A thousand liquid spears stabbed the insides of the open trench a short distance from the door. The rushing stream merrily sang shwoooo shwoooo as it eagerly swallowed the aquatic missiles. Strange, thought Sarah, she’d never seen the rain that beautiful.
The trench carried water down the hill; fed the hungry cement pipe near the Legio Maria church; flowed into a bigger pipe near Baba Likobo’s butchery; disappeared for a bit; then slithered down a long metallic Government pipe whose shiny tap occasionally spat out water at the ‘Water Point’, which everyone called ‘waiting point’ or ‘waiting’ for short.
The tap had spat less and less these past months and children waged daily wars as they ran their lungs flat to get to the tap in good time. Friendships were discarded in the face of the padlocked goddess and the previous day’s victory was avenged during the first heady minutes of jostling for jerry can superiority.
But all the scratching of arms and pinching of armpits always came to bruised egos when the big men eventually barked at them to stop, sweeping their assorted 5 litre Kimbo containers and buckets to the end of the queue. And even then the battle continued. Nobody wanted to be the last.
Someone said that someone was blocking the water. Another said God had put his pinky finger into the pipe when it passed by the church. Yes, another had reiterated, God was angry at us and let the ghosts of the dead babies the unprepared mothers had thrown into the pit latrines block the system.
If only the theories had sprouted some type of water, holy or not.
As Sarah tore her eyes away from the trench, she wondered if her parents had noticed that it had started raining. Her mother was still on the floor, lips furiously hissing a string of nonsensically arranged vowels and consonants, her spread-eagled limbs occasionally twitched underneath her long green robe.
Her father was still jumping up and down, his red robe flapping hysterically, hoarse voiced as he banged his smooth round drum. Did he know he and the tin-roof were performing a lovely duet? She wondered.
She was tired of all the singing and praying, it was exhausting to attempt to keep up with the pair who had been at it for 3 hours already and 20 years all together. But tonight she couldn’t pretend-pray and actually fall sleep, head bowed and in a kneeling position. Tonight she had a bad feeling about everything.
As if they had read her thoughts, her father stopped short and her mother got up from the floor quick as a whip. Sarah quickly shut her eyes and assumed her usual position, sans sleep.
“It is time,” he said.
She didn’t dare raise her head as her mother gently took her into her arms and placed her on the table. Her father had just cleared it of candles, a resigned Christ on the cross and biblical literature. Her eyes flew open when her mother tightened the grip around her wrists as her father spread her legs and secured a rope around each ankle to a table leg.
A scream gurgled in her throat. Its exit was trapped by the huge gulps of air she instinctively took in. She was afraid he’d be too quick this time. For this wasn’t the first time her parents had tried to kill her. It would probably be the third and final attempt from the look of determination in her father’s eyes and the sadness in her mother’s.
Babies are a gift from God. They say. But in her parent’s eyes Sarah was postmarked straight from the horned one. She didn’t cry to greet the earth, her eyes were covered in something black and slimy and when the midwife had peered between Sarah’s legs; she nearly fainted.
And thus her cursed life began. Her mother had tried to love her in the best way she could. But she had been too broken up inside when the midwife finally laid the warmly folded bundle into her arms. Thirteen years of bearing the silent jeers, months of manic prayers and fasting in order to give a child to the husband Jehovah chose for her had come to naught.
The midwife had said that people in the big city hospital could help. They would even put Sarah’s face on television to ask well-wishers to help their strange child. But letting the world know that the union between Joseph Abednego and Mary Sarasin had brought forth this pale monster was too much to bear.
Joseph’s firm grip on the midwife’s shoulder and steely gaze as he pressed her wage into her palm was enough to freeze the rest of the suggestions queuing behind her lips.
But as with all things oblivious to their status, ‘Sarah’, the name her parents branded her after they finally grew tired of calling the child ‘it’ and ‘the (pause) baby is…’; thrived. She sat up at 7 months; crawled by her first birthday; walked within her second and a half year, but she only spoke a few months shy of her 5th year.
The Abednegos acted like she was invisible at worst and an unwanted guest at best. They bitterly accepted that their life had to change and packed their bags for Western Kenya.
Joseph had bought a patch of land on the top of the highest hill and seldom talked of his family at the local carpentry workshop. Mary declined offers of friendship from the village women. She always set off a flurry of tongue wagging when she stone-walled every conversation steered towards family life.
That is until a few months ago when Mary discovered that she was pregnant again. Never mind that she was well into her 40s, this was the child Jehovah really meant to send them. This was their miracle baby, a second chance at being a real family.
“Mungu tunakushukuru kwa wema wako kwetu. Kwa mvua ambayo umetunyunyizia baada ya kungoja kwa muda mrefu. Tunakuomba ewe Jehovah utupe nguvu ya kutenda tunayostahili kutenda. Amina,”
Lord we thank you for remaining faithful to us. We thank you for the rain that has finally fallen after a long wait. We pray, oh Jehovah that you may give us the strength to do what we need to do. Amen. prayed Joseph as he tightly locked his fingers around a sharp knife.
Sarah didn’t bother crying, she knew that this was the moment. The rat poison the stray cat had inadvertently ingested and the drowning attempt her mother had protested midway had finally led to the blade hovering above her stomach.
Suddenly the table began to rattle as the lights violently flickered then finally went off. In the ensuing darkness a cupboard toppled on Joseph’s back. Mary began to scream as the ground moved beneath her feet. ‘Mungu tusamehe! Tusamehe’ Lord, forgive us! she pleaded as the heavens urged the wall of moving earth beating against the tin wall of their home to steamroll past the puny obstruction and race for the bottom of the hill.
“A mudslide was reported late last night in the village of Khalembe, in Vihiga county. Thirty people lost their lives and property of unknown value was destroyed. Miraculously, among the survivors is a 7 year old child. The child, Sarah, was airlifted to Aga Khan Hospital after she was discovered to be severely malnourished, suffering from untreated skin lesions and believed to have been born with both reproductive organs.
Sarah is currently undergoing examinations at the Aga Khan Hospital. The hospital has agreed to foot the bill for the gender assignment surgery. Sarah is believed to have survived the mudslide by hiding underneath a table,” said a female newscaster during the 9 o’clock news.
© wanjeri gakuru