Something of a blaze fired up in his head and sent chills down the spine. “How is that possible?” he thought. “Did I see dad?” bewildered he left his eyes follow the dust down the winding road from his hilly position. It was not very clear what the number plate was but he made out ‘KNV 321’. “Maybe it’s not him.” He consoled himself. He kept on rushing up the hill towards their nice gardened house. They lived atop, a need of their kind. They lived well, considering this was their country home.
“Steve, where are you running to?” a soft but hardened voice called out from behind. He hadn’t seen her; Kavuo the old housekeeper, as he ran home in anxiety. His mind had been replaying the event he just saw.
“Nowhere cucu!” he retorted in a mix of English and vernacular.
“What do you mean, nowhere?” she gasped, “I have lived long enough to know when one is lying!” she added with a sigh. “Your father has just lied to me that he was not going to the market. You also want to be like him?” she continued looking at him sternly yet with a twinkle of pity mixed with contempt.”
He just stood there, looking back as if stunned with his fists clenched. But he was only a boy of twelve, soft from exemption from manual labor and feeding on buttered bread at the white missionary private school.
“Run along, I will be coming even if it takes me forever.” She barked. He just did that, breathing heavily uphill towards the mahogany and steel gate.
Running past the watchman without even a ‘Hi’, his feet led him straight to his bedroom. He was now not stunned but scared. He felt a feeling of anger and resentment. Then he remembered his mum in hospital. He had seen her frail and scarred body sinking in the middle of the bed.
“She is stable now, but we shall keep her in the intensive care unit.” The doctor had said. It was only two days since they last visited her.
Thoughts kept on whirling in his mind, pressuring his skull and watering his eyes until he could not take it anymore then fell flat asleep. “Mum, I love you and may God keep you safe!” was the last thought as he drifted to slumber-land.
“Steve! Where are you?” he heard a booming voice, as if it was in a dream. He got up startled and wiped his eyes. “Steve! Wake up, I got something for you.” This time it called softly, almost cajoling. He thought, “Should I go downstairs, or do I pretend am sick!” That thought brought a rush of the bad feeling he had earlier. He climbed back to bed and pulled the blanket over his head.
He started listening to the quiet thuds as they became louder, until the manly musk was evident in his room. “Steve, Steve” a gentle reassuring voice softly called, “Are you Ok?” it added.
Shaking his shoulder and gently uncovering him was the man he was resenting. Yet he seemed as if he was pleased with his only son. “Mmh, are you feeling unwell?” the man asked. “Dad, I was feeling cold and now I can’t eat.” His dad pat him on the face feeling his heat then unconvinced, told him, “Don’t worry, I will get you some paracetamol and you will be well.”
“But I brought you a present from my French friend, Pierre.” He added gently opening a small box. Steve wondered what was inside. He had gotten accustomed to gifts from his Dad, but this one seemed important. His dad pulled out a toy car. It was amazingly familiar, not even familiar but dear; the envy of his friends who used to see him dropped by the driver at school. The car that had brought his little sister from the hospital the day it rained. The car that took them to picnics as a child before dad got richer. The car he wanted to buy when he grew up. The car had stunned him. The car that got his father nicknamed “MP 504”.
Rumors had it that it won his father the Mbooni seat in Kenya’s general elections. That he was able to penetrate all corners of the constituency without issues and that he could also carry a lot of gifts too. He said he was as strong as the 504, and that he would be able to visit them unlike his competitors whose Datsuns’ kept getting stuck in the hills. He was now an MP and had bought a few more cars which he kept at their Nairobi home but when at ‘home’, he went in his 504.
“Dad, it’s beautiful, thanks,” he replied clutching it to his heart. He forgot all he had felt earlier and even sat on his bed. His father was pleased. He told him to go play with it outside as Kavuo made dinner. He seemed to be in high spirits, not the ones on his breath.
Next morning, Steve was woken up by a silent hush, something seemed out of order. The festivities of yesterday and the gay mood was gone. He could hear clunking of cutlery below but he could not smell the usual frying bacon. He went downstairs still in pajamas and bad breath. “Come have your tea, Dad and your sister have already gone to the hospital. Why do sleep so much anyway?” Kavuo asked pulling his hand.
He was bewildered by her action. He sat and after a thought, “Who will take me? I also want to go!” he asked rather rhetorically. “The driver was told to take you when you get up. Now have a quick bath and come back.” She barked. He ate very fast, got half bathed and went straight to the parking with his 504 toy still in his hand.
The driver drove him down the winding road to the only dispensary in the market and entire constituency. He had heard rumors that the big hospital money was ‘eaten’ by his father. It was the money he used to campaign for the second term. The fact that he could have taken her to Nairobi never dawned on him. Then the thought he had buried came back as they passed the spot he had seen his dad the previous day. The bad feeling came all over him.
“Is it true that he used the money to take away the teacher’s beautiful wife?” He thought. But he had seen her in his dad’s car yesterday. The people said the 504 carried a lot of girls and women. The driver and even their housekeeper kept talking about it when he was pretending to sleep on the lawn after lunch. He wondered why dad had taken the teacher’s wife if he loved mum. Mum was sick and dad seemed happy with another woman.
They passed the dispensary gate and went inside. He could see his sister crying. His father bowed in grief. Steve suddenly fainted. When he woke up, the nurse gave him a small pill. “This should calm him down.” She told his dad as they left.
Back at his room, he sat pensively staring out of the window. He started to reorganize everything he had heard the housekeeper, watchman and driver gossip about; that the teacher’s wife had a strange disease she had ‘given’ mum and dad. “That’s how mum died, but dad is not sick!” He thought. He could not fathom how, but since he had heard of witchcraft he imagined it was possible for one to ‘send’ a disease to another. He felt a sudden overwhelming resentment towards the teacher’s wife and his dad. He wanted to revenge. He wanted to make them pay for her death. Looking out of the window, he clutched the 504 toy, looked at it for a while and smashed it on the wall. Then he felt calm, he felt strong and invincible. He slowly drifted to sleep. He felt as if MP 504 was gone!
©Titus Kaloki 2011
This short story was submitted into the Storymoja Urban Narratives : Peugeot 504 Short story Contest. Please comment on the short story for the author’s benefit and then vote on the story. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak and 10 being excellent, please indicate where you rank this story. Points will be tallied on the 22nd of May, and the winner announced on the 23rd of May 2009.