By Berina Ogega
Beautiful Zipporah, stood on the doorway of her grass thatched house, pushed her head forward, short of the falling rain and….
“Zachariah!” she whispered harshly. “Zachariah!”
I heard her, woke up from my afternoon nap and tiptoed to the door. I had to see and hear this. I wanted something to talk about with my loving husband Sospeter. We gossiped. Yes, you are asking if a man gossips, yes, most couples gossip. A man and a woman may not be loving each other as they should, but when it comes to gossip, you should see them bending, their heads almost touching, gossiping.
Many times, I have reminded Sospeter to repair our heavy wooden door, but he says, “I know, you do not have to keep reminding me. If you go on, I will leave one morning before you wake up and you will be very poor and lonely.”
“I will sell tomatoes,” I tell him. “Or even onions,” I sneer.
“That cannot pay rent and fees,” he retorts.
“Seriously,” I say, “You should listen to yourself while speaking,” he stands with hands akimbo. “We live in a mud house. We built it, we do not pay rent, but every time you talk about the expenses, you mention rent.”
“One would think you took part in building it,” he sneers. “If you are not careful, I might start asking you to pay rent.”
“I thought you said you were leaving,” I smile. “Seems like you have forgotten that my cow produced the dung that built this hut. You also seem to have forgotten how I sat from morning to evening with my iron pail waiting for the dung to drop.”
“Ever heard anybody on earth boasting of being the world’s biggest producer of cow dung?” Sospeter asks. Suddenly, I have the urge to take that dowry cow and go back to my parents. I don’t though, because I know… after a few days, Sospeter will come with a short story of ‘man and loneliness’…. ‘man and cold’…. then ‘man and polygamy’. The story of ‘man and polygamy’ will always get me and my cow to run a marathon back to our mud hut.
. “I forgive you, but where will you get the school fees and food?” he makes sure to drag the word food.Fooooood.
If Sospeter had repaired the door, it would not have made this loud sound… ‘kekekekeke… keeeeee…’ then a soft thud, as it hit the ground, and another duh… causing Zipporah to turn, with her tongue out, the worst face she could make, shaking her head vigorously. I wanted to show her my tongue too, but I remembered my age…. and thought, the neighbors might be watching. They will see me and go tell about the old woman who showed her tongue. I folded my hands across my chest and pointed threateningly at her from under my left elbow.
As if she did not notice, she turned and whispered, “Zachariah! Za…”
Zachariah was already standing at his door, with an angry “What?” look in his eyes.
“Please bring that clay pot of water, please, please…” she bent forward and stretched her arms.
His hands in his pockets, Zachariah leaned against the door post. “Hey,” Zipporah continued whispering, “That one, please,” she pointed at the clay pot.
““I told you the other day not to bring your clay pot here,” Zachariah did not move.
“Look at how useless the girl is,” both turned to look at me, I closed my eyes, hands akimbo, chest forward and shouted, “that is why…. we,” I thumped my chest, “the village people always wish these proud girls would remain in the city.” I had not realized that the rain had stopped. My voice echoed throughout the village. Wooden windows opened one by one, faces stared at me, and I knew, I had made new enemies. The girls from the city.
Zachariah ignored me. “What are you protecting from the rain?” He asked Zipporah. She stepped out of the hut onto the mud and walked carefully towards her clay pot. “You trimmed your long hair the other day,” Zachariah looked her up and down. “It is natural,” he squinted at her face. “and I cannot see any make up on your face and hands.”
Zipporah tried to lift the large clay pot of water and slipped. She let go and looked at Zachariah with a pleading face.
“No,” Zachariah said shaking his head. “I will not. You asked me to help you yesterday, that you would marry me if I did. I kept peeping through the window to check if you were packing your belongings to come and stay with me, but you sat next to the fireplace with no sign of wanting to get married.”
Zipporah suppressed laughter. “How do people look like when they are about to get married?” She asked facing the opposite direction, grinning.
“I waited for you in the morning to hang your wet clothes on my line,” tears of laughter ran down Zipporah’s cheeks like two streams. She placed her hands over her eyes until the urge to laugh went away, then turned to face Zachariah. He stepped back into the house.
The rain dropped lightly. Zipporah rushed to where I was.
“Please Mama Nyakundi,” I quickly stepped back into the hut and shut the heavy door.
I startled Sospeter who had been snoring on the bed. “What is it?” he asked angrily.
“If you had repaired the door…” I began before he cut me short…
“Don’t you start!” he shouted as he sat. “Mention that door again and you will go back to where I got you from, with it… take your stinky cow dung too.”
“Are you are sending me away?” Sospeter did not answer. He clicked his tongue and poured porridge from a flask that was on the table into a large mug.
“Mama Nyakundi! Mama Nyakundi” Zipporah knocked on the door.
I opened. “You are whispering too much,” I said, “You are overworking your throat; are you not afraid you might get a sore throat?”
“If people got sore throats out of whispering,” she replied, “you would not be having a throat at all. You are always all over the village,” she bent forward and moved from left to right. “Bisi bisi bisi here, bisi bisi bisi there.” She straightened and looked over my shoulder.
“Baba Nyakundi,” the rain poured, she pushed me aside and entered the hut. “Can you help….”
“Help what?” Sospeter asked, “You have been very disrespectful to my wife! Get out before you find yourself covered in this porridge!”
I rushed towards Sospeter and took the porridge from his hands. “There is nothing else to eat in this house.” I reminded him. Zipporah was afraid. She left quickly.
About three weeks earlier, Sospeter had gone to the market to buy an avocado.
“I want a ripe avocado!” he ordered. The shopkeeper brought him a ripe avocado.
Sospeter shook his head and shouted, “Are you deaf? Didn’t you hear I want a ripe one?”
“It is ripe. Here, press it.” The shopkeeper said politely.
“It is not yellow!” Sospeter took it and threw it over the roof.
“You think I am foolish!” he shouted at the shopkeeper, looked around furiously and left.
This is a small village. Word went round that Sospeter was a destroyer of peoples’ goods. Rumours spread that he was a very dangerous man, who lost his temper like sparks from a fire. Shopkeepers closed their shops every time they saw him. They closed their shops to all members of our family. We could not buy anything. We tried sending our neighbors for food. They never brought anything back. They did not find what we wanted, they asked, could they try again the next day? And the next? And next? We had no food. We were starving.
A few days ago, the aroma of chapatti attracted me to Zipporah’s house.
‘Please give us some.” I asked Zipporah as I stood at her doorway.
“Today is not a good day for handouts Mama Nyakundi,” Zipporah replied pretending to be concerned. “If you had come yesterday, I would have given you ugali and sukuma.”
“Please,” I begged.
“No!” Zipporah shook her head. “Not chapatti and chicken. Come the day after tomorrow, I will be cooking maize and beans.” She gently pushed Mama Nyakundi out of the hut. “You should be doing better than me. You have a husband.” She closed the door.
I walked home crying. Sospeter was very angry after I narrated my story.
“Zachariah!” the whisper jogged me back to the present. I rushed to the door.
“My woman,” Sospeter chuckled. “One day you are going to break a leg.” I almost choked with laughter.
Zachariah appeared on the doorway, looked at me, raised his eyebrows, shook his head in wonder and turned to Zipporah, who was looking at me.
Zipporah was drenching wet. “Do you mean I will not have good sleep now?” Zachariah was irritated.
“I am sorry,” she whispered. “I am sorry; I will marry you! Please bring me the water.”
“Sore throoooat!” I shouted, tapping my throat lightly.
Zipporah turned and threw her hands in the air. “Can’t you see we are having a serious conversation here?”
The many wooden windows that were closed when the rain started pouring opened again. Eager eyes watched from behind them.
“You tricked me into giving you that hut.” Zachariah was fed up. “Now I cannot throw you out because every time I try, you shout, ‘ Help! Thief! Thief! Murderer! Killer! Attacker!’ The same insults everyday… speaking of which, don’t you have a dictionary from which you can find new names to call me?” Zachariah disappeared into the house.
Zipporah turned to me. I walked up to the clay pot and asked her to help me push it to her hut. We pushed and pulled and managed to reach her door.
“Wait!” she turned and whispered. “Zachariah!”
She took two steps towards his house. “Zachariah!”
“Can we get this clay pot into the house first?” I was impatient and hungry.
“I wanted him to come and help us.” Zipporah explained.
“You cannot have men doing everything for you Zipporah.” I whispered.
She lifted one side and I the other. I lifted with all my might and banged it against the door frame. The clay pot broke. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry!” I whispered as Zipporah sat on the floor and sobbed. I walked to the fireplace, then left.
“Sospeter!” I laughed as I entered our hut. “I had my revenge. I broke her clay pot.”
Sospeter grinned. “I knew when you rushed to help her, things were not going to end well.
“Look.” I showed Sospeter what I was holding. “I stole this from her.”
“We will need a hammer to break that,” Sospeter touched the hard chapatti and laughed loudly.
I showed him the dark brown chicken. “My goodness,” he said, “I wonder how many times she reheated it. Preserving food for four days is not easy.”
“Another advantage of rain.” I sat next to Sospeter. “Free food from lazy people. I hope she gets another clay pot so that I can help her carry it to her house, the day she cooks chapatti and chicken.
“Zachariah!” She whispered, “Do you have an extra clay pot?”
I knew we were going to get free food soon.
Berina Ogega is a writer of fictional short stories. She also loves hiking, knitting, reading and cooking.She is based in Nairobi, Kenya.Berina is also working on her first book which will come out soon.
Berina’s greatest passion is trying to bring back hope and humour to people who have already lost it.This comes out clearly in the above story which intersperses folksy humour with witty outlook on life.
For further reading of such witty anecdotes,visit her blog at www.berinaberrry.wordpress.com