On the Heels of the Hill

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Chapter 10: Soupy Mouths


By 12 am, almost everybody on the hill had enough nsenene, if not in their hands, at least in their possession. The aroma of the fried nsenene had started lurking all around the villages and when Kengoma’s nose was hit by the aroma, her mouth opened a river of saliva. She looked around to make sure no one had noticed how greedy she was as she wiped her mouth with a dirty hand, but hey, everybody around her had already seen she had been salivating. The moment the smell of fried nsenene circulated in the air, women in groups started talking about how Kengoma must have been feeling. “The friers have already started doing their job. The look on Kengoma’s face must be disgusting,” one woman commented and they all turned to look at Kengoma who was caught rubbing off the saliva with a palm of her dirty hands.

Kengoma had been known for being the very first person to fry nsenene, eat them all up and come back to the fields to pick more. She would fry like 10 or more times in one day. That day she had been late into the fields. She had started her day just like every other hardworking woman. She had left home at dawn to go to her far away fields to dig before there was any sign of nsenene, but she immediately returned without her hoe on hearing about the nsenene. She had not caught enough nsenene and someone had just taken her position of being the first person to fry.

That time when everybody was under the spell of picking nsenene, Komururu was busy inspecting Kabahima’s banana plantation down in the valley, checking for fully grown up bananas. She walked slowly and carefully not to step on any fallen dry banana leaves that made up the mulch. She feared they would make sounds thereby blowing her cover. She was a commando at this, and she was so good at camouflage sometimes without really camouflaging at all. Mumpe her husband had followed her slowly all the way down to the valley until she entered Kabahima’s banana plantation. Komururu didn’t have a knife, a panga or anything she could use to bring down the heavily pregnant plantain. Mumpe took his cover behind a big mango tree at the edge of the plantation. He was surprised to see his wife bring down a banana tree, pluck off the whole big bunch of matooke with her bare hands.

When Komururu was done getting the banana, she used her skills as a thief, walked backwards with her bunch of matooke in her hands until she got out of Kabahima’s garden. She stood there for a little while, took some breath as she tried to see if anyone had seen her. When she was fully satisfied no one had seen her majestic skills, she walked very fast, first to Vangi’s home very well knowing Vangi would never stay home on such a day. She plucked off a cluster of bananas and threw it into Vangi’s kitchen hut, and continued to her home. Mumpe had gone back home after witnessing his dear wife steal food. He had a number of banana gardens with the best produce all around and beyond Buzina but his wife still stole food. He sat on a stool in his compound, busy washing his feet in a broken piece of a plastic basin. Komururu came walking very fast, her eyes looking in all directions, her head had turned into almost a chameleons for trying to imitate them. She paced in the small footpath like a panther, sweeping up dust with her long black skirt that covered her long, needle-like fast legs. She suddenly saw her husband in the compound as she came closer to her to her compound. Komururu cantered and disappeared behind the kitchen hut where she hid the bunch of matooke. She sighed a sigh of relief when she finally entered her main mud and wattle house with a dry grass thatch. She was sure her husband hadn’t seen her, but alas, she was wrong. She had been fooled, beaten at her own game. Mumpe had learnt her chameleon eye coverage technique which he had fast mastered and used to watch her hide the bunch of matooke behind the kitchen hut. He had watched every move without turning his head to face her. He had played her, like one would a traditional Kinyankole old antique fiddle.

When Komururu came out of the house, she appeared with dirty utensils. She had always behaved the best whenever she contributed to some families’ hunger and poverty problems. She started cleaning up everything and even smiled at strangers passing by. Mumpe continued playing his old fiddle, suddenly seemed surprised to see her home on a day of picking nsenene but she gave him an excuse she had already caught enough and needed to prepare lunch. Mumpe had started feeling so tired of playing this old ndigiri, he stood up in his folded old torn trousers with patches on the buttocks, walked to the verandah where he sat next to his Panasonic radio on a blackened piece of torn mat. He wanted to lay his very last trap, a trap into which his hunt was finally going to be captured. He called out, “Get me a cup of drinking water” Komururu got a very clean plastic cup, dug it into a pot next to her utensils on her utensil drying rack and started walking to Mumpe. And so, the hunt had come to the hunter.

“Who did this to you? Mukama Wangye!(My God). Who could have hurt my daughter like this?” Nalongo, who was now closing her first aid box answered immediately before Vangi could get an answer from her daughter, “You really don’t need to know. What you need to do is just care for your daughter. Remember this is a season in which we get the most accidents. Don’t blame it on anyone.” Nalongo then held her first aid box in her right hand ready to take it inside the house when she was reminded by Kabahima to keep it close, just like all times. Nalongo nodded in agreement and then it looked like she had suddenly got something to say, she turned around and smiled. She looked at the girl and then at the mother. “Sooner or later, you will know who hurt your daughter. And hey, I heard about your cat fight with your friend early this morning. You know this village has some kind of a nervous system whereby news spreads faster than wildfire. Don’t even think of revenging on Rooza, because with her, revenge is a never ending game in which she always plays the last card. But if you will feel too raw and want to start up a war against her, then tighten your lesso.” Nalongo advised

“Oh My God!” exclaimed Kabahima in a very whispery tone prompting the other women to look at what she was looking at. It was Mumpe pulling his wife like one would a goat to the tether. Mumpe had used all his rope tying skills to tie up his wife making sure not a single knot got loose at any moment. He had tied up Komururu’s hands behind her inside her dress which he zipped before knotting the outer ropes. People were seeing ropes tied from under Kmoururu’s armpits to the shoulder. Her whole ribcage had been encased in another ribcage made of ropes instead of ribs. Other series of ropes run around Komururu’s neck. Mempe had woven a turtle neck blouse around Komururu like a weaver’s nest. He had left an extension of a rope running from Komururu’s neck to his pulling hands two meters away. She was only left with her legs to follow as Mumpe pulled. Komururu didn’t have any choice by to follow. She was a slave for all her upper body. She followed closely behind, while trying to loosen the length of the ropes that hurt her whenever they stretched with Mumpe’s strong pulls, but Mumpe also wanted to feel the weight of the object on his pulley system.

Everyone got frozen starting from Nalongo, Vangi, Kabahima, Vangi’s daughter and everyone that was picking nsenene in Nalongo’s neighbourhood.Everyone’s attention had been attracted from up the hill and everyone was staring down at the farmer with his breed.. No one said a word, or made a step apart from the lead characters in the movie they were watching. It was as if they had set their eyes on Medusa. It was such a short distance from when Mumpe and his dear wife romantically appeared on the scene to where they disappeared in Nalongo’s thick banana plantations but the walk seemed too long, just like Cercei’s walk of shame. The scene came to an end and suddenly life came back to Buzina. People, young, old alike started whispering, laughing and exclaiming “Oh My God’s” Kabahima went back to pick nsenene, Vangi took her wounded daughter home and retired from picking nsenene and Nalongo entered her house to attend to her baby that had been awakened by the fresh noises that had started with the end of the Medusa scene.

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