Celebrating East African Writing!

Boneyard Attraction by Linda Musita

Funerals in western Kenya should be some sort of tourist attraction. From the loud honking of car horns when the body is entering the homestead to the not so genuine mourners who have to be paid in kind for their wailing efforts. They must get their ugali with beef and a big kettle of hot tea. Anyway a lot has been written about the funerals and the opportunist mourners. It’s an old tired and abused story At least, I thought so. Until I traveled to remote Butere to bury a close relative. Something has been cooking on top of the soil somewhere near the dug out grave. It’s not nice.

It was a dark night and I was sitting with my kin close to a bonfire. Rural tunes were being played by the barefooted, chang’aa gulping disc jockey. My kin and I were catching up and doing updates on our ‘busy’ lives. The busy lives that don’t allow us to visit each other and strengthen our patrilineal ties. This is when everyone tries to make you understand how important they are. “I am now the assistant to the head of the supplies department. This means that I have three times the responsibility I had as the head stock taker in the stationery department.” Another one is among other things, “Managing my wife’s shamba in Kitale. Can you imagine…..20 acres of land have to be tilled in a week? I oversee all that. Alone!” Blah, blah, blah, we all know that you are a lazy bloke that refuses to look for a job. They ranted and raved until I stopped listening. Instead I turned my attention to the disc jockey. He was singing along to the tracks he was ‘spinning’ and occasionally sending dedications to the dearly departed. “Nice,” I murmured. “At least someone remembers why we are here.” I tap my feet to the beat as I stare at the thatched kitchen’s door wondering when the tea is coming out. Then I see them.

A group of boys and girls hurriedly walking towards the direction of the dug out grave. That side of the homestead did not have a bonfire or any form of lighting. Curious that people would be so eager to go there. Twenty minutes later, I am drinking my second cup of tea and I see three girls coming back from the grave side.

“Aighh,” I wondered out loud. “Where are the rest?”

“The rest of what?” my cousin asks.

“The rest of them,” I say as I point at the girls who are eager to get to the gate.

My cousin assumes that they were stealing something from somewhere. So, he calls them and starts interrogating them. They don’t answer any of his questions but they keep stealing glances in the direction of the grave. Oh and they wouldn’t stop shaking in their shoes. I thought that they’d seen the ghost of the dearly departed who was probably displeased by the fact that his relatives were caressing their various egos instead of mourning his death. I started shaking too.

My concerned cousin rallies up the rest of the men hurdled around the bonfire and they go to seek out the source of the fear that the girls exhibited. Three minutes later I hear people screaming and the rest of the boys and girls come galloping out and towards the gate. The three who were with me also make a mad dash towards the gate.

My male relatives follow. Some are laughing, others are infuriated. They get back to their seats and I get the entire tale. Apparently there was a vulgar bash going on at the graveside. The boys were drinking chang’aa from the same 750 ml vodka bottle while they took turns deflowering the maidens. The three lassies who had left earlier had already forfeited their purity, so they had to leave the party. The rest were in the process of completing the task Tough luck. They couldn’t finish the job. They were busted. The only logical thing to do was run. My kin from the city were surprised by such ‘loose morals’. Those from the village-who were thoroughly amused- explained how funerals are the only place where the kids can pacify their hormones. The only reason a parent would allow her daughter to leave the house at night was if she was going to mourn the death of a good neighbor. That way, the mother wouldn’t have to worry about cooking supper because such places always have plenty to munch on. A lot of free food.

Unfortunately, a genius rural boy saw opportunity in this arrangement. He told his friends who told their friends and now doing the deed at the graveyard is ‘totally in’! Undoubtedly, there are no boundaries in the 21st century society. The young people got tired of disrespecting the living and they are taking it a step further by defiling a dead man’s final resting place. Immortal disrespect. It’s wrong. The dead have seen a lot of human madness while they were still alive, why do some misguided people insist on tormenting them just before they are buried? Small wonder why we give birth to babies with frightening physical features.

© Linda Musita 2009

If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.


7 comments on “Boneyard Attraction by Linda Musita

  1. Alexander
    August 24, 2009

    Excellent story, well observed, well related. A keen eye, good disposition and a sense of humour. all of which testify of the writing talent of the author.
    Unfortunately – as the editor would say when sending back the story to the originator for a rework – spoiled by a weakly and “glued-on” moralistic ending paragraph. Cut out these four lines and burn them on the burial bonfire.

    Why? Because the author ostensibly has no clue about traditions. How do you think your grandparents and even their grandparents behaved? Written sources of the 1930-1940 (be they authored by the DO or the local white priest) are full of smilar complaints about immorality of young people, virgins rapidly losing their maidenhead, and young guys sporting “colourful socks and gaudy hats” (no doubt sold in an Indian duka) and seducing the impressionable girls.

    And if we go back to the oral traditions two generations still earlier, we will find the same anecdotes about sly girls and cunning young men manipulating the framings of dances, marriages and burials to their advantage:
    The designated chaperon elders (whose solemn task it was to sitting around on their stools and to watch with bleary eyes over the young people, so that they would dance only in a modest and behaving way, and nothing uncouth would take place during such closeness) were politely and pressingly fed with strong brew quickly, and offered refillings copiously and repeteadly, so that they would soon doze of and leave the young people to themselves…

    Rethinking my earlier criticism, I am however afraid that similar moralistic ending paragraphs and admonitions were already en vogue with story-tellers in the 1880/1890s. 🙂 I rest my case.


  2. chrispus
    August 24, 2009

    A very realistic observation/ story but was it supposed to educate or what?sure enough what was going was disgusting but the writer must be alienated. since my village days, this always happened and sometimes i even think the parents knew this only that they pretended not to. i give it a 5 and still wish the writer had woven it more creatively…as a story. lots of talent though.


  3. Mercy Ojwang'
    August 24, 2009

    I give it a 4. The tenses are too mixed up, therefore killing the coherence of the story. Also please take note of words that meant to be hyphenated. Other than that I like the creativity, but I wish it was developed further.


  4. kyt
    August 25, 2009

    a nice read a raw representation of what happens in many areas around the country not only in western Kenya! but as the first contributor said, its traditions and so no moral standard is being lowered. it was lowered 2 centuries ago. young people are only reading the script that is tradition. giving it a 8


  5. parsha
    August 26, 2009

    Interesting revelation!


  6. Raymond Bett
    August 28, 2009

    I would give it a 5. There is an interesting plot which the author does injustice to it. I believe that a good writer must be able to separate himself/herself from the happening in the society but just mirror what happens by narrating. Talking of narration, I believe the writer can also improve in that area.

    Anyway, I believe the writer has done a good job, Kudos Linda!


  7. Christine
    September 10, 2009

    The writer exhibits a very good eye for identifying an interesting plot, an even better eye for detail and potential for portraying things in a witty way, which I feel she failed to exploit. Considering she narrates in first person I guess it’s kinda ok to make her moral stand known. I give a 5


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