Celebrating East African Writing!

The Spare Wheel by Jackson Kimani Ngige

Mulinge looked out of the bedroom window. It was early hours of the morning and the sun was shining shyly, peeping through the two long peaks of Masinga hills. From a distance, he saw women approaching the village with pots on their heads; they were coming from the river to fetch water for preparing breakfast. He knew Mwimbi, his wife, was amongst them. She was a very hardworking woman, caring, loving and to top it all she was very beautiful. Mulinge could not see what he had lacked. What had he been thinking? He kept on questioning himself.

He now more than ever tried to divert his mind from her or he would die of guilt. He looked at the paper he had been holding since morning. He gave it one gaze and then withdrew his eyes immediately as if he looking any further would make him go blind. He wanted very much to cry but no tears came to his eyes.

He looked out of the window again and saw children playing in the field. Mwema, his youngest, was amongst them. He was shouting at the top of his voice but Mulinge couldn’t hear what hissonwas saying. How he would have paid a fortune to be a child again! Mwema ran very fast and then fell down; the boy started crying and all the kids in the field came to console him. Mulinge wanted to cry like him but ironically he just smiled.

Mulinge looked at the paper in his hands again and the smile in his face disappeared with no trace, it was replaced by a frown. He closed his eyes with the hope that once he opened them the paper would be no more. He just couldn’t understand why this had to happen now, just when things were starting to work out with his wife. He didn’t want to think about it because the more he thought about it the more guilty he felt.

Mulinge looked around the room and noticed a drawing; it was a child’s drawing of a mother, father and a child holding hands. The drawing had been given to him by Nekesa their eldest child. Did she know that he still had the picture? She had given him that drawing when she was very young; she had just joined Kindergarten and had just learnt how to draw. She came home running that day and found him seated on the living room watching television and handed him the picture. He just laughed at it because it was funny and childish but she thought he laughed because he loved it. Somehow he decided to keep it and now as he looked at it he realised he loved it.

Now Nekesa was in Form Two at Nakere High School. She had grown to be a beautiful and intelligent girl. She had also developed an alarming quest for education, no doubt inherited from him. She wanted to become a doctor and was working hard to make her dream come true. She was a bright girl and Mulinge knew and hoped she would make it big. Mulinge also hoped that she was making use of her time wisely and not wasting it with boys but that was the hope of every parent and what could they do except hope.

Nekesa’s quest for education made Mulinge remember himself in school, how he longed for that time back. He was a bright student right from the word go, his mother used to say so. When he went to school he didn’t disappoint, many people had high hopes for him. His favourite subjects had always been Maths and English while in primary school. When he joined high school his favourite became Maths, English, Physics and something they used to call Geography. Having passed well in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (K.C.S.E) he went to the university and pursued civil engineering. After his graduation he secured himself a good job and was doing fine until he met her.

Mwimbi changed Mulinge’s perception of life; she made him see life in a different angle. She was not that educated, she had reached class three and dropped out of school but she was beautiful and smart. Parents back then did not see the need to educate girls, they would get married anyway. The only knowledge that they got the chance to secure was cooking, fetching water, home husbandry and looking after their husbands. Mwimbi was great on this field and that was why Mulinge loved her.

Their meeting was accidental or shall we say coincidental. He had come to visit the village and she was looking for someone to help her lift the bundle of firewood to her head. So when this man came and volunteered to help her carry the firewood instead she couldn’t be happier. On their way back they talked about a lot of things and when she realised he worked in the city and was a big man (as men who work at white collar jobs are referred to in the village) she fell in love with him. Right from their meeting Mulinge had already fallen in love with her for she was very beautiful. Chemistry worked between them and they married.

She bore him three beautiful children. Three beautiful children, Mulinge sighed at the thought. They now had two children, Nekesa and Mwema. Their third child Kasuku, their second born, is a thing they didn’t always want to talk about. His sudden death made them sad. Mwimbi could not understand why God had decided to take him, she was distraught.  Nekesa had lost her brother whom she had played, quarrelled and fought with and so she wept too. Mwema was still a kid but seeing the family sad, made him sad too.

Kasuku had drowned at Masinga dam. Many a times were those that Mulinge had warned him from going there but the nature of boy was to be rebellious. Kasuku had received so much beating such that his bottom had become. When the boys came back that night and reported his sudden death, Mulinge almost fainted, Mwimbi did faint. Now no boy dared to go and swim there because they learnt the hard way but for Mulinge’s family it was the undeserved punishment.

When Mulinge looked at the paper for the umpteenth time he knew there was something in his mind, something he had tried very hard to hammer down. He had thought about his family to the brim all in the quest of hammering it down but now it had to come out. Mulinge knew very well it was about Mwikali. The moment the name Mwikali touched his mind his heart started racing. What had he lacked? He questioned himself again.

Mwikali had been Mulinge’s mistress for a while now. Mwikali was a teacher at Lukere primary school and she was definitely beautiful. Many were the men who had gone mad thinking about her. Mulinge had confided in her when Kasuku died. It was not his fault, he kept on assuring himself. Mwimbi was uncontrollable and he had to be strong for her. They say women cry with their eyes while men cry with their hearts but men are human too who deserves to cry.

Mwikali was there, beautiful, wonderful, gorgeous and most importantly willing. Mwimbi had gone on a temporary strike because she wanted to sink things slowly but Mulinge badly needed it. Mwikali accepted to be the temporary spare wheel and eventually the permanent one. Passion is at its best when it’s forbidden and so it is hard to give it up when you start it. His forefathers had had many wives and so why not him?

Mulinge looked at the paper again this time he did not withdraw his eyes from it but instead read every word as if it conveyed it own hidden meaning. When he was through, he woke up from the bed and went to the window and looked outside. The sun had already thrown away its blankets and was shining high, Mwimbi was already in the kitchen probably preparing breakfast and the children had now regained their playing because Mwema had long stopped crying.

He knew very well he had only slept with two women, only two! He had trusted himself with that and he trusted Mwimbi but did he trust Mwikali? What was Mwikali doing while he wasn’t there? Maybe the spare wheel had another spare wheel which had another spare wheel which had another spare wheel which had the DISEASE. Now what was he supposed to do? Tell Mwimbi that he had long defiled their wedding vows? That he had already walked out of their matrimonial bed? Never!

To him the easiest way out was to re-unite with his long gone son Kasuku sooner than waiting later. It was easier that way rather than facing Mwimbi and telling her the truth. Maybe she would forgive him someday when he was long gone because he would never forgive himself. What had he been lacking? He asked himself again while he strategised on a plan to re-unite with his eldest son.

© Jackson Kimani Ngige 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.


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