10 of 21
We are on our way to Mr. Khisa’s home to take Maridadi and Jenrose to his bulls to fertilize them. We are running behind the cows and Majimbo has a long whip meant for the oxen and he has refused to stop hitting Maridadi and Jenrose. All of us are going because everybody wants to eat Mr. Khisa’s loquats and black plums. Wekesa is even carrying a black plastic bag. We are using the road next the open-air market because it is safer. The market sellers have erected their parasols and spread their sacks with wares and they already look tired, even though the sun’s rays are still weak.
Wekesa suggests that we should steal one sukari nguru from Mama Aliya’s stall because her eyes cannot see far, just like Matumbufu’s. But Timina is refusing and that is why she should not even be here on this trip because she thinks she is St. Teresa.
Are we not going to eat fruits? Why are you too greedy? she asks and we wonder who bewitched her because she is stupid in the head.
Nobody has forced you to eat nguru. Reserve your stomach, but as for us, our stomachs have space for nguru and everything else, Wekesa says.
Sometimes I think if it were not for the jiggers, Wekesa would be the boss. He is not fearful and he steals one piece from the stall as we run along. St. Teresa’s hand is already stretched and we bite the nguru in turns until the last piece ends in Majimbo’s mouth.
Since someone ate a bat and came to Kenya, everyone thinks we will get corona and it is stupid. What kind of disease does that? That you sit close and shake hands and you become sick? Shaking hands is us and we are shaking hands. Shaking hands is important to us. It is why adults sometimes give us money because we shook their hands and curtsied. It is what starts and ends fights. You hold your hand out and dare your opponent to touch it and if he or she does, the fight starts in a high tempo. So if we didn’t shake hands, how were we ever going to start fights and end fights? How were we ever going to play oringo? Nyuki-nyuki? Kipapa? Were we even going to play anything?
We are holding hands now as we go up the hill, singing a train song that we learnt at school. It is Lumbasi’s turn to be the head of the train and he is taking us in circles, but singing helps. Maridadi and Jenrose are having a rough time going up the hill. The train is now passing through a bush and we tell the captain that we will get an accident. The captain assures us, trains don’t get accidents; the railway is magnetic. We feel safe and we love our captain.
We get to Mr. Khisa’s home and he asks us to wash our hands at the tap outside his house. We are happy, competing at the tap, rejoicing at the food awaiting us, imagining buttered bread and tea generous with milk and ground nuts. And we are scrubbing our dirty hands and our faces and our legs. And when we are done, Khisa says we can climb the fruit trees now. And we think our ears have not heard well. And our stomachs have realized that they have no space for silly fruits: they want buttered bread and milk tea and groundnuts.
You have to wash your hands and don’t go greeting people, Mr. Khisa says. Corona is not a joke. Do you know it has killed nine hundred Italians just today?
But we just want bread. Not stories of Italians. We did not wash our hands for stories. Timina wants to cry and so do all of us.
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