Continued from #7
Katabani walked aimlessly, feeling the depth of the young girl’s words eat at him. Their altercation felt like a hard slap to his face. He kicked small rocks out of his way as he thought about every single word. Was he as reckless as she had depicted him to be? He could not help but ponder on the matter. He felt betrayed and listening to Shwenkuru’s stories felt like a waste of time.
An image of Nessi’s beautiful face flashed before his eyes the further he got from the river bank, fighting an internal battle within his conscience. He suddenly missed her and the banter they used to have. He missed the warmth of her hands from the time she’d hold his hand and all the teasing she used to do.
A quick thought pulled him out of his reminiscing. Shwenkuru…, he would have all the answers he sought. The ways of the man. Surely, it was not too late to make amends, or was it? Either way, he would have to try.
He rubbed away the tear that had trickled down his left cheek and broke into a run,fueled by an urge to talk to his old man. He went as swift as the wind and as fast as his small legs could carry him.
“Shwenkuru!” He screamed at the top of his lungs,as he approached the plains where their herds of cattle were always led to graze.
Shwenkuru turned like he had been struck by lightning. His brows drew into a frown and worry was evident in his eyes as the young boy got closer. When he finally reached, the little boy fell onto his knees and his body shook while he purged out all the anguish he felt from this gaping wound the strange girl had picked at, destroying the scab that had started to form. All this pulled at Shwenkuru’s heart and he decided to risk his stiffening back. Taking care not to add too much strain to it, he bent down, and gently raised Katabani’s chin.
“What has happened,little one?” he asked, alarmed. Katabani said nothing and tears continued to silently flow from his eyes. He had held it in for so long. Now, it was all gushing out and it felt like he was helpless. Understanding this,Shwenkuru squatted before the little rascal and squeezed his shoulder in an attempt to console him. Maybe this was his way of mourning his sister.
“When you grow up, you should cry less.” He said and chuckled.
“Because it is a shame for a man to cry?” asked the little one. He nodded silently, his gaze turning to the hills.
“Shwenkuru. I want to know how the story ends. I want to know what happens to Jaja Kintu’s sons and about their tasks.”
The old man was dumbfounded by the sudden interest and eagerness of his grandson. His gaze returned to the little boy who was now looking at him with puffy and red eyes. He hoped that the story would soothe his aching heart as well as embed a lesson into his mind. So, he nodded in agreement and slowly sat down on the grass. Katabani followed his example and as soon as he settled, Shwenkuru continued to tell the tale.
“ In the middle of the night, the boys continued with their struggle. Holding up their jars of milk to prevent the contents from spilling. They were sleepy of course, but they were more afraid of spilling the milk. However much they were not sure of what this task would amount to, they still had to hold the jars up like their very existence depended on it…” he started.
“That must have been hard. “ Katabani interrupted, hugging his trembling limbs. A cool breeze came out of nowhere and goosebumps covered the little boy’s skin. It was then that he realised dusk was approaching and soon, the cattle would have to be driven back to their kraals. However, it was too late to stop telling the story. His grandson wanted answers and he would have them.
“Yes, indeed. With their eyelids forcing themselves shut, it must have been hard work.” he agreed, “ But nonetheless, they held them up like it was their last hope.”
“I am sleepy.” said Kano the third, stifling a yawn.
“Do we look like we are having a lot of fun?” Kano the first asked.
“We need to keep awake, otherwise we shall have no milk to show to father the moment day breaks.” he added.
“But it’s too hard.” Kano the third whined. His hands had been slipping from the gourd as he battled with sleep, but the fact that he had to fulfill his father’s task shocked him awake every time he noticed this.
Exhausted, he decided to close his eyes, for just a minute. He simply wanted to feel a little relief from the constant itch in his droopy eyes. He figured he could just close them for a bit, like he was meditating. It had to work. It always did.
Eventually, he gave up and his eyes closed. There it was. Sweet relief. He felt like he was floating above clouds and dancing with the stars… until he heard a shout! Was someone yelling at him?, he was not sure. All he knew in that moment was that he was happy.
“Shhhh. Here comes the best part.” Shwenkuru silenced Katabani with his hand and then continued with the story.
“Look what you’ve done,Kano!” Kano the second shouted.
Kano the third, opened his eyes in utter shock as the realization of what had happened dawned on him. His gourd was on the ground, milk all over the floor and he was hit by a wave of panic. This could not be happening. He looked at his brothers from one to the other, a silent plea evident in his eyes.
To be continued next week on Wednesday