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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.

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When its over…

The doctor kept tapping on his wire rimmed glasses repeatedly as if to emphasize a point. Onditi was uncomfortable. He had been lying on his back, legs spread and his family jewels exposed from under the thin hospital garment. The doctor stood infront of him looking at his genitalia.

“Not good!” the doctor said after nearly 30 minutes of staring. Onditi slowly inched his thighs together, he was done, or so he thought.

“Don’t close, not good.” The doctor began to examine him squeezing every part of his lower torso with extra emphasis on his scrotum. “Lump! Lump!”the doctor exclaimed as if in terror. Onditi was in utter regret as to why he visited this dotor. He had been warned that the man was “weird and alarmist”. But Onditi had no other choice; he had seen other doctors and received the same diagnosis, Prostrate cancer.

Onditi wasn’t willing to hear it from this man either, but after four doctors, who had no relation to each other, Onditi new he couldn’t walk away from the reality of his condition anymore. “You are free to go now, wish you well; I hope you don’t die soon.”The doctor seemed incapable of sensitivity.

“Bastard!” Onditi muttered under his breath as he gave a very worn smile. “I should have stopped at three.” He thought to himself. Hearing the same diagnosis from four doctors only added to his worry.

Onditi had called in sick again, he didn’t know if he would have the heart to go back to work. He was completely bewildered by what was going on around him. He had just lost his wife to cervical cancer, had a daughter, his only child, suffering from Leukemia and now he had prostrate cancer, this wasn’t good. Not good. The doctor was right.

Onditi drove home, using an alternate route. He didn’t want to cause his own or someone else’s death while he drove. So many thoughts ran thorugh his head. No one had told him how much time he had to live. But he suspected a year was all he had. The second doctor told him that the cancer he has is “advanced”.

Where is the money going to come from, I have exhausted all my saving, medical cover is completely wiped out. My salary is barely feeding us. My consultancies have crashed to a halt because of the economic situation. My family is dried out from all the fundraisers; friends don’t pick my calls anymore. What in the world am I to do?

Just then Onditi’s thoughts were disrupted by a knock on his window. He hadn’t realised that he wasn’t driving anymore and had pulled to the side of the road. A huge bunch of bananas waved at him. It was a hawker selling wares. Onditi gently shook his head to turn the man away. The man quickly swung his other hand with carrots and some passion fruits wrapped tight in clear polythene bags. Onditi smiled and shook his head again and raised his hand to say thank you. The hawker sighed and walked away. Onditi sighed and turned on his engine. He steadily pulled out into the road, and after a few seconds everything went dark. Onditi felt a surging pain in his legs and felt a gush of lightness on his head. He opend his eyes, everything was blurred. He could hear people screaming from afar he could barely open his eyes wide enough to see. His hands were sticky and he could smell a sharp stench of copper. Everything went dark again.

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

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.

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It is time!

I couldn’t do it anymore. Dealing with people is just so exhausting. I don’t have the heart to engage with people. There is only four people I feel worthy of my time and airtime, Mama, Dad, Arnie my best friend, and my sibling. I saw the ‘shrink’ as you had asked and he was helpful. I was excited, like I was on a sugar high for three hours, I wanted to study and understand myself better, meet and hang out with friends, then Friday morning happened.

The alarm went off and I had no enthusiasm to engage. None. I lifted my head from my pillow and there was nothing to look forward too. I realized that what propelled me for those ten years after quitting my job was debt. I was 40,000 USD in debt; you know how I got there. Once that debt was cleared a burden was lifted, my drive was lifted and then I allowed passion to take over. Passion drove me, it drove me alright. It drove me to the grave, it failed to drive me into submission to make money and a living like debt did. Soon that flame died. And I had nothing to fight for.

Fighting for people, ha! We romanticize what Nelson Mandela did and Martin Luther King Jr. did. There was nothing sexy about it. They got beat up for what they believed in, they believed in so strongly they gave up everything else that mattered. My fellow compatriots are so not worth the fight, the bloody freedom fighters languish in poverty and you expect me to fight for someone else, hahahahaha! Please! That is the joke of the century….they can all go and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

I am tired of the desire to fight for people; be the “strong” one, the “voice” of the people, caring is expensive more so emotionally and psychologically than it is financially. And I am tired of having sleepless nights. Then why not stay for family right? Well they love me, but in all honesty, they are adults. They can care for themselves. They have their own families, Mum and Dad are having a great retirement together. My sibling is stuck with his own family, in love, raising his four little angels; I will definitely miss like crazy, especially little Lisa.

They are busy living, my life seems to be a car stuck in “park”, it can’t shift gears at all, and first gear failed ages ago. So I have been stuck and watched people’s lives go on around me. I tried lifting my head from the clouds; clouds that overwhelmed my stagnated life. I felt more envy than joy for people I considered my friends. School actually is what kept me going the last four years, great lecturers; free counseling sessions that made steady steps to recovery. But something just seemed to have snapped. Gone, no more, not worth it.

I am aroused just thinking about it, I got everything set, and it will be a new great step once I wrap up this letter to you all, that I love. Don’t worry about me, I finally found a good jolt some clarity. Finally I know right. I hope you will all be happy for me. Mum and Dad the one thing that I regret not being able to do for you, is give you grandchildren. I hope in the next life I would be able to do that.

Don’t worry, I am not too worried about where I am going, I feel peace and joy and overwhelming love when I think about it. Soon, sooner, I will be where I need to be, where I fought to be for the past six years.

I love you all, don’t ever doubt that. I have that goofy image of me attached to the note and my voice recorder, just press play, it’s like I never left.

Kisses and hugs.

And just like that, a wobbling sound of wood against the floor, a sigh and a snap. Arnold was gone, his letter steadily floating from his lifeless hand to the ground beneath his dangling feet.

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Boom!

She lifted the empty pack of cashew nuts and pried it open with her teeth and wiggled her tongue inside the pack to lick what was left. Angela let out a huge burp and then looked at her bright screen. Darn it, she had been on Facebook for the past hour instead of studying. Angela had an exam the following day but she didn’t seem to care. She sipped on her juice that balanced carefully atop her text book. She knew she was meant to read it, the page was open, her note book was open next to the text book with her pen. Angela stood up, reached for her juice bottle and went to the living room.

She turned on the TV, feet up on the couch and lay her head back sipping on the juice bottle nozzle. Angela was completely determined to tune out the world around her. Angela lifted her head once again this time to turn off the TV.

The rain began to pour outside; Angela pulled her Maasai blanket from the chair’s arm rest and covered herself. She sighed and slid on to her back closing her eyes slowly, a smile gripping her face. She breathed out and sighed as she closed her eyes. For a moment Angela felt relieved. Her moment of piece was disrupted by a buzzing sound followed by a crack and sweeping sound. She was suddenly engulfed in smoke; she saw a bright flash light up the room from the outside. Angela jolted to an upright position, she began to cough violently. She yanked the blanket and covered her nose and mouth with it.

Angela couldn’t see, the air was thick with a raging orange flames steadily moving from the direction the TV was in, to where she was resting. Angela began to scream. She choked as the smoke entered her lungs and she fell silent, she felt a violent bite on her left calf, she looked down she was on fire, the blanket she was using had caught fire and was burning her leg. Angela screamed violently; shrill, calling out for help and flinging the blanket to the ground.

Angela’s coughing was now gut wrenching, she banged on her front door, she needed to get out. No one came to assist her. Bursting sounds, fed the angry flames that now filled the walls, curtains, bookshelf all gone, the cracking sound of the flames muffled Angela’s cry for help, which was now slowly fading.

0

Fat Chance!

“Henry! Are you at home?”

“Yes Dad. Why?”

“Turn on the TV to Citizen.”

“What for Dad?”

“Just watch it Henry!”

“Fine!” Henry lets off with a sigh and hangs up. Henry reaches out to the coffee table for the remote. “What the hell is this all about this time?” he grumbled as he turned on the station. “Welcome to season 5 of Slimpossible…”The TV show host went on.

“Dad! Unbelievable!” Henry was upset, yet a bit tickled. He shook is head in laughter and irritation at the same time. Slim possible is a weight-loss TV show and Dad was calling Henry fat again.

“I am a grown man who makes my own decisions. Why in the world is my Dad telling me it bothers him indirectly?”

Henry sunk into his couch and flipped to other channels. His mind began to wander, that was the fourth person in one day who was nagging him about his weight. Henry was at 170 kgs, loved his red meat and wasn’t in a hurry to get off it.

When Henry woke up that day the last thing he thought would happen would be him being told to pay for two seats in the Matatu ride to work, no one wanted to sit next to him. To be fair, he did cover quite a space, when he sat on a seat only needle thin people could sit on the seat next to him. He protested in the first Matatu and alighted. Then the second, then the third, then finally in the fourth, he bit the bullet and paid for two and comfortably sat on his seat. He was upset and he was hungry.

He got to work and as he eased into his chair it broke, the back of the seat fell off.

“You will have to pay for that and get your own custom made chair Henry.” Henry’s supervisor called out, causing the whole floor to stare at him. Some with eyes of pity, others fighting laughter, others frowning with disgust written on their faces. Henry was so embarrassed he left the room and went to the roof to get some air. That hurt. He felt hungry again.

He looked at his watch and it was half past noon, he had spent his whole morning on the office roof top. Henry went down the street from his office to his usual restaurant. The only person who wasn’t bothered by his size; Muhia, the owner of the restaurant offered him a savoury meal. He padded Henry’s plate like it was famine relief for the starving. He fed the man like there was no tomorrow. Henry felt better after his meal, but he felt so bad. He hated himself.

After lunch while walking back to the office, toothpick in mouth, his blissful lunch break was soon shattered by, “Ka-fatty, sonko! We! Cheki ki simu slim possible mpya.” The hawker brandished a counterfeit Samsung, it was pretty obvious, it was called Samnung. Could Henry’s day get any much worse? A hawker calling him fat as well, was there a conspiracy to make him feel bad today?

His day was crowned in misery thanks to Dad. Now Henry was on his couch pensive and miserable, he stopped for a moment, pulled out a weighing machine and looked at his weight, he was 170kgs. Henry stripped his shirt in the mirror and looked at himself, he felt a sense of self loathing. He walked away, shirtless and into his room never to walk out again.