The pestle of life

By Kenneth Jura | Kenya

It all seemed uniquely dark than usual, school going children had already left, the sounds of chirping birds rose and fell as the sun tried to pierce through the clouds’ opaqueness. The weather however had never deterred anyone from going about their day’s chores.

The village stood conspicuously on the hill, its face towards the highlands and its back towards the plains. On the other side was yet another hill conjoined with a low land, all its waters going downhill like tears on dry cheeks.

The sun had dimmed slightly by the time Kinyua took water to his father’s animals. He was carrying a 20 liter-jerry-can from the homestead’s watering point when he overheard a group of girls talking across the fence. They laughed quite loudly as if to mock him and perhaps get his attention. At first he pretended not to be perturbed by their directed attention, nevertheless they incessantly and deliberately mentioned his name which got him quite worried. He could see them quite well because the kraal was near the fence.

“Wewe mbona uoga? Hutaki  kupanda mbegu?” Hey, why the cowardice? Why don’t you want to “plant a seed” quipped one lady who turned her nose up at Kinyua.

“Wacha kupoteza wakati na muoga kama huyo, simba bure kabisa” (stop wasting your time with such a coward, toothless lion) Wambui shouted as she walked away gyrating her derrière in annoyance but to the amazement of Kinyua who wanted to respond but found his words too much of a mouthful.

“Why did they have to say that?” Kinyua kept asking himself sometimes hitting his head on the wall in a bid to try to squeeze some answers from his skull. He enjoyed making sure that his father’s animals were well fed despite the presence of the workers who also enjoyed his company and he often shrugged off the boss’ coat while engaging with them.

After feeding his father’s animals he decided to take the battle to Wambui’s doorstep by teasing her, “Wambui oka haha (come here Wambui)”.

Nũ ũreta ta ngui? (Who are you beckoning at like a dog?)”

Wambui’s friends milled around her, Kinyua knew he had to make sure that all was under control lest he gets a merciless beating from the girls, after all he was in their territory.

“Kindly come we have a chat, I am sorry for bothering you ladies, as you know I came in peace”

“Which peace yet…” but Njambi’s shout was interjected by Wambui “leave him alone”.

She walked towards him, then followed him out of the plantation.

Kinyua’s intelligence went beyond Kangara hills, many a times when his name was mentioned as the top perfomer in his school students’ claps were heard as far as the nearest market which was 2 km away. Every child in Kangara was told to emulate Kinyua or even surpass his academic prowess. Kinyua’s rĩĩka (age mates) were married to alcohol, they dreamt and breathed the liquid, most of them drunk their lunch.

Kinyua’s words to the young girl were received with a smile and reciprocated with a pat on his shoulder. He sat with her on the river bed talking about many things; from the great Dedan Kimathi to how she managed escaping the cut.

“Must I undergo the cut to prove that I am a woman?” posed Wambui.

“Dukamake ona hanini, Wĩ Wambui wa Kamau. Muirĩtu uria muthaka muno Kangara.

(You do not need to worry at all, you are Wambui wa Kamau. The most beautiful girl in Kangara”.

Her radiant smile increased at each word that he threw her direction.

Months went on and Kinyua kept talking about Wambui to his pals. He felt exuberantly happy as other boys could neither afford her ear nor her time. Kinyua stood out from his peers because of his profound intellect that was quite witty though remained as humble as his father who rarely spoke unless whistling when tending to his animals.

Wambui helped Kinyua’s parents to grind some maize, when evening approached Kinyua wanted to assist her in the pounding of the maize to get it finer.

“I remember each time we would grind and pound maize like this, a sweet, satisfying and inexplicable feeling would engulf my stomach because I knew it would see more than two meals a day.I would hold the pestle with both hands like this, get the first pounding into the mortar uncoordinated however after some minutes there is a seamless coordination between the pounds and a sweet sound of joy that each time I got scratches on my back,” Kinyua said.

They were all dripping with sweat after the content in the mortar was poured into a small jute bag.

Kinyua broke the ominous silence “Can you manage being well fed for several months with your tummy many times its size?”

“Hahaha why not.”

Edited by Alex Ikawah