Saturday Lounge Reflections
Back in the village in the proverbial land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve the moon rose slowly, tentatively and imperceptibly, its soft silhouette rays breaking the virginity of the night.
Slowly darkness gave way to moonlight. I twisted and turned on the cold floor, my same-age uncle, Obedience, his younger brother Robert and myself, fought for a bigger share of the single blanket, all night.
Below that blanket was a reed mat covered by one sheet of cloth.
Every few minutes there was the pulling fight. This was an every-night fight, that fortunately did not spill to daylight activities. During the day we were good and doing chores as a team, but night was terrible.
This night, the youngster must have eaten too much groundnuts, roasted sweet potatoes and drank too much sweet beer.
His tummy rumbled. He was breaking wind too often. Air! There were intermittent loud and silent farts, the silent ones only announcing themselves through smell. It made sleep uncomfortable, worse still, for boys who slept covering their heads to avoid stinging mosquitoes.
Our day had started with milking cattle, then herding them all day, together with goats.
The goats in particular were troublesome. They never settled. They would graze in darts and run. They would browse and munch in motion. We kept a close eye on them.
At sunset we tethered the goats and closed up the cattle. With dust and mud caked on our feet, we still did not want to bath. We avoided bathing as much as we could.
As usual our tactic was to delay getting into the house, until it’s a bit late, or about the time grandma prepared food.
That way she would be too busy to focus on our dirty legs.
This day we won again against grandma, but we discovered it was one of those good nights when we roasted sweet potatoes after supper. That was our comeuppance. Desert, desert, rare desert.
Grandpa was, especially good in calming the fire from huge licking flames to mere red-hot pebbles of charcoal. On the eaves of the fireplace, we lined up our sweet potatoes in their various shapes and forms. Once in while the fire cracked and sparked, sending shrapnel in all directions and we turned our heads and winked to avoid damages to the eyes.
But in situations like these, the resultant smoke always triggered a stubborn mucus flow from the nostrils, that one always battled with a systematic frown and nose pull-up. Sniff!
The problem was when the mucus combined with phlegm and one needed to go out and spit and it was always dark outside. What with the stories of ghosts and snakes (by the way we never called snakes by their names at night, we called them strings)?
After the desert we retired to sleep and the struggle for that one blanket started. Obedience and myself being the older boys, slept on the far end with Robert on the centre. Either struggle Robert as the younger benefited as the fight was on the ends. I had mastered the art of plucking the blanket under my body to lock it from being pulled off by Obedience. He did the same too.
After the traditional shoving, pulling and plucking under, we settled and, slumber took over.
Suddenly there was an uncomfortable waft of warmth, which immediately disappeared and gave way to uncomfortable coldness. Karitundundu wee! It was urine. Robert had done it again. I woke both boys to go and relieve ourselves outside and they seemed not interested. I opened the door and Obedience reluctantly followed. There was now a full moon. The toilet was too far and our usual venue was the edge of the banana plantation. There Obedience commented, “the moon is too shiny today”.
From somewhere a voice retorted; “You say it’s too clear, but can you see me?” We dashed back, our business unfinished and by the time we settled in the house, we had wet our pants.
We thought it was some ghost, but grandpa told us the following morning, it was some freedom fighter who had spent the night in the bananas coves.
We stayed across Mupinge River at Farm 29 Nyakapupu, then called Nyakapupu Small-Scale Commercial Farming area.
The farm we stayed at in particular, belonged to my grandfather on my mother’s side, Philemon Obedience Masakara. The young Obedience had been named after grandpa and he took great pride in that.
Grandpa was a great philosopher and we liked him for his proverbs, depth of character and knowledge of conservation issues and farming.
When we started attending primary school across Mupinge River, Grandpa was worried about the flooding.
At first he crossed us in the morning and crossed us in the afternoon. But as workload increased it became impossible for him to help us cross. Therefore, he pegged the safe water level by cutting off a patch of bark from a riverine tree.
If we found water higher than that mark, we were then supposed to wait for him or shout for help and not cross on our own.
The other rule was to remove shoes when crossing the river to avoid slipping. We were also supposed to remove our uniform to avoid drenching them.
It was a delicate balance crossing one hand on grandpa and another holding on to precious uniforms. We had no shoes so the slippery part was no issue of consequence. We religiously followed his instructions and the system worked until we became confident of ourselves.
One afternoon there was a light drizzle and the water level did not rise too high. It was way before the mark. We decided to cross. But we thought we had become much cleverer than grandpa. Why would we cross with our uniforms in the hands? Why?
We quickly devised a method. We removed our uniforms, wrapped stones in the clothes and tied them. The trick was to throw the clothes across the river leveraging their weight with the stones. Then cross freely. For fun, we agreed to throw the clothes simultaneously, so, we counted one . . . two . . . three, throw!
Eish, none of us managed to throw hard enough to cross the river. They dropped into the river and we watched in anguish as the current dragged them downstream into more dangerous area. They were gone.
With no underwear, (we wore no underwear those days so you can imagine the dangling bits) — we laboured to get home, ducking women fetching firewood. We got to the cattle pens and shouted for help. Instead of grandpa coming to the rescue, it was grandma.
We had small tree branches we used to cover our essentials. She laughed her lungs out and called for grandpa as we slouched into the home, trying to hide our nudity.
It was not taken lightly. Granny had sold her groundnuts from the previous harvest to at least buy us uniform.
We were beaten silly. It was a flog that taught us a lesson.