Celebrating East African Writing!
“Next!” intones the rough male voice. I awaken from my day dreams. I am in a shylocks office. I must be here since the mother of Michelle and Andrew needs money.
Money to plait her hair, Michelle’s hair, buy pampers for Andrew, water, milk, sugar, floor for uji, sour milk, weetabix, prawns, pay electricity, rent, house help, buy another brush to sweep bread crumbs of the carpet….
I totally and squarely blame the state of my pocket on this very huge company that brews very hard to resist liquids. Beverages that are best served while chilled, taken down with roast meat and boiled potatoes…liquids that play havoc with the partaker’s eye sight, driving ability, bladder control and much more. Liquids that once in a while, create thunderstorms in the head.
It is not the first time I have been to the offices of these much loathed, inhuman and hated creatures…It is not my second time either…some I have not paid. Sorry, most I have not paid. Forgive me, all I have not paid. I have totally stopped visiting those in my Fedha Estate area…Today I took a bus, rode for over 30 minutes, and sought out a truly famous one, named Able George…his offices are in Thika.
Slowly and confidently I am weaving my tall tale of all tales. My name is Simon, I state. I am a banker. New in town, came with the opening of the new branch of this member’s only bank. I am short of cash. I need to settle. And bring in my family. I produce my cheque book. Made by one publisher I will not name. With his offices at Luthuli. Where for the right amount of money, one can obtain any document he needs. I also produce a 6 months bank statement, as proof of my monthly salary. “Does he require pay slips?” I ask
I am about to ask for 20,000 Kenya shillings. However, I am a little bit uncomfortable. Something about Able George looks vaguely familiar. Isn’t this the man? Is he the one? Did I take off with his 50,000 like four weeks ago? He pulls out from under his desk the meanest rungu and whip I have ever seen in my life…
“If you are never touched. I will mould you!” Is that the voice of my primary school head teacher? Or is it the money lender. I know for sure it is time for me to Usain Bolt.
Now we all know that running is not for everyone. It is reserved for only a certain people in Kenya, who come from the hills. Where schools are kilometers, valleys and dry river beds away. They drink milk for breakfast, and fermented sour milk mixed with bull’s blood as an anytime of the day snack.
I am not from this tribe. I come from this place where there is abundance of everything, schools, cars, roads, rainfall, hospitals, hotels, tea and coffee, mangoes, avocados and passion fruits; In short one does not need to run anywhere for anything.
Neither is one involved in escapades of chasing after thin goats that have eaten the nothing that’s growing in the neighbors’ shamba. Or later use their scrawny threadlike legs to carry them to across valleys to their maternal grandmothers’ huts, since the so and so neighbor whose nothing was devoured by the emaciated goats has come to claim for compensation.
That must be the reason why the spirit of Lang’at of USA…failed me. Did I hear you dear readers say that no one in the USA is named Lang’at? That also must be why the soul of Lightning Bolt refused to creep into my legs. That too must be the reason why I received a beating to mould me.
She came to my aid. The Secretary, God bless her. Crying and pleading, kneeling, and squealing, she begged my destroyer not to dispatch me to the life after.
When he roared “GET OUT!!” I ran like a zombie. The 1st 2 meters were good, at the 10 meters mark my chest begged to leave my body, at the 15meters mark my hands, tongue, eyelids and mouth hang loose. The only part of me that seemed to be functioning was my feet. At the 17meters mark they too started screaming. Worse still they start hurling insults at other parts of me…Things like… kwenda…pubaff!! Wewe ni bure tu!!! kula pombe ndio unajua!!!Choo ya mkubwa wewe!!!
Now, as I sit quietly in a hotel. I have called a dear friend of mine. His name is Kimani. He owns a car hire company. His fleet consists of four Prados and two small Toyotas. Surely he does posses some cash. He said I should wait for him at our favorite hotel. I have been waiting for the last six hours.
Quietly I watch the Sonny FD Trinitron WEGA (bring colors to life) TV hanging precariously on the far wall. A cook on TV is teaching us the uncouth how to scoop soup. Must be done with the spoon going outwards she intones. It’s an onion, natural herbs, sprinkled with a little minced meat, croissant crumbs; this and that soup.
With stuff I would swear looks like spaghetti, and a little water and floor that have been left for a specific timing to catch a boil. Served with two pieces of brown bread, spread thinly with cheese. Not just any type of cheese, but this one precise type that contains an ingredient that my African head cannot comprehend till kingdom come. Aiii WEEEEEEE!!! Let the Europeans be.
That’s when the bill arrives. Bound nicely in a leather wallet. Delivered by the most beautiful lady I have ever set my eyes upon. Must be a species from the next phase of evolution. Painstakingly, magnificently gorgeous, stunning, fine looking, charming, exquisite.
Material for marriage? She smothers, flattens, and bangs my heart with an incredible dazzling smile and the most superb and breathtaking set of faultless white teeth. She sashays away, swaying to a melody that she only knows. Leaves behind a scent of perfume I swear has been imported for thousands of Kenya shillings. Totally played havoc with my hormones. Ashamed I pull the table cloth lower and place a napkin over my laps.
I open the wallet, one look at the bill and I let out a blood curling scream.
“Six Hundred and Seventy Kenya shillings plus vat just for a soda and burger? What the Herr? Wewe kweli umeona 670? 670 umeona? Hakika umeona? Isn’t that the price of one and a half chicken at Musyoka’s den? Those that are sold while still alive and kicking and slaughtered as you watch? Isn’t this delicacy weighed by the hands of the seller? Intoning… hii ni 370, hii ni 430 na hii ni 365... How does he arrive at the 5 shillings worth?
Hiswaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! Ashindwe pepo wa akili punguani!!!!!!!!!! Ashindwe pepo wa biashara…cantabilacarrier…canterbilacarrier…toyotaisuzunamitsubishi…Volkswagenpradona baisikeli….I am now speaking in tongues. Filled by an untold hideous ugly spirit of daylight robbery.
That is when I spot Chege a.k.a Kangeta.
Chege is known for chewing and spitting some leaves readily available at the slopes of Mount Kenya.
Upon total squeezing out of the vegetations’ juices, swallowing the same with the bitterness of the herb covered partially by sweets, cake coating sugar or CocaCola, I am told Chege engages in various very interesting and amusing escapades.
There is a day it is said he spent a whole night calculating the amount of money he had made that day in his taxi business using very a complex of mathematical formula. = (≥βα true or false? The calculating went on till day break. When the effect of this golden green foliage wore off, he managed to get an answer to his calculations.
He had made one trip to Muthaiga at KES 3,000. Was extremely happy, came back to town and called Wagacheke the money eater…and that’s as much as he could remember…Apart from the fact that he had nothing on him now.
On another occasion, on feasting on this vegetarian diet…he felt so very hot that he had to remove his coat. Having spent a few years at the queens land, he was educated enough to know that that coats belong to a coat hanger. In Kenya, coat hangers are only found in offices. Chege has no office. In his home however, he has nails hammered into the walls.
He stood up, hang his coat on one such nail. His coat fell to the floor. As he picked it up, he saw his nail fly to another part of the wall. He followed the nail, hang his coat again, which went crushing once more to the floor.
To cut a long story short, Chege Kangeta kept on following the house fly round and round the house, convinced it was a nail…a whole night he spent. When day light came he was utterly exhausted, he blacked out. Coat covering his frothing liquid green mouth.
A student at one of the greatest institutions of learning is said to have been high on this twigs. He felt the need to answer a call of nature, said as much to his friends, stood up, stepped on his chair, next stride took him onto his reading table, then he stepped out through the window. Needless to say he was on the fourth floor, cool gush of wind, darkness and drifting into oblivion welcomed him.
Then I put two and two together! The bill, long wait for Kimani, stepping out through a window and the presence of Chege.
This time the spirit of Bolt did not fail me. In two seconds flat I made a mad dash for the wide open window. Smashing glass, swish of air, and wild rush of energy engulfed me as I crush landed into Chege’s taxi also known as the Beast.
The one and only true Beast is named after many of its extra ordinary characteristics. It ferries a very influential person. I have heard that it can take off, eat tarmac ad spit it out from its rear at 60miles per hour, it has bullet proof glass, a separate oxygen supply, and an interior to protect against a chemical attack. As if this is not enough, rumor has it that the beast can withstand a rocket-propelled grenade.
My beast lacks all the above. However, its mechanical state or lack there off, from 0 to 200Km/hr in two days, natural tyre burst after every 1km, no guns, no spare wheel, no nothing, is complimented by the temperament and sheer madness of the driver.
The chase is on. I am still clutching onto my hotel bill. Waiters are talking agitatedly to the boys in blue a.k.a Kiganjo products a.k.a unaitwa nani? Unakwenda wapi? Kitambulisho ya mama yako iko wapi?
We are moving downhill. Chege is madly in love with speeds. However other mini beasts in the form of the new police Toyota land cruisers are chewing and spitting tarmac at a much faster pace.
Skulls have appeared. Several from the passenger side of the drivers’ cabin, and the back of the tented pickup truck. These heads are attached to two hands. Each glued to sticks that spit fire.
I sprinkle myself with bottled water that must have been left behind by a mzungu unfortunate enough to have been ferried by Chege. But unlike the soldiers in ancient tales of Kinjikitile “Bokero” Ngwale of Tanzania, I am sure that this maji maji will not save me from the hail of bullets, metal and glass whose wrath is just about to pour on us.
There is a house burning. I think its Umoja Estate that is where all crazy sorts of stuff happen. The Big red Renault truck comes bearing at us at full speed. Lights flashing, horn blaring, Siren howling. This greatest of all beast is my only chance of escape. Chege hangs onto the steering wheel of the Datsun 120y. Pumps onto the breaks, do they work? I kick open the door, the boys in berets are taking aim.
Car flies over the curb, truck zooms by. Chege smiles, engages gears ready for takeoff. Did I mention that he suffered four burst tyres? Out of the door I go, running downhill after the big red noisy water carrying machine.
I see the heads, hands, and sticks disappear. The vehicles smash and fly across the pavements. Two ram into each other, one is safely out of the way, as the fire truck zooms by, the white and blue police caps bob out again. I make a desperate jump. I am in flying through their air. I must get onto this life savior.
That’s when this huge monster decides to come to a sudden stop. Now, we all know that equals flying human being cannot stop in mid air. (Don’t discuss this. it is a known fact.)
Head crushes into steel. A thousand and one blinking flashes and multi colored stars. A hail of bullets? Or the impact? Trillions of crackling sharp sounds, I grimace in untold fires of hell brimming limestone pain…Images fill my head… Mickey Mouse, laughing gleeful Donald duck, racing dancing Tom and Jerry…Winnie the Pooh…Popeye the sailor man tut! Tut! Tut!…maji ninayo…nguvu ninayo…as I run free into the darkness.
© Anthony Chambira 2009
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