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Writing under another name

by BobCurby 

Posted: 20 March 2010
Word Count: 1124
Summary: Here is a s small book I have written about life in Kenya and how it's changed since the 60's. Joseph Adoyo is one of the nommes de plume I use when writing African based stories

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Smokey Breezes
Chapter 1

Joseph Adoyo

As James Mutaye sits and stares at the sun setting over Lake Victoria, his 70 year old eyes water a little, partly from the sun shining into them and partly from distant memories of his childhood. Homa Bay was very different when he was a boy, nothing much had changed from the time of his grandfather. He fondly remembered how he used to sit, half naked in the dirt by his grandfather’s feet, flies buzzing round his eyes and nose; his grandfather used to tell him stories of what it was like to get up as the sun rose over distant Kilimanjaro and go down to fish in the lake. He would kick at the urine-flavoured dust and cough at its foul taste. The heat haze made the distant Mount Kilimanjaro dance and shimmer, its ice cap sparkling, even in the summer sun.

Everything had changed so much since then, time moves so fast, now everybody knows everybody in the world where back then he just knew the 20 or 30 people in his village. Even as a boy when James went to Masai Mara or Serengeti, he saw hundreds of animals that had long since disappeared; it seemed as if they had wandered off the edge of the world. The Ngorogoro with its vast herds of zebra and antelope didn’t escape the knife of the poacher either. His father was a ranger in Mara; he recalled that he used to come back at night very sad because of the animals he saw killed by selfish people only looking for quick money. Now, huge herds had disappeared, as if spirited away by some ‘tokoloshe’, a devil.

Grandfather Adi Mutaye was a proud man, he only killed what he wanted to eat and would feed the family and he only fished to supply the village with dried fish. He told James many stories and the boy believed them all as he sat there wide-eyed. It was only much later, when he grew up that he realised his grandfather was telling ‘big fish’ tales, appealing to the imagination of an adventure-seeking little boy. Stories like the one Adi used to tell of Mihikate Akindaye, one of the fishermen, who went out on the lake to lay his nets and a big crocodile rose up out of the water and took his hat. He found half of it two days later in the reed bed by the shore. Of course it doesn’t take a brilliant mind to work out the improbability of that. Everyone knows that if a crocodile could actually rise that high out of the water, it would have eaten the man’s head and not his hat. Still, that, and many other stories kept James quiet while his mother got on and crushed the maize down to flour for the evening meal.

James’ father Kagilyo, who preferred to be called Peter, went out with James’ grandfather very often onto the lake to lay the nets and he told a few of his own stories. When Grandfather died, Kagilyo didn’t want to carry on fishing and that was when he joined the warden community to look after the animals. One of the many stories he told James included the account of the strange situation he experienced when he was a child; for years the country had been a colony of Germany and then suddenly there were lots of soldiers and metal ships off the coast and someone said there was a war. Then with equal suddeness the soldiers all left and someone said it was because they were losing the war, back in Europe. They never came back. Instead, English people came and said the country was theirs. His father said he couldn’t understand how people could come from a country that had never had much interest in them before, and say Kenya belonged to them, because they won a war somewhere thousands of miles away.

James was born during the time when the British went to war a second time with Germany and Kenya had many British warships in Mombasa and soldiers in Nairobi. He remembered Tafalwe (Susan), his mother saying his father had signed up with the 2nd Battalion, The King’s African Rifles and went away for three years. During that time he had been only a tiny tot and totally unaware of the World distress across a hundred countries. It wasn’t until 1955 that he learned all about the Great War and the Second World War during a visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He had lined the streets with his friends and waved the flag at the passing black car and then went to a big hall where a man in a black suit, wearing gold braiding, had told the children that he was the new Governor of Kenya and went on to explain all about how Britain became involved in East Africa and how the British Government was going to see that they all got educated and had new homes. He spat on the ground as he remembered those empty words.
“Hah!” he muttered as he watched the final edge of the sun disappear into the Lake. “Hah!” he repeated his contempt. “School? New home? It wasn’t until I was 20 I got to go to school and learn how to write, and that was after Jomo Kenyatta brought us out of the past!” He turned and headed towards the lights of his home. Patricia, his 60 year old wife, would be expecting him to be at the table when she brought her well prepared dishes out of the kitchen. He looked at the lights, remembering that it was a long time before many in the outlying areas had that wonderful invention, electricity. He laughed as he remembered the first time he had been ‘bitten’ by the unseen power after sticking his wire brush into one of the sockets.
“Hee Hee.” He giggled to himself, his white teeth glowing in the ever-brightening circle of light.

He often reflected on the heady days of the late 60’s and early 70’s. How different 2009 is from those days over 40 years into the past. He sighed as he took the steps up to the homestead in three wide strides.
Yes life had been hard, but it was good beside the Lake he had loved so much all his life, but there was much strife all around and little he could do about it. That would be down to people like his young grandson Julius who was at college studying to be a lawyer. In just a few days he was to see how important that was to be.

© steve Goodings - “Bob Curby” 2010

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