Celebrating East African Writing!

Central Locking by Stephen Mwangi Ichungwa

The Benz switched lanes again, swaying on its tired suspension. Jane wished the driver would slow down as they hurtled towards a busy junction whose traffic light was on its way to red.

“Could you, you know, drive a bit slower?” Jane asked in a small voice. “There is no fire.”

The driver didn’t speak. He did not even look at her. The heavy car flew through the junction, missing a minibus by a whisker and leaving an angry cacophony of air horns in its wake. Jane sat back and cinched her seatbelt a notch tighter. Clearly there was no telling this guy. He was following orders in the way which men who worked for her father often did. Without question.

Sneaking out of Mr. Ojoo’s house the previous evening was no mean feat in itself. The household staff lived in awe of the man. They were all from upcountry and there was absolutely no doubt as to where their loyalties lay. Jane knew she would be reported, regardless of how big the grin flashed on the gate guard’s dark face was as he swung the enormous wood and metal edifice open to let her out. He even wished her a good evening.

The nearest bus stop was at least a twenty-minute walk away. Her luck had been in for she had found a matatu immediately and arrived in the city center inside fifteen minutes. George, Seth and Christine were, as agreed, waiting for her at the Kencom stage.

Jane Ojoo was young and old at the same time. Growing up with a gangster cum politician father, whose solution to every problem was a wad of cash (in crispy new thousand bob notes) and a pat on the head meant that she had to figure out a lot of stuff by herself. Her mother, who had gone insane when Jane was about eight, was locked up in a care home somewhere in South Africa. Jane had been sent to boarding school in Class 6 and only went home three times a year until she finished high school. She came home, three weeks ago, after her last KCSE paper to find her home turned into a veritable fortress. Her father, after giving her a brief hug, had explained that due to some security concerns and her now voluptuous womanliness, she was to never leave the compound without his express consent and even then, not without a security detail.

Jane reflected on all this as the Benz sped onwards towards Mr. Ojoo’s wrath. The conversation she had had with dad before this driver was sent to pick her up from Seth’s place held all the warmth of an arctic pebble. There was hell to pay.

The evening had been great fun though. The jolly foursome had hit quite a few pubs in the city before moving on to Carnivore where they danced pretty much the whole night away. Jane remembered how, at some point, they were down by the bonfire and Seth had put his arm around her and kissed her. She thought he was the coolest guy she’d ever met, considering that the list was rather short. She thought she was in love. They left the club at five in the morning and since Seth’s folks weren’t home, they piled into a cab and went there.

Jane’s phone was ringing. She woke up and groggily reached for the blasted thing.


“Where are you?” Her father, Mr. Ojoo was a man of few words.

“I’m at a friend’s house. I’ll be home soon,” Jane said. “I know I…”

“Where are you?” The voice was deliberate, slow and careful. It meant Mr. Ojoo was absolutely furious.

“South B.”

“You will tell me what estate, the court and the house number. Now.”

Jane did as she was told.

“Stay there. Someone will be round shortly to pick you up.”

“Dad, look…I’m sorry OK. I just wanted to go out with my friends OK. It’s boring being home all day. I…”

Her father had hung up.

So here she was, being sped back home to the fortress that Mr. Ojoo built, to lots of money and the occasional supervised weekend outing to spend it and to the house with no warmth.

The Benz was old and the central locking system was shot. Jane’s door was not locked. Maybe she could show her dad that she needed a life. Maybe she could do something that would make him care, make him feel something for her. Whether pity or love, she didn’t care. She just wanted him to feel something. In one move, she unclasped her seatbelt, pushed the door open and jumped out.

©Stephen Mwangi Ichungwa 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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