Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Gideon Chumo
The evening was clattering and clamouring with incessant noise, and if you cared, you could hear the frogs croaking after a downpour earlier on that afternoon. Water had flooded the swampy marsh, feeding the crocodiles with zest, and were in an unison ululation that seemed to echo the approaching twilight life in the suburbs overlooking terrains of the prison farm nearby. The sprawling middle-class estate, still drenched and wet from the rain, roared abuzz with workers as they dragged themselves back to their hovels, sprinkling the streets with sweat from their tired muscles and making the street groan under the shuffling of their weary limbs.
In one of the houses, Leon had been writing a story all afternoon in his bedroom-cum-study. His wife had stuffed the house with all manner of decorations in a bid to exaggerate and make it look exquisite, but in reality it was just what is usually seen in the houses of people with modest means who want to appear affluent, and therefore succeed only in resembling others like themselves—the plastic flowers, the Turkish curtains, and Sedar carpets, plastic flowers, chandeliers—all the things people of certain class have I order to resemble other people of that class. He worked for the local newspaper, and according to his wife, was a little stingy- miserly -but still tolerably comfortable to live with. While he, in turn, considered his beautiful young wife a little spendthrift. This balanced their financial lives and over spilled into their romantic lives, for although he had never raised his voice at her, she still referred to him as a rough and overprotective.
But she couldn’t compare him to their next door neighbour: a DD-dedicated drinker- whose daily drinking made him abusive and irresponsible, beating his wife when he was sober and receiving the same treatment from her when he was drunk. And was notorious when –in his stupor- miss his door and knock on his neighbours’ senselessly like a public noisemaker, especially in the middle of the night—and on several occasions, knock the right door in a bit too loud a fashion enough to awaken the devil from his siesta.
‘Is that my rabbit burrowing out there?’ Leon had been very absorbed in the story that he hadn’t noticed Alison was already home from town where she liked spending her evenings.
‘Ahoy!’ She answered squeamishly in the sitting room.
‘Is that my pussycat purring?’
‘When did my pussycat come home?’ he went on nonchalantly, not wishing her to intrude into his thoughts.
‘Just now. Come out honey and see what I’ve bought.’ She ignored his don’t-bother-me tone and went on unheedingly knowing too well that he would come out if she mentioned money and spending.
‘You must not disturb me…’ But he paused shortly and then went to the door, peeped into the sitting room, looked searchingly at the shopping basket sprawled in the sofa set, and with pen still held in his hand said; ‘bought, did you say? All that? Has my little squander bird been overspending again?’ he looked so surprised at his wife’s compulsive buying.
‘Oh, honey, surely, we can let ourselves go a little this year! It’s the first Christmas.’
‘Oh yes, dear. But we have a future to think of. We need to save as much Mooney for a rainy day.’ He grumbled.
‘Then I’ll wrap up all the notes in pretty gold paper and hang them on the Christmas tree. wouldn’t that be fun?’
‘What’s the name of that little bird that can never keep any money?’
‘The squander bird?’
‘Yes, she is a pretty little creature, but she gets through an awful lot of Mooney. It’s incredible what an expensive pet she is for a man to keep.’
‘How can you say such a thing?’ she pulled her dramatic face to achieve her desired effect. ‘You seem so surprised. I don’t see anything about this shopping that goes beyond the bounds of the ordinary.’
‘I wish my little songbird to be different from what she is.’
‘Money is made to be spent. What use is there to keep Mooney in the banks for the future when the living is here and now? Is it any use to a horse now, if one of his descendants will win the Horse Race? We can as well spend it now as we would then.’
‘You’ve no idea at how we hardworking people tremble when we get our bills.’
‘Don’t worry, your rabbit will salt the bills and your pussycat will sugar them with her sweetest smiles.’ She said as she unpacked foodstuff brought from the supermarket.
Dejected, he retreated to the bedroom and went back to his writing. He was not in the mood to start a squabble just then. For whatever he said, she would say it smartly and that would start another everlasting argument-though her final decision was not always the same as the one she made later. He had to learn to live with such a wife. Tolerate her if he couldn’t do away with her. He adored her.
They had married earlier that year but had not yet added any lovely children into the population. He had nothing to complain about but count his blessings.
She followed him into the bedroom, still excited in her new latest clad. She put her purse on the dressing table, took off her long dress and put on the new mini-skirt, and admired herself for a while in the long mirror. ‘What do you think of this fabulous mini-skirt?’ she looked round, begging his opinion, which was not forthcoming. ‘Isn’t it just cut for a princess?’
‘Honestly? Or you want me to tell you what you want to hear?’
‘Humour me darling. Yes! But don’t tell me that a woman only knows what kind
of dress she doesn’t want after she buys it.’
‘I think it’s true of what the poet said.’
‘Mad poets! What did they say? That, we women ask a question, answer it for you, and then say you are wrong?’
‘No, that we shall observe our likeness in the mirror and reflect on our sins.’
‘Hahaha! That’s a new one-better than the last one.’
‘I forgot that you always kept count.’
‘I don’t bother with what mad poets say. I can forget a lot of the miserable past for a little lovely present. But do tell me, how do I look? Fabulously south of thirty, right?’
‘Even if you were north of seventy, you would still succeed in arousing the interests of perverts and rapists when you go out into the streets parading half-naked in that stupid thing called mini-maximum.’
‘Don’t be so judgmental and miserly. Come out of your conservative macho closet. When are we going to start living? At forty, huh? Common, we live only once; why then should we spend those precious few decades that have been allotted to us stifling under the cover of some sort of philistine scruples?’ She said this while taking her shirt off. And her sexy bra made her even more romantic.
‘Don’t be preachy darling. We are not sent into this world to air our prejudices. Leave that to the preachers.’
When she noticed that her solicitations to get the attention she required to make her plans work were ignored, she went straight to the point, standing in front of him, and begging of him: ‘If a little rabbit asked you really prettily to grant her a wish-well, would you grant it to her?’
‘First I should naturally have to know what it was.’
‘Rabbit would do lots of pretty tricks if you granted her with her wish.’
‘Out with it, then.’
‘Your little pussycat would miaw in every room.’
‘My little pussycat does that already.’
‘I’d turn myself into a little fairy and dance for you in the moon.’
‘Honey it isn’t the house-moving business you were talking about in the morning.’
‘Yes, honey, yes. He came back again this afternoon while you were gone. He found a cheap but comfortable house uptown. I just need you to find time tomorrow so that we can view the property. Trust me, you’ll like it.’
‘Didn’t you promise not to discuss the business in my absence?’ He wagged his index finger and looked reproachfully at her. ‘My little pussy must never do that again. A pussycat must have clean whiskers to purr with, otherwise, she’ll start purring out of tune.’
‘The agent would help us get a better and bigger house.—away from these creepy and drunken and noisy neighbours.’ She explained away in a matter of fact voice.
‘I told you let me handle this business honey. This smart house agent will fleece us of our hard-earned Mooney and end up putting us up in a gutter.’
‘You’ve been saying that for the last three months. This is our last chance to move
into a decent place away from this filth.’
‘Get me a drink.’ He asked in a bid to dismiss her intrusion and buy time.
‘I don’t know what’s in the fridge. Only beer I expect.’
‘There is no only about it. My taste is so simple.’ He was getting irritated.
She headed into the kitchen. The TV screen in the sitting room was splashed with a picture of a local and notorious sexual offender nicknamed Jack the Raper. He had been in the news lately for his remarkable antics- tying the hands and legs of his victims to the bed before proceeding to rape them. The news anchor said that the Jack had escaped from prison and a major manhunt had been launched.
Of course, the image of Jack did not register in her mind as she made her way to the kitchen, humming away happily at the prospect that her husband was finally agreeing to talk about moving house. And she learnt the hard way the Jamaican saying that ‘chicken merry, hawk de near’ when she came face to face in her own kitchen, lurking in the shadows, the rapist who had made his escape, munching away food as if he was in his own house.
© Gideon Chumo 2010. Read Part two next week.
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