true citizensATIRICAL THRILLER
Maina is a violent robber whose disgust for blood and craving to be loved forces him to quit for a better career. But when Maina lands the job of a matatu driver, he realizes that he has slipped into the underworld bedeviled by corrupt traffic police, city council askaris, and cartels. Maina’s only child, Maria, is dying of a bone disease and his wife has had her womb surgically removed. A traffic police officer slaps him with trumped-up charges prompting his sack.
Kama, his conductor, plans a revenge against the entire traffic police force. Maina buys into the idea and heads the revenge mission. Another woman comes into Maina’s life. Roger, a famous hacker in Nairobi’s underworld, and his friends join in. All the security arms react with brute force. Maina has to dodge the scheming security organs. Will Maina survive the emotional breakdown from a dying daughter and fend o‑ the seduction of another woman and still get his revenge?
Maina sat by the burning candle, finishing up his homework. It had been raining for an hour now. Torrents, treacherous thunder, and lightning promised an early Armageddon. Buckets, basins, cups, and dishes littered the floor in a vain attempt to arrest the leaking from the tattered roof.
A large metal dish, donated by an American NGO, sat next to his dog-eared textbook. Huge droplets splashed water on his book. Violent rain-winds disturbed the candle, whipping the flame to and fro, making his reading difficult.
Maina inched toward the edge of the table; a creaking piece of overused wood donated by his uncle. It had been broken three times in the hands of his drunken father.
Vegetables simmered over a charcoal stove. Glowing embers sputtered and hissed, struggling to burn amid the wetness. Nyambura, Maina’s mother, seven months pregnant and twenty-three years old, kept the fire burning with endless fanning from a piece of a broken plastic basin.
Nyambura’s eyes were red from the incessant smoke. But Maina had to eat as he had missed both lunch and breakfast. An orphan from age twelve, Nyambura’s parents were with her Catholic God. She prayed every morning and adored Jesus through Mary’s immaculate heart.
She asked Him daily to take care of her son, her husband, and herself. Her husband was not home yet. They never knew what to expect when he returned each night.
Maina and his mother could hear him whistle and sing old songs from three blocks away, on the nights he came home late. He never brought sukuma wiki or a quarter-kilo of beef to them. He did not know the price of a pencil or a school uniform. Every end-term, however, he demanded the report form and often yelled at Maina, asking why he was in position three instead of position one-hundred.
“Why very little position, Maina?” he would demand to know. Any attempts by a cowed Nyambura to remind his father that three was better than one-hundred would quickly cause offence.
“Why are you taking me for a fool, Nyambura?” the drunk would roar.
Thunder rattled, followed by barking dogs. Maina shielded the candle as wind seeped through a hole in the iron sheet wall and threatened to snuff it out.
Then there was a slight movement before a powerful kick rocked the door, almost knocking the rickety hinges off. The rotting timber resisted. But a second kick tore through the wood, shattering it. Maina jumped up in fright as the entire door caved in.
A tall, lanky figure, soaked in rain, shadowed the door. He was wet and rugged. Hugged by a coat once white, but now in shades of black and grey, he took a step into his house. Water jumped from his oversized gumboots. He spit out water which had collected on his lips, his expression fiery, eyes bloodshot, and his cheeks wet from the rain. Nyambura said her prayers quickly, in a whisper.
“Jesus, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven especially those most in need of thy mercy,” she muttered, her eyes trained on the rosary hanging on the wall, next to the crucifix.
Maina looked at his father one more time and hot urine burned his thighs, legs, and feet.
“What’s wrong, my love?” Nyambura asked. “The food is almost ready, Kamau!”
Kamau kicked a bucket that in turn rolled onto a dish that knocked over a cup. Water poured over the floor and rushed toward the burning stove, ruining the fire, and extinguishing any hope of a warm meal after a full day of starvation.
“Whose child is it, Nyambura?” His roar filled the ten-by-ten shack. A foul smell of liquor escaped his mouth.
“What is it, Kamau? Maina is our child,” Nyambura said, tottering to her feet, a pitiful sight. She had a bad hip and had lost three teeth from her husband’s battering.
“Maina is my son, but who is the father of that thing in your stomach?” he said, advancing towards Nyambura. He kicked a cup and knocked over another pail full of water.
“Kamau. What have you—?” She grabbed her tummy before she finished her statement. The pain followed a devastating kick to her stomach. Kamau lost his balance, but quickly steadied himself. Staggering was an art he had mastered during his ten year relationship with the local brew.
“Will you tell me before I rip it out of your stomach with my bare hands? Tell me it’s Otieno’s…the stupid Luo mechanic? Or is it Njenga’s, the poor shopkeeper? Tell me!” he yelled. “Tell me before I kill you and throw you out into the rain!” He picked up a glass jar and threw it against the wall.
Maina, bludgeoned by fear, threw himself under the bed. Doing that always helped when his father’s demons surfaced. Today was the worst. He could feel it in his nuggets. He feared for his mother.
His father rarely came home smiling. He was always angry, always yelling. Maina wondered why life was about violence and yelling. Sometimes at night, he woke up to the sound of the wooden bed creaking and his father groaning and his mother hissing. Then quietness before his snores lulled him back to sleep.
Nyambura still clutched her stomach. Her face twisted in pain, her tears fell rapidly and cascaded down her life-beaten cheeks.
“Why are you killing your own baby, Kamau?” she asked.
The words incensed Kamau. Fire poured from his eyes, his large eyeballs darting back and forth. Demons of the brew commandeered, poked, and incited him.
“I am going to kill you, whore!” he said and threw a jab into her face. Her nose broke. Blood oozed from the broken cartilage. Nyambura fell to her knees.
“Please, Kamau. Don’t kill me and my baby!”
He grinned. An evil grin.
“You’ll join your rotting father tonight,” he said. He staggered, steadied himself, and yelled.
“Maina! Give me my sword! Let’s kill this good-for-nothing slut!” Maina did not move. Fear gripped his young body. Stories of husbands killing their wives and kids flashed through his mind.
Kamau found a stool, grabbed it, and hoisted it high above his head. Levelling it just above Nyambura’s skull, he started to bring it down, but he tarried.
“This is your child, Kamau. Kill me later, after he is born. Please!” she said weakly.
“I will kill both the bastard and the whore,” he said.
He raised the stool again, this time even higher.
First, it was a searing pain, and then Kamau felt heaviness in his head. Maina watched as the stool slipped from his father’s hands and crashed somewhere in a puddle of water.
Kamau turned to look at his aggressor. Maina’s hands trembled as his father staggered and fell on his back, the drunkard’s weight pushing the kitchen knife further into his spine. Kamau’s blood escaped his fresh wound and mixed with the rainwater on the floor. The drunkard’s eyes were closed, and raindrops danced on his unmoving eyelids.
“What have you done, Maina?” his mother asked.
“He was going to kill you, mum,” he said. Tears rolled down his tender cheeks.
“Come, baby!” she said.
Maina knelt next to his mother. They embraced tightly.
“Oh most human and adorable Jesus, I believe that you can turn this loss into an instant gain,” Nyambura prayed. She tethered Maina firmly with her arms. She added, “Please restore to me the time lost, both now and in the future, that I may appear before you in my wedding garments. Amen.”
She kissed her son on the forehead, on the cheeks, on the neck, and hugged him again. Then said, “Go, my son. Run away. I will tell the police that I have killed your father. I have killed my husband.”
Maina stepped into the rain. An evocative aroma of fresh rain hit his nose. Mud jumped at his heels as he ran. Falling and rising, he fell again and rolled on the wet earth. Along the railway line he ran, sliding, but steadying himself until the wee hours of the morning when he crossed into the village bordering Kiambu.