions. Find it and by next week Tina would be home,” my father said and left. I could see his friend Willis moving up and down my father’s compound and I thought it was him that was adding up my father’s anxiety and thirst for beer. So stupid men, I thought as my father joined him.
Before long they had left the compound. And I went into deep thoughts. There was no way I could get the money instantly. In any case, the bait I had swallowed had refused to come out of my mouth.
Perhaps taking an advance payment from my employer, I thought. However, I felt like that was not going to help for my advance would never have gone beyond ten thousand shillings. I thought of selling my only two cows, but then I thought how that would make me start buying milk to feed my family and hesitated. And if I took a loan from the bank, it would be the end of my pay slip.
Nebuchadnezzar looked at me like I was a witch
I remembered I had just saved forty thousand shillings at the bank for nearly a year and quickly, my mind thought how that could save me. I had saved it to buy electronics for my house, a feeling Tina had so dearly requested, but then because of her running to her matrimonial home so rush, I decided to use that saving to pay Nebuchadnezzar and punish Tina. After all it was Tina that so much salivated for better stereo and television in my house but how would she know how I acquired the money if I handed the cash to Nebuchadnezzar? It was her fault.
In two days I withdrew the money and gave it to my father who was surprised that I had managed to raise the money in a short time. A day later, the contingent of elders and I went to Kakamega to bring Tina back.
This time round Nebuchadnezzar looked at me like I was a witch. That look sent shivers into me and I thought he was thinking about his dogs or slasher. Nonetheless, I had to explain everything that happened. I then confirmed that my secret relationship with Mariana had stopped and I was going to stay with Tina only.
There I knew money is everything in the world
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t take it kindly but after some time, when my father handed him the money, he smiled and said, “A cow slips and it has four legs, what of a human being?”
There I knew money is everything in the world. I had heard people saying it even buys you freedom and this was one of those occasions I had bought my freedom. Tina then was called and she came in with Nasimiyu her mother, who also looked at me like I was a terrorist.
Tina explained her grievances a short while later.
“I will only go back if he leaves that woman,” she said lastly after stubbornly refusing for several minutes to return home.
“He has repented Tina. And he has paid for his stupidity,” Nebuchadnezzar said showing her some notes from the bundle. “Give him a last chance and we shall warn him for the last.”
The elders shook their heads. I could see Tina was worried when she saw the money her father was holding. I concluded that she knew where I had got the money from. But what could she do? She had to obey and return home.
Eventually Tina agreed to return.
So many times during this bargain, I looked so desperate. The elders had asked me to do that before we came, to which I did it perfectly. You would have thought someone close to me had died by the look of my face and the weakening of my voice.
Eventually Tina agreed to return.
“Good,” the elders said.
“But next time before you run away, try and solve the issue first. Don’t be so quick to run,” Nebuchadnezzar told Tina. “You should also know that you are a married woman, and mistakes occur. Today it is Kieni your husband; tomorrow it might be you. Now stand up and shake hands with your husband to show that we have buried the hatchet.”
Tina struggled for long but eventually a smile flashed in her face and she walked towards me. Instead of shaking hands I embraced her tightly. I didn’t leave her next and I held her beside me the way newly married couple does while they walk in the aisle, even as elders asked me to greet her mother too. The elders laughed, marking the end of the bargain.
After that I had a small talk with Tina. I did promised to be good and faithful to her among so many things. I told her I had taken Kimeu to stay with my mother because I could not bear. She was so eager to see him.
We lastly had some meals and returned home, my heart now feeling some peace.
Two days later Tina arrived. I had missed her so much. Her stay, though it was now two months, seemed to have been two years. We have then lived peacefully from that time. I think I will never repeat the same again and I will always be with Tina until death part us, as our marriage vows say.
© Kemboi Victor