short stories

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

 

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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

 

 

A MESSAGE OF FOOD

time-100-influential-photos-kevin-carter-starving-child-vulture-87(1)

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

Prisoners of War (continued)

kenyan-soldiers-attend-memorial-service-victims-al-shabab-attack.

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

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

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

The Word Hunter

the-hut

The read suffused all the sinuses of longing in him. Its elusive end left a rueful smirk on his face. Everyone who adored literature like he did had challenged him to dig his teeth into the yarn. He despised much hyped stories. In his heart was the quest for the less appreciated stories. According to him, these harbored untouched goldmines. How he loved to be among the few to have savored the toothsome edges of a read long before the mainstream readers knew of its existence. So when they had told him of this one, he was reluctant. Donning a studious affectation especially when he heard of the crispy and snappy sentences he so much relished.

After dismissing the voracious readers openly, he drifted behind them just to have a peak of these sentences. They had known were the middle of his fault lines lay. He searched for it and found it. The opening left him gob smacked. It was the one to die for. Like those tantalizing movie previews that film maker use as bait to lure cinema lovers to troop to cinemas on Saturday afternoons ready to be rocked away.

Satisfied by the opening abetting sentences, he sat to enjoy his repast although writhing from guilt. The words were simple in their complex dignified diction. The rain pattered against the thatch outside thus enhancing the sweetness of the tale. The writer right off the snap kept him on tow. The juicy parts of the narration were drawn out professionally by this man of means in the world of words. Every picture was accorded its rightful description. He could see the rivulets of sweat run down the protagonist’s brow when he was wallowing in acute temperament.

Even when the wind blew from under the gap between the wooden door and the mud floor, he did not feel it gnaw on his toes. The man was evidently lost in the eccentric plot that proved to be his pot of tea. Save Best for Last floated off his gramophone but that only served as a backdrop to the delicacy he was enjoying. After all the woman struggled to be heard in the soft hum of the rain.

Neighbors talked. They openly displayed their inadequacy to understand what he had become. Some said he had been bewitched for being too brilliant. Others, whispering from one person to another, indicted that he had crossed the path of a Kamba woman. Feeling betrayed, the girl had sneaked a Kamutee on those coffee drinks he relished. How else could anyone spent so much in useless pieces of paper?

Temporarily withdrawn from the intriguing tale, he threw a quick glance at the much adored part of the house. Just to be sure that there was no water dripping into his treasures. The wooden shelves stared back. The intricate patterns of the books made his chest rise with bubbles of pride. Those words in their millions spoke to him so much about gratification than all the posh villas and sleek modes of transport they all endeavored to achieve.

the-drop

Someone once suggested to him that he needed to find a beautiful woman and settle. The man was offended. He fidgeted. Trembled from anger. Walked out without saying a word into a bush to read his books. And emerged hours later gleaming with pleasure. The only voice of a woman he could listen to was those of the well picked characters in the books speaking meaningful things devoid of much overrated affection.

He was not ready to sacrifice his limited time wooing a fellow human being into letting him poke between her thighs. Everything denuding love or anything edging towards the same seemed ridiculous. Apparently, he just could not wrap his head around these mysterious behavior. It was beneath him to accord special treatment to someone just because of…love. He knew they would vociferously fault him for this yet it was clear it all melted down to coitus. Why then would anyone kill the creature he claimed to so much love once he unraveled that he fucked someone who wasn’t him?

Sometimes the snow comes down in June, sometimes the sun goes round the moon, just when I thought our chance had past, you’re going to save the best for last. The song came to a cringing stop and so was his story. Contended, he stared at the strands of soot hanging from the traces and its blackness. Listened to the rain hum on. And then his heart pounding peacefully. The hunt was not going to end. Not in his lifetime.
#thewordbrewer

These Bugs

sunset

He lost his job just when he needed one badly. What would he amount to? After all those fruitless years at the force? What would he say back at home, how’d everyone look at him? It then occurred to him how he had been boastful of his little job in the city, of his big ghost plans. He was staring at a possibility of being used as an excellent analogy to the mantra that you should be good to others while rising for you might need them when falling.

The thrill of arriving home like a prince was no more. How he had loved how they nearly worshipped him after he bought them cheap vodka. He loved to see them squirm at the burning drink in their chest and pretend not to be anything much while he sipped away his ice cold beer patting him on the chest like a comforting sponge. He enjoyed their drunken scuffles.

Suddenly his heart shuddered. Without a job he would soon end up being one of them. He hated to envision himself begging for twenty shillings from people who have jobs.

“Can I have mine?”

He tried to spell out their way of demanding and almost fainted. He said it so well as if he was seasoned. He loathed the reality so much that he was on the verge of breaking. The unity in hunger for cheap liquor that had killed many and rendered others permanently blind beckoned.

The city enticed him to stay on longer, just to look around for something to stick out. He chose to spend his last monies in the quest for another source of shield from the shame of his vulnerability. If he played his cards really well, no one would discover his new little secret.

With every sunset he trudged back into his rented apartment a little more disappointed. No job in sight. The harsh reality he had been wondering over was no more a mystery. The few connections he had made over the working years had disintegrated into nothingness. They were all too occupied. They had a life to live and an economy to live up to.

Since he left, all back doors had been sealed off. No one had the balls to risk jail terms and even worse execution. His boss, after they were caught, was arraigned in court and sentenced to death. Was he in a better bus, he would have rejoiced. Perhaps make a toast with a few friends.

The little savings eroded away like top soil on a farm with crops planted along the slope. The prices of commodities were unbelievable. He had never felt the strain of the economic belt when he had continuous stream of dirty money. Every time he boarded a matatu it felt like they were grinding the thin rope he was holding on to. And so he chose to walk like Jonny whom he had known to walk across the label of the bottle of his favorite drink all his drunken life.

Soon, house rent was due, then followed a string of exorbitant bills; water, electricity, food and trash collection. No matter how much he tried, the ends won’t just meet.

The reality of ending up in the lush aura of the village dawned. Shame was lying in wait to hop onto his shoulders like a monkey so he could carry it wherever he went. The wrath of hard hustle and abject poverty beckoned and then the landlord put a bigger lock on his door. Over his smaller one.

That evening he strolled across streets. Past desperate looking people huddled at the city square trying to bear the hunger cries of their young ones. He walked past shops with sale tags slung on the door. Past youth walking about, looking tired and in their hands holding brown envelops. And finally, with the money he had received from the sale of his phone, he entered an agro vet shop reeking of kinds of drugs.

He announced, with a smirk on his face, that he couldn’t sleep in the dead of the night for in his bed were bugs. They won’t let him sleep a tad. Only that he didn’t say which bugs. He parted with 200 shillings in exchange for the sachet. He would lick it in into his system, board a matatu heading home and wake up dead in the arms of his loving mother.
#thewordbrewer