Celebrating East African Writing!

Duke of Nothing

Written by Karari Charles

Duke had just graduated from the University of Nairobi to join a big cohort of jobseekers. With not much to do and no job, he presented a proposal to his father, a seasoned transport businessman who also owned large chunks of land in various locations.

“The project is quite novel in this region. There is no other butterfly farm around here. Butterfly farms are a tourist attraction all over the world. We will be open to both local and international tourists. We will surely make money and gain recognition.”

“It’s a good idea,” his dad responded, “ impossible though in this country.”

“It’s possible dad. All I need is land and a little capital. I will put together a proposal to donors with environmental interest. My lecturer at the University and some of my colleagues will be very supportive. Furthermore, your land is sitting idle; I could make good use of it with this project.”

The reaction in his father’s eyes said it all. The idea did not sink well. He didn’t have to say it. But he did.

“What? Are you out of your mind? Did I educate you this far for you to come and start asking for my land? Can’t you look for a decent job? Don’t you care for your brothers and sisters who are still in school? How dare you tell me about butterflies? You young men are nothing but daydreamers, lazy! In our youth we worked hard and were ambitious. What is wrong with the youth of today?”

“But dad, mine is not a daydream; it’s a project, well thought out a…?”

“Forget it!” his dad interjected angrily and walked out.

This was Duke’s first business proposal. He had woken up late in the night whenever a notion on the business came to his mind. He had felt a curious warmth in his heart whenever he visualized the farm full of white, black, and all types of butterflies. It felt like bliss. He remembered the slight pangs in his stomach whenever the thought of failure crept into his mind. Silently, he made a resolve to continue with his endeavor undeterred.

Next stop, Mheshimiwa.

Duke drafted a letter to the area politician, posing after every paragraph reviewing and counter – reviewing to rid it of any errors. The letter has to impress, like good music is pleasing to the ear and sweet food pleasing to the tongue.

Dear Sir,

I am a son of this happy land, your constituent and ardent supporter. I am very much interested in the development of our constituency thereby contributing to the welfare of its people as well as that of our country.  I just completed my studies at the University of Nairobi.

After broad consultations with colleagues and professionals in the field of conservation of biodiversity, we have come up with a project which will involve butterfly farming both for conservation as well as tourism attraction.

Our constituency is well suited for this endeavor. At a time when the farm is well established it will offer employment to the local people since it will attract both local and international tourists. The locals will also learn a lot as far as environmental conservation is concerned. This is just an overview of the project and I am willing to share more granted the opportunity to meet you and any other interested parties.

The main aim of writing to you, mheshimiwa is to lobby for your support in identifying land which is a major requirement for such a project. I know the local council owns huge unused chunks of land which are suitable for our purpose. Mheshimiwa I respect the tremendous influence that you have on the local council committee as well as the people who move the agenda in the constituency.

My team would very much like to run this business as a private enterprise and pay the council the agreed rates. However discussions will be held regularly once the council agrees to allocate the land to us.

I know you do not know me but I believe you will, in time when you grant me a hearing. I have known you since I became aware of politics as you have served this constituency long before I was born (Funny these people have been voting you in the whole time, Duke thought.)

Thank you for taking your time to consider my request (I hope your secretary won’t detain it). I am looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience ( Hope it won’t wait till the run up to the next general elections).

Yours sincerely


Five days later Duke sat face to face with Mheshimiwa.  “Young man, I read your short story and wasn’t it interesting! I can assure you that such an endeavor is not possible. Not driven by youth like you. Give me the full proposal for my perusal but do not expect me to support such over ambitious projects. By the way, how sure am I that you are not one of the conmen posing as a good constituent? Go, meet me tomorrow morning 8 am sharp”.

Mheshimiwa told Duke sternly while handing him something – a five hundred shilling note. He took it and left the room thinking silently, “Who said I need handouts? I am not your goon!”

The following day Duke was handed a long and boring lecture by Mheshimiwa which culminated with his document being literally thrown to his face. He was reminded how useless the youth of today are, lazy daydreamers bent on getting free things. Duke controlled the anger burning in him. He lasted long enough to stand and walk out of the Mheshimiwa’s office with a vow never to return.

Big mouth, big stomach, big head, and no brains. Duke thought to himself as he walked the streets homewards feeling humiliated. He felt robbed and poor yet he realized in an instant that he still had brains. That is where his riches lay.

Duke sat outside his house deep in thought. How come no one seems to understand me? What is this talk about the youth being lazy? Why is everyone repeating this allegation over and over again? Should I talk to my father’s friend and lawyer? No, he will probably give me a learned lecture on the complexities of life and how hard it is for my project to work and how as a lawyer he has seen it all and how as a youth I need to be patient and probably dream less ambitious dreams and work harder. What about the clergyman? He will definitely request me to repent all my sins and of cause give generously in church. Perhaps I should see a psychiatrist who might say I am not only lazy but crazy.

Duke was disrupted from his reverie by Kailasi’s voice, “Hi. Rehearsing some verses or engrossed in prayer?”

Kailasi was Duke’s age mate who had dropped out of school due to lack of fees. Like his parents, he had started doing menial jobs including working at Duke’s father’s farm. An odd relationship existed between Kailasi and Duke. One moment they were exchanging stories jovially, the next they were fighting.

“No” Duke replied without turning. “I am not rehearsing, neither am I praying. I am trying to live. What brings you here, lazy man?”

“Lazy? Someone called me lazy just a moment ago…..”

“I didn’t say it, dude,” Duke interjected. “My dad, my Mheshimiwa both said I am lazy. In the eyes of our elders we are just a bunch of lazy and crazy fellows.”

“No they are wrong” Dukes ‘friend’ was shouting in anger. “They didn’t even work for what they have, they grabbed, they stole, some even killed for it. It’s not their sweat. That is why they fear losing it. They have turned blind with age but they won’t just leave. As if they will bring the wealth to their graves. Don’t they realize how they make our country stink of corruption and evil?”

“Wait a minute”, Duke said as he rose from his sit visibly shaking with anger. “Are you trying to suggest that my dad is a thief and a killer just like the rumour mongers in this village keep saying? I thought you are my friend and that you do not peddle rumours and hatred. Now you come straight to my home and start attacking my father after you have tended his farm since you dropped out of school? You have depended on him all your life, haven’t you?”  Duke’s voice was rising and beginning to attract attention from people in the compound.

Kailasi responded with all calmness “Duke, you misunderstand me, I would never slight your father. I was looking at it in a wider sense. Why don’t we have jobs for the youth in our country? Why are some people driving big fuel guzzlers while others route number 11? Why are people sleeping hungry while others over eat and vomit on their shoes?  It is because of ancient injustices my dear friend. Economic disparities must not be perpetuated because if they do you can be sure to find an enemy in me and after us your children will find an enemy in my children.”

“You know, these walls.., Kailasi said as he pointed to the stone wall fencing the compound.

‘These walls will offer you no protection. Why do you think I have a simple fence in my small compound? It’s because I have nothing to protect.  I am “Duke of Nothing” rich with nothing do you understand?

© Karari C

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.


4 comments on “Duke of Nothing

  1. paul kariuki
    November 17, 2010

    A very hilarious read! You’ve brought the youth’s problems in perspective. A good dialogue though. You get an 8!


  2. hildah mutugi
    November 19, 2010

    And all the while i sat under the mango tree thinking that am all alone in all this.well….i just cleard college, apparently,getting married seems wiser than actualy working for the so called elderly ones who have been through it all.thankyou for letting me know that everyday as i toil, I am so not alone!!!!!!!!!!!. I GIVE YOU A 10


  3. this is such a beautiful and a sincere piece of literature too. It paints the reality’s picture so well Karari. I give it an 8


  4. samy
    September 16, 2014

    informative piece


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