Little was known about Njoro, and so there were a lot of rumors going around about him. “He had worked for a mhindi in Nairobi and stolen a fortune,” some said. “He had insulted his parents and they had cursed him with selling alcohol,” others insisted.
After helping him clear the bush, I headed towards my parent’s hut to see if I could get more information about him. “That Njoro came out of nowhere and rose like cream, above everyone in Churo,” my father Mateo said when I asked. “What a man!” he added with pride as my mother Sara, with her back bent, gave him a raised eyebrow, as if to say, ‘In a place like this? I would tend to imagine he was running from something.’
Many men are ever proud of their come-up stories, I thought as I left my parent’s compound and headed towards Freddie’s shop. ‘Oh, I started in a dump, with a broken stove and a thin mattress on the floor, but look at me now.’ But not Njoro; he never spoke about where he came from. He was ever vague and cavalier with phrases like:
“Ni mungu tu.”
“Ni kujaribu tu.”
You will remember Freddie, the charcoal burner who snatched Winnie from me. The sun was up in the sky as I got to his shop to buy charcoal and cook something different from the watery cabbage and ugali I was used to. Njoro had paid me after clearing the bush and I highly suspected he did it out of guilt more than anything else.
If only he was always guilty. I wished while approaching Freddie’s shop. Opposite the shop, her Wife, Winnie, who was the village’s hairdresser as well as the chief gossip, had a three-legged stool outside knitting Sheila’s hair. And I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation as Freddie stuffed my bag with the black mineral.
“Eh, Mama Linda, isn’t that woman old enough to be Njoro’s grandmother,” Winnie said.
“Yet there she is with a newborn baby,” Sheila added.
“If I was Beatrice, I would be very careful,” Winnie said. Then they both went dead silent after they saw me and realized there were more than two people in their conversation. We exchanged awkward, obligatory hello’s, and as I left they started giggling.
My mind buzzed with thoughts throughout the walk to my house. ‘Where did the child come from, if not from Mama Linda?’ The thought kept creeping up in my head as I made ugali and fried beans in my hot mud hut—so hot I had removed my shirt. ‘And where was its mother?’ I wondered wiping the sweat from my brow. More than anything, this made me justify the next actions I took.