Celebrating East African Writing!
Meat, meat and even more meat! Everywhere! In the kitchen, on the dining room table, in the passage between the two rooms, on the way to the mouth… everywhere! And meat cooked by all kinds of means. The roasted ribs, the deep fried chops, the boiled hams, the steamed wings…
Meat from all kinds of livestock. For the brown polled cow would munch on Napier grass no more. And that lively ewe. Together with the ever-aggressive ram that preferred walking through people rather than around them. Well, both were now just a delicious part of the past, for they were presently being served as hot dishes. Complete with all the seasonings. Then, of course, there were the two cocks. They which had always woken the homestead at five in the morning. Then again at six. Had done it in shifts. A pity that of late, both had began to neglect their duties. Well, no matter now. Both were now silenced forever.
And the humans behind the carnage. They couldn’t have been happier. Or hungrier, for that matter. Amazing portions of erstwhile breathing animals disappeared down individual throats at a rate unprecedented. Well, almost unprecedented. For exactly a year before, a similar spectacle had occurred. And the year before the previous one. Made young Jimmy have a brainstorm. Went he, between munches: “Dad, let’s be celebrating Christmas every week.”
His dad, too busy munching ribs, didn’t respond. Neither did Jimmy’s two elder brothers, Anthony and Ben. They too, were very busy putting away as much food as possible into their respective stomachs. The sense of urgency was tangible. Their mom, in her charitable ways, had decided to invite the entire neighborhood into the feast. The entire neighborhood had showed up, and it was, right then, also busy with the grub. Half the people in the feast were total strangers, but their appetites were amazing. A stranger would pick up a meaty rib, then return it to the table a short while later, bleached white.
It was in this mad carnage that Ben somehow managed to trip over a table, and send an entire set of china on to the floor. Anthony, the eldest brother at fourteen, grimaced. This accident meant only one thing – that their mom would be in mourning for an entire week afterwards. And during that time, the three boys would have to do the dishes. Hence Anthony scowled at Ben. But in a short while, his attention turned back to the food, and he got busy again.
At long last, all the food vanished. Erstwhile eating machines transformed back into humans, and began acknowledging each other. In time though, people began bidding each other bye, as they trooped out of the compound. By eight in the evening only the three brothers, their parents and one distant uncle, Michael, remained. The three brothers decided to call it a night, and they headed towards their sleeping quarters, which were set about thirty meters form the main house. Once there, each boy entered his room, and settled for the night.
Night life continued outside. Crickets had their say. In the distance, a dog barked, then fell silent. At one time, the wind picked up, and the whistling pines around the three rooms produced an enchanting melody. It was pure euphony to the brothers, who still hadn’t fallen asleep. The minutes ticked on. In due time, the three brothers fell asleep.
Anthony was having a dream. A forest scenery. Trees everywhere. Soft grass underfoot. A gentle breeze blowing around him. Then, from behind one huge tree, came this beautiful lady. The girl approached Anthony slowly, her smile exposing perfect dentures. She went straight for Anthony’s lips, obviously for a kiss. But abruptly, she bit hard into Anthony’s lower lip. Anthony woke up immediately, his hand instinctively reaching for his lips. The fingers closed over a huge insect. It explained the pain he was feeling on the lip. Anthony hurriedly wrenched the insect from the lips and threw it away. Then he reached for a torch.
Anthony shone the beam of the torch at his bed, then at the walls of the room. He was appalled. His bed was literally covered with dark brown, crawling insects. Safari ants. And the wall were a seething mass of the same. The sight froze him for a moment. Then a sharp pain from his neck had him throw back the beddings, open the room’s door and dash out. Clothed only in boxers. Barefoot. Crawling at his neck for the ant.
“Ben! Jimmy,” he called out, “we’ve got guests!”
The brothers didn’t require a second calling. An instant later, Ben was by his side. In boxers. Barefoot. Doing a strange jig in a bid to rid himself of the ants crawling on his body. It was hilarious. It was obvious that some ants had managed to reach some very personal parts of Ben’s anatomy. Suddenly, as if possessed, Ben took off into the night.
Jimmy finally came out. Came out at a dead run. Anthony barely side-stepped his wild, howling brother who run straight into the nearest fence, which stopped him cold, and rained even more ants on him. In a frenzy, Jimmy run away from the fence, shouting unintelligibly, as Anthony’s flashlight bathed him in its light. Ultimately, Jimmy threw himself down on a patch of grass and rolled about. The feat seemed to work for in a short while, he stopped thrashing around. He stood up and came towards Anthony.
“So let’s see,” Anthony intoned “It’s Christmas, and ants have taken over our house. We have no way of chasing them away. And we can’t go into the main house, since that moronic Ben broke mom’s valuable china. Guess we’ll have to sit this night out here in the cold.”
“Say, where’s Ben?” Jimmy asked, shivering from the cold. The two brothers were wearing only boxers.
“Let’s look for him,” Anthony suggested.
They finally found Ben under a huge guava tree. He was lying flat on his back, eyes closed, hands thrown out haphazardly around him. Shining the beam on him, they saw the beginnings of a swelling over the left cheek. Anthony looked at the gnarled tree, then at Ben again. He connected.
“This moron kissed the guava tree goodnight in his mad dash.”
“Yeah, and right now, he’s about to have the best night amongst the three of us. We’ll just have to sit around him and wait for day break”, Jimmy said.
That’s what they did. Anthony and Jimmy sat near the comatose Ben, huddled close together, and folded their hand around their feet. With the cold night air, and their near-naked statuses, they were soon freezing.
After a while, Jimmy spoke up, his teeth clattering: “I take back my words. A Christmas per year is one too many”.
Anthony didn’t respond.
The hours stretched on. At long, long last, a new day began to infiltrate the impenetrable dark. However, by then, the two boys were too chilled to even care to stand up. Every limb was numb.
From the main house, Michael, Mommy’s brother, was the first to emerge into the morning chill. He immediately spotted the boys. Two bundled against the tree. One flat on the ground, apparently sound asleep. And all of them clothed only in boxers. He was at a loss for words. Anthony finally growled at him: “What you looking at?”
“I… I… well… nice boxers… I mean, nice Boxing Day this one, isn’t it?”
There was a slight pause. Jimmy’s face grew visibly darker.
“All of a sudden,” muttered Anthony, “I feel like terminating a human life.”
©Joseph Wahome 2010
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