Campaign Girls

 

 

 

Elections found me working for an aspiring governor. A big man with a big smile for the crowds and deep pockets, deeper than the boreholes he dug for the locals to aid in their water problems. He knew what to say and when to say and the exact ways to mould it when saying it. And when he said it, even when it was gibberish, the red flags went up high, and the locals pledged their loyalty. He had made his fortune from his family wealth, but when he spoke about himself, which was quite often, he said of how his intellect had made him a successful business person. He gave us tales of his big cup of excellence, and like the dummies we were, we sat by his feet sipping slowly in coveted admiration.

 

The March long rains came and fell with both hands, the water gouged out deep channels and swept away twigs, leaves and the top fertile soil. With it, we marched into the rural areas and dived into the locals’ conscience and asked for their votes in the primaries. We met them tilling their gardens, feeding their babies, taking out urine drenched mattresses from last night’s atrocities by the young boys, basking, and drinking. Sometimes we met their dangerous unwelcoming dogs or abandoned houses, but we never relented. The Jacaranda beautiful purple flowers collected into small groups on the murram roads beneath the intrepid trees and with it, the beauty of Central Kenya shone like the morning star.

 

*

 

I got a job as a Data Entry Clerk for the big man’s gubernatorial campaign. I cannot correctly recall how it happened because it took place while I was under the magnificent alcoholic haze. It was in the club back in 2016; our Governor-to-be was having expensive drinks with his friends on a table close to ours. My friends and I had just completed our final examinations in campus, which was the reason we were draining red wine like we had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Our neighbours were getting louder with each bucket of ice they ordered the waiter to bring.

 

It started out as a dare. The big man thought he could make his way to Parliament and his friends sneered in disbelief. A little later, he said bluntly and insistently, ‘I will even run for governor to prove you idiots wrong.’ That is how his campaign started. He bought drinks for every lady in the club that night and when he approached our table, and we told him our reason for celebration, he instructed us to be at his house 8 am on Monday, he would be the first to hire us. Our salary would be Ksh 30,000. That is how my two friends and I got our first job, on the same day we cleared the last paper in campus.

 

His gubernatorial bid was a dare. But then, a wise man once said, it is not how a race starts, but how it ends that matters. The next day, after the hangover had subsided, I called home and broke the good news that I had completed my four years in school of nursing and at the same time got a temporary job. My parents were elated, mostly because they never had to pay my rent again.

 

We worked from his mansion. He had three, so it did not matter that he used one of the houses as the campaign headquarters. The living room was the size of a basketball court and the bathrooms the size of my apartment. The carpenters came on Monday and converted the living room into an open office, and right there we began working. I would receive massive amounts of money and distribute it to the campaign ground workers to distribute to the voters. Every voter we asked for a vote was entitled to a Ksh 200 note. Most of my days would be spent chasing Ksh 1000 loose change in 200s. In a day, around Ksh 500 000 crossed my hands.

 

My other two friends did other things in the office daily, and as usual, there can never be a group of women without gossip. It started three weeks after we started working. The big man walked in rage and flew upstairs, we all stood stunned in awe wondering what the devil had done. A little later we heard struggling and screaming from upstairs from a lady. What surprised me most is that within those three weeks, someone was living upstairs and we had never seen her. A little gossip later we learned that it was the big man’s wife. It was against the rules for the wife to leave the house. She stayed locked up as the big man made plans and money for the family. I was infuriated and just like that my admiration slowly started turning to abhorrence.

 

It was the mansion’s custom to burst open a bottle of whisky at the end of a successful week. The big man’s whisky cabinet was bigger than his bathroom which was bigger than my apartment, so I hope that can draw you a vivid picture of its size. In those parties, I discovered Hennessy, Platinum Label, and Jack Daniels. Beautiful drinks that cost more than my salary. It was in one of those parties that things started to get incredibly wrong. I was standing by the printer when the big man approached me and asked why I was working on Saturday while I should have been enjoying the river of whisky courtesy of the big man almighty. I was dumbfounded that he cared. Then it happened, he put his hand on my bum and made to grab it like I was his. Part of me was immobile, astonished with despair like those rats that lose hope in laboratory experiments and lie down in the maze to starve.

 

His wife attended that party in particular. She was the one going around serving the drinks. I was even more scared about her feelings about my ass in her husband’s hand than the actual big hand that tried again to grope my unlucky ass. I did not speak, I was frozen but moving away from him. I took a seat and waited for my shock to subside before I took my things and left the ‘office.’

 

When I left I was so sure I was never to come back again. As if the night was not yet done with me, as I waited for a matatu to take me home, which was extremely unlikely considering the neighbourhood it was, the big man’s driver pulled over and told me to get into the car, that he had been ordered to take me home. I was one part resistance, two parts grateful so I got in, and he ferried me back to my place.

 

I could not help thinking about my situation. I was certain that this would never have a chance of a good ending. I drifted back to that moment when he placed his hand on my bum and then tried to do it again. I was so sure that other people in the office had noticed. Even his wife. When I called home the following Sunday afternoon, it was to say that I would be going home. Mother picked the call and could not stop ranting about how happy she was I had not asked for rent. That I was a big girl now, taking care of my problems like a grownup. I ended the call exceedingly sure that there was no going back. I had to make a living for myself.

 

 

*

 

 

Monday morning found me debating whether it was all worth it. At 10.00 am when it was two hours past the time I was supposed to get to the office, I got a text message. It was from the big man according to Truecaller. It was short and extreme in brevity. It was like it was typed in a speedy, careless, go-to-hell sprawl, like something I would write fast before going out to the grocery market. It said, ‘report to work.’ The big man was calling; it would be rude not to answer. So at midday, I walked into the office like a loose girl doing a walk of shame on a Monday morning.

 

The primaries came, and we lost. With it, we became an independent party and even pressed harder for votes. The campaign speeches grew longer, and the Ksh 200 notes increased to Ksh 500 notes. We used land cruisers to get to places young boys had never seen automobiles. We promised electricity to people with no roofs and fertilisers to individuals with no land. We even hired bloggers, and I sent them Ksh 1027 to post nasty, made up rumours about our primary opponent. Still, after all that, the poles still said we were 2% behind.

 

It was a battle to the bone. One that had started out as a simple dare now had become a serious life or death situation. Secretly, I hoped he would not win. He was arrogant, disrespectful and beat his wife. That was enough to make sure he would never get my vote. By the time we got to the final polls on 8th August, he had already bedded my two friends and increased their salary to Ksh 40 000. All but me.

 

The final poles threw him off the gubernatorial seat by a 9000 votes’ margin. A very close shave. He had lost but had made a huge impact on the county. He did not seem bothered by the loss. In fact, even before the announcement, he had me allocate funds to a big party of all his campaign staff.

 

I decided to bring my boyfriend to the big man’s party. Partly because the big man smashed my two friends, they seemed to have grown distant, so I had no friends and also partly because I felt I needed security. At the party, the big man insisted that I was to dance with him and when my boyfriend gave me an okay look I let him take my arm to the middle of the room. It was the longest ten minutes dance I ever had. When I came back, I found my boyfriend already ordered a cab to take us back home. He was furious. These young men and their possession pride (rolls eyes).

 

 

*

 

 

A week after the election, after we had cleared out and our contract terminated, I got a call from the big man. I was curious, so after some few relaxation stunts, I answered the call casually. It turns out, they needed to keep five employees for permanent employment and I had been shortlisted, so he was calling me to let me know that I was being called in for an interview.

 

Before I could make a response, he told me to carry my documents, and he would have the driver pick me up within the hour. This smelt like a distasteful disaster but I had to keep paying my rent, so I got ready in my skirt suit, made my hair look professional and put all my documents in a folder. The driver in a Range Rover was waiting as I left my apartment.

 

I got into the car, and the car sped towards town, then past town towards God knows where. I got unsettled and asked the driver where we were headed, and he briefly announced that we would get there when we got there. Without further options, I accepted my fate and drifted back into a fretful doze.

 

The car came to a halt about 200 kilometres from my apartment. It was a colourful modern hotel. A place where green dominated and nature displayed all its beauty. I now wish I had more time to let the beauty sink in, but my legs trembled and my mouth felt dry. I felt like an anchorless red balloon was floating on my stomach. Quickly I got my phone and shared my location on WhatsApp with my boyfriend and my sister. If I died, I wanted them to know where exactly to start looking for the body.

 

I found him relaxed under a gazebo sipping some expensive German Whiskey. He was in a Bahamas coloured short and a baggy checked shirt. A nasty combination of prints but that was barely within my range of fucks to give. He smiled and stood up to make a handshake with me. I was determined to make this an official interview, so before he even ordered me a bottle of 1800 Italian Wine, I handed him my CV. He pretended to read then threw it aside. In a statement that seemed too calm to be a threat, he assured me that I would get or not get the job depending on what I had to offer him.

 

There are points in life when a woman must accept that she is prey yet besides it, be determined enough to be fierce to level up the predators in the ecosystem. For certain, I knew I would never have sex with him, yet it did not matter, I was in the middle of nowhere, and the choice before me was not even a moral one, more than it was a survival one.

 

I was too engrossed in my thoughts that when he enquired whether I had a boyfriend, I just shook my head distractedly. In plain simple bare and definite words, I opened up my thoughts to him. I let him know that I would not sleep with him in any circumstance even when I needed the job this much. I looked directly at him and told him that I had a boyfriend waiting for me at home. That I love him so much to cheat on him (*rolls eyes, we had only been dating three months). I told him of the family I would want to have with him, a family of three or four kids. All girls. I told him of my accomplishments and what they meant to me. Of my rent and my parents. My fears and my aspirations.

 

I was talking consistently for more than twenty minutes that when I was done, I just stood up and made my way to leave. I did not even know a way out. I just walked. I could feel my heart pounding in my arms. I was certain that in the middle of my pressured outburst I may or may not have called the big man a sexual predator. One part fierce, two parts stupid. The elephant in the room would be how to get home.

 

 

*

 

 

As I type this story, I am home waiting for a call to know whether I aced that interview or not. Otherwise, I am just among the 40% unemployed Kenyans out here.

 

*

 

 

***Based on a true story***

 

 

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The Gatekeeper

 

 

 

They come in a little after midnight. Just about when it begins to get chilly, when the air reeks desertion, and the haze of darkness accepts its fate making the grandeur of the environment look insubstantial and unreal. They are always dropped off by taxi, each time a different taxi. They stagger past my small habitat avoiding my gaze as assiduously as if I was a forbidden fruit they had been warned about. A single look at them tells that they are well buried under the magnificent alcohol haze. They hold each other, always in couples, either trying to keep away the cold, supporting each other from the lack of balance or as a sexual foreplay ritual before the main thing.

 

 
On most days they are four of them. The two masculine figure are not residents here, who I am supposed to stop but I no longer interest myself in the dedication of arguing with drunk people. So I let them pass, I actually think they like me for that. They walk with footsteps slowed to a jarring and unmistakable cadence like zombie footsteps. Past me and into the hostel lobby and later to their rooms and minutes later after the laughing and indistinct loud statements die down, I can hear heavy breathing and low moans. Sex. I always try to create a mental picture of what goes on in that room but over and over, my imagination fails me.

 

 
The rooms are fitted and furnitured for four occupants. Their room particularly has two other roommates when they walk in. Meaning that when the pangs of love can no longer themselves, the action happens in front of two innocent roommates, probably sleeping and another couple who most likely are engaged in the same activity. Somehow, I find myself hoping in between the moans that these two couples have the decency to take upper bunks. I have no idea why that to me assumes the possibility of being more private.

 

 
On more than one instances, I find myself thinking about this situation. My interest predominantly lands on one of the four. I tend to overthink people or situations sometimes. Often I find myself unable to hold back from asking myself about the appearance of circumstances until I am in my humble bed, flipping from side to another unable to solve a conundrum in my head. I do not have much education, you see, I never had a chance for university, therefore, most of the lifestyles people I guard live, are either new to me or coveted greatly in my subconscious.

 

 
Her name is Lucia. A young brilliant tenant from one of the rooms on the ground floor. I find myself under the spell of her plain facial expression when she is sober. A masterpiece of calm, an appearance of strange and dangerous fearlessness. For the two years I have manned the gate since she moved in, nothing appeared to ruffle her or make her upset. When there was a strike in school and students threw stones all over breaking glass and burning grass, she just strolled by me like she was talking a walk in the park. She has a stillness so powerful that molecules and atoms appear to align themselves systematically when she walks into the lobby. This often makes her look more mature than she actually is, older even. However, all this disappears like the sun in winter on weekend nights when she staggers past my watch kibanda. Then, she looks susceptible, open to suggestion and unguarded.

 

 
Yesterday was on a Sunday. She had been out partying with her three other friends and came home later than usual drenched in alcohol like a headless chicken ready for plucking. Her supposed boyfriend held her right arm around himself, half of her weight well on his shoulders. They came in at around three in the morning and after a few amateur moans from room C16 on the ground floor, everything was still and the night went on as usual.

 

 
The following morning, just about when my shift was to come to an end, Lucia comes from the lobby full of grace and glamor in a stripped somehow long dress and make up that must have taken tonnes of patience. My evaluation was that she was headed to church. As she walked past me, she turned her gaze slowly towards me, smiled and waved at me. The usual calm had returned, her ebony oval face revealing a particular kind of smoothness like the bark of a guava tree. This was the first attention to me in two years.

 

 
The other opening day, her parents brought her to school, dropped her off on their usual Toyota Corolla. I have seen her get dropped by her parents each time a new semester begins. They always come in shopping bags and suitcases, walk up to room C16, help her get settled in and then make a family prayer before a series of hugs and goodbyes. That room has seen more mood and moral variations than a husband to a pregnant woman.

 

 
After the parents leave, it is usually not long before her horny boyfriend swaggers past me on the gate. I can almost see two weeks’ semester break dry spell written on his face. They meet in the lobby, hug and kiss passionately before they leave the lobby into C16. The last time he held a small bunch of red roses in his hands. For once, I gave him points for effort in my head.

 

 
Today is on a Monday, my shift begins at six in the evening. I have not been able to let Lucia out of my mind all day long. I should have been sleeping but sleep comes with difficulty these days. I lay in the wake of my distracted mind trying to bring perspective to fantasies. My room is humble, my gatekeeper salary goes to my savings because I do not plan to be one my entire life.

 

 
Financial limitations can only keep a man grounded physically but not mentally. So today, just about the time Lucia comes from town with her boyfriend, a bag of fries for supper in her hands I will do it. Something I have thought about doing for as long as I can remember being a hostel guard. I will request the boyfriend to give us a minute, walk up to her and let myself feel the scent of her presence. It will be the closest I have been to her. I believe myself to be good-looking and a good speaker, so I do not expect presentation to be a problem to me.

 

 
I let her boyfriend past the gate at weird ungodly hours, so I do not expect him to be an issue. He owes me that much. I will let her pretty face reflect all my insecurities and reveal a shine of hope, brighter than the sun in summer. I will have to be quick not to draw a lot of attention from other students passing through. I will be in the best of dressing and smoothness of tongue. It won’t matter how many times I have heard her sexual moans in room C16, or that her parents look as protective as a lioness to her cubs. The only variables will be me, a gatekeeper, and her, a taken a girlfriend standing in the doorway to the hostel.

 

 
This evening will be the day I ask her to be my girlfriend and we will all be here when I narrate to you how it goes tomorrow.

 

 

 

Feature Image of Mukiri Gitiri Captured by Gathige.

No Witnesses

 

 

 

I was born in 7th March, 1987. The day I was born, it rained hard, a storm that brought down trees and houses. I was born in my mothers and fathers house by a midwife. My father hated hospitals, he said that they reeked of weakness and infection. So my mother pushed without anaesthetic, cried and cursed until my head popped out. Outside, lighting struck followed by deafening thunder as if in protest to something. The midwife with really rough hands probably from harvesting tea in the fields, pulled my small body in the world.

 
My father worked in the armoury where he tended to the army’s weapons. I can remember him cleaning more guns in our living room than I saw him shower. He held himself on high regard constantly claiming that only a man of great responsibility could be accorded such an important task. Before I could stop pooping my pants, I knew how to hold and clean a gun.

 
On the evening of 27th January 1996 as I came from school, I found my father’s body splattered around the floor like a red carpet on Christmas. He had blown himself to kingdom come on his favourite seat in the living room while tending to his guns. Poor guy had taken his wife with him without even asking. Asking was not his style, he was a dictator, issuing commands and hitting mother on the head was more his style. Now, standing on the doorway, all I could see was brains and decapitated limbs of both him and mother.

 
I shed a few necessary tears for mother, collected the remaining guns and set foot on my way. Let the dead take care of themselves; the Bible says something like that, I think. His guns were now my guns. I remember vividly packing no clothes or food, the only thing I packed were the deadly guns father loved. To this day I do not know whether father blew himself up by accident or on purpose. Maybe it was mother who got tired of him and shut him up by blowing his brains, whatever happened, I was not staying to find out.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

I loved blood. I made acquaintance with the butcher in the place I moved to. He supplied me with raw blood from the cattle they butchered and I would put in a cup in the secrecy of my wrecked house and sip it slowly like Asian tea. A cup in the morning and a cup in the evening, sometimes even more when the spoils from the slaughter house accommodated. I lied to the butcher man that I used to make mutura. Stupid dumbass believed me.

 

 

 
A usual day for me was working out and cleaning my guns which were often dirty from hunting hare in the Aberdare forest. I ate a lot of meat. My body was more meat than brains but so is everybody else’s’. My body was curved like a sculpture from the workouts with all kinds of vein patterns on my arms. Strength was mandatory, that was one thing I had picked from father. I was hairy, very hairy all over my body like a caveman. But I was a caveman of sorts, living on the edge of the forest and hunting deer and hare for meals.

 

 

 
At the age of seventeen, as I lay on the grass a scorpion climbed up my boot and chewed my left heel unceremoniously. I barely survived the poison but the living were not done with me so I survived day after day until the only thing left to tell the scorpion story was a limp. This limp stays with me to this day.

 

 

 

 
At nineteen I began working on contracts. A man and his wife were walking home when an armed guy in a hoodie approached them, pointed a gun and promised to put bullet holes in their stomachs if they did not hand over their phones, wallets and jewellery. On ordinary circumstances, I would have kept to the darkness and watched the free film before I went on my way. The two victims handed the thug everything they had and begged for their lives. Cowards deserve to die, so I hoped that the gun the hoodie guy held would get to be fired. Then it happened that the man threw himself in front of the lady and asked the hoodie guy to shoot him and let his wife go in peace. In my mind, I quickly resolved that this man was not a coward. He was brave he did not deserve a bullet after all. I snuck behind the bushes stealthily and silently like a serpent and struck the hoodie guy on his back, disarmed him effortlessly, cautiously and swiftly, just like hunting deer before I put bullets all over his body. The first bullet on his left foot, second on his right knee cap, third on his belly button, fourth on his left eye, sixth on the right lung before the last bullet put him to eternal sleep from the forehead. I would have shot his groins too but the bullets ran out.
The man and the wife rewarded me heavily even though I had not expected it with six thousand shillings and that became my first contract.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

When I met Maria, I had just come from the Rift Valley. I had been there for three days, working. This assignment was special. It involved a very important man. My contact, the person who had handed me the assignment also sounded important but identity was not any of my concern. So on a misty Tuesday morning, as a helicopter sailed an important person to the plains of the Rift Valley for an occasion, I lay flat on a raised ground one eye shut to put all the juice on the other one that was looking on a tiny aiming hole of my father’s M21 Sniper Weapon machine. I shot three times; at the pilot, then the choppers propeller and finally just as the chopper begun to spin, I shot one passenger. The last shot was unnecessary. The chopper landed on a hill and blew up like the fourth of July. The job was not done until I walked to the crushed site and shot the remains gratuitously. No witnesses.

 
I was paid twenty thousand shillings. I met Maria on my usual visits to the butcher. She was barely dressed. All she had were pieces of cheap fabric covering her private areas seductively, I assumed it was fashion. She stood by the butchery calmly as if waiting for someone. I had never spoken to a girl so I was specifically surprised she talked to me first. It was a quick hello followed by a question I did not have a response to. She asked me whether I had seen anything I liked. It was a weird question but one that demanded a response. I threw my eyes to her hair, artificial but so beautiful, her body, the way it graciously made a figure eight and the waist, the tiny waist held me captive that I only murmured a yes.

 
Maria must have been a very free person because while I expected her to turn away and move on like I did not exist, she simply asked me another question. She wanted to know whether I had money and food because as she put it, she was starving. I explained to her patiently that I had had good luck that morning and caught a gazelle that was lying waiting to be roasted at my place and yes, I did have money. With that, Maria held my arm and we walked talking about everything until we got to my house.

 
This had been the first time I had company at my place so while I stayed nervous, she eased the mood by constantly holding my arm. I liked the way she held my arm and looked into my eyes. Instead of roasting the meat, we boiled it as per Maria’s suggestion. She served the meat on a plate and we ate while she went on and on about different things in her life. This strange creature amused me but I let it.

 
When the meal was over, Maria said that she would teach me something new and I gladly accepted. She took her clothes off until she was completely naked. The lamp shone on her nakedness like the sunset of the Tsavo. The she cautiously got my clothes off too while looking deep into my eyes like she was looking for approval. I let her have her way. A few minutes later, I had proudly had my first sexual encounter.

 
I did not have much use for money so the morning Maria left, I handed her ten thousand shillings and told her to use it since we were friends now. She accepted gladly and did that naked thing for me another time before she hurriedly left. We made plans to see each other later in the evening where she promised she would teach me something else.

 

 

 

The same day, I got another contact from a woman who wanted her husband gone forever. As usual I was not concerned about the reasons why she wanted her husband dead so I asked for details like where he would be, an image of him and all that shit. I was determined to finish this assignment fast and join Maria later in the day. When I got to the location directed by the wife who wanted her husband gone, it was a function. The husband was launching his new flats that he had built with his wife and now they were ready for tenants. It was an easy job, I let the function terminate before I met the husband in the restrooms, told him that his wife had decided to let him join the dead and put two bullets, one on his head and the other to his heart to make sure he would never wake up and left him face down in the toilet bowl like he was hugging it and left. Let the dead take care of themselves; the Bible says something like that, I think. I was paid four thousand for this job.

 
I was late for the agreed meeting time with Maria, so when I got to the butchery, I was not surprised that she was not there. I asked around but nobody around seemed to know her. I decided to head home and see if she was home. It was dark when I got home and unluckily she was not there either. I blamed myself for getting late and fell asleep immediately. I had a very nice dream about Maria and her naked body which made me so happy.

 
The next day went on slow, too slow. When it was evening, I left the house to look for Maria. I was determined to apologize for the previous day. I wanted her back more than anything. I got to the small town centre just in time to see Maria vanish to a turn with another accomplice. I ran as fast as I could to get to her but eventually I decided to just follow them like I did with gazelle, deer and hare before pouncing on them unawares during hunting.

 
They walked to a house, which by the fact that it was Maria who opened the door, I assumed it was her house. It was tiny and spoke a tale of limited resources but still better than mine yet I felt sorry for her. I would have liked to give her everything good this life had to offer. They walked in with the man and I waited for about twenty minutes. When they did not come out, I decided to walk in myself and explain everything. Explain the reason I had been late for the hook up the previous day. I had it planned out in my head, everything I would tell her, yet cautiously leave the part about me killing people for a living.

 
When I go to the door, I could hear Maria’s voice, she was screaming all kinds of words beginning with her maker followed by all kinds of curse words. She kept screaming and I thought she was in trouble so I stormed into the house to the biggest disappointment of my twenty one years.

 
There she was doing out thing with another guy, both entirely naked and worse was that she seemed to be enjoying it more. They stopped the moment I stormed in. I could feel my anger rising like mercury in a thermometer. I could not comprehend why she was doing our thing with other people. Maria started to say something but stopped the moment I held the man’s neck with both hands and lifted him up like he was a cup of coffee.

 
He chocked. Maria begged. I was not listening to either of them. He spoke, he said something about Maria being a prostitute but I did not care. He had to die. He writhed like a worm until his legs relaxed. Maria screamed her lungs out. I threw the lifeless body away and headed for her neck too. When I caught her I felt something inside me, I hesitated. It was something I had never felt, not even when I watched my mother’s body lifeless on our living room. It was a weird emotion.

 
She tried to reach for something from the table, a kettle which she threw to my face missed and it landed on the floor splashing hot water to my left foot. The scorpion bite hated anything hot. It was painful too painful, I let her go and limped out of the house and ran.

 
I had never left any witnesses. She was the first one. I had to go, I had to leave the Central region to another region. I did not even bother to go pick my father’s guns. From now I did not need them, using my hands to finish my work had felt more gratifying. I ran into the forest to an uncharted region where Maria would not lead the police.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

My clients still reach me. If someone wants you dead then you will die by my hands. I will not use a gun. Guns are too quick. I will use my hands and watch life escape your body like a treated plague and then leave you dead. Let the dead take care of themselves; the Bible says something like that, I think. I will get paid as low as four thousand for your life. One day I will get Maria. I know now that she is a hooker but she is still mine. I will let her body do things to my body and then I will kill her slowly and respectfully. No witnesses.

 

 

*

 

 

END

 

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

A Guy with a Girl

 

 

I am a guy without a girl, lying awake in the dead of the night thinking about a girl. Deeply rooted in the proverbial uncontrollable love screaming a girl’s name to no one in particular yet hoping to be heard. Sleep is a long lost visitor, coming in unannounced amidst a pillow wet with tears. For that reason, I am the guy always on the phone or on a computer forcing distraction upon a troubled mind so that it can accommodate peace. I am the guy with a hint of happiness as a distant memory, cursing time in between breaths for moving too fast.

 

 

 

I am the guy jogging every morning on the sidewalk. Talking long walks deep in the countryside in the evening with white earphones dangling loosely from my ears, speaking but barely being heard. The guy taking a shower after a jog and letting tears flow smoothly with the warm water from the shower. Taking really long showers and losing myself in the meditative walls of the bathroom.

 

 

 

The guy holding a large novel at noon in the living room with a glass of whisky placed on the coffee table begging to be sipped but constantly being ignored. A guy that knows the value of control when it comes to alcohol because it always starts as a means to terminate the melancholy in the living room and ends up in a rehabilitation centre’s reception somewhere in Limuru. A guy that is not curious to find out what lays on the bottom of the bottle yet still opens the bottle anyway.

 

 

 

I am the guy who used to have a girl. Then, nothing could go wrong. A guy who once held fate by the throat, but now is held down to the filth by fate’s fury.

 

 

 

A guy, busy making plans in the middle of diary pages and notebooks only for it to turn to shit just moments before implementation. A guy who is weary of praying for the same thing from January to June and now wondering whether the omnipresent heaven tenant took a long vacation to the Bahamas. Tied to my mind with voices screaming from every medulla of the mind but ineffable torturous silence and unrest on the outside. The silence preceding a catastrophe.

 

 

 

I am the guy whose girl means the entire world to him, busy scribbling romantic notes in the middle of the night and then deleting them because they will never be read. And now staring long and deep into the framed art on the walls reliving each photo painfully like the plucking of a broken molar tooth.

 

 

 

The guy alone in a big house secretly afraid of a monster under the bed, a monster I call time. Twenty turns to twenty-one and then to twenty-two and everything moves but I have nothing to show as progress. A guy aware of important dates in July, surreptitiously aware of what they mean and their implications on the flow of life.

 

 

 

An old lion chasing young love across the savannah grasslands of the Mara. A prey faster than time, swift as the wind and seductive as forbidden fruit. A predator aware of the sweetness and thrill of the hunt but forced by prevailing circumstances to settle for unfulfilling scavenge life.

 

 

 

A monkey gracefully gliding from branch to branch in the dense Aberdare forest in the middle of the rainy season. But now lost a limb and living in caves hiding my face away from the cold June weather.

 

 

 

The guy who found a girl to be bliss, the definition of love, the true purpose of life and the only ingredient to happiness. The guy cooking in the kitchen, food made with love but only gets enjoyed by solitude, desolation and a tasteless tongue. Then waking up in the morning to dirty dishes and hot coffee, another day to exist and feel shitty in the evening when there is still nothing to show for twenty-four hours.

 

 

 

I am better with the girl than without. But in a callous world full of individuality and commitment to independence nobody seems to get this. Maybe the white man took too much freedom from us, such that to this day we feel enmeshed and buckled up in chains and handcuffs when we feel that we indeed need dependence.

 

 

 

Writing down and reading a lot of words each day, yet feeling drained of words. Words are not oxygen, you cannot live off them. You cannot fill your lungs with words and breathe out bad words leaving the good ones to sustain life in the body.

 

 

 

The scientist in a cruel lab, performing ninety-seven trails and receiving ninety-seven failed test outcomes. A scientist slowly becoming a monster with each trial because it gets to you brain, it feasts on your sanity with a big spoon and serves your heart as dessert.

 

 

 

A man, sinking into depression, first with a single toe, then a foot and now gasping for air with the whole eternity finding its way to the bottom of the sea.

 

 

 

The prisoner serving time in solitary, marking dates on the walls with a rock waiting for the day they will allow the sun to touch my lips again and entrust her with my presence. The sun to place a warm hug on my shoulders, never to leave him alone again in damnation and anguish of darkness. The prisoner who tried to do everything right in the beginning yet stays condemned with zero chances for redemption.

 

 

 

Devastated, angry and desperate.

 

 

 

I am the author of who scribbled this sad short memoir in January, yet flinches with familiar acrimony in June because the plot still the same old. A mad man persistently doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. The guy with a girl but without her altogether.

 

 

 

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri.

The Legend of Cornelio

 

 

 

My grandfather Chief Cornelius Kuria Kahuba always said that age is never about the number of years one had lived but rather the number of lifetimes one had experienced. Seated on the visitor’s seat on the edge of his mud-walled living room with his black and white old portrait towering above my head, this sentiment never made much appeal to me. In line to his beliefs and antics, grandfather always asked for everyone’s opinion in a discussion. To him, opinion from an eight year old mattered as much as one from his age mate. The twist in all this was that he heard all opinions but always came to resolve from his own opinion. Grandfather was chief and his leadership frolics could be felt from the moment you walked into his compound. He had two beautiful wives, Racheal and Rebecca and a huge piece of land that extended to the horizon. To the rest of the villagers, grandfather was chief, not by any government appointment but by merely his status to the community. They called him Cornelio.

 

 

 

 

We all thought heroes need caps and masks, that they live in Gotham, New York and Hell’s Kitchen flying around lazily during sunny Sunday afternoons assuring the people that they are protected. That heroes needed to stick to the shadows like Batman and come out when villains attack the city. That they need to save kittens from tree tops and damsels in distress.  Cornelio was a hero. He did not were a mask, he did not put on a cap, or fly, neither did he have the keys to his village but still he managed to assure people of protection. He was an alpha among wolves teaching people the virtue of love and pure kindness.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio was my grandfather. I never really did meet him because he passed away immediately after I was born in 1995. If I had known him I would have revered him. I would have sat beneath his favourite chair every school holiday and drank from his enormous cup of wisdom. I would have listened to every single tale of his time, and wrote stories of how he grew up and how legends are bred. I have heard tales that he held me once in his arms immediately after I was born but that was not fulfilling, I would have liked more. And last year as we did a memorial service to commemorate twenty years since he left us and I got to experience how it felt to be with him around, the conviction he had to the masses and most of all the scar he left on his sons, daughters and grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

He was a community man and a church head. Every Sunday after church everyone from the church would go to his home for lunch. Cornelio was not a rich man but his will was to keep on giving. His thing was for communism not accumulation of wealth. He did not see the essence of having a lot when his neighbour had none so he shared, gave freely to those who needed his help and services. He worked to solve the problems of his people, social and economic alike.

 

 

 

Whenever mother speaks about him, you can see her eyes go into a delirium, she goes back twenty plus years and narrates to me when father had first taken her to grandfather. Cornelio had asked father if that was the lady that had pleased his eyes above all others and he answered ‘Yes’. I would like to think father was filled with ineffable excitement to have landed a beautiful lady with captivating looks, my mother is quite a catch to this day. Cornelio had then asked again…

 

 

 

 

Njenga ūyū nĩwe ukweda?

 

 

 

 

And amidst self-assurance and determination, he had mumbled…

 

 

 

Ĩnĩ nĩwe.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio had made him promise to take care of his bride through all kinds of situations, live to make her happy and build a home with her. Cornelio had further made him promise that whenever a problem came up they would solve it both of them. And father had heed his words and practiced them daily until now. Mother had made Cornelio’s home her home too and had found the strange lands as peaceful as if it were her own home. That was Cornelio. Pacific and sagacious.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio’s kids grew up, ten of them in total. Four girls and six sons. In no time father, been the oldest had his first pay check and as all sons, father wanted to come home with shopping bags from Tuskys, those old enough know that it was called Tusker Mattresses back then. They had these yellow plastic bags with a lot of letters, ‘Tusker Mattresses’ is not a short name as you can all see. I suppose this was the reason their marketing manager had suggested the chop the wordy name off to Tuskys. So that their plastic bags would be prettier. I digress.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio had met father midway through the gates and made him put all these bags beneath a certain tree in the middle of the compound. He had opened the yellow Tusker Mattresses bags and one by one divided the contents into two each half for his two wives, Racheal and Rebecca. Racheal was the mother of the ten kids meaning that Rebecca had no children. Grandfather ensured that his kids knew that no mother was significant than the other, that biology did not make Racheal more their mother than Rebecca. So, he opened up the bags, the wheat flour bags were divided into two and the sugar too but even when one homestead had ten children and the other had none, to him things had to be shared equally.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio indignation was against insolence. His benevolence ran across genders and age groups. In the course of his memorial his age mates spoke of him at such a high repute. One of them just had few words and they sank in me like ice water on a scorching sun day, I thought through them like my life depended on them. They were simple yet imploring, they were in Kikuyu. He said

 

 

 

Cornelio was a giver, it did not matter if he had or did not have he just wanted to give

 

 

 

 

It took me back to the current world where everything is about grab and keep. Feign giving in form of fake foundations to build you reputation whenever there is a coming election and the cameras and are in an exaggerated frenzy, swaggering past a homeless family on the streets and thank you favourite gods that that is not you and then keep walking in you Ksh 4000 leather loafers.

 

 

 

 

I am grateful for the tenets Cornelius Kuria passed to us. I see them every day in father he has every bit of semblance in comparison to Cornelio historic tales, he is a front-runner everywhere and every time in the estate people want him to head their functions. He is my role model. His brothers alike, each has attained a governance role in their various professional fields, every single one of them. And to my family, my sisters the same, even the twelve year old Viona has indicated this early that she is going to be a leader as our firstborn has been on it for as long as I remember. Me, I just blog here but I am thinking of challenging myself sooner than later, let’s just make it later.

 

 

 

 

Grandmother Rebecca left us and Grandmother Racheal was left to carry the legend, I remember when we were kids she used to come visit us with a bag full of plums during the December holidays. When we went to visit her she made this roasted maize that was just legendary. She used to burn it together with the covers until the entire maize was evenly light brown and when you chewed that maize, trust me, you would never want to leave. We called this maze gara. One glance at her and deep in her eyes you will see the grin of achievement, she has made men and women of mettle to change the society, her legend will never be rendered to ash alongside that of Cornelio.

 

 

 

 

Grandfather’s name was Chief Cornelius Kuria Kahuba and has been laying with the ancestors for twenty two years now. He was a light from a lamp shining bright amidst troubled times like the sun in January. I still wish I would have met him.

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri.

A Story about Stories

 

 

 
I have never had a review of any of my articles by someone in the same field. The reason is not that I have never thought about it, in fact, contrast to that, I have always thought about it more often than not. Some people are just too good in what they do, and you want to have a talk with them and ask them exactly how they do their stuff. There are stories you read and after you are done, you lie there lifeless, wondering about the author, like who hurt him, is he going to be fine, did he type the story or did he handwrite it and then had someone type it up for him, worse is when the author is a lady.

 

 

The truth is, that writing is difficult. There is no unit of measurement when it comes to writing. You create characters from real life experiences, build their attributes and behaviors from your experiences and make them as humanly possible as you can. It takes time to get to people’s heads using text, and that is normally the purpose of writing, being able to grasp a readers mind, transform it into your own and fulfill a certain perception of things. There are no conventions in writing, the only thing constant is that there is always one persistent message that the author wishes to put across all along.

 

 

Recently, I gave one of my articles up for review by two professional writers, people that have been doing this for a while. People I admire, and you will find me beneath the covers of my bed reading their stories, eyes wide open, hoping and waiting that a character manufactured by them finds their happy ending. To be entirely honest, of the two writers, none, whatsoever, ever has a happy ending. Yet like a little girl, I always lay in wait that these two will get a life someday and cease messing up my expectations.

 

 

 

The reason I gave the article out for review is not that I was feeling insecure about the content I write daily, neither was it because I needed some gratification, it was solely because I believe art is expressive in nature. This is the reason it differs from one person to another. While one of them found it entirely romantic with instances of badly placed words, the other found it artistic and intellectually unrestricted. They both agreed that the idea and the characters were well built but differed in the choice of words. The thing that surprised me most is that their analysis and understanding of the 1300 words story was completely different.

 

 

 

And that is when it hit me. There no rules in writing. It is not a science where we have to exert a certain amount of pressure to get some predetermined results. It is an art, and the only responsibility I have is to my audience. There rules are non-existent, and the only limitations are the authors’ imagination. Then I thought of Igoni Barret in the book, ‘BlackAss,’ he transforms one of his character from male to female in a single story, and the reader has to take time off the book and marinate at what it is that just happened. That is the kind of liberty present in art. You create, you kill, you resurrect and create again without having any questions asked.

 

 

 

I think of writing more of an escape from the numerous rules present in life. When you jump up high, it is mandatory to come back to the ground no matter who you are. My idea when writing is that I can jump, up high and do not necessarily have to come back down due to stuff like gravity or lack of wings. However, I am always scared of the content I put out there, sometimes I am unsure about it, and I will write only for the story to remain on my hard disk until such a time that the re-write hits my mind like something publishable. The first responsibility of an artist is to him or herself and if at all the product is not satisfactory to him or her than it cannot be fitting to his or her audience.

 

 

 

However, different artist makes art for different reasons. While others are to inform, others to entertain, I would like to think of my reasons more like the ability to transmute my thoughts into your thoughts so that by the end of a story you and I have the same thoughts. To get to another person’s head is never as easy as it sounds. You have first to get rid of any initial judgment about the product, and after that, the way is clear to infuse your concepts. I remember the very first article I wrote here on dennispetersblog was about 2007 post-election violence and I was trying to create a character who was a boy that had lost faith in humanity when neighbor turned against neighbor because of their difference in political opinion. The key word is ‘trying.’ That was four years ago.

 

 

 

 

Now as I marked four years of appearing on your email, facebook, whats app and twitter notifications blubbering about this and that, I can barely tell who reads what on this website unless they leave a comment. Initially, when I got a bad comment I would get disappointed and even refuse to let the comment visible to my readers, but as the years pass, I have learned to rely on my feelings towards my content. I have had loyal readers from the word go, people who never speak but I can always feel they are lurking in the shadows reading and laughing quietly to themselves. I do not know if my dad got tired of checking out the website occasionally like a boss performing a human resource check, but I know he does not approve the F word (Fudge), and the N word (Nazi) but can never bring himself up to question me.

 

 

 

Someone said that it is fine, most of us are intelligent, but the truest measure of intelligence is the ability to transform thoughts into words to be felt by those that come into contact with them. To other artists, poets, creative writers, the task lies not with the popularity of your content’s extent but by the touch of feeling it delivers upon those that try to understand it. Keep creating, the thing about all this is that it is only getting better and better with time.

 

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri.

Grass Ain’t Greener

The greenness in the grass of Nyandarua highlands should be the ninth wonder of the world after the wildebeests of Mara and the ego of Jeff Koinange. I say this with utmost sincerity and honesty to those that have never set foot in Nyandarua. I was born and brought up there, my parents’ marriage was there, I met Kate Njenga there in 1995 when she was three years old, and I was three minutes old. She became the first Njenga I knew, and I got fond of her faster than our mother and our father. I called her Kate, her name was Catherine, till it stuck like super glue and nobody else knows her by any other name except our mother, who when angry screams her three names in her Identification Card. She looks nothing like a Njeri, but you can never tell that to our mother who in anger is a force to run away from.

I was a naughty boy, but our mother has got angry even for far less, things that if I called petty and she read this article, I would have to move to a rural village in Nyanza, change my name to something less conspicuous, without a ‘s’. The letter ‘s’ makes names too noticeable, something like Dennis Peters has everyone noticing it. Kanye West, Chuck Bass, Neil Armstrong, Jackson Biko, Moses Kuria, Nameless, Miley Cyrus, Jack Daniels and William Lawson are names everyone here is familiar with. If you never knew, it is because they have a ‘s’. If your name does not have a ‘s’ then nobody knows you, you think we know you, but we do not. I mean why else would our esteemed socialites have ‘boss’ and ‘sidika’ in them? I will leave it at that for you to marinate.

Meanwhile, every day we walked to St. Richard Primary School with my sister Kate Njenga. School buses just begun recently after 2002 after the former president, Mwai Kibaki made the roads. Back then, it was much quicker to get to school by foot than by any automobile. Nyandarua was cold in the morning so we would be all dressed up heavily in gloves, legwarmers, long coats on top of an infinite number of layers of clothes beneath. On occasion, during March, April and September, our shoe wear was gumboots. When you live in such life threatening conditions, you learn discipline. There were a shoe and a coat for each month, and a dress code for each time during the day. Disobedience only caused pneumonia and colds worse than any imagination I can instil to your mind.

During lunch, the weather was often friendly, and the girls and boys would sit on the green grass in circles of small groups. The girls would sit on their side of the field and the boys on theirs. I was a boy back then, but I had I tough time coming to terms with that fact, so I followed my sister to the side that belonged to the girls. I was not bothered by the fact that my dressing was a short and not a checked dress, I just went wherever she went. Surprisingly at her age, she never seemed bothered when I joined the circle with her friends and classmates. She never asked me to leave even when her friends made discomfort body language, so I became a girl. A seven-year-old girl when I should have been a four-year-old boy.

I remember our mother had a tough task reminding me that boys pee while standing not while sitting. I wonder where I am headed with this story but let’s see.

My memory of all this mainly dwells more in the greenness in the grass. It was not just any green; it was emotionally green. Poetic. We would sleep, roll, play on the grass and go back home, shoes still shining, clothes still pretty clean. Dust was a thing I never came to know of until I joined Naivasha Boys Boarding in class five where everything was the exact opposite. In Naivasha, we had to water the fields, the sidewalks and the highways each morning because anything else would mean sand storms in our classes, dormitories and dining halls. I loathed that place. If hell is anything like that, then I am joining Dr Awour’s flock.

Through the years, I have been to other parts of Central Kenya, like Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Limuru, Wangige, Nyahururu and to be entirely honest the grass is not greener on any other side.

The other day a discussion rose up about why men are bound to cheat regardless the aspect that their wives or girlfriends are Beyoncé or Hillary Clinton. It was supposed to be a discussion on Systems Programming because of a test that was coming up real soon, but the topic about all men being dogs could barely be held down. The interesting part about this discussion is that it was by men alone, so we were discussing if indeed we are all dogs on not. I do not understand why we have to give dogs a character in such a nasty metaphor. I would be for the opinion that if the metaphor ‘All men are dogs” has to stay then let there be a specification whether it is poodle dog or a mongrel. I would not mind being a poodle; they eat better food than most people, have shampoos and smell like teddy bears, go for walks and have names. If you came up to me and told me that I am a poodle, my only offence would be that you did not specify the gender and race. Mongrels, on the other hand, is a story I cannot talk about without my anger rising like a thermometer on Lucifer’s armpit.

So, the points were that one girlfriend is never enough, that you have to test a few Toyotas before you settle on an X-Trail. That there will come a time that a man will be done doing the testing and he will grab his curiosity by the neck and choke it to death and then settle down with that one woman. That life will be perfect after that because there will be no much curiosity, neither too much desire to accomplish the undone. That this man will be the perfect husband and father, he will buy roses and kiss his loved ones on the forehead. He will have a nasty past but what matters is the future. He will be a dog but a retired one. He will have fulfilled his pants desires in every aspect. He will be a mega-man.

Then it got me thinking about the grass in Nyandarua when I was four. The way Kate Njenga never ditched me for her new clique of friends to fulfil some kind uncharted completion in her life. I thought about us now; we are still best friends. We gave each other time and space to grow, but our friendship remained constant through the fights, the loss, even when another Njenga emerged in 2005, she had a tough time catching up with us.

In the same way, in this discussion, the lady or gentleman you holding hands with right now could never be greener. You might leave him or her to look further in Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Limuru, Wangige, Nyahururu but to be utterly candid, the grass will not be greener on the other side.

Feature Image: Trica Ciku.