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Killing Season

“I’ll have some death with those fries”. I told Sunny yesterday when he came to see how I was doing with his famous flavoured fries. It was a joke. I snickered, he wasn’t amused. You see when you have been through what I have been through; you acquire a sense of morbid humour to survive. To be honest if it wasn’t for my mother, I would have killed myself several times over. I can’t really explain how I feel. It is a mash up of pleasure and arousing pain. There always seems to have been something wrong, wrong with me, with my situation.

Dad died and left me. He left us. Mum wailed, writhing on the ground with Aunt Sally rubbing her back as she too wailed her last. That was it. Just 10 years ago there were eight of us and now here we were, just two of us. My family was destined to live the lifespan of gargantuan fly. Fly life in human time; one week for a fly translating to maybe a meager 18 or 45 years short for humans. Dad was just 45. Eddy was 18 when she hung herself. I found her.

Eddy had always locked herself up in her room, I was sent to get her for dinner as always. I was the youngest, she was the eldest and she was in her teens and weird. I didn’t care. No matter how anyone felt I ensured that we were always seated round the oval dining table for dinner. I loved seeing our eight faces every night.

I sat opposite Eddy. I knocked on her door as usual and there was no answer. Not unusual, at times she would yell, “Go away!” that was a bad day, if it was a less sucky day, silence was the indicator and that meant that the door wasn’t locked. I pushed it open, and turned on the lights. I first saw her room was in a mess. It never was. It was like an explosion had happened in her wardrobe; her clothes were strewn all over the floor.

“Eddy” I called out. Silence. I thought she was in the shower, so I dashed out to see if the shower light was on. It was off and the door was wide open. Mum called out for us both.

“MUM!  I can’t see Eddy. She’s not here.”

I ran to our room to see if she was ransacking Annie’s stuff as she did at times. She always pulled the “I am older than you” card on Annie. Never mind she was like 3 minutes older than Annie.

“EEEEEEEDDDDDYYYY!”  I called out over and over again and there was no sign of her. Something made me go back to her room. On the floor I noticed the dress. The teal sequin dress that gave Mum a heart attack. It was Eddy’s favourite; she wore it on her first date with Edu, her first boyfriend 2 years ago, her robust rump and cleavage waving to an awestruck world in teen defiance. Mum hated that dress. “Undignified.” She sneered after losing the fight with Eddy over wearing it. Mum blamed Dad for spoiling her.

Even though Eddy got over the heart break she always treasured the dress. And it was always hung on a specific wooden hanger with broad shoulders in the plastic laundry packaging. It had a special place. I knew then something was wrong. No way would Eddy let anyone or anything ruin that dress.

The dress was still fine but crumpled amongst the other clothes on the floor. It looked like nearly everything she kept in her wardrobe was out; clothes, shoes, her undies, socks. I decided to open her wardrobe; I screamed…and fell to the ground. Hands trembling and covering my mouth, tears gushing down my face, there, eyes closed, dried mascara strewn all over face making her look like a raccoon, head craned to one side and neck swollen with Mum’s missing sisal rope round her neck and hands hanging lifeless by her side.

Mum stormed in the room panicking, she too screamed and leapt and whisked me in the air into her arms sheilding my face with her chest. She screamed like a banshee, covering her mouth and Dad, Annie and everyone else quickly thundered up the stairs collapsing to the floor. Dad said nothing; his eyes popped out of their sockets and ran to bring her down, shaking her to try and wake her. Dad began to sob bitterly. That was the beginning of my family’s “killing season”.

The grim reaper had found the harvest, it was ripe and it was right in the Okinda household. We had no idea what the next 10 years had in store. Like clockwork, we would hold our breath every 10th December. It was Grim’s harvest date every two years.

0

Saved by the Diaper

Otieno was bored at home. He sat at the edge of the bed legs dangling occasionally kicking back and forth. He wasn’t the only one; his four siblings were equally bored. They had played for hours in the house and they had had their fill. It was a hot summer’s afternoon and they needed to explore. Mum and Dad were out at work and Dina the eldest thought it would be a great idea to finally leave and play some new games.

“Put on your shoes, we are leaving!” Dina called out. All smiles and excited they rushed to put on their shoes as Dina opened the door to guide everyone out. Akoth, raised her concern.

“What if Mum and Dad find out?”

“They won’t we will be back before they get back from work. And they don’t mind, we are all together, Eddy and I will be here with you.” Dina reassured everyone.

“Stop calling me Eddy, I am Achieng!”Achieng called out.

“Eddy suits you better with all the pants you like wearing all the time. Achieng would suit you if you were more girly,” Dina retorted snidely. A fight ensued, as always, Akoth, Otieno and Odhis all looked on, as their two elder sisters fought it out.

Odhis got tired and began to walk to the door, his little legs were dwarfed by the protruding diaper. Otieno laughed pointing at Odhis, “Time to change him Eddy!”

Whack! Tears! Laughter. “You didn’t see that one coming did you O-TI-EN-O?” Achieng got back at Otieno as Akoth laughed and Odhis slipped and fell on his full diaper in laughter.

“I am not changing him now. You do it!” Dina barked at Otieno who was no sulking. They all went back in to the house as they waited for Otieno to finish changing his three year old brother. Akoth felt sorry for Otieno and joined him upstairs to help him clean up after changing Odhis. It wasn’t easy, Odhis was a runner. Immediatley he was freed of his smelly burden and wiped, he would make a ritualistic run before a fresh diaper was placed. Otieno was so exhausted and fought back tears.

Akoth cried out of pity for Otieno. Odhis laughed and run like Speedy Gonzlez darting from room to room before he was pinned down. After that charade everyone was now slightly put off going anywhere. Dina and Achieng went into the kitchen and made sandwiches with juice for everyone to snack on.

Just as they sat and turned on the TV to watch cartoons, Mum walked in through the door. They all looked at her, then looked at Akoth.
“I told you we would have been busted, if we would have left!” she smiled and everyone went about finishing their snack as Mum smothered everyone with a kiss. Only if she knew.

1

Bastard Child

Aaron had been chained to the kennel for about an hour now. He was tugging at the chain and howling with the dogs. Andrew his elder brother looked on wondering why his parents still treated his brother like an animal. It all began about 5 years ago. Aaron like all teenagers acquired an attitude and talked back at Dad. Dad wasn’t having it, just as Aaron walked out rolling his eyes at Dad. Dad grabbed him by the forearm and dragged him outside.

Aaron thought it was the usual; stand outside for 20 minutes in the cold and think of what you have just done. Aaron was willing and decided to grab his jacket while on his way to the door. No biggie, Andrew had gone through the same punishment. Only this time, Aaron had been found with some weed in his pocket. Dad could deal with anything except drugs. Liquor, drunk and disorderly he could handle. Drugs, now that crossed the line.

Aaron smelled of weed, of all drugs, and that was that for Dad. Aaron started to sense things were off this time when dad grabbed the dog chain and some handcuffs he had got from retirement from the police force. Aaron began to plead; Dad wasn’t going to hear it. Mum and Andrew stared from the kitchen window into the backyard wondering what was going to happen.

Vader, the dog, was pulled out of the kennel and tethered outside. And then Dad cuffed Aaron’s wrists and then using the other dog chain he had carried, chained Aaron inside the dog house. Mum darted outside the kitchen pleading with dad, begging him to forgive Aaron. Dad wasn’t paying any attention to a pleading Mum. Aaron started to look scared – he could see this wasn’t a joke anymore. Mum ran back to the house and grabbed something to open the cuffs. Dad walked back to the house completely unfazed. As Mum dashed out, Dad simply said, “If you release that boy. He is no longer my son and neither are you my wife.”

Mum was stunned! She stared at him mouth ajar and after a few seconds later just as Dad was opening the back door to enter the house Mum yelled. “No man I married would ever treat a child he loves like a beast!”

Aaron got off the hook, but that never deterred him, time and again that night replayed itself. Mum would keep freeing Aaron. And soon enough it moved from weed to something harder. Aaron dropped out of school and was high all the time. Dad wanted nothing to do with him. Mum would try to act normal until one day Mum got fed up. Dad had completely stopped chaining Aaron; he knew it was an effort in futility.

“Your guardian angel is here to ensure you are safe from the big bad Dad!” Dad would say sarcastically.

But that changed when Aaron showed up high as usual and began to call Mum names. He called her “cunt”, “faggot”, “whore” and all other kinds of profanities. And this, all because Mum had served him a meal he didn’t want. Mum had made her delicious mashed potatoes, meat loaf and carrots with some delicious gravy. It was the family’s favourite meal. But Aaron high as a kite tried to be macho.

Mum had been seated next to Dad reading a magazine. Dad had learned to tune it out. It had been a  year after the attempted lock up. After the last profanity rolled off Aaron’s tongue, Mum yanked him violently by the ear and dragged him outside. Mum left the dog in the Kennel, found a way and tied Aaron to the Kennel. Aaron slept outside that night.

5 years later, that is what my parents still do. They tried rehab, Aaron wasn’t very cooperative. And just like that, Aaron turned from young with a promising life, to the family flea infested scoundrel with a potty mouth. Andrew never knew why he never did anything to help his brother. At times he almost felt that Aaron did deserve it.

0

MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM!!!!!!!!

After 18 months of being ill, Nolari was finally on her feet, she was excited that she could do even the most basic things without pain or discomfort. She had finally kicked cancer to the curb. Despite all the money spent from her treatment, she managed to save some, as a treat she bought herself an old maroon Peugeot 505 like the one Daddy used to drive. It was all about celebrating the good all times and the new life ahead.

Nolari loved the car, she bought it from a Peugeot dealer who restored old models in to solid working order. And even had a trick he played on engines to help reduce fuel consumption to more reasonable levels. Nolari didn’t care, she was just happy she got “Daddy” back. Dad had died 20 years ago from fatal car accident while he was on his way back from the airport. A trailer rear ended him and he fell into a ditch at 80kph. He died on impact in the ditch. Nolari had always loved her dad, it was tragic.

So here she was having lost her Dad, almost died and now she got it all, well almost all of it back. She had her Mum and her kid brother Milya who loved her to bits. Nolari had begun to take up the art classes she had dismissed almost 20 yeas ago after Dad died. She had pottery class and fine arts. The past week had been practicals with a lot of evaluations in school culminating in a mini xhibition. Nolari had packed her work in her boot. The plan that Wednesday morning was to take her work to school and then show Mum the town. Mum seemed bored and lonely. She had just retired six months prior and was getting a new rhythm to her own life.

All was fine up until she bumped into Aunt Ruth who had also taken a year off her business. Mum was ecstatic, some peer fun for her, with her sister. Who was Nolari to stop that? The day was going to be a blast. They all took a quick detour for lunch at one of Mum’s favourite spots, they had some fresh fish from the lake with some delicious salsa and Ugali, washing it down with some delicious smoothies. Mum and Aunt Ruth weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere, so Nolari opted to explore the rest of the mall that they were in. Nolari left Mum with the car keys and reminded her to give her a call when and if they were leaving.

“I am just roaming around, if you need to leave just let me know where you are headed and how long you’ll be. I still need to drop my art work at school.”

They were in mid conversation, haf listening to Nolari when she said it and they waved her goodbye laughing and high fiving each other. Nolari smiled shaking her head and went off to roam. She came across a private gallery in the mall and then spent what seemed like 30 minutes finding ways to showcase her work.When she finally wrapped up with the curator and looked at her watch she realized she had been gone for almost 3 hours. She went back to the restaurant and Mum and Aunt Ruth were gone.

Nolari called them and went to where they were by bus it was about an hour out. She now had to dash to school. On arrival, she had an odd feeling. Mum and Aunt Ruth were still chatting on a bench near a soda kiosk. “What are you doing here Mum?”

“We thought we would get your car cleaned? It is the least we could do.”

“But why here mum? There was a car wash at the petrol station across the road?”

“Oh! I didn’t realize that, sorry love, well he should be done….” Mum’s jaw dropped and she fell silent.

“Mum?”

“Ruth did you see where that boy went, the car, was just here?” Aunt Ruth shook her head as she sipped her water from the bottle.

Nolari’s heart began to race and she bagn to perspire, “Mum? Once you opened the car, did you leave the keys with the man or did you keep them?” Nolari began to raise her voice.

“I am not quite sure,” Mum began to rummage through her bag. Then she stopped and looked up at Nolari apologetically.

“Mum, no! Mum!” Nolari began to yell, as she clasped her hands on her head, she felt faint and was about to begin crying. No one seemed moved by the wailing and hysterical woman. Nolari was now running from end to end of that Garage demanding to know where her car was.

And just like that her joy, her new found love for art and learning was stripped from her again.

0

My Hero!

I could barely eat my lunch; I was so excited I would finally see Dad, Muli, Mutua and Kanini. I had missed everyone so much. It had only been six weeks since school resumed. But the ‘hole’ I schooled in, made everything seem like light years away.

I stood at the school gate in the sea of blue uniforms craning my neck as I watched families stream in. And then, there he was in his signature brown suede jacket which lately had started to loosen on him. His shoulder blades sharper and his countenance worn, I was overjoyed to see him.

“Dad!” He turned and smiled, my hero! And not far behind carrying the picnic baskets was Muli and Mutua. I jumped and gave them big hugs. I felt safe and sane. Kanini smothered my cheek with a kiss and smiled cheekily as she always did. I began to tear from joy. It swept through me. The last six weeks had been hell. C.A.Ts and punishments for questioning authority, who had now decided to scrap sports and turn school, which I already loathed, into an academic prison. My stress outlet was stripped from me.

It was so refresing having people that I love with me in this hell hole. We finally got a spot to picnic. I pulled out my leso and laid it on the ground. Kanini also pulled out hers so there was plenty of cosy ground for all of us. We kicked off our shoes, I sat close to Dad; my hero. He asked me how school was, I lied, “Fine. I got an ‘A’ in my last CAT.” I said looking at him for approval.

Dad smiled, and I noticed something off about his countenance. His face was more worn than I last saw him. His skin was pale. And his lips were crooked. A tear streamed down my cheek and I quickly turned.  I didn’t want Dad to see me cry, Mutua noticed and he cracked a joke, we all laughed. He was good at making us all laugh.

I looked at Muli and he nodded, he knew what I was asking him when I looked in his direction distressed. “Dad has been sick again? Is it worse?” It was all I ever asked in every letter that I wrote. Dad coughed hard and prolonged, there was this whistling sound with every cough. Tears streamed down my face. Muli tried to distract the now somber mood. “Let’s go and wash our hands, Mueni, please show us where, we seem to keep forgetting.” Muli held my hand and we walked about 15 steps away to the tap in plain site.

“Mueni, don’t worry,” Muli began as he turned on the tap to wash his hands. “He will get better.”

“But his lips are crooked, he is getting skinnier…”

“Dad’s a fighter he will make it. You just focus on school and look for the best in every situation.”

I opened my mouth to say something, Muli shook his head to stop me from uttering anything. I felt someone come from up behind and whisk me in the air. It tickled. I laughed, it was Dad. I hugged him and held on.

“It will all be fine like it was before Mueni!” He whispered in my ear. Tears streaming down my face.

0

Baffled!

Aluoch stood at the entrance of the caretakers house where she had been summoned. Her mouth was ajar, she had no words to describe what she was looking at. At first the shock overwhelmed her, then soon after she felt queezy and faint. Kinoti, the caretaker saw her inch toward the ground, and quickly grabbed a seat. Aluoch was speechless, she stared again and then began to cry, she knew she wasn’t helping the situation. But she couldn’t muster the strength to lift herself from the seat to cry away from the pain and discomfort before here.

“Madam, please…” the feminine voice began. Aluoch wiped her face and blew into her handkerchief and lifted her burrowed countenance to the woman.

“I am so sorry. That was unprofessional of me, what can I do to help you?”

The woman shook her head and her stumps for hands. Aluoch’s gut began to turn again; she sniffed and tilted her head back to fight back the tears.

“If I may ask, who did this to you?” Aluoch was devastated.

“They call it long sleeved. In the north where we are raided everyday, a few days ago the raiders used a new strategy. Since there is a lot of drought now, they decided to break the communities which they raid. The women do all the work, so they felt that the best way to stop the community from going on with life after raids is to harm the women. They torched the houses and stole the lifestock and would kill our men and sons. Then they set the women aside rape some and then ask you if you like it long or short sleeves. I said long, they hacked me above my wrists.

Aluoch was fighting back the floodgate of tears which had now burst bank. “I am so sorry, I shouldn’t be doing this, please excuse me.”

Aluoch stood outside the caretaker’s house and wept uncontrollably. It was too much to bear and she couldn’t understand why this woman wasn’t weeping either. It was a devastating tragedy and for Aluoch the thought of having to report on this story irked her. She wouldn’t know if she would be able to downplay her personal biases. It would be tough. Aluoch’s mind was racing as fast the tears flowed down her cheeks.

After about 15 minutes, Aluoch dashed into the house to wash her face and freshen up and returned to the caretaker’s abode.

“Ma’am, what is your name?”

“Felistas. What brought you here and not necessarily to a media outlet? How do you know Kinoti?”

Kinoti shrugged his shoulders, he had no idea who this woman was and how she got to know where Aluoch lived.

“On my way to Nairobi through the help of a relief worker, she directed me to find you. She told me you would find me justice through your stories.” That then became a rather awkward moment of silence. Felistas began to rub her hands together at the elbow.

“My hands itch,” Felistas remarked. Aluoch rubbed her at the elbows gently smiling to comfort Felistas. Felistas smiled in some discomfort, wincing slightly. Her hands at the top of her wrists began to bleed.

“Let’s rush you to hospital.” Kinoti dashed to the gate as Aluoch rushed Felistas to the car and hopped into the driver seat to get her some medical attention. Aluoch was confused, she wasn’t sure she would be able to fight to be as objective covering this story as she always was.

0

It’s a Miracle!

Andy’s skin had been itching for days. It was so bad he was now bleeding from where he had scratched. He was fidgety in bed, his hands had been tied with khangas to the bed post to prevent himself from causing anymore damage.

His grandaunt had been called to apply some traditional herbs to ease the pain. Needless to say the medication had not worked three days later and every time a drop from one of those boiled leaves landed on his body he screamed. It got worse, the last time his grandaunt tried, he passed out from the pain. His body didn’t seem to be getting any better.

Andy’s mum was really getting concerned. Andy’s sister was locked in her room after days of insisting on calling a doctor. Well that wasn’t how Dina found herself in a domestic solitary confinement. She had pretended that she was going to check in on a friend because she felt that she couldn’t handle seeing her brother that way. Her mother didn’t mind, she understood.

“After all, you have never been strong like our bloodline. You took the weakness from your father. Andy will heal.” That was the last thing Dina’s Mum told her. Something in their mum has snapped after Andy’s body reacted so violently to a traditional initiation drink. They had never seen it react that violently with anyone before. Andy’s body looked like a gremlin that had been doused with water. His skin just frothed. It was scary. So Dina’s shock to the scenario wasn’t really weakness any normal person would have reacted violently in shock.

So off went Dina ‘next door’ she had spoken to a friend to get a doctor to rescue her brother from this traditional herbal madness. Andy was in agony and seemed to be deteriorating from this unusual skin disorder. So when Dina was found out, she was quickly shipped back to the house and locked up in her room.

About two days later Dina was awoken from her in and out again prayer slumber, by her mother’s distinct chanting. This time no one else joined her. The other voices wailed and called out to the ancestors. Dina looked at her phone it was 4am. What in the world was it. She banged on the door!

“Aaaaannnnddyyyyyy! Answer me! Aaaaaaannnnnddyyyyyyy!” Silence.

Mum opened the door snot filling her face with good luck charms in her right hand. As the door opened further, Dina saw her brother standing behind her mother. It was a miracle! Andy was alive and well, normal. What happened?