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Last Man’s cousin drinks his bus fare

By Makau Kitata

After high school, cousin Munyoki got a plum job at Kenya Power and Lighting Company. He was the nephew of the nominated Member of Parliament from our district. The uncle was friends with big shots from a certain part of the country who ran the company, courtesy of belonging to the president’s community.

It was said that as soon as a herds boy could count cows in the bush, that was enough to earn a position in Kenya Power. For my cousin, whose mother, Ndunge, was a favourite sister to the MP, completing high school studies was more than enough qualification. In the eyes of his colleagues, he was a highly qualified professional, like the proverbial one-eyed man among the blind. He was a god in the company.

Lately, a local army retiree had built a Makuti park in the local market and called it Mutungoni. Here, city returnees and local cool kids competed for bragging rights. The young people had transformed local barmaids and village beauties into desire-provoking artists. The barmaids had unlimited nighttime living in the market and had learned how to work on the vanity of young men. A word of praise from them meant everything to Munyoki, who had never received a good mention from school.

When he returned to the village after the first salary, he didn’t go home. He camped at Mutungoni pub and declared a party. It made the entire market run out of beer. And he repeated this every weekend.

“I have enough money to pay all the 20 teachers in our secondary school,” he announced. “I can employ all primary school teachers in our village as my garden labourers.”

 He was particularly keen to treat Mr Kimuli, our high school math teacher.

“Have your fill, teacher of math,” he yelled, enjoying the power of ordering a teacher to a drink. “And give him a pack of cigarettes on my bill. You are the person who thought I would never succeed.” He tossed a Sh1,000 note to the barman. “Keep the change, my good man.”

We saw what money could do. Munyoki’s mother became arrogant and mean, like a Shylock. Her son was the only person who could walk around with a wand of Sh100,000 as pocket change for weekend entertainment in our local market.

One Friday, Munyoki arrived with his usual 100K. On Saturday, I saw Sh75,000 for the first time in my life. I went home and excitedly told my auntie that her son was king in the market.

“Go away, you poor village boy!” she snapped at me.

I left the compound to rejoin cousin Munyoki at the market for a second day of carousel. I found him sandwiched between two girls. The girls, in their easy ways, looked attractive. Their short skirts and tiny sleeveless blouses made me jealous of cousin Munyoki, who was living every village boy’s fantasy.

“Kiongozi! Leader of the people, buy us a round,” I chanted, as I took a seat. I had become my cousin’s principal cheerleader.

Holding Rose, the barmaid, by the waist, he pulled her close. They both laughed heartily as she danced on his lap, calling him Mutongoi. The other girls did not mind that he was freely showing affection to all of them. Munyoki was enjoying Solomonic access to the womenfolk, like a prince. Burying his clean-shaven head on Rhoda’s bosom, he announced,

“Close this door and let me drink in peace. I have paid for all the stock in this pub.”

Other revellers could only beg to be served from Munyoki’s stockpile. Rose called him Mutongoi again, sold the stock, and kept the money.

Sunday morning came, and Munyoki did not leave the bar. I left for home as the girls were cleaning the floors. Auntie Ndunge eyed me like sin itself when we met as she walked to church. In the evening, I went back to the bar to check on my cousin.

“Aah bro, sit down and have something.”

I sat and downed my drink, wondering why my cousin never seemed to get drunk. We, the hangers-on, could not keep up. Maybe we were gulping too fast, afraid it would run out.

Monday morning came and Munyoki staggered out of the bar and managed to come home. He went straight to his mother and pleaded to be given bus fare back to the city.

“What happened to the money you had when you came?” demanded Aunt Ndunge.

“How did you know I had money? Last Man, you have been spreading rumours about me here. Is that your way of thanking me?” he fumed.

As she grumbled, Ndunge took a quick sprint toward Mueni’s Sukuma wiki kiosk. Mueni was the local women’s group treasurer, and Aunt Ndunge used to borrow Sh200 to bail out her son.

“I’m sorry we do not have any funds to lend today. The women have not paid their credit yet,” Mueni lied, aware that Munyoki was making his mother too proud for other mothers. “I can only lend you my money, but I want it back with 100 per cent interest same time next week.”

Throughout the week, Ndunge felt like a beggar.

The following weekend, cousin Munyoki returned and headed straight home without stopping by the market bars. Auntie Ndunge was relieved her son was now home. On Monday morning, it alarmed her that Munyoki was not leaving the house for the city. Knowing that Mueni was about to come for her money, she went to Munyoki’s cubicle to get the Sh400 to settle the debt. Munyoki did not have a coin.

Just as she was leaving the boy’s house, Mueni, the creditor, came rushing to the homestead with a newspaper.

 “Kenya Power has announced!” she screamed for the entire village to hear. “It has replaced all meter readers, with token machines to be installed in each homestead connected to electricity,” she reported.

Ndunge did not understand Mueni’s desperation at first. The Power company was so happy to relieve Munyoki after struggling for a year to convince his protective uncle to prevail on his drinking problem. “He’s a young man and will be ok, soon,” he would brush it off. Auntie Ndunge, who would have sworn that her son never touched a drink, walked the village roads dazed, thinking about where to get the money to refund the bus fare debt.

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