Monthly Archives: December 2015
By Mark Muchura.
She crossed her arms and blinked repetitively. She shifted in her seat and brushed away imagined dust. She raised her fore finger to her mouth then suddenly thought against it. Looking out from her window seat she determined she was still aways off, slumping back into her chair, frustrated. The sun was already high in the sky. She was going to be late.
Her hair was braided long. Some strands were tinted blonde. She wore a loud “Wham” vest, skinny blue jeans and red low tops. A dark complexion and red lipstick completed the anxious figure that was Carole. She fumbled for a stick of gum in her sizeable satchel for too long. Unsuccessful, she settled to staring at the ceiling of the cramped bus, willing it to move faster.
The man had become part of the scenery. Unnoticeable.
His greyed beard was short. Sagging skin was evident on what once were chubby cheeks. His hands were big, his nails short. The marvin on his bald head had frayed at the edges and the coat he wore was an ode to the 1920’s.
A beaten iron pan sat atop a two brick pedestal he had fashioned so many times before. His mould of wet, black earth had already begun to harden. The holed out centre of the clay smoked with hot charcoal.
He stood, poised, over his creation with a flimsy cardboard sheet and a square mesh of wire. His day was about to begin. No one had noticed.
She finally alighted her crawling transportation and broke into a run. She slowed down to a quickened shuffle to use her phone. She punched in the lock code wrong three times then stopped. She placed the phone in her left hand, shook her right hand, took the phone from her left hand and retried the lock code. The phone unlocked. She called the only number on speed dial and began to jog. The number had no name.
“Haro?” Came back the answer. “Nani priss?”
“Is. It. Available?” She demanded out of breath.
“Haro…em, iko bado lakini ukichlewa-”
She hung up the phone, grit her teeth and sprinted. She’d forgotten to tie her hair up and it flayed about her demon-possessed. She weaved in between the growing throng of pedestrians without losing stride. An especially slow bunch of gossipers forced her onto the main road where she picked up speed again.
From the lazy line forming outside the double doors of the bank ahead of her she knew it was closed and continued on running, crossing to the other side of the road with a blood-thirsty determination. She clambered up the stairs of the El-Roi Plaza one a time, then two. Large Tea Cups Cute Tea Cups Wholesale Vintage Tea Sets Amber Bangle Bracelets She got to the third floor and twisted right to the last door straight down the narrow hallway.
The hall was dimly lit. The pastel blue paint on the graffiti-ridden walls was almost gone, replaced by a taxing smell that hung brown. A low watt bulb flickered lazily and was little use having gathered very abandoned cobwebs.
She tried composing herself before knocking. She looked for breath, held her stomach and bent over, supporting herself against the peeling door. Another quick tapping of her knuckles against the door still came with no reply so she pushed into what was a tiny room no bigger than her own bathroom.
The desk before her was a rushed design of soft wood, bent slightly to the right. It wobbled each time a stack of papers was moved. Sitting behind it was a stocky woman in an ill-fitting suit. A terrible lavender colour. She barely took her eyes off the shuffled papers when she asked,
Carole sat down still out of breath. She blinked rapidly before she spoke.
“Habari … yako? …. Keja … bado iko?”
“Keja gani?” the woman asked, irritated that she would have to make an effort to be privy to this knowledge. She could not sit up straight in her chair because of the healthy bulge under her stomach. She fidgeted about her seating position and clasped short, fat hands over her belly, sneering loudly all the while.
“The SQ. The SQ. I asked about it yesterday and said I would bring the deposit this morning.”
“Oooo!” Large dimples appeared suddenly. She made an attempt to lean forward but the exercise proved futile. “You a the one? Deposit is six thausant.”
“Is. It. Available?” She was beginning to feel claustrophobic . There were no windows in this cubicle but for a discreet slit no wider than the palm of a small hand at a corner near the ceiling. She felt as though she were in a holding cell.
“Wacha I call mzee. He said he’ll go in the mo-ning”
By two, twenty maize cobs had been roasted and sold. He sat under the shade next to his emptying gunny bag of unsheathed produce.
Mama Felistas brought him a cold plate of boiled maize and beans. She handed it to him without a word as if he were a vacant space on a dining table. She made to smile but instead produced something contorted. She shimmied back to fanning herself on a wicker seat by the entrance of her M-pesa / assorted trinkets shop.
He ate slowly, flicking still hardened maize pellets off his plate. His hands were still black from the charcoal fire he had rebuilt. He watched the burning coals for a long while, almost forgetting his food, his mouth agape, about to drool.
He spoke seldom. And since his wife had made the celebrated ascension to her heavenly home he spoke even less.His was not a life to be dismissed as happiness nor could it be wasted away on a hapless word like sadness. His life meant activity. Even after she’d left him. That activity would only cease to be purposeful unto death. As she had done.
He shot himself back to reality and scoffed down the remainder of his meal. The fire wouldn’t be wasted to the thoughts of the air.
She sat in the PSV as it parked at the end of its route. The parking lot was mostly empty but for the drivers and a number of touts waiting their turn. She was the only passenger left in the vehicle and looked to be in no hurry.
The driver unlocked his door but did not open it. He looked at her quizzically from the rear view mirror, unsure of whether to say something or let it be. He dropped then pulled up the minivans brake handle loudly.
She barely nodded as she slid off her seat and walked away. The sun was already descending over an obscure horizon of buildings, telephone service masts and smog.
An instinctual guide took her down the thin main road past her old primary school and favourite chip shop.
She walked steadily past the swine butcher and Seventh Day Adventists Church with the corrugated sheets for walls.
Plain clothes policemen were loudly arresting someone for selling moonshine and a small crowd had gathered to watch the accused try talk his way out of spending a night in jail. She gave them a wide berth.
She stopped for a second to watch the estate children scream and heckle as they ran around playing football with a deflated basketball.
She greeted Mama Felistas with a flimsy wrist flip and slowed her stride.
She stopped at the pedestal of roasting maize and enquired at the man abandoned in his thoughts.
He noticed her after a long while and readjusted his seating so to accommodate her. She went over and sat next to him. He got up and picked the last piece of browned maize and handed it to her as he sat down again; his back to her. He watched the charcoal send up weak plumes of smoke.
She listened to his steady breathing. Then he sneezed. He’d never liked her choice of perfume.
“Happy anniversary dad.”
He grunted and placed his palm on her forehead. She rested her head on his shoulder and they watched the embers die away.