Celebrating East African Writing!
You can take a boy out of the ghetto but you cannot take the ghetto out of the boy. This, Tony told me one day when he was feeling very low. K.C.S.E. results were out and he was not exactly an elated boy. To date, I have never managed to see the connection between the saying and Tony’s results .
Today is Sunday and I have to indulge in some Sunday meditation alias wishful thinking. Today I am in an up beat mood and that is why I wish to meditate on the above theme. I could be in church listening to the parish priest droning on and on about spiritual matters but it is raining.
Today, I decide I will think about the material aspect of my life – or more appropriately the lack of it. After all didn’t the priest say that you cannot live on words alone but that you need a little bread (and a little butter, if at end month) to survive, or words to that effect? He even did quote a verse or two from the Holy Book to substantiate his claim.
This meditation takes place as I am listening to a radio station about to announce the winner in some promotion or other they were running. Supposing, just supposing I won a million shillings today in some lottery or promotion. What would I do? As I meditate know that sharp hunger pangs are tormenting me. (Marks palate theorem: How the stomach feels, the mind thinketh). After a minute or two of contemplation I have an idea.
First of all, if I happened to be in town I would make my way to Luthuli Avenue. Today I would not order the usual dry chips. Instead, I would order the usual dry chips, accompanied by a couple of proper sausages-not the usual smokie when I have change to spare. This would then be followed by a full chicken, and then I would do justice to a full fresh fish from L. Victoria
Since I am not an environmentalist, or someone with extreme tendencies, I would not care if it was fished using a basket, by trawler, through seining or the various methodologies used to capture fishes. A fish is a fish, simple and straight forward, even if it was cloned or genetically modified. Maybe at this stage I would notice a comrade-in-struggle (against life) eating dry chips and order for him a full chicken. Then he would be so elated that were I to stand for parliament, he would definitely vote me.
All this food would give the energy to carry home the million, the energy to sit down and plan for the money and the energy to pray that I do not act suspiciously and attract people intent to share in my fortune. On arriving home I would be tired and too full to budget and so promptly jump into bed. There is a maximum that one is at his best in the morning and tonight I am prepared to wait and see if it holds water. Perhaps I would remember to take some Eno before going to bed; otherwise I would have to wake in the dead of the night writhing in agony as my usually under worked stomach gets overworked for once.
Morning comes fast when you are broke. When you are a millionaire, it takes an eternity, when you are poverty’s brother sleep comes easily but wait till you are a millionaire. Then you will find sleep very slippery. At that time for you to even have a wink, you will need a slumber land bed with a three feet thick mattress and a treated mosquito net, you will need to swallow six green capsules, six blue tablets and six yellow pills, but still, sleep will be extremely elusive. Six, six, six – something definitely evil in being rich.
When you are broke, a two inch thick-from overuse-mattress will do. The rats will scamper at night and mosquitoes will bite you all over your face. The nights will be as cold as Siberia and your blanket as thick as this page and yet, you will sleep like a dog or a ‘mlevi’ suffering from over consumption of ‘chan’gaa’ and other ‘miti ni dawa’ beverages and who has decided that a roadside ditch is the best place to enjoy forty winks of uninterrupted sleep.
Today I will not go to anybody café to drink ten as I skim through the newspaper. Instead I am going to make myself breakfast fit for a king. Today I will not contend with other customers urging me to hurry along in reading the ‘Taifa Leo’. Instead I will buy my self ‘Taifa Leo’, ‘Daily nation’, ‘The Standard’, ‘Kenya Times’, ‘The People’ and various weekly, fortnightly and monthly magazines. I will even buy my self some of those ten shillings newspapers which are always full of hot gossip from ‘reliable sources’- that is to say, plagiarized items from the mainstream media. Today I will not skim but read everything, article by article as I enjoy my fit-for-a- king breakfast.
Yes I will even buy myself some Christian publications and see if there is a section that caters exclusively for miracles. I may find one where money is doubled and then my million will be doubled. A day later, I would have my million quadrupled and so on and so on forth ad infinitum until I am worth a million or even Bill (ions) Gates. Then the history of world macro-economics would have to be re-written entirely to factor/ accommodate me. Popes and kings, prime ministries and presidents alike they would all court me.
New York, Hong Kong………there will I exchange my stocks.
I would be traveling in customized limousines the length of three football pitches. Or better yet use helicopters and jets and concords to move from point A to point B, a straight line being the shortest distance. Now and then I would tour in a luxurious liner just for the sake of it. As for my house I cannot even begin to describe it. For one the architects who designed the White House, Eiffel Tower, the TaJ Mahal and even our own home grown KICC would be assembled and contracted to come up with ‘My House’. No shady contractors and shoddy architects for me. No, not even cow boy contractors to do the wiring. Even if it entails mining the bricks for ‘My House’ from the moon, mars or any other place within or without the Milky Way or any other galaxy, money is not a problem.
As for the clothes: Marks and Spencer, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Fundi Frank……at this point I discover I have come to the last page of the last Christian publications. The blind hear, the crippled see, the deaf get jobs, the jobless walk but there is not a word about the miracle of doubling money .So, back to planning for one million shillings as opposed to billions of dollars.
All this while, I am through with a quarter of my banquet of a break fast. Today I am keeping it simple. Tea, bread, peanut butter, bacon and eggs. The tea is not the usual ninety five percent water with a sprinkle of milk but real African rural tea where they keep cows. That is to say, for every four cups of milk entering the brewing kettle one cup of water accompanies it.
The bread is not the usual bread, but family bread with slices as big as from here to there. The peanut butter and bacon are in plenty and so are the eggs. Boiled eggs, fried eggs, steamed eggs, omeletted eggs, frosted eggs, baked eggs are all here. After all money is not a problem and “mwili haitengenezwi na mbao” – our physiques are made up of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins and not with wood and timber as we say in the ghetto.
Halfway through breakfast in comes my friend John. As we clear the remainder of the breakfast, I share with him the good news of my good fortune. He really is happy for me as radiated by his smile. The only time I ever saw him this happy was when he was alternatively wooing (flowers), seducing (sexy lingerie) and courting (chocolates) Nyambura. What Nyambura wanted was husband material and not some clueless boyfriend and ever since, John knows he has what it takes to be a music superstar. What with singing abort the woes that befell him courtesy of one Nyambura. As for our part we beg to differ though we do not voice our opinions in his presence-we are that intelligent. When we are through with breakfast I give him fifty thousand shillings to go and sort out his musical affairs.
“Expect an album or two in a month”. John tells me. “Then I will be rich and tour USA Russia and Europe. I will perform in many concerts and charities. I will be famous, I will have all the Nyamburas in the world ………blah…….. blah……. blah…..” John tells me before vanishing.
Later in the day I go out buy myself a mobile phone. A real mobile phone with a thousand and one features like a VGA camera , LCD screen, internet and nine hundred and ninety eight features I don’t know about. I also invest in a twenty one inch flat screen television set( English premier league), a two thousand watts Hi-fi system (Wake up in the morning and ask myself is life worth living should I blast myself….. Tupac Amaru Shakur) and a branded computer. In one of my few moments of inspiration when I am not my usual egocentric, self-centred self I send two hundred thousand shillings to my parents upcountry. I invest in a suit and for lunch I make my way to the Grand Regency Hotel to have a taste of royalty.
At first security won’t allow me in as I come in walking rather than driving. Then I show them my wads of the pinkest crispest a thousand shillings notes they ever saw and they quickly change their minds. Money is power, I realize, as I am elevated from a persona non-grata alien to a distinguished gentlemen bowed and curtsied till I am mesmerized by all the pomposity and grandiose preceding such a simple event as partaking a meal for lunch.
So many spoons, forks and knives that I am at a loss on what to do. Some on the right, some on the left, some I don’t know where. Being a fast learner, I look around and see how the other gentlemen are conducting themselves as pertains to the consumption of the meal before them and follow suit. There is dessert and there is the main dish and host other subsidiary courses-in what order I have forgotten. What I clearly remember is that I eat a lobster-a large insect (the biologists call it Crustaceans- homaridae-decapod) that looks like a scorpion and tastes like boiled paper soaked in sand. For all this suffering I subject my self to, I am five thousand shillings poorer.
Tonight I will fast. The breakfast was heavy but not enough and the lobster has taken off the appetite from my stomach. I take a note book and a pen and commence to plan for my million or the remainder of my million as some of you think. To me, an optimist who sees a ‘gorogoro’ of ‘busaa’ to be half full when other ‘walevi’ see it as half empty, it is still a million. At this point I realize my biro pen is out of ink and rush to the shops to buy another one. As I come back from the shops I meet the men in blue who went to Kiganjo for six months and acquired a Kiganjo accent.
“Gichana changili unatoga guipa wapi saa hizi?” They ask me. Instead of greeting me and asking me if they may be of help, say for example by escorting me home so I am not mugged they ask me where I have been to robbing. I can feel rigor mortis setting in but I quickly find my voice and reply.
“Habari officer, mimi nimetoka dukani kununua kalamu.” I have been to the shops to buy myself a biro pen.
To night it seems it will take a lot more than words to make them agree that I had been to the shops to buy a pen when they arrested me. They take their time as I join them on an impromptu tour of our village and all along I am negotiating the fee for my release. At last we reach an equilibrium price and I am allowed to walk back home. The way they haggle with their ‘customers’- you would suspect they teach business courses at Kiganjo.
This money is really cursed because just as I am about to reach the plot where I live, muggers mug me and a fool and his seven thousand shillings are parted. These muggers I suspect may be Tom and Co., sort of friends from the underworld-as they look at me queerly the next day. Still Tom and Co. must eat and I have to say goodbye to the seven thousand shillings for good. I suspect it to be Tom and Co. because if it was not Tom and Co. most likely an experiment with a very sharp ‘panga’ would have been conducted to determine how many Newtons would be needed to detach my head from the rest of my anatomy.
On reaching home, I prepare a simple budget. I did not do accounting in school but it will do.
Up country 200,000
Hi-fi- system 66,000
Mobile phone 48,000
Branded computer 20,000
T.V. Set 15,000
Tom and Co. 7,000
Grand Regency 5,000
Newspapers & magazines 600
Balance c/d 561,000
Wow! Almost a half of the money gone in two days!! I can’t believe it is easy come easy go out and have a drink to cool my frayed nerves. Tonight I do not go Mama Pima to drink ‘chan’gaa’; instead my legs make way to a place called Luminous Pub as indeed I badly need a drink to illuminate my mind as to the whereabouts of a half million shillings. At critical times like these you need to visit places where they sell unadulterated beverages from the Ruaraka establishment, popularly known as Kenya Breweries. That is why I find my self at Luminous Pub.
Before long my musical friend John has joined me. This John would make a very good prophet as he can predict with like ninety nine point nine percent accuracy what any given person is likely to be doing at any one time. This is to say that he is ninety nine point eight percent more accurate than our weathermen.
Once our unpredictable weathermen said that it was going to be sunny and a group of us decided to go on a head with a picnic at Arboretum. The skies were pregnant with dark clouds but we proceeded ahead wearing t-shirts only as it was going to be sunny. Well, sunny it was because half an hour into our picnic it rained cats and dogs. It rained so hard that at a certain point you just could not differentiate if it was raining cats, dogs, mice or various permutations of these.
John knows that a person like me only shows his face at Luminous Pub at the end of the month. At for the rest of the days I am to be found at Mama Pima’s place. So John puts two and two together and comes up with a four. End month equals salary equals money equals Luminous Pub.
Since I have recently come across some money, then the logical place to look for me would be at Luminous Pub. John is the best of the best of the friends I have. He is the kind of friend that will come and sit next to you and not say a word and still, when he leaves, you will feel as if you had the best conversations ever. (Note: this kind of thinking is prevalent in many Success and Motivational books. If you haven’t come across it yet, invest in a few copies). He is unlike some other friends I have who whenever they happen to visit me, I am forced to remember an urgent appointment with my boss which may lead to my immediate sacking or promotion.
Sits down John and in a concerned voice, with a face to match, asks me. “What’s the matter?” Three words which mean as much to me as the words ‘I love you’ would mean to a teenage girl madly infatuated with a hopeless case of a teenage boy two classes her senior.
“It is about the million shillings I won you. You see ……” and I start recounting my woes to him.
All these time I am recounting my woes, I have to drink frothy liquids from the Ruaraka establishment. John has a mouth which needs servicing too. Furthermore John has class and that is why he is drinking Smirnoff Ice while the uncultured and shoddy me has to contend with sipping a cold Tusker. I could have recounted my woes to him without necessarily drinking but again the management of Luminous Pub-which reserves the right of admission-has put up a huge sign that reads ‘NO IDLING’ with a huge bouncer to enforce the law. A couple on a nearby table are eating ‘nyama choma’ and my nostrils are getting tickled by the sweet smell.
In the whole world there is no better smell than that from goat ribs being roasted. Some of you may be tempted to tell me to smell roses so as to change my mind. Roses may smell good but a real African young man originating from the slopes of Mt. Kenya would not be caught dead smelling them. After all, the Biology teacher said that bees have the tendency to be found in flowers, sucking nectar. A rose is a flower and I have not the wish to farther disfigure my already not handsome face by getting stung by a bee. Then my nose would swell to such an extent that I would be forced to swath my whole face with bandages. I am not yet ready for that as I am still searching for a wife.
“It was an accident”. I would tell nosy Mama Kamau, if only to be saved from further embarrassment.
As we continue drinking and eating, a fan club is already forming around our table. On my part I am beginning to get tipsy as contents from one bottle after the other are swallowed by my big orifice of a mouth. A few moments later I feel a light as a feather and decide to stand up on a table. After a few awkward minutes I succeed in my mission.
“Lishten up….you….you…there….yes…you…. Lishten up…. I ….I ….am rich….iish….give….yes….give….every….body….what….what….they ….want……want……” And I collapse in a hopeless heap. My friend John picks me up and sits me at one of the stools where I slump on the counter. At first the management dismisses me as just another disillusioned drunkard but John does not disappoint me by letting me suffer in embarrassment.
“Verily, verily I say unto thee doubting Thomases, this man speaketh the truth.” This from John who a few years back was contemplating becoming a church minister before worldly affairs in the form of Nyambura overtook him.
Initially we were about fifty people in the pub. Now I believe walls have ears because another fifty people from another pub a whole fifty yards away heard the good news about me proclaimed by John and came to join me in my celebrations.
Six hours later at around 7:00 AM I wake up and am surprised because, although the surroundings look vaguely familiar, this surely is not my house. My house has a pink curtain separating the ‘bed-room’ from the rest of the house but the curtain here is blue. Finally after the last cobwebs clear from my mind it dawns on me that I am in John’s humble abode. As I start to wonder where John may be, the door is opened and in comes John. He had been to the communal bathroom to take a shower as evidenced by the ‘karai’ on his hands. As John prepares to go to work, he fills me in with the details as to how I came to spend the night in his house.
It emerges that after John had confirmed I really was a millionaire, the drinks had flowed freely as if the taps of heaven had been opened and goats slaughtered right, left and center. After all I was a millionaire and money was not a problem. Some drank like horses while those from the lake side drank like fishes. Two hours of imbibing on alcohol had taken their toll as evidenced by broken glasses and bottles all over Luminous Pub. The police had come and sobered up the people, with many being overloaded in Black Marias and taken to Muthangari Police Station. A lucky few managed to escape and among them John and another guy who knew the source of their good luck dragged me to safety.
Then I make my way to my place to change into something fresh as my clothes reek of an assortment of beers, wines, spirits and strange perfumes, possibly from a few women I came into contact with. (Who decided that I looked like an ATM machine and helped themselves generously to my cash). I have feeling that something is wrong the moment I enter as I have this sinking sensation in my stomach. If I recall correctly, my literature teacher called it a gut feeling. This gut feeling makes me realize that something somewhere is wrong and so I take a look around. Then I discover what is wrong.
What is wrong is the television set. Another wrong thing is the mobile phone. Another peek and I realize the Hi-fi system is wrong. The branded computer is wrong and so too is the suit. (At this juncture I am mightily tempted to swoon). What is wrong with the television set, mobile phone, Hi-fi system, branded computer and suit? Well they are gone! Gone as in borrowed without permission! Borrowed without permission as in burglarized! Burglarized as in stolen!
By now my legs are wobbly and I quickly sit on the edge of my bed to avoid fainting. I feel hot all over and my pulse is running at two hundred kilometers per hour. Very soon I may contemplate filing for chapter eleven or thirteen or whichever chapter deals with bankruptcy. Yes! The money too is gone!. Back to square one but with one significant difference. The Luminous Pub management will most likely haul me to court to recover their money and so will the drunkards who got caught courtesy of me.
Very soon I will have to avoid certain routes as I have no death wish. That is, if I am not convicted of first degree giving of false information or whatever its legal name, for claiming to be a millionaire. Or maybe a starting point would be to write to my parents upcountry and see if they can loan me back the two hundred thousand shillings I presented them. Or maybe not. After all I will inherit their ‘shamba’ when they cross over, together with the two hundred thousand shillings developments on it-if and only if, my father will not drink all the money at the village shopping center with other ‘wazee’. Like father like son and I must have inherited the gene responsible for irresponsible drinking from my father.
A million shillings is gone and I have nothing to show for it. I could have invested in a plot or a pick-up or even a shop, but I did not. I think God gave my share of wisdom to Solomon and that is why I will always remain a poor dimwit.
And the winner of the one million shillings is …..Njeri!!!!
“Woi! Wuuui!! Sweet Jesus!!! Wuuui!! Jesus…..!!” This from an elated Njeri who is on the other end of the phone being told the good news by the radio presenter.
As for me, I count the coins in my wallet; thirty shillings and off to Mama Pima’s place to drown my sorrows at not having the million shillings.
© Daudi Mark 2009
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