Smiling tears of lean parents
Praying a food that only bins could offer
Even … cancelling the physical
Encouragements of these
To teach a religion of reliance
In Aondo for hope of better
With history coming to offer a puzzle
Of what (who) not to remember
– (The Teacher Called the Count – Su’eddie Vershima Agema)
The cock crows, a cliché to many but the sign that anyone still sleeping must be up in Mbatar. Mbasoon washes his face in preparation to go to the farm, the cold notwithstanding. He salutes his father by name and does same to his mother. He remembers that most of the work on the farm has been done and decides to relax a bit. He goes outside and notices some of his friends going to school. Their uniforms have patches and stitches all over, age wearing them to a colour that belies the original. These students do not seem to notice. They throw a greeting his way, not waiting to get a reply as they are late. They move as if the appointment of school is one that they would not miss for anything. Mbasoon replies to their backs. He shakes his head, envying their luck. He can’t go to school – where’s the money? There’s hardly enough to pay for anything. They have to survive largely on what they produce primarily, largely cassava.
It is not long before the first meal for the day comes: cassava. Mbasoon goes to the farm later with the family. By evening they are back and the meal is set by his mother who is very fast. The large pounding sounds have betrayed the meal a long time back: pounded cassava with okro. There is no meat or fish but they are used to it. The young chap decides to go hangout with some friends. They decide to go and watch the Manchester United versus Chelsea match showing in the only viewing centre close to the market. It is heated and fans nearly kill themselves over the results. Mbasoon and his friends decide to celebrate the victory of their club. They roast some yam they have sneaked from their parents’ barns. As they eat the meal, they bring out some raw gin that rubs the stomachs of the ten year olds. Their eyes shine but who cares. They smile as they trade tales before they all head back to their respective homes. The darkness calls to him. There is nothing to do but sleep. The mosquitoes sing the lullabies drowning the reality of time till the next cockcrow.
This is a typical day in his life, plus or minus the reason for ‘celebration’ on a near consistent basis.
It isn’t long before his stomach begins to take the shape of a more rounded calabash than it is. His ribs can be counted like those of many his age mates. When the malaria adds to the malnutrition, it takes serious contribution to get him to the nearest hospital miles away – St. Martins, Mbape. The roads do not help and when Mbasoon arrives at the hospital, he is in a far worse state. The parents are advised to make his case a serious prayer point. Meanwhile at home in Mbatar, Kuyanger, his younger sister who is barely three sees some ice fish hidden in a corner. It has been a long while since anyone saw anything close to meat or this. She looks left and right, discovers there is no one in sight and quickly puts the piece in her mouth. Later, her parents would find her body made lifeless by a meal of a rat-poison laced fish…