It was an early May evening and Murerwa was mad for two reasons; one – it had started raining. Two – someone was stealing his chicken. The second reason was why he was angry at the rain. He had planned to stay up all night and see if the clown would climb over his rusted mabati fence like he had in the last two days. It had to be a he. Women didn’t steal in Kamachege. At least not by leaping over fences.
The plan the wet weather was curtailing had started with him sharpening his panga. He’d thought of using a jembe handle at first, but looking back at how much in money and effort it had taken him to raise a flock of 256 (Now 252 thanks to the bastard) he had decided to teach him a tougher lesson.
Murerwa also knew firsthand the pain a panga can inflict. In fact, he was thinking about it as he sat on a rickety stool watching the rain through the open door. Two years and some odd months before that night, he had woken up in a ward at Nkubu’s Consolata mission hospital covered in bandages. Every part of him hurt like hell. He had learnt that there are more agonizing definitions of hell when the painkillers wore off a few minutes later. A nurse in blue had shown up to check on him and change those bottle things on his IV drip, noticed that he was awake and rushed to get another one who was dressed in white and looked more motherly.
Mother White had asked him endless questions; who he was, where he was from, how he had gotten the slashes all over his body… He’d whispered back to the ones he had answers to – all the while sighing in pain. Name was Bernard Murerwa. Kamachege, born and raised – though he’d spent several long stints with his grandmother in Materi. No he did not know where or how he had got the cuts. The last thing he remembered was having some honey beer a friend had brewed, they’d gotten plastered and next thing he knew, he was lying in that bed with stitches holding him together.
The nurse had given him that look his mother’s church friends gave him when they met on random paths and then informed him that he had been brought in the previous night by a Good Samaritan, bleeding severely and filthy. It was by the sheer grace if God that had ensured he was still alive.
It took him two months to get out of that bed, two more walk about without being crippled by pain and another to be discharged. That is when the issue of the hospital bill came up. His relatives had shown up the first week, clucking about with feigned sympathy. Deep inside, Murerwa knew they were happy he had gotten what he deserved for constantly swimming in cheap brews and being the self appointed family disgrace. As he had predicted to himself, the visits became scarcer with each passing week and eventually, only his mother would come to see him.
In the five months, he had learnt that Mother White’s real name was Tabitha and that she’d been a nurse for thirty two years and a matron for ten of those. She had a son his age that was completing a degree in some university in the city. He never really caught the course’s name. Or the son’s. Tabitha came to his rescue and linked him to a self help group that was empowering the youth with farming ideas. As leverage, he used the quarter acre of land his father had left him before giving in to lung cancer and got 50 broiler chickens in exchange. He would have gotten 260 of them, but sweet talked them into clearing his bill. He had set out and built the coop himself, swearing never to touch a drink again. Now, when his investment had finally started to bear fruit, some idiot was plucking them at night.
The idiot came thirty minutes or so after 9 pm and found Murerwa waiting for him in his dark house. If the racket he caused getting over the iron sheets didn’t announce his arrival well, the sucking noise his feet made in the mushy compound did. That surprised Murerwa; he had expected a more discreet person. The two previous nights he hadn’t heard a thing and he wasn’t a heavy sleeper. Despite the confusion, he grabbed his panga, slipped into the darkness and crept towards the chicken coop.
The thief stepped on something sharp and cursed under his breath then kept coming towards a man and his weapon.
Murerwa caught a whiff of a familiar smell when the thief was near enough. Alcohol. Honey beer to be exact. He’d grown a particular dislike for drunks and this one’s double career choice as a thief didn’t help.
He waited till the idiot raised his hand to open the door; the chicken inside stirred and Murerwa’s trigger went off. He descended upon him with anger, vengeance and frustration, slashing and kicking and punching till the thief fell – screaming and begging for forgiveness. That is when Murerwa realized that killing was very possible, so he tossed the panga away but kept kicking the fallen figure till it lay motionless.
He was satisfied and oddly calm as he reached into his pocket for a torch. Those two quickly disappeared when he lit it and directed the ray towards the figure’s face. Hairs all over his body stood upright, air left his lungs and something caught in his throat. He was staring straight into the face of his two years younger self. While he had a healed scar down one side of his face, this one had a fresh slash bloody and in need of stitches.
Murerwa fell on his knees in the mud as rain poured on and started thinking of the easiest ways to drop him at the Consolata Hospital without being seen.