Cars are okay, but I think I will buy a motorcycle first. Something about wearing black boots and riding a cool road hugging two wheeled machine as the wind follows me is enthralling. I am a black woman whose favourite colour is black. Just stating non-essential facts that have nothing to do with today’s piece. As I wrote this one, I actually took time to reflect upon each paragraph. I scavenged through the lines, like a hawk. A hawk hungry for grammatical errors and unnecessary full stops. Ally says I use too many full stops and that I write really short sentences whereas people want more words in their sentences. The sentence you just finished reading looks pretty long to me.
A story is told of a couple. A man and a woman; you have to be specific these days. The woman was staunch Christian who held one of the important roles in a small church she went to, about four hundred meters from where they lived. The man, on the other hand, thought Sundays were rest days that the Lord put aside for a man to have beer and escape the dull routine of work from Monday to Saturday. Kinya and Shebe. Shebe and Kinya, if you will.
Kinya worked his ass off, crunching the numbers. Making balance sheets balance because that is what balance sheets do. They balance. And if they don’t, they are just sheets. Shebe stayed back in their four bedroom mansion, making a home of it. Ensuring that her two son’s homework was done and that there was always food on the table. She scrubbed her sufurias as if the goal was to see her reflection on them. Spent a lot of her time baking scones and cake even when there were no birthdays to celebrate. She loved cooking and she expressed her love through the passion with which she did things. She was a lover, and he was a fighter.
Together, they owned a Mercedes Benz S320. Rather, he owned it and took all the responsibility for her (the car). He was a man who understood that cars are women and need to be treated so. Men know one needs to listen to their car, that every light that goes on or off on the dashboard is telling a story. A woman’s car on the other hand would be coughing and wheezing but she still wouldn’t tell that something is wrong with the car.
For a long while, Shebe had asked her husband to buy her a car so that she would be able to move around and get things done even when he was not around. Every time she did, he would say. Okay fine, but wait. Okay fine, but wait? She would wonder, never quite voicing her thoughts but at the same time feeling a little bit patronized. She made up her mind to amass all the allowances Kinya would transfer to her account on the 5th day of every month. Shebe also secretly enrolled on driving classes in a nearby school. She was a fast learner, quick to tell signs of the road and all that jazz. After ten months of waiting and keeping excitement at bay, Shebe went to car dealers and auto bazaars to find a car suitable for her.
She procured a Toyota Mark-X for all the amount she had. Otherwise, she wanted a car like Kinya’s just so she could rub it in his face that she too, could do what a man can do. (Hey, money matters) She drove home feeling good about herself and hailing the feminists of her time. When she got home, Kinya was drinking beer, while watching Natgeo Wild. The two boys were playing at the dining table after finishing homework. Whenever daddy was home, they preferred to be shown homework by him instead of mom since a sum you got wrong while she was guiding you would come up two weeks later in a casual conversation and no one liked that.
ALSO READ; MANE.
Soon as she got to the gate, she began hooting copious times so that she could have the attention of everyone in the house. Kinya came out with a beer in hand. Then the boys followed suite, as confused as their father. A strange car had come into their homestead and their mother was driving it. Wait, Mom was driving? There was a mixture of excitement, anxiety and unanswered questions in the air. Soon life was back to normal and each was jumping the ropes that life threw their way.
One day while driving along Uhuru highway, Shebe’s car suddenly stalled and try as she may, it could not fire on. It just, stopped and refused to start. The cars behind her began making a racket, probably saying things like, “Hii gari lazima inaendeshwa na mwanamke.” Soon they realized that ….
A man carrying mechanical tools suddenly appeared from nowhere and confidently walked to Shebe’s window. “Shida nini mama?” To which she responded, “It doesn’t power on”.
“Hebu jaribu kuwasha nisikie”… Shaking his head, “Hio ni shida kubwa (short Pause) Hebu fungua bonnet” the street mechanic said.
“Sasa how do I do that?” Shebe asked and a malicious grin played on the man’s lips before he put his hand and head through Shebe’s window so that his ears were lying on her left breast; he lingered. After a great struggle, his hand finally reached the knob that opens the bonnet and he pulled it. The bonnet opened as he removed his head from the car. Then he fished for a handkerchief from one of his heavy laden pockets to wipe sweat from his face. While doing so, he went to have a look at the car’s engine.
Meanwhile in the car, Shebe was filled with trepidation. The mechanic noticed a light-green precipitate around the battery terminals. Then he went back to the woman’s window.
“Madam, kuna kitu imevunjika kwa gari yako inaitwa Skedja.” He produced a bone like thing, coated with black grease. “Inakuwanga twenty thousand, lakini ninaweza bargain mpaka eighteen thousand kwa sababu hao wasee wananitambua.”
“Ghai twenty thousand yote! Hata hiyo eighteen nitapata wapi sasa? Wacha nione kama ninaezapata kwa hii kabeti yangu. ”Then she took out a bundle of one thousand notes, about fifty of them. Counting eighteen elephants, she said, “Nitakutrust urudi nayo?”
“Madam, tools zangu ndizo hizi, kaa nazo. ID yangu ndio hii. Kaa nayo.” She took the card and studied it carefully. There are things that never change. Like a man’s goblet like ears. Or the shape of his nose.
He handed him the notes and she held onto the man’s tools and identity card. Then she looked at her watch. It was 2.30pm, she still had an hour and a half before she had to pick the boys from school. A responsibility she naturally always took up soon as the family had two cars.
About 30 minutes later, the street mechanic returned with an open 500ml bottle of Coca-Cola soda which he had drank quarter way and a box with writings ‘Toyota’ in red font. Those in the know would identify the box to be for packing air filters used during vehicle service. Anyway, he handed to the lady a receipt of eighteen thousand Kenyan shillings.
He proceeded to work on the repairs while Shebe sat behind the wheel, using the mini mirror in the car to retouch her make up. She was by now tranquil knowing that her problem would soon be resolved. At the engine area, the mechanic poured the coke on the battery terminals thereby dissolving the precipitate that was preventing the car from firing on. After stalling for about five minutes, the man asked the lady to start the car. Lo and behold, the car started!
“Wow… God bless you! In fact, chukua hii two thousand juu hata ningelipa kama ningeenda kununua hiyo Skedja mwenyewe. Thanks eh…”Shebe said to the mechanic as she handed him two more one thousand notes from her pouch.
Taking the notes, the man handed the box this time containing the broken Skedja to the lady and they bid each other farewell. Shebe went on with her journey thinking about how there was hope in Kenya since gentlemen willing to help those in need still existed.
She picked the boys from school and fed them. Also ensured that they had both taken a bath before they could begin watching cartoons. Kinya had not arrived yet and so she began prepping for dinner. While midway with the activities, Kinya arrived.
“Hi honey” he said as he reached for a glass to fetch some water. Unlike now, Kinya did not have to worry about washing his hands to rid it from viruses.
“Hi. Heeh…You won’t believe what happened to me today,” she had his attention. “So my car decided to just stop in the middle of the road while I was heading home from Westie and I was able to sort the issue out. So you see, you were wrong; I am able to take good care of a car. Maybe even better than you do.”
“What happened exactly?”
“So, my skedja broke and there’s a Good Samaritan who helped me fix …”
“Your what now?”
“My ske… My skedja. Kwani you don’t know a skedja?”
“What in Neptune’s name is that? How much were you charged for it?”
“Eeeh. Twen… Eighteen thousand. Actually, he gave the broken one to me. Want to see?”
Shebe left the vegetables she was cutting and went to pick the skedja from the bunk of her car in the garage. She then handed it over to Kinya who gave the skedja one long glance and said, “Okay, give me a thousand shillings only and I will get you another Skedja.”
Tentatively, she gave Kinya a thousand note from her purse. (Women know how to make it rain. They always have money. Ask around) Kinya left the house and came back later with two kilos of meat.
“What is the meaning of this?” She asked.
“Inside there, you’ll find another skedja if you study the bones in this meat keenly. Your skedja also goes by the name shoulder blade. How will you face the world tomorrow knowing you were conned of eighteen cool ones?”
Shebe did not dare mention that she had tipped the cheat with two extra elephants for conning her.
PS; This is one of those stories that have been told for donkey’s years. I first heard it from Bando who also heard it from someone else. He sent me a sketch of the story and I animated it. I don’t know about you, but I think we did a good job. Yes, Bando has really amazing stories. I intend to invite him to do a guest post here someday.
What is the moral of the story? Sometimes we project ignorance so much it blinds us from reality. Or perhaps that if you like something, know more about it. I don’t know. All I know is that this is a helluva long read. For those of you still with me to this point, congratulations. May all the avocadoes you pick at the market turn out noble.