Celebrating East African Writing!


Written by Mwangi Ichungwa


It’s three o’clock in the afternoon.

It is swelteringly hot in the city, and dusty. Very dusty. It should rain soon, or the streets will choke. The air, fetid from burst sewers and rotting trash in the gutters, ripples with noise; from matatus, the market stalls’ blaring music and human voices.

Everyone is in a hurry and shouting, a seething maelstrom of cogs, each trying to address the machine in their own way. A flustered traffic cop on a pedestrian island takes off his cap and wipes the back of his hand on his brow. Somewhere, brakes screech and an angry horn blows. The handcart pusher who was almost hit by the speeding Nissan van shouts expletives in Kikuyu at the driver, and continues to push his cart laden with bales of flour at the same leisurely pace. The Nissan slowly drives around him and its driver yells something that makes the people nearby laugh. The traffic policeman shakes his head sadly.

At ten past the hour, a wine red Toyota Allion creeps slowly past the front of the Ambassadeur Hotel and double parks in front of the Bakers’ Inn. From his position, the old cab driver sitting in his ancient, claptrap Toyota DX at the rank across the street can see the driver, a young man, with his phone held to the ear. He is making a call. The young man speaks for a moment and then hangs up. He is impatient, the old man can tell, as he keeps drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. What is he here for, the old man wonders idly. Then he forgets and lights a cigarette.

The traffic cop has had enough of the sun and dust. He needs a cold drink and so heads for the Bakers’ Inn. His relative, a second or third cousin or something, works there and this guarantees him a free one. As he walks into the shop, his attention is colossally diverted by the young woman emerging from a staircase that leads up into some offices next to the Inn.

She is wearing those skinny jeans and a strappy top, an ensemble that brings out her petite, lithe and curvy frame in gratuitously lust inducing chic. She is also carrying large satchel. The cop, distracted, slams bodily into an office messenger who is leaving the Inn, heavily laden with pastries and coffee.

The mess is marvellous.

The cop, who now has a large wet patch from his belly to his knees, and the messenger argue about whose fault it is. A small crowd gathers to watch. The cop points with his truncheon a lot as he yells at the poor man, berating him for not looking where he was going. The messenger tells him the same thing. He is much smaller than the hulking government brute, but he stands his ground, demanding in a loud voice for the cop to pay for the mess. Someone in the crowd yells that the cop has been on the street the whole day and would have definitely made enough from all the matatu bribes. A chant of he should pay takes on a life and the cop backs down.

He and the messenger step into the Inn and are seen haggling at the counter. The Bakers’ employee who is mopping up the spill has an angry scowl on his face. He doesn’t get paid nearly enough for this.

The woman with the satchel stops in the street outside, indifferent to the accident she just caused. She looks around a bit before raising her phone to her ear and saying something into it. Then she heads for the red car and slips into the front passenger seat. She greets the young man and proceeds to withdraw a CD booklet from her bag. She sets this on the dashboard and then pulls out a small portable DVD player. As she does this, the man appraises her, eyeing her up in the confine of the cabin. She notices and glares at him for a split second. The look seems to say don’t judge me because I sell porn, I’m not that kind of girl.

The young man stops ogling, but he knows what she is and that with the right kind of persuasion, she’d do with him what he will be watching on the discs later. He shrugs, physically and mentally. She then takes the CD booklet and opens it, showing the man the array porn DVDs within. The man picks six of them before she puts the CD case back in the bag. Then she plays his selection on the portable device, one by one, for his confirmation of their content. He says he’ll take all of them and she nods and voices her approval of his decision. He owes her twelve hundred bob and she makes an impolite sucking sound when he hands her two one thousand shilling notes. She doesn’t really want to come back down here to give him his change and asks, not politely, whether he has loose money. He shakes his head. She makes the sound again and exits the car. She leaves behind a ghost of cheap perfume, underscored by the faintest odour of sweat. The man turns on his AC before depositing the discs into his glove compartment.

He doesn’t wait for his change.

©Mwangi Ichungwa 2010. See more of Mwangi at Avalon Perpetual.

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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