Peace of Land

Sarah and Faith Muoria

 

Recently, my parents grabbed themselves a piece of land. They paid for it though, unlike your favourite politician. They say they want to build themselves a retirement home, leave the city and never come back. They chose Malindi as their future home. They sat down in a silent meeting of two in the living room and discussed how they had lived in Central, Eastern and Nairobi provinces but never been to Coast. So instead of getting an SGR ticket to Mombasa for a weekend like everyone else, they just called Douglas from Urithi Housing and Cooperative and he gave them an offer they could not refuse.

 

Their reason for settling in Malindi still beats my logic. We are Meru people, we have a romantic affair with Mt. Kenya. We wake up to the sight of the snowcapped Lenana, Batian and Nelion. Malindi was just far-fetched, but who understands these ones anyway but themselves?

 

Personally, I have never been to Malindi but it sounds like a place with no Wi-Fi so it would be a total buzz kill for me. It sounds like a place you go to retire though. A place you build a two bedroom tiny mansion with a lot of living room space and an extremely huge master bedroom, but because you do not want your kids or your relatives to bother you, it almost has no space for guests. In fact, it only has one extra bedroom. An extremely tiny one. The kind you open the door and, BOOM! You are in bed already. The kind that are prominent here in Nairobi, particularly, Roysambu. Bedrooms that are inhospitable. You make one wrong turn while sleeping, you will wake up hugging the wall.

 

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A Stripper I Knew

 

 

I met Maria the second the time in a strip club as she was busy shoving her nice pair of big breasts on my face. It was a club in the dingy dark dreadful streets of Nairobi. She was my sister but I would never have recognized her from the bushy synthetic hair on her head to the little amount of blood in my alcohol circulatory system.

 

 

She was not my sister really, at least not biologically. She was just the nosy girl next door in my parents’ neighbourhood when I was growing up. She was always in our house looking for food and she never went away. This was not the first time I had seen her nice pair of breasts but that is another story I might decide or decide not to tell later.

 

 

The first time I had met Maria was a few days after I was born. A three-year-old girl looking down at my slimy small disfigured face straight from the maternity hospital. There is an old photo of that moment at home.

 

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The Verdict

 

The women of all Kamuyu had heard it now. No one would lend that Wambui wa Njoroge any money whatsoever. They were tired of that begging piece of a woman with no respect for personal dignity or other women husbands. Wauru repeated her speech now clearly and with a lot of words her voice shaking with bare agitation as her eyes grew redder by the minute. It was time for her, time to put Wambui wa Njoroge down where she belonged with the termites and pieces of shit. The women of Kamuyu had to know what kind of woman Wambui wa Njoroge was. Wauru made a pregnant pause as she let her insightful words sink into the skulls of Kamuyu women, it was time for a change. Women would not only have to think with their brains but the ears too, so Wauru made certain that what landed on the ears of Kamuyu women was that Wambui had to be terminated, hanged out dry and locked out with no mercy.

 

Wambui wa Njoroge stood planted on the ground, the was a light shower that was escorted by a thick mist. It was on a Sunday, a day to praise the gods, little did she know the women inside her house were busy roasting her demons like Christmas barbecue. She had called the women there because she had felt that she could obtain the help she needed.  She clung to the walls of the earth walls of her house wondering what the women of Kamuyu had asked her to walk out to discuss. She waited outside her own house patiently watching as the now heavy rain made tiny holes on the ground. Weird for the rains to come in January, thought Wambui wa Njoroge. She stared at the brown loam soil that now smelt fertility and expectant with germination. This was the same fertility she had poured all over her husband Njoroge a few months ago, wet and heavy and her eyes and heart had flooded with melancholy and precipitously today she felt that kind of grief too. The women of Kamuyu had continued to sing the hymn that hoped Njoroge’s soul was at ease and that God would preserve it in a peaceful world.

 

That had been the last sight of her Njoroge, lifeless, in a box, fertility being poured all over his lifeless body as if he would germinate later in the year with the millet and maize. With that Wambui wa Njoroge had simply fainted out of grief but mostly because with the song that those Kamuyu women sang, Wambui wa Njoroge had lost the Njoroge in her name, the Njoroge she had had since she had first shed her woman blood. Having shed blood, she had looked for someone to make love to and make her feel like a woman and that person had been Njoroge. Her parents ‘sold’ her immediately for marriage to Njoroge the moment her tummy had started showing, perhaps to protect themselves from losing respect from the community of Kamuyu for harboring a pregnant girl without a husband.

 

Since that day, Wambui became Wambui wa Njoroge. Since she first shed that woman blood Njoroge had become her life. She had held him on her breasts like a delicate egg and pledged eternal loyalty. Till death, Wambui had thought presumably rationalizing that death was busy bothering Wanjiku, Wanjiru, Wairimu, and Wangeci. That death would be so busy to turn around and see Njoroge’s family and decide to make a quick stop for dinner or a quickie.  For thirteen years she had been right, death had been busy dealing thoroughly with her parents that it barely recognized her family living happily making love, millet uji, and sorghum ugali.

 

When death had finally turned, it had come with her scornful sisters and their in-laws. Njoroge had died and his brothers had claimed all their land. Wambui and her son had been left homeless and foodless. The party had been too anxious to become a funeral. And the Njoroge, the only Njoroge Wambui had known, had been planted deep, deep down into the ground where he would not germinate. She turned her face away from the ground. The door had opened.

 

The women of Kamuyu had come to a ruling.

 

On a certain clearing in a small forest at the edge of Kamuyu, a group of five boys continued to play pebbles unperturbed by the growing rainfall. They were dirty and were it not for their sudden movements and loud exclamations, you would confuse them for the very dirt they played their pebbles on. One was Ngori. Ngori was thirteen years old, younger than the rest four but the loudest. He was winning this pebble game making this game his fifth win out of the sixteen games they had played. He hoped that his counterparts would not suggest one more game after this was done in order to see if the winning tally would change like they had done in the last six games. These ones never accepted defeat. Well, the tally did not change after that game or the next after that Ngori was winning and stayed that way. His counterparts were growing livid by the second.

 

Most irritated of all of them was Maodo, Wauru’s first born son and the pride of the community, particularly Wauru. Wauru was the community and the community was Wauru. The community’s will curved to her desires through her coquettish smothering and other times vehement ideologies. Maodo had become her mother in traits and to her mother, he was her life since her husband, the man that used to be her life, found the bottle and the two married and made a till death pact  to fuck around until one of them spent the night in the gutter. Often, it was Wauru’s husband that slept in the gutter, not his drink. His drink always found a safe spot, comfy and warm, in his gut.

 

Maodo could not understand why a small boy like Ngori could beat him in a game of pebbles. Half intentional, half a co-ordinated response – borrowed from her mother, he declared aloud to Ngori.

 

At least am not stupid like your mother or dead like your father.

 

These words slung into Ngori like a Samurai Japanese sword. For a moment, he could not breathe or feel his arms or legs. He was used to hearing all sorts of insults about his family but never did it hurt him like it did then. His jubilation moment died quicker than a burnt-out candle. He immediately shoved Maodo to the ground and to his surprise he fell down. Fights amongst boys were common and the worst that could happen was a broken arm or foot or a permanent scar. This time, however, Ngori was tired, tired of the sneering village, tired of death, tired of spending sleepless nights hungry because his uncles took away all they had, tired of school and exhausted from being tired. He felt the world owed him and he had to claim his deserved share. He did not think again, things happened first, he jumped on top of Maodo like a charging bull in a bull fight. He grabbed a stone next to Maudo and placed it on Maodo’s head with all his might. First slowly then first, the blood jumped from Maodo’s skull and the boys all knew things had just taken a nasty turn.

 

Meanwhile Wauru read out the charges against Wambui wa Njoroge calmly but sternly giving her space to respond but not explain.

 

You took money from this chama and have never given it back, niguo kana tiguo? And the response – Niguo!

 

You took my husband from god knows where and took him to your house to do god knows what the whole night like a prostitute, true or not true? And the response – True!

 

The medicine people could not identify what killed your husband. Only witchcraft cannot be deciphered by medicine people, true or not true?

 

And that was when Wambui wa Njoroge had realized that this congregation was not gathered to help her chase out her misery but take her to Lucifer himself in the darkest parts of hell. Her face darkened but more, her soul became darker than hell’s soot. She did not even bother answering the questions anymore. Why tell these wise women of Kamuyu that he had found Wauru’s husband lying on the gutter hungry as fuck and decided to offer him some food? Why explain to these people that her husband has obtained a type of new disease which was incurable and that she too was beginning to experience that disease that left one skinny, with yellow hair and barely able to hold their bowels. A disease from Satan that did not have a cure and humiliated his husband until he was begging for death. How would she explain all of that when any cent she had, she was using to pay  these new drugs the doctors had suggested she start using that would prolong the time she had left to live so that she could leave when her son was able to fend for himself.

 

She would not bother with all these pieces of information that Kamuyu women had decided to ignore when she had asked them for a loan. She would not. She swore to herself. She would find a way to sustain herself and her son. They would be fine.

 

The women asked Wambui wa Njoroge to step outside again. This time, she was in tears as she walked out, she thought about chasing them away, every single one of them out of her house but halted herself, she was a calm one. She pulled herself together and walked out to where she had stood earlier bubbling with utter anticipation thinking that the women had turned out in numbers to lend a helping hand to one of their own. Those bastards!

 

It was not long a commotion grew from the outside and Wauru got this impulsive feeling that everything was not okay. She paused on addressing the women and they walk out quickly to see what was happening. On reaching outside, Wambui wa Njoroge and her son, Ngori, stood by a lifeless body lying on the ground. Ngori’s shirt was drenched in blood from carrying his pebble mate from the fields to home. What Wauru saw, made her drop to her knees as she tried screaming but nothing came out. The women glared at the Njoroges  as if they could read the murder story written on their faces. Nobody moved, nobody dared, nobody could. The rain stopped, the wind took over and the mist thickened. The air was fresh and clean smelling of the fertility that lay beneath and blood, red as crimson. It was silent, too silent.

 

 

The women of Kamuyu lead by Wauru finally had a verdict for Wambui wa Njoroge and her son.

 

Feature Image: Mukiri Gitiri

 

 

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Dennis Peters