Men carried the iron ore into the blacksmith’s cave. The short and stocky Waburale was seated at his usual spot with his anvil and hammer, busy at work. Opposite him his apprentice was pumping the bellows to provide enough air to keep the fire Waburale was using to forge the iron on the anvil into a karai going.

Both of them were sweating and their muscles and veins were moving to the song of the anvil and the bellows. Sengwe, the apprentice was Waburale’s relative. He was not from Samia but he had the nature of blacksmiths. In every land and tribe, far and wide, blacksmiths were known to be wise, brave, powerful, and very much in love with each other.

They were very creative and made many things that were useful to the village. Day after day in their caves they endured the heat, which seemed to give them more strength to work. They made gardening tools, weapons for warriors, cooking utensils and ceremonial cleansing masks that the villagers used for religious rituals. No one talked, no one sang.

In Waburale’s village they had little factory far away from the village. People had to walk miles to get to the blacksmith’s cave. Today Waburale did not expect anyone, it was a season of peace and fertility and the orders he got were mainly for domestic items like karais and knives, which the women came to collect at the end of the week. It was the second day of the week. No visitors were planned for and therefore no interruptions were expected.


Waburale stopped hammering.


Waburale spat. What nuisance was coming?


The village humorist came into the cave. He was known for the hilarious stories he told with great skill and imagination. Wabwire was a great performer. He was also famous for being unable to read signs, of people’s exasperation or impatience with him.

“What are you doing here Wabwire?”

“Waburale. You won’t greet me properly?”

“Greetings, Wabwire. How are things? What brings you here?”

“My wife needs something new for cutting,” Wabwire said, standing over Waburale, his shadow creating darkness.

Waburale looked up at Wabwire and with his strong arms guided him to the left side of the cave bringing some light in.

“I have knives over there. Pick one and pay the price. Though I notice that you have nothing in your hands.”

Wabwire did not look at the tools Waburale had displayed.

“No she wants something different.”

“What? And why? Everyone uses these ones.”

“I do not know what but it has to be different, straight and sharp. She wants to slaughter something for a meal.”

“What? Clay vegetables?” Waburale asked with a straight face.

“No, no. She wants to cut a Billy goat’s throat,” Wabwire said.

“Why is she cutting a Billy goat’s throat? You are the man. You should cut the goat’s throat. Men are the ones to slaughter male animals, not women. What is this you are coming to tell me here? And you actually carried yourself here with your two feet on a woman’s orders?”

“I don’t run my home like that. If she wants to do something that I can’t do, she can do it. I barely have time to do any manly jobs with all the storytelling I have to do. Plus blood makes me sick to my stomach. I can’t stand the smell. I will eat the meat, well-cooked, but I will not slaughter it. And that does not make me any less of a man Waburale. I still have my organ. In addition her learning does not make her the boss of anything, me included. It’s just survival, for the greater good of our home.”

“Wabwire, never trust a woman with any work that you want done well. She will mess it up for you and the goat will be slaughtered in the wrong way and your family will be in problems with the gods. Your children’s children and their children after will cry like goats. Let me warn you.”

“It hasn’t happened yet Waburale. So you shouldn’t have anything to say about it until it comes to pass…”

Waburale went back to hammering the karai and Sengwe was back on hand pumping the bellows with his hands.

Wabwire tapped Waburale on the shoulder and the blacksmith had to stop his work again. He was upset because he really wanted to finish the karai as early as possible and he did not like people who talked too smart and too much.

“Waburale do not be like that. And anyway I did not come empty-handed I shall pay you handsomely with a story. Stories are priceless. You will be rich just by what gets into your ears from my lips. You know I tell really funny stories too, don’t you?”

“What sort of payment is that? Talk is cheap is what they say if you haven’t heard.”

“An eternal payment that will last you to your grave. You will always remember this story. Waburale, talk is not cheap if you, yourself, are talking right now. There is value to the tongue.”

“Wabwire, please sit down and shut your mouth. I have just the thing for your wife. But I will be the one to tell you a story that will help you decide whether or not you will take the straight knife.”

“Alright, now we are in business,” Wabwire sat next to Sengwe.

Waburale told everyone to stop working and listen to his story. He also asked that no one interrupt him, not even Wabwire.

“This is the story of one relentless night runner and my witty, wise, fantastic grandmother. My grandmother slept in the same hut as her daughters. Every night a certain night runner – let us call him Ebhirenje- would throw stones on the roof and the doors and the windows and cause such fracas making it impossible to sleep.

Everytime he threw the stones and chanted his wizardly song, my grandmother would yell at him from the safety of the hut and assure him that one day she would catch him, despite the fact that his wife roasted sesame seeds. It was known that night runners made their wives sit at the fireplace at night and roast sesame seeds on wide and thick iron pans while their husbands did the night run. This protected them from getting caught. The wife would not stop frying the seeds until her husband back home. She would then stop the frying and felicitate her husband on his successful run and depending on her mood give him some conjugals. Ebhirenje was so confident in his wife’s skills that when my grandmother warned him, he would bang the door (with what my grandmother guessed to be his buttocks) laugh mockingly and run off. This went on for days on end and one day my grandmother could not take it anymore. It was time to deal with the rogue.

She cooked the evening meal, fed her daughters and made sure that they were tucked in and good to go to dreamland. She went to the kitchen with a metal karai, similar to the one I am making now. The one that your dirty village women still use for cooking, cleaning and bathing.

The fire in the kitchen was still burning on her three stones. Grandmother filled the karai with cinders. It was exactly twenty minutes before Ebhirenje would come running. This night, she did not lock the door; she merely pushed it so that it appeared to be under lock and key. She then strategically placed the basin of hot cinders a few steps from the door. She waited.

Ebhirenje came, threw his stones and chanted. Grandmother yelled and cursed. Ebhirenje threw his buttocks at grandmother’s door.

“Eeeeeieeeeeehieeeh waah waa wawa yaye my buttocks! You witch! My buttocks are burning! My buttocks!”

This cry woke my mother and her sisters and the first thing they saw was grandmother busy punching the night runner. You see, Ebhirenje fell buttocks first into a karai full of fire. While trying to get up from the man made piece of hell, he also had to wad of my grandmother’s fists. She called out to the neighbours, “Here he is! Come and see Ebhirenje the night runner! His wife did not watch the sesame seeds and they all got burnt in the pan, like her shameless husband’s buttocks! Uuuuwiii come and see! Come and see him in his burning nakedness!”

Indeed they came with their night torches, Ebhirenje had been exposed. They all laughed at him and cursed him, his ancestors and his descendants as he ran of with his glowing behind. In the dark, the buttocks looked like a large firefly from another world. He did not go running the next night, probably because he had a number of painful blisters to nurse. Neither did he run during the following fortnight. Again, because he was still nursing his blistered buttocks. He did not night run for the rest of his life. My grandmother had placed in him a fear that he could not overcome.

Ebhirenje’s wife had really messed things up for the Night Runners Society. The woman just had to forget that the sesame seeds were roasting on her pan. “What was she thinking about that was so intriguing and important?” They wondered.

This here is a true story my friend Wabwire. This incident did occur. I am not playing with you.”

“Ah-Ah!” Wabwire protested. “That story has nothing to do with Ebhirenje and his stupid wife or my wife and I, it has a lot to do with your ruthless grandmother who gave birth to children that gave birth to men who like to play with fire and buttocks like you Waburale.”

“I play with fire and I produce good and useful things. My grandmother played with fire and she saved her people from wicked night runners. Fire is not an enemy to people who matter. As for blacksmiths buttocks, you do not matter so please don’t play with our fire unless you want to sit on it. We care about each other and we have a good life here away from village idiots who refuse to just mind their own business.”

“Fine! Give me the sharp object. I want to go home.”

Waburale gave it to him and Wabwire held it up, very pleased with it.

“Go away Wabwire. I will not charge you for that one but woe unto you if you let a woman slaughter a male goat.”

“Okay, next time I come here it will be to marry you as a second wife Waburale so you can slaughter all manner of goats for me and put fire inside me,” Wabwire stuck his tongue out to scorn Waburale and walked away.

“If you do that you will have to chase that woman away because I am also good at so many other things that matter to men,” Waburale said while smiling.

Wabwire stopped. His ears and cheeks flushed. He did not have a response but he made something up anyway.

“Waburale you are the chicken that left the village coop and went to the wild. One day you will come back to the centre of the village and demand for seeds like you never left. That is the day I will tell them to slaughter you and eat you. I will put you to shame one day for insulting me. First, you insinuate that my wife is sitting on me. Second you threaten to really break my marriage for your own pleasure.  Unthinkable. Unfathomable. Just wait for the day you will need me…just wait.”

“The things you say are unthinkable are the same things you think about when you scream that they are unthinkable. If they are unthinkable you would not be upsetting yourself over them and dreaming of the day I will need you. Be careful what you say storyteller, life is not a story itself. Go in peace and please cut your goat yourself or I will accept your marriage proposal…very willingly.”

“I am going.”

© Linda Musita 2022