Something Must Kill a Man

Childhood True story***10 min read

“Tonight, we’ll read Genesis chapter 27,” dad announced once we all gathered around the table after a sumptuous dinner of apoth, ugali, and delicately prepared smoked fish stew doused with alligator pepper.

Allow me to jog your minds a little. This particular chapter of Genesis expounds on how Jacob, with a bit of help from his mother Rebekah, cunningly deceived his father Isaac and stole his elder brother Esau’s blessings. It’s a story of deception, and if you recall well, Jacob was doing it for the second time.

Naturally, in an off – track pursuit, I would indulge in Jacob’s mother’s behaviour, but that would almost end up being another novel altogether, and my editor and I will automatically become plot antagonists.

This was our daily norm: Mum and dad had ensured that just as a balanced diet was essential for the glow of the tummy, so was living a spiritually balanced life vital for humanity’s wholesome being. We would pray together every evening before we retired to bed.

It was a small brief affair involving a verse, a little sharing from dad, a few songs, then capping with a word of prayer. We’d then shake hands and get lost in the dark night as we boys walk to simba – the boys’ sleeping place – strategically situated towards the main gate.

*****

It was July. The primary school calendar was actively underway; the term was on the final stretch, and examinations were around the corner. My two other cousins, who besides me slept in the simba, would come to our main house in the evening, and after supper, join the prayer table.

Dad had a way of dicing sermons with imagined or real stories from around the world. Tonight, he was dissecting the cost of deception and how gullible Esau had not only lost his birthright but crowned his losses with the ultimate slipup of his blessings. Dad gave us a prelude of what would befall the cunning Jacob under the arms of his own uncle Laban.

The master deceiver was deceived!!

Jacob’s own acts caught up with him, and he who mastered deception was deceived on his wedding night; he got Leah and missed his Lola – Rachel. You see, Rachel was the Lola for whom Laban’s heart beat, but in the end, deception’s consequences are steeper than the Himalayas creep crest.

My cousins and I had exchanged mildly concerned glances, especially when dad, in his unusual form, injected the words, ‘deception consequences are steeper’ while darting his face over us. Our faces that earlier beamed at the sweetness of the story tightened a little, and I felt my belly heave and swell like the waves of the sea.

Dad’s facial expression showed no iota of a clue that he was consummated over something else. He was cool as ever, deliberately oozing wisdom over matters of the spirit. He then added more juice into the story. We had become too often used to a rejoinder – like a dessert for these night – time spiritual meals. 

“A man sent his son to guard his ripe maize from wild animals,” he began the regression. There was pin – drop silence in the room, and save for the odd toad noises outside, the night was calm and gently breezy.

“He accepted but never went. Wild animals driven from other guarded farms condensed in their vulnerable farm and caused havoc. It was the season’s mockery. The son’s deception cost him his school the following season. All fee was consumed,” dad steered further his story.

At this point, I had that queasiness, that gut feeling that throbs your heart when someone unknowingly mentions a topic about the rising cost of sugar in the country and you in your little world think that your stealth sugar licking ways has been unearthed.

I looked around at my cousins, their faces fell, and one offered a strewn line of odd smile that said it all, ‘we have been caught’. Dad’s sermon gently receded from my ears as my brain’s subconscious processor minted scenarios of how our little secret could have been known. We steadily veered from enjoying the story to restlessly getting alarmed why so many riddles and twists for the night.

*****

“Yesternight after we parted for sleep, where did you guys go to?” dad finally dropped the long winding night of proverbs and lion stories. He rested his back on his seat as he paused, akin to a prosecutor easing into a calm waiting for the trapped suspect to fumble himself into an even tighter corner.

The hilarious mushiness dad had initially sustained stilled. In its place, he wore the look a judge temporarily fixes on a murder suspect before him whose guiltiness he has already concluded. The graveyard silence that accompanied that simple, subtle but heart – searching question told it all; we had been caught with our stained fingers deep in the cookie jar.

Sometimes when a crime is so apparent, the best medicine for the offender is not to deny but maintain a studious silence. Philosophers say it has a way of making the prosecutor slightly rethink himself as an overbearing tormentor of the accused; it’s a classical way of turning the convict a victim and the judge a villain.

We were flat – footed, confused, cornered. Our deceptive ways were finally tapped, and the smooth brightness of our outer covering that dazzles the unsuspecting eye while discretely hiding the bitter herb that we indeed were, was unveiled.

So, what had transpired that night? You see after we lodged into our small simba for sleep that yesternight, as with the things of the devil, there was some tempting music that oozed from the next village. We call it disco matanga.

Some man they described as good who spent most of his adult life in the city had passed, and as you all remember our undying love for the dead, the body of the son of the soil had been brought from the city to spend two night’s vigil as we ‘breath of him’ before we lower it to rest.

Yesterday was the second night. Since such nights are hardly passed with the quietness or sobriety with which some regions treat mourning periods, we did what the greater western Kenya loves best. We played loud music all night and danced to it while chanting the deceased’s titles, even if he had none.

That was the onset of our troubles. It should be noted that the village self – appointed children’s prefect, my other forever irritated uncle, had earned himself a no mean reputation of visiting (fully armed with a whip) those homesteads in which disco matanga played. His burden was to beat some sense into school children in his sustained attempts to disperse them to bed.

In his wisdom, disco matanga was for the adults, those who had made life provisions for themselves or better, who have given up altogether. And for his tiny cleansing act, our parents loved him. We, however, hated him to death and were forever looking forward to the day he’d be struck by some untreatable disease or the day he’d fall into some ditch, created to trap night runners – which they neatly dodge anyway, and break his legs.

Something must kill a man

Earlier, we had struggled with the thought of making it to the disco matanga for the second night in a row, our hearts partly troubled with the near possibility of running into whippy arms of that hated uncle and the fact that the next day was a school day.

But something must kill a man. Regardless, the heart must get what the heart wants. Plus, there was always that remote possibility that one may run into some Atoti jaber, a beautiful deep melanin curvaceous girl with a gap between her chalk – white teeth. She occasionally accompanied the music system owners, and who never knows, some lucky fellas had the night before ended up having the best night of their lives. It was very much worth the risk.

*****

the secretive night business that was never to be unearthed

We had not told dad and definitely not our mum that we were headed for the murky night business. Who does that anyway? Does a thief gestures to the warden the bank he intends to rob next? It was 10 pm when we found the misty path to the pleasures of the night.

Now, this was something we had done several nights before, but when the day comes for you to be captured, your many endless petitions to the gods of fortune will prove as useless as the bibiyai report.

Apparently, some friend of my dad’s who hailed two villages away had arrived home later after we left for ‘sleep’. After sharing some hot tea and cracking jokes, dad had come into the sleepy simba to wake up his sons, gallant soldiers of war, to escort his friend to his home.

That’s where he discovered it, the deeply coated deception. He had knocked endlessly on the door that was neatly latched from the inside as one would do when they set to sleep. The only puzzle was that the sleepy occupants were unresponsive after the many knocks that he laced further with shouts of our names.

It was only after he came to the side of the only window to the simba that he fully grasped the full extent of the deception. It was slightly open, the window. He beamed his torch through the window and took a peep. He saw formed images of sleeping logs carefully covered with blankets, heads resting on pillows.

They must be dead asleep, he thought to himself. He reached out to his staff to tap a body or two. No response. He lifted the veil of a blanket, then another, then another. What he saw capped it all, bundles and bundles of magically assembled clothes framed as mannequins laid to rest.

He needed no further evidence to arouse him to the fact that he was raising conmen, soothsayers, and bandits who clearly were very high on their own supply. Poor old man. He took it upon himself to escort his friend. He possibly knew where the music was being played from, where his lost sons were busy wasting away, but he bothered not with us the rest of the night.

Come morning, after sneaking back into our simba at the first rays of the dawn, we greeted mum, took breakfast, and went to school: Innocent babes indeed! Throughout the day, mum and dad remained tight – lipped over last night’s affair.

Mum offered no hint of any impending expose. And nothing is bolder and stupid like a suspect unaware his ways have been discovered. We only came to terms with our double life when the book of Genesis moment happened. For sure, something must kill a man. For us, if we changed not, deception was going to be our highway to the grave.

The disco continued that night of Genesis, too, being the climax of it after the burial, but disgraced faces we slept.  The Ahuja throbbing sound that oozed, just like the night before, alluring beats adoring some imaginary beauty doll Pamela Atoti and Agutu Nyowila became noises. Pure noises.

Not even Tony Nyadundo’s Ndoa ya Machozi could make us flinch. All over a sudden, there was some urgent need to flatten the curve of dishonesty and return us back into dad’s good graces.

***Dedicated to all those who look back to the sweet old days of goofing around and naughtiness and pause to thank God they never strayed too off the road***

2 thoughts on “Something Must Kill a Man

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