A TETE A TETE WITH MR.DEATH

On a day like this 6 years ago, I received the news that my mum was no more.

I drove home crazily at midnight, hoping that I would save her life. She couldn’t be gone-she hadn’t reached that die-able age when hands get gnarled and the brain gets cold with Alzeihmers.She was a hip digital mum-always texting me some punchy Bible verse every Sunday. No, mum wasn’t gone. DENIAL

When I touched her lifeless body at the morgue, it dawned on me she was gone. She had danced in the wind and melted into the universe, becoming one with the stars. My world came crushing; my tears glands went supernova. I wanted to hold on to something and crush it. Like Samson of yore, I wanted to bring down the temple of life and go down with it-and thus join her. ANGER.

Life, why have you treated me like you once caught me sleeping with your pretty wife? What do you want in exchange for her life? God, do you care as they say in the good book? Are you going to answer these questions of my soul Lord? What can I do for you? BARGAINING.

From that moment on, grief and his twin brother sorrow embraced me like two jealous Oga wives, each fighting for a piece of me. Like a sore tooth that is not content to throb in isolation but spreads its pain to the whole head, this sorrow engulfed my whole body. I wore sadness like a dirty sackcloth, my shoulders forever falling like teardrops. DESPAIR

I come from a community that’s known for thrift. Every coin is to be saved. Every drop of water is to be conserved-including tears. A man crying in a funeral is an abomination. Not even for his mother.

Thus the burial day found me standing there stoically, holding back an El Nino of tears in my head. Anytime I turned, I could feel my head go whoosh like three quarter full calabash. I couldn’t cry-because Kikuyu men don’t cry in funerals. Culture is a tyrant.

Forget culture, a man should be allowed to mourn his mom. Why? One’s mom is one’s needs answered. A man is at home with his friends when life is good. But when the vultures of sorrow start hovering ominously over his head, he seeks refuge in his mother’s bosom. A man would like his mum to live forever, but death has it macabre plans.

It is curious how sometimes the memory of death lives on for so much longer than the memory of the life that it purloined. The memory becomes permanent, like a government job. Long after my mom’s burial, the funeral proceedings played in my head for a long time. ‘Ash to ash, dust to dust’, the wind whispered. Anytime I looked at the grave I knew that therein, in the words of English poet Rupert Brooke, there is ‘a richer dust concealed’. Then I stopped shedding tears that she was gone, and started smiling because she had lived. I let her rest, not because I loved her less, but because I cherished her memories more. ACCEPTANCE.

Life is full of contradictions. We all want to live to ripe old age, but we detest gnarled hands and grey hair. We all want to go to heaven, but we don’t want to die. Can we cross the river without the bridge? Shakespeare reminds us that every day we rot and rot as we approach our graves. Mr. Death lurks in our shadows, waiting for that destined moment to claim our limbs and free the soul from the pestilence of the body. So we live in his constant dread, every waking day. But is death the end?

Sri Chinmoy tells us, Death is not the end. Death is the road. Life is the traveller. The soul is the guide. When the traveller is tired and exhausted, the guide instructs the traveller to take either a short or a long rest, and then again the traveler’s journey begins.

We spend a lifetime preparing for this fleeting life. Forgetting that we will be dead for an eternity. We need to learn to humor Death-because he is one side of living. We need to have a swanky image of him-not some hooded gothic scepter with a scythe in hand.

Some nerdy graphic designer kid needs to come up with a sexy symbol of death-a friendly chap in skinny jeans, a killer Mohawk and an iPad. He needs to have a swanky iPhone 6 that he uses to call guys and tell them in a foreign heavenly accent-get ready buddy, you are next.

This death guy should be on WhatsApp. Every Monday, he should add all people who are going to die that week into a group called ‘Club Eternity’. Then add them as friends on Facebook as well. On Throw Back Thursdays he should share photos of guys who left us last year. Then on Saturdays he should share photos of some heavenly parties,#HeavenBashManenoz.

Yes, Mr. Death should also be in Twitter-with hash tags that trend forever. Death should also be in Instagram, with millions of selfies.

When this happens, we will be brave enough to tell Death when he comes knocking: ’come right in D-boy. I was expecting you!’’

Buda, what’s your favorite drink again? Hell’s Flames you say?

 Hio sina,but I got a quarter of Blue Moon. Here, to eternity.

Mr Death, will you listen to some music?

Can I play you Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’? ‘Samidoh? You can’t hurry death’ by the Heavenly Supremes?

Sire, you are getting tipsy now. Let’s do that last selfie. Chap! Don’t forget to share it on your wall and tag all my friends. Now, let me dance into eternity where I belong. Ciao!

This life will finally kill us. We need to learn to accept death not as an opposite of life, but as a continuation of it. To that end, I want to feel alive while I am. I will feel the earth with my bare feet and let the wind play with my hair. One day, death shall surely die, and I shall wake up eternally.

Then, like God’s prima donna that I am, my soul shall sashay into the cosmos.

Mom will be there, leading the Heavenly Mothers Union choir in the crystal stairs. Belting her heart out to the beat of golden karing’aring’a and silvern kayamba.

In loving memory of maitu-Mary Njambi Mwangi

(1954-2015)

STUNG BY A BEARD

Yesterday, cyberspace went supernova when Samidoh- the fastest rising Kikuyu benga star- melodramatically apologized for having a baby out of wedlock.

I am not here to moralize whether what Samidoh did was right or wrong.That’s for clergymen which I am not. But what he did has precedence since all famous men attract women like beacons. Back in the day, a famous national figure whom we cant mention got a child out of wedlock.This is how it happened.

The lady of the house had sourced a house girl from the village to help her with housework.Young innocent thing with ‘miceege‘ on her crumpled calico dress. After feasting on Cerelac and Blue Band and kujipondoa with Cleartone, the diamond in the rough blossomed. She soon turned into a nubile lady with tumescent mangoes bobbing up and down in her silk blouse, seeking to be picked.

When the man of the house-who was well into his seventies-saw the mangoes, his gnarled fingers straightened.Other anatomical features in him straightened too and- twitched- spasmodically- after a long slumber.Some primordial soups started hissing in his loins, seeking to escape.

Kidogo kidogo,the young lady started craving nyamuiru sugarcanes- a clear indicator that she was in the family way.The lady of the house, in her wisdom, nurtured her until she delivered a baby boy.Which she noticed was a spitting image of her boys.

After adding one and one, she rightly deduced that the old lion in the house was the father of the baby.She called a few of mzee’s peers( am I giving out who I am talking about?) and sent them to ask him why he did so.

One fine morning, the old boys gathered in mzee’s compound to castigate him for his randy actions.One of them, while balancing a horn of muratina on his hand, asked mzee to explain what happened.

“Kairîtu kau karahutirie nderu cia gukawe karathecwo nîcio”, mzee answered, unpurturbed.(The young girl played with his grandpa’s beard- and got stung in the process.)The whole drunken company broke into bawdy mirth. Case finished.

The lady of the house waited for feedback on what transpired but none came. Later, she took the girl far away, hived some acres for her from their expansive family land, and built her a house.

Finally, she warned her never to mention who the kid’s dad was- not even in her dreams.

BANANA DRAMA

My uncle will never interrupt you when you are making a fool of yourself. The other day, I paid them a visit and found uncle feeding his cows and aunty knitting a multi-colored kiondo as usual.

Now, aunty is this kind pious soul who finishes every sentence with ‘mwathani agocwo’.God be praised. If she won’t be in heaven, then nobody is going there.

After enquiring about all my children, their classes, height etc, she dashed into her sooty kitchen and came back with a melamine plate full of githeri. Real githeri cooked in an earthenware pot.

Then she went into her granary and came back with a bunch of ‘wang’ae’ or sweet bananas. Her bananas are ripened by catalyzing with ‘meenû’, an aromatic shrub that gives them a distinctive flavour.

Now, one of the exotic culinary habits that I picked in my expansive sojourn in Northern Kenya is mixing ripe bananas with my food. Go to any Waria hotel and you will see them doing it.

So I peeled two bananas, cut them into pieces and mixed with the githeri. The interplay of the tastes of the sugary banana and the salted githeri is something to die for.

All the while, uncle was watching me keenly with increasing dread, slowly taping his sharp machete on his palm. All his life, he has never seen a grown man mix githeri with ripe bananas.

When I took my first bite, he tightened the grip on his machete. When I took the second one, he tightened the grip further. Finally, he could stand it no more.

‘Ira muruguo kiria aragucia nikiramuthukira!’He barked at aunty. Tell this your son that what he has been smoking is not doing him any good.

Then, he angrily ran his sharp machete against the whetting stone before sauntering of to Wakulima Bar.

THE SECOND ANNOINTING

I am reliably informed that a certain Wagithomo lass has had her nude videos and photos leaked into the public- triggering a hormonal tumult among menfolk. But since I am junior elder, I have neither interest nor intention to watch that leaked nudity.

I am told that in the video she had nothing on, not even the radio. But despite all these temptations, I won’t watch it.It’s a ‘mugiro‘ punishable by a fine of several goats for a junior elder to enjoy such conjugal indecency.

Men who are less morally grounded like yours truly have been going gaga over her ‘au naturel’ features. Her curves which rival those of a Murang’a countryside have given many men sleepless nights. Some have even been seen zooming on her photos. It’s what’s hidden that men are always interested in.

Some men have been calling her ‘mboga kienyeji’ which I am made to believe alludes to her folksy looks and rawness. But since I havent watched that clip, I will let that slide.

Other men have been analyzing her, describing her anointing in glowing terms. Others have been decrying her lack of some critical part, the way you’d say a chicken you slaughtered didn’t have a ‘kaigangiu’ or gizzard. When you bare all, guys start analyzing you like a quartered cow hanging in a butcher’s shop. In a way, people kill you.

But let’s for once assume that that Wagithomo girl is my uncle’s daughter. Over Christmas, she lands in the village in those tiny cars Nairobi girls hire to wow villagers. The cars that run on three AAA batteries like remote controls- but I digress.

Aunty Jerusha- the pious lady who ends every sentence with ‘mwathani agoocwo’-have already gotten wind of her daughter’s unsavory exploits in the city. So she is waiting for her- like my people say- like a bus. But my analogue uncle is clueless about it all.

‘Thuthana ndoiga guku ndurarara!’

Susan you wont sleep here! Aunty shrieks at Susan as she sashays towards the house, her angel-white dress with a thousand frills lighting up the way.

‘Kwani nime-do?’ Susana asks, lifting her cosmopolitan shades and placing them on her forehead. After a short altercation, uncle appears with machete in hand, wanting to know the cause of the ruckus:

‘Si ni mom anazusha juu ya ile vida yangu ilitrend.Hajui vile imeleta likes kwa channel yangu ya Youtube na pale Insta?’She tells her dad in that nasalized Swahili characteristic of Nairobi girls.

Uncle, removes a half smoked stub of kiraiko from behind his ear, lights it up and for five minutes tries to digest what he has heard.

‘Niwarehere mamiguo cukari?‘ He finally asks her.’ Have you brought your mother some sugar?’ The girl nods and waves 5kg of Mumias sugar she bought at Maguna’s super market in Muranga town. Plus, a bale of unga and other foodstuffs. The last time uncle saw such a heavy shopping was during the coffee boom days.

‘Rugira mugeni caai.’ Make some tea for the guest. Uncle tells aunty. Its actually an order since he says it while pointing his machete at her.

The now smiling video vixen then greases a well folded brown note into uncle’s palm.

‘Noturageria muthee kuria gicuka’ Daddy, we are soldiering on in the big city. She tells him, acting up daddy’s girl.

‘Ethaai, gutire mbeca ngarange’.

‘Strive on by any means; money is money.’

Uncle answers back with one of his many truisms. Then he squints at his kabambe and calls Mukuna the bar man:

‘Munene, wekerea tumbukiza kiro moja nakuja.’

The daddy’s girl interprets that ‘money is money’ line to mean that she can make another primal video to trend.

All of you who enjoyed the debut video,Wagithomo Reloaded is coming soon. The second anointing, if you like, is on the way.

I am sure some of you have been wondering what happened to my panga uncle.I too was wondering why the punny kinsman of mine has been so quiet.Until he called me last week.

Mundu wa Njambi‘ he started.My uncle will rarely hail anybody by his or her name.Instead,he uses his own customized nomeclature.

‘Woiga mbura yurire thi? ‘ You want all these rain to end without you having planted anything?

In my community, maternal uncles are king.When one summons you, you go there running.It is believed that if he scratches his navel because you made him angry, a big calamity will befall you.In short, that’s how I found myself home last weekend.

I found uncle at Mukuna’s, a milk jerrican by side.The jolly old man still looks dapper- his suede godfather hat accentuating his suave retired city dandy image.

He slaps me with an instant fine of 5 Balozis and a kilo of tumbukiza.Giceeri, the greasy maitre’ d at Mukuna’s who prepares your tumbukiza but eats half of it while its cooking and half of it with you fixes for us a nice tumbukiza.

‘Eat, son, eat.’ My uncle cajoles me as we eat and try to outdo Giceeri in eating our tumbukiza.

‘Ikuria ti ndwaru’. One who eats heartily is not sick. Uncle says amidst loud chewing.

‘Guku thi no ndia na mahoya’.He says to no one in particular.The most important things in this world now are eating and prayers.I dont know where uncle gets this punchy one liners. But when you analyze them in the context of corona epidemic, they are true

When we’ve had our fill and burped loudly,we bid Mukuna the host goodbye .Then melt into the chilly Murang’a night- uncle’s machete shining like a chalice.

We have hardly done a kilometre when uncle breaks into a song.A long forgotten folk tune about a girl called Njoki from Iyego and her heroic exploits at the battle of Ndaka-ini during Mau Mau war.

At Mukarara shopping center, we are accosted by cops who wants to know why uncle is singing banned liberation songs after curfew hours.

‘Ikuina ti ndwaru‘ He tells the cops.

He who who sings is not sick.I have to bribe the cops for myself and my uncle.Uncle’s bribe is double because of his insolence.As we part, he tells the cops:

‘Ikuria ti ndwaru‘. One who eats heartily is not sick.A jibe at the cops ‘eating’ ways.

The cops ignore him and drive of their Landruiser to go and eat the bribe just acquired.Uncle and I then wades of into the night like two errant knights returning from a failed crusade.

Lawd knows how much I had missed this eclectic kinsman of mine.

EAT MAN,EAT!

I have not taken a break all this year. Been slaving all year like a horse- because there was a lot to be done.Sometimes even working at night- because there was a lot to do be done.

Until I got indisposed and had one foot in the grave and had to take a two-week break from work. Then I realized that ‘my work’ has been going on seamlessly in my absence. Maybe even better- who knows.

No one is indispensable.We will all one day leave our desks- and by extension our stations in life.But that wont stop things from going on.

Other critical lessons that I learnt during the sick leave:

1.Self diagnosis, treatment and discharge is one of the reasons why men die young.See a medic when sick.

2.One cant die from skipping Whitecap one full weekend.Its all in the mind.

3.Getting sick is like waking up. You can wake up 10,000 times but still never get used to it. It will always surprise you.

4.All the bland food is the healing food.Uji, greens,pumpkin soup, name it.Use them even when not sick.

5.Always have a trusted uncle who you can dictate to your verbal will since we African men don’t write wills. You can never know when they will call you over to the other side.

6.Eat well and heartily when you can.When you get sick and lose 5kg when you are 80kg, nobody will notice.But wait till you lose 5kg when you are 45kg-they will bury you alive.Eat man, eat!

KIMATHI @100

If Kimathi had lived- he would have turned 100 years today-31st October 2020. There is a better way of saying that. If they had not hanged Kimathi on that cold morning of 18th February 1956, he would have the day today regaling his grandchildren with heroic tales of the freedom struggle.

I came across this image that captivated me. Beauty is meaningless unless shared so that’s why I am sharing it. It’s a gothic reimagining of Dedan Kimathi and Mwariama. Kimathi’s visage is stoic, almost nonchalant.Mwariama is towering and menacing. The two gallant men embody our struggle for liberation which they didn’t see to come to be-and thus the reimagining.

The raven on the Field Marshall’s hand is a tricky symbol though. Since it’s a bird of carrion, the raven is often associated with loss and ill omen. Yet its symbolism is complex. As a talking bird, the raven also represents prophecy and insight. Ravens in stories often act as psychopomps, connecting the material world with the world of spirits.

Anthropologists suggest the raven (like the coyote) obtained mythic status because it was a mediator animal between life and death. As a carrion bird, ravens became associated with the dead and with lost souls.

Do Kimathi and Mwariama embody some of the lost souls of our fight for liberation?

NB:

I have no rights to the image.

CASTOR SEED GENERATION

Back in the day, a wiry man appeared in a certain village. Let’s call it Kagumo village since we have several places with that name scattered all over Central Kenya. He had this rough face that betrayed how life had wronged him. But his tongue was smooth as silk.

He had this big bag and a swanky phone that he kept tapping away on-like he was talking to very important people on the other end. He wore sharp shooters like a pastor. Though he didn’t have a collar around his neck, he had an aura of an anointed man. The villagers, staring at him with their mouths agape, started asking him pesky questions about his big phone and what he carried in his bag. He promptly asked for the Chiefs office.

‘I run an NGO that helps women take charge of their reproductive lives’. He told the Chief-a fat man in greasy beret and ill-fitting jungle jacket .The Chief pretended to have grasped the NGO-speak and posed a question:

‘Hio charge unauza pesa ngapi?’‘Actually, we don’t charge for our services-except for a small facilitation fee.’ He then handed the Chief a bundle of crisp notes with good old Jomo’s photo.

The following morning, the Chief went door to door telling the women that there is an NGO that has come with a solution to all their problems. The chairman of the NGO wanted to meet all the women in a baraza to disclose the groundbreaking solution to them. This information was then passed by one eager woman to the other through fences,smses and whispers.The baraza that took place the following day by the cattle dip was the most attended in recent history.

‘Your days of popping pills and using coils and Femiplan are over!’ The young man announced excitedly-his Adams apple moving up and down like an animal that was trapped in his throat. The women tightened their lesos around their waists and listened keenly.

‘You only need to swallow two of these special castor seeds per day-and you won’t go the family way.’He added- with the conviction of an Old Testament prophet. The two hundred or so women looked at the young man with shining eyes-as if though he was the answer to every prayer they had offered.

‘These seeds are natural, organic and cholesterol free!’ He went on. A round of messianic Halleluyias rent the air. Family planning pills do not have cholesterol but who knows that in the village?

Then, Chairlady, a regal looking woman rose up arthritically .She had a tangle of wrinkles no lotion could soften. After the standard testimony about how she saw the light in 1967, she went to the point:

‘Dagitari, can those seeds also help Ibrahim make Sarah happy?’ People will always ask questions with the answer in mind. Several women of her age nodded emphatically. The younger ones giggled.

‘The seed will not only make Ibrahim straight like the cedars of Lebanon, they will give him strength of ten oxen’. Dagitari gave her the answer he wanted. The long suffering grand lady sat down, promising in her heart to secure herself a sack of the magical seeds. For a region where most women spent cold nights alone since their husbands were away taking banned spirits, this was good news. It didn’t strike the women as absurd that it was them who were to swallow the libido boosting seeds and not their men.

After Dagitari was done with his speech, he went to his bag and brought out a small bag. Then he opened it up and took a handful of the seeds into the air like a libation. Then with the deftness of an experienced medic, he showed the crowd how to swallow the magic seeds that will prevent them from getting pregnant and increase their husbands’ desire for them.

‘Those seeds cannot be enough for all of us!’ Chairlady protested.What followed was a stampede for the castor oil seeds. Dagitari said that since the seeds were few, the facilitation fee had gone up so that he bring more castor seeds to the deserving women. In a few minutes all the seeds had been bought.Dagitari then left in haste, promising to bring more magical seeds to those that were left out.

When the women hubbies came home that night, the tangle of limbs, liquids and needs that followed was Olympic. You could see it in the glow of the women as they swayed their hips to and fro as they sang in the choir the following Sunday. Their faces shone with diamonds of perspiration, knowing that they could have all the fun without getting into the family way.

After two months, several women started craving the dark ‘nyamuiru’ sugarcane that grew by the river. Another lot started craving the soil on the walls of the mud houses. Another lot was craving rocks that were sold by some Kisii men. In short, almost anybody who had attended the young man’s meeting was craving something.

Nine months after the young man with the magical castor seeds had visited the village, it was filled with the cries of a batch of new mouths to be feed.This happened some years ago, for the castor seed generation joined form 1 this year.

SICKER THAN US(PART 2)

The sickly white man had declared that we were ‘bery sick’ because of the swellings behind our necks.We knew we weren’t sick, but the way he looked at us with pity made us sick.To avoid the sickness he gave us by telling us that we were very sick, we avoided swimming by the river where he used to pass.

For a long time we never swam.Mango season came and went.Then came the guava season and the fruits that grew near the river had no one to pick.The whole place smelled like a dying orchard. Avocado season followed and every boy doubled in weight for eating too many of them.Finally came the plums-the fruits that said Christmas was around the corner.Still, no boy had died from the swellings on the necks.

But there was a reason for it.When our cucu Wamutirima noticed the swellings on our necks, she had an antidote that worked like magic.She had put the tip of muiko in the fire then rolled it over the swellings.Yes, it hurt, but not like Sister Maculatas injection.Two, the treatment didnt involve removing our shorts which we hated.

After that, the swellings on our necks went away. We forgot about the mzungu who used to run in the mornings.But somehow, the hum of river Kanyiri beckoned us to go swim in it.And so we did.

As sure as mangoes come out in January, the white man came running as before.Poor man! Who had given him the punishment of running from mango season all through to plums season?

When he came,we were seating on a rock, chewing stolen mangoes.Our jaws going up and down like those of a cow chewing a particularly tasty cud.’

Mwenga!’

The pale sick man hailed us.Even now, he had not learnt to say ‘muriega‘.His raw skin was even sicker and reddish like a freshly plucked muchunu chicken.

As usual, he inspected our necks for swellings- expecting to find them having grown bigger.Instead, he found thick healthy necks with no swellings.The way he shook his head indicated that he had expected us very sick- or even dead.

The sick white men then shook his head all the more and spoke in tongues.Then he continued with his unending punishment of running when boys like us were having fun.

Truly, he was sicker than us.

SICKER THAN US

For some time now, the Western world has been trying to figure out why Africans arent dying like flies from Covid- 19.I cant blame them- everyone expects every other calamity to hit Africa hard.But this is not the first time wazungus are wondering why a particular malady insnt killing us by the hundreds as expected.Or planned.

Back in day,when I had knees that stuck out like door knobs, there was this young mzungu who was in a Catholic mission near our home.Some grown up people said he wasnt exactly mzungu but Italiano, but to us boys there was no difference.His nose was so long such that we thought part of it didnt belong to him.Or maybe his teachers had pinched it everyday for it to be that long.His skin was pale like that of a toad that lived on the innerside of banana leaves and never saw the light.My friends and I agreed he was sick.

One Saturday morning, my friends and I were swimming by Kanyiri- the gurgly stream that ran down the gorge where two ridges met like an armpit.The sick white man came jogging from the direction of Kiangunyi Catholic Mission where he was residing.

We definitely knew something was wrong with him.In school, we used to run in June when it was cold. But here was a man running when it was not June. Fine, we weren’t very sure which month it was. But going by the way mangoes hang lowly from the trees, we estimated it must have been January, February or Marchiary.But not June.

Most likely, this pale man was a bad man who was being punished by Fr Nyamu for some mistake by being made to run on early morning.Fr Nyamu was the benevolent padre who headed Kiangunyi Catholic Mission.

Now, when he approached us at the river, he waved at us:’Mwenga?’ He said, smiling.We wondered why he was saying ‘mwenga’ instead of ‘muriega’- the standard greeting.A grown man who couldnt pronounce such a simple word indeed had a problem.We had initially feared him.But since he spoke our language like a small baby, we agreed that he couldnt do much harm to a pack of five boys and their eight dogs-some tame, some stray and some rabid.

When he stopped fearing us and came nearer, he shook the hands of Gatimu,the big boy who could beat the whole Standard Four West.He had repeated class four five times but it didnt matter- he was in our class.We had chosen him to be the first to greet the mzungu just in case he started beating us.Which he didnt.

After greeting us, he finally came to Ragu.Ragu was small, no bigger than a full grown rabbit.His full name was Kiragu.But since he was short, we shortened his name.The shortened name also differentiated him from Kiragu his cousin who was much taller.

Ragu’s ribs jutted out into the air like the roots of tree.His shoulders were like coat hangers.But we didnt care about all that.All we cared for is that he could stealthily steal sugarcanes from Maritha the ever angry old widow without her noticing.In addition to ribs that jutted into the air, Ragu had swellings below the ears that jutted into the air too.His ribs stuck out, his stomach stuck out so we thought it was not odd if the swellings below his ears stuck out too.

‘Bery sick, bery sick’ the sick pale man said after inspecting Ragu with his blue eyes.For sure,we disagreed with that diagnosis.Even our wise dogs disagreed with him.Rather,we knew that this man- with his pale skin and blue eyes and blue veins-was sicker than all of us combined. But we couldnt answer him back in the strange language he spoke through his long nose.

The pale sick man then jogged of uphill- to complete the punishment given to him by the Padre who his host.For the next few Saturdays we swarm as usual.Stole mangoes and guavas too.Munched sugarcanes.But we didnt see him.He must have been scared by ourselves and our thin dogs.

One Saturday morning, he came jogging and found us at the river.We had swam and gotten bored of swimming so we were competing in who could send his jet of urine the furthest- across the stream.’ Muenga!’ He said smiling.Even after being away for so long, he hadnt learnt how to say ‘muriega’ properly.Clearly,this pale man had a problem.

We didnt answer him since we had held our breath so that our jets could fly the furthest across the stream.He waited till we were done with our jetting business which he seemed to enjoy.Instead of admonishing us like our uncle would have done if he had found us at it.

Then he inspected Ragu and found that the swelling under his ears were now bigger.He then inspected all of us and noted that half of us had those swellings.’Mumps.Very bed’. He mumbled, his eyes all sad.He said some prayers and and did a sign of the cross.The way he shook his head- which had hair like maize tassels- clearly meant that soon, we might die.

‘See Sista Immaculate’.He told us.Sister Immaculate was the matronly nurse at the Catholic Mission Hospital. Her sole work was to boil needles and inject anybody with buttocks- however small-who was foolish enough to go to the Hospital.

At the mention of that Sister of the Order of Needles, we picked our clothes, whistled at our trusted dogs and fled downstream where the pale sick man and her sister who loved injecting buttocks couldnt follow us.

( To be continued)