“Katana, that roof has gone a day without being swept,” Mama Linda barked at me and I pretended not to have heard her. “Do you think it will sweep itself?” she asked after a while. Sweeping the roof was terrible work. It was slanted and rusted and it was a wonder that I still had my limbs. I stayed silent and showed her my back and waited for the sky to fall on my head.
In Churo village it was a serious crime for you to disobey your elders. When your elder told you to do something; regardless of what it was, you got moving and got it done. It was only later that I would visit Nairobi and find out in astonishment that some youths thought they were wiser than their elders and would often go against their wishes.
Bobobo the village fool was the only one in Churo village who had crossed this line: “Take the goats to the river to drink water,” his mother had asked him. It is said he was drinking goat milk straight from the udders when he disobeyed. “I will take them myself,” her mother had said defeated and Bobobo had never been the same again. Some say it was the result of his mother’s curse, yet others insist there was something in the goat milk. This has been an ongoing debate in Churo for a long time.
Unlike Bobobo, I wasn’t drinking goat milk straight from the udder. I was seated on a stone watching Safari Ants form what looked like a ball of black hair around a bone. I sat there waiting for the sky to fall on my head while wondering where the bone had come from. For all the time I had worked for Njoro, I had never smelt meat being cooked in his household leave alone come across the evidence of it.
I made to pick up the bone to inspect it—I am ashamed to say that my mouth was watering at this point. I did not get it off the ground before a rogue Safari Ant dug its claws into my skin. I brushed it away angrily and sucked on the wound. It is common knowledge in Churo that a person’s saliva is great medicine. I went at the bone again but this time it was not a Safari Ant that stopped me but the sound of Beatrice screaming.
I got up from the stone, turned around and there she was, in a pile on the ground with the ladder and a broom, inches from her. I run towards her but she refused my help. She did not say it but I knew she was upset at me. If it was not for her unending chores, for her sex life which had all but evaporated since that night.
“Let me help you,” I insisted and stretched a hand towards her. “I am fine!” she cooed defiantly. Even when she was angry her voice was still a song. She got up by herself and positioned the ladder to climb the roof again, ignoring the visible bruises that were on her arms and legs. So this was Mama Linda’s grand plan to make me submit. Tell Beatrice to do my chores; knowing all too well it would eat me up.
“Let me do my job,” I said to Beatrice matter-of-factly while taking the broom from her hand and positioning the ladder properly. “Tell Mama Linda I won’t disobey her again,” I added as Beatrice disappeared into the house. I spent the rest of the day sweeping the roof, wondering how I would get us out of this predicament in between scratching my groin and dreading the idea that the rogue Safari Ant had found its way into my trousers.