The Woman in the Red Skirt, John Kamukama

[box type=”info” align=”aligncenter” ]This is one of the stories that came out of the  Writivism 2014, a  project of the Centre for African Cultural Excellence, with the assistance of several partner organisations, which identifies, trains and engages readers and writers in public discourse through literature. As part of this years activities, they will have The Writivism Festival from 18 – 22nd June 2014. Like the Facebook page for more updates


The Woman in the Red Skirt

“What happened?” the doctor asked.

“She’s crazy, she’s mad, she came in…” one man began.

“It was hidden under her red skirt, no one saw it…” another continued.

“Stupid woman, she walks in when men are drinking..” went yet another, spitting to the ground as he spoke.

“But, what happened?” The doctor, now irritated, asked again.

“She bashed him over the head with a beer bottle – she’s crazy” the first man said as he pointed at the woman.

The doctor examined the wound. Even for a beer bottle wound, it seemed large. It had the tellings of rage – the form of rage that is not only associated with another, but with oneself. Whoever did this to him was very, very angry.

 “These days he goes drinking every evening,” his wife sobbed. “I don’t want to be a housewife. I need a job. He is not interested in school anymore. He wanted to be teacher,” she utters as she crouches near the patient’s bed that is fitted with small tires.

The seamstress had a caring attitude. In her dreams she was Florence Nightingale. A story she remembered being told when she was fortunate enough to go to school.

The drunk wore clothes that told the story of farming and building. Vocational training in carpentry and building enabled him to build his good looking grass thatched hut.

“Flirting with another woman drove her mad,” said the first man. The doctor then recommended that the patient gets a surgery that night to remove any pieces of glasses in the wound.

Richard Ochwo is injected with pain killers and put on drip. “Richard, Richard, wake up,” the doctor calls out to him in the morning. The head is covered with thick bandages and long running plasters.

“I feel weak. My head is paining,” said Richard.

“You are going to be okay. Rest,” replied the doctor as he left his bedside.

At night, he laid on his back on the mattress and felt the firmness of the green leather mattress cover. He angled his head, taking in his wife who was lying on a mat, breathing quietly near his mobile bed.

I like her… That is why I am with her… I like her red dresses. I spent a lot of money and time to marry her. I think she wants me that is why she attacked me. She has everything a man wants in a girl… I am lucky, Richard thought. His eyes slowly became weary and heavy.

Richard was discharged from hospital after one month. The rainy season had ended in November with the December dry season beginning. The villagers had harvested maize. They looked forward to Christmas and the New Year.

Richard spent his time recovering from home.  He learnt from his friends that whenever he went on safari his wife went visiting Peter Oyang, a soldier.

Peter is known by the villagers to have lost two girlfriends to HIV/AIDS. The soldier, an IT graduate likes the pleasures of life. He spends more time in the village than in the barracks.

The soldier has bragged to his friends how he likes red skirts, bras and imagined the red knickers Catherine wears. He has bought beers and wines for Catherine when her husband is on safari.

She goes down to the river twice a day. My eyes cannot miss her red dress when she carries water in the jerrycan, Peter thought.

Red dresses are a hit with the Langi men of northern Uganda who are drawn to women who wear red.

Richard was restless and angry one afternoon in December. The villagers were in their fields tending to their gardens. He sat on a chair and watched his wife lift an empty jerrycan to go to the river. He felt his hut grow dark. He felt empty and distant from his wife and vowed they would never see each other.

“What happened…?,” asked the startled doctor.

“He set his hut on fire…There was a lot of fire and heat, we poured water and pulled him out,” replied an uncle as he coughed out.

The villagers rushed to see what was amiss from the thick red blaze. All containers are picked to fetch water to stifle the blaze.

“He must have been depressed. Wasn’t he here three months ago,” quizzed the doctor.

“Yes. He put on all his good clothes and jumped into the fire…,” muttered the stunned uncle with one hand on his chin.

“He is badly burnt. We cannot help him. We shall treat the body and you come for him…,” the doctor replied with regret.

“What about her, what happened to her?” asked the grim faced doctor. “The villagers beat her up. They think she caused the death of Richard,” the uncle replied.

He continued: “They have been in marriage for three years…”

“They have damaged her eyes. She will not see. We will help her to live. She will walk with a cane,” said the doctor looking over to a Policeman.


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Written by John Odyek (0)

John Odyek (John Kamukama-pseudonym) is a writer based in Kampala. He writes for magazines, newspapers and online. He also takes excellent photographs to accompany stories where necessary. He is a university graduate. Besides reading and writing he likes sports, culture, arts, travelling and meeting people.

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