Celebrating East African Writing!

Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do by Antony Chambira

Now I am living alone. In a single room.

Previously, as a married man, I lived in a two bedroom house. However, when she left, this memory-filled dwelling place became quiet and lonely. Sometimes I forgot to switch off the lights, and when I returned in the evening, the house was all lighted up and for a moment I was tempted to think that she had come back.

I have been looking for her. I do not know where she moved to. I do, however, know where she works. I also do know that they work in eight hour shifts. If I hang around their workplace at the end of every two hours, there is a chance that I will spot her. A one in a thousand chance that I will catch a glimpse of her beautiful bobbing head.

I did see her. She went into the new staff bus. When it took off I followed it in my ramshackle of a car. It did not move as fast as the new bus. My car was way slower; it belched and billowed smoke, the gears did not engage as they should, the screeching noise from the engine, a far comparison from the soft roar of the big pink new bus.

My tyres are worn out; the shock absorbers are gone too. The indicators and headlights were once there, and the steering wheel shudders at certain speeds, sorry, at any speed above 50 km/hr. So it is no surprise that the new bus carrying the bobbing head disappeared into the horizon in two minutes flat. I did note where it disappeared at though. And the next day I waited for the bus at this vanishing point and followed it till it vanished again.

It took me a month to follow the bus over a distance of four Kilometres. But at last, Alas! I saw my African Queen, the girl of my dreams, alight. This ladies and gentlemen, must be the general area where she lived. I felt elated, like Aladdin and something to do with a Magic Lamp. Quel est votre pre’nom? I even learnt a sentence in French on that day. Not that I know its meaning!  Just that I have craved and earnestly yearned to learn French, only the gods know since when.

I have been hanging around this bus stop, every day, for the last forty five days. The bus does come alright, but she alights not. I think she is on leave, normal leave or maternity leave? I honestly know not.

On this particular day, as I roam this estate, where paths run into each other and houses are not numbered, where every flat has a shop or a butchery or a pub on the ground floor, where market women sell nicely chopped sukuma wiki and finely peeled potatoes decorated with equally superb and wonderfully sliced up carrots, where around every bend there are vendors hawking French fries, as I roam this estate, looking for my disappeared cute one, clouds begin to gather.

I have to go home, more than anything else; I have to be on my way. I am paranoid.

The Reason is simple. When it is cloudy at pipeline estate and its environs, it is raining cats and dogs and wolves at Banana. That is where I live. Matatu route 106. Past the Prestigious Village Market.

I hurriedly board a matatu.

This morning I was in a rush, and just like our other Kenyan drivers, I was overlapping. We, those that were breaking the traffic code, saw the policeman on a motorbike. All the other vehicles were new, powerful, and belonged to wizards of drivers.

They outdrove, and outmanoeuvred the motor bike riding nipatie hongo sasa hivi officer. All apart from two, a nicely dressed gentleman and I. He was calm; this bespectacled gentleman. He was very professional. In a pin stripped charcoal grey suit. He handed over his driving licence as requested. His name was Dr. David Tipapa. There was a middle name, and other titles, titles to do with surgeon or surgery, neurons, new tons, newborns or something…  didn’t quite get all he said.

The good doctor did mention being in a hurry because one of his patients, a tycoon flown in from Uganda on a private jet had suddenly gone from worse to worsier to worsierest and had been transferred to the ICU. He mission was definite, full of determined purpose, his desire was to save a life, and he was waved on.

The policeman approached my 1979 Model Nissan Sunny B12 with a swagger, emanating from his large behind as a result of eating huge portions of whatever he feeds on.

I quickly took stock of myself. A diploma holder in production engineering, dressed in black-unwashed-for-two-weeks jeans and a faded worn out T Shirt, sunglasses picked at a super bargain deal at the Stage Market Stalls, no driving license to hand over, zero title to my name. A simple man. In a hurry to save a devastated withered and dead marriage.

I opted to run for my dear life. And from the roof top of the block of flats I disappeared into, I saw my precious little old white car dragged off by an equally old towing truck.

The ramshackle, gods rest its soul, is at Embakasi police station. (I presume.)

That is why I am in matatu scampering to safety. Away from the downpours associated with gathering clouds.

I am at Banana. Headed to the single room I live in. The room that serves as sitting room and or kitchen by day and bedroom by night. Upon fall of darkness, everything is swept into a corner, the mattress brought down from the wall it leans against. Most of the time, this auspiciously large three in one house is a bedroom.

Clouds are past gathering, and people have already dashed to safety. Shops are shutting down, the shopkeepers retiring to the backrooms that serve as their houses. I manage to buy half a loaf of bread, and boiled beans, I will fry the beans upon reaching my house. In the furthest of corners, where they have been dragged by mighty rats that roam wild and free in this block of single rooms, I am sure to find some tomatoes and an occasional onion.

“Mwanake tengera…hiuha…young man run, the last time such clouds gathered was in 1922. And it rained for five days without end. Somewhere in Kangemi, the earth moved and buried a whole village, mwanake hiuha tengera” is the advice the wizened old shop keeper gives me. I believe him. He is old enough to have seen the great rains.

I am off. Running at speeds that have earned people seventy one million US dollars in far off countries. Lands where thin pale white women do not have to stick horse hair extensions onto their heads to look pretty.

My dash records degrees of swiftness that have seen thousands of matatu touts escape the claws of hungry boys in blue.

It is then that the first two painfully cold raindrops hit me. Stinging frosty pain runs through me. I drop the boiled beans and hide the half loaf of bread under my shirt. I am hungry. What was that chemistry theory on osmosis? Molecules moving from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration? Why aren’t the bread molecules osmosing into my stomach? Or was it diffusion?

The next ice cubes hit me. They remind me of the burning brimstones of hell as described by those who have been to this realm of torture, anguish, agony, and distress. Persons that have lived to tell tales. Accounts that end with being enveloped in bright soft white lights. Just before the yarn-spinners return to life.

I trip and fall, I am groping on my knees, and my bread is soaked. How will I go to sleep hungry? It was to be my 1st meal in four days, I have been too busy walking and searching for my little doll. I take a chunk of the soaked white sponge and stuff it into my mouth.

I have heard tales about him. His name, One Man Guitar, is whispered amongst very scared villagers. Having passed down three generations, this name elicits fear even in the boys in blue. When he is out prowling, they are very busy patrolling areas not within their jurisdiction.

His fame has nothing to do with creating jazz music, or entertaining revellers at makuti roofed places of beer worship.

It is said, he, the One Man Guitar, hunts once in a while, alone. He appears and disappears, leaving behind tales and traces of horror, he carries a machete the size of a guitar, it is said that it is two edged and very sharp, that the tool can slice an electricity pole neatly into two. Word also has it that he is as strong as Demi and Mathathi, the two giants that cleared the earth to make it habitable by the human race.

It gleams in the darkest of nights. This glitter, it is said, is visible even to the blind. The same is used to dispatch unfortunate victims to their respective makers. To the life after, to the meeting with St. Peter, holder and key gate keeper of the great golden doors of heaven, Butler in Chief, one that welcomes guests to the singing of the Choir of Angels.

Same tool can also dispatch one into the bottomless pit, where gnashing of teeth takes a whole new painful dimension. Where the worst of human kinds are used as firewood to light up and scorch the lesser sinners.

The flash of the blade has been rumoured to be spotted across valleys, in the dead of the night accompanied by screams cut short, and tales of heads thirty meters away from warm still bodies.

I look up, why is this flash of lighting different from all the rest? I see the old police issue boots, soaked cotton trousers, an overcoat, can’t tell what colour the shirt is, the leather hat has a very wide beam, keeping the rain off his calloused face.

He grins, perfect row of gleaming white teeth. “Ndiuma na uuru… I have no ill intentions…sina ubaya lete tu kile ulicho nacho.”

It is the most chilling, blood curdling voice I have ever heard in my entire life. It is a voice sculptured of steal. I stretch and hand him the half munched soaked loaf of bread. He laughs. A Warm, hearty, soft bellow. The joyous laugh of a family man.

Will she be on the staff bus tomorrow? Will the hired Pilot fly the banner proclaiming my love over Nairobi City as agreed?

Swift  movement, a swish, rustle of cloth as his guitar hand comes down, flashes of light, roaring Ferrari racing cars, NCIS Miami officers, I wet myself, it doesn’t matter, no one will notice.

Music plays in my head, Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do…Do Ti La So Fa Mi Re Do…Doe A Dear, A Female Dear…

© Antony Chambira 2010

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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