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The Village Clod

Makua was once doing well in life, he had a somewhat happy home, beautiful wife with his children performing well in school.

He looked back then and was proud of the decisions he made; one, going to university and acquiring an engineering degree and two, making his parents ΄proud΄ by marrying the woman his mother chose for him.

Makua thought that despite the challenges he had in life, blessings from his parents were paramount and obviously his for the taking. 

In his world, parents were gods of sorts, and as such, their decree as to who he was to marry was sacred and uncontested.

After all, whoever finds a wife finds a good thing as goes the writing in one of the canonicals, but when a mother finds you one, it’s even better.  The disclaimer is, always that, should there be any irreconcilable differences between anyone and their good ‘thing’, one should always remember that   marriage has always been billed as anything, but a bed of roses. That is a story for another day.

Now, on this particular evening, Makua grabbed his TV remote and after toggling from one channel to another for a comprehensive take on the day’s prime time news, a familiar name was in the news. It was Ndindeko, his primary school classmate whom he remembers had dropped from school after perennially returning dismal marks in all exams across his junior years in school.

From opener exams to mid-terms alongside end terms and practicals, Ndindeko΄s classwork credentials remained subdued. But he was quite visible during break-time where he would bully and pound to pulp anyone who dared stand in his way or invoke anything to suggest that he was struggling in class.

This notoriety earned him suspension after another and when the quota for suspensions was met and overwhelmingly exceeded, the P.T.A and B.O.G boards unanimously resolved to banish him from school, with the punishment including but not limited to him not coming within 50 meters of the school’s kayaba fence.  

After this vein shot at academics, Ndindeko resorted to being a youth winger for a local political outfit as a way of eking out a living. Bad boys also need to eat.  He knew this wasn’t sustainable, but as a young man falling off the academic radar after class 6, there really weren’t that many options for him to toy with.

 Ndindeko was in the village known as “drink I send you”. The kind of person who would be at your disposal for your dirty jobs.  All you needed was to lubricate his throat with a glass of Muratina and your task was as good as done.

In the just concluded elections, Ndindeko was mentioned as one of the masterminds who had cut the udders of Muthuri Mwihoko΄s cows.

Now that he and the law were meeting again in yet another precarious episode of catch me if you can, Makua wondered who would bail him out of this one. But again, his boss, a man despised by all and feared in equal measure, a self-declared Murogi wa siasa in Magajo, would get him out.  Ndindeko was one of Murogi΄s best assets, he was swift on his legs and he would descend on his opponents without consideration like a rented mule. Nobody would dare get close to Murogi as long as Ndindeko was alive, “till I die, do I part with my Boss.” Ndindeko would be heard proclaiming in his massacred English. These words made Murogi happy, he never at any time doubted Ndindeko΄s loyalty. After all, Ndindeko owed him. Murogi had pulled some strings to cover the murder of that white girl Ndindeko had brutally killed when she refused his sexual advances.

Mwihoko, a man who had lived in faraway land where one has to use the metallic birds we see in our skies had returned home and was surprised how things no longer worked in this part of the world. He had tried putting up an entertainment joint Mwigagaro Bar, but his manager would sell his expensive whiskey, keep the money and refill the bottles with water. He tried making use of a mobile phone payment system, the new manager Moruti had his and when he was not there Moruti would make sales of beer that was his stock and not Mwihoko΄s. In short, he used Mwihoko΄s rented space to sell his own stock whilst drawing a salary from Mwihoko, Mwigagaro shut down.

He ventured into the business of buying large parcels of land with intention of re – selling them for profits, popularly known in local business lingo as   buroti maguta maguta. Unfortunately for him, he fell victim to land scammers who swindled him dry of his investments and not even the courts could offer any reprieve. The battles became protracted, the postponements lengthy and after three years of ‘mentions’, Mwihoko called it a bad deal and moved on. And did I tell you that the case had ten other complainants laying claims to the same piece of land? Well, now you know. Next time you meet a convincing marketer selling you a piece of land “10 km from the bypass, close to a proposed mega city or whatever and several high and mighty have already booked a couple of 50 by 100s and you should grab two for yourself before they run out”; – Just run without looking back, Mwihoko would advise.

Mwihoko came to the realization that he had tried everything possible to survive in Magajo, but it seemed the curse that nothing good shall come out of that place had caught up with him.

Old folklore had it that Magajo had been cursed because one of the founding brothers Kimenyi, attempted to swindle his other brothers off land and sell it.  It was said that once his heinous plot was discovered, he was banished from Magajo and had to seek refuge at his distant maternal aunt’s home whose life was rumored to have been cut short by Kimenyi. He was heard on occasion saying that he finished her with one blow in her sleep. Having had one too many beers, he would recklessly say that his aunt had no need use for the land in death. People had reported him to the authorities, but nobody ever gave substantial evidence to warrant Kimenyi΄s arrest. The old lady was buried in an unmarked grave in the public cemetery because Kimenyi did not want her grave lowering the value of the property, despite her being the owner. Her kind gesture was taken for granted by her nephew.

Progress was unheard of in Magajo which many people chose to migrate from due to the numerous misfortunes, one after another. Those who came to Magajo were people who had bought land that Kimenyi sold as they searched for greener pastures. These new inhabitants chose to be the remnants in Magajo leaving their destiny to the gods. Positive energy was what they chose so as to wade off the curse and hence devised a unique way of encouraging each other through greetings. If you met someone on the way you would salute them with the word “Jikaze” being an answer to “mudu wa Ngai” or like a man made by God.

Much had changed due to the positive energy save for poor leadership. The defacto leader here was Murogi, whom few people seemed to recall his name as Njogu Nene despite him being of small stature. Village rumor had it that he was as strong as the bulldozers that had once gone to construct the main road to the city of many lights. His grandfather was a Governor in the neighboring county and by virtue of having a lot of money from proceeds made from flaunting public procurement regulations, he would receive kickbacks which he used to lend to people at exorbitant interest rates. His intention from the onset was once someone was unable to repay his debt, he would quickly take ownership of your land, transfer the title deed to his name using corrupt land officers.

He had an insatiable urge to amass wealth and this was the same fate met by Kimenyi like many before him. Kimenyi΄s love for finer things, coupled with the tendency of building castles in the air made him borrow money from Murogi΄s grandfather. He surrendered his land as collateral, squandered the money and then became unable to pay and hence Murogi΄s grandfather took the land. Kimenyi landless and poor, left for the city of many lights, nobody can account for him because nobody cared about him.

Murogi was gifted the land by his grandfather and by being in the political space from a young age, he was able to maneuver and make himself the representative of Magajo constituency.  His wealth also made him popular among the proletariat, many of who worked on his vast avocado farm. Of course, he did not pay them well, but they were lucky to earn just enough to stay alive. You know what they say about balancing the seesaw of capitalism, “a bigger load on the workforce side will always jolt your profits.”

During campaigns, he bought young men alcohol to sing his name to the willing few by day as well to the unwilling many in the estates in the dead of night. In political mobilization circles, these shouting escapades were handsomely rewarded as an expenditure under “voice allowance” 

He was now well into his 5th term, old and frail and this gave courage to Mwihoko, a newcomer from abroad to consider a run for the Magajo constituency representative.

Murogi despite his frail countenance would afford a hearty laugh as he described Mwihoko΄s dream as ‘a wet dream’. He knew that his “ex-officio personal assistant” would decisively deal with the small matter of his green horn political opponent and nip his silly ambitions in the bud in the nick of time.

In all the inevitable political tribulations that were to come in the way of Mwihoko, the newcomer, he only had the encouragement of his wife whom he had involved before considering this run. 

She also supported him from her dairy farming proceeds when his money eventually ran out.  Now when the Election Day was nearing and campaigns at fever pitch, Mrs. Mwihoko΄s 50 out of 100 cattle udders had been slashed and the cows left for dead. Bad leadership, goonism and violence had again prevailed. Mwihoko and his wife did not wait for the Election Day, they simply lost faith and gathered his remaining belongings including wife and returned to the diaspora.

With a green card in his wallet, he left for wherever people go when they have that thing.  He left Magajo vowing to never return even in death. The long serving tyrant was to lead for another 5 years undisputed.

Few people remembered him as Njogu Nene, but were too scared to call him by his name as he had self-declared himself Murogi wa Kagogo after the book by Ngugi wa Thiong΄o made rounds and people of Magajo attempted to force a revolt. After he had solidified his base, he vowed that he would never pretend to be a good leader and will be the real Murogi because after all, who would challenge him? Nobody had the iron balls to and he would rule Magajo till the devil takes him. 

Makua was just 10 years when there was the attempted revolt and he saw how scared people were including his father who would hide under the bed when members of ‘jeshi la Murogi’ made frequent door to door “meet the people” tours reminding them that the only true representative was Murogi. His parents always told him to make sure he studied well in school so that one day he could take them to the city of many lights where leaders would not bother people. Makua saw himself as the messiah. He had performed well in K.C.P.E, proceeded to a national school on full scholarship hence lifting the burden of school fees from his poor parents who were small scale farmers. He never forgot where he came from and during K.C.S.E, he was leading nationally. His name was published on the local paper as personality of Magajo who would drive the region towards innovation. Another scholarship to Engineering school came knocking. Makua was more determined that one day he would take the region to a better place. Even Murogi who had mellowed down with age extended some stipends from his Kiongozi kitty to sustain him at the university. He had made Magajo proud. He was happy because now he would be an independent man, no teacher, no prefects no parents to follow up on his choices.

The journey was long and bumpy to the land of many lights, colorful clothes, music and the high life, day light petty robbers who would stab you if you did not cooperate. Most importantly a land where mothers warned their sons about women whose eyes had been licked by cats and had superpower to confuse a man and rob off his destiny.

His mother’s voice brought him back to the need to be responsible. Makua had fallen in love with Wanja with whom he would compete in their engineering class.

It was either Makua at the top this semester or Wanja the next. Their revision sessions grew into friendship that blossomed to love and he promised to marry her once they completed education. In a week’s time, they would be graduating. Wanja was an orphan and always saw herself as a bother in her uncle’s homestead, even if they were kind to her and treated her as part of his family, Wanja craved to have her own family and was happy that now that she had completed education, gotten a job at a brewery as an entry level Mechanical Engineer and her love Makua in a pharmaceutical company in town, everything she ever wanted was falling in place.

His parents did not make if for graduation but Wanja΄s uncle and his family were kind enough to invite him for lunch as they celebrated the auspicious day. Afterwards, Makua and Wanja travelled to Magajo to meet her prospective parents in law. From the onset, Makua’s mother did not like Wanja. She criticized everything about her making her stay toxic. Of course, Wanja would eavesdrop as Mama Makua’s warn her son that if she married this lady, she would die.

His father was indifferent because one, that was women folk issue and two, had no choice but to join his wife in rejecting Wanja lest he was accused of ΄wanting΄ Wanja for himself. A lot had been said about Baba Makua’s philandering ways. Makua did not want to disappoint his parents; after all, they had been through so much together as a family. The mum never got to have other children after Makua and before him she had lost 4 pregnancies. She treated him as the one who never got a way and had a way of manipulating him.

Wanja chose to leave peacefully consoling herself that it was the gods protecting her. This was not her class anyway: – they were below her food chain so to speak and after all she was waiting to start a new job at the brewery, would make her own money as she awaited her own prince charming not this proud for nothing typical villagers. She concluded that in Makua’s case, you can remove the man from the village, but never remove the village from the man. 

Makau’s mum got him Maritha whose parents were great friends to the family. One thing that bothered Makua about Maritha was the fact that she was Ndindeko΄s first. He felt like, marrying her was akin to eating another man’s vomit. Something else which did not sit well with Makua about Maritha was that she was of loose morals and many described her as ‘a benefiter of the local boys’.  His mother told him that she will change once she becomes a wife, it is common for women to settle down once they are married. The mother’s interest in Maritha΄s family was the fact that they were of the same religion that of ‘lots of water’ and marrying outside this denomination spelt doom to their descendants hence the need for association as a Kanyanya or in law.

They had their life together and she bore him 2 sons though she never changed, there were murmurs about her and her shamba boy, the shopkeeper and when she went to the village after being bitten by Makua, people claimed to have ‘seen’ her with Ndindeko. In the interest of his mental health, Makua decided that he married her for his mother and he can as well live his life and grow his career. The words ‘YOLO’ or You Only Live Once were alive and kicking. He loathed her but he stayed with her for the children, after all his sons performed well in school, he had just been promoted as Head of Operations, he had moved to a leafy suburb, he was a member of the private members golf club.

When he went home in his big machine even Ndindeko who was a terror to many in the village would cow under his feet just to get the much-needed drink, this gave him the rash that in deed he was the man himself. As they were drinking Ndindeko was sharing with Makua that he has just been released from prison over the incident with Mwihoko΄s cattle. He expressed that he would not have stayed in remand over a year if Murogi was his old self. But now he is suffering the disease called cancer of the stomach that has affected his manhood. Makua was quick to clarify albeit silently, in his head that it was prostate cancer but the Kagege or clod that Ndindeko did not know the difference.

After a few beers, Ndindeko started sobbing that his wife had ran away to go to Middle East as a domestic worker leaving him with 5 children and the youngest months old. He took the children to his aging mother because he had no money, save for the little coins he makes when he hustles a few people at mong΄etho, local Centre as he waits for his boss Murogi to call him for an ‘assignment’, a kind word for someone getting beat up for having laughed or gossiped Murogi in his state, the attacks were frequent now, since the disease seemed to make Murogi emotional and he cried often, something that has confused Ndindeko and his crew, ‘disease is bad!’ Ndindeko had exclaimed.

Makua drifted to a discussion he had had with his drinking buddies, when Ndindeko was convicted and sympathized with him that he fell in the category of a Kagege, an idiot who had no focus and would suffer at old age since as time went by, a new crop of youth wingers would edge him out.  But one of his friends had asked ‘‘do you know if we, the educated do not involve ourselves in politics, the Ndindekos΄ of our villages will end up being our representatives? ‘Are you ready to get your name dragged through the mud? another friend had asked. Makua remembered the fate that befell Mwihoko and he had to run for his life.

He returned to reality as Ndindeko, now drunk was saying that Maritha had even visited him in remand to Makua’s astonishment, ‘Because of your little money you decided to take my love Maritha? Who do you think you are? he went on to lament that if he had married Maritha and the way they loved each other, probably his life would have been better, ‘Makua you are a spoiler!!’

Makua knew better that it was a cue for him to leave, lest he a man of his stature, a respected engineer is degraded by a mere hood rat. When he got home, he went to his mother’s house and blamed her for forcing him to marry Maritha, a common harlot. The mother long widowed just shrugged off because there was nothing at this point in time she could do about it.

Makua left for the city in a huff, he left his wife in the village and took his sons with him against his mother’s wishes. She was so worried because Makua had been drinking at a local pub the whole day, now he was driving back to the city drunk and angry, she could not do much other than say a silent prayer and went to bed. Maritha who had no feelings for Makua, saw the bigger picture in all this and crept in the middle of the night to Ndindeko΄s place, she found him sleeping on his tattered couch with his emaciated dog Jimmy chewing on his stinking sock. Ndindeko did not care much about personal hygiene. She wondered what drew her to this hood rat, yet Makua was far much a better man, cultured, dressed well and smelt good. What was it with Ndindeko surely?

Love, it is the strangest feeling that makes one do things without care in the world or was it lust? She tried to wake Ndindeko up, expecting him to be excited but he was too drunk. He simply woke up, told her that he felt like vooo…miting and that was it, he vomited on the floor and continued to sleep. She counted herself unlucky and had to go back to Makua’s homestead before her mother-in-law called her to take her to the toilet.

Her mother-in-law had aged fast since Mzee departed and her once strong legs had turned feeble. She walked back deep in thoughts wondering whether to follow Makua and her kids to the city or just start a new life with Ndindeko? Maritha was conflicted; indeed, she loved and lusted Ndindeko, but Makua gave her the life that she wanted. ‘‘How can I eat my cake and have it?’’ She wondered. Perhaps, how about Makua to ‘fund’ her business and the money she can use to plan her life with Ndindeko, that is killing 2 birds with one stone; she smiled wickedly imagining that one day she would be reunited with Ndindeko without caring about the world.

The little problem would be Makua’s mother, she stopped to think.  But from the look of things, she would soon follow her husband to Zion as age was really catching up with her. Her parents disowned her because of her alleged infidelity. It was not good for their reputation given they were elders in the Church. So, she had no worry about them. She creepily got into the house and called, mother! Mother! I am going to the toilet. Do you feel like, we go together? She called her in case she had heard her opening the squeaky door that had seen better days. As she returned from Ndindeko΄s, no response from her. She shook her violently until she woke up and repeated the question. Her mother in – law agreed to go to the toilet. In Maritha΄s mind, she was happy because she was getting increasingly tired of washing Mama Makua’s bedding since of late, she has been wetting her bed. She wondered why she refuses to wear the adult diapers they bought her.

Meanwhile, Makua was driving dangerously on the road while his children were too scared to tell him. Sleeping was their solace, they forcefully shut their eyes closed. They didn’t want to see death coming for them. At a toll station, he was stopped by policemen manning a road block. “Step out of the car,” a senior officer commanded him once his car came to a halt. Your driving license? Makua was fidgeting as he tried to open the Safety Authority App on his phone. “Step out of the car Sir!” another officer instructed him. Makua knew his goose was cooked.

You are under arrest for dangerous driving and driving under the influence alcohol. Makua tried to protest that he was not drunk, but the police could here none of it. Makua was asked to call someone to come pick up his car and the kids since he would be a guest of the state until he was arraigned in court in the morning. Makua could not risk it, he asked the senior officer if they could talk in private, “Mkubwa,” Makua called the officer once out of earshot from the rest, “tell me how much you want, I cannot afford to be arrested I might lose my job if the management hears about this.”

Makua had been pushing away the thought of Pharm Tec Company’s imminent closer. Business was bad in the country and board had resolved that in six months, they would move production to a neighboring country where production costs such as electricity, transport and labor were lower, hence maximizing on their profits. The warehouse department would survive as the rest were asked to seek employment elsewhere, which sounded like a nightmare.

The country’s economy was collapsing and companies were closing down right, left and center. Makua did not want to imagine such a misdemeanor would cost him his benefits and dues because as it is the company was struggling to pay them their benefits, the company had resulted in firing people instead of paying them their dues.

The officer told him Sh30, 000 was good, Makua did not bargain he quickly sent the money to an agent number and showed the policeman the transaction message. He was let go with a warning that there were other police roadblocks on the road so he better drive carefully. His kids too frightened seemed to have slept through the ordeal on the back seat. He resolved that if he did not want to be arrested, then he should not think about Maritha and Ndindeko. He cracked his window to allow the cold night breeze to come in.

He got home safely, carried his boys to their room and went in to take shower. He thought about what had just happened, but thanked God he had the money to ‘buy’ his freedom. He got to bed and was sound asleep. He was woken up by his boys as they bid him bye. Luckily, the house help had prepared them for school. The younger one, Mike, asked “dad, will mum be home when we come back from school?” The eldest, George, sensed his dad was uncomfortable told Mike, let’s go to school before we miss the bus. “Bye dad”, just in time for the bus to hoot.

Makua woke up and prepared for work. But, could not get the thought of Maritha and Ndindeko in…. his phone rang as he was clearing his breakfast, it was Maritha, “Now that you left me, is it a cue that I get married to Ndindeko?” she never had the courtesy. “What do you want?” Makua asked, “Send me cab fare, I can’t be the one washing your mother’s urine, get her a maid!” and she hung up. Makua wondered if life would have been different if he had married Wanja. But he did not have time for negative energy. He sent her money before driving to work, he did not want her bursting his phone with calls. He switched on the car radio as he was in traffic, just in time to get the announcement that a long serving Magajo constituency representative Njogu Nene who was also known as ‘Murogi wa Siasa’ had passed on at the age of 65 after a long illness. He is survived by his 2 sons.

Nothing much was said about his wife. But, village gossip had it that Murogi was too cruel to her. She left with the children. He went at her with a vengeance and fearing for her life, she let him keep the children. It is not known where she disappeared to. “End of a long era,” said Makua “but who would be our representative?” He asked himself, then he answered himself, “Ndindeko” “the village clod?” Not that Murogi was intelligent, his biggest undoing among many for his people is when he voted against the one man, one vote, one shilling bill in the House of Representatives.

A story told is that he did not understand for and against because he was even a bigger clod, when questioned on media that his action together with other representatives from his region might have costed their youth university education, since due to their large population they would not afford to fully sponsor university graduates unlike their counterparts from the Northern region who were sparsely populated, he arrogantly retorted “We are street smart, we do not need education. Show me who is wealthier than me and yet I did not go beyond standadi tuu?” as he got into his fuel guzzler. One of the many perks that the House of Representatives had allocated themselves in the last House.

Clearly, 60 years after independence, the colonizers never left, they only changed color and no doubt Murogi was one of the many colonizers in the Central region. Makua could not help, but laugh out loudly with a lot of bitterness. If it were not for the greed of Murogi and his ilk in the House of Representatives, they would have made laws that were conducive for business to thrive in the country and the company Pharm Tec he had worked for since he left campus would not be shutting down. In six months, he would be out of work, what will he be doing?  Or he should run for Magajo representative seat now that a by election was imminent? NO, he thought again. How can I? I do not have the money to do so…but we need a leader with our interest at heart for sure. This was a litmus test for competence vs confidence. He pushed away the thought as he had bigger fish to fry in the staff meeting where the Global C.E.O would be in attendance to convey the company’s regret in the turn of events.

Maritha got back to her house; she did not care to make breakfast for her mother-in-law. Her problem was that yester night Ndindeko messed it up by the fact that he was as drunk as a fish. To her, it was a wasted opportunity. “Oh well, there is next time,” she concluded. Then, she sympathized with Ndindeko now that his boss Murogi had passed on, ‘‘what will he be eating?’’ poor man. She took a shower and slept for a while, woke up as the kids were getting home from school.

“Hi mum we missed you, group hug,” said Mike the youngest. She told them without mincing her words, “Your father left me in the village, why didn’t you say anything?” George hated it when it got to this point. His mother always expected them to side with her every time an argument ensued, many times he chose to remain mum. Aunty, their house help had told him that it was bad manners to meddle in his parents’ issues. He was happy that Aunty was always there for them when his parents were fighting. Many a times, he would be scared when the fighting got loud. But Aunty told him to be singing on repeat, “Jesus loves me, this I know” and for sure the more he sang the faster his parents would stop fighting.

His mother told them to, go get changed as she checked what after school snack Aunty had made for them. As they went on to their rooms, George couldn’t help but be sad. He knew his parents would one day divorce like Benjamin’s parents from his class. He got more worried that like Benjamin, he would discontinue the school since if he left with his mum, she would not have the money to pay his school fees. So, he resolved that since the split was just a matter of time, he would live with his father.

They had been fighting for the longest time. Although in front of people they acted like a normal happy family, behind closed doors it was total chaos. His dad, Makua had refused to eat food made by his mother Maritha. And he had noticed anytime his father was served food in the house, he had to make sure that Pinky, the cat, had eaten first. Aunty told him the meaning of that, “our people say if you want to know poisoned food, the cat will not eat it”. He was a disturbed young man.

His mother would tell him everything that was his father’s fault, but his father never got to open up. As a man, he should side with his father. But the mum came off as the victim. An incident at school haunted him. Mrs. Otieno, Mike’s science teacher, had asked them to carry steel wool to school for the lesson on oxidation. So, during the experiment Mrs. Otieno noticed that Mike was crushing the steel wool into powder foam and he innocently was telling his classmates that this was his mum’s spice she puts in daddy’s food to make it taste better.

Mrs. Otieno asked Mike, “Have you ever tasted the food after mummy has added the spice?” Mike replied that sadly, ‘‘mummy always says no, because its daddy’s special food.’’ Mrs. Otieno was alarmed. She reported this to the head teacher and they resolved to call Makua to school at a time of his convenience. It should be him alone, not with Mama Mike. All he remembers from that day is that his father beat the daylights out of his mum but one statement was certain from his dad, “I will never eat food in this house again!”

As he returned to the dining table, his dad had just arrived. He was not his joyful self; he just greeted the boys and went off to his room totally ignoring their mum. It had been a year since his parents stopped sleeping in the same room and his father would not allow anybody to go into his room. But the boys could go in if he was around. However, it was seldom that he was home even during holidays. He would wake up and leave early. One time he asked his mother where his father goes and she told him that his father was an alcoholic and would not survive without drinking. Mike is too young to understand how complicated their home is.

The news that Pharm Tec was closing shop in six months would be in the newspaper tomorrow. That was what kept Makua awake the whole night. “What will happen to me? I have a huge loan I am servicing, this house is rented, change of lifestyle for my children. Oh God, what has become of me?” He logged into his Eyebook account and went to Wanja’s profile, he secretly stalked her, following all her milestones. She had long moved to the headquarters of the brewery, married a native of the land and had two children. Her life looked like one out of a cover of a lifestyle magazine, simply perfect.

He gathered the courage and wrote to her apologizing for everything and notifying her that in six months, he would be jobless. It would really help if she got him a job with her networks, he added. Alternatively, getting George into the scholarship programme in the prestigious school she was a board member would equally be helpful. At least he would be away from the hostility that might rain heavily once Maritha knew that Makua was out of work. George would help his brother, Mike, when the time comes. He had nobody else to open up to and it seemed Wanja was offline. So, he just had to wait. He managed to catch some eye shut, then his alarm went off. It was time to do what he had done every morning for the last 20 years and in 6 months, sadness, he just dreaded the situation.

Maritha equally did not sleep that night, her chama mate Njeri had sent her a picture of tomorrow’s headline Pharm Tec Closes Down, “this fool hasn’t had the courtesy to tell me? What will I tell my chama mates? Oh God, people will laugh at me. I had lied to them that we own the house, yet we are tenants. What will I do now?” Maritha΄s worry was what people would say, how society would shun her, I am not going back to the village!

Then as if a switch went on in her mind, she remembered her idea,” I will cause Makua turmoil until he gives me money to ΄start a business΄ or better still, use the money to fund, Ndindeko΄s bid for the representative seat, he can easily clinch the sit with Murogi΄s goodwill, right?” “Then I will be Mrs. Representative”, she laughed sarcastically. The beauty of this situation is that all Murogi΄s children are drunkards so they care not for the elections. Nobody can dare challenge Ndindeko.

But all these were just a plan, until she gets money from Makua. She called Ndindeko on his dilapidated phone and asked him how the going was. He told her they were just preparing for Murogi΄s burial.  “Boss΄ wife came back for the burial and a few of his family are here.” He excitedly told Maritha that Mrs. Murogi had talked to him in secret to support her in the upcoming by election. Maritha in anger told Ndindeko not to be foolish. “You have always served her husband, now she wants you to serve her?” Ndindeko was taken aback and asked her what she had in mind?

Maritha told him that he too had the balls to run as the representative. After all he was more popular than the Mrs. Murogi. Ndindeko told her, “I do not have money for this and you know it.” Maritha interjected; you have the ground including those bodaboda boys. You just need to buy them a few drinks here and there and they will sing your name like a canary bird. Maritha concluded; “I will be coming to the village before the burial so that we can plan further. Until then stay tight.”

Ndindeko could not understand what was happening, he sometimes questioned Maritha΄s love for him. He never gave her anything, just ΄stick΄, what else could have drove Maritha crazy about him? But whatever it was, he loved it and the idea to be the next representative of Magajo. His excitement was short-lived because he felt he was betraying his boss who hadn’t even been buried. He pushed the thought away.

In the evening when Makua came back Maritha was armed to the teeth. He will have to give me money by hook or crook. Her plan was to spite him, “Makua, now that you are unemployed, what is your plan, she asked?” Makau was too beat down to fight, he just sat on the dinner table defeated face buried in his hands. For once Maritha was shocked that Makua had no fighting spirit. It must be bad she thought. She joined him on the dining table, she sympathized with Makua. He knew nothing else apart from that job, no other side hustle and now in six months’ time he will lose his job.

Maritha broke the silence, “is there another problem apart from losing your job?”  Makua was conflicted, does he open up to her or die with his problems? He chose to tell her the truth as an interested party. “We will not receive the benefits wholesome, the company has been operating on losses for years now, so they can only afford half of our benefits and the rest will be paid once the company disposes off their assets and it is not known to be when”. “How much money are we talking about?” Maritha enquired, “Just Sh5M only?”

But, in all these, Maritha was determined to milk Makua dry by feigning compassion as the only way to get Makua to give her the money. “Makau, I know we have been estranged, our marriage has not been a happy one. But what I am about to tell you is for the benefit of our family”. “Go on!” Makua beckoned. “For starters, we cannot afford to pay rent and the lifestyle in the city. We are lucky, we had built a village home that will be comfortable for us. How about we relocate to the village? Take our children to an affordable boarding school, and then we can get serious with farming, you can also open for me a business”.

Makua could not believe that Maritha was willing to relocate to the village. He did not hesitate to ask her why the change of heart. Maritha answered that she could not be able to show her face to her friends when poverty checked in. Hence, ‘had to leave now’. But Maritha knew that she would now be closer to her lover, especially during the by-election campaigns period and she will make sure he clinches the seat. Makua was surprised that it did not go as bad as he had expected. That day, he even ate food prepared by Maritha without, Pinky the cat, having the first bite. Maritha also slept in his room. George observed this and thanked God for hearing his prayers, the family would be better, he believed.

The six months transition was difficult for them because they had to do everything in silence. Her chama mates would ask her what her family’s next course of action was. She would say that no major changes because Makua had invested heavily in the family. They secretly took the household goods to their village house and the mother-in-law would wonder what was happening. They just lied to her that they had bought new household items, hence the need to furnish their village house.

Maritha and Makua seemed happy together and this made Makua’s mum happy that “at least the marriage is now working out”, she consoled herself.  Too often than not, she started seeing Ndindeko and Maritha staggering together heading to Makua’s not once, not twice, she blamed herself for causing her only son the anguish. The anger, bitterness and regret caused her blood pressure and sugar levels to raise to precarious levels. She vowed to die with the secret and instead protect her tongue as the good book advised.

Murogi had long been buried. However, the Electoral Commission was yet to set a by election date citing lack of finances to conduct a by election. This was good news to Maritha because she knew when the campaign period began, she would be in the village. Not to say she hasn’t been spending much time with Ndindeko, for she was always in the village claiming to arrange her house in the village as well as scouting for a location for her business. She had been advised by Ndindeko, “as our people say, the elephant is not buried with its tasks, milk him dry and do not ask for anything small like a shop,” that was not her class, she should ask for a hardware shop at least she will get more money from Makua. This idea made sense to her. She had convinced Makua that he too would be engaged in the hardware shop after farming.

Makua had promised to give her half of his benefits to start the business. Maritha was happy because once the plan was operational, Makua will have no say in this business. He can do whatever he wants with his half, she had concluded. What Maritha did not know was that Makua had not cleared the loan for the expensive car he had bought, his loan would be something that would cause him lack of sleep. He resolved to use his other half to pay his loan and be prepaid in installments and since he will be in charge of the family hardware, he will have money for monthly payment. It should not be a problem.

Maritha was in the village more frequently than she was in their city home since the company had wound up. Makua was waiting for the kids to close school for Christmas holiday, they had already got their kids an affordable school. Makua chose to tell George the truth, and the boy was understanding like a younger Makua, he prayed that George would grow a spine and not be like the younger Makua who choose to marry a woman he did not love because of his mother. This thought reminded him that Wanja never responded to his request and he no longer saw her profile picture, meaning she had blocked him on Eyebook. Well, he deserved it.

That Christmas was different for the kids, it was a village kind of Christmas. Something different from the beach holiday, the game park or the desert kind of Christmas they had experienced. They were used to the lavish life. But George did understand the situation as explained by his father. But something was making him sad, Aunty would not come back the following year since his parents explained to her that they could not afford to pay her salary. They left in good terms and she promised to call the kids once in a while. Aunty΄s only prayer was that the fights would end because George had really been affected by his parents’ constant fights. The child was bright, but carried the burden of that home which affected his studies. She was happy they will be going to boarding school and perhaps would concentrate on his life.

This Christmas holiday was also a sad one. Grandmother had been taken ill and the doctor had advised that she needed extra care. His mother Maritha was never home, and it was his father’s responsibility to cook and take care of them and the grandmother. Mike could constantly ask his father where his mother was and nobody had an answer for the young boy. George had overheard his parents fighting, his dad claimed that Maritha was spotted drinking with Ndindeko, “for how long will you embarrass me, Maritha?” His father was asking. Maritha shouted in a drunken stupor, “you lied to me that you will give me money to start a business, where is the money?”

What was really annoying Maritha was the fact that the by election date had been set in a month’s time. Makua had refused with the money, yet Ndindeko was pressuring her. She chose to spite Makua by openly showing her affection to Ndindeko. Makau begun to see what his mother had told him, the day before, this time she was so sick she thought she would die, Mama Makua owned up to her mistakes and apologized for forcing him to marry Maritha, Makua asked her why she was apologizing. “My son, I have wronged you, instead of shaping your destiny, I cursed it, please forgive me, I thought I was doing right by the church and I compromised your happiness.” The mother went on to tell Makua how she had ΄seen΄ Maritha with Ndindeko and on many occasions when Maritha was in the village, Ndindeko would spend the night in Makua’s house. She was so upset that Maritha was not ashamed of the situation, she went to an extent of washing Ndindeko΄s clothes and hanging them on the lines for all and sundry to see. She was saddened that it was her fault. Makua could not help but think about Wanja, his lost love and how life could have been different, he truly thanked his mother for owning up to her misdeeds. With finality in his voice Makua told Maritha, “Take your belongings and go live with Ndindeko, I am done trying to make you happy!” Maritha felt that something was different about Makua, but she was too hardheaded to think about it. She carried her clothes in an expensive Prada bag she had forced Makua to buy during vacation that had made Makua slap her at the wall which was embarrassing to the kids. George on the corridor and Maritha looked at him scornfully, “You will forever be foolish like your father!!” and she left.

George wondered what his wrong doing was as he went in to check on his father. He never uttered a word, he just sat there like a faithful son wondering how he could help. Luckily, Mike slept through the whole ordeal till morning. “Good morning dad, good morning, Georgie Porgie?” they both saluted him oblivious of the sadness that engulfed their home. “Where is mum?” His father and brother ignored him, “Go get grandma tell her breakfast is ready.” Mike ran off to his grandma’s place. The rules were never entering her house without knocking lest you get her not in a good position. Mike knocked and knocked, he called his grandmother, no response. A cold shiver ran down his spine, “could grandmother be dead?” he asked himself. He went back and told his father that there was no response.

His father gained access to his mother’s house but told the boys not to follow him. At once the boys heard his father cry out loudly, “No, why have you left me mum, why?” It became apparent that she died in her sleep. George waited for his father to leave grandmother’s house then he hugged his father as they both cried. Once he gained composure, he gathered the strength to call the area OCS and tell him to send his officers. The OCS responded that he will do so but he needed fuel for the police Landcruiser that would carry the body and no, he wanted the money in cash. Makua wondered who would deliver the money but George offered to do it, it was the least he could do for his father. Besides he had speed having received awards for being the fastest cross-country athlete in his school’s division.

Mike knew the situation was grave and for once he was quiet as he steered pensively into the horizon. Makua gave George the Sh3, 000 that the OCS had asked and put it in an envelope, “ran as fast as you can before the OCS changes his mind and asks for more money.” “Yes father” George replied. One more thing, “Do not tell anyone about it, let the police do their investigations.” “Yes, Papa” he responded as he ran as fast as his legs would carry him.

On his way, he met his mother Maritha and Ndindeko as they staggered to his place, he wanted to pass them but Maritha could not let him go. “Wait, where are you going?” George kept quiet, he felt so much hate, so much disdain for this woman that he was too ashamed to call his mother. He remembered eavesdropping on his father and grandmother as he told his father how Maritha would bring Ndindeko back to the house. He wondered whether this is how mothers behave or his was just bad luck.

The mother too drunk staggered with her Ndindeko on tow when she realized George would not answer her. Then she stopped and looked back, “By the way, tell your father it is not over, he either gives me the money or he will die.” Ndindeko did that scary sign, the one that a finger passes across one’s neck to indicate that you are slaughtered, George was too scared to look back and ran all the way to the police station.

They returned with the police who ruled out foul play and concluded that Mama Makua died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 80 years. Makua thanked God for the years he spent with his mother and let the police remove her body to the mortuary.

Nobody was hungry, even Mike was too quiet which was unusual of him. The neighbors came to pass their condolences, but nobody dared to cook for them like it was with other homes, lest Maritha came attacking them that they wanted her husband. It was apparent that Maritha΄s rogue behaviour had isolated them from their community or muhiraga. They took the previous day’s chapatis and went to sleep. George never told his father that he met Maritha and Ndindeko, he did not want to stress his father further given that he had just lost his mum, their grandmother. He prayed that the threat was just a drunken outburst.

At the middle of the night, Mike woke George and told him he could not sleep because he could hear footsteps. George sat up on his bed and tried to listen in. Indeed, he even saw shadows heading towards his father’s bedroom. He beckoned Mike to stay quiet as he tried to peep through a crack on the wall. All of a sudden, he heard his father scream out, “Maritha, you have killed me, strike one, two three up to six. I sounded like a machete cutting through his father’s body and now he was quiet. George gathered the courage to leave his room and met Ndindeko and his mother Maritha leaving his father’s room, eyeball to eyeball. Ndindeko raised his machete as if ready to strike George he was on a killing spree this one with fire in his eyes, but Maritha prevailed on him, “No, not my child!” Ndindeko took it as cue to leave but Maritha lingered behind telling him, “I never meant to but he was too much of a clod to see it coming.” She said this as she ran away.

George’s first instincts as to check on his father who as bleeding profusely, he had six deep cuts to his head and his father stared pensively into yonder as if in deep thought, indeed he was a coward, who lacked the spine to question his parents on the choice of wife, he should have left Maritha, but the need to make his mother happy, had resulted to his death.

Makua gathered the strength to say, “Always be courageous to have a stand!” And at that moment life left Makua in front of his sons who watched helplessly.

Justina Wamae is a politician, a former Presidential running mate in Kenya's 2022 general election. A story teller who aims at influencing Kenyans to be critical thinkers with the aim of invoking design thinking in developing creative solutions to our problems.