Category: Short Stories

A Tale Among Men

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.”

Waburale stopped hammering.

“Waburale?”

Waburale spat. What nuisance was coming?

Wabwire.

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

Dummy

I do not have a name. I am made of fibre glass but the brother next to me, he is plastic. We were shipped here from Dubai that is what the box said. I really do not know where we came from and who made us but we are here, in a shop on Kenyatta Avenue.

The barking owner barked at the people that work in the shop. She barked like a dog. Exactly like a dog. A silly Chihuahua in fake fur and very long graffiti toe nails that stuck out of her six inch polka dot gladiator peep toes. The people that work in the shop understood those soprano-alto barks to mean that we should be wiped clean, dressed appropriately -in the clothes that she chose- and placed on the window display. This was done in a record nine minutes.

In the haste, I got a synthetic hyena print Versage-Gappana Teddy Chemise. It was supposed to make me look sexy but the lady that put it on me forgot to cover my breasts. There I was, the only thing between my breasts and the male humans was very clean and clear glass. They laughed and giggled. Some had this scary look on their faces. Desire always looks baleful on a human male’s face. I like it when the women look at me because they do not really look at me but at the things that I am wearing. But these men, I am not sure about their erect looks. I do not know if they were imagining their women in the hyena print or thinking or breaking the glass pulling me out, arms attached and biting my painted nipples as they undress me on the pavement. I could not tell.

That group left, another came and left, all day. No one in the shop noticed anything because once they put on display; they covered the area behind us with fabric that matched a theme. The theme on this occasion was Valentine’s Day. The tagline, “Hoooooot and Sassssssy.” There was satin fabric that served as a colour clashing background for my chemise and the green whip on the brother mannequin’s hand that somehow coiled around his groin and pink HugWhoRE briefs. As far as the Chihuahua and the people who work for her were concerned, the display was done. Its purpose was to draw customers into the shop. They sat and stood in the shop and waited…for customers. Completely oblivious of the artificial orgy that their display was courting.

The women paused for a few seconds. They were disgusted. Their faces scrunched against their hands and screwed like suffocating raisins.

“Sasa huyo na matiti nje? Halafu ona venye wanaume wanamwangalia.”

Huyo? I am a thing. I am not a person. Jealousy…they were dying green. I thought they would shoo their male co-perpetrators away and run into the shop to raise an alarm. Instead, they saw me as a half naked, ill dressed mannequin that has the power to cover her boobies but refuses to do so. The permanent red smile on my face did not help my situation. Neither did my hazel dominatrix-dolly eyes. Thanks to the electric thing in my head, those eyes changed colour every other suggestive moment. 

A fibre glass model of a woman was their nemesis. I knew that I did not have the power to lift the Versage-Gappana. I suspect the intelligent of the lot knew the same thing but there is something about a crowd and the things it does to individual human thought process. The lawyer, the brain surgeon, the hobo, the City Council lady and the seventeen year old drop out somehow, when together, end up thinking like merino.

As soon as they caught sight of me, the ones with children crossed the road without checking traffic. Cars screeched, buses hooted, children bawled. Curiosity turned heads and shoulders. All the people in the buses and the cars stared at me. Some laughed, others looked annoyed, very annoyed, two or three took a peek and then pulled their eyes back to their books and newspapers and the vulgar ones just kept looking, wearing the same desirous look that the men who stopped earlier wore.

A chain reaction. Who next? Death? The enigma with a scythe who would come to collect the souls that would sooner or later be hit by a motor cycle because they were so preoccupied with a mannequin’s titties? The Reaper, would probably also be distracted from his job by a fibre glass replica of a woman and for a few minutes more humans would be born and none would die. An unfavourable tip on his scale.

Three days and two nights, they spread the word. Mobile phone calls, short messages typed on key pads and sent to perverts and prudes indiscriminately. Facebook had varied photographs and comments. Twitter had hash tags and soon enough, I was a famous ‘disgrace’. Do not ask me how I felt throughout the fiasco because I do not have a heart like a human being’s heart.

The ironic bit is, as ridiculous as the brother in the pink HugWhoRE briefs looked, no one noticed him in all his plastic glory.

© Linda  Musita 2022

Dire Straits

Mr. Ndirangu likes to read from the textbook. He hardly teaches. That’s why I think, when he was a child, he did not aspire to be a teacher. Maybe a lab technician. Today he is reading about detergents.

“The process of making soap is known as saponification. The mode involves the hydrophilic and hydrophobic parts of soap…

I usually pay attention to his reading but today is the first day of menses, four more days to go. The first is usually the hardest. The flow is heavy. I can feel it, warm and thick, dripping on the cotton wool. The pain in my abdomen, thighs and the crack of my buttock is unbearable.

All I want to do is take four Piritons and go to sleep. Painkillers are expensive. One Piriton costs fifty cents, four is two shillings. Two pain killers, 10 shillings. Deep Sea mathematics, the algebra of improvising with the little you have. Unfortunately, if I dare sleep in class, Mr Ndirangu is required by the Teachers’ Guide to Appropriate Punishment to make me wash the loos.

“Soapy detergents do not form lather with hard water as fast as the soapless detergents. The reaction between soapy detergents and the magnesium and calcium in hard water results into a substance known as scum.”

Does that even make any sense? Soapy things in my opinion ought to form lather faster than soapless things. English words take different meaning in science hence the need to cram before an exam.

“Now write this formula in your exercise books. I do not have chalk and that is not my fault.  Okay, letter C, number twelve, letter H, number twenty five, a tiny line attached to a hexagon with an oval inside it, followed by an arrow, on top of that arrow, write, letter H, number two, and letter S, letter O, number four. At the bottom of the arrow, write the word sulphonication. After the arrow, letter C, number twelve, letter H, number twenty five, tiny line attached to another hexagon with an oval inside it, another tiny line and then letter S, letter O, number three and letter H.”

This is the result of having one chemistry textbook in the entire stream. The teachers share the book. We only know of its existence. No chalk and one textbook means we never get to see what we are told to write.

He is turning to the next page. If only I was born a boy and Gad was born the girl. He would be the one sitting here on butt tremors and I would be at home, free to sleep and avoid bother.

I also wish I was Gad because my poor brother is bearing a cross too heavy for a nine year old. Science could help him, but it hasn’t yet. He is the reason I chose to love Chemistry. If I learn how to mix substances, I may be able to cure Gad and not have to see, hear, touch, taste, smell and predict his misery.

Someone knocks the door. Mr Ndirangu opens it and listens to the bearer of a message.

“Irene Aduoli, go to the Bursar’s.”

This is it. I do not think the school bursar will fold and sympathize this time. I suspect that he has run out of pity and patience. Sixty-three thousand shillings is too big a debt to cover with wet tissue, salty with my tears. The rest of the defaulters went home at 12 thousand shillings. By now, Lady Luck has moved on, and I may as well carry my bag. Something tells me that this is the last time I will write on this desk.

***

I have been kicked out of school. Not because I am a C student and definitely not because I failed to take the school to the provincial level of the Inter- Schools Darts Competition. My inability to pay. Tuition fees are what keep a student in school not average grades and extracurricular activities.

I walk out of the bursar’s office into Accra Road and progress down the Globe Cinema round about, up Forest Road, down Limuru Road and turn at 6th Parklands Avenue. Forty-five absentminded minutes go by and I am in Deep Sea – home sweet home.

If you look at it, Deep Sea is a stagnated swamp surrounded by an ocean of wealth. One main street, so to speak, separates the shops and the stands from the residential. The left side of the street has little kiosks full of ‘ndogo-ndogo economy’ items, men and women selling chapos, omena, githeri, skuma, mtura  and bones. The right side has the village elders’ headquarters and layers upon layers of houses. They were built on a sharp and dusty slope that turns muddy when it rains. The slope goes all the way down to a little stream that separates Deep Sea from the beautiful mansions with green lawns and trees for shade. The mansions are on a gentler slope. The rich always have it gentler. So fun.

“Eh! Irene! Umehepa shule, nini?”

“Pengine. Na wewe? Umehepa Mama Majimoto nini?”

“Mama MM anachemsha bado. Akimaliza atanivutia.”

“Poa. Baadaye basi. Sitaki kuonekana na wewe. Matope itafikia mamangu.”

“Kwenda! Sasa ju umesomasoma unaona vimeelea vikaundwa. Kuma wewe!”

Conversations with Benah always end like that. He complicates and misunderstands.

Ten years in this place and I have learned that everyone knows everyone and all of them talk about all of us. So I am right, if anyone sees me talking to Benah a tad longer, word will spread and by the time my mother gets home the story will have mutated into a tale of my skipping classes to meet up with Benah. The same Benah, it will be reported, took me to Mama MM’s, and later drunk, I drugged myself to his place for sex.

I turn right into a narrow dusty path and go down the slope slowly, carefully holding onto a rusted iron sheet here and the visible support of a there. The reaction between the dust and my slippery soled shoes, if not controlled in that manner, may lead to a slip and slide down the slope. So fun.

Finally home.

I open the door and there is Gad on the floor with two fingers in his mouth.

***

The light revealing his sister upset his eyes and calm. His head aimed for her abdomen and his fists thumped her sore breasts.

“Gad, not today.”

She turned him around and held his small palms together. He struggled to set himself loose but she sat on the floor, held him close and sang, nice and slow:

Umbe umbe.

Umbe umbe,

Umbe khanyama,

Umbe khanyama,

Umbe, umbe,

Auwiiii chachacha

Auwiiii chachacha

The song calmed him.

Gad set himself loose and sat at the middle of the room. He knew the routine. Irene had to bring everything down, turn the empty space into a home.

Every morning, his sister and his mother put everything on an inungo attached to the roof by four strong ropes. Irene stood on tiptoe as she first brought two mattresses down. Things had to be put up there every morning because it was never known when Gad would throw a violent tantrum and what would trigger it. They left him alone in the house from six in the morning to six in the evening and if stuff was left within his reach, the probability of him making a mess or hurting himself were high.

The inungo was similar to the one in their grandmother’s kitchen in Butere. The old lady used hers to store sun-dried fish and roasted meat, and the smoke from the fireplace helped preserve the food. Irene’s mother had a stronger and thicker version that held the mattresses plus three bags of clothes, a bucket of utensils, a jiko, firewood, a ‘nishikie nitandike’ lamp, a three-litre bottle for kerosene and two five-litre jerry cans of water. There was also a small purple bucket with a lid. That one usually had a packet of maize flour and a bag of tealeaves.

After Irene finished arranging the house, Gad lay on the mattress, and as usual, let his sister change his soiled napkin. She had not stopped singing. After that she lit the jiko. Soon she had a fire rich enough to boil tea for herself and her beloved. He liked tea better than porridge and she needed the hot liquid to calm the menstrual pain.

The neighbors called him a retarded brat, the mahamri women said he was the result of incestuous intercourse and the Mganga Kutoka Pemba prophesied that Gad was possessed by unhappy djinnis. A special exorcism could be done, but only after the family paid seven thousand shillings exclusive of required  miscellaneous ritual items.

No one visited. The only people who ever entered their house were the population census officials, with their red t-shirts and hurried HB pencils. One of them had asked Irene’s mother if there was a disabled person in the house.

“My son is autistic.”

“Madam, the question is asking whether you have a disabled person in the house.”

“Yaaaani…kukona mtu kiwete kwa hii nyumba yako?” He asked, slowly this time.

“I am not stupid you know. Si nilikwambia nimefika form four, when you asked me about the highest level of education? Do not talk to me like that. I am not base. I have told you that my son is autistic. Now, does your form classify autism as a disability?”

The man shielded the green leaflet with his hand, just like the teachers’ pets do during examinations and ticked the box he decided on.

***

Beth sat on a concrete slab at the General Mathenge Road/ Mpaka Road junction.

Yesterday she did not get work and her children had to eat porridge for supper. To top it all Irene had been kicked out of school.  The women next to her were yapping about the fruitful yesterday they shared in the Somali house on 6th Avenue. A lot of work even when shared but the pay was very commensurate. They were watched consistently but who cares.

“Heee, labda nyinyi ni wezi ndo mchungwe hivyo kazini,” a jealous one said with an overdose of sarcasm.

The day before yesterday the same woman had told Beth she had a feeling that some of the women had bewitched the two them.

“Sio kawaida kukosa kuchukuliwa siku tatu. Naona ni kama hawa wamama wametufunga.Hizi uchawi ndogo nodogo za Nairobi pia hufanya kazi.”

Beth did not say anything then but now she thought that maybe Jealous was not wrong after all. Someone may have hexed her out of jobs.

Jealous then told Beth of a job that she almost got but failed to because the “mdosi” wanted a live-in person who had a class eight certificate.

“Imagine he wants to pay six thousand but he wants someone who has a KCPE certificate and not older than 20 years. Sasa hiyo ni ujinga gani?”

“That is what he said?”

“Yes.”

“Si basi tupeleke Irene wangu?”

“Mh? You want to take your child out of school just so she can go clean people’s houses and you can get money out of her?”

“She is already out of school. Now take me to that man’s house.”

**

I am watching the flames on the jiko. They reminded me of a chemistry class in form one; my first encounter with a Bunsen burner. School was good while it lasted; now I have to go work. Mother said six thousand shillings in salary per month will help enroll Gad in a school that will look after him well. Also if I work hard for two years, I will save enough to pay the school fees debt, finish high school and go on to the teachers college in the Compound. Her math did not make sense.

The aroma of tea is in the room.  I like my sturungi boiled thoroughly, Kama maji ya kumtoa kuku manyowa.

Gad starts at the sound of the sufuria lid battling with the steam. I get up from the mattress remove the sufuria from the jiko, put it on the floor and arrange three cups. Mother brings a bag of mahamri, three for Gad, two for me, and one for herself.

After breakfast I pack a few things, set up the house so Gad is safe while we are away, lock the door and follow my mother who has an excited albeit impatient look. She wants to take me to my employer as soon as possible. I am going to be working as a cleaning lady.

Immersed in powerfoam on a daily basis.

Who would have thought Mr. Ndirangu’s chemistry was precisely relevant for cleaning jobs.

© Linda Musita 2022

Squad 2: Wababas

“Listen, there’s something you said l four or five years ago about married men.”

“What?”

“That cheating husbands are the ones responsible for their cheating. Not the women they cheat with.”

“Yeah, because the husbands made the unsustainable, unattainable vows to their wives while caught up in the smell and mood of big weddings, forgetting that people change. Feelings are never ever constant and human beings are only consistent in their inherent primitivity.”

“How can you say such things one day you will get married right?”

“I doubt it. The current state of ‘unions’ is the reason I stay single.”

“You are not making sense. You support the cheating but it’s the reason you are afraid of being with someone…”

“When did I say I support the cheating?”

“So you agree that these other women cannot just be down with other people’s private parts.”

“I don’t have to agree because I know what I said. I said they should not be held responsible for failure of marriages that are not theirs. They are third party liability. They don’t indemnify wives against third party harm, the husbands do”

“Marriage is not like a commercial contract…”

“It is in fact a commercial contract. Just the number of business transactions involved in getting two people dating, fucking, engaged, and married is astounding.”

“Stop laughing.”

“I don’t understand why you are all of a sudden so passionate about wedded men and the moral dilemmas they and their insignificant others lack. Listen, did I ever tell you I in-boxed with a married man?”

“Like dick in your box or messaging?”

“A lot of messaging. Near sexing.”

“Tell me or shut up.”

“First unakunywa uji fermented ama ya maziwa? We need to order.”

“Why did you even make me come to near downtown CBD for porridge?”

“Is there another porridge joint where you think you should be?”

“No.”

“Exactly, Highlands has been putting out good porridge for years so have an open mind. Nairobi is your city, all of it, not just kwa mabarbie. Fermented or with milk? You are even lucky I did not bring you here mid-morning-amidst-Covid when the place is packed with shoulders bumping everywhere as if we are not sufficiently traumatized by that ‘imported virus’.”

“Fermented basi, and I don’t want to talk about corona virus. Wachana tu nayo.”

“Me too, I will get fermented.”

“That’s great. Call the waiter.”

“Ok.”

“So this married man you were chatting up…”

“Yeah. There was a connection coming on and at some point I was willing to risk it until we started talking about sex and he began to sound like an experience I would regret.”

“Kwani what did he say?”

“He said I am taller and he is so short, with all of his miniscule chest he asked ‘technically how is this going to work?’ And I started to feel heavy disappointments.”

“Heavy disappointments?”

“Yes.”

“Elaborate please…”

“First, I felt like this idiot didn’t really want to get it on he was just using me for motivational aphrodisiac texting or foreplay before jumping his wife for morning glory. Cause he’d text aggressively at weird hours…like 2am…day in day out.”

“You sweet good Samaritan doing the lord’s work in the wee…wicked… hours. You were building a marriage. Making it better. Jazzing it up. There is none like you. Only to be rewarded with ‘heavy disappointments’.”

“Quit that tone with me. Anyway, in the middle of all this I found out he is quite riotous with extramarital activities so no he was not even warming his dick for his wife after all.”

“So that’s heavy disappointment number one. Which is the second one?”

“Second one was this fool nearly made me do something I had sworn never to do when he’s probably a bad lay.”

“Cause he couldn’t fathom that tall people have sex with short people.”

“Yes. No way in hell I was going to be giving someone, a married man at worst, directions around my vagina and how best to access it.”

“So what was the connection if any?”

“He had different thoughts about things and we agreed on almost all philosophies and contexts to the point he one day said we should get married and polygamy is good this and that. And I was like ‘fuck you in another life please’. I am laughing now but just the level of self-centeredness, self-preservation, and assholery was intriguing. I was first lost in his bullshit when he said he is animist. I am not even one but that was it. He saw things outside what he was taught or raised to see and believe. I used to get upset when he didn’t text consistently. It would ruin my whole mood and shit. I’d be checking my notifications a million times from 2am.”

“Your chura kimbelembele story is not adding up but okay. Is that nonsense you just said what made you want to fuck him so much?”

“I like how you find that funny. No, I don’t know that I even wanted to sleep with him so desperately…his damn-ass short-tall analysis saved me from finding out. Before that I can’t say I got to a point where I would have had clandestine fuckation with him.”

“So really, why didn’t you do it?”

“I think my ancestors looked at him and were like, ‘Do not lose our generational and familial common sense in this stunted situation!’

“Seriously, I am trying to understand you.”

“Okay, I think it’s unnatural.”

“So you think being with a white dude is unnatural, and you also think sex with a married man is unnatural?”

“Not only unnatural but also high risk.”

“Aki sikuelewi.”

“You know how married men, or men in general with ambitions, view mistresses or prostitutes as something that could fuck up their plans or legacies…or even inheritance? I am that paranoid about married men. I want to be powerful. I want to run the MFing world. I feel like one day I will be at my best, walking and glowing into greatness with a sparkling halo and credentials to die for, and right then – when it matters most, where the coconut meets the mbaazi, where the teeth meet the chicken’s bone, where the tamarind cuts the tongue, the best part – some pest paid blogger tabloid will get an inbox and the whole universe will find out that I once uncomfortably fucked a short married man. Imagine losing everything because of a husband, let alone somebody else’s husband? Fuck that. Not happening. Creeping with a married man is bad for business and personal development. And they know it and that is why they try and fuck around with us. To just ruin shit. Bloody-suck all phenomenal things out of your soul and take them home to improve their already exemplary wives. Nuksi. Hii uji inachoma kifua sis.”

“You really overthink.”

“Probably true.”

“So away from your unclear issues and back to my question.  Why do you feel it is not a big deal for other women to get into relationships or whatever with married men?”

“Why are you asking me things I did not say? I said they are not responsible for the marriages. Meaning that the wife of a cheating husband should not obsess about the other woman. The person she should be fighting and insulting and shaming publicly is her dumbass husband. The only and other contract party. ”

“But if Becky with the Good Hair from Lemonade taught us anything it’s you can’t just ignore the wife’s pain or the emotional, physical and sometimes financial investment she has put in her husband.”

“Talking with your chest about ‘FiNAnCiaL investmenTTT’ of wives yet you just said marriage is not a commercial contract.  But like I already told you the third party is not invested in the terms that led to a marriage.”

“What if the third party ends up being a wife too?”

“Like a second wife?”

“Yeah, polygamy. And then there are three known people in one marriage.”

“Polygamy has context, social and legal.”

“Overthinker-In-Chief.”

“It’s true, people just can’t be second wives willy-nilly, recklessly. You can go to jail for that shit?”

“It’s not a crime to be a second wife, my god. You are so extreme.”

“Oh yes it is. Don’t even entertain the thought.”

“Wacha story. Polygamy could never be a crime. Especially not in Africa.”

“If the first marriage was a customary one or an Islamic one then polygamy is okay and allowed. But these men out here who did civil marriages and church weddings first and then take dowry to other women’s parents ati saying they are ‘making’ them their second wives? That’s criminal stuff.”

“Where?”

“The law says people who are already legally married and have marriage certificates and documents cannot go marry other people under any native law or custom.”

“Haiya…”

“And there’s more…”

“Tell me or shut up.”

“If your stupid ass marries someone who you know is married, you can go to Lang’ata Women’s for five years…or less. Legit a criminal. Even the community husband will go to Kamiti for the same time.”

“You have got to be kidding me right now.”

“Oh but there’s more. You know the way women meet a married man who married his first wife customarily and then you convince him to take you to Sheria House or to marry you in church?”

“Yeah, that makes sense. Securing the man and a future plus you also have a marriage certificate and she doesn’t so when push comes to shove, ‘I am the legal wife.’”

“No you are not. You are a criminal sis.”

“How?”

“It’s the flip side of the other. You can’t get into a civil or Christian marriage if your first marriage is a customary marriage. Once a man starts customary, he has to finish customary.”

“You are laughing so you must be joking.”

“Maximum five years in prison. A whole presidential term will go with you sharing and reusing sanitary towels somewhere you should never have been in the first place if you had the sense to John-Cena a married man and say no to crime.”

“But nobody knows this. For real. You are fucking with me.”

“Ignorance is no defence.”

“I know but…”

“Just the fact that someone does something they shouldn’t and gets away with it doesn’t mean they are not culpable. I will make it easy for you. The other day my sister took me to Marikiti to get veggies on the bargain. We saw some women selling potatoes. They had put a 50bob sign in front of a reasonable pile of big potatoes. I got excited and gave one the 50 bob and proceeded to point at the pile. She told me those were 100bob and the smaller piles behind it were the ones that were 50bob. I told her to give me back my money she told me to take the damn small potatoes or fuck off. I told her to keep the money AND the potatoes and go fuck herself. She was wrong and she got away with it.”

“Sis, you should have told her to give back your money or you call the cops.”

“And be lynched in the middle of a market that I didn’t know the back or front of?”

“I see. So what does your Marikiti story have to do with your marriage laws?”

“Sometimes the law is not enforced as it should be because no one wants to be communally lynched, literally or otherwise.”

“So what are you saying?”

“Public service announcement: Just keep fucking married men if you want but don’t let them linger. Don’t even let them know your real name or where you live or where you work. Have a separate phone line for each. Use a fake name on social media, I don’t know, be like the Red Woman if you have direct access to your gods or ancestors. Evaporate without trace.”

“And their poor wives?”

“Unless it’s a three-way with consent, and a strong non-disclosure agreement in your favor, they have no place in your mind or conscience.”

“Look at you with that drunk-on-New-Years 2020 Don Lemon attitude.”

“Oh yeah, he toasted on live international television to the breaking of marriages. That was hilarious. I thought I was the only one who heard that.”

“I did too.”

“Do they have lemons here?”

“You have really bad puns. I ignored what you tried to with the wee-wicked-hours and I feel like you are about to annoy me monumentally…”

“No this is not a drill. I want lemons to make this uji more sour.”

“I am sure they do but Nairobi’s lemons, like its eggs, have worms.”

“So if life gives you Nairobi lemons you DON make Lewormade?”

“Fucking stop please.”

© Linda Musita 2022

Squad

“The tea is not as good as it was last time. We should go somewhere else.”

“You always say that but when given a choice end up here. How have you been?”

“Great.”

“Despite your silence?”

“Yes.”

“I am your friend. Talk to me.”

“Friend is a bad word used by small shits. I feel overstretched by ‘friends’. I feel like one of the freaks playing chess to a hollow-eyed audience in the Boniface Maina painting. I gave so much to ghosts in the name of friendship. Got nothing back.”

“I have never seen a Boniface Maina painting.”

“The Maina effect is me feeling like everyone sees my over-extended failures. Things that should have stopped multiplying on my face are festering.”

“Why?”

“Betrayal.”

“The guy?”

“No.”

“Who?”

“Let me take this call first.”

“Why do Brits end phone calls so abruptly? You have a great conversation but then the conclusion is so weird. They say okay bye and hung up before you say okay bye back.

“You are dating white men?”

“No I am not dating a white guy. I can’t.”

“Why?

“It’s unnatural.”

“Racist.”

“If I was racist I would not be suffering bad tea in a white-owned restaurant. I would be drinking very hot tea at Mama Njeri’s. Maybe support a woman’s business for a change.”

“White makes beautiful babies.”

“All babies are beautiful if you look at them properly.”

“Speaking of women, look at the gang that walked in while you were being offended by curt goodbyes.”

“The Femioso eat here?”

“Your BFF is one of them.”

“The Squeegee appointed herself.  I respected her pseudo-feminist outrage until I discovered she is anti-me and anti-every-other-woman-on-blue-earth. As are all Femioso. Mean girls.”

“Explain.”

“Okay. Cunt psychosis. They all scream for women’s rights and tell everyone they meet ‘I am feminist’ before they even say hello and all other cosmetic shit they do as a gang. Then separately they turn on each other.  ”

“How do you figure?”

“Ideally, if someone is going to replace her mouth with her vagina and make it talk to you, the vagina should be sanitised. The mouthing vagina shouldn’t vomit on you at any point of intercourse with your faculties.”

 

“Harsh thrash. Where is your vagina now?”

“Where it should be.”

“So how did you find out that their vaginas are desecrating their faces?”

“Years with an imposed bestie.”

“I see.”

“I know all their secrets, thanks to Squeegee.”

“Tell me or shut up.”

“Well, you see the one with the menu?”

“Yes.”

“Squeegee says her dad cheats on her mum because mama has become unbearably mad and manipulative.. She is also thinking of moving out of home because of her mum.. Squeegee says the madness runs in the family because Menu Girl is also seeing a shrink and is on anti-depressants for like three unwavering disorders.”

“And how did Squeegee know?”

“She was told by Menu Girl. In confidence.”

“And the confidence was assigned to you?”

“Gladly.”

“What about Hot Lip?”

“She attacked a number of women on twitter DMs over some guy she apparently hasn’t fucked let alone met. Yet, she is the self-proclaimed queen of sisterhood. The other members of the gang don’t really like her but for some reason their interaction with her in public does not show it. They worship her then later laugh about all her shortcomings. Squeegee says Hot Lip is weird as fuck and can’t keep a man. See how that sits badly? Saying someone can’t keep a man when in public you help her scream that men treat you like tools and they can go fuck themselves. Cunt psychosis.”

“Cunt psychosis is hard on my mind. Just use basic words.”

“Let my poetry prosper.”

“You suck at it. How about Afro?”

“Well, according to Squeegee, Afro is a slut whofucks strangers in the name of freedom of expression or some shit like that. Sijui ati artistic spirituality and owning her body through multiple sex partners….”

“She does not look like a slut.”

“Nobody looks like a slut. But, yeah, according to the inside source she can’t keep her legs closed for anyone. And when the sex is bad or the dude comes back for more she accuses the mistaken penis of taking advantage of her vagina and making it do things she did not particularly permit. Then the army will rise and fight Mr. Penis Mistake without first asking him if he hypnotized Afro or not before sleeping with her. Now that I think about it, Afro could be a sophisticated sex pest in an alternate universe with memory erasing laser tools and shady hi-tech stuff like that.”

“Stop yourself right now.”

“It gets worse. Pick another gangsta.”

“Braids.”

“Braids got an STI from this C list guy on twitter. So she started a ‘private callout’ to see how many women had slept with this guy and gotten the STI.”

“Like a support group for Herpes survivors?”

“Whatsapp group. So all of them came out and bitched about the guy forever. How dare he make them sick? Why don’t men respect our sexual expression enough to carry condoms and use them? What happened to full disclosure to a sexual partner and that kind of a thing? ‘The obvious concern would be why they are having unprotected sex in the first place..”

“Stop laughing. No one thought about shaming the guy in public.”

“Nope. But guess what happened?”

“Tell me or shut up.”

“Squeegee leaked the quarantine secrets and now just about everyone on earth knows which of them bought antibiotics and their fellow survivors who bought the same dose.”

“Did they tell the guy to go see a doctor as well?”

“Nope.”

“So as we speak there is probably another woman getting infected with something thick?”

“Yes.”

“And the Femioso are cool with that.”

“Look at them laugh and eat. No Gonorrhea. All on cloud nine.”

“Do you know who this C List matafaka is?”

“Why? Are you sleeping around without gloves?”

“I have slipped a couple of times. Who is he?”

“Some blogger.”

“I haven’t touched a blogger… yet.”

“Don’t. Now, you see Jugs?”

“The hottest of the pack.”

“Yes.”

“Enhe?”

“Squeegee says she fucks all married men in town including their  fathers in exchange for manicures, pedicures, trips to some fancy ass places in Arabia. So she is a great enemy of women just by the mere act of engaging in an act of betrayal with their husbands.’”

“Is that bad?”

“Technically? No. In real sense the men owe loyalty to their wives. Jugs owes them nothing. She didn’t pay dowry or swear things before gods. But it is bad as far as Squeegee is concerned. And that’s the crazy contradiction that makes me think she is a serial poser. Squeegee has a Catholic background and is quite a prude on her best-true-to-herself days. You can’t even talk about cum without her breaking into a sweat. But she rolled around with someone’s dude for quite some time without any traces of guilt. A sexually-liberated Catholic feminist who respects her parents’ marriage and does not want children. She would make for a fantastic exorcism candidate, if she doesn’t end up shagging the priest as well.”

“You are not perfect either.”

“I am not pretending to be perfect. I am not a bloody chameleon. What you see is what you get here. One shade.”

“Alright, the one in pink?”

“Apparently she is always looking for good dick and collapsing on short fingers. Such bad luck is hilarious. She has kids and Squeegee says she is setting a bad example. Curious that a woman who has no children knows how they should be raised…”

“So basically these women are every woman’s nightmare.”

“That’s not even the tragic part.”

“Tell me or shut up.”

“They don’t fight for anything. They just make noise. Bad noise.”

“As opposed to good noise?”

“Yeah.”

“Which is what?”

“Noise that has tangible results. Like when I plant my flowers I pour water on them so they grow. I won’t pour acid on them and keep saying At least I planted the damn flowers what have you done? every time someone questions the acid decision.”

“I kinda get it.”

“I wish they got it.”

“They don’t have to.”

“You know, you can’t tell them anything. They have the final word. I am a very practical person. I use my brain most of the time. So, no. I don’t have any resources to spare on them.”

“Yet you just took some time to tell me all their dirt.”

“I was making a point.”

“What point?”

“Fuck them.”

“But they are women like you?”

“Well, a good tree also bears bad fruit…or no fruit at all.”

“The last one. The one with the burger. What do we know about her?”

“That bugger stole someone’s man…well not really cause men are not money to be stolen and when your man likes someone else it is not usually that other person’s fault. Willing seller and buyer… Anyway, she ran off with this guy and apparently his ex keeps calling her and demanding her boyfriend back. But the guy seems to have made up his mind and is even doing permanent things with this one. Not that it is a mark of anything, but you know… But I like her. She should upgrade her crowd though. Those rats will eat her brain.”

“Alright. Now tell me what Squeegee has told them about you that has you distrusting everybody.”

“I don’t know what she has told them. But I know what she told someone else.”

“What?”

“I won’t tell you what but I will tell you how.”

“Okay.”

“She told someone who goes to my AA meetings. Then this person later comes to ask me how I am doing after this and that happened. Being sympathetic to my suffering and you know how I hate a sympathetic stranger. I felt like total shit. It was my story to tell. I needed to heal before telling it because I always tell my own stories without holding anything back. But this bloody bitch just decided to own my business and sell it for free. Then when I confront her she tells me ‘oops’ like my life is a cheap glass that she dropped in her slum kitchen. I let people sit in my affairs and think whatever the fuck they want to think, make fucking fucked analysis and go broadcast it to fucking strangers. Strangers sympathising with me because someone decided to own my misfortune. You have to be some phenomenally fucked up demon to peddle people’s bad luck in exchange for friendship. Her only claim into conversations among friends is regurgitating things she was told in confidence.”

“You can’t blame Squeegee though. You knew she is a pathological gossip. Why did you tell her intimate things?”

“I needed to talk to someone. And I assumed that she would be loyal to me. I don’t know…like I was special enough for her to respect. Bullshit.”

“Like how a mouse would sit in front of a cat and expect to be safe?”

“I was foolish. I am paying for it.”

“Did you ever spill her dirt?”

“Nope. I would never. Maybe just what I told you today.”

“So what type of friendship was that?”

“Something like what I have with you.”

“I am not like her.”

“You just fed on gossip and asked for more. You haven’t even ordered anything.”

“I should order. In the meantime, the pack of hyenas is checking this direction with laughing eyes. I suppose that means she told them everything.”

“I have the mind to go over there and turn the table on their tits.”

“Nope. We’ll order and eat sickly sweat cake, and walk the fuck out of here. My treat.”

© Linda Musita 2017

First published by Enkare Review in February 2017

Squad was among Brittle Paper’s 79 Notable Pieces of 2017 under the Fiction Category and was a top 10 nominee for the Fiction Award in the Inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards for The Best of African Literature Online

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