CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_23

I coiled back into the car and Alex drove on; either Peter or Eric (at the back), having greeted one of the officers through the window.

On this second leg of the drive to Dandora, none of us spoke. I looked straight on upon the tarmac this night, as it raced backwards underneath our probox, and well into my memory. I thought of my folks in Maili Tisa. Uncle, and his wife—and the seven daughters; of what they might say about me, if they knew, that at this moment, I sat in a car that headed to Dandora to ferry Coke. Of how Joan might wail, if she heard that I enrolled myself into a gang. And thus, the story of Teret shot in my mind; the young man whose father owned a big garage in Eldoret town. The story goes: when Teret joined a university in Nairobi to study Psychology, he studied for the first two semesters then terminated that study business. Some people said he’d traveled abroad to continue his study in a foreign university; but my Uncle’s wife, who fellow-shipped with Teret’s mother, said he did join a gang of robbers in the city, and the police shot him one night in the right thigh, and so he walked with a crutch since.

Then I recalled the story of Debby, which went thus: she left her home, which existed a kilometer from ours, on your way to Eldoret, and she traveled to Nairobi to work as a house-help. She worked for her employer for six months, then one moment, when schools reopened, she thieved twenty thousand shillings, which her boss had entrusted her with, to pay school fees for the son (the employer’s). Her boss, being a rich woman in the city, tracked her with the aid of the police. So Debby had no place else to hide in the city, and she fled to Mombasa. There in Mombasa, the story goes, she joined a nightclub, and danced around a pole for tourists. By and by, a mzungu, the story says, married her, when she’d danced like a snake one night, a deed which impressed the man so. Thereafter, the man bought her a big house in Mtwapa, and furnished it with all the house-things  a woman might desire, which Debby saw and knew of, and a load of drugs in one of the cabinets, which Debby never knew of. The tale goes on to relate, how one night, when Debby’s husband had traveled to Nairobi on business, police officers raided Debby’s house, and searched nowhere else but the cabinet with sacks of Coke. The police hauled her and her goods to the station, and while there, she called her husband, but discovered his phone off, and so has it remained since. Nobody knows what happened to Debby afterwards; if she ended in one of the prisons at the coast, or whether she paid a fine for freedom, anybody could guess.

These stories and more; and agitation, swirled in my mind in my silence, so much so that Alex noticed. He touched my hand, but I pushed his away. Silence then followed, as we slowed down, on account of the traffic, as we had reached Dandora; and Alex begun to navigate to its dark outskirts. At a dumpsite we then stopped, and Alex turned off the headlamps; then he, Peter and Eric exited the car, having instructed me to remain inside. A while later, another can drove up the same route we followed, and stopped behind ours, then switched off the lights. What exact place we stopped I couldn’t tell; in front of our car however (what setting I had noticed as we drove in earlier), the dumpsite existed; on one side, a high wall; on the other, a fence of old iron sheets; and darkness everywhere. Away from here, you could see lights twinkling on the buildings yonder, and hear hooting of vehicles and the din from nightclubs.

While seated in the car, I wondered what my role entailed in this transaction, and what I might relate to the police, should they ambush this party, on account of a betrayal, from…from I don’t know whom. At one instant my hand reached the steering wheel, that I might honk with all my fear and might, and thus reveal our hideout, and thereby secure my escape amid the confusion; but my hand froze upon the wheel, when I imagined that such an alarm would startle everybody, and no one ever wants to scare a criminal who placed a finger on a trigger.  I was crushed by fear; I was crushed by tension; I was crushed by apprehension, that I began to self-talk:

“O, Taifa. Son of Mkenya, grandson of Mkenya the First. I am a gangster.

“O, Alex, friend in my youth. A brother in all times. You have betrayed me?

“Eh. Alex Matano, son of Matano, when did it start?

“Tell me then, tell me now, tell me how—” I saw flashlights sweep across the darkness.

Occupants of the second car had discharged themselves from it, and I now caught murmurs and grunts. I turned my neck to spy on them, and counted five people in total, as far as I could note, whenever a flashlight blinked, as to illuminate a packet of Coke, or a bundle of cash (which I saw Eric hand the other two fellas at the end of this transaction). At the end of it, I heard the boot of the car fly up, and packets of substance drop in, after which a hand shut the boot close, boop!

My colleagues returned, and entered the car; and this time, Eric Kama would drive. As he ignited the car, he turned to me, under the light in the car, and said, “You are one of us now. You are part of the family. Only death gets you out if it, nothing else.” I understood him well, as he meant that the family possessed the capacity to track me wherever in the country, if I ever should disclose what nature of transaction I witnessed tonight, to any soul. I turned my face away, and out the window, and wept. We left the site first, and had driven for a few minutes, when we perceived a gun shot behind us; and I figured one of the two fellas we’d transacted with, had murdered the other. Alex, Peter and Eric, began to laugh.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_22

In a marriage, as in any other engagement between male and female, whether formal or come-we-stay-put, it is not always Valentine. I arrived at this conclusion months after Jane Shish had revealed to me her pregnancy, by me. During this period, our relationship had mutated into something else, which drained my emotions and altered my sanity. Since the moment she caught wind from Maili Tisa that the folks there wanted to fetch a wife for me, as they remained opposed to my marrying a Nairobi woman; Jane limited my communication with them. She stayed with my phone, and checked any logs whenever I received a call or message, when she delayed in the bathroom or somewhere else.

Further, she whined that we needed to get more money, in readiness for the baby, who’d come in two months. This meant that I should press Ken, my supervisor, to raise my pay, or hunt for another job, which would pay more, or get an extra gig on the side. This pressure discomfited my life in that house, and I found a way to talk to the folks at home about it, by means of Caren’s phone, which she gave me in secret. Whenever I talked to Joan (Uncle’s last daughter), I told her I didn’t understand how I ended up living with a lunatic, in the name of a wife. And she would tell me that I complicated the whole situation, when the option of walking out of the house at once, existed. In my response, I told her that the wearer of the shoe knows where it pinches most; that I couldn’t walk out, without considering the repercussions. What if the baby was indeed mine? What if Jane should drink rat poison, as she had threatened, should I abandon her?

These worries and thoughts thinned my body, I had to belt my trousers tighter, and wear older shirts, which fitted my reducing frame. These developments I wrote about, and submitted the writings to the lecturer, who in recent months, said I had improved my writing. Other times, when he’d marked my work, he would call me to his house on the third floor of this flat, on Caren’s advice I supposed, and ask me how I did. He would then tell me that if I needed any kind of help, be it counsel or else, I should not delay to consult him. I found him an interesting fellow, despite my initial reservations.

I had mentioned before that Ken, my supervisor, had promoted me to a supervisory role, where I supervised some night-time activities at work? Yes. I had now worked for several months in this position, but he hadn’t raised my pay to match the rise; and so I reminded him one Monday evening. Ken said he would raise the pay, and that I should remain patient, as he reviewed my performance, under that probative period. During these night shifts, which lasted from 7 pm to 11 pm, I recorded the number of goods in small cartons that Peter and Eric and Alex brought in a Probox; which goods we then stored in the room behind the shop.

The following day, Tuesday, Ken allowed me to accompany Peter and crew, to wherever they obtained the goods which they brought in to the shop. Alex drove the vehicle, and I sat by him, while Eric and Alex talked at the back. We left River Road, and headed to Dandora. Alex and I didn’t talk at first, but when Alex did, he asked me why I enrolled for the night shift. For the first time, I shared with him my domestic affairs, and told him how Jane suffocated me, and he pitied me so. However, he said I shouldn’t have chosen the night shift business, however much I needed an extra coin. I asked him why. He raised the volume of the radio, so the men at the back couldn’t hear us, and said, “We are going to bring drugs. Cocaine.”

In college, Alex pulled pranks on me many times that I got immune to them. I told him to stop playing with me, as the reasons which directed my decision, meant something to me. At once he fished a small packet out of his jacket pocket, and dropped on my lap. I lifted the thing, and checked it in a subtle manner, so as the men at the back wouldn’t notice. As certain as my name is Taifa Mkenya, I had inducted myself into a gang of drug dealers, where the odds of catching a bullet, or a knife, or a lot of money, or sleeping in jail, remained high.

We came to a police check point as we neared Dandora, and Alex stopped as instructed. Without being discovered, I unlocked the door, and made a start as to jump out at the feet of the policemen; but Peter—or Eric, stuck a cold metal on the side of my stomach, and I at once knew what it meant.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

Kawangware Education Center

Not fiction. Not fiction; the routine and fictional post will proceed on the next post.

But this morning I awoke and first recalled what happened yesterday:

On a professional engagement, I met a man yesterday; a tall, slender, and dark gentleman, who’d a back-pack and a notebook. In the course of our interaction, I heard him talk to a colleague of his for long on phone (that I had to excuse myself awhile from time to time), about buying stationery for some kids somewhere, as pupils would need during an examination; and provisions as of lunch and drinks.

When our interaction ended, he gave me his card, which revealed more about his person, and I presently understood and appreciated the nature of his occupation. The man works at Kawangware Education Center, whose motto speaks: A school and safe haven for orphans in Kenya. Having been a partial orphan myself, and felt what orphans might experience, I remain beholden to all persons, of what age, of what race; of what tribe, of what religion; who, in their generous and compassionate hearts, brighten the faces and raise the hopes of orphans.

Here I say, as the man said, the Center educates and feeds, and shelters for the day—for free, about 200 orphans who report at the Center every day. The Center relies on donor funding and individual donations of whatever nature (like cloths and shoes and books and goodwill), to meet its obligations to the beautiful children. This encounter got me thinking about this children’s song, and I have sang and played it ten times this morning:

 The Center may be contacted through the contacts displayed on the Contact Us Page, as is indicated on its website.

#Thank you for reading.

Yours, Taifa Mkenya.

[Breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_21

Three months had passed since I met the lecturer, Caren’s husband, he who now guided my writing classes; I say three months had passed since, in the course of which Jane had fallen pregnant; and at work, Ken, my supervisor, had promoted me to a position upon which I supervised some night operations; while back at Maili Tisa, Uncle had (by what means I didn’t know) discovered that I’d never flown to Eastern Europe for studies, and had thence disowned me.

Once the folks in Maili Tisa had uncovered my treachery, Joan, the youngest of Uncle’s seven daughters, had called me one night, and entreated me to travel home and ask for pardon from Uncle. She said, that her mother—Uncle’s wife that is, would implore Uncle on my behalf, for he to grant this forgiveness. She revealed too, that her mother held the opinion that, the girls in the city had polluted my mind and altered my disposition, to that of a detestable young man; and that, solution lay in finding me a decent young woman from the village, who’d care for me, in the customary way, as did wives of yore.

These developments about me formed most of the themes I practiced on, as I wrote passages to the lecturer, who read and rated my work. I wrote about the night Jane, while cooking, informed me, in an unforeseen manner, that she’d become pregnant. I wrote about how, upon this revelation, confusion confounded me, meanwhile wondering, how this could have happened, since I owned a packet of a hundred condoms, and never failed to use one, whether in a sober position, or a drunk position. I wrote about how I swore and cursed, and told Jane that the baby should belong to Fred, her former boyfriend anyway. I wrote about how Jane turned wild, and tossed spoons and knives and pans and semi-cooked food my way, and how she shattered glass and plates and yanked the kitchen drawers and yelled and insulted me and caused such havoc I had never seen before. I wrote about how neighbors, having heard the racket in our house, and in fear that I might harm Jane, or she me, called the janitor to check upon us. I wrote about how I hurled a stool in the direction of the door (which had remained unlatched hitherto), when the janitor appeared, that he presently retreated, after which I bolted the door from inside. I wrote about how Jane picked a thick rod from the kitchen drawers, left there by the builders of this house I think, and pursued me to the sitting room; and how she hunted me with it, and how I avoided her by revolving about the table, and sometimes the couch, all the while denying responsibility, and she saying, ‘You think you can deny this baby?’ touching her belly, ‘Just like that? Huh? You don’t know me. I swear!’ and she’d strike the table with her rod, as I maintained utmost vigilance, should she decide without warning, to hurl the rod at me. I wrote about how we stayed in this state of combat for long, one dancing for escape and the other for capture, with knocks and bangs at the windows and door, of neighbors’ pleas. I wrote about the attempt I made, of jumping at Jane, to snatch the rod, when I thought she’d grown weary of the dance around the table and couch; and how she had dodged my coming, like a cat, and I had thus missed her and fallen to the rug, at which opportunity she struck my back with the rod, and I issued a cry that every creature in the five-floors flat heard.

I wrote about how Jane snubbed all voices from the windows and door, entreating her to stop the beating; but waited for mine, for she’d asked me more that thrice now, accompanied by a strike on my back after each question, if I would deny or accept responsibility, and I hadn’t responded yet, but suffered the strikes in silence. I wrote about how her voice turned shrill and her anger intensified, as she asked the same question many times, without accessing a satisfying response from me: ‘Huh, Taifa? You deny this baby?’ doof. A hit on my back. ‘Taifa, say it! You deny this baby?’ doof doof! ‘What kind of man are you? This. Is. Your. Baby. Get that! You hear, Taifa?’ doof doof doof!

I wrote about how I felt my spine crack. I wrote about how I heard, at length, a familiar voice of Caren, calling from the window, and beseeching Jane to stop her business. I wrote about how Caren spent the night in our house, as a peacekeeper and mediator, to thwart the possibility of another episode of violence erupting during the night. I wrote about how, after that incident, I questioned my role and status in that house; and how Caren had mediated between us—the warring husband and wife, and how she asked the wife to remain submissive to the husband—as the Christian ethic required, and for me, the husband, to love and respect the wife, notwithstanding the new militant side of her I had now witnessed, which of course posed a security threat to my well-being (as we waited to confirm, after eight months or so, by look of nose and fingers and lips and eyes, the paternity of the baby).

I wrote about how a new order established itself in the house, under which I assumed, without choice, the second position in command. Under this arrangement, I’d tell Jane beforehand, any plans I had, of visiting friends or of doing whatever I wanted, and then she’d grant full permission, under which I’d do as I pleased; or half permission, which now included some caveats, as of the time I should return home, or the amount of money I should spend, or whom I should visit or no.

I wrote and submitted these works to the lecturer, sometimes in secret, via Caren, she who’d grown averse to Jane’s new temperament, by and by. I wrote how I began to miss the folks back in Maili Tisa, and thought Joan’s suggestion, of me going to ask for pardon from Uncle, made mighty sense; and how melancholy ruled my mind, and sadness crowned my face. I wrote these works and submitted to the lecturer, who read and rated them. He’d make red marks in the work and include comments in minute font, which I failed to understand sometimes what he meant to say. He’d cross whole sentences, and claim they made no sense whatever; and advise instead, that I rather used strong verbs and nouns. He’d say, in his comments, that, the story’s sad tone notwithstanding, it should, the story that is, in the least, capture the attention of the reader, and bear some human truth in it. Having reviewed a writing, he’d return it to me, via Caren, in secret sometimes, and ask me to redo, especially for the writings he thought had the potential to improve.

In this style, I continued to sharpen my writing, until one night, when Jane and I lay in bed in silence, and a call rang on my phone. Joan, Uncle’s last daughter had called, and first had asked if we could talk (for this was her way of determining if I was alone and could so speak freely). I said yes. In truth, I had turned on the speaker of my phone (one of Jane’s new guidelines) so Jane could catch the conversation. Joan began to speak on the phone, and I only responded with mnh, eeh, I hear you, very well, thank you, ah? Is it so? Very well, mnh, thank you  and silence at her last words, and a disconnect of the call by me, and a subsequent powering down of the phone, for she had said at last, in Jane’s hearing, that her mother had located a suitable and decent girl for me to marry, and that I should go home Saturday to evaluate her.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_20

At Caren’s door, by the light in the corridor, I saw big shoes, the lecturer’s no doubt. I knocked upon the door and waited. A hand flipped the door curtain aside, so the knocker could be identified through the glass pane, on the upper segment of this metallic door. Caren looked at me though the glass, and then opened the door. She wore a white dress, and collected her hair in a cloth, shaped like a cone. In she ushered me, in atypical low and level voice; and her face betrayed little happy expressions, which I thought she wanted to hide (from me). This new temperament of hers, as of followers who approach a clergy for a sacrament or blessing may act, or as of a gentleman who meets the mother-in-law may conduct himself, revealed to me that indeed the husband had come, and she esteemed this fact.

I found myself touched by her demeanor, that I presently entered her house with similar air, of goodness and humility and controlled gaiety. I focused my sight at the couch, that I should see the man of the house. Instead, I saw a coat—his of course—laid on the back of the couch, a watch and a pair of spectacles on the table, and a black book placed on the arm of the couch, nearest the door.

Karibu,” said Caren, in a lower voice than before.

I walked over to the couch; while Caren leading, picked the coat, the watch and the spectacles but the book, and went to the bedroom with them. I suspected the man of the house remained in the bedroom, attending to private matters. In the meantime, while Caren stayed away, I checked the cover of the black book, and read the title, Writing for Beginners, written by some foreign name I can’t recall now.

I felt quite nervous as I waited for either of them to emerge. I tell you, nervousness makes my palms sweat, and my mind travel far and wide. In general, I display my nervous condition by tapping on whatever surface my fingers and toes and heels can find, and whistle a little. These acts I did then, meanwhile. In the course of this, my mind travelled far and wide, to Jane—back in our house on the upper floor, and I hoped I’d find her asleep, at such time that this gathering should end; to my folks in Maili Tisa, and I wondered how they did, for I hadn’t called my uncle or spoken to his youngest daughter for a long time; and to work, there at River Road, and I schemed how I should approach Ken, my supervisor, in my desire to gain an increment.

Engaged thus, my right eye, through the corner of it, caught a misty image of a body, at length. For how long the body had stood there, by the bathroom door, I can’t tell, for I had, in the meantime, tapped the right arm of the couch, and rapped my heels upon the rug, and whistled a little. I jerked my head to this frame, and saw a dark man with a belly, wrapped in a bathing towel, from the waist downward. He looked at me, and I looked at him. In the eyes. As a show of respect, I wanted to stand up and shake his hand—the right or left—but in both, he held rinsed cloths, that I supposed underwear or face towel or something of that kind.

“Hello…sir,” said I, in a low voice. At this moment, I wished Caren could come, to ease the meeting.

He looked at me further, and made me squirm.

I thought I hadn’t spoken loud enough, in my original Hello. Hence, I said again, in a louder projection, “Hallo, sir.”

The man of the house responded not, but scanned my body further. I felt my palms wet and my heart beat faster. What if he thought me a rival and a threat to his dominance, and thereby caused havoc, as to break my neck or nose?

So at a loss I remained, wondering if the man of the house would ever speak.

Then, with no indication whatsoever, he broke into a laugh that his hairy black belly shook with each crack; shaking from side to side and up and down. Now the stories we told in campus, that some lecturers read so much that they became mad by and by, filled my mind presently; and I shifted to the other end of the couch, farthest from him, should he make an unexpected move against me; and so I stayed in a ready state for flight.

Again, with no indication whatever, the man of the house paused his laughter, and wore such an unsmiling expression on his face, as of someone who suffered a mighty migraine. Then he stepped forth once, during the course of which I readied my legs for any likelihood.

Now he said (to my surprise, for I hitherto thought he’d never speak to me), lowering his head and focusing his sight upon my head, “Are you of sound mind, young man?”

My dear reader, an urgent urge of laughter filled my throat, but I managed to turn it into a little cough in time. I looked at his eyes again, as I coughed with my hand over my mouth, and found them dark and deep.

“Mnh?” he said; and I nodded as to mean I owned a sound head.

“Good,” said he, “you know, young man, I have been standing here like a scarecrow for some time, and for all that time [I even coughed twice or more], you kept whistling and hitting your legs on the floor and hitting the sofa with your hands. Are you of sound mind, young man?”

I nodded again, looking at his old face, of fifty or sixty.

“Good. You know, young man, people can be mad without knowing at all. You should have a psychiatric evaluation—I have a friend at Nairobi Hospital, he could, he could—”

For the first time since I discovered his presence, I developed courage to speak to him. I said, “I am not mad, sir.”

“Good, good,” he said, nodding, “good. Then in that case”—he gave his left hand the cloth that the right hand had held, and wiped the right hand by the part of the towel over his right thigh, and presently stretched the hand to me, for a handshake—“in that case, how are you?”—I let his hand hung in the air like that, not by design, but because of uncertainty, for I doubted that he meant to greet me, or planned to withdraw the said hand when I stretched mine, and make a loud laugh out of the scene, and ask me if I had a sound mind thereafter—“I say how are you, young man?”

By and by, by the motion of a chameleon, I issued forth my hand, meanwhile looking into his face, for me to change course if he changed his. At length, our hands closed the gap, and he shook the tips of my fingers. “Good. This is good. What is your name, young man?”

“Taifa,” said I.

“Mnh, that is a good name. Taifa. An African name. Is it a nickname?” he said, raising his head and looking about the ceiling.

“No, sir. It is my real name.”

“This is good. This is very good. Taifa who?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“What is your other name?”

“Mkenya. Taifa Mkenya.”

“Very very good. This is good—from where?”

“Maili Tisa, sir.”

“Maili Tisa?” said he, looking at me now, but still standing there bare chest (where in the house had Caren gone!) “Near Eldoret, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mnh. This is good. Maili Tisa. Near eldoret. I have been there”—at this last word, he walked over to the couch and sat facing me. I saw his undergarments held in his left hand, but this didn’t bother him. In a seated position, his belly distended more towards the glass table—“There was a time, many many years ago. There was I time I taught in a college within that region”–said he, drawing a circular impression in the air, using the index finger of the free hand. “And…and I really enjoyed life there. You know what I mean, young man?” said he, smiling. I lied that I knew what he meant. “Mnh. This is good. Very very good.” He then looked down on the rug, and presently entered a session of internal thought.

“And sir, what is your name?” said I. He did not hear me, on account of his musing, I supposed. We remained so, in that state of silence. By now, I had stopped my tapping business, and even my palms had dried.

“Young man,” said he presently, and I looked at him, “how—how did you meet her?”

“Who, sir?

“My wife of course—who else could I possibly mean?”

“Oh, of course. I—I met her through”—as I said this, he focused on my face, as though he wanted to catch any traces of lies thereon, and this discomfited me—“I met her through a friend.”

“Mnh,” said he, in a tone that I thought suggested I should keep talking.

So I did:

“Yes, I knew her through a friend called Jane, who is in my house even as we speak—”

“Mnh.”

“Yes, and we have been good friends since. She even helped locate the house I live in now, on the upper floor.”

“Mnh,” he said, nodding.

“Yes, she is a good friend of mine. She even encouraged me to learn how to write better, and said that you may be of assistance to me—”

“Mnh. This is good. This is very very good.” He looked at me again, in the eyes, and continued: “Have you started writing anything, young man?”

“No, sir.”

“This is not good. Not good. You cannot say you want to become a writer yet you haven’t written even a love letter to that Jane. Or my wife.”

Upon this relation I looked at his face again, for I felt he issued a subtle warning that I shouldn’t extend my association with his young Caren, beyond the zone of friendship that I’d so far related. To say the truth, this thought had never crossed my mind before. Anyway, I told him that I loved reading interesting accounts of events, and so would remain obliged to him, if he taught me how to write such stories. Upon which he replied, that if I ventured into writing for mercenary reasons alone, I’d never get any farther than writing a love letter to Jane or his wife. He said, with more emphasis now, that writing has been, and forever shall remain, first and foremost, intended for the purpose of entertaining the reader, and making him laugh under a tree there in Maili Tisa, or making him happy while he rested on a couch somewhere in the city or elsewhere, as we did here in Caren’s house, at Dagoretti Corner. He said again, that some writers write by talent, while others improve the craft by practice. He asked me into which category I thought I fitted, and I said I thought I fitted into the second one, of learning by practice, and would remain much obliged to him, if he taught me how to write interesting stories.

The man of the house then said, while looking at the black book on my side, which I mentioned had the title Writing for Beginners, that he preferred the method of teaching me this craft by practice, over any other. I listened so. He said, he’d permit me to write a passage of a hundred words or so, and email to him every evening, and he would by that means, discover my weaknesses, and provide a solution thereby. To this arrangement I agreed, and said it fitted me so.

We spoke more—he spoke more, as I listened. The conversation now took another turn, and ventured into the history of Kenyan and African writers that he knew of, and met some, in person. I remember he mentioned Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Marjorie McGoye and Elechi Amadi and Wole Soyinka and Ayi Kwei and Nuruddeen—or a name like that, and so forth. He then lost me somewhere where he employed some literature terms, with the general gist bearing the state of African writing and writers.

He would have gone on for sure, with his lecture; however, Caren appeared from the bedroom, in a different gown, and her hair set backwards over her shoulders, and a scent sweet to the nose, preceding her. The man of the house stopped his narration, and stood to embrace his wife, as I looked on.

 The good man of the house, with his mouth behind Caren’s neck—and Caren’s face behind his neck, smiling—said to me, “That’d would be all, young man. Leave  with Caren your email tomorrow—and carry the book with you.”

I wanted ask him what he called himself; but, seeing the preparation on my face, Caren shaped her lips, as to communicate, ‘no, go, go, now’, a call to which I heeded.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_19

An agreement had been struck, that when ready, I’d tell Caren—she that lived in the lower floor (I lived on the upper floor), in that flat along Ngong Road, to invite her husband, a lecturer of literature, for a gathering. In this gathering, Caren would employ her charm upon the man, and persuade him that I, Taifa Mkenya, her friend, needed critical training in the matter of creative writing. Well, do not think that this matter had reached the stage of life and death; for I had never written a word hitherto, but worked daytime, in that firm along River Road. Proper to say, that Caren had a way of converting thoughts and wishes into actions; mostly the thoughts and wishes of those souls about her, among whom I belonged, I suppose.

Aside from advocating for my learning of the writing business, Caren pushed for the unity of Jane Shish (her friend too) and me. As it happened, a quiet mode of living had been started, a month old now, between Jane Shish and me, as of husband and wife; though to reveal the truth, I itched from day to day, that I should mine a reason whatever, for termination of this arrangement. If you must know, Jane Shish had dated my former host, Fred, the person who hosted me for some months when I stepped upon the city for the first time. Then, by and by, Jane (as she visited Fred’s house in which I stayed, sometimes when Fred delayed at work for one thing or other) and I grew closer. One day, in a house warning party somewhere in Umoja Estate, which all three of us attended, besides Caren; in the name of I don’t know what, under the influence of I don’t know what, under the guidance of an agile black monkey on my left shoulder and a sleepy little angel on my right shoulder, and in the merry influence of a first-time beer (for me), Jane and I saw a forbidden fruit, and jumped at it, and plucked it, and bit it. So it began.

But now, in the course of these end months of 2014, I began to suffocate under Jane’s presence. I would want to visit Magomano Bar for a bottle but she’d want to visit someplace else for dinner; I’d want to stay out on Friday night and she’d want us to snug ourselves on the couch for a comedy; I’d want to visit the church to repent all my sins for the week and she would want us to travel to Machakos; I’d want to see my friends some evenings and she would tell me to grow out of boyhood, and into manhood, in preparation of husband-to-be business. In this manner, our union grew apart. However, Caren, in her element, favored the confirmation of this union; and, often she’d say, in a jolly manner, that she’d relish to play the role of maid of honor.

In this manner, Jane and I lived. Towards the very end of 2014, mid-December I think, I resorted to short speeches and grunts, as the primary mode of communication, to avoid elongated arguments, most of which Jane won. I discovered, late in time however, through trials and fails, and some pain, that I could avoid squabbles with Jane if I shut up, or if I issued one-worded responses, and one-lettered grunts. For example, she’d come home in the evening, there at Dagoretti Corner, and upon opening the door, and finding me watching an episode or whatsapping, she’d would start talking at the door. Mostly she spoke over themes that culminated in a word ‘marriage’, or ‘wife’, or ‘husband’, or ‘wedding’, being dropped somewhere within the long sentences. I remember one evening, the same evening that Caren’s husband came. This evening, as standard, Jane unbolted the door (I’d locked it from inside), and found me lying on the couch, quarter-asleep. I didn’t open my eyes when she stepped in, but raised my snoring.

From the door she said:

“Hey hun, I went to town today, after work. Guess who I met! I met…I met”—I heard her unstrap her sandals—“hoosh. I met Apondi. You know what, she is marrying Ken!” I wanted to ask which Ken she meant; for I worked, there at River Road, under a supervisor called Ken Onyango; moreover, she and I both knew the lady called Eve Apondi, who, as a matter of fact introduced me to Ken during those days I stayed in Fred’s house in Kawangware. Which Ken she meant I wanted to ask, but feared  she should drag me into an argument I had avoided in the last few weeks. Therefore, I snored more; but she spoke more: “Can you imagine that! She is marrying Ken, of all people. Who would have imagined that, mnh!” I heard her step upon the rug, and head to the fridge on the other side. “Hun, I know you can hear me. Can you imagine that? Ken—of all people, marrying Apondi. Who would have seen that coming, mnh!” I heard the fridge click open, and a bottle ping, and the fridge click shut soon. Next, I knew she’d walk over to me, at the couch. In consequence, I stiffened my body, and snored louder, and paused the snores at some points, and filled those points with heavy grunts and snorts, and shook my head in short jerks, and twitched some of my toes and fingers, to give the impression that I suffered a nightmare at this point.

Despite all these mechanisms, Jane came and sat on the couch’s arm, upon which my head lay, facing up, and cupped my chin with her palm. “I know you can hear me, hun. You see how easy it is. To get married. You just wake up, and, there! You have it. We should, can you”—she slapped my cheek—“can you hear me, hun? Haiya, are you ok, hun? Haiya—he is not, he is not,” said she in a whisper; for I had by now held my body very still and suspended my breathing altogether. “Haiya, he is sick, he is sick,” she said to herself. Then to me, “Hun, wake up.” She tapped my shoulder. “Hun, wake up now.” She swayed my head. “Taifa, wake up now.” She tugged at my t-shirt. “Taifa! Wake up!” She punched my chest with both fists and a ball of spittle choked me so, I sat up quick and coughed my tongue out.  She rapped my back with her palms to ease my agony. And kept saying, “Hun, are you ok? Are you sick?” upon which I raised my right hand (as I coughed further) in a gesture to mean, ‘give me some time, girl, give me some time’.

By and by, my coughing eased. Jane fixed herself on the couch and let my head rest upon her thighs. She fed me some of the juice she drank. Then she said, “Hun, are you ok now?”

I shook my head.

“Are you sick?”—she felt my forehead—“Your forehead isn’t hot. Your temperature is normal, I guess. Do you feel any discomfort anywhere?”

“Mmh.”

“Where, your eyes?”

“Mnh-nh.”

“Your mouth?”

“Mnh-nh.”

“Your…your back?”

“Mnh-nh.”

“Where?” she place a hand on my stomach, “You stomach?”

“Mmh,” I said, nodding.

“Oh, pole, should I get you some Actals?”

“Mnh-nh.”

“O God, you will be ok without the medication, you mean?”

“Mmh.” I nodded.

“Huh. Ok.” She held silence awhile, meanwhile running her fingers through my young beards. At length, she said, “Well, hun, as I was saying—I don’t know if you heard me, did you, did you hear me?” she turned her head round to observe my face.

I shook my head, in the negative.

“Well, hun, as I was saying, Apondi and Ken are getting married, can you imagine that?”

I began to cough again, harder than before. Jane gave a start, saying, “I think you need some drugs.” She began to settle my head on the couch (off her thighs), so she could fetch for me those drugs, but I held her hands, and stopped my coughing business for the moment. “You don’t want any drugs, you will be ok?”

“Mmh.”

She took another round of silence, running her fingers through my young beards. By and by, she said, “Well, hun, I went to town today, and guess who I met? I met Apondi. She was shopping for some stuff. And she told me she’ll get married soon. To whom? Can you guess? Give a guess, give a guess—”

My phone beeped in a message. From the table I picked it and displayed the message upon its screen, for Jane to see too, that Caren had messaged me, that her husband—the lecturer, the man to impart critical writing skills into my head, had come, and would leave within half hour, and I should rush downstairs to Caren’s house, to meet him.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_18

When I look back today, way back to that period, I see a youthful mind cloaked under the veil of confusion. When I look back now, way back to that moment when I rented a house along Ngong Road, I see a soul wandering in the city of indecision. As I look back now, I tell myself, ah, let me recount this story. Thus, I write:

There were other younger people in this flat, wherein I rented a house, after paying thousands in rent and down payment for maintenance, water, and so forth; there were university students on the same floor as I, and they played booming music on Sunday mornings. There were bachelors in some rooms, and I saw them most evenings, carrying bread and milk and avocados. There were single women on some floors, and I would meet them by the main gate sometimes, welcoming some familiar faces of men, that appeared at the flat, once or twice a week, on Saturdays or Sundays.

I cut myself a share of this lifestyle, of bachelorhood and once-a-week visits from Jane, as she would visit often over the weekend. Caren lived a floor down; therefore, once in a while, when her lecturer friend stayed away, I’d drop by her house in the evenings, to talk about how her day had turned. During the day, I went to work at River Road, under Ken’s supervision, in Joe’s JLK Regional Suppliers Company. Three months had now passed, since I relocated to this new estate along Ngong Road. I liked the place very much, but suffocated under its high rent. I knew, with the amount of salary I drew from employment in Joe’s company, I wouldn’t sustain paying my rent, and meeting intermittent financial demands from Jane, which as a man, I’d vowed to bear. Only two options revealed to me then; that, if I wanted to improve my fortune in the short term, one, I should ask Ken to increase my remuneration, seeing that I’d worked harder than Eric, Adam, Peter, and even the new employees that’d joined few months before; and that I had performed well in accountancy matters, my professional background in soil technology notwithstanding, and had thus reduced some of the losses the business had borne hitherto, before my enrollment. Second, I also thought of taking Caren at her word; since she’d told me that if I should ever desire to learn the art of creative writing, I inform her.

Inform her I did, once Saturday evening. It was a cold evening; it was a cloudy evening; it was a busy evening, at least for the bachelors and single women and students and families that occupied this flat. On, I had a short, and a jumper, and sandals, and a black head hood when I left my house. Down to Caren’s house, on the lower floor, I descended. She opened the door when she heard my knock, which I made unique by rapping the door twice, in quick succession. I don’t know how her lecturer man knocked her door, but she told me she knew how. She ushered me in, and I left my sandals by the door.

She’d prepared ugali and kuku, my favorite fare, as I detected from the aroma that emanated from the kitchen; and, I thought I should device a method to partake in it, before I could divulge to her the nature of my visit. I sat on the couch, at my usual spot, and said, while she went back to her kitchen:

“Ah, so! How was your day?”

“Fine! And yours?”

“Ah, excellent enough,” said I, “Is…is your friend coming?” As I asked this, I looked at his face on the photo upon the wall, and envied him; for, despite his age, which I figured lay between fifty and sixty years, he had such a young and arresting woman in Caren.

“Jack?”—for that was his name, Professor Jack or something—“No. Not this weekend. He told me he has some engagements in Kiambu until next week.”

“Oh, ok.” I felt at home. I placed my legs upon the glass table, and said, “Ah, Karesh, you know you are a terrific cook?”

“Haha. Stop kidding. Jack says I put a lot of salt and chilli.”

“Ah, I suppose he has lost taste in many delicious things.”

Caren remained silent awhile. So I filled the gap:

“Caren, you cook better than my mama, you know that?”

“Haa, stop kidding, Taifa. I know I am a moderate cook. Even Jane cooks better than me most of the time—”

Here, she said the truth, mostly. Yet, I wanted her kuku. So I pursued:

“Listen, that is not true. You are better than Jane—”

“Haa, I wish she heard you say that—”

“Good thing she isn’t here. I mean it. You prepare kuku better than anybody.”

“You want to taste?”

“No. No. I am actually going back now, I just wanted to see how you were doing—which I have—”

“Don’t be silly,” said she. That she insisted I stay, excited me so. “Wait, it is almost ready. You don’t need to go back to cook. Again, I don’t like eating alone.”

Said I, “Mnh…let me see…mnh…ok. It’s ok, I’ll wait. Not for long though.”

“Hah, I said wait, I’ll be there right away.”

Meantime, I scanned her sitting room; however, my focus centered on the lecturer’s picture on the wall. If I asked Caren to introduce me to him, how would he perceive it?

By and by, Caren ferried supper to the table on a white tray. We both went to the sink to wash our hands with the cold water; she first, then I. Back at the table, sitting opposite each, we wiped our hands and ate. From the taste and texture of the ugali we ate, I confirmed her claim of her being a moderate cook. But I must exclude kuku from this comparison, since, a kuku, however prepared, always tastes delicious, to me at least. I admit this judgment may sound skewed; but heck, we may as well ask my tongue and tummy.

Anyway, we finished eating at about the moment when her clock’s hands said 8:00 pm. I thought it a proper moment to ask more about Jack the professor, and his literary classes. Said I, with a glass of juice in my hand—which Caren had served after the meal, she having a glass of wine, “Ah, you know, I have been thinking.”

“About wha?”

“About what you said?”

“Wha would that be?”

“You said Jack could teach me how to write if you asked him?”

“Oh, sure. I see, you have decided to learn.”

“Yap. I want to try. I—”

“Let me ask you. At the end of it, you want to write for fun, for money, for fame, or just for the sake of it—”

Power went out in the flat, and in the whole estate—or city, I thought.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]