Rest in Debt Not in Piece

‘Moss moss

Moss moss

Pole pole

Moss moss

Twazienda

Moss moss

Haraka haraka haina baraka

Moss moss

Moss moss

Pole pole

Moss moss

Twazienda

Moss moss

Haraka haraka haina baraka’

The song was playing faintly on the Matatu radio. It was a trip down memory lane. The sweet old times when everyone knew the lyrics to E-Sir’s songs. He was like the new age Tupac for the Kenyan people. The old and young ones alike loved the young talent. He was a revolutionist. He was changing the Kenyan music scene and everyone was feeling it.

It was a long journey and Sifa was feeling it. His whole body ached from having to sit in two uncomfortable positions that he alternated from time to time when his behind got too sore. The consolation was that faint radio that distracted his mind.

“The president in his speech today has said that the price of maize flour for a two kilogram packet will not be more than seventy five Kenyan shillings. In his executive directive with the respective ministries he said retailers who fail to adhere to this directive will have their licenses revoked”

The piece of news on the radio did not make Sifa feel any better. It was a relief for the many Kenyan families that would probably now afford to have a meal every day but still there were so many things that needed to be addressed in the country.

“Did you do that?”

“What?”

Everyone was now covering their noses and grunting and giving each other suspicious looks in the cramped up Matatu. Sifa who was lost in thought going over the events of the past two days was not even aware of the pungent smell that was choking and stealing the life out of everyone in the public transport vehicle. Opening all the windows was not helping the situation. He broke into a hysterical laughter. He noticed everyone staring at him as if he had stolen a piece of bread from an orphan’s mouth. The fart was not the reason why he had laughed like a mad man at a funeral. It was a debt. And a funeral.

He had gotten a call from a new number on his smartphone that had a cracked screen. He hated it and he loved it. He could not afford to buy another one or have the screen repaired and sometimes typing on the screen was harder than being a Kenyan in Kenya.

“Hello…”

“Hello, is this Sifa?

“Yes, it is he. Who am I talking to?”

“It’s Chebet, from college. You remember me, right?”

“Chebet, how could I forget you? How are you? It’s been a minute.”

“I’ve been fine myself. I had to look for your number to pass some very unfortunate news. Sifuna is dead.”

“Sifuna, The Indian Boy?”

“Yes, him. He passed away two days ago and the funeral is two days from today at his father’s place at Busia. We should go.”

The tragic news were a real surprise for Sifa who was left with many questions. It was unbelievable at that moment. Not Sifuna of all the people. He was so full of life and he was the last person you would expect to die. Everyone had to die but Sifuna The Indian Boy would have survived the zombie apocalypse and all the damn apocalypses. He was a survivor and life and it’s challenges were no match for him. He was too clever for this life. He was not Indian but no one could explain where that title had originated from. He was so resourceful in college. He knew where to get anything for the right price. Even end of year exams if you had the money. And everyone loved him. Especially Sifa and Chebet who had shared nearly everything with him during their college days. From a yeast infection to nights in a cell to food from one pot.

Sifa had borrowed a loan from one of the loan apps he had downloaded because he could have not raised enough money to afford the fare to and fro Busia. This was against a better part of his judgment. He believed debts were a new age form of slavery. But living in the harsh economic life in Kenya and especially in Nairobi one had to do what needed to be done in order to get by.

The journey to Busia was long and he had managed to locate the Sifuna’s home. Gloom was written on everyone’s faces as the sharp knife of a short life lost made the agony unbearable. He sat close to Chebet as she was the only person he knew there. The MCA for that area had even made an appearance. The women wailed and even several rolled on the ground a tore their clothes as they called his name. He was a goner. They had so many expectations from this young man.

The ceremony begun and an uncle of Sifuna who was the master of ceremony took to the hired public address system and welcomed the people informing them of the day’s schedule.

“The people from within are requested to welcome the guests who have travelled from far and show them where everything is,” he went on the microphone that kept going off now and then.

His speech was interrupted by the scream that was coming from the maize plantation. It was clearly of a girl. Everyone left their seats and ran towards the call of distress.

The pungent smell was now wearing away and everyone was convinced the guy who had burst into laughter was the culprit. But Sifa had remembered the ingenious plan of The Indian Boy.

Sifuna was not dead. He was hiding in the maize plantation when a school girl from his neighbourhood who had attended the funeral had gone to take a short call there because the toilets were out of order as the guests had the first priority to use them. The girl who was convinced she had seen a ghost had screamed and alerted everyone.

He had managed to convince his father to make everyone believe he was dead. The only way they would make enough money to get them out of their debts. It had been six years after college and still he was barely making ends meet and he was sinking in debts. His father who was always complaining about how he should not have sold their only three cows to educate him after rejecting the idea had agreed to go along with the plan. It was not foolproof however.

The villagers had threatened to beat Sifuna and his father to a pulp but some people had intervened and demanded to at least hear an explanation.

“It has been six years and my degree certificate is collecting dust in my father’s house. I have sent over two hundred thousand applications for jobs in those six years. I have a HELB loan to pay. My father who is a retiree can barely feed all of us. I had to leave my rental house in the city because I had not paid the rent for over five months and the agents had threatened to take one of my kidneys if I would not produce the money. No one wants to give me a job. The only way I could get your attention was if I was dead. It is the only way people show they care about you when you are a goner. They raise millions to put someone six feet under the soil. When you are alive no one will give you a hundred shillings without wanting something in return,” Sifuna told the listening crowd.

It had not moved them and they took their money back but he was lucky enough to have the MCA ask him to report to his office the next day as he would give him a job at the local government offices.

I’ve Never Been Drunk

I met Muthoni on Monday last week.

I was on my phone, replying to a comment on Facebook when I noticed her at the corner of my eye. If I hadn’t looked up, I probably wouldn’t even have seen her. She just walked through the lobby and in a minute disappeared into one of the elevators.

I don’t really know what about her caught my eye. It could be the light-blue jeans she was wearing (who wears faded jeans on a Monday?). It could be her height. She was incredibly tall. Or maybe it was how she moved her long slender legs gracefully like as if she was floating. Like as if the earth spared her from the full force of gravity.

It wasn’t more than a minute before I also stepped into the same elevator. Much to my surprise, I was met by a pretty face. I didn’t expect that. She was not only pretty but also incredibly alluring. She had short, curly, black hair with yellow highlights and tiny gold earrings framing her big curious eyes and delicate facial features.

As I got in, she glanced at me. Not like a mere glance, but more like a short deep-in-the-eye kind of stare. Then her lips parted ever so slightly. Like as if she was going to smile. Or say something, then stopped at the very last second.

I could have imagined it. There’s this thing called elevator etiquette that I’ve never really gotten the hang of. Sometimes I meet people who smile, nod or make an ‘mmmhhh’ sound when I walk into an elevator and our eyes happen to meet. Because I didn’t want to mistake her politeness for sexual advances, I chose to just chill and act cool.

“You haven’t pressed any button.” she finally broke the silence after the elevator had started moving. We were already two floors up and I hadn’t selected what floor I wanted to alight.

“Haha yes… I tend to do that a lot, you know, delay pressing elevator buttons.” I lied to her after a few seconds of trying not to look like an aloof moron as I pressed the button marked 21.

“No you don’t…” she said with a wide chin to chin smile.

Feeling slightly embarrassed, I laughed.

“I actually do. I like the suspense of not knowing where the elevator is headed. It makes me feel like a risk taker.” I quipped in between giggles.

“It is indeed very risky to take an elevator without knowing where it’s headed,” she replied sarcastically. Her tall frame was almost imperceptibly twisted such that her legs were slightly pointed in my direction. Her eyes glanced into mine and lingered. Like as if she was studying my face. And then just before I could catch her glance, it disappeared as fast as it came.

“Going for lunch?” she asked as she pointed to the button I had pressed. The 21st floor.

That was the topmost floor of the Delta Towers where RFC was housed. Ribs, Fries & Chicken. It was popular joint with people who worked in the Westlands area. Apparently, people loved ‘junk’ food more than they cared to admit. It also happened to be where most people in the building went for lunch.

“Uuuuhhmm… not really. I handle their digital marketing.” I said as the elevator came to a stop on the 20th floor. That was where Muthoni was supposed to alight. She didn’t.

“You know what I’ve just thought, let me dash in for a few minutes before I head back to the office,” she said.

“Karibu RFC…” I replied with the most effusive smile I could muster.

Then we stood silently waiting for the elevator doors to close.

*

That was day one.

We met every other day that week except on Thursday.

After our first impromptu 20-minute date, we exchanged numbers and chatted all afternoon. She replied to my texts as fast as I could send them. All the while I kept wondering what kind of office she worked at that let her chat all afternoon. I didn’t really care though. She was the most interesting person I had ever chatted with.

That’s how we wound up meeting on the second day. Tuesday.

We met in the evening as we both left work. I had spent the entire day at RFC taking photos of their weekly offers. I assumed she must have also been busy because her Whatsapp last-seen was at 10:00 in the morning.

I was just about to leave RFC at around 6:30 in the evening when I received a call from Muthoni. She was apparently late to leave the office and was wondering if we could walk home together. Sure. Cool. I replied nonchalantly trying hard not to break into song and dance.

Oddly enough, she even offered to accompany me as I stepped into a local Wines & Spirit shop to buy a bottle of whiskey. As he handed over the bottle, Rama, the bartender whispered to me “Apo sawa brathe. Usiachilie…” while pointing at Muthoni who had chosen to stand a few meters away as she detested the smell of alcohol. Or at least that’s what she told me.

I can’t really tell you how Muthoni ended up in my flat that evening. Maybe because my place is not very far from Westlands and she wasn’t in a hurry to go home.

“I live alone anyway. There’s not much to look forward to,” she told me as soon as we arrived. I told her to make herself feel at home as I disappeared into the kitchen to get her a bottle of Del Monte mango juice from the fridge.

“So you’re just going to sit and watch me drink?” I asked her while placing two whiskey glasses and the box of Del Monte on the wooden coffee table.

“I’ve never been drunk… when I was younger I couldn’t even stand the smell of alcohol.” she replied as she reached out for the mango juice.

This formed the topic of discussion for the next two hours. Down the rabbit hole we went, and when we finally resurfaced, we were talking about the cashless society in 1China. She had been to Shanghai before so I was intrigued through and through as she talked about how the city operated. I only noticed just how much time had passed when I glanced at my 750ml whiskey bottle and noticed that it was more than halfway. Muthoni’s glass was empty.

 

As a joke, I offered to refill it with alcohol.

She said sure.

Just a curt sure without as much as a shudder. Like as if she had been taking whiskey even before Johnny Walker started walking. I was not sure whether this was a prank or whether she was joking but there was only one way to find out.

So I poured her a little of the drink. Five minutes later, she asked for a refill. Then another, and another, and with it, the last drop. She was looking pretty wasted. Her sentences were now punctuated with coy giggles. At some point, she even started dancing while seated. I could tell that she was feeling the Dj Joe mix blaring from my Sony home theatre.

“I need to visit the loo.” she finally slurred amidst the loud music. She asked me to escort and wait for her.

“I don’t want to be that strange girl who passes out in your bathroom…” she said with a giggle. Because she was staggering so much, I had to support her delicately by the waist. Her arms were wrapped around my shoulder for support. As we staggered there, she kept mumbling in my ear. Most of what she was saying was incomprehensible to me. The word love was thrown in intermittently between all the random stuff she was saying.

That’s when I leaned in to kiss her.

I found her moist tender lips shocked at first but just as eager to lock with mine. I melted into her and for a few quiet minutes we only had the music keeping us company. That, and her occasional moans as we separated to gasp for air.

When we finally broke from our embrace, I was feeling close to sober again. She was staring at my face in the dim hallway light and smiling. It almost felt like I was the most interesting thing she had ever seen. Then she leaned over into my ear and mumbled something I couldn’t quite make out.

“I didn’t catch that.” I told her after a fruitless minute trying to figure out what she had just said.

This time she leaned in closer. So close to the point her warm breath was tickling my ears. Her wet lips were now touching my earlobes. I on the other hand, was waiting with bated breath for her to repeat those sweet words she had whispered into my ears a few moments ago.

“Ssssoooo…” she hissed into my ear.

“Yes?” I whispered softly into her ear.

“Tunaweza buy wapi Mzinga saai?”

 

By Lewis Wachira

Four Women (An Ode to Bad Customer Service)

I should’ve known things had gone sideways when the eldest of them, the most motherly too, deftly creaked the rickety door shut-

Or when she (the hooker I just wasted money on…more on that later) smashed the dust beer bottle she had been holding on to on the floor just to further punctuate her long barrage of rapid-fire expletives. How dare I imply that she was a thief!

Or when the feigned concern and comraderie among the hookers in the shack quickly turned into sneered curt annoyance.

“Woiye!Sasa nani ameibia customer?”

“Arrgh!Si tumepigia hio simu yako? So umepata ni mteja?Ama unadhani ni sisi ndio tumekuibia?”

This all feels pretty patronizing in retrospect.

Or when the peng guys outside the dingy shack of a hotel tsk tsk tsked and murmured amongst themselves as walked in feigning total nonchalance with my eyes fixed on that buxom hooker I was looking to hit up.

Point is, it was a bad idea from the very beginning and I should have known better.

 

“Cheki,huyu dame ameniibia earphones na dough yangu,” I managed to let out, voice cracking due to a mixture of rising anxiety, frustration and the realization of how absurd the entire phrase sounded.

“Sasa wewe, saa zile ilikuwa simu. Sasa saa hii ni pesa na earphones…Kwani wewe umepoteza vitu ngapi leo?” The cynicism in her voice stung. They did not believe me, understandably. I was having the unluckiest Sunday afternoon ever. The sex was stiff and awkward, my phone was missing and mysteriously switched off and now I was missing money and my prized earphones.

I was getting desperate. I could see the red earphones peeking from the from the front hem of her bra. My hunch was correct but any attempt to bring this to the attention of the others was met with further incoherent defensiveness.

“Unataka nivue manguo zangu zote ndo ujue sijakuibia? Her tone made my skin crawl. The impunity. The nerve. It was the last straw. I could feel myself throwing all caution to the wind as I grabbed the front seat of her bra.

Big mistake. She retaliated.

Long jagged nails dug into my neck. It was not sexy or kinky at all. When she wobbled on my chest and began to squeeze hard on my neck her voluptuousness become total heaviness. But at least I got a lady to straddle for once.

Carlos

Easter  Saturday,1988.It was a muddy day, wet than a widow’s handkerchief. The mango season was over so there were no succulent mangoes tempting us to steal them. Our mango shaped ten year old heads had to come up with mischief to keep us busy all Easter weekend. Thus my cousin and I decided to go and hunt for wasps for Carlos our dog. Now Carlos was like our  second self-a pillar of canine benevolence.His spaniel eyes made everybody feel like buying him a year’s supply of steak for his palate and shampoo for his matted hair.We lived for Carlos who loved us more than he loved himself.

The idea of wasps had been hatched a few days earlier in school. Back then, boys were endowed with  certain inalienable rights: among these were right to life, liberty and right to own dogs. You could also add right to all the succulent mangoes that hang in the village mango trees like earrings on a beautiful ladies face. Thus to fully exercise this right ,my cousins and I had motley of dogs between us. They were perpetually hungry creatures-some stray, some tame some wild- that always followed us like shadows. When we ate, they ate. When we swam in the treacherous Mathioya River, they swam. Sadly, when our scrawny backsides got whipped for stealing mangoes or whichever fruit had tempted us, they too took a beating.

There were dogs,and then there was Carlos.He was the compulsively friendly mongrel we had named after the famous terrorist-Carlos the Jackal. Of course we got the name from Mr.Munderu our history teacher after Socrates,our previous favourite dog died. We told other boys that Carlos’ mother was a leopard and his father a mountain lion and that he had jaguar aunties and puma uncles. But Carlos was no more than bag of bones with fleas enough to infest a small village to pandemic levels. His tail was permanently between his thin legs. He was not living to his famous billing. We had to do something to redeem his image.

To us, Carlos was more than a dog. In our journey in the village lanes towards becoming men, Carlos was our benefactor; our dumb constant north. He had this existential angst in his eyes which other people took for a lonely stare but us boys knew better.His primordial instinct helped us to know where the juiciest avocados were ripening. When we wanted to cross the often moody Mathioya River and get sugarcanes beckoning to be eaten by us the other side, Carlos guided us on the safest place to do so.Many a day, when we became too wayward and our mothers denied us food, we shared our last stolen avocado with Carlos, knowing too well that he will repay us not with a similar avocado, but with unfaltering loyalty. He gave us our first lessons in loyalty, in swimming and many other vitals skills of boyhood. Carlos lived for us; one woof at a time. His bark was his honor. But his meekness troubled us a lot and we had to get a solution fast.

Thus we approached Eutychus- the boy who had repeated Class Four  three times and sported a nice beard. At some point we had applied paraffin to our chins so that we could sprout a beard and be like him, but it didn’t work. That was our first lesson in scams.Eutychus was the brightest of them all; he always had a solution for all our boyish problems tucked in some corner of his guava shaped head. He loved us because we were very obedient-we diligently delivered the perfumed letters he used to write to our elder sisters. We didn’t deliver them because we loved our mean big sisters that much, but because we respected Eutychus more.

At the price of two stolen sugarcane sticks, Eutychus advised us to feed the meek canine on a meal of wasps three times a week. Henceforth, Carlos would scare even the devil himself. I tell you this boy was genius.

Every dog has its day-that’s how Easter Saturday found us hunting for wasps for Carlos’ problems. We took the bushy footpath towards Boyo, the gurgly river that washed our villages’ sins downstream. The guava trees around the river had plenty of wasp nests. Several wasp stings later, we decided that the best time to catch them was at night and abandoned the mission altogether. This meant that we would be idle until nightfall when we would embark on the wasp job.

Girls will always be girls, always trying to enhance one or other aspect of beauty. In the village then, grapevine had it that if you took a specific water beetle that used to thrive in the rivers and made it bite your  titties, they would bloom big enough to cause an eclipse. This knowledge had been passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter, long before the Americans came up with silicone implants for the same purpose. Thus we decided to look for water beetles and sell them to the progressive village belles later, each at the price of one chapati. Our heads were always teeming with brilliant ideas those days.

When we had collected enough water beetles to turn our village into big boob’s fetishist   heaven, hell broke loose. A loud helicopter loomed on the horizon, its steel blades cutting the rarified village air into pieces.

A Lancia Delta Intergrale, loud enough to wake the devil from his afternoon siesta, came charging at us from the road that led to the next ridge. In one brief moment, my brief life which was largely consisted of episodes of mango stealing flashed before me. I tried to say the Lord’s Prayer, which I only knew the Kikuyu version, but gave up the idea altogether when I reckoned that Jesus was a handsome white man who didn’t understand Kikuyu.

After the rally car passed us, we followed it down the muddy path watching it skid with glee. Carlos followed the car too, salivating at the Farmers Choice sausages emblemed on the car’s sides. Carlos had never tasted a single sausage all his life, but all in all he knew sausages existed. Just like we human beings have never been to heaven, but we know it’s up there. Dogs got canine faith too.

For us boys, we were following the rally cars for a different reason; the big spare tyre at the cars back could make a nice wheel for our carts. We had to pinch it.If we could steal old lady Jerusha’s mangoes without her detecting us, we could steal the big spare wheel behind Kirkland’s Car No.9 without him noticing.

The Safari Rally -the greatest duel between man, machine and time- was underway. The wasps and water beetles could wait!

After the Safari Rally was over, we managed to feed Carlos on a buffet of wasps enough to sting a whole village to death. Red wasps, black wasps, big wasps, small wasps-he was spoilt for choice. We waited for him to get braver than ten lions, but instead he got very sick and in a short time acquired the pale hue of death. Eutychus, the wise fellow who had advised us to feed Carlos on a meal of wasps to make him brave told us that we had overdosed the poor thing with wasps. But we suspected he had bewitched our lovely dog with his evil eye.

Days rolled into weeks, Carlos didn’t get better. Each day he had a new ache, much stronger than the previous one. We knew this because we felt the pain too. He was always in brute grief, so pained that even the fleas that infested his skin deserted him like rats running away from a sinking ship. Like a father watching his son bleed in the battlefield, we watched Carlos handle his grief like gentleman. You see, to call Carlos a dog hardly served him justice. He may have had four legs and a tail, but to us who knew him well, Carlos was gentleman. More refined than some men we knew, but we didn’t dare say that aloud.

By and by, his bodily features betrayed how life had wronged him. Mortality weighed heavily on him, like unwilling sleep. We touched his coat, wishing that some of his pain could be transferred to us, and thus be shared. It didn’t happen. But Carlos bore his pains stoically, raging against the dying of the light, without  yelping like some mangy mongrels who lacked pedigree.

One day, with the single-mindedness of boys with a dog life to save, we approached Chege our cousin to come and pray for our dog. Chege was older than us and never missed Sunday school. Thus he was fluent in the saying ‘The Grace’, and such prayers. When he heard our idea, he laughed so loud that we thought we could see the githeri he had taken for his lunch in his stomach. Then he dismissed us.

With that, it became clear that Carlos death was imminent. He sat on the evening veranda of his life-reminiscing about famous hunts we have had back in the day. He ruminated on many a juicy avocado we had stolen together, and the swims we had in the River Mathioya.

Then one day, around that time when the Berlin came down, Carlos soul went up. God’s fingers touched him, and he slept eternally. He became one with the wind and joined other dog souls. While the whole world was celebrated the fall of the Cold War, we mourned the death of Carlos.

However, my mango shaped head refused to accept that Carlos had died. Maybe he had taken one of his long naps. Or he was in some dog coma from which he would come from if we stole some bones from Kuria the mean butcher and ran them over his nose. To protect his lifeless body so that we could bring it to life later, we hid him by the old muiri tree which was said to have powers to turn a boy into a girl if one run round it seven times.  But why would a boy want to turn into a girl while boyhood was so much fun? Anyway, if that tree could do that, it could revive Carlos form his coma since to us, he want fully dead. Denial.

The day at school was longer than a week in a hospital bed. We couldn’t wait for the school bell to ring our way to freedom and rush out to go check out on Carlos. When we finally arrived home, we found ants crawling on his matted skin. We ran the bones we had picked form Kuria’s dustbin over his nose, but Carlos didn’t as much raise a paw. My cousin Tony took a long stick and started beating the ant trail all the way to the hole they came from.Myself,I took to stoning the birds that chirruped above in the tree, oblivious of our sadness which hang on the whole place like a sad shawl. Anger.

Deep inside, I wondered why God has taken away Carlos and not the other less colorful dogs in the village. Why couldn’t he take all those useless village cats-all meows and airs-and leave our dog alone? We could even add Him ngunu-the old angry cow that was always itching to gore our bottoms. God, please take even the only donkey in the village and leave our dog alone.Bargaining.

For the next week, grief and despair descended on us fighting for a piece of our hearts like two jealous Naija wives. We wore a cloak of grief that was too heavy for our boyish heads. We no longer stole avocados-stealing them with Carlos not around meant nothing to us. We stopped going for the Sunday football jamboree by the river. Who could enjoy a football match when Carlos was dead? Or better, who could enjoy life in the absence of Carlos? The whole village was teeming with men and dogs, but the loss of one dog made it look empty and bereft of life.Despair.

Soon, we started reliving the times we had with Carlos. We talked about that day when he saved us from Wamatangari the village madman when Carlos appeared from nowhere when he was chasing us cracking a nyahunyo behind our backs. We reminisced on how one day Carlos led us home after we followed the Safari Rally Cars six villages away till it got dark and we got lost in some coffee bushes. We recalled how Carlos had nurtured many a dog to life by licking their lives wounds. In short we decided to celebrate Carlos life. We let Carlos dog soul rest, not because we loved him less, but because we cherished the moments we had with him more. After all, Carlos had blessed us with a thousand tail flicks, which were more honest than the handshakes we had gathered in our lifetime. Though the world was full of suffering, it was also full of overcoming that suffering. The world had just overcome the 40 year long Cold War, so we could also overcome the death of Carlos. Acceptance.

Its only when we came to this stage when we buried him under the ancient avocado tree down by the gurgling river. We called our cousin Chege to officiate as the padre since he was holier than us as he didn’t steal mangoes and avocados like us. Granted, he used to touch our sisters breasts but he didn’t steal them unlike us who ran away with every mango that our fingers touched. The burial was a solemn affair where Chege intoned in some Latin words he borrowed from the local padre. Where he lacked words, he filled the spaces with Kikuyu words or mumbled along.

After the burial, I waited to see Carlos’ soul ascending to heaven. It didn’t see it happen so I imagined him there. I saw him seated on the right side of the Light in some dog heaven where there were no strays or mongrels or mangy dogs with fleas since every dog was a thoroughbred with heavenly pedigree. In the dog’s heaven, it rained steak every morning and sausages every afternoon and avocados at dusk and the heavenly choir howled some dog ballads all night long. It’s only when we imagined that Carlos was in heaven that our minds found peace and started looking for another dog. By and by, we adopted another stray dog who remained nameless. However, he never replaced Carlos, but only expanded our hearts.

In our little minds we knew that this life isn’t fair to dogs-and maybe this also happens in the next world. Thus Carlos might have been locked out of heaven since he wasn’t washed by the blood of the Lamb. My cousin and I swore that if Carlos wasn’t in heaven, then when we die, we want to go where Carlos went. But if heaven really goes by merit and not favour, then Carlos is there, howling eternally while jumping up and down the golden stairs by the crystal shore.

Losing Carlos was painful for us ten year olds because we never pretended to love him-we loved him more than we loved ourselves. Thirty years down the line, I hardly recall the fall of Berlin Wall in October 1989 since that’s the time Carlos died. But I vividly recall Carlos since he left paw prints in or hearts no age can erase. This is because a loved one is not truly forgotten until he or she is no longer remembered. Carlos lives in our hearts, and like all things ever enjoyed can never be lost, but is a part of us.

When Carlos came into our lives, he taught us about love. When he left, he taught us about loss. No Professor, however well read, will ever teach you that.

Bobi

Bobi got paid on the 25th. It was earlier than usual. He had gotten a text that 25k had been deposited into his account. He went there feeling giddy and smiling at everyone. He withdrew 10k, 5k for rent and the rest to get a bit of food. He walked to Mageria’s kiosk with a thousand bob.” Nipee unga ya ugali kilo mbili na royco sachet mbili” he proclaimed proudly. Mageria took the 1000 bob, gave him his goods and change. 870 bob to be exact. “Kwani unga ilipanda tena?” Bobi asked counting his change a second time. “eeh, hujaskia? Ilipanda immediately tu after elections.” Bobi shook his head, “hawa watu aki” He put the 500 bob in his left pocket, the three hundred in his right and carried the 70 bob by hand.

He bought credit from mama Maina who had a small shop just below the apartment he lived in. She looked at his unga and royco, which he carried unwrapped, with disdain. “Naona siku hizi unanunua unga town” She proclaimed accusingly. “Apana, hizi niliachiwa na uncle kwa duka ya Mageria si ati nimenunua” Bobi lied. She gave him his credit, 50 bob airtel and 20 bob safaricom. He whispered a thank you and went into the apartments. He lived on the third floor. He walked up lazily, peeping into different houses on his way up.  When he got to the second floor, his pace slowed even further. Wanja was outside, struggling to light the jiko. “Nikuje nikuwashie?” he asked. “Apana, niko sawa.” He looked down at his unga and royco and then back at Wanja who had not looked up. “Ama ukuje tusaidiane hii unga yangu.” He asked only half joking. “Apana” Wanja started, finally looking up at him, “Ata sikulangi ugali.” Bobi chuckled, said okay, and continued up the last flight of stairs to his floor.

He lived in a bedsitter in room 36 at the corner. He got in and put the unga and royco on the small shelve near his sink. He then took a quick shower, got dressed, put on some axe, and headed out. He called his friend Kama on his way to the matatu stop. “Nakam hivo si ushike mzinga.” Then he hang up quickly leaving his friend no chance to protest. That was Bobi’s second mistake. When he got to Kama’s place, Mwajuma was sitting there, with a jar of honey on her hand. She got up at once and handed it to Bobi before proclaiming; “najua ulitaka mzinga lakini nilionelea nikuletee asali ili usisumbuane na nyuki.” Bobi laughed so hard he forgot his problem with Wanja. The rest of the evening turned out okay. Kama showed up with the drinks and Bobi even gave him more cash to fill up on the bottle they emptied too quickly. By the 1st, Bobi had used up nearly all of his money. It was time to go back to his frugal life as he waited for the next payday.

Tajiriman

By Elias Muthama

 

Not all superheroes wear capes. And Tajiri was one of those, you know the ones who probably have no idea who Clark Kent is. But Tajiri wore an old cowboy hat. Two things that were not apparent about this young man were the hat and the name Tajiri. His neighbours in Plot 13 had no idea what his real name was or why people called him by that moniker. The poor bastard just had a bed in his single room apartment. That notorious squeaky bed that thirsted for proper oiling and perhaps better bolts and nuts. That was apparent to the neighbours. The late night escapades had given him away.

“Mama, what’s that noise?”

“You ask a lot of questions Pendo. Have you done your homework?”

“The teacher did not give us any homework today.”

“Then finish your food and go to bed before I open a can of whoopass on you.”

Pendo’s mother clearly knew our superhero was not busy saving Gotham from the diabolical plans of villains such as the Joker. Tajiri was busy destroying the bed in his Bat Cave and probably the insides of some random woman. Pendo would probably not understand these things even if she had explained it to her. She was just an eight year old girl swimming in the ocean of sweet ignorance. Plot 13 had thin walls and this was the least of the worrying shenanigans they were yet to experience.

Just a fortnight ago, MrTumbo had stirred the pot of drama at the plot. He was a retired Headmaster of a girl’s secondary school. He had spent his years lusting on women and every night at the bar. His wife who had stuck with him through the years of his tomfoolery and bad decisions always mocked him on how he was a collosal failure for having spent their retirement benefits on alcohol and hookers.

“Look at you! What kind of a man are you? Your peers own plots and hardware shops and all you do is sit in the house all day and expect me to do everything. I should leave you, you good for nothing pig.”

“Don’t talk to me that way woman. I am still the man of this house!”

“You are a fat pig! You wasted all of our money on school girls and you won’t stop drinking cheap alcohol!”

“I still have money. Be nice to me or I will get myself a schoolgirl and spend my money with her.”

The school board had passed a message earlier to MrTumbo telling him they would be awarding him with a golden handshake cheque for his many years of service to the privately owned secondary school. He had not left his old ways and had decided to withhold that information from his dear wife.

 

“Wanja, a round for everyone on me.”

The patrons clapped and screamed at the generosity that MrTumbo was displaying at the Usiku Sana bar. They had no idea where had gotten the money but they did not care as long as the watering hole was not running dry that night.

MrTumbo had his pockets full and he was feeling like Midas, everything he was touching was to turn into gold that night. He smacked Wanja’s buttocks.

“You have no respect old man”

“Don’t call me old man, I am King Midas and whatever I touch turns into gold. You should count yourself very lucky.”

Wanja who was very infuriated at the arrogance and disrespect of the intoxicated misogynistic former Headmaster just shrugged and walked away to serve other tables. She knew better than to start a confrontation with this man who had the upperhand because he was spending the most in the bar and the other patrons in there were literally worshipping him.

“Where did you get this cow?”

“You are supposed to thank me woman, not ask a lot of questions.”

“And what are we supposed to do with a cow. We live in a rental house and there is no grass or even a place to keep it.”

“You always see the problem in everything. You have been complaining that I am a good for nothing man but now that I have bought you a cow you are still being an ungrateful bitter woman.”

Apparently, after King Midas had had too much to drink at the bar an opportunistic patron had managed to con him into buying an old sickly cow. That’s what he had taken back home to his woman.

 

“Tajiri, please help me with my homework. I don’t understand these mathematical questions.”

“I would love to help you right now Pendo but I can’t. I have to go somewhere.”

Mr Super-Rich-Guy had other plans. Plans to get into panties of some lass she had spotted a week ago. He was not going to let a little girl ruin his grand plans with some stupid homework. School was a useless thing to him and he had spent his time regretting all the money his parents had wasted on him in school.

“MrTumbo! MrTumbo!”

“Who is it?”

“Don’t ask me ‘Who is it’”

“Tajiri, is that you? What do you want?”

“Your stupid cow has chewed my shirt. You have to pay me.”

Tajiri had gone earlier to the clothing line only to find MrTumbo’s cow with the shirt he was supposed to wear for his skirt hunting escapade. But not even that would stop him. He was relentless and not even the fires of hades would stop him from releasing the frustration locked up in his loins. He had to pick another shirt but not it was not his first choice. Or at least the one that would have won him some points with the ladies.

On his way to see Rukia, Tajiri passed by a farm with a variety of flowers. Word had been she was not an easy to please lass. You either had to have a shitload of money or some sort of superpower for her to even look at you twice. Tajiri well knew ironically he was no rich man despite his moniker meaning a rich person in Swahili. So he knew a bunch of flowers would have done the trick. He quickly snuck in the garden of flowers and started with the red roses. Tajiri did not know this was also where the owner of that farm had his beehives. The sneaky little bastards with wings had done a number on the face of the intruder who had no courtesy to even knock and exchange a few pleasantries with them. Tajiri fled with a swollen face and screaming to his ancestors to rescue him from the wrath of the bees who were not going easy on him.

After that day the legend of Tajiri the poor boy had spread like an urban legend. He was a villain in your usual story but to those who had heard about him he was Superhero of sorts. His superpower was being a bad example. And the parents especially loved him because he was the perfect metaphor to tell to their mischievous children to get them in line. He was the story told to kids to warn them about what happens when you don’t abstain from sex. You get a hideous face. Deadpool hideous.

 

 

Avem

By Tim Maina

Krik! Krik! Krik!

Avem and a dozen other mothers called out to their chicks. Her two chicks have been missing for four nights now. Their chicks have not been found just yet.

By maternal guild, they hovered in the air; with nowhere to perch, occasionally looking down for that familiar plume and life. Only a gang of scavenging Sciurus lumbered around on the ground, mocking their call-outs with squeaks so horrible they hurt their ears. This called for punishment.

KRIK! No answer. KRIK! Nothing was said.

It was one of the saddest days of their lives. Trees get cut down in Mearowi daily, making food scarce for all. Trees have been disappearing for a longtime now, turning the land bare but not their brood. KRIK! Vir has been setting forests and grasslands on fire, pushing away other realities and life forms. But who cuts down the sacred Baobab that houses Avem’s clan? KRIK! The last of its kind on Mearowi. Who is this prick? KRIK! They cried out to Mearowi gods, made peace to the setting sun and the attendant moon throughout the night. KRIK!

Avem was upset, partly, on her own account that she lost her chicks; and upset on their account that they had a mother who could not protect them from getting crushed under the weight of the falling mighty Baobab, and from the lumberjacks.

She was also sad that her whole clan was sad, truthfully they still are.

She cannot sing again atop her house. The gigantic Baobab that straddled half the Mearowi land has been felled by Vir, crazy homines! Her favourite boughs where she plucks her feathers and sentimentally entangles with her new suitors during the high moon seasons have been made boat oars and doorknobs. The trunk where she hides her beaky brood now floats Vir on the waters of Mearowi. The lesser boughs and leaves that house many a wingy, crawly and slithery visitor from distant lands had all been stolen.

Only the oozing gummy stumps and roots strong and buried remind them of their once safe haven.

Avem conducted her clan through a dirge for the generation of fallen trees and family. Their rage burning to their stomachs, a taunting member of Sciurius gang was taloned and devoured; they soused their grieving beaks into tree stump tears and flew away.

*

Besides staring into the sea abyss, what else did Roughskin the randy pufferfish say to Toadie when he realised violent oncoming sea undercurrents?

He cried.

He cried out because the currents would flatten their sand nest on the ocean floor.

And Toadie?

Unsurprisingly, she too cried at the thought of rebuilding a new nest and at the sight of both of them crying.

Avem, do fish ever cry?

How the shoal should I know?

*

Far and below, Avem and her fellow riders spotted a flotilla of merchant vessels carrying away timber from Mearowi – dancing in the violent waves. The sea and Mearowi gods had heard them and were stirring up the sea.

High sea waters slapped at rocks, licked and crumbled foundations of houses on Mearowi Island. Flooded and drove homines off the streets. Cete, Balaena and other big sea mammals leapt into the air and back into water rocking the boats. Avir and his team squalled, reefing their sails. To save life and limb, they tossed away some of their possessions into the ocean.

The revenge was on.

KRIK! The band rained volleys of fire at the escaping boats. Dragon fire! The fire consumed half the boats, sinking, as the stormy sea swallowed them. The angry birds in their hundreds rioted and attacked the merchants.

They relished in gorging out their eyes and incinerating the boat parts. When a dragon gets a whiff of your blood, be very worried. Seventeen sailors were left blind, bleeding and half burnt. So they stumbled and fell off the deck into the deep of the ocean. Would you deny a dying man a drink of water?

Krik! Krik! Krik! Till the sea cleared.

The squadron knew it did not have much time left; it had given off too much. Wearied to the bone in a disappearing melancholy, it rose high up in the sky paying homage to Solis krik, krik, krik until the kriking killed it. Each dragon bird burst into a ball of fire and rained down flaming into the sea; burnt to cinders.

Avem when you find our chicks, tell them we perished in good cause.

When the land regenerates; does everything always have to come back to krik, krik, krik?