Stanoh came the other day to my room looking all smiles. I knew right away that the lord was working magic in his life. The guy I had known all along kept his euphoria to himself opting to stay calm and expressionless. The spackle in his eyes gave him away so easily. I tried to echo his joy but my hunger stopped me. The ngumus I had had for lunch became the wall on which the echo was bounced away.
He smiled at my roommates who happen to be his classmates. They both looked on with disapproval. The smile withered away as he went ahead and thumped fists. His brownish loafers were sparkling clean warranting him to come through without leaving them at the door like we all did. George proposed a game of cards and everyone in the room but I was accordant. Stanoh, known to easily assent to a game of poker than any other thing assented reluctantly pointing out that he was running to town (Yeah, he is a kale).
“I need to get to safcom house before it closes.”
“Kwani uliwahi?” Ben inquired as he shuffled the faded cards.
And we all knew that he had hit the jackpot. Little did we know that he had actually dwarfed our anticipation and knocked off a windfall.
“Those are new.” Alex said pointing at Stanoh’s shoes.
Then they fell silent. The shuffling of cards and its soft tap on the wooden chair ruled the hot room. It was peppered by groans and snappy calls of “cardi”. The power was off for the second day, otherwise, I promise, Maria Roza would be booming from the JVC woofer while in between would have been the Mollis music effect.
Stanoh had plomised, sorry promised, to play only one game but ended up playing five too many hoping to lose a game after another to no avail. He would only leave if he lost a game. He shouted “cardi”, threw in his cards, won the game and asked me what time it was. I looked at my wrist watch and gave have up too soon. I decided to go for the much straightforward clock on my phone screen. It was 03:31 PM.
As Stanoh rose to leave- after consistently winning all the eight rounds- George clutched the sleeve of his shirt.
“How do you place it?”
“Tushow man.” Ben implored.
“I will show you later. I’m running late.”
“Sasawa budah. By the way uliwahi mangapi?” Alex inquired.
“Kiasi tu. Twenty two k.”
I was bewildered. Stanoh had placed his bet with merely a hundred bob. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed like a joke. Then I put myself in his shoes. I envisioned myself winning the same amount. How I would put the money into use. How I would be liberated from the meal of baked wheat products and tea without milk and all the cocoa and coffee.
However much I tried to vary, it all ended up tasting tartish. It went something like; chapatti with tea without milk in the morning, ngumu with cocoa at noon and mandazi with Nescafe in the evening. Bread with eggs was so rare I render it negligible. Right then, I knew that if I placed a bet and my lucky star approved of it I would be wallowing in the clouds.
Then the game between Chelsea FC and Swansea City FC materialized. Who did not know that Morinho would spew his entire wrath on poor Garry Monk after a shameful thrashing from a long time rival Wenger? I knew it too. No, I was freaking sure. And so I pushed my whole two hundred shillings on to the gambling table and clicked win.
Despite all the surety, I had to hesitate. I was throwing everything I had and would have for the next three weeks onto the unclear path of luck. I swear it was the thin thread between me and total pangs of hunger. It was the legal tender that accorded me the wheat products that I so much despised. It was the dough that kept me breathing like I was a patient and it was the life machine clicking my life away.
I sat back after Sportpesa took away my last breath. I inhaled deeply, a hesitant breath. At the back of my mind ran uncertainties. What if I lost? What if I win? I had placed all my trust on a man I never knew. A man I only saw on Super Sport 3. A human being who did not know that there was another human being in some part of the world who was risking his only two hundred bob on believe of fortune.
My heart thumped. The rain fell. I could hear the drops hitting the ground forcefully. The air was as still as if it was waiting on the rain to stop. It was cold and I connected the coil to the naked wires protruding from what was once a socket.
I stared at the screen of my phone battling the temptation to check the progress. I tried to read a book only to realize that I was too nervous to concentrate. I barely glared at the page while my head hovered somewhere in the worry land. After putting the book down, I opted to listen to King Kaka. His witty lines know how to ease me into relaxation.Bad luck ikikufuata ata waru itakuvunja meno. My heart shuddered in my chest.
Darkness descended upon the curtains. I knew the time was near. I could already spot pesa. A temptation to plan early gripped me but I kept it at bay. My roommates who had gone to watch the game at Zungu Cinema at Stage arrived amid ruckus.
George was singing songs of praise. Ben was mad; at Chelsea, at Morinho, at George and mostly at Elite bet. His money was gone and so was mine. It was a draw for Chelsea and Swansea. But for me it was a loss. My money had just disappeared into thin air like a plane disappears into the clouds. Tears threatened to protest but I held them back. I sat back and listened to my stomach rumble.