“They lied to you Abraham, they lied to you. No one can escape the will of God.”
His jaws moved up and down as if he was greedily chewing a huge juicy apple. His white Moses-like beard and Adam’s apple nodded in agreement to his words. He must have enjoyed eating these words, for he licked the juicy remnants on his lips, producing a loud smacking sound. A flicker of the burning bush lit up his eyes as his mouth simultaneously contorted into a wide grin.
“Now you will become like the proverbial Jonah, because you will be swallowed by-
The strongly voiced name burst out of the small office and shook us both by the collar, pulled us up and punched us on our faces making us sit back on the bench, then pulled us up again and kicked us in the direction of its origin. We both scrambled to enter through the narrow wooden door at the same time and got stuck between its frames. I could have said that my heart raced like an athlete from Eldoret, except that I hadn’t seen one. This was no longer a fictional case, and the truth was slowly dawning on me.
She sat opposite the chief, her body bound fast by imaginary ropes. She sat still, like the portrait of the current chief’s father that looked down on her from the brown stained wall, his mean frame complemented by the white uniform of a colonial chief. The portrait of the president was smiling at the old man’s image from across the room. The only thing that she did to confirm that she was alive was to look and caress the golden watch that adorned her wrist, her right leg folded on the left one, and her arms resting on her lap. Her eyes found comfort in the blue patches of paint on the wooden table.
“Now, go back both of you, and come back after you decide to whom that name belongs.”
He did not even wait for us to settle down properly on the wooden bench. The heat of the naked sun that drained the last will of hope from my bones seemed to have no effect on his celebratory mood.
“You underestimated me, you never thought that I could speak to the driver of the bus that goes to town-
He was an uninvited annoying comedian in a one-man show, but the audience was too forgiving. “Mwangi Rua”
This time I allowed him to go in first, and rested my upper body horizontally on the hard bench. I looked unto the sky and all I could see was vanity. The rock had disappeared together with its minerals, and the hot blazing sun had taken its place. My heart found a resting place on the rough wooden surface and reduced its pace.
“Bwana Chief, if you could allow the two of us to have a mature man to man talk-“ his smile was well articulated and his face composed. I had often seen him use that kind of face to convince his followers while preaching. I felt too that the television could have accorded him a position as a news anchor, a promoter of some of the products or run a political campaign for an electoral seat. My imagination told me that he could have been a source of solace for Palestinian children amidst the bombs. He had almost convinced me that the sun outside was less hot. I had believed him since I could see Carol shudder inside the office.
The chief obliged.
Carol’s imaginary master pulled her up and puppet walked her to the bench outside. She sat on the little space I had left and continued caressing her watch, her wet eyes glued on it.
They spoke of the old maumau days and shook the small office with laughter. I could hear the old wooden chairs creak in pain when they lifted their legs high and wide as they laughed at jokes made on ‘Waitina’, the long nosed British coloniser.
“He was called Waitina because he normally inserted his fingers between his large buttocks to remove his swallowed trouser as he walked.”
“ No, the Kikuyu men were unable to pronounce the name ‘Whitney’, and therefore called him ‘Waitina’.
Outside, the sun blew hotter, and so did God.
Outside, silence ruled.
By the time we were called in the verdict was ready, except that it is not the chief who delivered it. He said a hearty goodbye to the chief and took a firm grip of each of our hands. His hands reminded me of the handcuffs I had been brought in.
Carol’s father was known to be tough on his daughters, and no one could have turned an eye even if he frog marched her across the shopping centre. But this time all businesses closed and everyone lined along the road.
I could see disappointed faces in the crowd, of young girls who would have wished to be in Carol’s place and young married women returning on an imaginary journey from renouncing their vows.
“He could have become the first doctor from our village.”
“I heard that he wanted to become a writer, I have read some of his short stories.”
“Are you even sure it is him? That girl is a whore. It could be her father for all we know.”
But he did not hear them. He marched on like an unconcerned captain inspecting a foreign parade, doing it only to impress his master. He dragged his unwilling capture along and the soft earth complained with loud thuds, red dust rising to knee level.
They watched till their cinema troupe disappeared round a corner, and solemnly went back to their daily activities. No one could complain against the will of the man of the book. They would just celebrate the newlywed couple and life would go on smoothly after.