Estimated reading time: 27 minutes, 45 seconds.
Ken reached work at the construction site which was located in Minister’s Village, a posh suburb in northern Kampala.
He changed into his overall and put his plastic helmet on. It was a clear blue sky that morning and the sun was shining bright.
“Ken, I’d like to have a word with you,” said George the foreman. George was a head taller than him. He had a huge belly and a stern demeanor.
Ken walked to where he was standing. “Yes sir,” he said.
“You’re late again.”
“Sir, I had something to take care of.”
“It’s not the first time this is happening. You’re always the last to arrive and the first to leave. I’ve been keeping an eye on you.” A lorry carrying dirt drove past them.
“We have a demanding schedule. I said nothing about your late coming in the past thinking you would change. It seems like it’s a habit. I’m sorry but I have to let you go.”
Ken looked directly into George’s eyes. “Give me one more chance, I won’t disappoint you again.”
George folded his hands.
“I’m a good worker. One of the best you have. I need this job.”
George adjusted his helmet. “Well, if this job was important to you, you would have taken it more seriously. I want you gone in the next 15 minutes….”
Standing at the entrance of the construction site, Ken thought to himself. Where should I go? What should I do? I need to find a way to make money quickly. Let me go door asking for a cleaning job or any kind of casual work available. I have no choice but to take whatever job I can so I can feed my family.
He knocked at the first gate on the right beside the construction site. Most of the houses in Ministers Village have walls with creeping plants covering them.
A plump lady came to the entrance. “Good morning madam.”
“Good morning,” she replied. “How may I help you?”
“Do you have a job opening for a cleaner or house keeper?”
“Thanks for asking but we already have a cleaner.”
“Alright.” He nodded and started to walk towards the next gate. So much for an idea on how to get another job. Most people won’t hire a stranger they just met. I may have to go door to door the entire day before I get lucky.
He reached the next gate and began to knock, “God help me” he muttered.
He looked around and saw a couple walking past smiling and holding hands on the opposite side of the road.
He knocked again and waited. There’s no one around. Just as he turned to go, he heard a door slamming shut. Footsteps from the other side of the gate approached. The door that was welded into the gate opened. A small child emerged.
“Hello. How are you?” said Ken in a childish voice.
“Fine,” the boy replied.
“Is mummy or daddy home?”
The child nodded.
“Please go and call them for me.”
The child went back inside leaving the gate opened.
Ken held his position.
A man came out a few seconds later. He was dressed like a pilot. Ken was impressed. The child returned and held the man’s waist. He must be the father, Ken thought.
“Good morning Sir,” said Ken.
“I’m looking for a job as a cleaner and house keeper. I would like to know if you can hire me. I am a trustworthy person. I won’t let you down.”
“I can’t help you.”
Ken turned to leave then turned back abruptly. “Sir, I lost my job this morning. I have three children depending on me to find them something to eat this evening.”
“I told you I can’t help you.” The man retreated then closed the door.
Ken walked away.
Ken knocked on the gate of the next house. A beautiful dark-skinned lady opened the door. She wore a shower cap on her head and had cream on her cheeks. She was clad in a silk bathroom robe with a low neckline exposing her cleavage. The robe fit well round her mid section and hips. She wore matching red sandals.
Ken was lost for words. He started blankly.
Her phone rang. She received the call. “Hello. I told you not to call me again stupid.” She jeered.
She held her waist with her right hand. “What do you want?” She said with toughness in her voice.
“Um, madam. I would like a job as a cleaner.”
I would never hire a creep like you, she thought.
“Go talk to someone else,” she replied.
“Alright.” Ken nodded.
She went inside and slammed the gate.
This is not working, Ken thought. He decided to walk past a few houses before knocking again. He came to a house that had a gate with rails running from top to bottom. Razor wire lined the top of the fence and gate. He saw the well-manicured lawn and the front of the house. He knocked and waited. No one came. He knocked five more times then gave up.
The sun was getting hotter. He spotted a tree on the other side of the road. He walked up to the tree and sat down under the shade resting his back on the stem.
He got up a few minutes later feeling rested. He knocked at the gate right after the tree. Looking upwards he saw a “Be Ware Of Dog” sign at the top right corner of the gate.
A dog barked furiously, stuck its nose under the gate and growled.
I should go, he thought. No, I’ll stand my ground till someone comes to the gate.
He knocked again.
The door in the gate flew open. A guard dressed in a blue shirt and black trousers came out. He wore combat boots and held a rifle.
The German Shepherd dog came and stood beside the guard. “What do you want?”
“I’m here to ask for a cleaning job.”
The dog’s bark was drowned Ken’s voice. “Huh, say that again.”
“I’m here asking for a job as a cleaner.”
“Get out of here or I’ll set this dog lose.”
Ken was terrified and wanted to run. He turned around and walked away slowly.
He strolled past a couple of houses then came to a double storied house with a tiled black roof and white walls. He proceeded to knock at the gate. If only they could give me a chance, he thought.
A white lady opened the gate.
“Good morning madam.”
“Good morning,” she replied with an American accent.
“I would like a job as a cleaner. I’m skilled at cleaning. I’m a trustworthy individual. I won’t let you down.”
She looked at him intently. “I’m sorry but I have two cleaners already.”
“Alright. Thank you.”
People can’t accept a stranger. I guess I’ll try again tomorrow. I’ll start with Bukoto through Naguru then head to Kololo. He moved around the rest of the day going door to door then went home hungry and tired.
Ken’s children returned from school and found him seated on the veranda of their house.
“Dad, you’re home so early,” said Lucy.
“I wanted to surprise you.”
Ken had three children. Johnny was 9 years, Steven was 7 and Lucy was 6. Ken’s wife left him a year ago because she couldn’t stand his drinking and gambling problem anymore. That moment was a wake-up call for him. From then on, he purposed to change his ways. He learned how to care for his kids.
One hour later:
“Dad. Is supper ready?” asked Johnny.
“I’m sorry but we don’t have food to eat tonight.”
“Daddy, I’m hungry too,” said Lucy as she walked over to where he sat. He scooped her into his laps.
“I’ll find food for you tomorrow.”
Steven came and stood beside his dad.
“Listen, I’m going to make hot water for you to drink. You won’t feel hungry afterwards.”
Lucy began to cry. “Daddy I’m Hungry.”
“I know,” he said rocking her in his arms. “I want you all to go and bathe as I prepare the water.” Afterwards you can lie down on your mattress so you can conserve your energy.
The kids entered the house and got their bathing materials together then went to the bathroom that was outside the house at the back. Ken went in, lit the stove and put a saucepan of water on top to boil. Look at what I’m doing to my kids, he cursed.
Ken woke up at 6:00 am the next day. He got up, picked a stove and saucepan then went outside. He felt dizzy.
Darkness was giving way to the first rays of sunlight. A dog howled. Ken went behind the house and fetched water in the saucepan. He set it on the stove. I’ll have to find some money or food today. The drought is biting hard but I’ll find a way. Maybe I can go back to stealing. No, I’ve left that behind.
Ken sat on the veranda directly behind the door to his one-roomed home. The stove was in front of him in the dew-laden grass below. Small bubbles formed on the top of the water signaling it would boil soon.
Ken’s oldest son emerged from the inside. He placed his hands on Ken’s right shoulder. He slumped down and sat next to him. Ken put his right hand round his son. He wrapped both arms around Ken’s upper body and squeezed him tightly.
“Dad, I’m hungry,” Johnny said.
“I’m going to find us plenty to eat I promise.”
“If you don’t find food, what will happen to us?”
“Don’t worry son, I’ll find something.”
The water boiled. Ken stood up and went to get the two plastic cups they owned.
Ken combed his hair. I looked shabby yesterday. Maybe that’s why no one wanted to give me a job. He wore his best clothes; a black long sleeved shirt, a navy blue trouser, and, a black belt to match. Dressed well, he was optimistic things would be different today.
His hands moved to the back of the door next to the bottom hinge. He picked a pair of black shoes whose soles were wearing thin. He also picked a can of shoe polish and opened it. The polish was almost done. He found a red topped shoe brush and run the hairs over the shoe polish. He started brushing the shoes.
Steven and Lucy were still sleeping soundly. Johnny was lying on the mattress with his head facing the ceiling and his knees elevated.
He brushed his shoes and once he was done, he went to the window to see if they were shining. Not shiny enough. He went and polished his shoes for five more minutes. He came back to the window and held them to the sunlight. He smiled this time.
30 minutes later
Steven and Lucy both yawned lifting their hands into the air. Ken was adjusting his belt.
“Dad, I’m still feeling hungry,” said Steven lazily.
“I’m feeling too weak to go to school,” said Lucy.
“Oh school. I forgot,” Ken said. He came and knelt in front of his children’s mattress.
“Don’t worry, I’m all dressed up and I’m going to find us some food. As for school, you can stay home today. You need to conserve your energy. The children’s school didn’t provide meals.
“Give me a few minutes; let me boil water for you to drink.”
He went and boiled the water then returned with the cups he and Johnny used earlier. He handed the cups to Lucy and Steven.
“Johnny. I’m putting you in charge. If any of you gets hungry or thirsty, ask Johnny to boil water for you. It make you feel better.”
Lucy locked eyes with her dad as she lifted the cup to her mouth.
He stroked the top of her head.
“Take care, I’ll be back,” he said. Johnny, do as I have told you. It won’t be long, maybe even within the hour. He smiled then turned to leave.
He thought about the areas he would go to and ask for a job. During better times, his neighbors mostly sold foodstuffs to survive but ever since the drought most had left the area. He joined the main road. His eyes gazed at the fence of Kabira Country club in front of him. Cars and boda-boda motorcycles whizzed by.
It puzzled him how wealth and poverty coexisted together. That was the ironic thing about Kampala city. The rich and poor lived side by side with the wealthy living on the hills and slopes while the poor lived in the valleys.
He planned to take a back route that would end with him arriving at Ntinda trading center. He knocked on a few houses but it was still the same response. No. He came by his good friend Bosco’s hardware kiosk. He walked up to it and found him wiping bottles of engine oil and other lubricants like brake fluid.
Bosco didn’t see Ken approaching.
“Bosco, what’s up man,” he said.
“I’m good.” They greeted each other with a strong handshake that involved flexing their biceps hard.
“I lost my job. My children have been hungry the whole of last night. I hope to find some food or money today.”
“Sorry to hear about that.
“I’m going door to door asking if someone can help me.”
“I could have helped you with some cash but I haven’t sold a thing in 2 days.”
“Can you help me with some drinking water,” said Ken.
Bosco poured him a glass of water.
He took a sip. “Aaahh,” that feels good. “I’m walking the back route to Ntinda then join the main road again at Tusky’s supermarket. I’ll cross the road and start knocking on doors in Naguru all the way to Kololo if I have to.”
“That’s a good plan. Make sure you go to offices and commercial buildings more than residential areas”
“True. I have to confess, if nothing pans out today, I’m going to go back to stealing. I can’t watch my kids go another day without food.”
“Thieving is not the right option. You don’t want to go back to prison, do you?”
He shuffled his feet, “What do you want me to do?”
“I’ll go talk to the administrator at my church, sometimes there’s need for a casual worker to keep grounds clean and neat.”
Bosco stepped out from behind the counter and stood beside Ken, “All will be well.”
Ken let out a deep breath.
He left Bosco and marched on knocking at every gate he passed by. Nothing will stop me. Maybe houses with a Beware Of Dog.
He eventually reached Ntinda trading center and emerged from a back route at the main taxi stage opposite Mr. Tastys – a popular fast food chain in Kampala City. On his left was Tusky’s Supermarket, a retail outlet from Kenya.
_Like Bosco said, let me give commercial outlets a try._ He strolled to the entrance of Tusky’s.
He greeted the security guard, “Hello.”
“Hello,” she replied.
“I would like to speak to the manager.”
The guard pointed to the cashier at the first checkout counter. “Go and talk to her. She will help you.”
Ken walked in. On his left were a bakery section and food deli. Food. Food. Food. Just what he needed.
He caught a whiff of the freshly baked confectionaries and felt hunger bite his stomach. People strolled past him. Men, women, and children of all ages and sizes. Some dressed casually, others dressed formally.
I wish I could pick a trolley and buy stuff for my kids. One day, one day, I’ll be able to. In the center aisles of the supermarket were drinks, fruits, and basic household items. On the far left of the first, there were displays of perfumes, detergents and other cleaning items.
Maybe I should grab something and make a run for it. No. I would get arrested besides if someone made an alarm, someone outside would probably get a hold of me and I could be killed by a mob.
Ntinda was densely populated. If a thief was caught running by the boda-boda men or the merchants trading wares by the roadside, they would beat the thief to death if the police didn’t intervene in time.
He once witnessed a case where a thief was caught stealing. People left their shops and beat the man to pulp. They got an old tire and put it round his body they poured petrol and set the thief ablaze. By the time the police arrived, the man had burned to ashes. I don’t want my life to end that way.
He walked up to the first counter, “Good morning madam.”
Someone walked past him and put their shopping on the checkout counter. The scent of fried chicken radiated from the paper bags. His hunger bit harder.
“I would like to speak to the manager,” he said.
“What do you want to speak to the manager about?”
“I’m looking for a job as a cleaner or store attendant.
“I’m afraid he’s not around. Pass by tomorrow.”
“Thank you.” Ken walked out. One day I’ll be able to afford to buy stuff for my family from a place like this.
His next target was Mr. Tastys. He walked in and asked to speak to the manager.
“We don’t have a job opening,” the manager said.
He walked out and began to knock at the houses along Semawata Road. That is the road below Mr. Tastys and directly opposite Tusky’s supermarket. He knocked on 6 gates and received rejections. He was tired, hungry, his knees were weak. It seems no one is going to say yes to me.
He pushed the thought aside. I have no choice but to keep trying.
It was 10:00 am now.
Ken continued walking along Semawata road then zig-zagged his way through Naguru hill an affluent area in Kampala. He went to offices, homes, schools, baby daycare centers. At most places, he was told that there was no employment. What are my kids going to eat? He thought back to the promise he made to his children. It seemed unlikely it would come true. Other places told him to return another day. He didn’t have another day.
I’ve tried to do things the right way. His mind went back to the good life he enjoyed as a thug. The expensive hotels, exotic women and alcohol. I’m now a beggar.
His mind went back to the night he was caught by the police. Held at gunpoint behind the checkout counter at a supermarket with his hands in an open cash register he was emptying.
He was thrown underneath the police pickup truck and sentenced to 2 years in prison. His wife left him after. Bosco helped look after his children during that period.
All this hoping has gotten me nowhere. It’s time I reconnect with the gang.
He went by Bosco’s kiosk to tell him how the day went. It was now 6 pm in the evening. He worried about his kids but there wasn’t much he could do.
“Hey man. No success. No nothing.”
Bosco pulled a seat for him.
Bosco remained standing. “Things are tough. I’ve made no sales. I’m tired too. I’m hungry. I eat a meal once every two days.
It was his first time inside Tuskys. Ladies wearing strong perfumes walked past me. Men wearing shades and swiping on their smartphones walked past. I used to live like that as a thief. I never went to school. I grew up as a slum dweller. My children missed school today all because of me.”
“Things will be fine. You’re good at spotting patterns. That’s what made you a good thief. You can apply yourself in other trades and make an income.”
“If someone in this Kampala could just give me a chance.”
“If you can kick certain habits like showing up to work late, you be able to keep a job for the long term.”
“The government should create equal opportunity for us all. Every Ugandan regime tends to favor only people from a certain tribe. I’m sure a lot of us would be more economically empowered if we had equal access to opportunities.
Bosco pulled out a stool and sat down, gazing at the sun disappearing over the hill. It cast long shadows into the kiosk. The sky was colored with varying shades of orange.
“Life is hard. Equal opportunity is hard to provide to everyone. Deep down, ask yourself, have I done everything I can to succeed? Have I made the most of the opportunities I’ve been presented with?”
“I saw children walk in to buy stuff from Tusky’s yet I a thirty-eight-year-old man can’t even afford a soda for myself from there. I have a meeting with the manager of Tusky’s tomorrow.”
Whatever pans out for you this time, make sure you grab the opportunity and don’t squander it. Make sure you perform to all that is expected by your employer. Do even more than what’s required. That’s how you could earn yourself a promotion and then one day, you’ll be able to afford a better quality of life for yourself and family.”
A cool breeze blew.
“Go back well dressed and be frank with the manager about your situation.”
Ken rubbed his hands. “I’ll do that.”
Bosco scratched his head. I’m happy with the change I’ve seen in you. I don’t want to see you go back into a lifestyle you will regret.
“You bet I am,” said Ken. “All this nonsense of being a good man has helped. The kids have warmed up to me. They are no longer afraid of me as those days when I used to beat my wife. But I need food for tonight.” He stood up. “There are times you need to do wrong to achieve something good.”
A silver Mercedes Benz cruised by on the dirt road raising a cloud of dust.
“You think it’s easy. I’m not going to let my kids go another night without food. Even if I have to die, I’m going to provide for them.”
“Let’s go and scavenge for food in rubbish heaps.”
“No, food from rubbish heaps will make them worse.”
“Okay, you’ve made your point.”
“Do you have a metal rod I can borrow?”
Ken got off the stool to leave.
“What are you thinking of doing?” “Ken, whatever you do, please don’t harm anyone.”
“I’ll try,” he said sarcastically.
I need a good weapon. He came to the edge of the road and stared at the metal scrap yard on the opposite side.
He crossed the road and began to rummage through the rubbish. There were car fenders, old cooking utensils, tin foil, and metallic sheets or all shapes and sizes. Some of them reflected the deep orange sky above.
He moved pieces out of the way, searching for the ideal one. They were stray dogs, men, women, and children rummaging through the rubbish. A garbage truck reversed into the dump dropping a new pile of waste. It was 6:45 am. The sky was rapidly getting dark. I need to get this done quickly.
In his haste, he bumped into a middle-aged lady who was also rummaging through the scrap.
She stared at him. “Mister, look where you’re going.”
He lifted his right hand in apology. “I’m sorry.”
He pushed pieces of scrap away with his feet, tilted others over with his hands. He threw some beside him, others behind him. He clawed and scavenged for the ideal metal rod.
He picked up a rod and felt it in his hands. No, not flexible enough.
He picked another one. Not strong enough. It will break under pressure if I use it to jar a door open. I need a long hard metal bar. Something lightweight I can bend to make a wrench so I can pry open doors if need be. Something I can hit anyone who tries to stand in my way.
He eventually found the perfect metal rod about the length his arm. It was a black with paint peeling revealing another layer of black that looked grayer. We swung it around in a circular motion using his right hand. He nodded at Bosco who was watching him from the other side.
Bosco stood there motionless like a statue
Ken smiled and walked away using the metal rod like a walking stick.
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As Ken approached his home, he ran his right hand through the leaves of the mango tree that stood ten meters from his door.
Ideas went through his mind about the kind of location he would storm later in the night. A home? Too risky. A retail outlet? That can work. Only if I can find one that is fairly isolated. He set the metal rod beside the wooden door and knocked.
A jumbo jet flew over his head and into the distance. He looked up. The sky was pitch black with stars in full glow. A cold breeze cruised through his body causing him to rub his hands.
He knocked again. I wonder what’s taking Johnny so long. “Johnny come open for me.” He turned around and leaned his back against the door. He stared to the right then moved to the window and rapped it with his knuckles. “Johnny, Steven, please come and open for me.”
He waited then rapped on the window even harder than before. A few seconds later, the door flew open. “Why did you take so long?”
“Dad, I’m hungry,” said John.”
“I know, I know. I came by to make sure you were all safe before I head out into the night.”
“Why didn’t you light the lamp,” said John.
“Because I was tired.”
“You should have lit the lamp even if you were tired.”
John went and took up his position on the mattress next to his siblings.
Ken pressed a button on his Techno phone and used the backlight to guide him to where the lamp was stationed.
John picked the lamp and lit it. A bright yellow flame illuminated the room.
He felt something cold wiggle next to his right foot. He lowered the flame and saw a snake. “Stay on the bed.”
He darted towards the corner behind the door where he kept his shoes. He approached the snake taking calculated steps and thrust the heel of his shoe directly at the snake’s head.
The snake’s body wiggled letting go of the life it held within. He got a broom, swept the snake outside and torched it.
As soon as John reentered the house, Lucy came running towards him and gave him a strong hug. He patted her head.
He looked into her eyes. “Don’t worry. The snake is dead now.”
He brought the lamp close to where his kids lay. Ken pulled his mattress and brought it close to theirs.
“Dad, am I going to die?”
“No,” said Ken.
Two Weeks Ago:
Lucy and her best friend Christine were walking home from school one day. They had enjoyed a lot of adventures on their way home. On one occasion, it rained heavily on them. On another occasion, they were chased by dogs.
“Let’s stop by the shop across the road and buy chewing gum,” said Lucy.
“No, we should go back home straight. My mum always tells me to go home immediately after school,” said Christine.
“Don’t worry. We’re just buying sweets then going home.”
As they were waiting for a clear opportunity to cross, a dog run towards them.
Christine held Lucy’s hand. “Don’t run.”
The dog smelt them and continued on its way.
As soon as they had received the sweets from the shopkeeper, Lucy tore off the wrappers already imagining the taste of the gum in her mouth. She threw all four pieces of Wrigley’s PK into her mouth and started chewing. She smiled at Christine.
Lucy scratched an itch in her hair as they were crossing back. Her shoe came off. Before she could pick it she saw a car coming towards her.
They hurried to the other side leaving the shoe in the middle of the road.
“My dad is going to be angry at me.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll go get it for you,”
“You could get hit by a car,” said Lucy. “We should wait for an adult to walk by and ask for help.”
“I’ll run and grab it when I see there’s no car on both sides.”
They stood there for ten minutes, watching both sides anticipating the moment when the road would be clear. Sadly, being rush hour cars drove by in quick succession.
Christine waited till she judged that the Toyota Corolla was still far off then she dashed onto the tarmac. She grabbed the shoe. The car was nearing where she stood. The saloon car zapped past her. She smiled at Lucy then dashed off without looking in the direction the car had come.
A pickup truck ran over Christine.
Lucy screamed. Oncoming motorists in the same lane slowed down and switched to the next lane in order to avoid Christine’s body. Lucy sprinted to where her friend’s body lay and dropped down next to her. A pool of blood appeared from behind Christine’s back and spread out in all directions.
“Let’s get her to the side of the road,” the shop keeper screamed. They lifted Christine’s body with Lucy looking on.
It came to Lucy’s mind to run round the corner to the junction where she usually met her brothers who went to a different school. She ran round the corner and met them.
“Johnny, Steven, Lucy has been hit by a car.”
“I hope she’s not dead,” said Steven.
“Let’s go and see her,” said Johnny.
They raced to the accident scene leaving Lucy trailing behind. As they neared the scene they watched policemen place Christine’s body on the back of a pickup and drive away.
“Stop, stop,” Johnny screamed running as fast as he could to the scene.
A few seconds later, Steven and Lucy stopped next to Johnny.
A traffic officer was questioning the shop keeper who worked at the kiosk where Lucy and Christine had purchased chewing gum.
“We need to tell Christine’s parents what has happened,” Steven said.
They raced home, stopping along the way to catch their breaths then continuing to run as they went.
They ran to the house of Christine’s parents.
“Mama Christine, Christine has been in a very bad accident,” said Lucy.
Tears filled the eyes of Christine’s mum. What happened what were you doing?
“We had gone to buy sweets before coming home.”
“I always told Christin never to branch off anywhere on the way home. Now look at what has happened.”
“Tom come here quickly,” Christine’s mother Joan called.
“What’s wrong?” he said.
Lucy has had a bad accident.
Where did they take her?
“We saw her being put on the back of a police pickup,” said Johnny.
“They must have taken her to Mulago hospital,” said Tom.
“Let’s head there now,” said Joan, Christine’s mum said.
They walked to the main road and boarded a taxi for Mulago Referral Hospital.
Lucy watched as Christine’s parents raced to the hospital. I hope she’s still alive. I’ll ask dad to buy her sweets to make her feel better.
Mulago Hospital Reception:
“Has a police truck brought a young girl to be treated,” said Joan.
“Let me call one of the doctors of duty,” Mercy the receptionist said.
A doctor approached a few minutes later with a nametag on his coat reading Dr. Michael.
“Doctor Michael,” Joan’s voice broke. “Has a police truck brought a young girl here in the last one hour to be treated?”
Dr. Michael was silent.
“Is she still alive?” Mr. Tom asked.
Joan fell to the ground wailing. “Christine. Christine. My dear Christine. How could you leave us?”
Tom knelt down and held his wife. His eyes were filled with tears too.
“I want to see her,” she said.
I will have the receptionist take you to her body in the mortuary.
Joan refused to be comforted. She rolled on the titled floor wailing uncontrollably.
When Lucy reached home, she run to her dad and told her what had happened.
Around 9 pm in the night, wailing was heard in the neighborhood.
“Dad what’s happening? said Steven.
“Let’s go to the Mugisha’s house,” said Ken.
As they neared the Mugisha’s residence the wailing grew louder. Lucy’s worst nightmare had come true. She sat on the ground and cried, clinging to her dad’s leg.
Steven and Johnny’s hearts were heavy too. Ken took Lucy into his arms and they entered the residence of the Mugisha’s.
“An Anglican priest entered the residence and brushed his way past Ken and other mourners. He greeted Tom and then embraced Joan who continued sobbing in his arms uncontrollably. The priest didn’t say a word. He knew it was best to allow emotions run their course.”
God, why all this pain and suffering? thought Ken.
It’s my fault Christine is dead, thought Lucy. I shouldn’t have suggested that we go to the kiosk to buy sweets. I should have stopped her from running onto the road. Lucy’s eyes welled up. Tears blurred her vision.
Ken and his children when to visit Christine’s parents the next day. The body had been brought to their home in a small casket and mourners were paying their last respects to Christine. When it was the turn of Ken’s family to view the body, Lucy grabbed the corpse by the shoulders and shook it.
“Christine, wake up wake up wake up,” she heaved. She lay her head on Christine’s chest.
Ken held her hand. Lucy let’s go. Lucy obeyed and walked away with her dad but her gaze was still fixed on the coffin. She broke free of her dad’s grip and darted toward the coffin. Ken followed her and scooped her in his arms.
“No. Daddy. No. I need to go and wake up my friend.” She hit her dad’s back and shoulders with her fists. Ken kept walking away.
After a period of fighting, she went limp in her dad’s embrace and sobbed uncontrollably.
Lucy’s eyes filled with tears. She sniffed.
Ken stroked Lucy’s cheek and wiped her tears. “You’re not going to die,” he said. “I’m going to find food for you tonight.”
He stroked the backs of his other children who were asleep. Ken blinked back tears and rubbed his nose. “I want you all to sleep so you can conserve your energy. I’m going to get you something to eat.”
He blew off the paraffin lamp. “Don’t let anyone in.” He left the room and locked the door from outside with a padlock. He rested his forehead on the door, mumbled a prayer then walked away.
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