hope

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

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Caprice

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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.

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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