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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Daddy I Dare vii. Shining Knights

Somewhere in the distant vastness, an owl hooted—tooting mightily his disapproval at the approaching day. A feral cat screamed closer to the arena, a myriad of wings and legs scraped and serrated to give a hopeful tune in never-ending early morning bird songs. Frogs with puffy throats piped and sang to their own melody suggesting that the silence of the country was, in truth, silence in name only.

Devotedly, the cock crowed again, the sky and Sirius star obeyed him and leisurely paled in its subdued dreamland. And as if dawn listened too, doors of dawn opened and flood light pierced—dismissing darkness with an efficacy and immediacy that defied all odds. The eastern light had conquered darkness indeed!

The euphoria and ululation genially greeted the successful initiation. The final rite of giving presents and gifts from well wishers followed. He received a heifer here, a rooster there; wads of money, honey, a new shuka. Anything and everything he desired for his enduring tenacity in becoming and proving himself a man!

For whom is it well? Mwanamberi mama ee?
For whom is it well? Mwanamberi ee?
There is none! Mwanamberi mulaiko ee!
For whom it is well! Mwanamberi khasikorera!

Mwana wa mberi ba yaaye
Mwanawa mberi
Ayaaye kho
Mwana wa mberi wasikholela

But then the manner-less and now man-less silhouette of my father appeared suddenly hunting about the main arena like a starved dog that had forgotten where he had buried his bone, screaming desperately and looking frantically, perhaps for his missing muscular member!

It was crazy—a dawn that confusion got its foot in the front door—a man missing his member looking for it everywhere! His weeping and wailing at the top of his generator voice as if tears would rinse his holy begging in his eyes to make petitions clear, yet looking like the proverbial fly that was busy spoiling his grandmother’s funeral. He was stealing the whole show! A sideshow of a sideshow! The main pain written on the initiate’s face would knock out the stoutest soldier, but he wouldn’t protest carrying his fate as Atlas bore the heavens on his shoulders. That was societal measure for a man’s greatness, that he would drink his anguish in sips like a man.

When cat’s curiosity came out of the bag, everyone rushed to the stage, brushing us aside; with edgy effort even in the way they were staring. But the most horrible sight in the village couldn’t put out the flare of those eyes. In fact it fed it. For a few seconds, silence reigned in the arena. But then stares swiftly travelled from different eyes to the man poisoning the pulsating air with sighs and groans, and then focused on the sight of the missing third leg. The pain of a monster never did seem so real upon a man until he wept about with a scream!

‘Mai! Mai! Woi! Woi baane!’ Women always wet with sentimentality, screamed at the pitiful figure. The mountain of sympathy may have made him feel the full weight of his pain, as a swimmer climbing ashore felt the full weight of his body. He couldn’t take it anymore. He collapsed; like the proverbial man who built on shifting sand, and a small earthquake shook the foundations, plunging him into an abyss of misery from which there was no escape.

Quickly someone took Motema’s discarded black shuka and covered him—a costume of blackness as a statement of sadness! What if he dies? They rushed him under the murembe tree and the circumciser worked out to resuscitate him. Fanning his face, now bearing great acreage of pain, resignation, yielding, and with a kind of sleepy immensity like that of Madiba, but with looks of as much composure as a man sleeping out in a thunderstorm or curling up in a wasp’s nest.

When a handful of minutes fell like leaves from the tree of time, the staunch soldier—with bullets, minus a gun—stirred up from his near death escapade. The air was heavy with cheerful sighs of relief because he had escaped the trap of death. He was lucky for most wouldn’t. Those escaping always left something of themselves behind, as some animals severed a leg and left it in the trap.

Shock from the crowd adjusted to astonishment when he finally sat down and asked for a drink. A drink, like his sentence, he was determined to drink even if the booze was made of vinegar. It was brought—he who brings busaa brings life! A drunken Babel of noise stirred from amused mouths with the kind of clamour that would stick in the village for a long time—coming from lips still recovering from a musical hangover of a chaotic dance.

They’ll sing that his soul had crept into our society—as a steady whisper, — like a caterpillar into a rose, ate and ate, bored and bored, until nothing was left but the dark coating. Ma wished to get away from him, but she couldn’t.

I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!

The criminal calendar of the society would have been spared an additional rape had he not abused his manhood that day. The death that would kill a man began as an appetite. In the past a man who raped a woman was dragged on the ground of the village by his balls until they dropped. The elders agreed with the dark knights that castration in the past was the punishment for rape. But after many men turned man-less, this custom was stopped because it unwittingly tarnished a tradition which it was meant to safeguard.

When the elders concluded their impromptu morning meeting, they decided that nothing could be done to salvage the dismembered gun. The circumciser persuaded the elders to let my father heal his wound alongside the initiate in the secluded recovery house. Here he would lick his scars because there was special food. And under the care of the patriarchs, he’d heal quicker than if he retreated to my cold and adamant ma whose femme fatale the whole village knew very well.

The elders were tolerably lenient with us; agreeing that no man however great, was superior to his people. If the dark knights spoke of pulling down and destroying; their language was one of conciliation and rebuilding. The Joker couldn’t outdo the good deeds. The dark knights were given safe passage for my father had been that troublesome house that caught fire and spared them the labour of pulling it down—a house that when it burnt, no one bothered asking if the roof came down with it. Further, against my father’s word, there was no proof to pin down the faceless vigilantes that had carried out the jungle justice.

Even the tortoise knew that a man who made trouble for others, made trouble for himself! Like all great stories, the tale of the dark knights grew on every succeeding initiation ceremony as much as they hated to see their characters leave at the end. Gotham didn’t have to know what had happened. But that was what was needed to happen. The heroes that they didn’t deserve but the heroes they needed. Nothing less than knights. Shining. And who’d live for a day to die heroes, than to live long enough to see themselves become villains.


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