Flight by Rayhab Gachango
Kamau was working in the shamba with his parents. His siblings were all in school but since he had finished high school he was now working to earn his keep.
Kamau was singing as he raised the jembe up and down to till the land. He had a deep melodious voice, the type of voice that would make the gals swoon. He had a Barry white sort of voice and in high school he had been very popular at the music festivals. All the high school girls would run to hear him sing and imagine that he was singing to them.
Kamau was happy. He felt like things were finally going right for him. He was formulating plans in his head about the things he would buy when Mr. Mbae gave him a job.
“Kamau, Kamau.” In the middle of his daydream he heard his name being called.
Kamau turned from where he was tilling to look up. He was at the bottom of the shamba near the river. He saw Kariuki running towards him. Kariuki was a childhood friend of his and he was wondering why kariuki was looking for him at this time when he should also be working.
Kariuki ran down to him. He looked frightened. Kamau’s first thought was that something had happened to Nyobaki. Kamau asked, ‘What’s the matter? Is there something wrong with Nyobaki.’
Kariuki took a deep breath then said “Kamau, there’s trouble. Mama Nyambura told Mr. Mbae that she saw you kissing Nyobaki,, now he is mad. He is going to get the police to come and arrest you. Nyokabisays that you should go hide for a while.”
“What?” Kamau said.
Kariuki continued, “Nyokabi has given me two hundred shillings to give you. She said you should go to Nairobi until things calm down.”
By this time Kamau’s parents had come to hear what the commotion was about. When Kamau’s mum heard that Mr. Mbae had gone for the police she started weeping. Everyone knew the police were not to be trusted and that they sold their services to the person who could pay the most money. Efficiency and effectiveness was based on how much you could part with from your pocket.
Kamau’s father took charge. “Kamau go pack your clothes. You can go live with your cousin in Mathare valley in Nairobi until things cool down. Mama Kamau go and wrap some sweet potatoes for Kamau.”
The family hurried to the house. Kariuki went back to tell Nyokabi that he had passed the message. Kamau did not have many clothes so he was packed in a few minutes. He hugged his mother then his father walked him to the matatu stage so that he could get a matatu to the center from where he would get a bus connection to Nairobi.
Kamau’s father told him, ‘My son, don’t worry. We will resolve this issue. I will send a letter when it is safe to come back. Be good and don’t get into trouble.”
A matatu came right then and Kamau entered to start his journey to Nairobi. Kamau looked out of the window looking at his dad whose figure got smaller and smaller. Kamau was in shock, things had happened so fast that he had not internalized anything. Kamau had no way of knowing it but it would be very many years before it would be safe to come home again.
Mr. Mbae entered the police station and asked to speak to the policeman in charge. The police station in the area was not as big as the ones with the city and so there were no senior policemen stationed there. You had to go down to the center to get the big guns.
As he waited for the sergeant to come and see him Mr. Mbae was formulating his plan. He intended to have Kamau throw in jail and given a thorough beating for what he had done. He knew he had to spin the story so that Kamau looked really guilty. ‘I will make you pay for touching my daughter.’
When the sergeant came, Mr. Mbae told him that Kamau had forcefully kissed his daughter and had been about to do far worse things when a neighbor came and saved his daughter. He wanted Kamau to be arrested.
The sergeant got a couple of policemen together and he briefed them. He then told Mheshimiwa that they had no fuel for the police car. Mr. Mbae removed 1000 from his pocket and gave it to the sergeant.
Mr. Mbae led the way in his car to where Kamau’s parents lived. The policemen went to the door and knocked. Mama Kamau opened the door.
The sergeant said, ‘Mama, where is Kamau? We are here to arrest him. He has committed a grave offence.’
Kamau’s mother said he was not there, he had gone to take for the cows grazing which is what her husband had told her to say.
By this time Kamau’s father was walking back to the house. When he reached the house he greeted the Mheshimiwa and the police like there was nothing wrong. He asked with a smile, ‘Mr. Mbae, what brings you here? It was been a long time since you visited our house.’ He then called to his wife, ‘Mama Kamau, please make some teamheshimiwa and his escorts.’
Mr. Mbae said, ‘I am not here for the tea. Your son assaulted my daughter Nyobaki. The police are here to arrest him.”
Baba Kamau looked shocked and then he said, “Mr. Mbae are you sure? My son would never hurt your daughter. They are childhood friends and he would never ever hurt a woman.”
Mr. Mbae by this time was spitting mad that he had not caught Kamau. He had wanted to be the first to take out his whip and beat the boy until he learnt about respect. He was not here to be told about Kamau’s good qualities. He said, “Your son assaulted my daughter. He was about to rape her when one of my workers came in and saved her. Since your son is not here we are going with you to the police station. When your son comes he will come find us at the police station. I am not stupid. You are hiding that boy. You are hiding that rapist!”
With that the police took baba Kamau to the land rover and drove off with him to the police station. Mama Kamau was left in the house not knowing what to do.
Back at Mr. Mbae’s house, Nyokabi was so scared she could not think. She decided to go talk to her mother hoping that she would talk sense into her dad. Her mother was in the kitchen boiling some maize. She told her mum the whole story as it had happened and told her mum to talk to her dad. “It wasn’t Kamau’s fault. It was mine. I am the one who put him into problems. Mum please talk to dad, please.”
Nyobaki’s mum promised to talk to her dad. Then she said, “We don’t want your dad to be angrier when he comes. Pack your things so that when he comes you can go to Nairobi. In the light of what has happened I think its best you go away for a while.” Seeing that Nyokabi was upset she said, ‘Nyokabi you are no longer a child and you have to stop acting like you are. This situation will not be easy to resolve and you refusing to go will make things worse. Or is there something else that you’re not telling me.” She said this looking at Nyokabi’s belly.
Nyokabi said, “Mum we didn’t do anything apart from kiss.” After saying that she burst into tears and ran to her room.
Kamau reached the city quite late. The roads were bad and it had taken a couple of hours to reach Nairobi. Because he didn’t know how to get to Mathare valley at night he had only gone there during the day he slept at the bus station. It seemed there were a lot of other stranded people who had to sleep there.
At that time there were no mobile phones so he could not call his cousin and his cousin lived in a slum with no telephone in his house. He was very careful with his money because he had heard people in Nairobi were bad. They could steal your shoes even as you watched.
In the morning Kamau woke up to the sound of bus conductors calling for customers to different destinations. Kamau stretched trying to make sense of where he was. He saw a man selling some mandazi’s and went to get some. He was very hungry. When he came back to where he had been sitting he found his bag was gone! When he had gone to get some food someone had stolen his bag.
© Rayhab Gachango 2010 Raylitpoems
This is a continuation of Love Note
which appeared here a few weeks ago.
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