TENDING TO THINGS WITH LIFE: A dose of literature to get you through Monday (series 17)

I wake up to the tormenting scent of garlic fried food that invades my sleep without an invite to join its eaters. I know the aroma is from the neighbours’ because garlic is a forbidden condiment in our home. Mom (Mrs. Kwikiriza) hates garlic and her hate intensified when the Doctor recommended that she must swallow a garlic bulb every night before sleep.

It is 9:00 am and everyone else is still in bed – everyone but Juliet. She has cleaned the house already and not a trace of dirt can be felt as my feet step on the cold cream floor tiles. At the big oval mahogany table in the dining room, plates have already been assembled, glasses have been erected and cutlery awaits to be used to devour a breakfast; a dull, boiled breakfast of perhaps Matooke and fresh peas katogo.

I open the Refrigerator standing in the corner of the indoor-kitchen and search for anything exciting that I might prepare for Rabella and Tom and myself of course. I am excited to find eggs, sausages, American Garden peanut butter, American Garden mayonnaise, and a Capital Shoppers’ loaf of bread. I will make an egg and sausage sandwich, add some tomatoes, onions­

“Tindi?” Mother calls from outside. “You wa the one?” she asks.

“Good morning Juliet,” I give her a side body hug but she wraps all arms round me and tickles me.

I laugh out loud and struggle out of the embrace. I ask Juliet what is cooking on the Sigiri and she confirms my suspicions that breakfast will be some boiled, boring katogo.

Mother laughs when I call the food ‘boiled, boring’ and she agrees that it is boring but very healthy.

Rabella must have heard my voice because in a few seconds, a skinny brown skinned girl comes running towards me. I move closer to the stairs at the balcony and she leaps in the air onto me.  the 8 year old is quiet heavy and I almost lose hold of her. I put her down immediately but she continues to wrap her little arms round the rolls of flesh that are my belly.

“How are you Princess?” I say to her.

“I am fine. I missed you.”

“Awwww. I missed you too princess.”

She loosens her embrace around me and runs to Juliet, who lifts her off the ground and mumbles into her neck, sending the little girl into fits of laughter.

I walk away disinterested in the PDA being showcased between Mother and Rabella. I have no memory of Mrs. Kwikiriza (Rabella’s mother) hugging me that intimately.

In the backyard, Rabella’s little clothes are hanging on the clothe lines, held firmly by multi coloured pegs. Her many shoes have already been washed and they are lined along the wall fence to dry in the sun.

I walk to the outdoor pit Latrine at the far end of the backyard and I almost walk in on Septemba, the gate-man, who decided to pee without shutting the door behind him. I wait outside and I say an awkward Good Morning to him in Lukiga after he is finished with his business. He walks past me and leaves an alcoholic stench behind.

The house is buzzing with footsteps when I return from the restroom: parents collecting boiled water to brush their teeth with, Rabella running round the house aimlessly, Tom singing unintelligible patois as he sings along to a Jaimacan song.

Dad (Mr. Kwikiriza) greets me in Lukiga with hugs and thuds instead of pats on my back. Mom only shakes my hand and says to me in a very impersonal tone, “Good Morning Tindi. Welcome back home.”

I prepare the egg-sausage sandwiches with Rabella’s help. She spreads peanut butter and mayonnaise on the slices of bread while I chop up the microwaved frankfurters and boiled eggs. Altogether we make four sandwiches of eggs, sausage, tomatoes and onions between two slices of bread; the top slice spread with mayonnaise and the lower one with peanut butter.

Tom comes to the kitchen wearing only boxers and heavy JBL headsets and he immediately picks one and starts munch on one of the sandwiches. He does not say any greeting to me but only waves his hand. I wave back. He appears too taken up by whatever he is listening to from his black headsets.

At breakfast, the adults eat ‘the boring and healthy’ foods while the youngsters eat ‘the delicious and unhealthy’ foods. I do not know whether I belong to the adults or the youngsters so I eat both.

After we have all been fed and Mom and Dad have left home for work, Tom locks himself up in his bedroom, Rabella drags me to the reading room to play and Juliet turns on the TV to watch a TV drama on TV West.

In my little game with Rabella, she is the Teacher and I am the Student. She commands me to sing the first stanza of the National Anthem and when I start singing while seated, she beats me with an imaginary sticks and says,

“What did I tell you? You must stand up when singing the National Anthem.”

She turns to the other imaginary students in the room and asks,

“You must what?”

“You must stand up when singing the National Anthem,” I voice the response of the other invisible students in Rabella’s class.

“Good.” She says satisfied with her student’s response. “Now, stand and sing the second stanza.”

“Oh Uganda

The land of freedom,

We lay our future…­”

Rabella literally jumps at me with her imaginary stick and asks me to lay down for a beating.

“Why are you singing wrong things?” She shouts while raising the stick and lands painful strokes on my backside. “Every day I teach you the second stanza of the Anthem but you fail. You are a stupid student,” she continued.

I feign tears and she smiles at me, glad that I am playing along with her.

“Wama Shanice, stand up and sing the second stanza of the Anthem,” Rabella says to an invisible Shanice seated next to me.

At this point she abandons her role as teacher and impersonates Shanice. Rabella- now Shanice- clears her throat and in a high pitched voice, begins to sing,

“Oh Uganda

The land of freedom,

Our love and labour we give

United free for Li­…”

“Ha Rabella!  You also don’t know the second stanza. I say between laughs because she seemed very confident when she caned me earlier for failing to know the words.

She had mixed up the lines of the first stanza with those of the second stanza.

“Nawe Tindi. I don’t remember the words.”

Her face is not as lit up as when she caned me earlier for fail;ing at what she has also failed at. I realize now that I should have played along and let her finish her second stanza of the Anthem.

“I am sorry Teacher. I will not do it again,” I say appealing to her to forget my rude interruption.

“Okay. Let us play another game” she says, her face glowing excitedly again.

Copyright © 2016-2017 by Daphine Arinda

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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