Guava Strokes

By

ElishaOtieno

PREFACE


Guava Strokes is a book written to address the issue of corporal punishment in schools. It does not fight the teachers’ responsibility to correct the messes of our children; rather, it shares out the inhuman extremes that contribute to school drop-outs, hence the killing of learners’ ambitions.

The book is well balanced between the teachers’ extremes and the pupils’ messes that invite such punitive actions. Indeed I do not advocate abolition of punishment; I merely campaign for a more humane treatment of learners.

Guava Strokes is my second book after The Grave Decade, which is also available on Amazon and other outlets.

Wish you good reading!

Elisha Otieno

 

 

The city bird’s squeamish daughter stands on her long sticky legs to scoff at the squalid village life. She detests aging grannies who walk with baskets on their heads and stocks of half consumed cigars at the back of their ears. A crackdown against a flea that penetrated her toe sends the posh Mercedes to negotiate sharp corners round the village for alternatives to a problem worth a pin. She sniffs at village hunks and sneers at cracked feet. She lifts her nose to the sky and sieves air into her lungs. But ancestral spirits refute city life and its habitats.

 

CHAPTER ONE


River Fuludhi is full to the brim, its banks almost bursting. Stray waters splash the guardrails, sending a chill down my spine. I develop cold feet and try to escape by clinging to Mama’s waist. A fug of death surrounds the bushy river in the dawn of one of the days of early January, 1979.On the left, a stream of water perilously swells slightly above the guardrails, burbling with a warning towards me. I jump over to the left and eclipse Mama, to shield myself, before it sweeps and swallows me to the bottom, where the spirits of other victims lie in protest, to take revenge by killing passersby.
Mama’s bravery is compromised by her fuzzy reprimanding sound. She too is ensnared in superstitions begotten by Granny’s cautionary tales about circumstances surrounding the river and its historical bridge. The year of construction engraved on the cemented pillar at the end of the left guardrail is 1930, long before my father was born.
Over the years, the white man’s structure has developed a working relationship with the waters and their inhabitant spirits to whisk away predators aboard into the killer waters. A point of no return, until aroused to haunt.
Granddaddy was born in the days when man and wildlife shared a common market. In the same wilderness he explored to kill antelopes for meals, he met leopards hunting the same. The river was flowing. His mother was born in the days when banana leaves and leather were used as skirts and trousers. The river was flowing. His grandma was born eons ago, when man and chimpanzee resembled like twins. The river was flowing. Nobody, not even our granny was able to tell when and how the river came into existence. Its source has never flickered in supplies and Nzoia where it disgorges its waters has never been fed up.
The river waters the vegetation along the banks. It keeps it healthy and bushy to facilitate habitation for killer wildlife possessed by spirits of murder. Dangerous serpents of all sizes, both wild and some reputed to be owned by witches. Despite their repellent nature, they’re re-purposed by their owners. They’re adorned. Others are seen in necklaces and artificial colors. But all work under one Kingdom.
Pythons kill dogs and goats along the banks. Leopards bellow at night along the banks. Criminals attack people along the banks. Swimmers drown in the river. It’s all in a kingdom and for a purpose: to kill and to destroy.
Mama’s hackles rose, but never; I wouldn’t perish. I jumped forward and backwards, tampering with her quirky steps. The boundary beyond the death trap was so near yet so far. I made huge steps but my feet landed halfway as if shackled to some chains. Indeed they could well have been. Beneath the bridge were forces, which could cobble my death plan in the twinkle of an eye. 
Buoyed by the spirit of victory, I ran ahead, beyond the boundary. I hovered on the slope watching mama as she balanced the luggage of our belongings on her head while holding my two younger siblings by their hands.
We boarded a matatu (public service vehicle) and smelt the air of Kisumu after a one hour’s journey. We jostled for space to squeeze our way into the atrocious third class train destined for Nairobi. A train with no sitting formula for passengers. Seats were acquired by strength of muscles. Mama bellowed and fought, her neck bulging with veins, elbowing her competitors until we settled on a seat, too small for us. We sat on her laps to utilize the limited space.
The train chugged out of the station at a snail’s pace and maintained this speed as the quality of service that suited beggary commuters who could not afford expensive means.
With travelers swarmed all over the space, each trying to take the most comfortable posture, some squatting on the aisle, others propping themselves on the arms of other peoples’ seats, others nagging fellow passengers to stop stepping on their toes, sitting on their shoulders, positioning their buttocks too close to their noses, coughing in the direction of other peoples’ mouths, the train danced along the railway line in a romantic style as if the carriages were kissing one another.

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