By Kenneth Jura
Henry, the second born child known to be cheeky yet his smooth oval shaped face would never depict this character. He had two other sister Tess and Tracy. Henry’s sisters were bigger than Henry and each time his play mates would tell him that instead of eating, his sisters would do so on his behalf. He had the tiniest frame in the estate, the youngest, shortest, cheekiest yet he was at the top of his class whenever they sat for exams.
His classmate Emale was two years older. He stood by the sidelines of the field as he watched his classmates play. There was a time Ronnie, he was the fairer footballer, hit him with a ball in an attempt to make him join the rest in playing. He did not barge. Fortunately, the two found a unique friendship in that Henry would be teased that he does not eat yet Emale was the contrary.
Henry’s father the headmaster popularly known as “Mwalimu” of a nearby school and the mother a clinician were both loved as they were kind save for the mother who almost loved quarreling . Mwalimu’s son was loved too by his fellow children because they were the only ones in the estate to own a TV and Henry had a ball. Two luxury things yet, a-must-have as a kid.
Henry liked Sandra a girl who was from a nearby estate, Bondeni. A field divided the two estates, to access their estate you had to go round but because boys are always boys they made an access route through the hedge for easy access whenever their ball went over the fence or whenever Henry wanted to see her. Henry and his friends had to do this very fast lest they were caught by Ole Lempa, Bondeni’s watchman who had a chimney on his mouth. He had tried severally to seal the hole but they knew just how to maneuver.
Henry’s friends feared being beaten and kicked by the one and only Ole Lempa, so whenever they kicked the ball over the fence many would melt leaving Henry to sort the matter after all it was his ball. On two occasions Ole Lempa deflated the ball and on the other he confiscated it rendering the boys powerless. As he continued with his life, Henry knew laissez-faire attitude would be hard.
Together with Emale they plotted to get back their ball through hook and crook. Sandra informed the duo that Ole Lempa had put it in his “house” that he took cover in when the sun’s rays became unbearable. The plot worked out well when Sandra pretended to have called him for tea at their house yet Emale went in to take the ball upon which he would throw it to Henry.
A day later Ole Lempa was so shocked to see them play with the same ball he thought he had confiscated.
“If the field becomes too small for you then I will keep the ball for you” said the mean looking guy.
As the game became sweeter more legs came on the tiny pitch that had yellowish grass at the end of each goal post. Emale’s cousin, Gody kicked the ball more than the field could manage and it went passed the hedge and onto Ole Lempa’s roof. They all cursed Gody for not having mindful feet and simply being a football glutton. Emale quickly rushed on the edge of the hedge to check whether the lanky watchman was watchful, he had the ball neatly tucked under his armpit ready to whip however went through . Henry did not think twice because his ball was being held by his adversary.
Head first through the hedge only to be received with “ngoto”, other children waved angrily protesting against Ole Lempa’s apparent will to punish Henry. The tall fellow held Henry by his t-shirt pushing him into his house for some thorough caning.
“Leave me alone, leave me alone” Henry squirmed in pain.
Emale struggled to go through the fence and successfully managed.
“What have you done to him, it is not fair, and we are only kids. Emale asked.
“Children who are not disciplined, children who are not obedient” retorted Ole Lempa.
“I will do to you something you will never forget in your life”. Henry said as he dusted himself hastily with tears freely flowing from his cheeks.
Defiantly, they went through the same route that they had been told not to use. Henry had nothing to lose; he had already paid the price of using it, after all.
Three months went by; Henry’s mum monitored how often he played with his ball after whispers reached her that Henry had been beaten. One Saturday afternoon, Emale and Henry were seated under the shed talking about how they would be playing with fireworks in the evening then Ole Lempa peeped through the hedge.
“Emale, come here” he said lowering his voice pleadingly.
Emale ran knowing that he would be sent.
“I want you to buy for me 4 sticks of Supermatch cigarettes at the shop” Ole Lempa said as his kneck craned both ways to avoid being seen.
As they strolled to the shop which was some blocks away, Henry told Emale that he had an idea that he wished to share after purchasing the cigarettes. After the purchase they took a different route and near Mwangi’s garage Henry took out the tobacco from the supermatch stick then put fireworks that he had in his buggy shorts, Diwali was two days away. He took another stick and did the same. Carefully he returned the contents. Henry did all this to Emale’s dismay.
“Why did you take all that time” Ole Lempa shouted at Emale
“I was doing you a favour, so stop policing me” Emale curtly answered.
He took his cigarettes and threw a five shillings coin at Emale and quickly sealed the hedge.
Henry rose from his sitting position to see how Ole Lempa would smoke.He hoped that he would start with the cigarette that had fireworks. Ole Lempa thirstily took out a cigarette lit it then followed by a long emphatic inhale while raising his head in search of ecstasy. Henry gleefully watched from the fence. Emale ran to their house.
After several puffs, a loud overwhelming bang rent the air. People around Ole Lempa’s shelter scampered for safety only to raise their heads after seeing the bony fellow down and blood oozing from his nose and mouth. As neighbors gathered around him Henry stood stiff from the fence not knowing what to do.
Sandra’s aunt, who also worked with Henry’s mother had just arrived from work. She was quickly summoned to help their watchman who was between life and death. She pinched his nose and immediately told Sandra to call Jose, the ambulance’s driver. After 20 minutes the ambulance’s sirens were heard from a distance coming to Bondeni estate. He was put in the ambulance and the crowd that had gathered started to ask what really had happened? What led to the blast?
To be continued