BURNING OUT

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I am burning out

I am getting too weary

And this love is becoming more of a burden

That is pressing me down.

I am burning out

And these voices won’t mute

They speak incessantly

In a hushed tone

They say ‘let go’

But I don’t know how.

I am burning out

My heart is a soaked sponge

My chest is thick with lodged emotion

My bosom is a Jerry can with water half its capacity

And my head a crowded room of loud whispers.

I am burning out

I can feel the heat freeze within me

I can smell victorious defeat coming my way

I can hear my heart crack along love grains

I can taste the sour taste of my tears

I can see the smoke, rising in single rings.

#thewordbrewer

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GIFT OF LOVE

MUM

While we look around for the ultimate way to gift you.

While we yearn to learn how to appreciate what you’ve done for us.

While we discuss amongst ourselves

And remind each other with so much awe

How much you’ve been the mother that we adore.

While we reminisce sitting on your lap

Watching how your lips move when you spoke gently to us.

While we hope to compose legendary songs for you.

While we shine under the ray of your relentless prayers.

While we bask on your goodwill for us.

While we hope that you will be here so long

That our children’s children and their children will behold in you what we have.

While you become better with time.

It is never lost upon us to gift you with LOVE, mother.

Because all these things will dwindle away.

Others will fade into oblivion.

But I will always carry you in my heart.

We will always have you in our thoughts.

And LOVE you even when LOVE tries to leap from me.

 

#thewordbrewer

CROOKED ALIGNMENT

 

It is clear that he left without a shred of intention to return. Not even when she implored and wept and fought. He doesn’t notice the struggle. And when he does he stares like a blind man. Pretending not to behold.

Christine tries to live without him. At times she weeps bitterly. The tears however do not wash away her sorrows. After nights of soaked pillows she fails to realize that this loneliness lives in her heart. Not on her swollen cheeks. Not on her curvy hips that she lets warm bath water run over. Gleaming in the light of the darkness of her ultimate loss.

Now that she only listens to the echoes of that warm laughter she once unleashed, Christine relives the gone days. His deep voice resonates at a depth of her heart. It once gave her goose bumps and left her giddy. She still feels his tender touch today; warm and reassuring.

Some of those evenings they sat on a rock shooting breeze. And hearts. The rays of the setting sun floating on trees tops turning the leaves golden. Christine then knew that with the long stretch of the land that lay still before them they would walk far leaving behind a trail of dripping passion. Her heart was smitten. And in total glare of soaring falcons and baboons plucking some red fruits under their feet they kissed passionately. They licked each other clean of sweetness.

When he was hers they would text the night away. Wishing they had each other in their arms. They kissed through the phone and felt it on their lips. To them each heartbeat was a banging within demanding for a physical reunion.

A shape was drawn strictly for two. The mysterious boundaries bore their names: Christine and Shaw and their little secrets. Like two weaver birds building a nest they worked on it. At times in turns. At times in unison. It was to be custom just to soot their specific preferences. She preferred Pink and woolen. He just wanted a reading room from whence he would write her love poems. And so their wishes were granted.

Then time brought in turbulence. Something of a typhoon she can’t understand. All she knows is she is now all alone in this love nest. And she can’t seem to find anyone to replace him. What if he comes back and finds the smell of another man in his manor? Will this other one assimilate their exquisite preferences?

Each night when there is a full moon she lays on the wet grass, staring at that glowing ball of light that so reminds her of Shaw. It is as if the ethereal rays convey the sweet aroma of his cologne. With her neck exposed, the shimmering light feeds the golden ring on her neck with light which in turn feeds her of his begotten love. It is only since the scatology that Christine has learnt to wear it on the outside. Lying to the world that he bought it during their Valentines that never was.

Each night when the moon is anything but full she lays on her bed. Staring silently at the dear snapshots of the handsome Shaw through a film of tears. He never smiled in photographs Shaw. Christine wishes she had a single shot of his smile so she could keep it in her heart.

On those haunting nights Christine texts him. Even when she knows that Shaw reads her sob texts and never bothers to reply. In his silence she finds company. Christine can’t crack him with love anymore. But somehow she knows what breaks him. Oh bless the diamonds between her thighs.

They used to make love like Rabbits. She can’t stop fantasizing those orgasm filled moments. When he could wreck through the contours of her body leaving Christine exasperated. Seizure. Of those unbelievable moments. Of gasps. And sweat. And cries. And shallow breaths.

Shaw nowadays just calls. She offers herself hoping it would help but he never looks back after he is done drawing leading marks all over her body. He leaves Christine writhing with desire. He fucks her right. She loves him right. What a crooked alignment.

Now, with pieces of a broken heart, she chases Shaw around like a graduate does jobs. And Christine was taught never to give up. She practically doesn’t know how. However much he goes mute on her, scorches her with scolding words and leaps behind shadows whenever she calls his name, Christine trails.

When finally he finds his way back home she will receive him. She will guide him to their bed. And they will make love to drain the restlessness that they harbor. He will knit back together the broken pieces of her. In the victory of the moment, Christine will breathe easy. And for once sleep tight.

However, one afternoon while watching the wedding show on TV disinterested, Christine saw him. He was in a dark tuxedo. Darker than sin. He was getting married to a girl far better than Christine. He looked happier than he was with her. The world could as well hear Christine’s heart break. She realized then that all this while it was just fractured.

#thewordbrewer

 

A MESSAGE OF FOOD(continued)

turkana

After minutes of agony, she regained her sight.

Suddenly, in the horizon she saw a white wavy figure. Her memory reminded her that there was originally nothing at the end. Was it her failing eyesight?

The figure was approaching their hut. Leshao, linking the figure to her trembling foot, shuddered with terror. She felt dizzy again. Worry was fast filling up her already full cup. She fought the thought that something bad was impending.

Rings of dust rose up high into the sky as the white structure came to a stop. Leshao had seen this big moving thing years ago when the Red Cross people had brought them food. Her hope for food rose steadily like a balloon being inflated.

Three people jumped out. They were fat and imposing. Their white polo shirts were brownish with all the dust. They had a huge camera and small bags. Leshao was baffled by their soft and bright skin. They had lots of energy.

“Hello? We are from Nairobi and we come with food”. One of them in clear spectacles could speak her native language.

Leshao did not respond. She wadded off flies from her eyes. The mention of food did strike a chord in her but she did not disclose any sign of excitement. The word sounded mysterious. It had not been pronounced in her hut for so long.

“What is your name?” the man was crouching close to her with her gloomy expression on his face.

“Leshao.” It came almost as a whisper.

All this while, another man held the camera on his shoulder and focused it on Leshao and her sickly children. None of them moved or said a word. They stared through squinted eyes while flies hovered around their faces.

“Where is everybody else?”

“Dead.”

“You mean everyone?”

“Some moved to look for food.”

There she said it! She had savored the word, suckled on it but it still sounded out of place. Like a river of cool water flowing right through Kachepin.

“And your husband?”

Leshao wanted to demand for food the man had said he had brought over. The little strength she had was draining away. The fact that she had managed to speak at all was a miracle. Her throat was dry. Her lips were dry. Her skin was heavily dehydrated. Her surrounding was dry.

The woman in long dark silky hair took a bottle from the truck and drunk from it. Leshao watched in disbelief. She swallowed hard.  She stared at it, gulping it down in her head. Her eyes danced with the water in the bottle whenever the woman disturbed it. Faintly, she raised an arm as if receiving the rare commodity.

“Do you have a husband?”

“Yes” she replied, her gaze arrested by the water.

“Where is he?”

“Went to look for food.”

The woman tool another sip. Leshao plunged into a world of fantasy. Her whole world was filled with flowing river feeding big lakes. A faint wind blew dust towards her and she withdrew.

“We will tell the government to bring you food. Okay?”

“Who is that?”

“Don’t worry. Someone will come with food.”

As the dust embraced the hot air, Leshao embraced bitterness and desperation. She watched as the white truck disappeared into the horizon the same way it had appeared.

Her last born child broke into frail wails.

Days later, Leshao moaned the death of Nanok, her fifth child. Hunger was taking away their thirst. She was never strong enough to offer her children a decent send off. So, she watched the vultures wrestle over the remnants of her offspring.

She sat in sorrow watching the horizon where the truck had disappeared to. The darkness would soon blanket the hut and its miseries. And in deep pain, her heart shrunk and her spirit wilted. Leshao had seen life commence and end. She was alone and all around her was sand, dust, bones and vultures.

Her body like an old engine was coming to a stop. She could feel gates close up. Pain eloped from her body and she could feel it drift away until she could feel nothing. Despair was winning. Her limbs disconnected from her body, then her head. Finally, she let out the last gulps of breath and in the gloomy light and dust saw a figure approaching.

#thewordbrewer

 

 

INTIMIDATING ALLURE

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NOTE: In memory of Westgate attack victims

Colour

That come with intimidating allure.

Red

That sharpen memories that fade.

Blood

That fluid make me mad.

Night

That each day make me cringe tight.

Sounds

That to my ears are like hungry hounds.

Existence

That haunts with pestilence.

#thewordbrewer

A MESSAGE OF FOOD

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photo: Kevin Carter
1993

It was mid- January. The sun was shining more out of spite than out of passion to light the world. Not even a misty appearance was visible. The sky looked like it had been swept clean. The wind was faint, dry and hot. Occasionally, thick dust rose up turning the air into a brown smoke screen. Trees stood still in their nakedness facing the heat with a reckoning desperation.

A faint hollow wail punched the air. Its frail edges were distinct and characteristic. It was a cry that could be traced to only one culprit; hunger. It was a cry, even though inevitable, dreaded by Leshao. She turned to look lazily as she whisked flies off her face. Her eyes were barely a slit open. There was absolutely nothing she could do and soon the kid succumbed to fatigue and dealt with his demise in silence filled with pure agony.

Leshao peered beyond something that looked like a pool of water at a distance. She knew it was a deception, a making by the evil one. Hope had long withered in her heart with all the green leaves last year. She turned away from the falsehood with resentment and her gaze landed on carcasses of her husband’s last heads of cattle. Dust was concealing it from the face of extreme suffering.

Vultures fought over the surface pieces displacing sand around the dead animals. Each tore a piece of flesh off with a lot of effort. Leshao wished she could act like the scavengers. That small piece of rotten meat meant a lot to her family. It was the difference between sunrise and sunset. She was even ready to consume it now but she was too weak to stand a chance among the cruel birds. She could lose her life in the process and end up in the vultures’ digestive system.

Humanity at Kachepin was on the verge of extinction. Leshao was certain of that. She wished she had moved with the rest of the community when they were leaving for places with better pasture and water. But her love for her husband could not let her. She had to wait for him. She knew he would come back to take them to Kitale or somewhere with life and government.  

Tears had long dried out from Leshao’s sunken eyes. She only wept with her heart. Wept hard for her eight children who were better off dead. She wept for her two dead children and their gone grandparents. She wept bitterly. But her face remained expressionless or it had gotten used to the expression of pain and suffering for it was constantly in the form.

Her skin was dry, loose and dark. Her legs were thin, so thin that all the contours of the bones were visible. Almost all the children had awkwardly big heads with scattered hair on the scalp. They all looked dull. In their eyes was a lost glare.

A yellow bowl rested a few yards from the leaning hut. Leshao had been waking up to its sight for the whole week. No one but the wind shifted it around a little. Sand grains and fine dust were collecting in it.

Kachepin locale fell silent. Leshao felt strongly that something bad was going to happen. Her foot was trembling. She tried to hit it against the sand in a desperate attempt to stop it.

She looked at her children. The youngest laid strewn on the animal skin breathing like a sick dog under the sun’s glare. Something churned in her bosom. She did not want to lose him. Neither did she fancy the sight of his suffering. She hated her past, her present and direly loathed her future.

The foot trembled more.

For the first time in that day, she decided to take a walk around the hut. The sun was scorching outside. The sand too was just too hot to stand on bare feet. Joints creaked and Leshao groaned as she struggled to get up only to fall back onto her sitting place the same instant.

She fell dizzy. Her sight lurched into darkness and her skin crawled. The world was spinning fast. Leshao remained still like she had done for years. Certainly, it was a bad idea to get off the ground at the time of day.

(TO BE CONTINUED…)

#thewordbrewer

PATRONS

PATRONS

Last night while the world held its breath

And the silence made lots of loud noise

And my shallow breaths nourished my lungs with pure gulps of air

And dogs coiled into rings against walls

And the cats made love in the maize plantation

I had a dream.

I ran a bar with a personality for ages

Whose name was binnsword

Whose drinks were beer and whiskey only

Whose color was dark mahogany with a hint of maroon

Whose smell was delicious smoky aroma

Whose patrons were sophisticated folks

Haboring a taste for literature in their tongues

And a binoculars for art in their eyes

Loyal individuals

Who trooped to the well with the weight of sorrows weighing down upon them

And like maasai men leaving their spears at the entrance to manyatta

Stolled their troubles by the swinging double doors

And let binnsword massage joy into them

And energy

And esteem.

And I was the bar man

With the caramel skin

A  skill to die for

And mute.

#thewordbrewer

Prisoners of War (continued)

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AFP

I was taken back to the events of the fateful day. When the whole world was on fire. Big yellow flames lit up the camp. Loud noises of thunderous blasts mixed with groans of pain from fellow soldiers. People scampered around yelling. I could hardly hear what they said in their guttural cries. At a distance I could see a man wavering while a gigantic tongue of flames licked through him. Gunshots everywhere.

More out of instinct than training, I stayed down. Still struggling to comprehend the happenings in the aura. From all around, my colleagues let out their last shrills of death. The smell of fire and burning tires filled the air. Sweat draped my body and my jungle shirt was all wet.

A soldier on the run was shot in the back and his body fell on me with a thud. His head lay on my chest with warm blood quickly travelling all over my body. I trembled in the heat of bewilderment. The air was awash with their commands and husky voices. They jumbled their Arabic and all I could hear was quarrels. I lay still as a dodo expectant of the worst.

Isolated shots hit and rebounded across all rooms in my head. I knew they weren’t taking any chances. They were here for nothing but to steal, kill and destroy. I tried to put my composure on a handle as I waited impatiently for the bullet. Or to be taken as a POA. The bullets I had been instructed to riddle into the body of my enemy were now about to turn on me. How disloyal.

All these while, the blood of the fallen man laying lifeless over my body oozed and gave me a bloody bath. I persevered the smell of fresh human blood as it glided over my numb skin. Insanity gripped. I wanted the blood to flow into my mouth so I could taste death that hovered around like a dragon fly over a river. My head was blank, plunged into darkness. Suddenly the dead man was followed into his death by a bullet that spread his brains all over my face.

I died long before death descended. But I woke up to gunshots in the air and the heat of the sun. The brutal militants were celebrating their victory. The taste of victory was rife in their celebration. To them, this one win meant universal win against these people who only harbored opinions about humanity. There was a smirk of pain to put on any face that thought life was any special. Every burst of the shot shook my being to the root. I wished I was among those who were already dead. It is always better to wind up dead than have the misfortune of the thought of death while breathing in air smelling of its horrid escapades.

With their heads swollen with pride of having brought down a whole military camp that had thwarted their existence, the wild brutes were at it again. Their voices came in and suddenly, someone was holding my leg. Instinct instructed me to act, perhaps kick whoever it was in the balls and, once free, take off but common sense lurking in the shadows of dread opposed. Clearly the prospects were thinner than a spider’s thread.

I wondered what the militant wanted in a dead bare black leg. Clearly, there was no boot to steal, for the shameless thief who steals from the dead. In retrospect however, this one was into far worse endeavor. He tied my leg with a rope and I was dragged on the hot sand of somali land like a log. Dust flew into my nostrils and I dared not sneeze. I could perceive shuffles of more bodies being dragged by my side. Friction did its part in tuning up the intense pain I was undergoing thus I was knocked unconscious and offered a worthwhile break from the fire.

Later, I could feel the wrath of the sun on my legs. My whole body was on fire, from the pain, from the heat, from the bitterness. Something passed me a note instructing that I lay still if I was to ever look at the faces of my torturers and grin.

The pain became unbearable. I was approaching a breaking point and indeed I snapped and sat up. And I imagined myself looking nothing shot of a zombie. It felt like there was a ball of orange coal logged in my chest. For the first time, I unclosed my eyes. The hot noon sun forced a squint on me. I could only behold a hazy world of dead soldiers strewn all over. Dust repainted their uniform, for those who had any, brown. The militants stooped facing mecca with their wrapped heads moving up and down from the ground.

The same instinct which had been leading me ordered me to leap to a nearby thicket and weigh my chances from there. Between hope and I was darkness. I was not sure if I still had that opportunity to hope. It all ends at the grave. And looking at my situation from all angles, I was headed there real fast.

I sneaked away while they wobbled. In the temporary safety I lay on my back and sighed hesitantly. Whoever their god was had found it in his heart to gift me with a breather. I seized the opportunity to stack up my life. To focus my last thoughts on my wife who had dedicated her life to me. She was beautiful, tender and softhearted. Being a lover of country music I hoped my situation won’t be like that in the video of Brad Presley’s Whiskey Lullaby. The thought of whiskey reminded me that I was thirsty. My tongue was dry and swollen.

Suddenly a wave of grief consumed my soul. I began mumbling to myself how sorry I was not to fulfil the promise of returning to my wife. The shatter of her heart would be heard in my grave when finally she learns of my demise. Tears mixed with blood, brain matter and dust particles and raced towards my ears.

I hated myself for making promises I could not keep. Regrets wielding excruciating pain consumed my soul and smothered the pain on my body. However, I congratulated myself for trying to wear the patriotism jersey that always ended up haunting its bearers. Soon I was to join a team of veterans like Dedan Kimathi who drowned in puddles of their patriotic blood. Somehow I found comfort in that even if there existed zero chance that my statue would make it to the city center or anywhere else for that matter.

A rattle snake glided towards me. Death is like a fisherman. Once in its hook, successfully unhooking yourself never translates to salvation. I lay still, a trick I was now an expert in. The brown snake with black patches slithered over my skin and headed straight into a hole a few yards from my hide out. I let out my breath only to behold two thin militants wielding AK47 rifles surging forth.

I was thrown into the sharp blades of dilemma. It was a game of tiger or woman. However, this one was custom; tiger or tiger.

I willingly chose to die by snake venom than to endure torture from the brutes I so despised. For its worth, it is far better to die by the fangs of an animal itself than those of one passing for a human being. I slid into the anteater hole. The snake, disturbed from its siesta, engaged me in a staring contest. We locked eyes until the viper gave up and crawled out. And I knew I owed him one.

Sounds of sandal crushing on sand drifted closer in doubles and I held my breath. The conversation grew louder and went mute immediately they were near my hiding.

Soon, the whiff of fresh shit filled the air. In my hole I didn’t mind for the stench of death was far much worse. The militants having emptied their bowels walked away feeling good. What with the victory still riding their air. The steps faded away until they merged with the gush of blood in my ears and I let out the breath.

The warmth of the dark hole and the intensity of the pain worked together and sent me into deep sleep. Perhaps it was my last before I was eventually dragged into everlasting slumber.

I woke thundering sounds of helicopters flying over El- Ade town and bombs detonating like the ones in the morning. I suspected it was the KDF rescue team giving the militants a taste of their own battle. I clunk to hope like a kid clinks to its mothers dress when being dropped at school for the first time.

I crawled out and I met images of a town on fire. Tables were turning. What a great way to take turns in setting each other on fire like drunken dragons. I stood stock still, unsure of what to do next. Just then, I heard a commanding voice behind me saying.

“Wewe ni nani?”(who are you?)

And before I could answer we were at the Defense Forces Memorial Hospital. The smell of the medicine made me sick. Corporal Tabut was still mute. He only took instruction as the military regulations clearly stipulated. We lay on our respective hospital beds, with Corporal just across. I stared on the cream walls but actually saw fire embedded deep within the reflection from the overhead fluorescent bulb. And I drifted into sleep.

Saturday, 16th January, 2016 three days after the indelible experience, I was discharged. Corporal Tabut was still mute, unable to speak a word of his meeting with the Lord. I called my wife at the bus station informing her of my arrival. She wasn’t excited at all. Her voice was flat and doubtful.

That evening I arrived home just when the sun was setting. Creepy veins of darkness were starting to show up. The sight of my village gave me a sigh of relieve. I looked at the door to my wooden house and smiled at the fact that behind that door, waited my wife. Behind that door, I knew, was where home was at.

I knocked hesitantly.

I adjusted my packback and entered triumphantly only to meet head on with a sharp cold steel. It drove deep into the side of my neck and I fell. I saw my wife in all her glory leap over my body and embraced the thickening darkness. The world got dingy until I could see nothing. I struggled to see the face of whoever had drove the machete into my flesh to no avail.

As I drifted into gallows of death I had fought with defiance, I received a revelation. I was not only a prisoner of war from the ruthless militants. Behind my back lurked dark figures that had engaged me in an unending battle I did not know I was in. For the fallen in the field, their names made it to the silver plate in the memorial wall at the barracks. For me, I had died a death not befitting a soldier.

#thewordbrewer

PRISONERS OF WAR

AFPkenyan soldiers

NOTE: In memory of El Adde attack fallen soldiers

Ours is not to ask why,

Ours is not to reason why,

Ours is to execute command and or die.

That their country came tumbling down was their doing. That all forms of governance are crippled is their endeavor. But they made a mistake when they came for the sovereignty of ours. And we chose this path. Both to fight for our pride and feed our families. For these and a little more we became prisoners of war.

I humped down the steps of the small military plane. Grey clouds hovered over dimming the day light as if forcing grief on everyone else who was on our side. I took in large gulps of the fresh air smelling of safety. The kind that let me breathe easy, at least for that while. People in tight military gear and disturbed faces stood straight. Their mournful eyes fixated on the door of the plane.

Silence.

Gen. Samson Mwathethe was there to dispense upon us his salute. Survivors of an early morning ambush. Fallen heroes in caskets draped with the glorious Kenyan flag. The red strip of it screaming louder than ever in the gloomy weather.

Defense cabinet secretary was only there in body. Her red lips hung loose while her eyes were glistened by lingering tears. She hugged the four of us and when it was my turn I felt searing pain on my stomach. Still, I sunk deep into her embrace.

Soldiers stood in oblique lines. Stiff and alert. Their boots shone even in the slight glint of the struggling sun. Their faces were expressionless. Once a casket was out of the plane they hauled it as is required of them. For them, as it is for us, the clock is always a taunting chime.

I sat in the ambulance. Silent and still shaken. My thoughts wondered back. Way back to my childhood when I used to look up to men in uniforms with so much adoration. The idea of being a soldier in those beautiful jungle uniform seemed godly. Then I grew in the thoughts to the memory of my wife. I knew she still prayed for me. She always seemed desirous about those prayers especially after I was deployed to Somalia to wreak havoc upon the Shabaab insurgents.

Corporal Tabut sat by my side. His left arm was suspended on a blue sling. He was lost in his own thoughts. Perhaps he was dumb after having met with God. As the ambulance took us further from the war field, his stare lingered on the window. He was looking into a horrifying scene. Or his own translucent reflection.

I was taken back to the events of the fateful day. When the whole world was on fire. Big yellow flames lit up the camp. Loud noises of thunderous blasts mixed with groans of pain from fellow soldiers. People scampered around yelling. I could hardly hear what they said in their guttural cries. At a distance I could see a man wavering while a gigantic tongue of flames licked through him. Gunshots everywhere.

More out of instinct than training, I stayed down. Still struggling to comprehend the happenings in the aura. From all around, my colleagues let out their last shrills of death. The smell of fire and burning tires filled the air. Sweat draped my body and my jungle shirt was all wet.

A soldier on the run was shot in the back and his body fell on me with a thud. His head lay on my chest with warm blood quickly travelling all over my body. I trembled in the heat of bewilderment. The air was awash with their commands and husky voices. They jumbled their Arabic and all I could hear was quarrels. I lay still as a dodo expectant of the worst.

Isolated shots hit and rebounded across all rooms in my head. I knew they weren’t taking any chances. They were here for nothing but to steal, kill and destroy. I tried to put my composure on a handle as I waited impatiently for the bullet. Or to be taken as a POA. The bullets I had been instructed to riddle into the body of my enemy were now about to turn on me. How disloyal.

All these while, the blood of the fallen man laying lifeless over my body oozed and gave me a bloody bath. I persevered the smell of fresh human blood as it glided over my numb skin. Insanity gripped. I wanted the blood to flow into my mouth so I could taste death that hovered around like a dragon fly over a river. My head was blank, plunged into darkness. Suddenly the dead man was followed into his death by a bullet that spread his brains all over my face.

I died long before death descended. But I woke up to gunshots in the air and the heat of the sun. The brutal militants were celebrating their victory. The taste of victory was rife in their celebration. To them, this one win meant universal win against these people who only harbored opinions about humanity. There was a smirk of pain to put on any face that thought life was any special. Every burst of the shot shook my being to the root. I wished I was among those who were already dead. It is always better to wind up dead than have the misfortune of the thought of death while breathing in air smelling of its horrid escapades.

With their heads swollen with pride of having brought down a whole military camp that had thwarted their existence, the wild brutes were at it again. Their voices came in and suddenly, someone was holding my leg. Instinct instructed me to act, perhaps kick whoever it was in the balls and, once free, take off but common sense lurking in the shadows of dread opposed. Clearly the prospects were thinner than a spider’s thread.

I wondered what the militant wanted in a dead bare black leg. Clearly, there was no boot to steal, for the shameless thief who steals from the dead. In retrospect however, this one was into far worse endeavor. He tied my leg with a rope and I was dragged on the hot sand of somali land like a log. Dust flew into my nostrils and I dared not sneeze. I could perceive shuffles of more bodies being dragged by my side. Friction did its part in tuning up the intense pain I was undergoing thus I was knocked unconscious and offered a worthwhile break from the fire.

Later, I could feel the wrath of the sun on my legs. My whole body was on fire, from the pain, from the heat, from the bitterness. Something passed me a note instructing that I lay still if I was to ever look at the faces of my torturers and grin.

The pain became unbearable. I was approaching a breaking point and indeed I snapped and sat up. And I imagined myself looking nothing shot of a zombie. It felt like there was a ball of orange coal logged in my chest. For the first time, I unclosed my eyes. The hot noon sun forced a squint on me. I could only behold a hazy world of dead soldiers strewn all over. Dust repainted their uniform, for those who had any, brown. The militants stooped facing mecca with their wrapped heads moving up and down from the ground.

The same instinct which had been leading me ordered me to leap to a nearby thicket and weigh my chances from there. Between hope and I was darkness. I was not sure if I still had that opportunity to hope. It all ends at the grave. And looking at my situation from all angles, I was headed there real fast.

I sneaked away while they wobbled. In the temporary safety I lay on my back and sighed hesitantly. Whoever their god was had found it in his heart to gift me with a breather. I seized the opportunity to stack up my life. To focus my last thoughts on my wife who had dedicated her life to me. She was beautiful, tender and softhearted. Being a lover of country music I hoped my situation won’t be like that in the video of Brad Presley’s Whiskey Lullaby. The thought of whiskey reminded me that I was thirsty. My tongue was dry and swollen.

Suddenly a wave of grief consumed my soul. I began mumbling to myself how sorry I was not to fulfil the promise of returning to my wife. The shatter of her heart would be heard in my grave when finally she learns of my demise. Tears mixed with blood, brain matter and dust particles and raced towards my ears.

I hated myself for making promises I could not keep. Regrets wielding excruciating pain consumed my soul and smothered the pain on my body. However, I congratulated myself for trying to wear the patriotism jersey that always ended up haunting its bearers. Soon I was to join a team of veterans like Dedan Kimathi who drowned in puddles of their patriotic blood. Somehow I found comfort in that even if there existed zero chance that my statue would make it to the city center or anywhere else for that matter.

A rattle snake glided towards me. Death is like a fisherman. Once in its hook, successfully unhooking yourself never translates to salvation. I lay still, a trick I was now an expert in. The brown snake with black patches slithered over my skin and headed straight into a hole a few yards from my hide out. I let out my breath only to behold two thin militants wielding AK47 rifles surging forth.

I was thrown into the sharp blades of dilemma. It was a game of tiger or woman. However, this one was custom; tiger or tiger.

I willingly chose to die by snake venom than to endure torture from the brutes I so despised. For its worth, it is far better to die by the fangs of an animal itself than those of one passing for a human being. I slid into the anteater hole. The snake, disturbed from its siesta, engaged me in a staring contest. We locked eyes until the viper gave up and crawled out. And I knew I owed him one.

#THEWORDBREWER

Tuesday Jazz Night

NOTE

THIS STORY IS A BINNSWORD PERSPECTIVE AFTER SAVORING BIKOZULU’S MASTERPIECE TITLED ‘THIS MAN AND HIS SAXOPHONE’ PUBLISHED IN 2014.

ENJOY!

SAX

As a waiter at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Balcony Bar, I have witnessed men of means sway in with an air of power. Men whose hand stitched leather shoes equals my entire year’s salary plus all the tips put together. Corporate women whose suits have a better reputation than I do. And their entire existence seems to be riddled in silence or little whisper-like talks. But they laugh so loudly their quiet music fades into oblivion. This is on any ordinary day when I smile professionally. But then there’s Tuesdays. The sweet Jazz night. When patrons troop in to get hypnotised along with the celebrated jazz aces.

On this blessed evening Hellon and his band drive the troubles of our hearts away. Under the misty blue and green and red lights, he exudes a kind of confidence that further enhances his passion for good old jazz. Tonight he is bold in a pink shirt and tie. His Italian suit matches the rich dark tone of his skin. In the consortium of the lazy lights, his hair gleam along the curls making his head look like a pine cone.

The golden watch dangles restlessly on his wrist as if trying to outshine the glinting sax clasped solemnly in his arms. Deep in a hubbub of a conversation, the patrons sink into the lounge chairs. Lonely souls who have come for the weekly revival service swirl their drinks while listening to the throb of the fountain underneath the lush balcony.

I wade around, taking orders dutifully. Listening to complaints and apologizing as if heavenly doors will draw shut upon me if I don’t. Cleaning tables with a dump white cloth I am supposed to carry around as if it contains the waiters’ creed that I am struggling to memorize. In this endeavor, the corner of my eye is ever fixed on my GM who is busy interacting with guests more to spot my flaws than to encourage them to keep coming back again and again until the day either one of this two happens; he loses his job or gets promoted to glory.

As I stand next to a pillar dearly holding on to my silver tray, I defy the rules and take a peek at this man and his saxophone. His eyes are clung shut and I can see his neck muscles bulge. His hands fondle with the breast of the instrument and out of it oozes music for the soul. It buoys through the room like a lazy wave. Its blunt edges tickle my ears and I wish I had a glass of whiskey; just to go with it. Damn the rules.

I drown in the moment and consequently lose track of the GM. The next I know is him standing next to me. He shoots at me with an eye that says “you better focus on clients” and sends me over to a table with a man with a prodigious forehead. Having borne that burden on his head all his life, the GM offers to buy him a drink. Maybe.

Without staring directly at his forehead, I tell him that Mr. Manish has bought him a drink and ask him what he will have.

“I have a very early morning tomorrow. What do you recommend that is light?” he can’t keep his eyes off the platform.

“Courvoisier, perhaps?”

“I have had the VS before…. But wasn’t exactly tickled.”

“Perhaps you can try the XO?”

“Is it any good?”

“It’s premium, sir.”

I’m not going to brag but I will have to describe to you how Courvoisier XO is served. The brandy glass is placed on a glass of steaming hot water. The steam warms the brandy releasing its rich bouquet, which is then trapped in the mouth of the glass. Mr. Forehead seems intrigued as I make my way across the balcony bar with a white towel draped over my arm.

I walk back to my spot and watch him take a sip and feel the cognac in his mouth as if unsure of its taste. He then sways his forehead across the room, perhaps barring some patrons from having a view of the bearers of the instruments that soften up their evening, and raises his glass to Mr. Manish. The GM, as he always does, nods in acquiesce.

The evening slowly wears away and with it the thrill of the lulling music. Patrons get drunk and get louder. They begin ordering more and more and tipping more as well. Hellon plays on, undeterred by their drunk shouts. One after the other, they wave at him and totter away.

#THEWORDBREWER