It was a cloudy May afternoon, and all seemed well at the Mbaho residence. Eight-year-old Kenan was watching the latest sci-fi movie on the TV screen in the living room. A horde of alien creatures had captured the hero’s girlfriend and were speeding off in their ridiculous looking flying machines.
The constant banging of doors in the background didn’t seem to faze Kenan, who was very engrossed in the action in front of him. Suddenly, Edna, his mother, barged into the room struggling to hold onto the stuffed suitcases under her arms.
“Sweetheart could you please turn off the TV? We have to leave the house now”, she said a bit too brusquely. Kenan was not in the least amused about not finishing his movie, but the tone in his mother’s voice made him drop the thought.
“We are going to Uncle Paul’s house, you can finish your movie from there.” That did the trick for him. It was a while since he had last visited his mother’s elder brother, and the thought of his wife’s awesome home-made cakes and sweets made him more than eager to get out of the house.
On the way out, however, he couldn’t help but notice Edna’s red eyes and continued sniffling, but the stern look on her face discouraged him from inquiring. He also noticed that she had carried along his own suitcase, almost bursting at the seams with poorly folded clothes and some toys. The walk to Paul’s apartment was really short and the smell of hot cake changed his train of thought. Edna’s sister, Maggie, was waiting for them at the door. “Hey Kenny, hope you are hungry coz I have your favorite cake in the oven! And Uncle Paul is in the living room watching some weird movie, the kind you like!” This was such an awesome turn of events for Kenan, who hugged Maggie and dashed past her straight to the TV. He found Paul, hi-fived him and sat to continue watching his movie. Paul gave Edna a knowing nod for a greeting, and for a second his eyes betrayed sadness, but were immediately smiling at Kenan.
“Zondor has found the aliens and he’s come for his girlfriend”, he beamed.
In the kitchen, Edna let loose a torrent of tears as she explained why she was there. “I’ve just about had it with him”, she said, in between racking sobs. “He has lost it. He doesn’t care about us at all. All he thinks and dreams about is his damn drink!” she spat out.
“So you’ve finally decided to leave him?” asked Maggie. “I definitely have”, Edna said, the sadness returning to her voice.
“I am leaving him for good this time. It’s about time I did something about my life. And Kenan…” she broke down again.
Maggie held her hands.
“So where will you be going?”
“We are going to mum’s house,” Edna said. “I don’t want to bother you with more mouths to feed; I know how it has been for you these past months.”
“But Kenan hates it there at mum’s place. She seems to feel the same way you do about Bonny only towards Kenan. She takes the whole “like father, like son” thing a bit too seriously.”
“I know, but it’s only until I get back on my feet. We don’t really have many options now. I just hope it doesn’t hurt Kenan too badly. He loves his dad like all boys do, but he is yet to see through Bonny’s bullshit. Can you believe he hid the eviction notice for a whole month? Whatever troubles come his way, it’s straight to the bottle, like alcohol is his genie that makes them disappear. I’m tired Maggie, I really am.”
Maggie was silent for a moment. “Let’s check on the boys, I think the movie is done.”
They both came out of the kitchen, Edna trying her best to dry her face. Paul and Kenan were playfully arguing about the existence of aliens. The mood quickly turned somber when Edna explained to Kenan that they had to go stay at Grandma’s for a while.
“Do we really have to?” Kenan pleaded. “She doesn’t like me at all, and it’s very boring at her place, there isn’t any electricity”, he reasoned.
“It will be only for a short time sweetheart, don’t worry. We will be out of there in no time.” Edna said, faking a smile.
Maggie packed for them cake, bid them farewell, and Paul drove them to the bus station.
The journey to Grandma’s place was awfully quiet, and Kenan begun to suspect something terribly wrong was going on. His mother’s sniffling hadn’t stopped, and she was looking out the window the whole time. A thought occurred to him, and he realized something else was amiss.
“Mum?” he began.
“Yes Kenny? What is it?”
“Where is daddy?”
A pained look showed on Edna’s face.
“He has gone to work in Kenya for some time”, she lied.
It was like a stabbing in the heart, but she endured knowing how believable it was, seeing how Bonny used to travel a lot.
“Oh, I hope he comes back soon.” He said, deflated by that news.
From the bus station, the trip to Grandma’s house was a stark reminder as to why Kenan hated the village. No one around him, at least in hearing range, was speaking English, and the small car taking them to the village house was crammed with people, chicken and a goat. The smell of the people alone was making him feel like throwing up Maggie’s awesome home-made cake. They finally arrived in the evening, the sun creeping towards the horizon, and it was so quiet all around the village. A distant mooing cow and crickets were a contrast to hooting cars and music booming from the neighbors that he was used to.
Annet, Edna’s mother, was knitting a table cloth when they arrived at her doorsteps. She scowled at them, not saying anything for what felt like an hour.
“What did he do this time?” she finally spoke, her voice full of contempt.
“Not around him maama,”Edna pleaded.
“He’s the man’s son; he needs to know what he will become.”Annet said, agitation creeping into her voice.
Kenan never understood why his Grandma didn’t like him. He imagined it was because he couldn’t speak the local language, which she only spoke to him, even though she could speak English, and also because he couldn’t herd cattle and milk the cows like his cousins in the village.
“Take the bags inside Edna, in the corner next to the milk pots.” When his mother left, he felt dreadful as he was alone with Grandma. She continued knitting like nothing had happened, her eyes never lifting up from her work.
“This is your new home, son of Mbaho. You are not going to like it here, not that I care one bit about that.” She had started her barrage of hate speech. It startled him that she was speaking English to him this time.
“Your father is a dead-beat, good for nothing man who will never amount to anything, and I warned your mother about him, but she was blinded by emotions claiming to love him. Look at how he has hurt my daughter, making her run away from him the seventh time. I hope it is her last and that she won’t have to endure that stupid man. And no doubt you take after him, you look exactly like him and in due time you will waste your life away like he has.”
By this time Kenan was now teary eyed, he could not believe what was coming out of his grandmother’s mouth. He had heard her say some hurtful things before, but this was extreme.
“Do I see tears? Dry your eyes right now!”
She got up from her chair and in an instant landed a hot back handed slap across Kenan’s face. She was still holding her knitting needle in her hand, so it cut across his cheek, drawing blood. Kenan had never been beaten by any of his parents, so shocked him terribly. He touched his cheek and saw blood on his hands and begun bawling. Edna came rushing outside to see the source of the commotion and stood transfixed on seeing her bleeding son.
“What have you done to him!?” she screamed.
“Just giving him a taste of what is to come” Annet sneered.
That was all it took, and Kenan turned in haste and begun running away, as fast and as hard as his young legs could carry him. Tears were blurring his vision and his mother was shrieking and calling after him; while she was being held back by her mother when she attempted to run after him. He turned his head for a brief second to see his mother, but he had not seen the cows running towards him, being chased by Kato the herdsman after the evening milking session. There was a loud thump as he collided with a calf and a sickening crunch of bones as it run over his leg.
Then the lights went out.
He woke up to a dark room, and for a moment he thought that he was having a horrible nightmare. Then the pain hit him. His head was throbbing, and his leg was hurting so much he felt faint. He tried to adjust to the darkness and could only make out the door frame from where some light was peeking.
“Mummy?” he called out faintly. The door opened and the light stung his eyes for a second. But it wasn’t the silhouette of his mother that stood in the doorway, but his grandmother’s.
“Your mother is not here, she’s gone to the hospital to get a doctor, but as far as I’m concerned, you got what you deserved.”
It dawned on Kenan in that instant that this was the day “home” had ended.