Kauka khwa Runjala had started dying at 3:16 p.m. and there was no way he was going without drama.
Chinese whispers variously had it that he was groaning like someone seeing death, that he was foaming in the mouth, that he had slid into ‘that’ sleep, that he was kicking like a dying horse or, as the young put it, “Kauka bado anakaushia death”. Everyone had a different account of the stage of death Kauka was in. All this was understandable for Kauka was an enigma. He lived alone in a life that was full of exclamation marks. He was a man of immeasurable charm and filthy power. Kauka was the only man known to call wives of husbands ‘lollipop’ or ‘sunshine’ when the same women would get just but insults and beatings from their men. To children, Kauka was the ultimate uncle, a generous, storytelling and playful buddy who would allow them to dare things that their parents would never approve of. Though Kauka was the kind of person that parents would never wish their children to turn out to be, he was nevertheless the very clown that they craved their children to encounter. Such was Kauka’s contradictory and dramatic life. As a sewer repairer, Kauka was known to wield great power. He only had to block the sewage system of the household of a disrespectful offender to regain his authority and respect back whenever someone entered into a conflict or debt with him.
Children often staggered and sang along with Kauka as they helped him home in his drunken stupor while house-maids tripped over themselves as they vied to make his home. Husbands philandered through him trusting him never to throw his mouth about and wives cheated with him knowing full well that Kauka never had strings attached. “Ya hapa inaishia hapa”, he had always warned his accomplice fornicator or adulterer as they spruced themselves after the friendly match. All this was done in sweet secrecy and there seemed to exist an unvoiced rule in Karagita never to interrogate the queer occurrence where couples bore children who had a bizarre resemblance to Kauka in looks and character.
Kauka’s mark of unoma, however, had been attained when, as everyone meekly clapped the makofi-ya-kilo to that Excellent who used to dole out chewing gum from atop the Mercedes, he had shouted, straight at his face, “Wewe Mzee unatawanya Kenya”. For this boldness that resulted in no reprimand from the dreaded regime, Kauka had earned Karagita’s respect and the nickname Kauka Tawanya. Henceforth, his first glass of chang’aa would always be on the house.
Anyway, the adventures of Kauka and his countless bastards is a story for another day, for, in the end, Kauka did actually die. It was 3:16a.m., a little over quarter past dier-oduor, that black, chilly hour of the night when God’s harvester prowls the earth with his basket.
News of Kauka’s death reverberated through the estates in Naivasha. Even though everyone had come to accept that the man would inevitably go ahead of us as a result of his unfettered randiness and booze, the fact that the hospital had denied Kauka a final gulp of cham infuriated many. That Kauka had died weeping, begging and fighting to get off the hospital bed to go to Karagita’s alley of ale, angered most Naivasha residents. The staff at the hospital had been forced to tie up Kauka on his bed when he had become violent. It was amazing the amount of strength he was able to muster despite his pitiful health. “I must face death squarely, with clear eyes and a sharp mind”, he had stuttered. And according to him, there was no better way to attain such vision and alertness other than through a swig of pure Karagita Gin, as he sophisticatedly described chang’aa. To this end, Kauka had strategically stripped bare and wrestled with the few nurses and fellow illmates who were not intimidated by his scrawny nudeness. What had ensued was a messy struggle that Kauka had, in the end, lost miserably. When they finally subdued him, they took bed sheets and improvised rigging from them, with which they bound him tightly to his bed. Kauka wept. Kauka wept. Kauka wept.
At 3:00 a.m., exactly the commencement of dier-oduor, Kauka, still thus straightjacketed and at the prompting of a god-possessed weirdo in the opposite sick-bed, confessed his sins, renounced the devil and declared Jesus Christ as his Lord and personal savior. The sick-mate, who Kauka had come to consider as a part-time patient and part-time preacher, had insisted that there was no way Kauka was going to hell while she watched. She had thus launched into an orphic incantation, punctuated constantly with the words ‘Kauka’, ‘Chang’aa’ and ‘Jehanam’ and quotes of the godly deeds of Abraham, Jeremiah, Mary and the prostitute who massaged the sore feet of Jesus. Kauka, who could not exactly understand how his name fit in this divine abracadabra, was so frightened that he straight away beheld the light.
‘God of fire and brimstone, Jehovah Jireh, rain and floods’, the freelance priestess cried, ‘you remind us that you won’t hesitate to unleash a repeat performance of the Sodom and Gomorrah spectacle on a sinning town. I also remember the awesome magic you mesmerized the mighty Pharaoh with. Father, Kauka is just a poor soul misled by the temporary pleasures of this world like chang’aa and us womenfolk. God of Abraham, I beg you, spare Kauka your fires, your waters, your swords and also Shaitan’s Jehanam. Surely Yahweh, El Shaddai, Mwene Nyagah, this suffering son of yours does not deserve the lot of Lot’s wife’, she beseeched.
Then, slapping a powerful hand on Kauka’s dome and shaking it as if she wanted to uproot it from his shoulders, she thundered, ‘In the mighty name of Jesus, I order Shaitani out of this temple of God. Shaitani ashindwe!’
‘Shindwe’, Kauka found himself spitting out.
‘Shindwe kabisa’ she emphasized.
‘Ndiyo’, Kauka agreed.
Next, while panting hard and frothing on both sides of her mouth she glared straight into Kauka’s popping eyes and inquired threateningly if he acknowledged and renounced his evil deeds. Nodding his head, he immediately and unreservedly owned up and blamed it all on that Shaitani. Kauka had always declared that he was long done with the Bible. As a child his mother’s strokes of cane and the Sunday-school teacher’s passion had ensured he knew all there was to know, from the Forbidden Fruit in the beginning to the Marriage of the Lamb at the end. Hence he had never again bothered with the Holy Book or its crammers. However when this foxy woman laid a copy of the pocket-size New Testament bible on his chest, he was jolted back to the possibility of his being banished to grind and gnash his teeth if he didn’t show any act of faith. Without further hesitation he openly confessed, with his own mouth, his return to the flock.
‘Jesus is my savior. I love Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, forgive me, a poor sinner’, Kauka pouted.
Upon hearing this declaration, the self-appointed God’s messenger excitedly pronounced Kauka ‘born again’ and declared that there would be a party in heaven to rejoice at the lost-but-found child! Unfortunately, the freshly saved Brother Kauka gave up the ghost sixteen minutes later, sniffling and sulking like a toddler whose mother had suddenly forbidden the breast!
It was 3:16 in the little hours of the night-morning!
This did not discourage the woman as she explained to fellow sicklings and shocked nurses that Kauka had to rush to be at her aforeclaimed feast in heaven. Satisfied, she retired to her sickbed to resume her part-time patient role.