Blood Trade

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Chapter 1


"Mommy, I'm hungry."
I rush into the house, wheezing and weak-kneed
Hugh! It was such a tiring trot from school. As I mull over the distance that I had just covered from school to home, an air of serenity and sporadic ragged sounds of the sewing machine at work greets me. For a second, I look disconcerted. Then with a frazzled swish, I plunge headfirst onto the springy sofa that creaks flimsily to herald my intrusion.
Catherine's sewing machine is always the music of the house. Whether daytime or night-time.
Ever since her fashion and designing job in Sontey Complex got terminated, she's been fending for us by sewing and selling clothes.
It was a lucrative job that drove us for eleven years straight without any bit of hiccups and without Andrew. Though, we weren't opulent.

The room is austerely furnished. A slight breeze washes over the moreen-made window curtains as they cast phantasmagorical shadows on the white-washed wall draping with attenuated paints.
I snuggle on the sofa with my dreary hands on my nape.
My rheumy eyes wander impatiently around the room in a penetrating scan. As I usually did when Catherine went humdrum in my presence.
Catherine is still sewing and looks unperturbed as if oblivious of my arrival. I can't give a damn. Instead, I hoist Jerry and absent-mindedly caress and fiddle with it.
It's also one of my perpetual habits when Catherine doesn't breach the uncomfortable silence by her imposing voice. It will either unceremoniously direct an order to get my lunch from the kitchen cupboard or explode a bombshell that there is no food.
Anyway, it is hot, and I am hungry and tired.
I would have kept Catherine abreast of how the headteacher had been sacked.
But since she is quiet, I decide to seal my lips. For the time being.
What I wanted to ask her is food.
However, in her presence, I had to rein in my impatience with a goofy grin when she tried to scope over me for any hint of mischief. She doesn't like impatient people. Naturally, I dare not venture into the kitchen without her consent because I will be in for a nasty reprimand from her reverberating voice, despite her calm superficial looks.

Oyugis Primary is very far from my home in Athousand street. It roughly takes one hour for me to walk and maybe forty-five minutes to run ad infinitum without resting until safely home. Fortunately, it is not in Athousand Street — which beaming with miscreants, hooligans, and vagabonds. They always await with zeal at any possible chance of committing their heinous crimes like robbing a lone passerby or an unfortunate yeoman dawdling in secluded alleys - which are their dens.
Woe betide you if you get beleaguered by them because it would turn into crime news trending on TV and radios on a day-to-day basis.

I can say that these numerous nefarious activities in Athousand Street are beyond the scope of Oyugis Police.
Moreover, everybody knows that the Jakachinja is the mastermind - a dangerous cult.

A sharp painful crick contorts my rumbling intestines causing an inadvertent wince on my face.

What's wrong mom, is there no food?
Can't you see I'm famished and can barely breathe? I'm going to faint. Aaaarghhhh!!! Tell me where the food is!

I soliloquize inaudibly and stifle my chagrin as I stare at the slightly nigrified white ceiling tainted with flaky dried patches of smoke that formed unsightly dark-grey blotches.

I am riding on an emotional rollercoaster as I look like a damsel in distress. My tummy is now growling louder and louder with each passing second.
Amid the brouhaha of emotions welling up in me, I fervidly hope that the food is already cooked and chock-a-block in my favorite crimson-magenta bowl.

I try hard to remain composed even though the maelstrom of mixed emotions swelling up in my head is threatening to burst forth with a menacing jibe: " Give me food !!!"

Catherine is still maintaining her blase attitude as if she were a carefree nouveau-riche.
I open my mouth to remind her of my presence. However, I bite back my lips as a thought crosses my mind.
I unfurl a glum smile on my petite cat - Jerry - fondling it affectionately despite the unyielding hunger gnawing dangerously at my stomach.

I am now gradually getting cheesed off by that look of complete nonchalance on her visage! It's relaxed and creased into a conniving facade that I feel I couldn't fathom the meaning behind. Was she hiding anything from me?

My mind is weltering in disarray as I cudgel my brains to figure out what is amiss, and why she is not telling me to fetch my bowl of food from that godforsaken kitchen. Also, to at least to inform me that there is no food.

As if noticing my sheer impatience, she teases placidly. At the same time, she sneaks a glance at me.
"Jeff, today you're so early for lunch. Were you that hungry? ". I don't answer. I keep quiet. Too hungry to mince words.

Early? She must be mad.

My stomach contorts in hunger. I don't have a reserve of energy left to jest with Catherine. She always doesn't know the right time to joke.

Miss Flakey ended her Science lesson belatedly.
Yet, Catherine has the temerity to claim that I came in earlier than usual. Is that not a viral joke? Just the thought of it make me feel like throwing up in utter infuriation. Honestly, when it comes to matters concerning food, I have to admit that I am always melodramatically punctilious.

I am jerked out of my oneirism by a brusque order that disturbs the tranquil air, " Glutton go get your food from the kitchen cupboard ."

" Yes, mum. " I reply as a sudden influx of mysterious liveliness irrupts in me.

I stand up hastily.
My eyes land on the firmly locked kitchen door.
Jerry slides off my lap, daubed by its barely visible wisps of fur.

I shuffle towards the door and push the knob just in time to be ushered in by a faint tantalizing aroma of roasted fish mingled with a sapid scent of freshly cooked rice. I stand at the kitchen door for a while. I savor the rejuvenating aroma before nearly toppling over an armchair set squarely in front of the kitchen door.

Cursing under my breath, I put the armchair in place before going on to forage the stuffy kitchen room with a crooked leer. My eyes pry the kitchen as another rustic voice trails off as I slam the door ."Eat fast. Time's wee."

All I badly need now is food. I am going to keel over if another minute elapses without something in my stomach.

I feel that my body is weak as I whimsically drag my flaccid feet and take out my bowl of food from the alutaceous buffet. I uncover the lidded bowl.
I sit on a stool with my hand on the draining board.
I voraciously gobble up all the contents in the bowl, licks it thrice until it is as speckless as a freshly-cut diamond. After eating my meal, I wash my hands. In a trice, I am lolloping on the road. I leave the door on the latch in case some sycophantic neighbor bumped into our house soliciting food. That is a tradition in Athousand Street during the lack of rainfall and food crises.
Food is scanty. Though, my mother's generosity supersedes it.

I staidly promenade on the roadside tesselated pavements as my shadow slide in and out of sight as the high-growing brambles that borders the road break the sunlight.
Living in a locality crammed with roaming guttersnipes and impoverished people is catastrophic.
Nostalgic images and remnants of the past reconstruct in my mind.
I was once a street urchin. That was when I had come to know that I was fatherless. I had joined hands with my ' partner in crime ' Bravine to roam the streets doing measly jobs. That is roughly five years ago when I was an arrogant little chap.

For two bitter years, we had roamed the Athousand street in search of odd jobs and meager-paying work that made life a bit fleshy.
Life was hard. I was not attending any school at the moment until one day, by a strange quirk of fate, I came across a benevolent, graceful, and good-natured lady who deigned to change the life of a plebeian like me. "A pile of dung " as some of my childhood friends usually called me. It was belittling. Nevertheless, I endured it.

You have a regal power in you waiting to be fully awakened.
You aren't a street monger you are a king.

Her words still ring in my ear. Even in my dreams, they haunt me. Fresh, vivid, and revitalizing though puzzling at the same time.
I can't figure out what to make of them up to date.

She had spoken these words as if she was hailing the birth of a powerful being as if she had looked deep into the unforeseeable future.
That was when she was a hale-and-hearty lady.

The moment she got into my life, hope and resolution enshrouded my will, and the abyss of despair that had once enveloped my very soul disappeared without a trace.
The build-up emotions swelling in my head ooze out into a fragile tear that snakes its way down my face.
I quickly brush it off and compose myself. I put on my usual stoic countenance.

The sun is high up in the azure sky teeming with ceaseless unbearable heat.
Aquiline birds pullulate in the distant horizon as the trees gyrate with the plaintive wind.
Throngs of people sheltered from the searing sun seated in the shade of roadside kiosks, pull-ins, and cafes, have animated talks accompanied by periodic cachinnations.
There is nary a cloud in the sky except for patches that ebb away with occasional purls of wind.

As I scan the row of dilapidated roadside market stalls punctuated with beggars who lay strewn in the middle of them, my head throbs excruciatingly.
My sweltry skin scrunches up under the sweltering heat while sweat perforates my school shirt.
I trudge beside the jam-packed road with cars, buses, and lorries racing wildly past.

Of late, I have grown doubtful of my ambitions. In Oyugis, it is the survival of the fittest.

I dread the fact that my education is gradually petering out into a screeching halt after a five-year bliss of free learning.

Miss Garie has done so much for me that I don't want to bog her down with my problems, nay, in a sense that she has taken the toll to pay my Primary Education from third grade.

After walking for what seems like an hour, I see the wrought-iron gate with a well-manicured hedge running off into the distance beyond. My feet crunch on the gravel path that went into the gates.

I walk into the school through the gates with the other students.
A panoply of buildings appears in the line of my vision. Oyupi, as my classmates often called the school's name, is the most baronial school in the county and yet the most fraudulent.
The school has over two thousand students segregated into upper-grade students and lower-grade.The lower-grade students consisting of kindergarten students whereas the upper-grade had CPE candidates and pre-candidates.
I strut to my class. In less than a minute, I reach my class.
Surmounting the ramp, I get in the class only to find it half-full. It seems that the others are still eating their lunch in their houses. I notice.

"Yo!" Rodgers waves at me from the far-end corner of the classroom where he is relishing in his packed lunch.
In sizeable strides, I approach him.
"I see ...you're still in business," I remark earthly as I peek at what's in his lunch box.

"Want some?"

"No!" I refuse, shaking my head.
Even though I am ignorant of his antecedents, I would say that he is a geek with talents especially when it comes to football.
He is an agnostic, just like Jasmine. Whereas, I am a staunch Christian.

I had told him once.
Despite the colossal differences between us, we get along very well.

"Why are you refusing?" Rodgers raises an eyebrow displease

"Coz I'm full," I say while motioning towards my stomach.
It has been five years since I joined this school as Rodgers, Antony, Jasmine, and Mark. If I can remember accurately, the date was January sixteenth.
It was the day of the largest demonstration that had ever happened in the country. All radios and TV talked of scandals of missing children. Since that time, Oyugis is never the same.
Opprobrious criminal activities marked a new era. An era of civil unrest headed by the JCO up to the present date. Touring the county would be the best way to affirm the wave of devastation that had backwashed several stately public buildings and properties.

The afternoon sun bathes the dry landscape in its scorching light.
Some of my classmates stream in continuously into the class.
The mundane wattle tree triangular tops backdropping the school fence pirouette vaingloriously in the slight wind that flits over the school.
Blaring hoots from the road abutting the frontiers of the school, occasionally frill the window glasses disturbing the quiescent afternoon air.
" Time for the next lesson, get your Math book. "Rodgers says as he dips his hands into his rucksack.
The bell rings as if affirming his thoughts.
In just a minute, Mr. Dick hobbles into the class.
"Good afternoon." He greets us in meek cadence.
"Good afternoon." We thunder harmoniously.
His gnarled fingers spotted with wrinkles flaunt their dexterity on the blackboard, revealing a word; Algebra. A smothered cough escapes his rubicund lips.
He raises his head to assume an upright posture. He surveys us. "So today's lesson is about Algebra. Anyone who can define algebra?" He asks.
We raise our hands simultaneously.
His eyes hesitate momentarily before landing on a scruffy boy beside Faith Bross.
He points at him. I don't quite recall any appearance that matched his face. He is a newbie. Probably.
Besides, we are so many in the classroom, amounting to over five hundred.

He raves out his answer unluckily he gets it wrong. After a series of vain attempts, Mr. Dick's hand points at me even though I had tried hard to hide from the limelight. With a waxen face and audible voice, I grunt out my answer. " It's a branch of mathematics that uses symbols and letters to represent numbers and quantities. " He nods at me approvingly before an earsplitting clap resounded.
The Math lesson then proceeds on for God knows how long before another teacher pops in.

The afternoon lessons go on suently with an evening assembly marking the end of a boring Tuesday.
Mr. Dick told us that we would be having the end-term exam in a fortnight before breaking on for vacation.

I reach home, have a shower and dinner before retiring to bed, knowing that tomorrow will be yet another busy day.
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