These Bugs


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.


Shudder in the Shuttle


Martin stood by the roadside, waiting, and his luggage lay by his feet. It was a large grey suitcase that bulged from a plethora of content. Its zippers threatened to rip apart if the stretching became unbearable. Martin gazed up and down the road restlessly. He kept glanced at his smartphone that couldn’t stop purring from all the streams of Whatsapp messages beseeching for his attention.

The sun was high and sky luminous. Casting a look on to the road, Martin could see air dancing in the heat of the black tarmac. The cologne from his white t-shirt jumped off into his nostrils. At the grassy sides of the road, tethered sheep clasped under trees while panting so hard their bodies rocked back and forth like a bunch of leaves in a breeze.

Finally, a shuttle flashed the headlights at him and he waved. The matatu was already crammed but he boarded it anyway. He did not want to lose his cologne to the hot air. The girls too were getting restless. They kept pestering him to hurry. And he did, not because he was in love but because they were. He had shown them an imitation of love and they bought it. Since he coined the art, he always pretended to like so he could have the liberty to pull down the loose pants whenever he felt like it. Once satisfied he would take off like a rabbit rattled out of its hiding.

Despite his willingness to constrict himself into the rumbling vehicle, the conductor took the trouble to convince him that there was one more space. He nodded and was squeezed in the back among two men and a pregnant woman. He sat between a roughly dressed guy and the window.

Martin’s bare hands touched the man’s big ones and he could feel the sweat on his skin. It reminded him of the Dettol advert. The whole vehicle smelled of sweat, unwashed mouths and faint cologne. The window won’t open. It was stuck. And it made Martin feel stuck in a death trap.

His phone vibrated briefly in his pocket. He let out a grunt of disgust and struggled to retrieve it. The notification bar suggested that he takes back the grunt. It was Brian. The bastard was in the same vehicle with Martin, seated in the front by the driver.

From the miniature space in the corner, Martin struggled to keep up a chat with Brian who replied more swiftly. Every time Martin looked into the screen of his phone, the big man next to him peeped to read the messages. Martin hated him for it. He felt that the man was making his life impossible. What with all the sweat and squeezing and foully mouth and now this?

He wrote to Brian about it and looked out the window with disgust.

Brian replied with smiley faces and wrote that those are the kind of guys who never wash their underwear just like the one seated next to him in front. Martin smiled and stole a glance at the man before typing a reply. It occurred to him that all this while the man had been reading the messages!

Marred with shock, Martin looked up at the man and met feud beetroot eyes with white substances on their corners, a wrinkled face with a wait-and-see threat written all over it and saggy dark lips almost completely lost in a bush of unshaved beard. The bald in his head seemed to pulse like that of an infant.

Terrified, Martin pushed the phone into the pocket of his black jeans. And sat pretending not to have noticed the blunder. The breath of the man hit him hard and he could barely afford to hold his breath. He simply looked out the window at trees and people racing by in the opposite direction and wished he was one of them.

The shuttle made an entrance into a bustling matatu stage. Hawkers were shouting, callers were shouting, a pastor was shouting; all comfortably as if the world was at peace.

At his side, Martin could feel the solid frame of the man press him hard against the window. He wanted to alight swiftly once the shuttle stopped. Unfortunately, he had to wait for the conductor who had jumped off the matatu and melted into the crowd looking for change to come back and get his luggage for him from the boot. The heat became unbearable, both from outside and within. Sweat beads collected on his brow and he dared not wipe it away.

Martin alighted before the man. He walked behind the shuttle hoping a scene would erupt so he could escape his attention. Just as he was about to make a curve, he heard a husky voice calling out, commanding.

He froze. The thud on his chest could be heard a mile away. If he was to leave with all the bones of his body intact, he had to ignore the call. Perhaps pretend not to have heard anything but the bustle of the town. He walked on. Just then, the man’s grip was on his elbow. Martin envisioned himself sprawled on the dusty floor of the stage. He had recently read an article on Facebook about a growing trend of people becoming violent over the slightest of provocation. It had something to do with the ever tightening economy or joblessness.

The man dipped his big hand into his pocket and retrieved a mobile phone. Martin looked on engulfed in terror.

“Please, read for me this text. It’s from my wife.”


Hit By a Bottle of Coke


Katie looked outside the window at racing trees. At the edge of her sight she could only see a green pigment. Everything else was too blurry but for the far away images in her head. She leaned on the glass, perhaps seeking support. The shuttle moved fast leaving behind her bleak past but taking her real fast into a gloomy future.

Suddenly, the shuttle braked and Katie sunk her teeth into her lower lip after the force of inertia drove her into hitting the seat in front. Blood gushed out but she swallowed it. If her dad knew what had happened to her, he would scold and even hit her. so she licked the wound as she savored the familiar taste of warm blood, her eyes glittered and she couldn’t even see the green pigment for a while.

Once the film of tears dissipated, she stole a glimpse at the man sitting cold and harsh beside her. He could not drift into slumber so she could scrutinize his face. Katie wished she could spot the hatred in his heart or his face and wipe it away. She wished he could be like the big man in the next seat chatting heartily with his girl. Envy germinated in her heart. Tears welled in her eyes. And she shook her head away from matters that made her quite emotional.

The girl being smothered drunk from a bottle of Afya juice. Katie swallowed hard. It reminded her of the thirst burning her throat. It awoke the hunger she had worked so hard to lull into inactivity. She threw and forgot her gaze on the thick yellow juice until a piercing pain consumed the top of her head. Her dad had got her staring at other people’s things.

Katie felt like touching the itching pain but she knew better. .

As the trees moved fast towards her mum, her thoughts jumped on the ride too. She missed her already. Her warm smile, tight embrace. Mum did not hit her except when it was necessary. Mum did not scold her all the time.

She hated the thought of having to start new life in a strange world. Going to school in a new school. Making knew friends. She wasn’t even sure if she would make one. Meeting new teachers and going home to a wild father. Katie loathed these thoughts. They created a bitter sensation in her throat and blew strong wind at her flickering candle of hope.

The shuttle rumbled on.Katie’s head mumbled on. And the wind outside whispered by.

Then the boisterous city lights appeared scaling the heights into the skies. Blue, Red, Yellow and white. Cars raced by and matatus hooted as if the city’s life depended on the whirring noise. At some instances they moved so close to the shuttle in traffic that Katie got worried.

The sight of tall concrete walls terrified her. She was used to seeing as far as her sight could reach. Back at home she could not feel as trapped as she now felt. It was as if the walls were talking to her, mocking her and making faces at her.

Outside people hurried by as if running away from a malady. Some were in suits and ties, some were in branded T-shirts and others in skimp clothing exposing a lot of skin. The streets were crowded, the air was tight with smoke, hoots and shouts. Suddenly, someone opened the window of the shuttle snatched a mobile phone from a woman and disappeared into an alley. the woman screamed for help from  a dumb audience. She cut off the shouting but rattled on. Narrating bitterly how she had lost so much in the streets of the city.

At last, Katie and her father alighted at a bus stage. The air outside smelled of rotting fruits and burning rubber. Street children walked by in groups. Touts shouted at the top of their voices at passengers stating their destination and price.

Katie’s dad walked into a shop with tall clear bottles and bought a small bottle and a coke. He then gulped down half of the soda and filled up the bottle with the clear liquid. He then grabbed Katie’s small fist and walked fast stooping from the burden of the big backpack strapped to his back.

Katie half walked and half jogged to catch up with the pace of her father. Her white dress with red flowers wobbled around her ankles helplessly as if asking Katie to be graceful. The swirl of the Coke in the bottled almost killed Katie. She was thirsty. She was hungry.

They crossed roads and missed being swept off the road by speeding and hooting matatus. Her father scolded her for walking leisurely. He pulled her small hand and Katie heard something snap before thrusting her forth like a hummer. Katie trotted as she tried to regain her stability.

She hurried on helplessly. Her father drunk from the coke bottle and placed back the cap. The stride she made became nothing to her father who soon caught up with her. He pushed her back. She run a little and walked on. Then the man who had been on her hit her hard with butt of the bottle at the top of the head.

The pain gnawed from the head to toe.Katie scratched the source of pain but still it could not convince it to abate. Tears gushed down her cheeks and she wailed. She had swallowed too much to bear. Her dad pushed her away telling her to stop or he would leave her in town.

Katie through a film of tears looked at this man whom she barely knew. He was her dad only because her mum said so. She looked at the racing cars and some people singing in the street while wailing loudly. She looked at a beggar sitting at a corner with a deformed face and awkwardly curved legs swinging her hands incessantly at unperturbed passersby. She looked at a crowd shouting while hitting a man who had snatched a fruit from a stall.

Without agony, Katie looked at a matatu with all kinds of graffiti on its board. At a distance she could hear the voice of her father calling angrily. Then it dissolved into a myriad of other voices until it merged with the buzz of the crowded city. She could even hear her heart shutter as she jumped into the road right in time for the speeding matatu.