On the Heels of the Hill

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Chapter 18: Fry me a Grasshopper

Ruth had been in the kitchen since it started raining and hadn’t even realized one of the events she had always waited for was ongoing. She really forgot to pay attention to the rain on their new roof because her heart was already deeply buried in a nsenene grave. After putting the plucked nsenene on the broken piece of bottom pot, Ruth searching all around for salt and there was none anywhere, she asked at least one of her siblings to go to the main house to bring the salt but all refused because it was still heavily raining outside. So Brian started,

“Who hasn’t done anything else apart from plucking nsenene? I brought home the cattle, entered the goats in their kraal, stopped the snow, Ruth cleaned up the kitchen, picked more nsenene than the rest of us and she is going to fry, Ronah brought the goats and sheep home, except Kitanga and she is boiling nsenene on the other side. What have you done Darius?”

Darius was very fast at answering,

“Come on Brian, who made the fire you are warming your small legs with? And I have just finished cleaning Nadia’s wounds”

This clearly meant that no one was ready to brave the rains to go bring the salt, yet all of them were eagerly waiting for the nsenene to get deliciously ready. They all kept quiet for some moment and when Ronah broke the silence, a new game was started. “Ruth, you put the nsenene on fire, we are going to get someone to bring the salt,” said Ronah. Ruth read Ronah’s face and could not understand what she was heating in her head until suddenly it clicked, “No, that’s not possible. We can’t start games on this.” Ruth said as she looked like asking the boys to intervene. The boys’ intervention wasn’t what she expected, at least not the one she would get from Brian. Ruth then went and checked in the nook of the kitchen door, picked a long piece of dry wood and broke it into two on her right knee, threw one piece into the fire and used the other part to fry and stir the nsenene. These youngsters sat around the fire as they warmed their cold bodies. Ruth had to make sure she stirred very well otherwise, she would serve nothing. In this game, while frying and stirring, if one nsenene falls off the pan in the direction of somebody, you give that somebody five nsenene when they are ready and the fallen nsenene becomes his/hers. Everyone was watching carefully like a cat waiting for a rat to get out of a hole. So the nsenene were almost coming to a point where the salt would not easily concentrate and she realized she had to accept at least a loss of 6 nsenene, but get the salt. The new rules of this game were that if one nsenene falls of the pan in your direction, you are given five more nsenene when they are ready, but then you need to brave the rain and bring the salt from the main house. She decided Darius had to bring the salt because he loved the nsenene most. “Oh yeah, go on Darius and bring the salt. I just don’t like your dangling mouth,” said Ruth. Immediately, Ronah looked at Ruth, spat down in the dust and said, “Oh God, would you please save us from Her Majesty for killing us with her big words. I really don’t like people who use big, heavy English words to prove to others how best they know the language, they make me feel melancholically lugubrious.” Everybody apart from Nadia, who had been there not minding anything at all apart from how she lost her nsenene, dragged down by the village’s strongest goats and how she was going to explain to her mother where she put her nsenene, laughed out their lungs and Ruth asked, “Are you sure you don’t hate yourself?” and the laughter resumed and suddenly Brian brought it to a halt, “Darius, it’s your fate, embrace it and bring us the salt. ” Darius got up chewing the nsenene that he had just picked from the dust which was the end of the game and peeped outside through the nook of the kitchen door and whispered, “I love the game, but hate fate,” then he opened the door, covered his head with his rags and ran out.

Meanwhile Nalongo had her house full with people smoking, others drinking and the noise was as if the house had been turned into a market. Seated in one of the corners on a three legged stool was Nyakwento. She held Nalongo’s baby on her laps. She was talking on top of her voice trying to compete with the noise on the ironsheets on the roof. All the other women were watching her as she narrated stories about how traditions were slowly changing. She told them how Nalongo didn’t have bushera in her house. “You don’t have to expect visitors for you to keep bushera for them. You need to be ready for them all the time. Never mind, intermarriages came and that’s why Nalongo can’t surely understand Kinyankole traditions. I wonder if they have any traditions in the east/north, wherever.” She however reduced her volume whenever she wanted to mention Nalongo’s name because she only wanted to attack her indirectly. Nalongo could hear all Nyakwento was saying except whenever she lowered her head to stab her in the back. Nyakwento was Nalongo’s mother in law, but Nyakwento was never her name, just like Nalongo wasn’t her name either. Nyakwento means maternal aunt and Nalongo means a mother of twins. But Nyakwento had been called Nyakwento for many years that even almost everyone forgot her real name. She was the maternal aunt of Nalongo’s husband.

Nalongo was re-arranging the house for people to get where to sit but she didn’t seem happy with the smell of the smoke that Zaire and his tobacco loving friends, men and some women kept puffing. The look on her face after the puffs saturated showed she could just pull Zaire and his colleagues out of the house by the ear if it wasn’t for her dignity and hospitality. She then realized her young son was in the center of a group of women among whom some were smoking and drinking beer. She came close to Nyakwento and the baby smiled with joy to see the mother come for him. Nyakwento let the baby go without giving any attention to how she handed over the baby to the mother as she kept on talking about different subjects including how men started picking nsenene and how women Ate then.

Darius pushed the back door of the house open, he was surprised to see how full the house was. Men were seated in one corner with some two women drinking from one pot each with a long wooden straw that ran from ones’ mouth to the pot in the center. Darius was ordered by one of the old men to run outside and call Rukondere Eshenda to come and stop the rain for a reward of a cup of local brew. Darius explained to them he needed to first take the salt to the kitchen and later he would run their errand but the men all nodded in the negative. One old man offered to take the salt to the kitchen.

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