Month: November 2016

The Tarmac

road

Kimeu withdrew his gaze from the newly Tarmacked road winding down the slope like a stripped black snake. The whole village was awe struck by the most recent development project from their member of parliament who was best known for his empty promises. Once again, they’d fooled into voting him back into office. Just for this little effort clearly meant to boost his image and earn him votes.

His friends were talking and chatting lazily. They had been on the same spot since morning, gawping at the tarmac which was more of a tourist attraction than another piece of infrastructure. The hunger pangs were now quickly catching up with him. Kimeu had dreaded it for long but knew well that it would finally catch up with him.

In his pocket was a crumbled fifty-shilling note. A treasure; the only meaningful thing in his life. He had earned it after helping push the MP’s car after it was stuck at mud last week while he was attending his first Harambee in four years. He had avoided spending it at all possible costs. Kimeu therefore perfected the art of showing up at neighbors’ houses just when meals were being served. Being African, sharing was among top values in their culture. Now, he had thoroughly exhausted all ‘visit able’ homes and had nowhere to call on anymore.

He braved the hunger in silence. The intense afternoon sun forced him to squint. The scarce eyebrows bowed almost touching. The wrinkles on his brow looked like deep sweet potato furrows. Sweat glimmered from deep these charcoal dark skin folds.
The others were conversing with great effort. Pauses were as rampant as their days without food. They beat down a subject almost the very moment it was put up. With their little knowledge, they could barely hold a conversion that would last their narrow hunger distracted spans. Kimeu joined in occasionally to dispute a comment. Normally, a heated debate would ensue. The basemen, as they referred to themselves, would then split into two. The exchanges had to end up in sulks, and even insults.

“Now that we have a tarmacked road, I am a worried man.” Kibe said faintly.

“Ata mimi. Especially during such dark months.” Mukwas supported him.

“Mukwas acha ushenzi. This is a month like any other.” Kimeu chipped in.

“I too don’t like August that much. Do you remember Sach Angwan tragedy? In what month did it occur?” Rotich had been silent.

“That was just a coincidence.” Kimeu was almost shouting.

“I thought you people go to universities to rid yourselves of such stupidity. What a disgrace.” Mukwas shouted.

Kimeu looked up the slope, his liquid eyes trained on the dark road. The gaze met something like a pool of water right in the middle of the road. He hated to be reminded of his useless education. The veins on his temple pulsed. In the brokenness, he peered farther until the road sunk away at the edge in between tall trees along it.

The basemen stared at each other like strangers. They all knew they would come to this. Rot pulled a blade of grass and chewed it. His oval face darker than his neck. His lips were a shade darker and swollen. His hands trembled heavily while he held the blade to his mouth.

A soft engine hum dragged Kimeu’s eyes onto the road once again. A white car emerged from the sunken road, between tree canopies, proudly. The road was good. The engine was good. It was a Toyota saloon. As it raced by, Kimeu scrutinized its rear windscreen for the ‘wash me’ writing previously common with most vehicles when the road was dusty. It was conspicuously absent.

“Rich people have it easy nowadays uh?” Mukwas remarked.

No one said a word.

As if it had waited for the car to clear off the stretch of the road, a heavy engine roar was heard. It was a lorry. The way it moved towards the onlookers, it seemed to be rising up off the road lifted by unseen forces. Kimeu knew right away that it was one of those that ferry petroleum from the newly opened oil refining plant in the next county whose governor dealt with so much backlash thanks to his visible development stunts.

Everyone else looked on but Rotich.

Suddenly, the lorry swiveled uncontrollably from lane to lane. That was odd. Kimeu thought the driver was having fun on the smooth deserted road. His lips curled into a smiley expression only to be cut short when the lorry suddenly veered off the road and rolled into a ditch. Definitely that could not be part of the fun.

They gasped in unison.

“That’s petrol right there basemen.” Mukwas broke the silence.

“No. It’s an accident. What do we do?” Rotich said.

“It means only one thing. We are rich.” Kimeu was excited.

Kimeu thought of the hunger haunting him daily like a ghost. He thought of the misery of joblessness and poverty that had befallen him. After graduating, he had planned to get a job and start a business from the savings only to meet a harsh reality out of the university comforts. He ‘tarmacked’ for three years after which his shoes gave up, and then he did. Bit by bit, all the battering from master life reduced him into a timid, useless human who couldn’t be set apart from uneducated lot.

In his quest for any kind of job, he had met the basemen. Men who had lost clear picture of the future if indeed they had any. He dived into the world of casual jobs simply to stay alive. Their main motivation became to survive until the day comes and they would go to their creator where they’d be clothed in white robes and set to pluck fruits and drink honey. For them, their treasures were in heaven. But then, they had no hope in that so much hyped Promised Land.

“Yes, it means we are rich.” Mukwas was nodding his bushy head.

With the ambitious thought, Kimeu, Kibe and Mukwas sprang into action. Rotich shook his head in disbelief and remained stationery.

Minutes later, Kimeu returned carrying six twenty-liter capacity containers all tied together by their handles using a climbing plant’s stem and hoisted to his shoulders. Looking lively once again, he grinned at Rotich. Then Mukwas arrived ceremoniously with a blue plastic drum stuck to his shoulder and a jerrycan dangling on his other hand.

Under the hot sun suspended on a blameless deep blue sky, Neti center burst into action. People trickled in with the hope of scooping just enough Petroleum from the accident site. The driver and whoever aboard were dragged into oblivion. Even God himself would understand that under the tough economic times, no single drop of the black gold deserved to be lost. The petrol had to be saved first.

The wind blew gently. Most petroleum hopefuls picked a strange whiff. Someone exclaimed that the air was becoming foully. Two lousy drunkards looked at each other suspiciously and rushed off towards the fortune.

As the immediate witnesses, the basemen less Rotich were the first people headed for the windfall. They were the head of a gigantic procession unique with its baggage. From a distance, it looked like the tribe of Israel leaving Egypt in search for honey and milk.

The closer they drew, the more intense the strange smell grew. Excitement nullified any urge to mind it. Kimeu could tell that the smell was familiar. He wondered if he could remember where it belonged. His memory was refreshed when he approached the half-wreck. At the side of the lorry’s container he met a whole different inscription from what he expected. He shoved his large dirty fingers up the holes of his nose and read out loud to the benefit of the basemen; HONEY SUCKER.

#thewordbrewer

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Chocolate Man

choco
He is a queer man who chooses to lug behind the shadows. Very little about his features is in the public domain. With every nerve in his being, he disowns camera fame. He wants to be that figure hovering around. Dark and formless.

He whines about his forehead. It seems to be so big it could fit in a room. And then he seems to be troubled by the silence he keeps listening to when he thinks of his father. The most he can remember is the towel clinking to a waist and a lathered beard and a blade. Perhaps wisps of the soap.

Due to his love for whiskey, he so glorifies it in his pieces, one can be forgiven to envision him sitting in a bar while his sturdy glass oozes a golden luster as he studies the room for anything worth penning. He reads faces alright and later fits them in whatever scene he dims appropriate.

Whenever he settles to write, he is a man in the robe about administering justice. He can be many things but a good writer is not one of them. Because he is great. His words easily fall upon each other to form a pattern that is luring. It takes on shapes never before imagined. He makes his sentences snappy that they leave the reader writhing with desire for more.

And then he is thoroughly addictive. A single article wadding in the waters of his blessing goes a long way in towing you into digging for more of his work. The marks of his pen are like a sidekick woman. She is not your legal wife but you find yourself trooping to her place again and again.

This man paints with his pen. He has made the saying a picture is worth a thousand words literal. While a photographer is killing himself finding that picture, he hurls ink on paper and ends up with a beautiful picture. Certainly he knows the right paint for the right picture. He might add a little flavor but still it serves to alleviate the end product.

In pain and in pleasure he writes. Even after recently losing his tooth to a dentist who offended him by calling bwana. He stays true to his pen, perhaps it is because it feeds him. But that notwithstanding he can still show love for his work.

He has a blog that is stooping due to a multitude of followers. People are fighting over parts of his witty sentences. Laughing their hats off at the comics he exudes. No one stops at refinement from the story for after the baptism by fire, they share with anyone they can reach who in turn share. A classic case of spread like wild fire.

Evidently, all his prowess comes from voracious reading. He loves reading so much that he fantasizes meeting a woman who after sex sinks into a swinging chair in her nakedness and loses herself into a book. He confesses to munching on this stories even late at night while everyone is sound asleep like a form one student crunching biscuits under blankets at school dormitories.

There’s more to this man than meets the eye. So much more to explore and appreciate. But for now it would be wise to make do with the little he rations. One day he will pull it off and dump at our feet. And then start hiding again.

#thewordbrewer

Caprice

p

I hope his leg kisses the ragged stone and he wails like a woman in labor. I hope he breaks his toe and never gets to play again. I hope his long nail gets stuck in the charred leather. I hope he slams against the whitewashed wall while running blindly after the ball. I hope he loses his front teeth in the process.

But then I hesitate. These thoughts send a wave rippling across my bosom as if I am not justified to wish him well. I can feel my heart skip a beat. How will he walk to the classes that are miles away? Will the little limp accord him the exception of having to ride a bodaboda (motorbike) there? I realize I don’t care unless he has to stop that irregular thud.

The first encounter between the ball and the wall almost killed me with a stroke. That sudden loud bang that reechoed in my heart first and then rung back to my ears. My whole body twitched as if ready to take flight. But I am justified to react so after numerous bomb detonations that have broken legs, reduced to ashes and killed many with sorrow. Can’t a man die honorably these days?

And then it came again and again. This time it threatened to split me apart with loathe. Every time I went back into that word- naked and ready, bang! It pulled me away from the pool.

I’ve wanted to get into these waters of witty words that speak to the depth of my heart. All night I have dreamt of the letters in their intricate form, pregnant of meaning, floating into my sight and whetting my desire. All morning I have scorched my tongue in burning coffee while I thought of those sentences imprisoned in book pages. Waiting for their liberator. Even when the wind whirred through the half open window, I have been listening to the murmurs of those words in my head. And they have been sounding like a horde of ghosts planning an attack in the dark.

But just when I settle down to feast, I am stopped by that sudden bang. I hope they choke on their laughter. I hope they meet with words like arthritis, paralysis and malice. Those words that bring shutters to people’s hearts like they have mine. I hope they perish in a read like this that gets readers lamenting. I hope they swallow a shard of glass after their goddamn ball breaks a pane. Then, only then, will they learn the power of my pen.

c

I can hear their chuckles. I want to throw these words that have been living in this book, smelling of age and bondage, at them. If I can manage to hurl a handful and show them that walls too have feelings. That you can’t just get away by kicking the ball against a poor wall stripped of paint by weather. If I can make the wall talk and share the torments of its heart in the tranquil of the morning now lying in shambles. If I can turn these words into blades and deflate their bloated egos and the fucking ball. If…

They hit some more. And converse loudly of how harder they can kick. Of how loud they can make the wall moan. Of how deep they can sink my heart. Of how dark they can cast my hatred. Of how further they can place the words so I can’t use them.

I place my back against the window squarely. And hope the ball flies through the glass and drives a shard into my brains. I yearn to feel the warm blood traveling down my spine. Drenching my shirt. Painting it dark like the hatred seething in my heart.

I want to listen to their little moans of regret. The agitation in their scared scratchy voices while they deliberate desperately on what to do. I want to send them into uncertainty. And the bang will forever reverberate down their memory hall like it did my soul. It will haunt them each time they behold a ball. Or a wall. It will haunt them each time they see torn packets of MacCoffee. And then the smell will remind them some more.

For now, I will wait. That confused look in their eyes will be the last thing in my eyes when I drift into oblivion. They will shake me no more with their stupid bangs. Unless they slit their throats with the last shards of glass I couldn’t take.

May these words come true.

#thewordbrewer

The Knock Part 2

knock

Josephine rises and flings the door open. My chest rises with anticipation. I sit ready to rush to him and wail until he carries me to our bed and lulls me into sleep. The knocker is hesitant. Maybe Brent is careful now that he has heard the news doing rounds. Then Richard pokes his purple face in then the whole of his body. Relief like loose soil in the heavy rain erodes away. He quickly reads it on my face and apologizes as if that would transform him into my Brent.

He parts me on the shoulder from behind the sofa. The posture he carries around signals misfortune. Perhaps he is shriveled by the news of the accident. He gives Josephine a wink. I sit silently. Unable to speak. My throat is dry, my lips are dry and my eyes are dry.

His trousers rips as he squats before me to speak. I don’t ooze empathy just now, I want my Brent. I want his presence. Nothing else. And I tell him so without hesitation. With grief. He stares at me for long, his lips trembling, his eyes are watery and blinking fast. There is a strange hollowness in his stare. His old face is well battered and dark.

When he finally speaks, the world comes to a cringing stop. He gives me the opposite of what I wanted.

“I am so sorry. The doctors say they did all they could.”

I stare at him long after he spoken but do not quite see him. All I see are blurred memories. Something tells me to walk away into that room that has the smell of his presence. It is a lie that they are all saying. Brent is not dead. No he isn’t at all.

The rain water splash softly against the window. Beyond the thin strands of rain water I behold two lovebirds dashing about in the rain.Laughing loudly. The weaver birds are perched on trees watching as the rain falls incessantly. They are all in pairs. Feeling each others’ warmth and savoring the romance ridden moment. Far yonder housetops are covered in mist. They are all stern and defiant. I envy them. They know not of seasons nor times.

birds

The prospect of losing him just now is impossible. It cannot be. Weakness is coming to swallow me whole and I don’t know how to fight. He never taught me that. He only taught me to love and to enjoy the sweetness of protection. He taught me not to fear but I am now horrified. Where are you Brent? Why do you leave now?

Tears roll into my mouth and give me a sour taste that is going to reign in my heart for a very long time. The lemon and lemonade adage is all but a pure lie. How can I live now with the smell of horror haunting my being?

I will weep again when I see his gentle face deep asleep in death. It is in my senses that the long procession of years to come that will be spent without him will be filled with agony. I cross my arms across my chest to cordon them off. For the hate in my heart matches the deep love that I have for him. No man will ever put together these pieces that I can’t gather. In my sleep I will weep again and again until we are both joined in death.

I loved him all times. The beat of my heart whispers of him and his big heart dedicated to loving me. Not the strongest of sparks will ever melt out this coldness in my heart. The heat is frozen with him in death.

Josephine and Richards are standing at the door behind me. They are trying to feel my pain, as they think they should, but all is now lost. It is beyond them to rekindle the candle that lit my way. Josephine is begging me not to whip myself but I am not. His departure is. I will not get over him. I will rock the boat to the shore but the wave will forever keep me away.

Even in the tight embrace, I still feel cold and alone. My sister can no longer give me what I want for she has not. Richards knows well he is well out of question. All he can do is stand at the door, blocking the orange hallway light from pouring into the room with his gigantic frame, and look like he is that shoulder they all talk about. Will he have it for me for the rest of his life? Will he bathe in these tears I can’t hold back?

I am led back to the living room. At least it is warm out there, they say. I sit staring at space as if it holds answers to my questions. Then that knock that has dismembered me over and over today comes on again. My shudder is now confused. My hopes rise hesitantly. Expectations again haunt me. They could have been wrong for that knock resonates with his.

Once that door opens, Brent will walk in and we will all weep out of joy. He will inquire why anyone would want to kill him before his time comes. I will tell him to take me to the bedroom and make love to me. He will do what he does best and tear me apart like a tiger. He always does.

The door flies open and it’s not Brent.

It’s not a friend either. Could it be any worse anyway? It is my brother who had been proclaimed dead a year ago just like Brent now. I am confused. Am I to jump in excitement? Will I be able to lift the weight of grief that is upon me?

#thewordbrewer

The Knock Part 1

knock

I can smell the sweet aroma of earth anticipating for a downpour. The cool breeze is numbing my skin. I am with the earth in this. May the rain pour to fulfill my desire. To whet my loneliness. May its water fill up all the empty pores in my heart. May it bring to life pure memories of his tender cuddle. May it re-member the hollow parts of his warm presence and purge the emptiness.

There is a knock at the door; so gentle a knock like his touch. A hesitant knock of pure longing. There is a sweet shudder in me. What if it isn’t him? I do not want to hold back this yearning anymore. In his arms is where I belong and where I’d rather be now.

It is my desire to eradicate the wear on his face. I know that after all the toil he would use a little bit of homeliness. I want to give him that. Behind that wooden door I hope stands him who I miss badly. I walk stealthily. Hesitating from the possibility that it might be someone else.

I’d love to hate this face staring back at me blankly as if she knows it is her I did not expect. The emptiness beneath it is worrying. When I see the paleness on Josephine’s face I know that the rain is about to beat me. The kind of rain I’d not want to think about. The shameless one that pours in the middle of a drought just to wither away few surviving greens with false hope.

Josephine is hesitant to come through but she drags herself in. The shudder in my heart changes color to black. Bad shudder it is. She is as restless as a cow that is about to calf down. I loathe that calf. She paces around the living room behind my brown sofa, sits and stands and strays into the kitchen. Josephine puts her hand on her brow like Brent does when he his shielding himself from the sun.

Finally, she gulps down a glass of water and settles. Her lost gaze befalls me. And I stand over her fondling my fingers and stealing glances at her. The suspense puts me on an awkward position. But if I drive her into speaking I know my whole being will come stumbling. I don’t want that to happen just now. I want to revisit my old sweet moments with my Brent. I want the nostalgia to sweep over me and toss me away like the ocean waves does the sea shells. Would anyone pick me? And whom would it be?

I am entitled to happiness. It seems that I am the most unlucky person in the world. There’s not even a chance for me to build castles in the air. I don’t even have that. Having only two closest people in the world and one sitting agitated right before you and one so far away could never be a blessing even in the simplest of terms. There’s no way that I can even try to console myself that whatever is to come out of that mouth is about anyone other than the love of my life. I shudder again and sigh. Deeply.

Josephine asks me to sit beside her. And she holds both my hands.

“I don’t know how to say this sister.”

“Is he dead?”

“God no! Why do you say that? But he is badly injured. Am sorry.”

The world rushes by for a moment and then slows down to normal. Why does it have to be me losing them all one after the other?

“How bad?”

“Really bad. He is in ICU. Got a broken spine.”

I don’t know what to say. My head goes back a little to the relief full knock. Back to the moment of the sweet smell of the rain and the sweet memories of him. Back to the moment that the knock woke me from a sweet reverie and towed me into a white shudder. Back to the instant when I held the door handle anticipating to see that face that I dream about every night. Back until the whole world became dark.

Then I am woken again by a damn gentle knock. One that much gentler, much hesitant as if it is a pupil knocking at the headmaster’s office. My whole body is shaken, could it be that I was in a dream when Josephine said that he had been hospitalized? Or could it be that she received the wrong message? That knock hitting my head like the music of the thud of his heart is so much like him. That knuckle is the one I have slipped against my cheek every night; hard and old.

…to be continued
#thewordbrewer

Safari Ants on Safari

ants

You are dead asleep. Breathing steadily like a pig suckling its young ones in the heat of the day. The world is as silent as a parade at a time when a minute of silence is being observed in respect of the fallen soldiers. You barely shift your position, no wonder you wake up each day with an intact bed. Innocence envelope your face making you look like a sleeping child.

But then there’s always those party spoilers. Those people who are really gifted in the art of towing away the gist of the party leaving behind hollowness and regrets. Sharp little pain shoots up from your clean shaven head. You twitch and turn. The pain persists and starts you up. Then a pinch from the blades of your shoulder sends your nerves on duty. In the half-asleep half-awake state you struggle to think. And a dozen pinches from all over your body expunges you out of your warm bed.

Overhead electric globe flickers into life. You swiftly scratch the simultaneous pinches. From the areas you pick off small insects. A quick look at the bed with blankets hanging from the edges offer a shocking revelation. The head of the bed and the whole wall adjacent to it is chocolate black with safari ants. Those brutal bastards who have been claimed to kill a prey as big as a cow.

The wooden wall is now making little cracking sounds from the trooping of the ants traversing them. They are crawling in and out of crevices smoking out all kinds of insects and reptiles and now a human from their hideouts. Across the cold floor where you are standing barefoot holding your crotch, cockroaches and spiders are on the run. They are like humans being hunted by other humans in an effort to evict them from their homes for their biggest mistake in the galaxy; being of a different tribe from them.

You stand directly under the glowing bulb in nothing more than a cotton boxer shivering like a scared child. Your hands are wrapped across your chest in self hug and eyes on the dreadful soldiers who have, without apology, cut short your sweet sleep. Options strut across your head but non better than the other. Would you sit and watch until they have all passed like a wave?

Cold wind filter through the porous walls and nib on your knees and toes. In the safari, some ants are falling off the wall and immediately start the climb again. Others have form a dark jewel like string across your bed. All walking towards one end. You scratch your tummy and yawn for so many times until tears form in your eyes.

With a resolute mind, you pull off the ant infested sheet and throw it roughly onto the floor. Then you take the pillow, place on the blameless half of the bed and curling into a fetal position you pull the blankets over your head and lie as still as a log. However, having mild claustrophobia, you know your heavy breathing is bound to betray you.

Soon you are back in deep sleep. Dreaming of being attacked in the dead of night as a soldier by your enemy and you have narrowly escaped into a thicket with memories of wounded colleagues following you. Your lips mumble a prayer of deliverance and just then a masked militant walks up to you with a short gun. He pulls the trigger and before the barrister blows your head off your neck you jump out of the bed. The sun is already up.
#thewordbrewer