Celebrating East African Writing!

LIVE WIRE LOVE by Raymond Bett

He was careful to make the best impression on his supervisors because he was still a casual employee. He carefully tucked himself in his overall and helmet and sat beside the driver.

“Hey Chris, where are we going?” the driver inquired.

“To Mathare slums, we need to disconnect illegal connections of power.”

“You know that the residents might react and attack us,” the driver responded as he wiped the windscreen with a damp cloth.

“Don’t worry my supervisor has already called for police backup,” he replied optimistically.

The driver shook his head, reached for his miraa, bit a few more leaves and started the lorry.


When she entered the door, the editor was still on phone, and he motioned her to sit down.

“Now Chema, we got some good story for you run on,” he said while replacing the receiver.


“Okay, the power company is trying to disconnect illegal connections in Mathare Slums.  Instinct tells me, the residents won’t take it lying down, the police will have running battles with the rioters and right there we got our headline news. So get the cameraman ready and the driver, and don’t be nervous because this is your first assignment. All would be well.”

“Sir, don’t you think it will get kind of ugly, with teargas, rioters and all?”

“Well, our job is to get stories from the muckiest of places. Don’t fret; the adventure will be worth it because I promise that your story will be on headline news,” he dismissed her with a wave of the hand and reached for the ringing phone.

When she arrived at Mathare slums, topless kids played around with mud and sewage, lactating mothers sat beside their mud-walled huts, their eyes popping out at the sound of the car while at the same time trying to calm the crying infants. Two policemen, armed with AK-47 rifles stood beside their Landrover smoking cigarettes. The power company lorry was within sight, with a young man on the pole trying to disconnect the wires from the transformer.

She wondered why the editor sought to send her to a place with no story at all. She thought of interviewing the police but then, again she knew they had nothing for her.  The power company employees of course would just have a word or two. “Typical scenario, the editor trying to keep me busy so that I look like I am contributing something,” she sighed.

Chema just watched the hapless young man reaching for the high voltage wires.  She pitied him; a tiny mistake was the thin line that separated life from death.  “Why would someone choose such a career path?” she mused.

Chris was almost done with the disconnections, so he climbed down the pole to reach for a live wire that was still on the ground. Before he could reach for the wire, he heard a mob approaching his direction chanting a slogan. He signaled the police, who started moving in the direction of the mob. Chema too signaled the cameraman and they both trooped towards the story.

Stima yetu! Stima yetu! Haki yetu! Haki yetu!” the mob chanted as they surged forward. Most of them were armed with stones and some with machetes. The police signaled them to move away but they defied and marched onwards.

One policeman fired in the air and that is when the rioters started pelting stones towards the police. Chris stood still unsure what to do. Chema, instructed the cameraman to take the best shots as they tried to dodge the stones.

Haki yetu! Stima yetu! Stima yetu!” the rioters chanted with their number increasing rapidly as women and children joined them. As one of the policeman lobbed teargas canisters to the mob the other was busy calling for back-up. Chema urged the cameraman to move towards the crowd for better shots, while she figured out how to approach the mob for an interview.

The police completely overpowered started to retreat backward. As the teargas filled the air, Chema retreated too with her handkerchief in her eyes. The mob increased its speed and they threw more stones at that Power Company car.  Chris became dumbfounded to realize he was caught up in the middle of the crossfire as the driver was nowhere in sight. He had only one option: To pull a Usain Bolt moment.

Chema in her high heels was soon forced to remove them as she ran for dear life. The mob too moved with an equally high speed. By bad luck, she hits a stone, tripped and then fell.  With excruciating pain she tried standing up but to no avail. Her only option was to cry out, but the sound was quickly swallowed by chants from the mob.

When Chris turned back to see how far he was from the mob, he saw Chema on the ground writhing in pain and despair, caught up in a dilemma, there was only one right thing he could do. In split second timing, he turned back to save the lass. If he had thought that his speed was comparable to that of light, then he was wrongly mistaken, because as soon as he reached where she was, the leader of the mob was already there.

Kwanini mnatukatia stima? Kwani sisi siyo watu? Hee!” the one-eyed and rugged leader growled out as he forcefully thrust Chris to the ground.

“OT kata hawa!” another rioter shouted out and this was chorused by the crowd.

“OT wacha kuzubaa, msee, hawatutakii maisha hawa!”

OT in his imposing stature gnashed his teeth in rage, and with a machete in his hand, he just seemed undecided which way to descend on the two with the weapon. Chris tried to raise his hands in surrender but the mob did not seem appeased, as a matter of fact the mouthy one, hit him back to the ground. Not even Chema’s tears could soften any member of the mob. Just as OT raised his machete, Chris, still in his gloves, swiftly reached for the high voltage wire and as the sparks rented the air, he directed it to OT.

As he jabbed OT with the live wire the man fell on the ground with rapid successive jerky movements before settling to undulating movements then finally remaining stiff. Chris then raised the wire again and directed it to the mob, but no-one was left standing as they all vanished to thin air.

“You just saved my life,” Chema whispered still in shock.

“We almost got killed on duty,” Chris replied while he aided her to stand.

A week later the two were on a date and went on a rollercoaster that ended up in a blissful marriage.

© Raymond Bett 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.


12 comments on “LIVE WIRE LOVE by Raymond Bett

  1. Stephen Mwangi
    August 31, 2009



  2. Neema
    August 31, 2009

    The dialogue is not believable at all and the ending sentence is just plain lazy, better to have left the story as it was after the fracas.


  3. Anthony Chambira
    September 1, 2009


    Problem lies in the readers ability to out guess the author…

    Story starts with intro. of a fresh boy…next is intro of a fresh girl…the title reads Live Wire Love…I guessed they would fall in love before I got to the end…and that kills the story.

    Look at Mukali’s dancer…the perfect gentleman…his interest or lack thereof in the dancer…constant checking out of the man by the lady…the giving of a piece paper…i guessed the paper would have his phone number…i was wrong.

    Dirt road…i was sure the caller was a woman. I got to the end then went back to the beginig to cross check that the caller was a woman…and found nothing pointing to the caller being a woman…

    How many times are the kenyan Police overpowered by stone throwing crowds?

    If a live elec. wire is on the ground, would it be harmless to those within a certain radius or would it electrocute all? i dont know…i think it would kill many…

    Where are the writting gurus? Can they pick young writers and guide them?

    Just sharing my unqualified two cents worth opinion.


  4. Mercy Ojwang'
    September 2, 2009

    This story moved too fast and in the process lost its meaning. It’s not well played out. 4


  5. Neema
    September 2, 2009

    @ Anthony

    I find it strange that you blame predictability for killing Raymond’s story and then criticise the surprise ending in Dirt road.


  6. deniskabi
    September 2, 2009

    Very interesting story.

    The fact that it has solicited such a heated debate amongst its readers points to its creativity and potency.

    Keep it up, Mr. Bett.

    I vote 8


  7. Gitura Kihuria
    September 2, 2009

    The confrontation is expected. it lacks suspense.
    I have to agree with Neema, the last sentence was totally unnecessary.
    I give it a 4 which is on the higher side


  8. Anthony Chambira
    September 3, 2009

    Comparison with Dirt road isn’t meant to be a criticism…I had guessed the caller was a woman…was surprised to learn caller was a man…I said in my head NO WAY CANT’T BE!!!…

    I cross checked to confirm…And found out I was wrong…

    For me the twist, and the fact that I wasnt able to get into the writers head before the end of the story…makes the piece Interesting…

    It was my way of asking Raymond to draw comparisons from the two pieces…to learn and refine his writting and strive to ensure that his readers (me) are not able to outguess him…


  9. Raymond Bett
    September 4, 2009

    Thanks to you all for reading. This story was actually inspired by a journalist friend of mine who had gone out to cover a story on power theft. With a little background in electrical engineering,I thought of the sewing up the pieces together to come up with this story. I do believe that stories much be judged independently and not based on others. But I am happy to receive your criticism because it can only improve my writing.


  10. Mercy Ojwang'
    September 4, 2009

    I must say i love your positive attitude towards criticism. Not many take it in good faith.


  11. Waswa
    September 8, 2009

    keep on keeping on


  12. Pete
    September 15, 2009

    One thing you can do is to eliminate the phrase..”there was only one thing to do…” . It makes the story lack flavour when you read a phrase after 2 or 3 paragraphs.

    The story was too rushed. 4


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