On the Heels of the Hill

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Chapter 16: Rain on Me

The mourners on the lower parts of the hill and the people trying to put off a fire on the other side of the hill were all dispersed by a heavy rain storm sounding heavy from a distance. The sound of this reminded everyone to run back home, enter whatever they were drying, make fires and fry their nsenene as they waited for the rains to stop. The rain storm however just hovered around the hill only preferring to first punish the areas around the hill. This was the usual way it started raining on Buzina, first the areas around Buzina got wet, and the worst was always saved for Buzina. Then a few rain drops started falling on Nalongo’s house’s ironsheets. The drops landed heavily on the iron sheets that the sound could be heard across the whole grass thatched neighborhood up to down in the valley, perhaps across the village boarders on the far south. To Nadia it was like she was listening to Nalongo’s turkeys picking ground nuts on her mother’s new steel plates. Every drop was as heavy as she remembered the turkeys’ beaks pounding on the plate as they picked the red nuts, and the more randomly the drops hit the sheets, the more turkeys she heard in her head picking the nuts.

Nadia was brought back to life by a sermon from Ronah. She was running down home from Buzina following goats she had released from captivity in the woods. Many other people were running in all directions to get shelter from the tears of the weeping skies. Nadia had been left behind by all her friends as she was mesmerized by the sound of the rain on Nalongo’s iron sheets.

“Nadia, get out of the way of the goats” Ronah screemed

Nadia turned around to see who was calling her. She wasn’t that fast to get out of the way of the goats. About twelve goats or so had come closer, all dashing home for banana peelings and shelter. Some goats’ ropes had tangled and they were pulling anything that came between them. Nadia looked right and there was the biggest of the he-goats, and on the left was Nalongo, as heavy as she had always been, with her children. Getting hit by either would have been worse than being hit by a Leyland bus she had always been told about. Nadia decided to keep still, even if she never really had time to think. In no seconds, Nadia had been carted some meters away before the goats added a huge rock to their pulley system, which was too heavy that they couldn’t pull it and had to choke on their necklaces when they stopped galloping. Nadia had now been tied on the rock like they did witches in Salem, naked, bruised body and torn dress. She had tried crying for help but her horses were hauling and rolling her so fast that Ronah could not hop onto her carriage to save her in time. The rain was getting heavier each minute and both Ronah and Nadia were already wet. Ronah released the goats and helped Nadia get on her feet and they limped together to Nalongo’s kitchen where they joined Ruth, Brian and Darius who were starting to pluck wings and legs off nsenene. Ruth welcomed Nadia into the kitchen and offered her a seat by the fire place, just next to Darius. Brian entered all the goats into the kraal, came back to the kitchen and asked

“Ronah, where are the sheep, and Kitanga is not in as well?”

“Ah, really? Does this have to happen now?” Ronah rhetorically asked, showing disgust, while drying her forehead with her small spoon like but soft hands.

“I know the sheep must be with the cows, and if Kitanga is not here, she is not close by, and I can’t find her. She is going to come back when she is fully satisfied.” Ronah said in a full-fledged decrescendo and almost no one heard what she said last. She stood in the doorway with gnawed teeth looking outside in the heavy rain that had started big and small rivers alike in Nalongo’s naked backyard. Ruth had heard what she said. She looked at Ronah from behind her for a few seconds, squinted her left eye and said,

“I know you’ve got an explanation, no, explanations, as to why you let her destroy people’s crops. I want to watch you in mum’s court being as crafty as always”

Ronah came back inside the kitchen picked a three legged stool and sat opposite the rest of her siblings and a friend, right in the corner. She didn’t care if the smoke was choking her or not, all she needed was warmth from the glazing fire.

On noticing that Nadia had been bruised, Darius, ran out like a mad boy to bring break fluid to clean her wounds. This had always been the reason Nadia loved this big headed boy. He was so caring to everybody. Nadia had secretly loved this boy and the only person that knew about it was her best friend, Ronah. But how come Ronah hadn’t told anyone yet? She had always had a loosely locked safe box and no one in their right minds would ever want to keep anything in that box. Most of their clandestine mission for example stealing the neighbour’s mangos had all been done without Ronah. No one knew why Darius ran out in so much haste. They looked at each other, and then all around themselves and nothing was making sense. When Nadia extended her hands to warm them in the smiling fire flames, her knot of the dress loosened, her tattered dress fell off her bruises came to light.

“Oh my God!” Ronah exclaimed.

“He loves you too

He loved you too

He loves you too”

Ronah’s face was glaring with each flame that danced in front of her. Her eyes were bright, and her pearls so white. She had come back to her normal state after a little while of misery. She sang the boring chorus pointing at Nadia who suddenly looked like she had been struck by lightning. Brian and Ruth had too been struck by lightning. They just stared at Ronah for a minute until she finished her Grammy award winning song.

“What are you talking about?” Brian asked Ronah looking her in the irises as he stole a few glances at Nadia. When the cassava roots start cracking the soil, then there is something down there. It had just happened. A crack had appeared and the whole story was needed in its totality. They all laughed except Nadia who was feeling embarrassed. Ronah went into another corner of the kitchen and picked Nalongo’s old kitenge, which she put on Nadia’s shoulders to protect her from swooning house flies. When Darius suddenly came in all dripping like a cow from a dip tank, the laugh was aborted. Darius didn’t mind what they had been laughing at or why they stopped. He pulled a three legged wooden stool and placed it next to the kitchen door where there was enough light.

“Nadia, come I clean those bruises.”

Nadia agreed and she rose gently and so shy, went and sat on the stool that had been set for her. Ruth, Brian and Ronah ignited their laugh once more, but Darius wasn’t caring, but it was really making Nadia feel so unconvertible, like she had been closed in a box so dark and without breathing space. She felt flashes of lightning deep in her nervous system whenever Darius touched her shoulders. It so seemed to tickle as she always moved on every touch. She must have been praying she never woke up from that dream. Darius didn’t too long to finish and they returned around the hearth to continue plucking wings and legs off nsenene.

“Ah, this just bit me,” said Darius as he plucked off the legs and wings off the nsenene.

“Don’t worry, you will bite it too. Remind it of the tit for tat game. Remember he who laughs last, laughs best. Your revenge will be so heartlessly delicious,” said Ronah in her usual comical way as she smiled with a very big grin. The rain outside had become heavier, and the wind was blowing so hard. Then hard snow stones started falling, some jumped off the ground and entered the grass thatched kitchen and this reminded the youngsters to use their traditional knowledge to stop the hailstorm. Brian dug his hands in the dust on the other side of the hearth, picked up some good amount of dust, Ruth handed him a small old sauce pan, with a darkened bottom which he put upside down in the middle of the compound amidst a heavy and stormy downpour, poured the white dust on top of the bottom of the sauce pan and said,

“Wash away this dust and just go with it, rubaare.” After he came back into the kitchen and resumed the plucking of nsenene, the hailstorm lessened and Ronah was impressed, “Good job” she said as she offered Brian a bunch of already plucked nsenene to put on the broken piece of pot. They didn’t need too much to fry. Just one bowl full of nsenene was enough for the whole day. The rest of the nsenene were dipped in water in a very big pot, covered the pot with soft banana leaves they had used to cover their last night’s supper and were boiled and would be dried when the sun got out again. This was done to preserve the nsenene and would make them last long.

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