I racconti del Premio Energheia Africa Teller

The unwanted seed_Leah Hjeri Rigii

foglie6_Africa Teller 2003.


“Maina, how many times do you have to be reminded you do the

milking here? Next time I do that, be assured you will do it with your

toes because I will have be-figured you and by the way, can you tell

your friends I said if they have nothing to do they better do it at their

homes!” He screamed. Maina knowing better than that, jumped out of

the house like one shot from a machine gun. He knew his father too

well even to compromise, but now he was a grown-up man, twentytwo

is not a kid anymore. Gone, were the days when he used to scare

them out of their skins. For once he envied his brothers who had

‘grown horns’ rebelled, ran away from home and sought jobs from

town. His father was the same cause for the early marriages of his

sisters at fifteen, eighteen and seventeen consequently. He was well

known in the whole neighbourhood to be a beast; he had once almost

be-headed an in-law of his with his (Njora) two-sided panga for

delaying his daughter’s dowry. All the same, he went for the milking

bucket and half walked half ran headed for the (boma). If anything, it

was his steep price for being too good.

It was 5,30 p.m., Maria sat up on Maina’s bed. She knew Maina’s

father too well. How it had escaped him that she was hanging around

with the son still puzzled her. She had heard the conversation outside

and was scared to death. She promised herself to never repeat the

mistake again. It was more than that; it never occurred to her that the

mess was already done. Earlier, she had vowed to exploit the

opportunity she had for education. She was the only girl in their

house who had had education. It had taken her mother a long time to

convince her father that educating a girl child is investing. Now she

could not comprehend what was wrong with her. She would walk out

of this house minus her virginity and probably with a seed in her

belly. That thought only sent a chill down her spine and she quickly

dismissed the thought. She knew her culture too well and God only

knew what would happen to her. She had carelessly let this boy, break

her world into two and turn it upside down.

Almost immediately Maina got in, he had hurried with the milking

because he remembered his father to have literally dragged his friends

out of the house, he was afraid he would do the same to Maria. “God;

he will treat me like a villager if he knows”, he told himself as he ran

up the small house. “You have to go Maria, I was stupid enough not

to have thought my old man was here”. Maina had always persuaded

Maria to sleep with him, but she had declined saying, “you can say

that, another time. Have you forgotten your culture?” Their

conversations always ended like that. This evening, he had persuaded

her to go to his house to pick something. “We won’t take long, and be

assured. I won’t do anything to you”, he said. Foolishly like a sleep

headed for slaughterhouse, she followed him. “You have to cooperate”,

he told her once he made sure the door behind him was

safely locked. As naive as she was, she would not have seen this trap.

They sneaked out of the compound without his father seeing them.

Even as she walked in the evening cold headed for home, she felt

different. She was no longer the Maria she’d been.

Her mother’s voice called as she entered the house. “You look like

you’ve been hit by a bull, your hair is a mess, must have been a hard

day for you dear”. Sure mother, her voice almost gave her away,

inwardly she thought, “It’s not a bull mother, but a human being

bull”. She owed her education to her mother and for an instance she

felt so guilty. She was an envy of the whole village, because she was

among the first girls to go to high school. This was her final year, and

she was preparing for her O’level exams they were due in three

weeks time. The father always sang the same song in the evening, “If

Maria lets us down, you know it’s your fault”. He told the mother.

That month she was late and thought it was because she was under

stress as her home science teacher had told girls once. She became

even more apprehensive when the following month passed with no

sign of her periods. She was almost through with her exams, she

chose to wait for the worst but kept hoping for the best. A month later

she confided to Maina who declined marrying her, he said he was not

ready to be a father and that was the end of the secret affair. The

gossip had already began to do the rounds, women what escaped their

eyes. Eighteen, single with a kid does not even begin to describe her

in the next so months. His mind was racing, a triple chase in her head.

Wambui was a very pretty girl, but behind her pretty face, she hid a

lot of hatred for her sister. At twenty, fully grown, long hair, light

complexion with a 5’ height to boot. Nice speech and wonderful

cookery knowledge was not a bad addition either. She believed in

herself and all what she had was hers and lived like she owed nothing

to nobody, not even her creator. She never gave a damn to anybody,

didn’t bother how many hearts she broke and how many people loved

her. Issues like sickness, death, suffering and care were simply not

known to her, neither did she care to learn. She didn’t even know

what she believed in as far as faith was concerned. All her life

revolved around her career, she would one day become a famous

actress that was her dream. In fact, she had enrolled for acting

lessons. Her parents felt let down, they had wanted their daughter to

be a nurse, or something closely related to medical field. Muthoni

their elder daughter had made them proud. She had settled to a

teaching career in music and French. Though Wambui was younger of

the two sisters, she had a body bigger than her sister’s. The fact that

she was taller than Muthoni made it even worse. People who didn’t

know them well but knew the mother as (Mama Muthoni), always

thought she was Muthoni when they would first meet them. Wambui

hated it and would say in disgust, “I am Wambui not her!” She

wouldn’t even mention Muthoni’s name. On the other hand, Muthoni

since childhood treated Wambui like a jewel, she gave all her love to

her only sister. What she got in return always made her wonder where

she went wrong.

Their maternal grandmother whom Muthoni had been named after,

(and the only living grandmother they had) though the Kikuyu culture

stated that the first child of a couple got their names of the paternal

grandparents depending on the sex of the child. That part puzzled

Wambui and she hated it. She had always complained that she was

given a name from the blues, that’s why she preferred being called

Catherine her baptismal name though to her still did not have a


So, that evening, it was unlike her, she was in high spirit and probably

an appetite. Whatever happened to her later only the devil would tell.

She called out as she entered the house, “mmm, smells nice, good

evening there, what’s for supper?” Muthoni was completely

surprised, “You gonna eat today miss figure lady?” Of late Catherine

was so much on her figure that she skipped most of the meals.

Furthermore, she hated Muthoni’s cooking. She had always excused

herself when Muthoni was cooking, “my career simply cannot go

with big bellied people, I’ll have water instead”. It was no use;

Muthoni already knew it that she hated her messy meals.

Coincidentally, Muthoni hated cooking and consequently was not

good at it. Her mother had always worried if she’d ever get a husband

who would stand a wife who didn’t know how to cook. Wambui took

one look on the messy green grams on the jiko and the messy

chapattis on the table and changed her mind. “No, I am not hungry”.

She said as she started a song close to (Mwathani uka na ndugatumane)

“Lord come and don’t send anyone, come personally”. Of all other

things, her creator had decided not to give her a good singing voice. So

as she half sang this evening, she sounded like a croaking frog in the

dry season. That’s why her singing was always something far from the

actual thing. At least that was her weak nerve and Muthoni loved it that

way. She, Muthoni, had once performed a western solo at school

during music festivals and everyone was like, “Mariah Careh is really

getting a stiff competition”. Careh was the best western artist by that

time. Even members of staff were envious of her; enough of them had

wished Muthoni were their daughter. The solo had gone up to the finals

and had won the “In search of a music idol grand prize”.

Her sister was so jealous that she did not talk to anyone that whole

week. Muthoni had felt so great; it was the best day of her life. If she

had known she had taken after her paternal grandmother who used to

solo in (Ngurù) a traditional dance done by old Kikuyu men and

women. She and her group had performed for the first president of

Kenya Hon. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta after independence.

It was now Wambui’s day to feast on Muthoni’s weakness. She knew

Wambui would not take her chapattis and so she offered, “my dear

sister, why don’t you go and graze outside, there is a lot of vegetation

in the compound and daddy doesn’t like it really that way, and

whoever said you didn’t have a voice you sound like Miriam Makeba,

I am really in for a surprise. Wambui had had enough; her sister had

really tampered with the wrong button”. She screamed, “Who is your

sister you bamboo, who would stand your so called chapattis, I’d

rather feed on firewood not even grass. As for my voice, it has

nothing to do with your bloody life. I regret ever knowing this nasty

bastard. You a big pain in the…” Their parents popped in almost

immediately. All along, they had been aware that these two ladies

hated each others gut; their mother had always blamed herself for the

differences between the girls, but the husband had always said to her

reassuringly. “God knows even if Wambui herself was alive she

would never get along with Muthoni”. After all, every parent makes

mistakes and they were nowhere near exceptions. “What the hell is

going on here?” Maria was first to speak. “Mum would you feed on

this firewood?” Wambui said pointing at the chapattis. “Surely dad I

am sure you won’t like them like this”. Muthoni could not take it any

longer, she picked a number of chapattis and threw them to her sister,

luckily they missed her with inches. When she saw she had not hit the

target, she burst out crying.

Kiarie or baba Muthoni as commonly known by the neighbours, was

a man of few words, he drank though not heavily and kept it to

himself. He was known to be an ideal family man because he loved

his wife and children. Rumours had it that he was the cause of the

death of his mother. Tall, slim, dark figure was really fit for his

profession. He has worked as an administration police for seventeen

years now. That evening, he was surely in a dull mood, someone who

knew him would tell. “Really when problems come, it’s like they’ve

called for”. He said under breath. This particular scenario was the last

he’d have called for. This was the same fateful day that he’d received

news on his transfer. The letter was still very vivid in his mind “… we

have appointed you to our (Mitahato) headquarters. You have a month

to prepare and…” the letter went.

This was the last place he wanted to go. He had never been there but

he had learnt it was in those remote sides of Ruiru. Everyone who had

gone there regretted the place. Wajir would have been kinder as some

colleague of his had joked. “Kiarie, you can bet to your last coin, the

next reshuffle, we two are headed for wajir”. “Over my dead body!”

he had screamed. It was a rather bad joke and from that time they had

never got along with the colleague. The reshuffle had always skipped

him until now. He had served in Kiambu town ever since he came

from recruitment. Though he loved his wife, he could not afford to

forget the scandal that he suffered when he had married her. It was

unheard of a man marrying a woman with a kid who was not his.

Those were not the days when unwanted seeds were sowed by a

sower unlike nowadays, who was not at all interested in the harvest.

His mother had said, “I don’t know where the world is coming up to”.

She refused to go for marriage negotiations and for the hundredth

time, she wished her husband were alive. His brothers were not any

better, they could not hear of it. “But, mother”, he had tried to beg.

“We all are human and mistakes are inevitable”. She wondered why

the council of wherever this girl came from not taken the necessary

measures. According to her, such girl was supposed to be married off

to an old man, her son was still young and fresh. In as much as Kiarie

tried to make them understand that the world was changing, he could

not convince them.

After a month Kiarie made history while he brought Maria to be his

wife and a 3 years old kid in town to be his daughter from that

moment. In a simple “come we stay affair” if they had known that

was the name. He really had taken the cow and the calf, as the

Kikuyu would have said. The mother could not take it any longer. It

was total disgrace to her family and the entire clan. She went down

with a strange disease – if they had known it to be heart attack. It took

his last ounce of willpower to push his mother’s death away, forget

her curse or whatever it was and go on with life. Luckily enough, by

that time the government had resoluted to house the police to make

their operations easy. Kiarie moved his family to the quarters and left

the curses behind. Now it was coming back, all that he had thought to

have gone with the wind. “Oh poor mother, please don’t do this to me

not now…” he stammered.

Maria had also been lost in her own reveille. When she had gotten

pregnant, it was the hottest gossip in the village. “The daughter to an

elder, total disgrace, it’s the damned foolish education”. The father

could not take it, he had already arranged with the council to marry

her daughter to a famous rich old man with seven wives. Maria had

declined telling them who was the sower, because she still loved

Maina. If Maina’s father had known, he would have treated him like a

villager. The punishment Maina could have got was castration and

Maria could not let the father to his child face the knife though he had

refused to marry her. Was it not for her mother’s intervention, she’d

probably be a widow among many others with enough children to

make a man famous and wealthy by that time.

Muthoni, Maria’s mother had tried to persuade the husband to leave

the folly of the law and make him understand the world was changing

but he almost stroke her, saying, “You call the wisest man foolish,

you woman you call the law foolish you call your husband foolish.

Don’t you know we have divine appointment from (Mwenenyaga)? –

(The Kikuyu name for GOD?) – You have very loose morals. It seems

you have ganged up with your stupid daughter against me. We shall

see who is greater”. This last part had been said with a lot of finality.

Maria had been listening from outside and regretted putting her

mother in so much trouble. The father at that time, simply did not

dialogue with their daughters it was (mugiro) or taboo. So the mother

was always the go-between. The following morning, he had screamed

at the wife, “Can you tell your daughter that she is vacating tomorrow

everything has been organized and the dowry is paid”. In that case the

man always got half the dowry because the “goat had been broken the

leg” the lady was not a virgin. “The stupid village girl, has had my

beer poured”, he cursed under breath as he left for the negotiations.

Muthoni made a historic move, for that morning as the husband left.

Her and the daughter packed their belongings and fled to her mother’s

home. Maria’s grandmother could not have them feast on her

daughter’s failure, not when she was alive. By that evening the whole

scandal had spread like bush fire. Mzee Kimani could not take it, his

pride was at stake he went down with heart attack if they had known

it then. Maria gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. The baby had to be

given the grandmother’s name. If anything that was the only person

so dear to her heart. Even up to this day she had always referred her

eldest daughter as (mami), Kikuyu name for mother with the

tenderest infection in her voice. Wambui had always been jealous of

the relationship between her sister and her mother.

“Mother could have as well given birth to a kiondo (a traditional bag

made of sisal fibres) and carry cabbage in it from the market”,

screamed Muthoni. It had not occurred to the parents that as they

were lost each in his/her own thoughts, the daughters had gone on and

on screaming insults at each other. At one point Muthoni had revived

her French like she always did when she was very angry. “Tu est un

cochon et un serpent, je ne comprend pas. Mondu”. If Wambui only

could understand that she’d been called a pig and a snake, which

Muthoni did not understand.

“You anger so easily Mami, when will you ever learn not to take

everything so to heart?” Their mother said. “Mum, being a bastard is

not something to be taken so to heart. Furthermore, this is not the first

time Wambui is calling me so, it’s like she’s always had something up

her sleeves. You’re my only truth with dad and I want to hear it from

the horse’s mouth”. Muthoni managed to stammer between sobs.

Maria gave Kiarie one look and said almost in a whisper, “We don’t

have a choice, do we?” “Please mum and dad tell me now”, she

begged. This time Kiarie managed to speak, “there is nothing much to

be told, the only thing there is to make a beloved daughter adjust to

the fact that the one man he had known and loved to be her father is a

stranger after all”. “No dad”, she cried out. “I love you and you are

the only father I know and I will always have and love”. She hugged

her father and were both crying in each other’s arms. That was all

Kiarie needed to hear, he surely loved Muthoni like his own flesh and

blood. “On second thought, I don’t want to hear it mum”. She said

with finality. But her mother protested. “No let’s bury this for once

and for all”. She explained the story and was caught up with emotions

especially that part when the responsible refused to marry her. “I love

you two, and thank you for being my umbrella all this time, I’d have

already drowned”. Muthoni concluded. She promised herself, she’d

look for her biological father. Not that she wanted to thank him, but to

let him know she’d never forgive him for deserting her mother when

she really needed him most. As for Wambui she would try and

understand her.

Schools had resumed, and she had gone back to her work. She buried

herself with so much work and almost forgetting her plans. Even the

other members of staff knew there was something wrong with this

young lady. “Hey, Miss Kiarie, you’re working so late of late, is

something wrong?” the head teacher pointed out one day. That is

when she realized she was killing herself with work slowly. She

would not afford to die before she accomplished her mission. One

evening, she boarded a matatu headed for Nairobi. Her mother had

told her that her father works in one boxing club, she had always

assumed he was a boxer. There was only one club of that kind she

knew of, and that is where she headed for. That was in Karen. As she

alighted from the matatu she’d seen the big signboard written in block

italicized letters KAREN CLUB MEMBERS ONLY. She told herself

she’d be a guest if not a member.

She hurried across the road and walked as if she had forgotten her life

someplace and was afraid someone would pick it up. “I can die after

this”, she told herself. “But first the sower of the unwanted seed”. She

cursed her father whoever he was a boxer or not he was the cause of

her sister’s hatred towards her. “Surely that lady hates me with

venom”, she was brought to life by the gate man. It had not occurred

to her she was already there. “Your visitor’s card please”, the gate

man asked in a polite voice. “I want to be a member”, she joked.

“Young lady, this is no time to joke, if you don’t have your card can

stop wasting my time”. He was furious. Whoever said she did not

have feelings, she screamed. “Have you ever seen me here? And I

should let you know that I am not intending to take the next five

minutes here”. She hated anybody who took her for granted and so

she turned her back on him, spat and started to go back. “Madam, just

relax, you know duty calls duty”, he tried to explain. She stood and

pondered over the matter”, this is yet another thing! Shouldn’t take so

to heart. God it’s like he knows I am an unwanted seed”.

She went back past the gate man its like she didn’t realize every step

she took past the gate she owed it to him. She had not even asked the

office of the manager but she would learn. She walked past a row of

blocks and finally came to a small office written manager. Her

guardian angel must have been working overtime. She knocked

slowly and a man’s voice called “come in”. “You don’t have an

appointment, do you?” The manager asked before she even entered.

“I know, but”, She tried to explain. “No buts get out”. He screamed.

“God, I’ve been too blind everybody knows the seed should have

been uprooted”. She thought. “What is your problem, just sit down,

but next time make sure you don’t bump in on me like that”, he said.

“A date with a big short young lady?” he asked. As she sat on the

small armchair, it creaked under her weight; she could not help

wondering whether it would accommodate a well-built person if her

forty-two kilos were just too much for it. It was so ironical a famous

club could not have even better furniture. She wondered what it was

all about the cards.

“I am sorry, just wondered if I could watch tonight’s game then I

should think of being a member”. He was pleased by her sense of

humour and he said, “Oh why not! Get this card”. He handed her a

small card with the name of the club. If only she knew it was her

beauty that had captured him. “Let me take you to the Arena”, he

offered. It was working miracles than she hadn’t expected. There was

a lot of hustle and bustle as people were filing in others getting their

drinks from the bars, a lot of them, filled with life. The arena was one

enormous hall and at the middle there was the ring. It was colourful

and the juke played (zilizopendwa) the most wanted. She sat on a

table and just watched in awe as the boxers started to file in, ladies

perched on their right and left big arms. She looked for the man with

the description she had for her father but none. “I give up”, she

thought. The runaway sower. “Would you care for a drink?” it was the

manager, she had completely forgotten about him. I’d care for a

miracle, she thought inwardly and loudly said “it’s my pleasure”. He

showed her where the bar was and finally left the room. “I have to

attend to some business, I’ll see you later”, he said. “My sister did

you hear that, she said under breath”. She walked over to the bar for

some fanta and had to wait as the line was long and just two

attendants. “Another mismanagement”, she thought. When it was her

time to order, she put the money on the counter and ordered for a cold

fanta. A short, dark slim man was attending and as he reached for the

fanta from the fridge, Muthoni could not help wondering how this

man was always near food and never got fat. She pitied him, may be

it’s the working condition one can barely breath. “How much do, I

owe you young lady?” As he spoke, there was something in him that

Muthoni realized. He was not just an ordinary bar attendant. The man

in return had being transfixed; he was staring at her with his eyes

almost out of their sockets. It was not the money he owed her. It was

more than that. “You – are – Ma-ri-a’s dau-ghter? My – daughter?”

He managed to stammer. “No, who! I already love you da-ad”. She

passed out.