On the Heels of the Hill

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Chapter 9: Bring me Salt

Nalongo had by now not gone to the market. She was stuck in her compound with a number of causalities that needed her help with treating their wounds, curing their headaches, stomachaches and the pregnant women who had come to pick nsenene would not go back home without knowing the status of their pregnancies. Her compound had become an emergency centre and none of her patients paid anything until they returned long later with overwhelming gifts for their hero. Some people even offered to cultivate her land as a way of their appreciation. Nalongo had brought the drugs from the city for her family emergencies but she had always ended up using them all on even the wounded and sick strangers traversing her village. Vangi and Kabahima were there helping Nalongo washing different wounds that people had got from up the hill picking nsenene. Some had been hit by flying stones, others hit by stationary stones that they tried to move loking for nsenene, others during fist fights others from dog bites and so on. Just as always, the day of nsenene in Buzina had always been a day that left a mark on so many people.

While seated on a three legged stool in her compound washing one of the old men that had had been wounded with a flying rock on his head, Nalongo noticed Kakande, one of the famous salt merchants approach with a sack of salt on her head. She was an old woman with sunken eyes and cheeks but she walked very fast with a very strong and firm stance as if she was a young woman. The way she walked, no one would ever believe she was never to see fifty again in her life. Kakande was still so strong at her age but she could walk miles and miles to get market for her salt. She had been in the market since her husband died when she was still a very young woman, without children and her virginity. She had been kicked away from her husband’s family and back at her home, she was seen as a curse. Kakande had decided to live on her own and that’s how she had started her salt business.

Kakande was in the market that day wondering where most of her weekly customers had gone until the presence of nsenene was whispered into her basket ears. She had come sweeping all the dust off the dry dead ground with her long dress like a bust would on a dusty road. Nalongo welcomed her into her compound and directed her to sit under a shade with her hand. Kakande sat next to some of Nalongo’s patients who had been there chit chatting. Some of them didn’t have wounds and they looked fine, some had minor wounds and others were just enjoying the air and shade under Nalongo’s trees.

“Today the market is a flop” noted Kakande as she rested her salt on the ground next to her feet. Kakande had sat down with her luggage still on her head, a thing that she had always done since her mid-forties. People had started watching her thread neck almost break with the load on her head and had wondered why she hadn’t put her load down. This reminded Nalongo of her father-in-law’s habit of sending her children to look for his smoking pipe when he had it in mouth smoking.

“Kakande, why don’t you put your luggage down and give me ekihonde” Nalongo had reminded Kakande that she was still carrying her luggage on her head even when she was seated.

“Thanks my child. Others would just keep laughing at me. I get that a lot. I have already entered my evening and there is no more light in my life.” Kakande lamented while chewing on her last words. Everybody kept quiet and the only sound they could hear was their breaths, beating of their hearts and the noises from up the hill. Suddenly, Kakande again broke the silence,

“I was in the market for four hours and I didn’t sell anything which made me asking around what was going on until I was told there were nsenene here. There I knew my biggest customer was here attending to the victims of another sweet dangerous day. So for how much can I get you?” she finished while unwrapping her salt sack. The load in the sack seemed so huge but as she unwrapped her neighbours kept seeing other sacks and buveras inside until she came to the heart of her luggage where there was fine salt wrapped in a clean small black kavera and pieces of rock salt in another big green kavera. Nalongo had finished cleaning the old man’s wounds and was coming closer to Kakande when she said,

“Get me for five hundred Shillings. It will take me for a month.” Kakande looked at Nalongo and was very quick to inform Nalongo of the changes in the business and prices.

“Actually, things have changed. That may take you for only two weeks. The suppliers nolonger supply and we now have to walk to Katwe to get the salt on our own.” She said as she tried to get her best deal. Nalongo frowned her face as she asked why the suppliers left the business. Kakande then said that those suppliers had not had profit for a long time since the profits could only be got from retail business and not wholesale. But She sensed Nalongo’s huge surprise and she had not worked from morning and so she realized she needed money at least to start the day. Nalongo was there staring at Kakande’s salt in her many layers of open covering.

“But for a regular and best customer who didn’t know about the changes, do you think you can overlook that for today?” Nalongo asked for a better deal too. She smiled at her statement and added, “I know ignorance of the law doesn’t mean one is innocent but we are not in court. I think we can work it out.”

“Yeah sure,” Kakande exclaimed “Since you didn’t know things had changed, I will give you like always but that is only going to be for today.” On hearing this, Nalongo’s happiness caused her to reach for her two thousand shillings note right between her breasts as fast as she could. Kakande had already wrapped Nalongo’s rock salt in one black holed kavera. Nalongo gave the money to Kakande who fast placed it on her forehead to receive her blessing. Kabahima also ordered for rock salt for her animals and a few more people asked Kakande for some rock salt to boil their beans and peas. Kakande took all her time and served all her new customers with their orders. Kakande’s business was over and she needed to hover around Buzina to find some of the nsenene pickers that were interested in buying salt and to also pick a few nsenene for herself. She tied up her sacks from the inside until she tied the last knots which too her five minutes or so. She lifted her luggage with her needle like bended arms to her head, once again making her long thread neck seem like it was going to break. She bid everyone farewell and wished the sick and wounded a quick recovery before she paced up Buzina humming.

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