The two boys stood staring blankly but vividly in thought at the now soiled envelope in Waweru’s hand.
“I have two shillings… we can open it, read and put it back in a new envelope. Mum will never know what we did,” Maina said to the surprise of his brother.
Waweru thought his brother’s idea was brilliant and tore open the envelope. They sat down on a stone besides a tree just next to the footpath leading to their house. And in a pose that could only be mistaken for an exam revision session the two went through the short letter.
“Dear Mrs Mwangi,
Receive greetings from me.
It has been long since we sat down and had a session about your boys. As you may have noticed they have remained on top of their classes but their overall marks have kept dropping. May be it has to do with the entire school but I think your boys can do better.
We need to discuss a few things. I propose that you pass by the school tomorrow afternoon. Please see me without fail in order for us to discuss ways in which we can help the boys improve on their performance. I believe there is a lot you can share that can assist me in ensuring that they get the best education.
Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.
The two boys continued gazing at the letter. “What had they done to have Mrs Kamau summon their mother?” they thought, “Does it really have to do with our performance?”
Well it was getting dark and they had to get another envelope. They walked on and just a few minutes they got to Simba’s shop. Simba was the area’s sole shopkeeper and was feared by most of the villagers since he could shout out for someone to pay their debts as they passed.
And before even the two boys got to the ‘kiosk’ Simba shouted; “You rascals, can you run home and tell your mother and father to come clear their debt or I come for those thin goats scavenging around your house!”
Maina and Waweru froze before taking off towards their home forgetting about the envelope. Panting their souls out, they got to their gate only to find their mother holding a mwiko (cooking stick) outside the door.
“Mum, there is big dog chasing us!” Maina shouted to the amazement of his elder brother. Waweru could never get over some of the tricks that his younger brother came up with at every moment. But their mother was not buying it and asked them why it had taken them so long to get from school.
And Maina was at it again and with a straight face; “Mrs Kamau gave us a letter to bring to you and some boys took it away form us and we had to struggle getting it back.”
“Look!” grabbing it from Waweru’s hand, “they even opened it and even took the envelope!”
“Maina, saves the day!” Waweru thought to himself. But the thought was wiped off when his mother grabbed him and hit him twice with the mwiko and the same to his brother.
They got into the house as their mother read Mrs Kamau’s letter wondering why she was needed in school.
“What could it be this time? Could she have noticed? I don’t think so…” her thought trail was interrupted by the voice of her drunken husband singing circumcision songs from the gate.
On hearing their father’s voice, Waweru and Maina ran to their bed and pretended to be asleep just in case they were asked what they were doing up beyond 7pm. Muchiri believed that his sons should always be in bed before he gets into the house failure to which they or their mother would have to be punished for it.
“Wambui… my dear Wambui… where are the boys. I have some good news!” a drunken Muchiri shouted as he got into the house. “Waweru, Maina…. can you bring your stupid heads here I show you what I got for you today”.
The two boys scrambled from their aged rusty metallic spring bed that was left making all sorts of melodies. They rushed and found their father who was visibly drunk reaching for the inner pocket of his patched coat that had evident signs of long use.
“What could it be this time?” their mother thought to herself given her husband’s history of empty promises. In her heart, she knew nothing good was coming from this latest promise but decided to give her husband another chance.
“Now you don’t have to borrow sharpeners in class to sharpen you pencils. I have a razor blade for each of you,” Muchiri said to the amazement of his two sons.
The two boys took the blades and retreated to their bed chatting in small voices. An angry Wambui decided to confront her husband and soon both were talking at the top of their voice.
“I don’t understand what kind of man you are. Bringing razor blades to your sons like they do not need anything else,” Wambui said.
But in response, Muchiri slapped her scaring the two boys whose bed could be heard screeching as they shook in fear of what would happen next.
“Just appreciate… did you not see that the boys were happy! They will sleep well tonight. Now, give me food!” Muchiri shouted.
Wambui who was now sitting on the floor from the impact of the slap replied; “Take the razors from the boys and convert them into food! What’s the use of the so-called presents that you have given them if they are going to sleep hungry?”
The comment infuriated Muchiri who staggered towards his wife and started beating her up. Wambui fought back making high-pitched scream with the two now rolling on the floor.
At the other end of the room the two boys held on to each other. They were used to this but today the fight seemed to move on for a longer period than usual.
For them they could do nothing but helplessly listen to what was going on to the other side of the bed sheet separating the sitting room and the bedroom.
What they did not know is that in the midst of all this a tragedy was to hit their family.
As Muchiri and Wambui rolled on the floor punching each other mercilessly, they hit one of the stools on which the kerosene lamp had been placed. All of a sudden the house turned dark and shortly a fire started building.
The lamp had lit the kerosene stove as it fell and went off. In shock, the two adults got their self up and as the confusion raged, the fire started razing the kitchen side of their one-room house.
On the other side of the room, two shocked boys sat quietly, shivering not knowing what to do.
The fire was spreading.
To be continued… This part was a continuation from the piece that was published last week here.
© Oliver Mathenge 2010 http://olivermathenge.wordpress.com
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