Raising Damien

There was screaming and shouting all around Mutua. Children kicking balls, riding bikes, screaming as children picked themselves up from the ground with scraped knees and elbows. Girls skipped in a distant corner from the curb that Mutua sat on. Mutua sat in silence observing the children play. He was sad, he really wanted to join in but no one wanted him to be part of their game. That was the daily routine; you even wonder why Mutua left home in the first place when he knew very well what the daily routine was.

Mutua would emerge from the house at 8am like all the other children, ask if he could join. That would then be responded to with a violent shove from one of the boys. He would stumble backward almost tripping over, then timidly walk toward the girls. “Miss popularity” with the long hair, newest dresses and dolls would size him up from head to toe and respond, “Girls never play with boys.” And just like that this 8 year old would be forced to sit on the curb and watch the other children have fun.

There was nothing physically wrong with Mutua, he looked any normal eight year old. Cute chocolate baby face, slightly chubby, dressed like any other eight year old, just slightly bow legged. But that was it. Why no child wanted to play with him baffled his own parents. The neighbours liked Mutua’s parents and would call their children out on the segregation of the boy, but it still continued.

It was a public holiday on this particular Friday, that meant three whole days of nothing but fun and games. Parents on one street in the neighbourhood decided to throw a street barbeque party to bond and just have fun with their children. It was potluck for most of the food and the men roasted 5 goats on a spit for all to see. The food was delicious; there was a lot of laughter. Then the fun moved from the table to the playground. For the first time all the parents saw how Mutua was treated by their own children.

Mutua’s parents nudged Mutua off the curb he always sat on and decided to whip up the skipping rope for him. Mutua was hesitant, “That’s Stephanie’s skipping rope, she will be mad if you touch it.” His parents looked at him with pity in their eyes and called Stephanie to remedy the situation.

“Stephanie would you mind if we skip with Mutua for a while using your rope?”

“No,” she responded twirling her dress around, pretending to be innocent.

Mutua was still hesitant, but after a little convincing from Mum he gave it a shot. Dad and Mum began to swing the rope around and began to count his jumps.

“One, two , three…ten, eleven…”

The higher the number went, the faster Mutua called out for his parents to turn the rope. Mutua began to scream wildly and babble as he skipped. When he got to fifty, Mutua yanked the rope like a wild animal and began to snort, spit and rip his clothes off. Everyone was in shock, except the children.

Mutua’s parents pulled aside Mutua, now kicking and screaming, staring at each other wondering what just happened.

“I told you Mum, he’s weird,” Stephanie said out loud. “It is as if something always sets him off. He hit me in the head with a tennis ball the last time we played with him. And he tripped Karanja. He hurts people when he has fun…”

The street had fallen silent and everyone heard what Stephanie said, as the other children nodded their heads in agreement. Mutua’s parents felt embarrassed and shocked. They apologised profusely to everyone especially Stephanie and Karanja and excused themselves, whisking Mutua into the house.

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