It was not until now that I realized the power that Uncle Ayaan wielded. The morning after the sandstorm, men and women alike came from every corner of Dol Dol to pay homage to him. A throne of a chair was put together, a podium erected and we stood next to him as he received gifts of fealty.
For a desert, I was surprised by how rich it was. Gifts came in all shapes and sizes; some were foodstuff, others jewelry, and yet others were strange. And stranger still that they were the first ones to be presented.
“This is my son Teo.” A short man with a wooden leg and a head full of white hair stepped forward, with a boy twice his height that was all muscle. “I present him as a gift to you Mighty Ayaan. Let him be your bodyguard so you can always sleep in peace,” he added.
“This could be another Barre,” Hani whispered into her husband’s ear.
“Thank you for your gift Jimon. But I would be greedy to accept it, seeing as I am already well attended,” Uncle Ayaan responded while looking at his wife, at me, and at Bobobo—who was two times the size of Jimon’s son and three times as formidable.
“If you won’t have him as your guard, let him serve your cups, sweep your compound, and mend your torn clothes?” Jimon insisted as an elderly woman approached him and whispered in his ear. It was a great crime to go against the word of your superior, especially in a public forum. “Forgive my foolishness Mighty Ayaan. Your wish is my command,” he coughed and bowed in submission.
“You have a smart wife, Jimon. She has kept you alive for this long, and she will keep you alive for even longer. Just don’t go against her wisdom, lest you lose your good leg,” Uncle Ayaan boomed as the man with the wooden leg limped off the podium embarrassed and the crowd of congregants roared with laughter.
The second gift was also peculiar. A wilting man, who I was surprised the wind didn’t carry away, walked to the podium. I did not recognize the gift he was presenting at first and when I did, my eyes opened wide with confusion. “Enough blood has been shed, all my sons have been slayed,” he said placing a crown of thorns on my uncle’s feet. “Let it end today, Ayaan,” he added.
Hani came out of nowhere, with her blade, and in a split second, the man lay lifeless on the ground. The blood from his opened throat making a river of its own on the sands. “He is the last of his line and the last of weak men,” Ayaan boomed while raising a glass as his loyal men carried him away, together with his crown of thorns.
A woman stepped forward with two of what looked like her daughters as if nothing had happened. They were beautiful, but all the same, their beauty paled in comparison to that of Beatrice.
“I present my beloved daughters to you Mighty Ayaan. Let my twins warm your bed, cook your food, and soothe your sorrows. These gifts I give to you wholeheartedly.” The woman finished and the daughters stepped forward. Their frocks blowing in the wind.
There was a silence, that seemed to cut like Hani’s knife. Ayaan leaned back eyeing his gifts almost salivating in glee while Hani, his wife stood next to him with an expressionless face.
“A most thoughtful gift Cimdi,” Uncle Ayaan finally broke the silence. “But I will have to pass. My wife warms my bed, cooks, and soothes me just fine,” he said while rubbing Hani’s hand. “Katana is the bachelor here. Let my nephew try them on for size and see which one fits him best,” he added with a wide smile realizing the trouble it brewed in me. I glanced at Beatrice with a look meant to reassure her, only, her mind was not with us.
Cimdi bowed and left the podium with her two daughters. She would die the same evening in her sleep. Some in Dol Dol would blame it on old age, others would say it was the long-term fatigue of giving birth to twins, yet some would say Hani did not take kindly that her husband was up to be shared like a serving of sorghum ugali and she had slipped into Cimdi’s hut in the hour of the owl and broken her neck.
The gifts that followed after that were less peculiar and more functional. AK 47s were presented to the five of us which Ayaan gladly accepted, knives followed, camels, jewelry, books, building materials, drums of water and wine, bales of sorghum flour, goat meat, and on and on they flooded in, to the point I stopped taking count and joined Beatrice in her daze.
“That sandstorm was a blessing,” Uncle Ayaan chirped in our makeshift tent after the congregants had departed and the most loyal of his men had remained behind for security and rebuilding. “I thought we needed to do a raid but Dol Dol will burst if it gets any more wealthier,” he added. And at that point, I realized we wouldn’t be leaving for Nairobi anytime soon, at least not if I could help it.