I’m in the house with my nephew. He’s supposed to be in school but thanks to the pandemic, he is bored sick at home. Every time I tell him that he’ll have to repeat class one next year, he turns into a little, brown ball of fury. He runs after me and when he eventually catches me – he can run forever and I can’t – he beats me with those small legs and small fists. It’s funny but sometimes he uses his tiny safari boots to kick me in the shin and it gets painful. It usually ends up with me having to promise that I won’t speak of school again. I comply because – let’s just say that he would make a good terrorist. Bad terrorist? Whatever.
I’m bored and I’m thinking of chokozaring Kahu by telling him that due to the pandemic, by the time he is done with school, he will have a beard like his father. That usually makes little Kahu go crazy. I find myself smiling as I say, “Kahu, ebu kuja nikuambie kitu.” Kahu dutifully and energetically comes from the other side of the sitting room. His steps are tiny and I find myself thinking that growth is one of the most miraculous things there are. It’s even more miraculous than turning water into wine or walking on water. It’s hard to believe that such a tiny being will one day become as tall as his father – who is almost two meters tall.
I like pulling little Kahu’s legs so when he comes, I just stare at him – looking into his big, clear, innocent eyes. I don’t say anything. I love looking into those eyes because they signify a paradise that everyone loses when they grow up. Have you noticed how dirty the eyes of grownups are? Is it because we no longer cry? But Kahu’s eyeballs are white – pure white, heaven white. “Ooo, ni cha hivo?” Little Kahu says. He is onto me. He knows I’m being naughty and his little face takes on a determined expression that seems to say, ‘You know you’ll end up paying for messing with me. But if this is what you want. It’s cool. Let’s play.’
Before the power games can begin, something on the floor catches Kahu’s eye and he bends. “Marto ebu kuja uone,” he says, with his tiny fingers beckoning to me. He squats. “Harakisha,” he whines.
Putting a stern expression on my face and assuming a harsh voice, I say, “Si nilikuambia naitwa Uncle? Marto ni nani, eh?”
I swear that unless my messed up sister (trust me, most campus students are messed up) put some weed in our tea in the morning, I see little Kahu roll his eyes. “Ebu rudia vile umefanya,” I say, struggling to maintain my stern expression. Did the little bastard seriously just roll his eyes at me? Oh my god, I love the little piece of shit. But he’s a shrewd one – he’s not just about to repeat the eye-roll. Instead, he puts on this innocent voice of his, the one that he uses when he wants his dad to buy him a toy in the supermarket, and says, “Uncle nilikuwa nimesahau. Si unajua juu ya kukosa kuenda shule nimeanza kukuwa mjinga. Kuja uone hii kitu uncle.”
This adorable little piece of shit!
Anyway, I squat too and he points to an insect on the floor beneath the couch. “Hii nguya ilikuja aje hapa?” He asks. He is afraid to touch it. Some of its wings have come off and its flailing around. “Ni juu kulinyesha jana usiku,” I say.
“Mbona unaogopa kuiguza?” I ask him. I want to help him get over his fear of insects.
Curving his mouth into a big O, he says, “OOO!” He then adds, “Siwezi iguza. Nitaskia thithi.”
“Na kama ingekuwa spider ungefanya nini?” I ask him.
“Spider?” He asks then looks into space as if wondering what he would do in such a case. He ends up shrugging his little shoulders and saying, “Sijui.”
I tell him, “Ukiwai ona spider, mtu anachukuanga slippers, alafu unakuja unaichapa inakufa.” He stares at me for a moment and I wonder what is going on behind those big, clear eyes. I add, “Ebu saa hii jifanye hii nguya ni spider. Endea slippers pale kwa mlango ukuje uiue.” Seeing that he is hesitant, I say, “Si lazima uiguze.”
Out of nowhere, my little bastard starts crying. He is looking at the ground. I ask him, “Ni nini,” and try to get him to look at me but he brushes my hand off. “Wachana na mimi,” he says in a teary voice and storms off, stomping those tiny feet of his on the ground. It’s funny. He goes outside. I know where he is off to but I know that when he is there, the only way to get him to come out is to offer him a really good treat, like one of those extra huge lollipops that are sold in supermarkets. I don’t have one now.
But honestly, what have I done?
I decide to follow him and try to sweet-talk my way into his good graces. When I get to the tiny space behind the tank where he usually hides, he is not there. I walk further and I find him squatted, his attention fixed on something on the ground. He is no longer crying and he doesn’t tell me to go away. I look at what he is looking at. It’s a colony of ants.
Without looking up, he points to one of the ants, which is carrying a breadcrumb that is four times its size, and says, “Huyu ni mama yao amewapelekea chakula.”
“Umejua aje ni mama yao?” I ask.
In a voice that implies that it’s the most obvious thing in the world, he says, “Hauoni ni kubwa na hutu ni tudogo.” He points to ants on another part of the ground and suddenly, I see it his way.
“Si uende uchukue slippers ukuje uue mama yao,” he says. His voice is angry and I am reminded that he has not forgiven me. His angry voice is usually funny but this time, it gets me thinking. He removes one of his little crocs and puts his bare foot on the ground then hands the croc to me. “Shika umuue. Ndio huyu apa.”
I take the tiny shoe and put it down. For the first time since our fight, he looks at me. I am once again struck by the purity of his eyes. It really must be the crying. I should really consider crying more. “Unaweza sikia aje elephant kuuuubwa ikikuja ikanyange mama yako akufe?”
I look at him for a moment then answer, “Naweza sikia kulia.”
“Na basi mbona unataka niue nguya na spider?”
I don’t answer. I don’t know what to say. I take his little croc and put it back onto his foot. I then sit beside him on the ground.
He continues looking at the family of ants.
Picking my words carefully, I pull Kahu into my arms and say, “Mungu saa yenye alituumba alisema tunaweza fanya chenye tunataka na wanyama hao wengine.”
Turning to me with a hostile look on his face, he says, “Uliskia wapi?”
The little bastard does it again and I feel like laughing but instead I say, “Imeandikwa hivo kwa Bible.” He seems confused but then in a moment, he says, “Sisi tuliambiwa na teacher ati tunafaa kulinda creation ya Mungu.”
He then stands up. Looking at him, I see a naughty expression on his face. He takes a couple of steps away from me and says, “Utaenda kuulia nguya kwenu, sio huku, unaskia?” My jaw drops wide open. He laughs and shoots off running.
I’m left shaking my head. I can feel an irresistible smile on my face. I’ll get that little bastard. But for now, I’m unable to get up. I think about what Kahu said. An elephant could kill me just as easily as I can kill the ants that I am looking at right now. I could also kill an elephant with a gun. But then again, a spider could also kill me with a bite.
What makes me think I am better than these animals?
They are alive. Just as I am. Life is the most superior form of power there is. Yes, I could take away the ant’s life at will but an elephant could also take away my life at will. Or a lion.
It would be something if I could not die. But I can die. Just like the ant. And yet I think myself superior.
But I will go to heaven and an elephant won’t. Or is there a heaven for elephants and ants? And dogs? I stand and move to the dog shed where I find Bosco, the family dog. He starts wagging his tail when he sees me. He barks when I call his name. I squat and look into his eyes. Do I really have anything that he doesn’t have?
Of course. I can read and write and do a lot of other awesome things like laugh at memes. And I can put Bosco in a shed and lock him up just by throwing a bone into his shed.
But I will die, just as he will. And I will probably give life to a baby, just as he will. Whatever is in me, that most superior force of all, is in him.
“Bosco, philosophy is a bitch, right? No, not your bitch.” Bosco looks at me as if he understands. No, it must be the weed that my sister put in the family tea.
Before my demons start showing me that the dog is talking to me, I stand and go back to the house. As I get closer, I hear my jam playing. “Ukiwa na fom nidungie brathe let me know. Location nitumie teke teke mi nakuom…” Chris Kaiga is such a vibe and I find myself moving to the song.
When I get into the house, I find Kahu right in front of the television, even though his father repeatedly warns him that such behavior will spoil his eye sight. He is doing all these dance moves and I feel my heart fill with love. Suddenly, the television screen goes black. I hear Kahu’s voice scream, “Topitoooo na kimaji ndo usibeki blo,” and I die. I swear this little piece of shit kills me.
He stops and turns around to find me looking at him. Suddenly, he remembers that we have beef and in that voice that never fails to get him toys, he starts saying, “Aki pole uncle. Ni vile…”
“Ebu rudia vile umeimba,” I cut him off, barely managing to keep myself from laughing so that I can listen to him say it again.
As he goes, “topitooooo,” I feel myself melt with love.
Whether the souls of cows go to heaven or just disappear into thin air, and whether it’s true to say that the soul of a dog is different from that of a human being, love is the main thing in life.
And as for Kahu, he will pay for his mischief this time. I put my game face on and I follow him as he runs off into the direction of the gazebo.
Yeah, what a joke.