That night when kukhu gave me luupaparo, I shouted at her.
‘Why do you hate me?’
Kukhu was taken aback and looked at my plate twice, then looked up at me. I was way taller and bigger than her.
‘Oh, have my ears deceived me or did I hear well?’ She asked looking around at all of us: Aginesi, Biketi and Esinasi. They stared at her and held on tight to their plates.
‘I said did my ears deceive me or did I hear right, Nanzi?’
‘Why, why do you hate me?’
‘Hate? I have given you food, now I hate you?’
‘Why do you give me khapaparo? I am the eldest girl, but look at Biketi’s plate-‘
‘Will you keep quiet?’ Her tone was unbothered.
‘No, why do you hate me!’
‘If you don’t want to eat, don’t blame me. If your anus is tired, leave the food there. There are enough stomachs in this house and I will appreciate if someone gave up their share.’
‘But why do you hate me? Why?’
‘Why would I hate you, er?’ she started pacing the poorly-lit room.
Her shadow danced on the wall. Her head was like an ogre’s preparing to swallow a human. Biketi was already eating the drumstick and squeezing the ugali between his fingers; that hyena- may he choke on his vomit when he sleeps. Khandi Agnesi was staring at us – kukhu and I- and slowly put the liver in her mouth. I was looking at my plate, balancing tears. Honestly a chicken has two drumsticks, emondo, the chest, kumukongo, lukosi, that part bordering the drumsticks, bilenge, the head and what have you. It has seventeen body parts! And kukhu, with all wickedness, thinks I, Nanzi Nakhumicha, daughter of my mother, deserves a wing. A wing! A wing that hangs careless, a tiny rudimentary fragment that flaps like a scare crow in a windy farm. Luupaparo for me? I’m I a slave? Was I not born through a woman’s thighs or was I vomited? Didn’t I cry at birth like normal children? Or did I, Nakhumicha, daughter of my mother laugh when I was born? So she gives me luupaparo so that I don’t get a husband? No, this witch has pushed her luck too far.
‘Ptho! You tell me why you hate me, today today!’ I banged on that rickety table and the water tumblers gave in and fell, spilling the water that was gulped by the dry earth. ‘Oli khomila emondo, endumbu, kumukongo ngo omusecha!’ You are swallowing the gizzards, drumstick and the back as if you are a man.
‘Why would I hate you? Why would I hate you when you don’t know your father? Why would I hate you when your mother loves you so much that she dumped you here?’
I had heard this statement daily, it did not bother me anymore.
Esinasi cupped her mouth and fidgeted on her stool. The ugali was steaming, and Biketi, I am telling, was swallow it hot hot. Ah, that boy will one day swallow all of us together with this hut because of his unmatched his greed. He was not even trying to cool the lumps before swallowing. He was swallowing, with his mouth openly fanning the hot lump in his throat and mouth.
‘I don’t care if she left me here! Why do you give me luupaparo? And you give the young ones bigger pieces of chicken?’ I sneered holding my waist and shaking.
‘This is my house and I decide who sleeps hungry and who eats.’ Kukhu said in an assertive tone. ‘If you don’t want it, leave it.’
‘For your greedy stomach or that of this hyena?’ I asked gesturing with my mouth at Biketi. His mouth and entire face were now shiny, you would think he has bathed in eliyanto.
‘Don’t you dare-‘ Kukhu said, trying to stand straight, but tick tock, grave is calling. Her back was curved like a karai.
‘What? Isn’t he a hyena, like you?’
‘Nakhumicha!’ she yelled now.
‘Sina!’ What? I barked.
‘Watch your mouth.’ She said, drawing back to her composure. It is either the skin around her mouth sags too much or she was smiling.
‘No, why are you always favoring him?’
‘He is the head of this family as it is. If you have a problem, you can leave my house.’
‘House? This stupid falling thing that looks like a shrine for a person who died hungry years is what you pride yourself-‘
‘What do you own, except a huge stomach and a frog that swallows every stick?’
Her words hit me like wet mud plastered on a wall. Kukhu tells me words, day and night. Kukhu says things she should not say to a sixteen year old. Kukhu laments how we, her grandchildren, will send her to an early grave. But isn’t time up already yaye? Sometimes she wakes up singing a dirge. She sings and sings for hours and wishes death on my head, because I have a long mouth like namuchunjusii. But I am not like Esinasi and Agnesi. My cousins say kukhu is an evil witch behind her back and she will burn in hell. Biketi worships kukhu because he is the only son of his late father. Biketi’s father was kukhu child, just like my mother, Esinasi’s and Agnesi’s. Our mothers remarried and left us at kukhu’s. Their husbands, we heard, said they cannot live with evidence from our mothers’ wasteful youth. Esinani’s mother comes thrice a year and brings her clothes and dolls. Agnesi’s mother comes more frequently to visit her. Biketi has no mother. That is why kukhu says she is his mother and his father. Me, you want to know about my mother? It is best you don’t, because you will call me names, like the way kukhu does.
Biketi burst out or he was choking just after kukhu said my frog swallows every stick. My other cousins were shocked but continued eating.
‘Kukhu! Shut up!’ I screamed and smashed the metallic plate on the floor. The ca, which had been begging people for food but was being ignored openly, leapt at the piece with such precise accuracy. Ptho! This cat is a witch like kukhu.
‘Are you now angry? Ayaya kooye!’ she said clapping her hands and let out a laugh that could make anybody go mad with anger. ‘Yeee. Your work in this house is eating, eating and eating. And if you are not in this house eating, your frog is elsewhere eating and eating sticks, twigs, rods!’
My huge hand made contact with kukhu’s skin that sagged like sheaves of millet and she let out a wail.
‘You have killed me, Nakhumicha.’ She said weakly on the floor. ‘You have killed me.’
I thought my nose would collapse because it was becoming increasing difficult to breath. I felt invisible hands on my throat as a huge lump blocked the air. That woman is a witch. I was shaking and roared to remove the lump. My body was trembling with rage. I felt pain travel from my palm to my wrist, elbow and I became numb. I watched kukhu lying on the floor, singing a dirge, again.
When we buried grandmother few months later, people said she died of stroke. That her heart failed.