a collection of selected stories and poetry
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de on e
a t h o u g ht
Of t, You and I Wallow, In the magnitude Of the problem Allow it to corrupt our focus And Suppress all else.
peace mu c h iri
Construing the misshapen figures in his mind hurt. Unravelling the monstrosities of inactivity kept him on his feet, pacing, every second of every day. Always on edge, teeth gritted in concentration. Days became years, solitude became habit, love suffered him no meaning any more. Random events structured his life. If he wasn’t sleeping, he was eating. If he wasn’t eating, he was brushing his teeth. If he wasn’t brushing his teeth… and the cyclic monotony continued. Time held no precedence for him. Life happened because death had refused to visit him and take him on his overdue, eternal vacation. He got down to writing his memoirs; on a whim, by his understanding. There was little motivation for him otherwise. He knew no one he cared to talk to. Knew of nothing he liked; struggling always with whether he’d died in a day or a decade, so, he was writing his memoirs; or a resemblance. It didn’t matter. Just one more shallow critique to fill in that incurable space on his wall of depressive clippings. So he got down to writing his memoirs; on a whim, by his understanding. He had read all the books in the house. They lay strewn all over the floor along with grimy pans and pieces of clothing. Newspaper cuttings were pasted all over his dirty, unpainted walls in a montage; an ode to miserable times passed. Magazine articles lay open, highlighted and underlined over and over so they tore and the writing ineligible. Other literary pieces sat under more kitchenware under his bed. Now, as he sat twiddling his writing implement would he soon have a couple more pieces to paste onto the collage of arbitrariness. He delighted in the fact that he’d acquire one more parchment to criticize and belittle; even if it were inscribed for his eyes only. He began writing. The ferocity of the pen moving on paper excited him yet, at the same time, there was trepidation looming somewhere in the periphery of his mind. “Dear Whoever,” What was to be his last testament began. I once heard the phrase, ‘kick the bucket’, and laughed. Another comes to mind, ‘pulling the plug’ or even worse, ‘returning to the earth’. Fortunate to imagine that day will come, and the million-dollar question is, how would you
like to be remembered? How about a roster of accolades declaring your works? Or, a memorabilia of family members? I remember being in the Kenyan swimming team. Wait, I think I was on the swimming team but have no memorable proof. Anyway, I remember climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. I remember even the time I discovered I had handsome features. Good times! Maybe it’s the joy of knowing you are love He stopped suddenly. He thought he’d heard something, then impulsively brushed it off, his plotline discontinued, blaming the farce on the neighbours’ demon-possessed terrier.
TTLE GIRLS I L E H T R E I REMEMB . ROUND WITH A D E L O O F I’D I remember, the kiss from Sue in Standard 2 behind the teacher’s desk, being top of my class three years, careening down into mediocrity at high school and then complete obscurity in college. I remember graduating with a degree I’d probably have done just as well without. I remember my first pay check at a job with all the perks of routine boredom. And the occasional swap of flirtatious banter with the cute receptionist. Janice. From third floor accounting. Her number is somewhere up on the wall somewhere. Then I decided on a car that was too expensive to buy but took out a loan anyway that I’m still yet to pay off because I am too immature to using public transport... He stopped again. The sound reminded him faintly of rustling leaves. He would kill that dog. Where was I? Its days of leaving smelly presents of manure on his stoop would end in malevolent torture. Concentrate! I remember the little girls I’d fooled around with. Ok, granted I was within that age bracket, but if someone ever did what I’d done to a daughter of mine… I recall the binging, and tried calculating all the money I must have spent on beer, women and cigarettes over the past couple of years. It didn’t take long before I made the first million, regretting. Just for a second. He hesitated and looked over what he had written. Rubbish! This is getting me nowhere. Simply bitter recollections. He was getting frustrated. He didn’t want his articulations become just another doodle. Not anymore anyway. The premise of a memoir...He removed his creased shirt and threw it on the floor next to him. What next, genius?
Ah! There had been a little confusion about who would do it. We found open the liquor cabinet and stole away a small bottle of whisky. Dida’s mum had left the boys and I in the house and was at church. Patrick, or Patsi as we called him, picked up the bottle gingerly with thick sausage-like fingers surveying the contents, lifting it over his enormous head and looking at it through its bottom. The brownish liquid swirled within the glass casing in a sinister manner as I’d never seen any kind of soda do. It was like water, yet, not. He placed it back down, leaned back and slouched; he was already out of breath and wheezed loudly. The four of us sat in a circle on the living room floor of Dida’s Otiende home in Nairobi with the whisky bottle at our centre. We knew what it was, just not what it did, or could do. The TV was off and the curtains drawn for fear of prying eyes. Dida was twelve. He was shrunken and made for an emaciated donor commercial, and the only one of us whom puberty hadn’t yet visited. He looked like a hairless, handsome girl. He contemplated heavily on our next move. He was sweating. Gideon was the youngest of us; he was ten. I was thirteen. It was my birthday. We all looked at Gideon who was wiping away perspiration from his neck with an already browned handkerchief. “Weh, Dida, we don’t have long.” Gideon quipped trying hard to direct attention elsewhere. “You take some.” Dida nodded and then looked at me smiling. “Go ahead, birthday boy. We’re waiting for you.” I took a breath but didn’t hesitate to pick up the bottle, slowly unscrewed the cap. The pungent smell wafted speedily into the room to a chorus of shrill shrieks and moans. I screwed the cap tightly closed and put the bottle back in the centre. Patsi rolled onto his back laughing and holding his nose. “Poo!” He exclaimed. “Aish! True.”. Dida added. Gideon stood up quickly and ran to switch on the overhead fan. But the horrid smell lingered so I suggested we go outside. Gideon was first outside screaming, “Poo!”, almost slamming into the sliding doors to the backyard. Patsi was the last to follow, lumbering slowly with the whisky in one fat hand and his nose in the other. We gathered once outside, on the lime grey gravel of the simple patio and stared at the bottle placed on the ground. Suspiciously, our small shorts weren’t doting of the jagged stones pinching into our bare thighs; but we remained seated anyway. The sun was setting. “Ok. Let’s do it quickly.” I said. “Haiya, we’re waiting for you!” Dida grunted and pinched me on the shoulder.
“Ok, ok, ok.” Everyone held their breath and leaned away. I unscrewed the cap again but this time held my nose. I tipped the revolting drink into my mouth and instantly began coughing. Patsi made to snatch the bottle away from me in case I happened to lose myself and drop it but could only let out a terrible sounding wheeze, his arm outstretched to me. “Don’t spill.” Gideon threatened. Patsi was next. He threw his head back and allowed the alcohol to drain into his throat like it were fruit juice. He passed it on to Dida whom didn’t want to be left out. He took a few deep breaths and, chugged most of what was left down. Gideon, all the while, grimaced nervously with each bodily convulsion he observed us exhibit... He stopped again and this time slammed his hand on the desk he was working at. “Damn that! You’ll soon wish for death when I’m through with you.” He shouted at a noise from outside. Directed hopefully at the terrier; fast becoming his arch enemy. “One more time, just one.” He waited and listened. Waited and listened. ...It’s all ooh’s and ahh’s ‘til the venereal disease one day denies us our daily fodder, and realization of a well-structured risk becomes the ill-fated mistake that leaves in its wake, a spinster, a con man or a 27 room mansion without inhabitants. And we wish we could turn back Father Time’s hands when all along, the child we’d banished into a closet at the entry of puberty finally escapes, to warn us too late Wait. What the hell was he talking about again? I couldn’t hold it in. My eyes had started to water and my throat was burning. I couldn’t get away from the smell. I vomited. My being sick quickly prompted Dida’s own fit of vomiting. Patsi wasn’t sympathetic. “Ah, aah! You guys are cheating. You vomited everything. Eh, Lucas? So now you have to take another. Take. Before you get sober again.” He fumbled unsuccessfully with the tiny bottle cap between his swollen fingers for a long while till I couldn’t take it anymore and took it from him. I gritted my teeth after the long sip then handed the bottle to Dida. I waited for the ‘yuck’ to go away. Dida absolutely refused anymore alcohol and focussed on Gideon whom was having none of it. Dida gave chase, dropping the bottle onto Patsi’s lap and disappeared into the house. Between coughing and wiping away involuntary tears I looked over to where Patsi stood, guzzling down the last of the alcohol. “Eish, you want to die?” I asked quite surprised.
“It’s not that bad, man. But iz okay. Mo fo me.” Greedy pig. He threw the empty bottle over the wall into a neighbour’s compound. “Weh!” I scolded. “Si, someone will find it?” “Ah! Don’t worry. No one will think iz me. Am only tha-teen rememba?” “Isn’t your stomach burning? Eh, mine is doing somersaults.” “Imagine no. Stop being a girl.” I wanted to tell him he was a hippo but the fight with my insides took precedence. We walked into the house with Dida shouting at a locked bathroom door where Gideon sought sanctuary. “You guys…the bottle is finished.” “What?” Dida looked visibly upset. He turned to the door frantically waving a spindly finger. “You see what you’ve done?” Gideon opened the door and stuck his tongue out at Dida then closed the door right back. “Acting like little girls.” Patsi contributed and went towards the kitchen. “Weh!” I shouted after Gideon. “I need to use the bathroom. Get out.” “But he wants to beat me.” Gideon meekly retorted. “He won’t...I promise.” Gideon opened the door and peered sheepishly at us. I pulled him by the scuff of his shirt right into Dida whom raided down on him with slaps and knuckle punches. I forced myself past them into the bathroom. I locked the door, went to the toilet bowl and knelt by it. My head was spinning and I couldn’t control my legs. I was going to vomit again.
s hen came a t , d e b b e Sounds room door h t a b e h t f close to ere part o w I h g u o h T as t “THEY DON’ . y t i l a t u r the b OUR KIND.” BELONG TO
No nurturing gestures met him anymore. The room he sat in stank of sweat and uncleanliness. His meagre domicile sat on a small plot of land separated by a weak wooden fence shrouded by dying leaves of foliage. His six by six lodging made up his kitchen, living room, sleeping quarters and dining room. The dirty dishes had been there so long they no longer reeked. He just stopped making the effort anymore. His bathroom/shower was located in a shrivelled outhouse outside his menial abode. No matter how big the job he could not fathom more than two minutes in that putrid waste disposal box, which now he needed to use.
He leaned back behind his bed and rummaged painstakingly for something he finally pulled out to reveal as a small packet of salt. He kicked away the debris in his way as he made for the door. He locked it once he was outside and slid the bent door key into his back pocket. Cobwebs that once patterned the outside walls in elaborate displays of craftsmanship now hung derelict and old, billowing lazily in the mid afternoon cold breeze. The rainy season looked like it was about to start. He noticed the hole in the bougainvillea fence the neighbours’ terrier used to come in and leave ‘little presents’ at his door. He hated dogs. Licking of their lower extremities all hours of the day, for genuinely no particular reason than self-gratification. Defecating and entertaining sexual practice in plain sight for the world to see. Bloody exhibitionists! Prancing around with their mouths agape and tongues slobbering all over the place, seemingly never having perfected the art of breathing. He would not close the gape right away. A delectable ration of rat poison would be the mongrel’s reward for its clowning. He hesitated at the latrine/shower and folded up his jeans all the way up to the base of his knees. Pulling at an edge of his vest, he used it as a glove to hold and pull at the handle of the latrine door. The door screeched noisily. It leaned unsteadily as it swung open but was caught just before completely falling over by one remaining hinge; retaining its undignified status as a door. As he called in a breath, held his nose and courageously entered the dark box. He finished his business in a glimpse and gingerly tiptoed out of the latrine. He breathed once outside and stood a moment to catch his breath. He remembered the packet of salt he still held in his hand and cursed as he turned to go back into the sick. He got back into his house and plopped onto the bed frustrated by how tired he’d gotten, just using the loo. In his hurry to the latrine, he’d kicked away his scribbled ravings that took him a bothered moment to find. He couldn’t find his pen either and so continued writing in pencil. Then came the crash. Like a collision of feet or shoulders running painfully into a solid object. I hesitated. “KILL! KILL!” I heard mysterious voices rant. It was like a delirious vision, and my paraplegic state of affairs rooted me safely in the arms of the toilet. A piercing scream or two followed; a heart wrenching thud came with the scream; cutlery and furniture crashed and shattered in contact with brute force. Sounds ebbed, then came as close to the bathroom door as though I were part of the brutality. “THEY DON’T BELONG TO OUR KIND.” I flinched each time I heard a fist or what sounded like a machete, make contact. I hurled as quietly as I could muster. I still couldn’t find my sea legs
and held on tightly to my ceramic saviour. I wanted my mother and I wept; suspiciously drowning out the devilish sounds coming from the other side of the door. I cried myself into a headache; and a sore throat that, incidentally, never healed after that day. The beginning of puberty; leaving in its wake speech masked under hoarse rumblings no one could understand for weeks. “Big boys don’t cry.” I heard my mother speak from somewhere in my subconscious. So I stopped. Briefly at least, long enough to notice the din had gone. An evil silence loomed and I hurled once more.
Everyday the same; every meal, the sam e flavour. I waited a while, to see shadows of footsteps from the crack under the door but none came. I waited even longer to hear a sound, any sound. The whirr of a fan; the rumble from the fridge; the hiss of the T.V.; anything. But nothing. Just the silence. Threatening. I finally got tired of vomiting. My stomach ached from the painful spasms. I slid myself on the floor towards the door. I put my ear to the crack but all I received was a cold uninviting chill. I still waited. Not sure what else to do, not wanting to know what was happening or what had happened outside. I fell asleep; right there on the floor mat. Drooling like I hadn’t slept for days. He was getting tired of writing. But he knew if he didn’t finish it now, it would never end. The story would go untold, and forever his feelings would be like money buried in the ground and turn to nothing. He got up and walked around the room cracking his fingers with each step, settling his mind wanderings. It was still early morning but he wasn’t going to go to work. Not today. That portion of his life was over with. The sun hadn’t fully clawed over the horizon beyond the trees he could not be bothered to look over. So standing at the hole in the wall responsible for being a window, he watched the bushy bougainvillea fence rustle lightly, imagining the morning dew evaporating, making way for the approach of the cancer induced effects of sunlight. Everyday the same; every meal, the same flavour. The flighty banter of the workplace had brought him close to all out murder. He wasn’t going to work. Not today. I woke up suddenly. It had gotten brittle cold and I was shivering. I had a headache and was unpleasantly thirsty. My mouth was open the whole time I’d been asleep and now my tongue felt heavy and dry. I smacked my lips to help
find saliva but quit it when I realized someone might hear me. Still no sounds came from the other side of the bathroom door but a weird smell had started to waft intrusively up my nose. I peeled open the door, my mind still a little preoccupied by the lack of spit in my mouth. I peered into the adjacent corridor and noticed the front door lying battered over the thin wall-to-wall carpeting of the corridor floor. I turned to look to the sitting room and saw a face looking back at me from one side of the doorway. I retreated and locked the bathroom door waiting to be found out. No sound came after me, no scuffling footsteps. Nothing! So I opened the door again and peeked. Dida’s face greeted me from his vantage point off the floor; absent yet even, calm. I whispered out to him to follow me into the bathroom. I whispered about how long I’d thought I’d been in the bathroom and asked what all the noise was about earlier. He didn’t reply but just stared at me. I glanced over to the gaping hole where the door used to be, checking whether I was being followed, then slowly crawled towards Dida. He didn’t even flinch, like he had fallen asleep with his eyes closed. I whispered a little louder this time, making sure to check behind me erratically scared of being ambushed in my attentive absence. Stopping far enough to reach out and nudge him, I watched for a reaction. His head rolled, severed away from a cadaver that was not there. All response suddenly left me. My eyes alone did the work now. I didn’t know how to react or what to think. A pool of now coagulated blood sat sticky and dark from where Dida’s head had been. I couldn’t see the others, except for a torso I registered quickly as Patsi’s. The torso had on his t-shirt; blood-stained but unmistakable. No. No work today. Not ever. He was done writing. He placed the pencil on the stack of papers and breathed a sigh of defeat. Nothing more. He heard the tapping of unclipped claws trotting over his cemented stoop. That dog! He lifted one of the overturned pans littering his floor to reveal a small packet of Rat Attack. Rat poison. Some for you and some for me. He thought grievously. “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 14:6
Millions of people have lost their lives from heartl ess acts of prejudic e across th e globe. Thousands o f Kenyans d ied from similar bru tal and vic ious acts during post -election v iolence of 2007-200 8. Let us remember those whose lives have been lost. Lest we forget and find death on repeating ourselves.
IN THE WAITING LINE WORDS
A sunny Saturday, 3:12 pm, Moi International Airport, Mombasa. I’ve been waiting at the airport, anxiously. I heard a plane land a couple of minutes back. I ask a taxi driver next to me, who confirms that it is indeed the plane I have been anticipating. The shrill from the dual jet-engined Boeing 737-700 can be heard clearly, but absurdly, the mammoth aircraft cannot be seen. After about two minutes, the behemoth powers down, and the loud whine of the engine turbines diminishes into inaudibility. Small groups of idle chit-chatters that were dispersed variously begin to consolidate behind the shiny metal barrier that signifies the “No-standing-beyond-this-point” line. There is a long pause that hangs in the air. Motionless, gaping luggage claim doors taunt us like jesters about to perform a silly magic trick, but nothing happens. The wait is longer than I expect - why is it taking so long for voyagers to emerge? I glance at my digital watch; only four minutes have passed. “Eish man!”, I exclaim inwardly. Five minutes later, the first traveller reveals himself. An aged, short African man in a baggy, black suit, blazer unbuttoned, with a protruding belly and a small suitcase, waddles out. He’s on the phone, and he feels important. Then, an Indian chap, also just below average height, dressed in a smart, white shirt rolled-up at the sleeves revealing a shiny watch, tucked inside a pair of blue, well-fitting Levis, dawning a pair of smart-casual brown shoes to match, walks briskly across the hall. He also has a small suitcase which he drags by the handle. Business class passengers. Their need to purchase the significantly more expensive air tickets to travel on the same aeroplane somehow tickles me. Usually solitary, I watch as more of them stride majestically across the waiting area, apparently without a doubt in their minds as to where they are going, and who is going to get them there. They walk in straight lines, from the luggage claim doors to their entourage - the shortest distance between two points; the epitome of astute, business ethic. More people mill out, in small clusters this time. A herd of confused looking tourists with huge bag packs and tacky, tourist, safari wear wander about clumsily looking for some kind of transportation that will shuttle them into the depths of the mother land. They have come here for inspiration, meaning and
soul searching; if they could just clasp a handful of red earth in their hands and let it spill back out, they would understand the secret of life. I couldn’t care a bit about any of these people, and I’m still staring at the opaque glass where everyone seems to be emerging from, as if I could change its consistency and make it transparent.
All of a sudden, the open hall appears to brighten ever so slightly. Suddenly, no one seems to be magically appearing from the heart of the building any more, like magic cookies from a giant cookie factory. As if by an act of God, people slowly vanish from my vision. Even the Samaritan taxi driver on my left is gobbled up from my periphery by a hungry vacuum. Yes, the giant room does appear to grow brighter; it is delightfully picturesque, like the setting of a late, 1960’s picture shot in sepia.
G SHE IS LOOKIN ONE E M O S R .O .. G N I F OR SOMETH A young woman emerges, about 5 7”, with dark, slightly wavy hair, and caramel skin apparently devoid of any blemishes. She slowly pushes her trolley, laden with a particularly large suitcase and a plethora of smaller bags all piled up on top of it, through the luggage claim doors and into the waiting area. Her alert, hazel brown eyes seem to glisten slightly. They are soft, but they are filled with what appears to be a compassionate, yet infinitely powerful meekness and quiet determination, the kind that is reminiscent of the wise Queens of old; heirs to ancient powerful kingdoms now long forgotten. She methodically scans the horizon of dark Homo Sapiens before her, most of whom are holding up signs with “TAXI” written on them in a capital Times New Roman font. They stare back blankly, like a herd of cud-chewing Gazelle. Each time she turns her head, her shoulder-length, bouncy hair eloquently follows after her with an unassuming, flirtatious swing, subsequently coming to rest on her elegant neck and shoulders. She’s looking for something, or someone. Anxiousness be-gets her delicate, exotic features; her full, plush lips curl up tightly as she explores her environ. She slows her trolley-pushing down to a crawl, and this seems to illicit a wave of excitement from the hopeful taxi drivers. They wave their white, “TAXI” placards in one hand, and raise the other straight out in front of them, snapping their fingers and pointing at this captivating spectacle before them, in a bid to acquire some kind of acknowledgement from the curious being
from another place. Her shifting gaze is solid, and she’s unperturbed by these strange mortals. Her upright, regal poise is somewhat formidable, and she draws out a stare, even from me. She wears fashionable attire like second skin; a yellow, light, hip-length summer top, escorted by a pair of well-fitting dark blue skinny jeans on fine, flowing thighs and legs. A pair of yellow slip-ons marks the end of an eye candy journey. An African-like beaded necklace and a large yellow bangle on the left wrist seem to portray a lack of interest to impress, or be impressed by anybody. A shiny array of numerous, silver looped earrings on each ear arouses the curiosity, and a metallic eye brow piercing makes her seem even more other-worldly, at least in these parts. My awe is abruptly arrested when I realize that she is staring straight at me. I suddenly realize that I had been captivated by this person, hopelessly intrigued. All this while, I had been exploring her objectively. But when I hear my name, in that nostalgic, feminine voice that has now become a part of a world I had once before never known, I thaw instantly. An inexplicably overwhelming feeling of joy commandeers me directly towards this masterpiece, ignoring the metallic, no-trespassing rule. As I approach her she temporarily leaves her belongings unattended, and paces towards this tall, dark, medium-built figure in a t-shirt and fitting denims. In one swift instant, I embrace my girlfriend in a hug that instantly sheds the burden of an eight month-long absence from the love of my life. Her hug is equally strong, as if the harder we embrace the more we would love each other. It lingers, and it is heavenly. “I’ve missed you so much...” is all that can escape my face, buried in her neck and hair. She pulls back, and kisses me on my lips in a girly, excited fashion, and beams back at me like I was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The goddess of the airport waiting hall, had disappeared.
i love you words
The words i ache to say. To meet he who deserves it i pray. To meet he who shall not stray. He who when entwined in his arms, to my rhythm he shall sway. The words i ache to write. Addressed with the ink of my emotions, dull becomes bright. Each letter a confirmation of my feelingsâ€™ might. Each word penned down with an effortless fight. The words i ache to breathe. To dance a waltz on my tongue for you to please. To caress and escape my lips with ease. And then engulf you first lips then soul, your problems cease. The words i ache to say, write, breathe. The words that are the most complex of the simple truth. Words most sincere. Words that travel from my heart for you to hear. Words that will never find a worthy listener. And so i ache to say, to write, to breathe.
READING. . .
We at FREQUENCYMODULE have been blessed with an opportunity. And if we can be so brass as to speak for all creatives everywhere, if opportunity has proven elusive, then we’re off to find that cave it’s hiding in. There is talent that resides among us and the written word is still a very powerful medium that we mustn’t ignore. Literature is no longer the premier media outlet. When in contention with the exploding need for viewing entertainment, the art of story telling has been relegated to movie screenplays and our reading culture has dwindled. Herein lies the opportunity. Story tellers are still very much out there; and FM strives to be one courageous outlet for exposure. FM is an online initiative and the FREQUENCYMODULE EPISODES is the first in a long line of online books we will be publishing; and for free viewing too! These episodes will be available every 1st week of every month, feautring stories and poetry in its diversity. And this is just the beginning. We hope you enjoyed this short collection and loook forward to seeing you again in the next episode... God bless.
A collection of poetry and short stories from around Kenya