Jalada Girl & other weak stories written in the Friday jam

JALADA GIRL

A yellow flame burning the tip of Anne’s cigarette.

Smoke. Glowing yellow tobacco embers. Paper slowly burning. The transparent flame. See right through it. The dog is flat dead on the road.

The cigarette leaves her lips. Anne blows out such small clouds. From her mouth. Nostrils. The Cigarette Dragon.

The dog’s head lies on the road part. Rest of the body on the footpath. The dog was looking at traffic in the Mlolongo night. Now the dog can see through the dark. Better than Anne. She imagined him looking at the headlights. No night now. And some car comes and knocks him on the head and he goes flat dead on the road.

Look left, look right but don’t look into the headlights.

She puts out the lighter.

Her breathing is shallow. Snakes of cigarette vapour rising lazily in the stale car air. Lips sucking kissing the cigarette. Her cheeks dimple, go inward and touch her teeth. The molars.

 CLICHÉ, HOUSEBOY ETC.

Nisha is taking off her earrings. She is about to put them in the drawer when suddenly she stops. Her lips are curving into a smile, and we see in her eyes she has come up with an idea. She looks at her earrings.

*

In the garden, Richard hears a shout.

“Richard! Can you come in here!”

*

 Nisha is standing in front of Richard. Her fingers are twining around each other. She is obviously nervous. She comes closer to Richard.

“Can you go get my earrings from top?”

“Yes, Memsahib.”

Richard goes up the stairs. Nisha looks at how his trousers bring out the shape of his buttocks. She waits for Richard to come back down. She is biting her nails. Richard comes down the stairs.

“I cannot find them.”

“They are right on my bed!”

“I looked everywhere. You may have put them in the drawer.”

Nisha begins expressing herself with quick, sharp hand movements.

“How do you know I keep them in the drawer?”

Richard’s eyes are showing confusion. His eyelids are blinking.

“I don’t know madam, I am just saying…”

Nisha puts one hand on her hip, leans forwards slightly and sharply points an index finger at him with the other. She shouts.

“You know because you have been spying on me! You have STOLEN my earrings.”

“Nuh..noh..I..I dee..deednoh.”

Nisha grabs Richard by the shirt. She gives an impression of a lion having a rabbit in its paws.

“YOU ARE A THIEF!”

Richard, in a moment of desperation finds some energy to say –

“No, no! Memsahib. I am not a thief.”

Nisha throws her head back like an operatic heroine in the middle of a poignant aria.

“Ahh!”

Then just as dramatically brings her head back into normal position.

“Let me check your pockets.”

Nisha quickly puts her hands into Richard’s pockets. She moves her hand deep inside it. She takes her hand out. We see a pair of gold earrings in her palms.

“Memsahib…it can’t be.”

“It can be. IT IS!”

Nisha grabs Richard by the crotch. Richard is frozen in his posture. An extreme confusion has come over him. She leans in.

“You know, I can report you to the police.”

“But I didn’t do anything.”

Nisha now has her whole body leaning on Richard. Her eyes now look dreamy and her lips are pouting. Her bosom, nestled on Richard’s chest, is heaving rapidly from quick breathing. She says in a lusty, low voice –

“I will make you a deal.”

STORY IDEA

A certain human tribe living deep in the heart of the Sahara Desert, a tribe that has never had contact with other humans before (or after), never seen a camel or oasis, who hydrate themselves by simply imagining what water is and water becomes real inside their throats. When one day a boy asks his mom why the world is only sand. The mom tells him why. That God was once a boy like him. And God lived in a world where he had imagined fantastic things – solar panels, fast Subarus, buildings and cities, headphones, 3D movie theaters, Sarakasi Dome rock concerts, heartbreak in Konza city, Maputo Maporomoko, billions of humans walking this world – and so these things were real for God. But God went crazy in this world. He lost his own soul in a dream one night when he found out he could never fall asleep because the lights would never go out. He lost himself in his own mind during the wakeful nights. And then he dreamed with eyes open one night. In his dream he started collecting the furies and angers and hatreds of all the billions of people. A girl would get angry with the ice-cream man because he gave her a smaller Choco-ice than her friend. A small anger to collect. A boss got angry at his accountant. A Robben Island inmate hated Mandela for fifteen seconds because Mandela farted inside a crowded room on Robben Island. God collected the smell and hatred of that fart. God mined the memories of the billions of people for these things. When he had collected these from everyone, he woke up. Our God is an angry God. In that instant he realized he didn’t want all those things to exist so all the anger and hatred and bitterness and furies he had collected were put together to create one uncontainable emotion. And the whole world blew up. All the rockets in the silos were launched. A man would look at a woman he hated and she would vaporize. All of Liberia was mobilized for Civil War. Cannibals and open heart surgery in Monrovia. The hutus came back from Congo to finish the job. The jews herded the Arabs into the gas chambers of Tripoli. The locks at Mathare Hospital were picked and all the madmen set on fire. Fire everywhere. Uhuru slept with Ruto in an affirmation of gay rights and televised the porno live on NTV. The jews who watched this porno on the 172 inch LCD screens at Artcaffe whilst munching croissants. The Kalenjin and Kikuyu going to war. Wrestling in bed as Eldoret goes supernova. Kissing beards as the parents bring the baby with the football size head, born free of charge at pumwani, back home to radioactive Kiambu. And a virile boy like God sees a Makueni girl, short hair and defrocked, the ambitious girl lying supine in bed, she waits for the boy, her body is ready, God wants it, the carpet bombing of Kethi Kilonzo. The missiles went to and fro like shuttle cocks over the Rift Valley. Uhuru and Ruto were macheted in their room at State House Mombasa. Mandela is pregnant with North Africa at Pumwani Hospital. The hens inside their prisons at Kenchic warehouses went mad and gave birth to live chicks who pecked their mothers in the cunts and ass. Libraries of Ginsberg were set ablaze. Boy and Girl love affairs died in the bonfires. The trees and grass and leaves and all the plants crackled in the heat. The stones atop Mt. Kenya glowed red. Bipolar bible men on the Aga Khan Walk became sane and saw the world in its crystal clear horror. That was the end of God. Live life simple son. Imagine water and food. The rest is sand and mirage and heat and sun and history.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF NISHA PATEL XXI

Nisha and Kunali are seated by the coffee table on the porch. Richard is pouring tea into their cups from a silver kettle.

“Richard. You are leaving for home soon?” asks Nisha.

“As soon as you finish your tea, Memsahib,” replies Richard.

“Hmm..,” hums Nisha.

“That’s a nice aftershave you have on, Richard,” says Kunali.

Nisha giggles.

“Well…umm..,” hums Richard.

Richard looks to the driveway. He sees Boniface waving to him. Nisha and Kunali also look toward the driveway.

“I see your friend has come. Guess you want to go home now,” says Nisha.

“As soon as you finish your tea and I clear up, Memsahib.”

“I tell you what. Why don’t you invite your friend over and you two join us two for tea?”

Richard’s eye become big. Nisha is biting her tongue. A blush comes over her face.

Richard calls Boniface over. Boniface walks over.

“Have a sit you two.”

Nisha turns to Kunali.

“Kunali, you said you were in need of some house help,” says Nisha.

“Yeaahhh,” says Kunali.

Nisha turns to Boniface.

“Boni right?”

“Rrrr…Right,” says Boniface.

“You think you could help Kunali out?”

Boniface looks at Richard then at Nisha.

“Yyyy…yes.”

Kunali is looking at Boniface. A smile is forming on her lips.

HIGH SCHOOL PORN

Sometimes I would be sitting on the chair and get a hard-on which refused to go. Not because I was aroused but because my dick rubbed against my trousers. Or maybe half my blood got trapped at the barrier where my buttocks pressed on the hard chair. I had to hold my breathe and pray hard that nobody in class ever figured out what I was going through. The blood would get blocked below my buttocks and create a dam in my dick and it would be such a solid hard-on that I’d think it was going to be a hard-on forever. The worst times were when this would happen during English. The English teacher who was young and had some Somali blood in her, a Mrs. Abdi, and she was very cute. On certain days, when she was in the mood, she’d wear this really loose top and when she bent down at our desks to look at our books we would see her small breasts. She knew we were looking. Yet she would walk to the front of the class and smile at us all. She would come to the side of my table and lean or bend down, look at my English sentences, and I just wouldn’t know what to do.

BOLLYWOOD FANTASY, POVERTY PORN, CLICHE, CHAUFFER ETC.

“Coco’s? It’s in my slum.”

“Yes, Coco’s”

*

We are outside Coco’s Bar at night. A Mercedes parks. Richard comes out. All eyes are on him. He goes over to Nisha’s door and opens it for her.

Richard walks into Coco’s Bar with Nisha. He is dressed in an immaculate black suit. He could easily be mistaken for a big businessman. Nisha is wearing an Issey Miyake, there are diamond teardrops hanging from her earlobes.

The waiters, sensing VIPs, clear a table for them.

Nisha orders two bottles of Tusker Premium. She puts her legs on the table and crosses them, relaxed, showing off her legs and thighs.

“You could almost be mistaken for a regular here!”

Deepal laughs heartily.

Fimbo enters, wearing a suit.

Nisha takes her legs of the table and stands up.

Fimbo goes to Nisha and hugs her, gives her a peck on each cheek. Richard is taken by surprise.

“My lady, great to see you hear. Absolutely excellent,” says Fimbo.

Nisha adjusts Fimbo’s tie.

“It’s great that you made it. Thanks for the ride.”

Nisha turns to Richard.

“Richard, the car keys.”

Richard gives her the car keys. He is confused and his face shows it. His nose is flaring more than usual. He seems to have been confronted by a puzzling equation.

“Fimbo, as you can see, I was chauffered!”

“An excellent touch!” says Fimbo.

Nisha throws the keys to Fimbo. He catches them mid-air.

Richard is shifting uneasily in his sit. He feels out of place. Nisha takes a quick look at him and senses his unease.

“Oh by the way, Do you know Richard?”

Jaws, Zadok and the art of how to begin a novel

On Saturday, I bought JAWS by Peter Benchley for 30/= from a book-hawker. The first four pages introduced one of the main characters, ‘the great fish’ (shark), by showing how it attacked, killed and ate a young woman who had gone for a night swim in the cold ocean after a boozy date.

A hundred yards offshore, the fish sensed a change in the sea’s rhythm. It did not see the woman, nor yet did it smell her. Running within the length of its body were a series of thin canals, filled with mucus and dotted with nerve endings, and these nerves detected vibrations and signaled the brain. The fish turned towards shore.

Peter Benchley shows the shark as a character without any self-doubt. This contrasts to the woman character who feels fear etc. The shark attacks and kills without psychological motive. The writer does not give it human characteristics (yet it is not a machine) and this helps make the shark vs woman contest a gripping affair.

At first the woman thought she had snagged her leg on a rock or a piece of floating wood. There was no initial pain, only one violent tug on her right leg. She reached down to touch her foot, treading water with her left leg to keep her head up, feeling in the blackness with her left hand. She could not find her foot. She reached higher on her leg, and then she was overcome by a rush of nausea and dizziness. Her groping fingers had found a nub of bone and tattered flesh. She knew that the warm, pulsing flow over her fingers in the chill water was her own blood.

Pain and panic struck together. The woman threw her head back and screamed a guttural cry of terror.

The fish had moved away. It swallowed the woman’s limb without chewing. Bones and meat passed down the massive gullet in a single spasm. Now the fish turned again, homing on a stream of blood flushing from the woman’s femoral artery, a beacon as clear and true as a lighthouse on a cloudless night.

A wonderful first four pages.

***

Today, I received a personally autographed copy of SISTER SISTER written by the South African author, Rachel Zadok.  I will quote the entire prologue of this novel. You’ll want to read more:

sister sister

The woman dreams she approached KwaNogqaza Falls, just as she did on the night of her initiation ceremony, twenty five years before. She reaches the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and sinks to her knees to pray, but the sandy bank collapses and she slips into the water. The Inkanyamba swirls around her, dragging her down to the river bed where weeds dance with creatures half snake, half fish, and long-bodied crabs watch from crevices in the rocks, eyes like jelly-berries on silver stalks.

“Dig,” Inkanyama tells her. She buries her arm up to the elbow. Sand clouds the water, enveloping her in a storm of glittering grains. Her fingers close around two small stones.

The serpent-god takes her into his mouth and spits her out at the surface. She is no longer in the forest. A beach stretches out before her. The woman walks along the sand with the pebbles in her hand. Before long, she comes across a dead gull lying just above the tidemark. Two white chiks sit on the bird, picking maggots from its feathers. As she watches, the water subsides until there is a single blue on the horizon. Where there was ocean, there is only sand. The dune grasses shrivel. The trees in the coastal forest sicken, dropping leaves until they are nothing more than splintered grey trunk and branch. The world dies as the chicks grow fat on their dinner of maggots.

There is a searing pain in her hand. She opens her palm and looks at the pebbles, perfect white ovals, identical save for a scab that discolours the purity of one. She picks at the scab with her nail. Blood wells from the pebble and a sound like that of a mewling baby fills the air. The stone shudders and rolls away from her prying finger towards its twin. They merge, becoming one. She contemplates the single stone in her hand, but before she can glean meaning, it splits in two and her palm begins to bleed.

Someone shakes her. The woman opens her eyes and sees Sizane leaning over her.

“It’s time, Mama,” she says. “The baby is coming.”

 

Short Story Day: Interview

Rachel Zadok asked me to do this –

Short Story Day Africa 2013

The Interview

 We’ve compiled twenty-one questions our followers want to know about writers in Africa. Please post your answers on your blog before 21 June 2013, in celebration of Short Story Day Africa, then forward the questions to another writer.

The Gorilla’s response is as follows:

  1. Do you actually enjoy writing, or do you write because you like the finished product? Yes. I also like the finished product. When a short story has gone well, it’s a masturbatory experience reading through it and silently moaning over all the killer and neat edits you’ve made, the fine sentences you came up with and seeing the story idea is now real.
  1. What are you reading right now? And are you enjoying it? (No cheating and saying something that makes you sound like the intelligensia). Reading ‘Attacking Chess’ by Mihail Marin and Granta 117 (the horror issue). Marin’s book is a bitch to get through. Difficult and complex but full of beautiful variations. The Granta 117 I got free from the Granta Workshop. I deliberately poached it from another writer, largely because it has DeLillo’s ‘Starveling’ in it. Have read that story before but still I wanted the Granta 117 because of it.
  1. Have you ever killed off a character and regretted it? Not yet.
  1. If you could have any of your characters over for dinner, which would it be and why? Aeron. She reads Dambudzo, is pretty hot without her costume and I can fuck her afterwards.
  1. Which one of your characters would you never invite into your home and why? I like them all. They can come home anytime they want. But some of them should call me first.
  1. Ernest Hemingway said: write drunk, edit sober. For or against? I don’t drink. Write sober, edit sober.
  1. If against, are you for any other mind altering drug? No. I can hallucinate pretty well without the drugs.
  1. Our adult competition theme if Feast, Famine and Potluck. Have you ever put food in your fiction? If so, what part did it play in the story? Yes. In ‘Bass Weejuns on Tiptoes’. The story explores a Post Election Violence landscape in Kenya after the 2007/2008 blowout. So food is scarce and the food in the story plays the role of…well much wanted and tasty food. Even the mouldy bread is tasty.
  1. What’s the most annoying question anyone’s ever asked you in an interview? Have only been interviewed once before. So this has yet to happen.
  1. If you could be any author other than yourself, who would you be? Don DeLillo, of course.
  1. If you could go back in time and erase one thing you had written from your writing history, what would it be and why? Nothing.
  1. What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told? That I can play chess at Elo 2600.
  1. If someone reviews you badly, do you write them into your next book/story and kill them? No, I would prefer to kill them in real life.
  1. What’s your favourite bad reviewer revenge fantasy? Torturing the reviewer with screwdrivers of all sizes, a sharp knife and a hammer and then watching him/her/it die a slow and mafucking painful death.
  1. What’s the most frustrating thing about being a writer in Africa? Nowhere to find a place to publish my stories. Fiction writing is not valued in countries like Kenya so you have to live with a soul and talent destroying office job. Watching far less talented writers make it and then show off in the newspapers, in social media and at literary functions and parties. You have to look on and feel useless. Welcome to Africa.
  1. Have you ever written naked? Yes.
  1. Does writing sex scenes make you blush? I like writing sex scenes. Some of them end up making me horny. I don’t know if I am blushing when this happens.
  1. Who would play you in the film of your life? I would play me.
  1. If you won the Caine Prize for African Fiction, what would you do with the money? Buy land.
  1. What do you consider your best piece of work to date? Everything I have written so far is shit.
  1. What are you doing on 21 June 2013, to celebrate Short Story Day Africa? Hanging out in Nairobi with a bunch of young and promising ‘African’ writers.

The Scrapbook

June last year, I started writing a novel. By August 2012, I started running out of story fuel. What I mean is the overall story was there but I couldn’t come up with the sentences to continue showing it. I kept the project aside for a while. I was not happy with the linear method of writing such a long thing. That I start from the beginning and systematically move on from there. It felt artificial. I also didn’t like the lined rules of my loose leaf pads (I prefer to put things down with pen/pencil before going to the laptop). The straightness and neatness of it all did not appeal to me. So I bought myself an ‘Artists Sketch Pad’ with A3 size papers. On the big blank pages I could write in curves rather than straight lines. I could scribble, doodle etc. I started putting down the stories thoughts, ideas, plot thoughts, sentences, phrases, dialogue sequences and visions in random fashion. I picked on story parts I liked. So now I have a few filled up Artists Sketch pads and a novel growing and building up from various points. Whether it will work out in the end, I don’t know. E.g, I have finished the final chapter but have no clue how to proceed with Chapter 3, I have written out various cadenza-like sections but many other chapters are quarter or half done and look moth-eaten. Fiction will find a way.

One of the useful side effects of this Artist Sketch Pad method: it has allowed me to write some of my short stories more easily as I can shamelessly steal stuff from my novel scrapbooks. Or use some of the reject stuff in the scrapbook to make a blog post.

Below is a page from one of the Artist Sketch Pads. Reject stuff. And below that I have typed out what’s on the page. Just some random nonsense ramblings etc.

Scrapbook page

Make way for the soaring rocket that speeds into the Milky Way, slippery as an eel in the cheese of Earth’s gravity, going for a hike out there in outer space.

The Farmer’s Choice sausage gets cold as they watch the 9 o’ clock news on Citizen TV.

I wear a belt to keep my jeans in place; tie my shoelaces so that my shoes don’t fall off.

A forest of Uganda along the way.

Fields of cornflakes in the factory.

Buses of illegal immigrants on the border.

The sky, the violet sea whose waves are the winds that crash on the beaches of cloud, dazzled the dog, the happy creature that wagged its tail.

The hammer fell on her head and cracked her skull.

The bomb blows. The ink drops. The pen leaks. The machine rusts. The accountant calculates. The chessers sacrifice. The city pollutes. The bulb warms up. The plane lands. The Playstation’s lust to graphic traffic terrific horrific magic tragic.

The statue points in two directions. It has hands. It’s name is Tom Mboya. Assassinated when coming out of a chemist shop. A bullet to the heart. Blood on the avenue. The blast sound still alive in a hundred thousand ears. Jomo Kenyatta’s photo, hanging in almost every shop on the avenue, shakes, moves out of position.

Eco-friendly literati.

The soldiers of Ngugi.

Editors sign Words Reduction Treaty.

Murderer plus kills plus pedestrian.

Triplicate moves.

Booze being flushed down the toilet.

Acres of factory space.

Wednesdays of office work.

Jumbo oats and calories and after-sunset meals during Ramadhan.

If you say goodbye, do you again hope for a hello?

DIALOGUE SEQUENCE

- Where is Holland?

- Three dozen latitudes North; and one and a half dozen latitudes West.

- Why do we call them ‘The West’?

- They take care of the sun when we are in the dark.

- But didn’t that change when we got ourselves Uhuru and bulbsand VOK?

- When they are in the dark the sun is rising over us.

- Does that make it equal?

- They want to have the last laugh.

- So the rotation of the Earth suits them?

- Because the Earth is round, we can say we are to the west of them as well.

- But the Earth. The Earth is also flat, isn’t it?

- It’s how people see things. You can’t see beyond the curve.

- But we have satellites. Rockets can curve around the Earth.

- There is no oxygen in outer space. And The West lives in a space station.

- But there are also Russian space stations. Russia spreads vastly into the East.

- The Iron Curtain cut off Western Europe. The East side of the curtain was communist. The Acropolis monuments sit in Western Europe.

- But it’s in ruins.

- That’s why they are no longer part of the Eurozone.

- But Vladivostok is still in the East.

- Bloodyvostok, huh?. The poles or polarities are going through a change, aren’t they?

- And they practice Eastern religions in New York.

- Witchdoctors and bullfighting in Kakamega.

Weak stories written in the traffic jam.

I could read in the jam. But reading is sometimes boring. Writing is always more exciting. Well, I was stuck in the jam for a couple of hours today (on the notorious Mombasa Road) and wrote some of these weird (and possibly very weak) short stories:

BEDROOM

In a dimly lit room, where the sunshine from outside is suffocated by thick silk curtains and dark shades of wall-to-wall carpeting, there are two bodies sprawled languorously on a big bed, obviously naked under the satin sheets draped over them.

David Kuloba, a man of twenty four years, is peering straight at the ceiling, smoking a cigar, his left hand moving robotically to his lips and away with every puff, when he turns in bed. The satin sheets slip away to reveal  a human frame – the skin, a deep chocolaty hue (something Madagascan about it), stretching, curving across and around well toned muscles shaped by hard labour. Shaped as if Michelangelo had sculpted a David out of black marble.

His pair of eyes lock with another. He is looking at –

Kunali Patel, a forty five year old woman, whose bland eyes with bags under them, that badly drawn shape of her face, those corrugated wrinkles on her neck (partly hidden by long and graying strands of hair), speak of her long-endured frustrations. Her face is a contrast to the perfect things surrounding her.

“Why do you find him unsatisfying?” David asks.

Kunali turns, breaking her gaze with him, and is now lying flat and looking up at the ceiling. She sees a hundred pieces of herself in the chandelier. She can taste his Old Spice in the bedroom air.

“Because he is a two-timing, X6 driving faggot,” Kunali answers.

She turns again. She’s back in her original position, gazing once more into David’s eyes.

“Why do you sleep with me?”

“Because I am under threat of arrest.”

David smiles a naughty half-smile. Kunali thinks it’s a stupid smile when seen through the veil of his cigar-smoke.

“Now you will say something stupid.”

POVERTY PORN, ENAMEL CUPS, SOCIAL REALIST MODE, CLICHE, ETC.

He walks toward the dinning table. His movement gives us a quick sweep of this poor household: The floor is cold and concrete, the rust on the tin walls sticks out like a pimple on a fair face. There is a double sofa with sponge sticking out through a break in the stitching. Decorations are sparse. A lonely lightbulb is suspended by a wire from the ceiling.

Tea is being poured into enamel cups by Mary, his mother. Her arthritic hands shake as she does so. Some tea spills onto the formica table. Angela, his sister, comes behind her, reaches out a hand and takes hold of the tea-kettle, easing her mother’s fingers away from the handle.

“Let me help you, mother.”

Mary looks at Angela’s beautiful face. She can see in the fullness of her daughter’s lips and the grace with which she pours tea into the enamel cups that her daughter is blossoming into a woman.

“Thank you.”

At his seat, Richard is sniffing the air. There is a stench nearby. He turns to see his father, Mark, who is holding his head in his hands and looks tired and beaten. His father is obviously nursing a hangover.

Mary and Angela start chit-chatting at the other end of the table. Their tones drop to a hush and he, the son and brother, becomes curious, and stretches his neck to catch a word.

“I hope he doesn’t come today.”

“Did he agree to give us until the end of the week?”

“He said it was ok. But with these people, you never know”

Richard gets up and goes over to where they are.

“Hope who doesn’t come today?”

Mary and Angela seem caught by surprise. His mother stutters.

“Ahh…noth…nothing that should concern you, my dear.”

He stretches out his hand, having to go behind his short mother’s neck, to pick up his cup of tea. His mother bends to keep his hand away. He notices a purplish mark on her neck.

“Hold on a minute James, let me go get the sugar.”

“You know I have to go early…”

His mother cuts him off.

“I know.”

His mother walks toward the kitchen. He follows her.

Mary opens a drawer. She winces in pain. He is right behind and gently puts a hand on her neck. Mary turns around.

“Did he beat you last night?” He asks.

Mary puts a hand to where the mark on her neck is.

“He did!” He says in a loud whisper.

His eyes squint in anger, but also turn almost liquid. A shine comes to them. He feels his mother’s pain. She puts a packet of sugar in his hands. With the force of his emotion, he presses it until it crumples and some of the sugar starts to leak out. Mary looks into  her son’s eyes and sees they are begging for an answer. She shyly turns away, wrings her hands.

“I…jus…just fell.”

He turns his mother around. He puts his arms around her and squeezes her into an affectionate hug when they suddenly hear the house door being pounded. They hear a loud growl. The voice is unmistakably Fimbo’s, the leader of the slum-gang.

“OPEN UP!”

Concerned looks come on the faces of mother and son still locked in a hug.

Pounding thuds continue. Angela is frozen with fear at the table. Mark looks around surprised as if sense has suddenly been knocked into him. Mother and son hurry into the living room.

“What does he want?” He asks.

Nobody wants to tell him.

“You have paid the rent, right?”

The door blows open. Sunshine pours in and a figure is silhouetted in the doorway against the bright daylight outside. The figure is Fimbo. He is an imposing person – six and a half feet tall with body proportions to match – a daunting mixture of potbelly and six-pack, muscle and fat. Strong. He has in his hand the fimbo – a concoction of baseball bat and police club. He strokes his weapon along the tin walling producing a grating sound as he walks into the house.

“You freeloaders owe me money. I WANT IT NOW!”

Fimbo establishes a military pose, waiting for them to comply. Angela runs to him, taking him aside to talk.

“I thought you gave my mother until the end of the week to pay up.”

Fimbo stroke Angela’s cheeks. She tries to back off but Fimbo grabs her hand.

“I would have…if she had agreed to let me take you out for nyama choma.”

The brother is inflamed by Fimbo’s action and jumps to grab the groping hand, but Fimbo catches hold of the brother’s wrist and twists it.

“You only look strong.”

The brother, the son, swallows the sounds of pain.

POOR JAGGY

A bottle of champagne is popped open. Kunali pours a glass for Nisha, her best friend. Nisha is no different from Kunali — an unattractive and desperate middle-aged housewife looking for the next thing in life to kill her permanent boredom.

They are seated on a big sofa, like they are relaxing on a soft sandy beach.

“How do you manage to make it look so easy? I always imagine them reacting violently.”

“Easy?! Well, I was quite nervous…I don’t know how I came up with the earings idea. But it becomes easier with practice.”

Nisha takes a sip of the champagne.

“Talking of practice…how PRACTISED was he?”

“Oh…VERY practiced!”

They both laugh heartily. They sink further into the beach sands.

“Poor Jaggy.”

Some more laughter. The tide has come in and they are rocking like ships on a stormy sea.

FRAMES

(Photos by Dr. Wambui Mwangi)

FRAME ONE

Frame 1

And Van Gogh sent them in for Gayatri Mantra. He said “Chant this: That when you put the orange next to the blue, maximum contrast results. Or the green next to the red…before the colours die.”

The late afternoon sky bled with Van Gogh. In the temple, they tried to create meaning out of the last Sun. Yet they became scared to go out once in. They did not want to acknowledge the last stretch, the last curving dip of their daytime orb. It was to be shutter and closed doors, high minaret ceilings, confinement, and finally escape from the obviousness outside.

FRAME TWO

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You will not see anybody. Don’t say you can see the deepening blue happening to the sky, there is no one here to see it. You can only follow their absences. Like the runaway footsteps that went down the spiral iron staircase. These people jettisoned their homes, whole blocks like this one self-vacuumed.

You can hang around the neighbourhood but the rumour is the crowds rushed to the edge of sight to witness Sun’s death.

FRAME THREE

Frame 3

On the first floor, the family of Nishmog, Mehgool and kids Lihog and Luhem left with all their attired possessions. These included socks, trousers, Nikes and Tag Heurs, underpants for Mr. Man and Mrs. Woman, tampons, applied aftershave and possibly work ethic.

On the second floor, the couple Jarinka and Jonathan took off everything. Over the rails they let them hang, the Levis and bra. It was the end, so they approached vanishing Sun as boobies and manhood, Adam and Eve. Walking into the crowds as themselves, the skirt consciously forgotten on the balcony railings.

FRAME FOUR

Frame 4

The foliage wondered too: How would we grow without him? How would we chlorophyll?

FRAME FIVE

Frame 5

And here they are, the crowds. This is end point. This is where horizon finishes its job. The crowds jabber on. In walkie talkie they buy jackets of warmth because after he dips into oblivion it will be cold and everlasting night.

The radio of this place, if you hear, listens as follows:

“And with my binoculars I spy its setting…it sets.”

“That was the last day.”

“Give us this daylight our daily bulbs, tubelights, torches and neon.”

“The moon behaves on us with its dark side, next to go will be the stars.”

“I can’t see you.”

Obsessions

(An article originally published, in 2011, on the now defunct Princess Project Kenya website.)

My urge to write is driven by obsessions: radioactive creatures (with tickly legs) creep out of my brain, scurry down my arm, bounce around my fingers, infiltrate my pen, and finally come out as my handwriting, contaminating every word.

Hinga polishes a beer glass and sees a cockroach investigating the bar counter. He whiplashes it with the napkin he holds, sending the insect into boozed paroxysms of near death.

It’s not a phenomenon of writerly technique or rigor or craft that puts the cockroach within Hinga’s eyeshot, but some obsession launching out like a 3 stage rocket, from deep within my genetic coding, and going into orbit around story world. That’s what.

And it just so happens I am in the mood, tonight, to share, in no particular order of importance, my seven biggest obsessions (and my thoughts on them). Here goes:

CLOUDS

‘Sunbeam proof, I hang like a roof’ – Shelley.

Some Nairobians go beer watching when they have free time.

Others engage in TV watching without realising what a fatal waste of time this is. Whenever I see gangs of people huddled around Panasonic screens in some Premier League or Churchill Live frenzy, I feel I am watching a bunch of frogs swimming inside a big sufuria. The sufuria is warming over a big jiko, slowly coming to a boil, and the frogs in it are oblivious to what’s cooking.

Some are more daring and go to Apple Bees where a DJ sometimes announces a ‘special offer’ over the disco – go onto the stage, take off your clothes and dance with a professionally naked lady and win a month’s pass to the VIP lounge – and a guy climbs onto the stage and removes his clothes and dances skin to skin with the professionally naked lady and after a couple of minutes she bends over and sucks him. It’s such a surprise that the guy blows his nut right in her mouth, in front of the whole screaming crowd below, and the professionally naked lady is equally surprised and quickly unbends over and dashes offstage, spitting out the contents in her mouth.

Yet others have the heavier addiction of internet watching and plan to die surfing the web.

I prefer something less urban, less bourgeoisie and more natural – cloud watching.

I can’t say when my fascination began but I have a clear memory of one particular Sunday afternoon from childhood. My parents were taking a siesta, Nairobi was quiet, the sun was out and these great white islands were floating in the blue sky. I took a pillow and went out to the veranda, lay down on the floor of it and looked skyward.

I saw a sea: High Cirrus’ spread finely like beach sand, slow waves of muscular cumulus approaching the beach and crashing on it; a large grey whale of Strato-Nimbus inching in from the south. A jetliner zoomed through the deeper waters and left behind a 3 pronged fork trail of Alto-Airbus, if there is such a cloud. Some cumulus waves had overbulging muscles, and the cloudscape turned epically monstrous and mushroomy, that it seemed the sea was turned into a nuclear weapons test site.

INSECTS & BUGS

Cockroach whose mind is pure machinery– Ginsberg.

Last week I had an embarrassing moment. We were four gentlemen (dressed in power suits) and two ladies (dressed in even more powerful skirts) having coffee at an upmarket joint. Our executive folders and diaries, laptops and pens lied on top of a white table cloth, along with the shining crockery.

Then one of the gentlemen passed me an important document and asked me to peruse it. I laid it flat on the white table cloth and looked, when, from under a table-corner, crawled out a cockroach. It moved in a start-stop motion, every now and then twitching its mustachio whiskers, and it crawled onto the document and there it froze.

My colleagues summoned a waiter and it should have been nothing much. But this cockroach was fat and juicy – about three inches long and half inch oval wide. Its head had a lovely yellow stain, its main body burnt red wings, and the spiky dark green legs carried and balanced the weight of its body with shock absorber efficiency. Yes, it stood still but those mustachio whiskers still twitched, caressing the words of the document with great intelligence. It was a beautiful cockroach.

Perhaps my colleagues sympathised with the close attention I was paying the insect, maybe they thought I was exhibiting a displeasure that was well measured out. But then I took a napkin from the table and whiplashed the cockroach. Its mushy inner body spread out like butter over a radius of few inches on the document. I moved my head closer to examine the post-mortem scenario better, even taking a toothpick to prod around the remains. I wonder what my colleagues thought.

After all, they didn’t know I once found a scorpion on my way back from school. It looked translucent and was overturned in the soil. It was dead. I picked it up and examined it. It didn’t look as dangerous as in the books and TV. I put it in my school bag. At home, I stored it in a small box. Surprisingly, it did not seem to rot away. For like a month it stayed intact, I still cannot figure out why, maybe it wasn’t dead, maybe it was just hibernating, and only afterwards did it start to shrink.

They didn’t know I collected cockroaches as a kid. At one point, in my box, I had forty three of them and one day I tried an experiment. I had recently gotten a kitten and back then I had an abnormal fetish for doing sad things to helpless kittens. I took my kitten and put it in the box together with my cockroaches. I left it alone there. The kitten started mewing after a few minutes. Maybe it was hungry but the idea of what would come out from the surely combustible mixture of cockroaches and a kitten left me in tantalizing suspense. I ignored its mews. Only on the following day did I open the box. An anti-climax. The cockroaches and kitten just sat there not bothering each other.

MICHAEL JACKSON

‘Skin head/Dead head/ Everybody gone bad/ In the sink/ On the loo/ Everybody dog food.’ – MJ

In nursery school I had a music teacher called Julia Wigglesworth. She played the piano and the rest of us clapped and sang ba-ba-black-sheep, twinkle twinkle little star and so on. Sometimes she played only the raw chords and we had to guess the nursery rhyme. One day she played something unique, strange and catchy. We didn’t know that one. The next day she brought us the words to sing with: “You better run, you better do what you can…” I fell in love with the music.

Many years later, when the internet came to Kenya, I searched various sites for documents and news reports and police interrogation transcripts and court transcripts. I wanted to be sure.

The guy did nothing.

It was a case of white supremacists from the backyards and horseshit yards of Santa Barbara County playing a dirty game on an innocent black man. The white supremacists were the polished and accomplished media bitches called Diane Dimond or Nancy Grace, they were the shark-brained lawyers called Larry Feldman, they were the conman kid called Jordan Chamdler, and above them all, the white supremacists were the ‘Mad Dog’ District Attorney, the Cold Man himself, Tom Sneddon. You could say I am a die-hard fan and so it’s easy for me to believe all this, but it sucks when fellow Kenyans fall for the white supremacists’ tabloid junk.

And I’ll never forget Julia Wigglesworth.

PUDDLES

‘At the age of seven we were suddenly speared by a premonition of the life to come as we stared unthinkingly into that bright, liquid mirror of the street.’ – Henry Miller.

It rains then it stops. Puddles of water collect here and there, microscopic lakes with still water. I stand by the edge of one. The whole world is inside. The sky and all the nearby buildings, the nearby bushes and trees and flowers, parked cars, people walking. I jump in and swim in the sky.

SCIENCE FICTION

Science Fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can’t talk about science because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful.’ – Philip K. Dick

At the end of Form Four, I stole fourteen books from the St. Mary’s School library. I didn’t think it was stealing and still don’t – all the date stamps show nobody else borrowed them but I. Five of them were chess books and the remainder Philip K. Dick novels. That was the entire Philip K. Dick collection the school had.

Now, there is a lot of hullabaloo about them so called ‘Literary Writers’. Other writers apparently lack essential qualities these ones have. Well, this is my sweeping statement to that stereotyped assertion: Philip K. Dick is a greater storyteller with a greater imagination than Charles Dickens, Jonathan Franzen and Ngugi Wa Thiongo combined.

Science Fiction is a delicious world. Maybe it’s the greatest fiction genre in ‘literature.’ The Man In The High Castle, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch and Ubik, or any amphetamine driven prose orgy will always be more meaningful to many millions around the world than say Madame Bovary or Disgrace or Harare North.

CHESS

“I really love the dark of the night. It helps me to concentrate.” - Bobby Fischer

It wasn’t much of a game at first. From a beginner’s book I figured out a simple winning formula: grab material, exchange down and checkmate. I beat everyone in primary school and afterwards everyone there stopped playing chess with me. That should have been the end of the affair.

Then one day I was aimlessly flipping through an Encyclopaedia Britannica volume, in the school library, and hit upon an extensive chess entry. I read through. It detailed the classical history of the game and its evolution through time. This aroused my interest, so I tore off the two dozen or so pages (photocopiers were not popular things in those early 1990’s days) and took them home.

There were some famous games in it written in a cryptic looking ‘algebraic chess notation’. Luckily, the Britannica piece had a breakdown on how this worked. I set up the board and pieces and played through my very first master game – Adolf Anderssen vs Lionel Kieseritzsky, London 1851, the so called ‘Immortal Game’. Anderssen made a mockery of my ‘winning formula’ – he cast his bishop before swine, donated rooks to charity, and finally threw his queen to the dogs. And Anderssen won. My head exploded. I thought I had seen the first miracle in life.

DELILLO

‘Longing on a large scale is what makes history’ – DeLillo.

I take you inside the mind of my fourteen year old self:

I got flu. Blow my nose on the blanket. Blanket is snot-studded with tiny mucous islands. What a shit month. Dark April. Cold grey clouds everywhere and cold everything. It’s like I have opened the door of the deep freeze and am breathing in the frozen air. There are two pillows under my head and I am lying down, the mucous blanket covering me.

This guy is muscled like a classical greek sculpture. An American footballer. He’s holding the oval ball in his hands. He has a v-shaped upper body filled with hard rocks. Behind him are tall goal posts. American football. And behind everything is a rising mushroom cloud. It’s a slim hardcover novel. Yellowing pages, this book is rotting. Dad told me it’s been around since he was a kid. He hasn’t read this one. He said he tried and never understood a thing. He didn’t like science fiction. That’s why I am going to read it.

The first chapters are so strange. The writer himself sounds strange. Who is this Don DeLillo? But I like it. It’s very strange in a nice way. All the characters are nice. There are no enemies in this story. It’s a singular world too, a college at the edge of a desert. And nothing else. All the characters are super intelligent. They are like some outer space race only that they are all human and very physically fit. They talk about too many intelligent things.

Oh my! The mid section. This guy is translating an American football game into words. My God! This is just like chess annotations. How can somebody do this? I know these science fiction guys sniff a lot of drugs and he sounds Italian enough to do it. Don DeLillo.

Nice people who sweat and hurt each other on the field so much, who think about nuclear war simultaneously, and they have very fat girlfriends who they call ‘beautiful’, and they eat so much good food and they listen to abuse from their coaches such that it’s confusing whether it’s advise or abuse, and in class they learn about the evolution of pre-historic microbes who would one day grow up to play American football.

Just my kind of book. Lithe missiles are coming out of their silos and they are playing American football in the snow.

I take you out of my fourteen year old mind and leave you with random excerpts from some Don DeLillo novels:

Hours later, after we had both missed dinner, Bloomberg rolled over on his back. He managed this without taking his hands from their position behind his neck. He used his elbows as levers and brakes, as landing gear. It seemed some kind of test – to move one’s body 180 degrees without changing the relationship among its parts. (From End Zone)

I spurred the frisky Mustang past hundreds of bungalows, guest cottages and motels, twenty-five hundred miles from Marlboro country, and neon lobster phantasms swam across the wet road. It was evening when we got to Millsgate, a small white town on Penobscot Bay. The rain had stopped and we had dinner in a fishnet restaurant and then set out on foot to search for Bobby Brand’s ascetic garage, Brand in exile, Brand junkless, Brand writing the novel that would detonate in the gut of America like a fiery bacterial bombshell. (From Americana)

She knew he was trying to sense it, she was awake. He was on the verge of saying something or leaning over to touch. He would probably touch, rise on an elbow and touch her at the hip with his hand curled soft. She felt his desire like an airstream in the dark. He was waiting, thinking if this was the time. His own wife and he had to think. (From Libra)

She thought of the prehistoric reptiles that came mutating out of the slime and the insects with chromosome damage poking from the desert near some test site, ants the size of bookmobiles – these were movies for the drive-ins of the fifties, a boy and girl yanking at each other’s buckles and snaps while the bomb footage unfurls and the giant leeches and scorpions appear on the horizon, all radioactive and seeking revenge, and the fleeing crowds, of course, because in the end these creatures not only come from the bomb but displace it, and the armies mobilise and the crowds flee and the sirens wail like sirens. (From Underworld)

My helmet, wobbling slightly, rocking, was on the floor between my feet. I looked into it. I felt sleepy and closed my eyes. I went away for a while, just one level down. Everything was far away. I thought (or dreamed) of a sunny green garden with a table and two chairs. There was a woman somewhere, either there or almost there, and she was wearing clothes of another era. There was music. She was standing behind a chair now, listening to a Bach cantata. It was Bach all right. When I lost the woman, the music went away. But it was still nice. The garden was still there and I felt I could add to it or take away from it if I really tried.  Just to see if I could do it, I took away a chair. Then I tried to bring the woman without the music. Somebody tapped my head and I opened my eyes. I couldn’t believe where I was. Suddenly my body ached all over. They were getting up and getting ready to move out. I was looking into Roy Yellin’s chewed-up face. (From End Zone)