I knocked the door to my house and waited. I heard mama watoto issue a permit to my eldest son to have the door open. They knew it was me. They always know how I knock my own door without asking who it is though we live in a risky neighborhood. A neighborhood where trust is the most expensive possession anyone could ever have. Trusting anyone is a huge risk especially in this season of high political temperatures – that has to be taken sometimes. 

“Karibu daddy.”
My son said. 
I didn’t realise he had opened the door ages ago only to find me sinking in thought. 
As I walked in, “Habari zenu?”
All my kids answered in unison, “Mzuri baba.” 
I have three children, Tony, Johnny and Sonny in that order.
Mama watoto gave me her special greetings as I took a seat on the only chair that belongs to baba in the house, “How are you?”
“Fine I’m fine dear. Just tired,” she speaks to me in English, an unlikely thing in the neighborhood. 
She is a kindergarten teacher in a local primary school here in Kawangware. She knows how much I love English to the extent of pursuing it in my younger years in Nairobi University. I’d have been a high school English teacher had it not been for losing my father in 1997. I was in third year by then. My mother did not have a sustainable job to cater for her five children. Thus being the first born, I had to leave uni to hustle for my siblings. These things do happen.
Haiyaa nyinyi si mchukue hii shopping mpee mama yenu. Lazima niwaambie?” 

Tony chukua ulete,” She told the boy.
“We were waiting for unga. Otherwise mboga iko ready.” 

“So hata maji bado hujachemsha?”
I asked. 

“Imechemka ata karibu inaisha.”
She has a sense of humor too. My kids laughed to that as they patiently sat on stools staring into the dim light of the lantern. 

“Daddy unaeza tuekea radio kwa simu?”
Sonny asks. 
She is my weakness in that house being the youngest and only girl. Her elder brothers seem to know that she steals my heart whenever she asks for anything, so they send her to me whenever they need anything. Before she was born four years ago, they had a tough time getting me to do them some favours. They realised the difference afterwards and since then, they have been using her as an avenue. I hope it remains as simple as that – that they won’t sell her to merchants like Joseph’s brothers did in the good book.
As they engrossed themselves on their generation’s favourite, my sweetheart and I caught up in the events of our day. She has been my best friend ever since our days in the university. She was right behind me swirling the ugali. The kitchen in our small slum house is the corridor between the sitting room and our bedroom. Our bedroom is just a bed by the wall and covered in curtains. We are the married ones in the house you know?  We appreciate God for the house and state we are in as a family though. At least I have a loving family, something many people with mansions and heavy machines long for. I see these things in my work place in Lavington. My boss and his wife are separated. I pity him as he pities me about where I live with my family. 
In fact I share with mama watoto what he was telling me today, “Mudhee, are you sure you’ll be safe with your family? Hio Kawangware yenu ai! In this political season is it safe?” 
“Then what did you tell him?” She asked.
“I didn’t know what to tell him. I just said we are trusting God we will be safe. Then he said, “If you’re threatened by anything, don’t hesitate to call me. I’ll help where I can. Wewe ni mfanyikazi wangu mzuri. This is home for you and your own.” 
I saw mama watoto smile to that as she bent slightly to rest a cake of steaming ugali on the table before me. “That’s nice. We hope all goes well.” 
Lakini umeskia kitu yoyote ya kutatanisha huku?” 

“Rumours gani?” 
She went silent. I was just sitting up to ask again, but this time sternly – when she presented a plate of sukuma wiki with flowerings of tomatoes and onions. Oh boy, she does know how to keep me quiet. 
Tony, kujeni mkule.” She said.
I had already prayed for my own food and proceeded with the honorable meal. Mama watoto sat down with Sonny. 

“Sweetie wewe ndo umejua sasa.”
Referring to the meal while introducing another ball of ugali and mboga into my mouth. 
In the middle of her giggle, she realised the two young lads were still glued to the phone. 

“Mútuke mùye!”
The lads stood up quickly and pulled their stools towards the table. When the Kamba in their mother awakens, even I of all people can’t do anything to help the boys. 
Iya simu isu nthi!” Even before she finished commanding, the phone was already before me. 

“Sasa ni nini ya maana mlifanya leo ?”
I asked. That was family time now.

“Tulienda kwa kina njoro kuwatch TV.”
Johnny said. Always the talkative one.
Almost clearing my plate, “Hio ndo kitu ya maana sasa? Hakuna mwenye alishika kitabu kupanguza ata vumbi?” 

They laughed. “Nyinyi jichekeleeni tu.”

“Yes Sonny?”

“Mimi nilisoma.”
We all laughed. 
“Ayya mkimaliza kula, straight...?”

“Kwa kitanda.”
They responded. 
“And tomorrow, you stay in the house. It’s not the season you can just walk around the way you want. Johnny umeskia?”

Mama watoto joined me in bed after ensuring the kids were asleep.
“The reason why I couldn’t tell you what the rumours were is because I didn’t want the kids to hear. They’d get scared.” She said. 
She was trying to get a suitable position she’d sleep in for the whole night.
“Ebu songa kidogo. Kwani leo hutaki nilale?” 
“Sitaki aje yet this is usually the best part of my day.”
Our bed doesn’t give us the allowance to dream vigorous dreams. It’s worse for her since she sleeps by the edge as I sleep by the wall. If I have a bad dream I’ll push her off. If she has a bad one she’ll fall off on her own. But it has never happened like so. 

“Sasa rumours zilikuwa gani?”
I asked. 

“Watu wa NASA wanataka kuleta fujo kwa watu wa Jubilee,”
I opened my eyes and nearly chocked in my breath in shock. We were living in a slum of houses whose owner is a Kikuyu woman. So our area may be a target, I thought. 
I have never had any political inclination. Mama watoto is the only one who knows that I have never even voted. That is after what happened to my father in 1997. We brought up our children without being stereotypical about any tribe. 

“Alafu pia wa Jubilee walisema hawatatendwa na wanyamaze tu.”
She added. 
I clicked as I turned to face the wall, “Mbona watu wako hivo sasa jameni.” 

Mpenzi,” She held me from turning and looked at me in the eyes. The light on my phone’s screen in between our heads – graced the moment. “Tuombe tu Mungu atatulinda.” She smiled. “We will be fine, okay dear?” 
The screen light went off just in time for the goodnight kiss that is usually administered so passionately. She gave me my first kiss by the way, in December 14, 1998. Sometimes I want more than just a kiss but she stops me in a very consoling way. The reason why, is just around us.
I had a very deep sleep that night that felt like seven hours when I was woken up by mama watoto. She sleeps with one eye open. My daughter couldn’t sleep because of how frightened she was. There were nerve wrecking noises, yells and screams all over from outside. 

“Baba Tony ebu amka!”
I checked my phone, three missed calls and I had slept for only two hours. My neighbour, baba Njoro had tried to call. Funny how I had forgotten to put the phone on vibration. 

“Kwani hauskii hizo makelele?” 

As I called Baba Njoro, the screams of women were getting louder.
“Hallo baba…” Before I could finish, he began speaking immediately. Mama watoto stood looking at me, holding the little one while waiting for the next move from the man of the house. The next move would come after the phone call ends. She studied my face and I could tell she knew that things weren’t so good. 
Baba Njoro sounded horrified. He spoke quickly and even shifted to Kikuyu from time to time because of lacking words. The last thing I heard before my airtime ran out was, “Sasa wamewashia nyumba za Mama Wanjiku moto!” 

As soon as I lowered the phone from my ear, “Amesema nini?” She asked.

“Landlord wetu ni mama nani? Wanjiku?”

“Eeh! Kwa nini?”

“Amesema fujo zimeanza na wamewashia nyumba za mama Wanjiku moto.” 

It’s like she saw that coming. She put Sonny down without hesitating and pulled the blanket covering my sons. 
“Ebu amkeni!” 
She issued orders to have the major things packed in sheets and blankets. My daughter was crying on top of her voice but that did not matter to anyone at that time. I went outside to see how much time we had before the alleged fire reached our house. Our neighbors had began running for their lives with all that they could secure. Safaricom had not yet granted me the airtime loan I requested for. Were they on fire too or what? I wanted to call my boss. He was the only source of help I could get for my family.
As I wore my shoes and jacket, “Mama Tony mko tayari?” 

“Bado kidogo… Johnny harakisha kuvalisha mtoto sweater!” 

“Mmepack vitabu zenu?”
The teacher in me asked. 
Tony answered, “Eh tumepack. Me niko ready.” 

I was already at the door, “Ayya kanyaga nje.” 

I took one last look into our slum house. How we were going to get another place to stay in, I didn’t know and it did not matter at the time. All that mattered was our safety. 
Before we knew it, stones began raining on the roofs. Mjangos were hurling stones from the other side. 
“Mama Tony!” There was a weight of urgency in my voice.
Twende Baba Tony.” 
She handed Sonny to me and had Tony place a bucket full of stuff on her head. Everyone was loaded.
Tony bravely led the way through the slums as he ordered confused residents on the way to step aside. He knew the routes better than any of us. A man in the making. I tagged along last while tightly carrying my daughter.
Mama watoto looked back from time to time to ensure I was still in the journey and to asses the raging fire. “Chunga,” I chuckled, “You might turn into a pillar of salt.” 
She giggled. “You can afford a joke at this time Baba Tony.” 

“Mum tunaenda wapi?” 

I heard Johnny ask as he looked back at his mother. 

“Ah twende tu John. Tutajulia mbele.”
After some distance, “Baba Tony, boss amesemaje?”

“Ata ndo nafikiria kumhusu.”

“Kwani hujampigia?”

“Safaricom wameringa na okoa jahazi.”

“Now what do we do?”
I had no answer to that. We came across a mass of people evacuated from their homes standing in disbelief. Women and children crying, others already dry of wails and tears. My heart sunk when I realised that some didn’t even have time to secure their property. They had nothing in their hands or backs, but the clothes they had worn.
We stood along with the mass. My son Johnny was at the brink of tears. I guess at his age, he was finding it hard to imagine any other place we could go to. I pitied him. In fact I pitied myself more because they all looked up to me for the next move yet I didn’t even have options. I fought with the imagination of showing up at my boss’ place with my family without his go ahead. Yes he is a good man, but things don’t work that way. I pitied my country even the more. It is clear that sanity has not yet found it’s place in some of us citizens. Enough sanity to tell us that we are one and tribalism is just a line we have drawn in our minds. Politics is just politics but brotherhood? Brotherhood is everything. 

“Daddy simu yako inavibrate kwa mfuko.”
Johnny said. 
I was drowning in my own mind to realise. 

“Huyu mtoto wetu ni mzito, ebu ingiza mkono kwa mfuko utoe.” 

He did so, “Ni nani?” I asked. 
“Boss,” he said.
I looked at Mama Tony, she was already smiling. 


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Written by The Mjango

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Quincy Walukana
5 years ago

This is mind blowing, ecstatic, moving and even has a few instances of Humor. A depiction of what really goes on in such instances. 100%