“Where will we sleep?” I made the mistake of asking as Hani served us boiled camel meat and ugali. “The boy wants to sleep,” Uncle Ayaan mocked. “I thought you slept enough in Churo?” Barre added amidst laughter. I dug my teeth in my meat which was as tough as old leather and hoped I didn’t lose a tooth, as I waited for their jokes to dry up and the answer to surface.
“Did you know they have a Posho Pub down there that doubles as their source of food and entertainment,” Uncle Ayaan said. “Down there in Churo, the only thing you have to distract yourself with is your shadow. It’s the only thing that changes with time, everything else remains the same,” he added as Barre snorted stew out of his nostrils laughing.
Bobobo groaned, put his clean plate on the floor, and shifted his body on his three-legged stool. I wondered what magic was holding it together. How was it supporting the fool’s weight without breaking? “Tell us Katana, how did you manage to survive the boredom?” Barre asked.
I threw him an angry eye, already sensing we wouldn’t get along, and went back to the contents on my plate. “They are coming,” Beatrice shrieked as I bit into the meat and inspected it to see if I had left a tooth behind. “Where am I?” she added. She had not touched any of the camel meat, I noticed. She was only eating the ugali with the stew.
“You are in the house of Ayaan, Girl. The great Merchant of Dol Dol,” Barre’s voice reverberated in the hut. “Unlike Churo it is a house that lacks in neither food, entertainment nor brave men. It is a house that inspires envy and fear from its friends and foes alike. Many have wanted to be in the position of our Great Merchant and all of them have fallen on the sands of the desert while trying.”
Uncle Ayaan stomped his foot and the ornaments on his shoes did a jingle. “Awuuuuu,” he howled. “They are coming, they are coming but they are not much for our Merchant. The lion of Dol Dol. The sharp sword. The shooter who never misses. The conqueror of hearts,” Hani followed. “Awuuuuu,” Uncle Ayaan chanted while stomping his foot on the floor some more.
“They are coming,” Beatrice shrieked. “Where am I,” she said softly while leaning on Bobobo.
“You haven’t eaten your camel meat child,” Hani said. “Camel meat will make your skin glow and attract a brave man,” Barre said. “Camel meat will make you strong for childbirth,” Hani added. “Camel meat will give you the brains of a thousand mathematicians,” Uncle Ayaan continued as Beatrice closed her eyes and fell asleep on Bobobo’s shoulder. Her plate slid from her hands and fell on the floor with a splosh.
They joked some more about our weak teeth and jaws and laughed till their ribs hurt. The moon was now up in the sky and the fire was dying together with their quips. “Where will you sleep?” Uncle Ayaan finally brought my question to the fore. “This hut is reserved for the lion and lioness of Dol Dol,” he added while glancing at Hani with bedroom eyes.
“Beatrice and I will sleep in the second hut and you and Bobobo can take the third hut,” Barre said.
“No!” I boomed. “Wherever Beatrice goes, I go,” I said matter-of-factly.
“I told you he’s lovesick. He will kill you first before you take her from him,” Uncle Ayaan said and laughed. “I would suggest you, Beatrice and the fool take the second hut. Here, we sleep in shifts and Beatrice is in no place to watch the night. Barre will be fine, he sleeps with an eye open.” Uncle Ayaan continued amidst disgruntled sounds from Barre.
“Here, you’re going to need this.” he handed me a dagger and a gun. “Just point at the enemy and pull the trigger. The enemy is anybody who is not us,” Uncle Ayaan said after seeing the confused look on my face. “The moon is not as bright tonight so make sure you’re not pointing it at the love of your life,” he added and laughed.
The three of us walked towards the second hut and picked our spots. In the coming nights, I did not sleep a wink and I understood clearly what Barre had meant when he said that Uncle Ayaan’s house did not lack entertainment.