Mbugua’s eyes hardly adjusted to the dimly lit room than a devastating-Mike-Tyson-esque blow landed squarely on his face catching him completely by surprise. It was what they call, in boxing, a TKO(Technical Kìmanyùko) that sent him sprawling to the floor. The punch could have felled many a WBC champions leave alone the big framed but bony Mbugua. Revelers in the club were awe struck by the sheer balefulness of the blow. Everybody had their mouth wide open in astonishment.
Mbugua had been sent by the rest of the group to ascertain that Kìbaara was actually patronising at Causarina Miami bar in Kiambu town. This was Kìbaara’s favourite joint whenever he had “good” money. Right then, he had more money than he had probably handled in ten years.
Two hours earlier a transaction had taken place in a small village in Kamunyaka. The deal was sealed in record time in order to avoid any surprises from a soul who would materialize and throw a monkey’s wrench to the works.
The buyer whisked his new acquisition away while the seller hurriedly left for the shopping center without bothering to take a bath or in the least, put on some decent clothing. He had on a pair of weather beaten shoes and a Jubilee Party t-shirt that would be anywhere between its golden or platinum jubilees.
Kìbaara’s throat was parched like Narumoro soil in mid February. He wanted a drink badly. At that moment, he wanted a beer more than anything else in the world. He was hearing incessant voices in his head whispering, “beer sasa na kama sio sasa ni sasa hivi.” Another voice inside his head was telling him to summon a boda boda to save time but his phone battery was dead. He tried to argue with the voices reminding them that it was too early for a drink but the voices would loudly countermand reminding him that “nda ndìrì ime.” which translates to “there is no dew inside the stomach.”
The voices won the argument with an overwhelming majority and Kìbaara broke into a little run headed for the local shopping center which was less than two kilometers away.
During daytime, bars at the shopping centre remained “closed” in compliance to Mututho laws but the locked doors were a mere subterfuge. Trusted customers knew what to do; go through the butchery and access the bar from behind rapping on the door with four short staccato taps with the palm of the hand as opposed to the knuckles. Makena the bar maid would answer the door but not before asking the coded question, “woka na iria rìrìkù” (Umekuja na maziwa gani?) to which the reveler would answer “ndoka na brookside.”
She would add, “wagùra kwa ù?” (You’ve bought from whose shop?) of which the answer would be “ndagùra ha Mwega” (I have bought from Mwega’s) Mwega here signifying a clear coast.
This procedure was meant to throw off the local authorities in case they were piggybacking. The authorities worked hard to ensure that alcohol was not sold during the day. But as wahengas from my place quipped, cirìaga na mbugi ona kùrí ùgwati (The herd grazes with bells on their necks even with predators lurking nearby)
Kìbaara went through this procedure and had Makena open the door for him.
Mwarì wa Njine was going up the fairy steep slope from her shamba with a modest load of mìatùro and some fine mùkengeria on her back. She huffed and puffed and sweat profusely as she negotiated the path that was a bit slippery from the dissipating morning dew. Her wheezy expelling of air could be heard from a couple of a hundred miles but one would mistake it for a hand ocarina or what is locally know as ngùri.
There were not many women her age who went about running errands in the village like she did. Forty years ago, she used to ferry loads five times the current size without breaking her step. Years of toiling and moiling had taken toll on her greatest asset of her youth -sheer strength.
Inside the bar, the early revelers were signing excitedly, brandishing their drinking glasses to the chagrin of Makena who was protesting that the noise risked attracting unwarranted attention. They were singing to a corrupted version of ND Githuka’s song..
O ta ùrìa thwariga inyotagìra ithima cia maì
Ùguo noguo ngoro yakwa nayo ìra kùnyotera.
Ngakùnyotera ngakùnyotera ngakùnyotera.
Nìwe mwene ngoro ìno yakwa ìnyotagìra wee.
Ngùria nìrì ngakinya nyoneKANE
NyoneKANE hari Baba.
Like gazelles thirst for springs.
That’s the same way my heart is thirsting for you.
I am very thirsty for you.
You are solely the one I thirst for.
I long for the day I will sit before you my Lord.
Now, “Nyonekane” in the local dialect means “I be seen or I appear before ” while Kane is a popular spirit in central Kenya.
Kìbaara didn’t join in the singing but ordered two bottles of Kane Extra. He concentrated on silencing the demons in his head by swallowing two successive glasses diluted with water. The liquor teased and tickled the nerves and taste buds in his mouth leaving them more responsive in its wake down the throat with a warmth that became more fiery as the liquor reached the stomach unleashing its powerful alcoholic kick. Average drinkers would be knocked out by a single 250ml bottle of Kane Extra but Kìbaara was not an average drinker. He was the only known person in Kamunyaka who could drown two such bottles and still walk home unaided. Drinking Friends used to ask him why on earth he wasted money on alcohol seeing that it didn’t “eat” him. They suggested he put the money into better use.
*Now that I have money, why am I drinking cheap spirits, why can’t I go to Kiambu where I can drink in peace?*
Mwari wa Njine arrived at her compound after agonizingly hauling herself and her load up the steep slope from her shamba. After catching her breath, she unfastened the load setting the Mùkengeria aside and carrying the firewood to her hearth. She reemerged from the house, picked the Mùkengeria and headed towards the cow shed.
Kibaara made the decision to finish the first bottle he had ordered at Makena’s and head to Kiambu. In Kiambu, he would drink in peace and he would order proper beer and pay without worrying about the bother from buddy revellers. At Miami Casaurina for example, the chances of meeting a comrade and a brother in the bottle were very slim. He drained his glass, put the remaining bottle of Kane Extra inside his trouser pocket and rose to pay.
“Nìkì wee kaì warùga mútwe?”, Wondered Makena.
Kiara, without answering her, fished a one thousand shillings note and handed it to Makena who first stared at it in bewilderment like it was a glock pistol. She hesinstantly pulled it from the grip of Kibaara’s folded index finger and the thumb.
“Umetoa wapi elfu saa hii asubuhi? Uko sure haujaua mtu?”, she teased looking at Kibaara flirtingly.
“Rehe change tiga ùrimù!” (Give me change stop nonsense)
“Ndirì na change ma Kibaash. Sasa hii asubuhi change ya elfu itatoka wapi?”
“Kibaara mani ûrabunja ngiri na no ngirathi tùroonga haha?”, cajoled Waweru. (Kibaara you are dismantling a thousand bob and we are here suckling from empty glasses?”
“Ti ciakwa mani ona ndatùmwo thoko ndamba kùgerera gùkù”, lied Kibaara. (Money is not mine, I have been sent to the market)
“Henia Maathai!” Smirked Maina.(Tell that to the birds.)
This went on for some time which made Kibaara all the more desirious to leave the place. The voices in his head were coming back. They needed more alcohol but he would not give them more alcohol in this backwater pub. He wanted to go to Kiambu where men with real dough caroused.
Kibaara told Makena to sell mbao mbao to the group of 10 or so revellers and retain the change. He said he would pick it in the evening.
He left the pub and beckoned a boda boda rider for a ride to Kiambu. The bike spend towards Kiambu with Lucky Dube’s Slave beaming from the stereo.
Ministers of religion
Have visited me many times
To talk about it
They say to me
I gotta leave it I gotta leave it
It’s a bad habit
For a man
But when I try to leave it
My friends keep telling me
I’m a fool amongst fools
Now I’m a slave, a slave
I’m a slave
I’m a liquor slave
I’m a slave, a slave, slave
I’m a slave
Just a liquor slave
I have lost my dignity
I had before trying
To please everybody
Some say to me
I look better when I’m drunk
Some say no no no
I look bad you know
Sometimes I cry
I cry but my crying
Never helps me none………………………….
Kíbaara was too distracted to listen to the song. He had voices in his mind to contend with.
At the cowshed, Mwari Wa Njine straightened her posture supporting herself on a wooden rail. She rubbed her eyes to see clearly. The eyes were not failing her.