Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The spear upon the coat: Incomplete

They came calling deep in the dead of the night, their boots sliding on the grass.

I was in Wanja’s hut and next to me was Murathe, the little boy who had been born to me at the height of my youth. Wanja was sound asleep. On such a night, she would sleep till the cock crowed. Then she would make her way to the shed to squeeze whatever came out of ngunu. Spending nights with Wanja took my mind off the horrors of the war. I cannot say I was not afraid. Every meeting was an opportunity to be reminded that we of the nine clans now belonged to Mwene-Nyaga. We would rub our hands upon the earth and generate the warmth we needed to withstand the gathano.

I reached out for my spear. Wanja did not stir. This woman whose hut would be torched while she slept because her husband was home restored my confidence. I rose and stood behind the door. I heard a familiar whisper calling out to my sister Nyawira. Nyawira’s hut was at the periphery of the farm. She was divorced and had been pointed to the place upon which to erect her hut by Gicaru, her father. It was Njihia looking for a place to pull some warmth. I stepped outside and walked to where he stood. He hesitated and moved as if to run. But I had drawn to where he stood. He held out his be-speared hand. I recognised the spear. It belonged to Maina, the head of his village and the elder of his age-set. Maina had asserted his honour upon Njihia’s household for the night and left his spear firmly placed outside. According to the language of honour among brothers of the same age-set, Njihia could not interrupt. I looked at him and recognised the look, the longing in his eyes to have some company before dawn but I could tell that he was afraid of me. He was right to be afraid because I thought him a coward who could not defend the honour of his household because tradition commanded it. I scorned upon his self pity.

I thought of the day I had come home to find Kimani about to place his spear outside Wanja’s hut. The village awoke to the story that I had killed Kimani and fed his body to the dogs. But the ordeal between Kimani and I remained as cold as only that night could narrate. Kimani and others like him understood that Wanja’s hut bore the shelter of only one spear. Njihia had failed his clan. He had failed his sons who would never know the honour of defending the shelters of their spears. He now stood outside Nyawira's hut whining like a wet animal.

Happy 50th Kenya.

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