It was mid-night. The sky was moonless. The bedroom was in pitch darkness. No light was coming in through the openings at the ruffian thatched roof. Ndorobo was only feeling the warm back of his wife. And the painful pangs of hunger in his stomach. He had gone to bed without having the evening meal. He only took a calabash of water on an empty stomach. The wooden bars of the bed were also pressing hard at his ribs through the thin film of a home-made sisal mattress. He was not certain if his wife sabinjaki was a sleep or not. But she was not snoring as she does when she is usually a sleep. He wanted to wake her up. But he was always putting aside the idea. He did not have the energy to waken her up, he was hungry and afraid. Afraid of the local terror group, the Sabaot land defense force (SLDF).Its armed young men can break into the house any time only to chop off the heads of each and every one then walk way. Walk away in the name of defending the communal land from selfish appetite of the ever encroaching foreigners.
From its corner, Kipchumba the Cockerel clapped its wings, and then shouted the warning of morning’s arrival. Its sharp sound of cock-crow had to woken up Sabinjaki. She yawned for almost have a minute.Ndorobo was already half a sleep, but faintly sensing Sabinjaki’s yawn. She turned around in bed, threw away the shreds of old blanket and slapped at Ndorobo’s back, to woken him up. He felt her slap, then woke up and then coughed without spitting at the wall some thick mucus as usual.
I am hungry, she snarled at him.
‘What you mean?’
‘I am also hungry; my intestines are just turning around.’
Kipchumba the Cockerel jumped away from its corner, made some irritating noise, jumping here and there then finally perched at the arm of the old chair that was standing askew like a huge marionette near the bed-head. Kipchumba crew again, but very noisily this time round, making whatever that Sabinjaki had begun to say to be inaudible.
‘What were you saying?’ Ndorobo asked in a hoarse and hopeful tone.
‘Why are you keeping Kipchumba when hunger is killing us?
‘What do you want me to do with Kipchumba?’
‘Give me permission with your own mouth I slaughter it, so that we have something to eat, even if only for two days, it will be better,’
‘Yes, two days, look, on the first day, Bungomek will eat the head, Pok will eat the drumstick, Kabunjosek will eat the legs, Goni will eat the wings, then you will eat the back as well as the other remaining drumstick, and I will eat the left bust.’
‘What about the gizzard?’
‘O yes, you will also eat the gizzard. Then we take the soup and a lot of water, and then we reserve the remaining pieces for the following day. It will be better than having the children to sleep on an empty belly day-in-day-out.’
‘But I want you to remember what I told you, my wife, I told you that I had earmarked Kipchumba for the forth-coming cock-fight contest between us and other tribes around here.’
‘Ndorobo, my husband!’
‘Whatever that is in the stomach carries whatever that is in the head.’
‘Don’t learn how to use those Bukusu proverbs on me, when has a chitapkoret like me and a Chetapgoret like you solved a problem by using Bukusu proverbs?’ Ndorobo dismissed Sabinjaki with air of offense.
‘But the Bukusu men and women are our masters, what is wrong in learning their wisdom? Look they own the County government of Bungoma. We are now dying of foodlessness here in the mountain, and they are down there at the slopes, relaxed and basking in abundance of every category, from food to drink to attires, what does a Bukusu man lack?
‘Manners and very many other things...’
‘Which Manners does a Bukusu man or woman lack? A Bukusu man is the saviour of our County, I mean Bungoma County; he is the freedom fighter, founder of our religion, he leads us in education and owning of property, you know very well that owning is better than pretending. A Bukusu man can have two or three wives in the broad-day-light without fear or failure. Show me a man of sabaot tribe that identifies himself as Chitapkoret that can be able to feed two wives even for a week.’
‘But you are a Sabaot woman.’
So! What if I am a sabaot woman?’
‘It is only a mad woman that can admire the enemy. Admire the enemy without being ashamed.’
‘I am not admiring the enemy, I am hungry, and my children are sleeping without eating because of the thoughtless war among ourselves , we are busy killing ourselves, and down there at the slopes of the mountain, Bukusu men and women are living peacefully and ejaculating children like locusts.’
‘Stop your Bukusu song and say what you wanted to say.’
‘Let us slaughter Kipchumba. Listen to me my Husband; let us slaughter our cockerel Kipchumba so that I have something to eat for my breasts can produce milk for Goni to suckle, for two days Goni has been struggling to get milk from my breasts but nothing.’
From the other room, Goni youngest of the children began crying from where she was sleeping. She did not want to sleep in the urine that Bungomek had pissed on the beddings. All the children of Ndorobo, Bungomek, Pok, Kabunjosek and Goni share the same mattress; they cover themselves with one old blanket with side of holes thrown to Bungomek because she is somehow old to withstand bites of the cold night. Bungomek is the elder, but she still wets the beddings. Her mother, Sabinjaki, has been saying that may be Bungomek wets the beddings at such a big age because she will have uncountable children from her matrix when she gets married.
Goni continued to cry with intermittent whining; there was also a sudden paroxysm of noise from outside, singing birds, cock-crows from the neighbourhood, whistles of men driving different teams of oxen to the field for ploughing, sound of the rain-bird clicking and the faint cooing of the owl. The morning had come. The morning on which Ndorobo realized that you can not play tricks with hunger. He accepted to do away with Kipchumba. But not slaughtering it as Sabinjaki had wanted. He opted to sell it away so that he can use the proceeds to buy some food. He was sure of buying some two bags of waru potatoes and a debe of maize using the money he will get from selling Kipchumba.
Sabinjaki instantly liked the idea of selling Kipchumba. She listened to Ndorobo without losing her attention as he cautioned her that they better sell Kipchumba than slaughtering it. He cautioned that selling will enable them to buy some food and also spare some money to pay for Bungomek’s end term examination fees. They owe the school teacher thirty shillings.
We must pray for you before you leave to the fowl market at chwele, Sabinjaki said to Ndorobo. She was suckling Goni as she said this to her husband, not for the sake of suckling but for the sake of preventing Goni from making noise or crying. Ndorobo did not decline. He respects prayers in the morning. His respect for prayers in such mornings is out of his faith that prayers can make one to get a non-troublesome buyer of the Cockerel.
Sabinjaki nodded her head at Kabunjosek to get hold of Kipchumba before it goes out. Such assignments are usually given to Kabunjosek because he is the only boy in the family. He was recently circumcised along with his sisters; Bungomek and Pok. Though they never shared the same menjo house when nursing the wounds. He was ostracized in his own menjo house, but Bungomek and Pok used one Menjo house.
Kabunjosek, dived at Kipchumba, got hold of it at its long featherless neck. There was no noise. Bungomek and Pok giggled at him, teasing him that he was Kabunjosek the Kiplangwet or Kabunjosek the human-fox. Sabinjaki derided them to shut up their foolish mandibles. They shrank their slender faces and walked out giggling, leaving behind Ndorobo, Sabinjaki and Kabunjosek in a prayer.
It took Ndorobo three hours to reach to Chwele fowl-market. It was such easy for him today because it was a chilly morning, Kipchumba was not heavy given that for the past one month it had not been eating well due to lack of grains, but above all else Ndorobo was walking down-slope. But when walking up-slope, he usually walks for five hours from Chwele Market to his home, he does not nowadays enjoy walking up the slope as he used to sometimes ago.
It was a big surprise to Ndorobo to find that nowadays the road at Chwele market is now tarmacked.It is in deep black colour like a black snake. It was only two years ago when Ndorobo was at the market, and now the road is all tarmacked. Why the person tarmacking roads didn’t make an effort of also going to tarmac the roads up there in the Mountain? Ndorobo mused within himself as he stopped walking for some few minutes to admire the tarmacked road. A reckless Motor bicycle boda boda rider almost crushed Ndorobo down; Ndorobo was lost into looking at the road. He did not notice when the boda boda motor-bike neared him. It was when he was in deep thoughts about his brothers at home busy killing one another, when other people are on a gradual transition from poverty into good things. This is the time Ndorobo had began to admire life in the land of the Bukusu nation, then boda boda rider pushed Ndorobo away from the road, loudly snarling at him never to be dozing on the road with a white cockerel under the arm.
Ndorobo re-collected himself without picking a quarrel with the boda boda rider. He did not come to quarrel with the owners of the land. He came to sell the cockerel. He kept himself to this discipline. He walked up the market looking at the writings at the top of the business houses. Kipchumba under his left arm. He wanted to find a hotel where he can sell Kipchumba and then buy some tea to drink. He came from home without putting anything in his stomach. He walked up and down the market for two hours without getting where he could sell Kipchumba. Some smear of cock-shit now very palpable at its behind. Good-luck it was not giving a bad smell. Ndorobo was now tired. Kipchumba had begun looking more thin and thin like a white stork. Ndorobo felt like throwing Kipchumba away and walk back home, but he had no where else to get money from.
A short stout and jovial man of about forty years was standing at a door of a business house that did not have a label at the top of the door frame. The man looked like a retired footballer. The man was putting on a khaki shirt and a white short trouser. There were king-sized side pockets on each side of the short trouser. His shoes were made from the used-up rubber of a car tyre. He had a wooden necklace bearing image of the Virgin Mary around his short and thickset neck. He had some growth of black hair which he had combed into an afro-style. This hairstyle gave the man a sexy appearance like the esefu bird. When the man talks he exposes a spectacle of natural gap in the upper row of his front teeth. Ndorobo was convinced that this man with very good body make-up and comely effect on the look must be one of the owners of the soil around Chwele market. Certainly, the man shouted some words of greetings at Ndorobo in Lu-bukusu the local language of the market, but Ndorobo responded back in Kiswahili, the only language Ndorobo could speak beyond his mother tongue.
Surprisingly, the man began speaking to Ndorobo in deep accented Kiswahili like that one spoken by the natives of Zanzibar and Pemba. Fortunately, Ndorobo got some words but not all of what the man was saying.
How much are you selling this bird my brother, the man asked Ndorobo in Kiswahili as he picks Kipchumba from the hands of Ndorobo, he held it head first, hanging it by the legs, Kipchumba did not make any sound, only a long film of white mucus streamed from its loosely open beak to the ground each time the man shook it.
‘Mzee! Your cockerel is very sick, look at how its mouth is watering,’ the man shouted at Ndorobo.
Ndorobo did not answer back; he only looked down, praying in his heart that the man stops shouting about defects of Kipchumba.
‘How much money do you want for this sick bird?
‘Six hundred shillings.’
‘No, it can’t fetch you that ’
‘Just give me six hundred; you see I have walked the whole day from the top of the Mountain to this place.’
‘This thing is sick, it can’t be that expensive, and even it was not sick it could not have been such expensive, is it a he-goat you are selling or a sick cockerel?’
‘What do you want to give me?’
‘I will give you three hundred and fifty shillings.’
‘It is not bad, just give me.’
The man threw the cockerel down and stepped its knotted legs with his right foot. He pulled out a thick junk of bank notes from the left side pocket of his short trouser. Ndorobo thought it was a story-book he used to see young men from high schools reading. But no, it was money. The man stylishly searched among the banknotes as if he was quickly opening the pages of a voluminous novel. He came out with bank notes of three hundred and fifty shillings in his left hand and threw them at Ndorobo. Each bank-note flew in a different direction. Ndorobo ran to collect them as the man called his worker from inside to come and take the new cockerel to the cage.
Ndorobo collected all the four dog-eared bank notes together, he put them in his breast pocket and said thank-you to the man, the man was by now already engaged in talking local politics in Lu-bukusu with other two young men who had arrived. He did not respond to Ndorobo’s word of thanks. But when Ndorobo asked him where he could take some lunch, the man quickly ushered Ndorobo into the house he had been standing at the door, it was a hotel owned and operated by the man.
Ndorobo went for the table at the dark corner and ordered for ugali (stiff porridge) and chicken wing. It was served in a very short moment, before Ndorobo finished rinsing his hands at the nearby home made water-sink, the food was already placed by the waiter at the table. The chicken soup was sending up a thin steam as at the same time it makes a complicated hand-writing reminding Ndorobo the Arabic writings in the Quran he used to read before he converted to Christianity lest he be suspected by the local sub-chief at the mountain for being member to a network of Al-shabab terrorist group. He ate with appetite without feeling the itching of an old jigger in his left toe. He cleared everything within thirty minutes. Then he began feeling the irritating jigger in the toe. He walked to the sink again and rinsed his hands dry, and then walked to the cash-counter to pay. The young man at the counter told him that Ugali and Chicken wing is three hundred and fifty shillings. The young man at the counter was rude and impatient for money but not explanations. Ndorobo felting like it was better to die and be buried at Chwele market than to walk up the mountain, going home to face Sabinjaki without the money in his hands.
Ndorobo was frog-matched to pay for what he had eaten. There was no single person that could empathize and understand his pleas. All the onlookers were blaming him for eating in a hotel before asking for the menu, asking for the price of different dishes and drinks. Ndorobo in his heart only blamed himself for being mountain-dweller.
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Author's Comments: Guys read this piece and help with grammar and any other area you see that I am supposed to improve.Seriously.Thanks.