I have a neighbor called Wagui. He lives alone in a dual-room wooden house. There is also a temporary kitchen loosely hanging from one side of his house. The kitchen often muddy because he spills water anywhere anyhow whenever he is done cooking. His utensils form a scattered carpet on top of the muddy layer. A cup with last week’s porridge, a pan with partly broken eggs, and a lichen-covered cooking stick resting on the jiko lit a fortnight ago. Outside the kitchen is a weak wooden structure for a cowshed where his cow and her calf stays.
This same shed was the home to his three sheep that got stolen the night Uhuru lifted the dawn to dusk curfew. His cow is of the Ayrshire breed. On good days, it produces enough milk for him to crunch ugali with and sell the surplus at a nearby kiosk. The kiosk owner and Wagui are good friends. Often, they discuss politics and church. Like why the marriage between Uhuru and Ruto sunk in a despotic dam, or why Jesus chose to have a mule carry him to Jerusalem when he had the power to fly. When the movie he watched last night was so much fun, Wagui recommends it to the kiosk’s owner, often quoting the best part and actors with his hands and facial expression.
Even though he talks military and wears dark googles all day long, Wagui is not as physically matched as a Navy seal soldier with dark sunglasses. He is a stammerer and a staggerer. He struggles with talking but he doesn’t invest his care on that. His legs are weak; that he cannot run straight or walk steadily while carrying a bucket of water or a jug of milk. Just as his struggling talks, he doesn’t care so much about his walking. He staggers in confidence- shoulders high. When locusts paid a visit to our village four months ago, we all went with jerricans for drums to chase the locusts away. Wagui sent them away with his staggering walk, which seemed to work better than a coordinated chase. His hands are shaky too, even though he is not a man of the tavern. You have to carefully follow his hand when ku-gotta each other. Otherwise, you can have your nose punched by his staggering fist.
His family- a wife and three kids- left seven years ago after a series of domestic fights. He is the age of my father but he addresses me like I am his brother. He is a fanatic of Dj Afro movies. As a result, he mimics the Dj’s accent when he speaks with teens- like me. He wears the dark military-type sunglasses when going to church, to the farm, and even when going to sleep. He smokes Superman cigar but he hardly drinks unless on special occasions, such as when a curfew was lifted, the same night his sheep were stolen. Wagui has been living alone since his family left, although, sometimes I see a woman bask outside his house.
After he separated from his family, he resolved to farm his one-acre piece of land, growing potatoes, and maize. With locusts and poor investments on his farm, the crops don’t do well. Mostly, he cuts the maize stalks before they are fully grown as feeds for his cow. His cow doesn’t disappoint him. From the surplus milk, he can buy salt and maize flour; the only things I have seen him buy from the kiosk How could I forget a Superman cigar?
His cow and he have a kind of language only they can understand. Or how can you explain a calm cow that accepts to be milked from wherever whenever? Regardless of where he had pegged his cow, Wagui only needs to warm some water, stagger with his milking parlor to his cow, and start harvesting milk from its udder as the cow continues with its business. He doesn’t use a rope to restrict its movement or animal feeds to calm its demons, if cows have demons. Unlike Nywamweru my grandmother’s cow whose legs must be tied tightly or she can smash you and your milking stool with her hind legs. Whenever she is being milked, it’s always a war.
Wagui has been surviving at the mercies of his calm cow for a long time now. He has been selling milk to buy whatever else he needs. With the milk, he can pay electricity bills so he can watch Dj Afro movies on Sundays. He can also treat himself with Superman cigar once in a while. Until three days ago. After the heat of the day, Wagui milked his cow for the last time, only that he had no idea that it was his last moment to massage the udder that fed him. Darkness fell and the night was ripening, Wagui watched a movie entitle Deadly Prey and tucked to sleep. Thieves crossed over the through-pass fence, untied the cow from its shed, and made away with it when the ghosts were busy mating somewhere in the darkness. One mile away, an old pick-up truck was waiting to pick away the loot.
The whole village woke up to a sad story. Angry villagers turned slaughterhouses upside down with no fruits. After three days of finding Wagui’s cow, the village returned to its normalcy. There was nothing to do to the deadly prey that had ripped Wagui apart. Through the tall maize stalks, I can see my neighbor Wagui retracted to his empty cowshed. He has sadly withdrawn to his thoughts. Cigars don’t do any good anymore. I wonder how he will start to sketch his life without his cow. You, yes you, please don’t break the 8th commandment.