Children of the Earth

toilet dig

Genesis 3:19: By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from earth, and to earth you will return.”

 

Children of the Earth

Genesis 3:19: By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from earth, and to earth you will return.”

 

‘The Lord almighty made soil, earth that we may trod upon it and be productive, to live our days in worship as his creation, adoring and valuing all that comes from the earth…’

Old Kilemi thundered, and as he rattled, his eyes bounced wildly in defiance to his stock still scarecrow figure, Old Kilemi was old. He still had it though, I always mused each Sunday I heard the long suffering son of God lament on the news of the Kingdom, as he spoke of the sojourner’s truth and the many lairs of temptation.

‘Earth is what we have to look forward to, after our journey here is done…;

He concluded to a large applause. My wife looked at me and smiled, she was always excited when I accompanied her to church, for some reason it made her feel closer to me, like she could ignore all my misdeeds with the chai wallas at Cosmos and my drunk exploits with the ruffians if only I accompanied her to church.

It wasn’t that I detested going to the Hallow place, it’s the indifference rather the whole idea carried for me, going to church as I always surmised wouldn’t change anything, on the contrary it would make the ecstasy of doing wrong sweeter, like when mama pima warned us, when we were children, of Hell on earth if by any chance our filthy shit hands ever touched her bowl of sugar, I swear I’ve never tasted any sweeter sugar to date…

We walked out, Lydia, my wife, glowing from the satisfaction of her routinely visit with the man upstairs, my children loving the prospect of their Sunday attire and me, well I just followed behind, sturdy but indifferent.

Kilemi greeted us as we walked by, sometimes I was intrigued by how well he knew everyone, and how well he pretended to care or actually cared, and sometimes it was hard to know the difference. He commented on how handsome I had grown since our days of church with dad Nimrod. I shuddered… it was too long ago, too much had changed, dad’s heart was broken or rather shattered into what I had become, he had long stopped telling his friends about me, his son, the toilet digger.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I was a failure, but as Cosmos kept telling us while we drowned in his base brew, life had a way of fucking you up… coupled with a HIV diagnosis and my new found role as a baby daddy at the tender age of 19 though with nothing tender about the act itself rather nastiness. It was a messed up life story if you ask me,

‘But to every man is given his own measure of temptation, his own power cannot be exceeded by the trial itself…’

Another one of old Kilemi’s quips which in hindsight I had actually grown to love.

Lydia… aaah that’s another story, an angel, goddess maybe if you asked me, when she learnt we were sick, she cried for two whole days, eating nothing but boiled maize delivered by Kimani, Mama Pima’s successor, in a repentance fast. Often when I came home drunk as a fish from my own repentance measures at Cosmos I would hear her, loudly calling upon the name of someone from a place called Judah, a relative of the man upstairs, and she would atone for my sins and our children and hers too which she claimed were greatest. Lydia’s prayers did not go unanswered though, for a month later ARVs were declared free and after the shock had worn off, I resumed my business of digging toilets for Kayole’s leafy suburbs.

‘And so we trod, bare to the bone but clinging to hope that one day we might find rest,’

Not Kilemi, that was Cosmos, and that also happened to be his entrance slogan for his bar coincidentally also named Cosmos, for the life of me I can swear that everybody knew everybody here, from the toilet diggers, to the honey hunters, to the moss collectors to the watchmen, we all became one drunk family in Cosmos, our refuge where we came to find rest, oh and to get stark raving drunk at a cheap price.

More often than not, it would hit me as to the mess I’d leave my family in once I was gone, somehow my mind never really pictured Lydia gone, she was so strong, she could endure anything, I’m sure as Hell that Heaven doesn’t make such good people anymore. My two little girls Tanya and Maria, my proof of fornication, Lydia always intoned, much to my amusement, I mean they were her sin as much as they were mine, consequences of our guilty pleasures… that’s something Kilemi would say.

I remember one day I found Tanya flirting with a boy from Tetu, the neighboring slum, I was so mad I slapped her senseless, the boy took off as would be expected, Tanya was stunned and alarmed, never before had I laid a hand on any of my daughters but a fate like or worse than mine is worth slapping away, lest the demons that troubled us decided to stay in her life as much as they had stayed in mine. It would be a terrible mess I would leave them in, my two lovely daughters without a father to slap the temptation away from their lives.

‘If it not deep enough to handle your problems it cannot handle shit’

Not Cosmos or Kilemi that was just Bakkali, my comrade in our toilet digger partnership, we had been digging toilets with Bakkali for the past two years, a huge fellow but a bit daft, evidenced in the way he called me boss and yet we were in fact partners, not to mention the number of loans he had given me. But Bakkali was gifted strength in place of brains which was what was really required in this line of work.

We once went to church with Bakkali, to listen to Kilemi at the encouragement of Lydia, who told Bakkali that our business would bloom if we attended Kilemi’s charade. At the middle of the sermon Bakkali rose up and demanded to know why he was the topic of discussion in such a large gathering, Kilemi, Lydia and everyone in the wooden house of the Lord was stunned, except me, I was too busy shedding tears in laughter… as I said Bakkali was daft, case in point… he left the church infuriated leaving a red faced Lydia who had earlier on introduced the poor bloke as her guest.

As all days begin so did our Thursday begin, with Bakkali being my morning alarm, distraught that we would botch our 40 ft. contract if I slept a morsel longer, Lydia was also awake disappointed, and thus I trudged out of bed, disappointed too, that these were no longer the days when having an extra snooze affected only oneself and not a whole family. And so we met with Bakkali, implements in hand, minds fresh, well at least mine and eyes set, our prize was a 40ft toilet for a Bidco company in Lemur.

The pay was good motivation, enough to shadow the prospect of the work that lay before us. Day one marked a travesty as Bakalli’s hoe slid off its handle, served him right, I had been warning the bloke to oil his equipment for months now, but well he was a bit daft. A solid team of four men, determined, we pummeled the earth with meaning and rhythm, with a huge desire for the end days’ pay to which we would honor Cosmos.

Work was a sort of relief sometimes, with the low hums of men as they toiled only occupying your mind, with the splash of wet soil on your ankles and body at times, it was an opportune time to think about Kilemi’s quips and life when it was simpler, like the day I met Lydia. She was on a church mission or at least she said so. She had been sent by their church to recruit youths into their church, she said while my father was within earshot. He acknowledged, his children would grow knowing God, he re-iterated.

However I often remember the event with suspicion, Lydia never mentioned any church while we walked past Mama Pima’s and the old YCMA hall that would reincarnate into Cosmos, not a word, it wouldn’t take long for us to know each other better, it took even much less for us to know each other better, naked.

At around 6pm a slight downpour started, we were already at 20 ft. so we called it a day and our supervisor, as we called him and he doled out our sweat money, obtained from bargaining within the exploits of the earth, as our religion would have it we proceeded to Cosmos. The gang was already there, the paste tables would shake today in our wake and tremor. I was in a particularly jovial mood and we ordered large, besides we had been paid large, cosmos was busy today, with the chai wallas showing off a little more than was the case and cosmos spilling a little bit of Keg as he filled each jug of the thirsty congregation before him.

As time swayed, drinks clinked and Cosmos started urging the men to go back and take the remaining proceeds to their families back home. Heck… Cosmos, he had a sense of humor that one. We departed from Cosmos with a stagger in our steps, Bakkali and I, as we left Cosmos, we bid the place goodbye, for another day in its throes.

The next day started as usual, Bakalli’s incessant calls and my wife’s disapproving looks, I left Lydia a piece of my previous day’s earnings and hurried to meet Bakkali lest he started digging on his own. The job started as usual, with no qualms just a togetherness that only a certain closeness to the earth could bring, Bakkali was snorting loudly, a reaction that was always in correspondence to the number of feet we dug.

At around 37 ft. the sun disappeared and a haze of dark clouds appeared, we toiled harder to end the day with a resounding pay check, my mind raced and we doubled our efforts, Peter shouted from the top inquiring as to whether we were done, Bakkali shouted that he should drop the bucked and hoist us one after the other for the end was nigh.

Peter let the bucket loose and it came down accompanied by the rain water that was now increasing in intensity, muddying the soil at our feet as we reached the 40 ft. mark, the other guys wanted to start first at Bakalli’s insistence, for some insane reason he always liked to end last, as Peter hoisted one of the team, a slight miscalculation presented itself.

Coupled with the wetness that had now filled the toilet dug, and the effort and the pressure of Peter’s hoisting efforts a large chunk of soil from the top, disengaged bringing the winch down and the bucket with the guy down on top of us. And as he landed we all saw it, Bakkali, I and the remaining team member… the large deposit, the large blanket, as it came to hush us. The soil landed defiantly with a loud thud, Peter’s wails were distant as the soil seeped into our ears, noses and mouths, cradling us, calling us back to from whence we came.

 

Genesis 3:19: By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from earth, and to earth you will return.”

 

Francis the Lone Puppeteer

 

 

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