Wanjohi: A perpetual drinkard/drunkard
Wacuka: His beautiful wife
Rev. Githingithia: Pastor of the Revived and Reformed Fimbo ya Kumchapa Shetani Church of Latter Day Prophets of East Africa i.e. RAS CLOPEA
Dr. Mashida Mingi: A medicine man from Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
Prof. Hellen Irving: A marriage counsellor, Ph.D.
Wa Mucene: Wacuka’s bosom friend
Choppy: Wanjohi’s and Wacuka’s first born. An intelligent and gifted girl
Mukiri: Their second born. A silent and sickly son
Ngomongo: Their child. A rebel and trouble-maker par excellence. The name means a rock; with the connotation of being used as a crude weapon
Culvert: The last born. A born comedian
Mukuru: Wanjohi’s grandfather; Mukuru means elder, though his actual name is Wanjohi
(The curtain opens to the tune of ‘I am not of this world’ in the background. The song gains momentum until it reaches a crescendo whereby it is interrupted by static, as though it is a CD with a scratch. When the song resumes, it has taken on undertones of a secular song, its corrupted version.)
I am not of this world
I am just a hapless sojourner
Treasure troves awaits me
Behind heaven’s pearly gates
Where little children
With melodious breath sing
And I can’t want to get there
In the Lord’s blessed presence.
(After the static…)
Even the brew knows
Another friend have I none
If the bar is mine
Drink, what shall I do?
I hear the voices
Of those drunk long ago
And I can’t seem to think Of those back at home.
Mukuru: (As he watches his favourite grandson at play.) That boy will grow up to be a great man someday. As great as his grandfather. (Calling out to Wanjohi.) Wanjohi! Wanjohi! Come on, let us go. You know I have to introduce you to worldly affairs at an early age. That is how great men become great.
Cucu: (Emerging from their house.) Where are you going with my little boy? Leave him alone! I don’t want anything to happen to my husband in your drinking sprees.
Mukuru: Eeeh, you women are all the same; complaining a lot all the time. Nothing is going to happen to him.
Cucu: It better not! The last time I heard those words, my house nearly went up in flames.
Mukuru: (Aside.) Hear! Hear! Her house? Yet, I bought it with my own money! (Aloud.) Verily I say unto you woman, nothing is going to happen to him.
Cucu: If as much as a nail on his little toe…
Mukuru: … breaks, I am not going to sleep in this house. (As Cucu makes her way back into the house, she throws him a look meant to shrivel him to a crisp. Apparently, however, Mukuru is made of asbestos or something similar.) Wanjohi, come on, let us go. (Little Wanjohi stops playing and runs to him. Together, they exit the stage as Cucu shakes a finger at her husband.)
(The scene changes to Mukuru’s favourite muratina drinking den. They are in the company of other elderly drinkards and drunkards who are imbibing the potent brew from old tin cans.)
Mukuru: (As he pours down some libation to the ancestors.) Wa Njeri truly knows her brewing mathematics. Every time I partake her drinks, I feel young again.
1st Drinkard: True that. I shed thirty years.
2nd Drinkard: Oh, yes. Forty years evaporate and my bones feel strong again.
Mukuru: (Nostalgic.) It all comes back to me… the cattle raid, missionaries…
1st Drinkard: The drought of ’43… the freedom struggle…
3rd Drinkard: The cut… lewd circumcision songs… beautiful women…
Mukuru: The dances… (At this point, he is totally carried away, stands up and does a jig. Some of the drinkards and drunkards join him.) Ũthiaga ũkĩgambaga …
Chorus: Cu cu cu
All: Ũthiaga ũkĩgambaga
Cu cu cu
Cu cu cu
Mũgithi ũyũ wa mũratina
Mukuru: Wa Njeri nĩ we dereba
Chorus: Mũgithi ũyũ
All: Wa Njeri nĩ we dereba
Wa Njeri nĩ we dereba
Mũgithi ũyũ wa mũratina!
(By now, they have formed a human train and are levitating around the four corners of the shack. Mukuru, in a drunken stupor, lifts little Wanjohi onto his shoulders and although some of his mates try to dissuade him from doing so, he is adamant. As he continues his jig, he trips on one of the tin cans carelessly discarded on the floor. This results in his being sent sprawling to the floor while little Wanjohi flies off his shoulders and lands in a cauldron full of the potent brew. A minute of silence reigns.)
1st Drinkard: Ha! Haa!! Ha!!! Did you see the way the boy flew? I guarantee you he will be a pilot when he grows up.
2nd Drinkard: Oh, yes. A pilot and an acrobat rolled into one humongous talent. Hee…. I tell you!
Mukuru: (As he retrieves little Wanjohi- who is shrieking at the top of his lugs- from the cauldron.) Shut up before I do something stupid and ends up in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison!
3rd Drinkard: D.I.D… Drink induced intelligence, they call it. Drink induced intelligence.
(As Mukuru shakes a fist at him, the curtain falls.)
SCENE ONE: Romeo and Juliet Revisited
(Inside their house, Wacuka is reminiscing about their courtship days.)
Wacuka: Oh! Those were the days. And what a sweet fragile thing I was; all alone in the world and so naïve. I now understand why employers insist so much on experience. If I had had the experience of being flirted with before, I’d not have fallen so hard for his beguiling charm and scented words. At least, I now know what it’s like to be Juliet when Romeo is unleashing those dangerous vibes. (We take a trip down memory lane when Wacuka and Wanjohi are much younger. Wacuka is carrying a jerry can and it’s apparent she is going to the river while Wanjohi is armed with a file and has a scholarly aura about him.)
Wacuka: Morning to you.
Wanjohi: I see these days you attend smiling classes.
Wacuka: Smiling classes?
Wanjohi: Yes. Your smile is giving the sun serious competition as it is. (Momentarily, Wacuka breaks into a smile, then catching herself at it, tries to contain it.)
Wacuka: Now I must be off to fetch water. You know how my mother is…
Wanjohi: Speaking of your mother; how is she and the rest of the family?
Wacuka: She is fine, thank you.
Wanjohi: And your little brother? Has he recovered from his recent illness?
Wacuka: Oh, he is alright. It was just a ploy to skip the end of year exams.
Wanjohi: An intelligent fellow, I must say; as bright as his sister.
Wacuka: What is it you wanted to tell me? You know how people will talk when they see the daughter of the chairlady of the Mothers Guild…
Wanjohi: … being helped to fetch water by a caring, Christian young man.
Wacuka: (Laughing.) You are impossible! That is what I like about you.
Wanjohi: (Feigning sudden illness.) You like me! (He touches his forehead with the back of his palm and becomes quite dramatic.) If I were you, I’d not like me with my high fever.
Wacuka: (In a concerned tone as she feels his temperature.) What is wrong with you? Are you sick?
Wanjohi: In a way.
Wacuka: What do you mean by ‘in a way’? What if this illness progresses and takes you away from me? Come on; let us hurry for a doctor.
Wanjohi: No! No! No! A doctor will not do! Have you ever been to an asylum?
Wacuka: Yes. But what has this got to do with you?
Wanjohi: What did you witness there?
Wacuka: There was a lot of shouting going on.
Wanjohi: What else?
Wacuka: The doctors wore white overcoats while their patients were clad in striped pyjamas.
Wanjohi: That’s it! At this juncture, if I was in Greece and I was a shady character named Archimedes, I’d have to shout ‘Eureka!’ and run around naked in the streets. Alas, it cannot be so. I might convince the authorities I belong in the loony bin.
Wacuka: (Really concerned.) Wanjohi! Wanjohi! What’s troubling you? Why are you doing this to me? (Aside) It seems as if this malady that afflicts my beloved is more grave than I thought. In haste must I seek a doctor!
Wanjohi: A doctor might be tempted to diagnose me with malaria and give me an injection.
Wacuka: Oh…So it is the fear of an injection! Well, I have good tidings for you. Treatment does not have to necessarily constitute of an injection.
Wanjohi: No! No! No! No malaria!
Wacuka: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes malaria. Treatment does not have to necessarily constitute of an injection. It must be cerebral malaria contorting your brain. (At this juncture, Wanjohi suddenly recovers from his illness. His conversation with a much relieved Wacuka resumes.)
Wanjohi: I was telling you about doctors and their patients in an asylum. From their eccentric behaviour, you cannot tell the apart.
Wacuka: That’s so! I have often wondered why the white overcoats for the doctors and striped uniforms for their charges. Kumbe it is to differentiate them.
Wanjohi: About this high fever of mine…
Wacuka: This cerebral malaria…
Wanjohi: Not that I recall being bitten by a mosquito recently.
Wacuka: My mother says the mosquitoes of today bite you then softly blow on the spot so you won’t notice.
Wanjohi: Neither an anopheles nor culex experience.
Wacuka: Well then. It must be meningitis interfering with your medulla oblongata.
Wanjohi: No, not that. It is you!
Wacuka: (Astonished.) Me! What is it I have wronged you to set you off rambling like a lunatic?
Wanjohi: It is your smile and your dimples…
Wacuka: You exaggerate too much.
Wanjohi: … that are causing seismic contractions in my heart. God must have created you early in the morning and taken His sweet time. Not like the rest of us who were thrown here and there and declared fit for earth habitation. You know, you are the only bean in my githeri, the only fish in my lake…I love you like boiled cassava during droughty times and one of these fine days, I am going to buy you a plot of land…
Wacuka: (Flattered and tracing a figure on the ground; possibly the map of Africa.) You engage in too much hyperbole.
Wanjohi: (In an exaggerated manner and down on one knee.) Like the Ashanti drums
So beats my heart
When around you, I am
This I know, is love.
For what good is it to a man
If the whole world he gains
Yet, he loses his angel?
Your sweet sensuous smile, Is the golden sunbeam
That lights up my world.
A friendship so special
Can only be nurtured and treasured
In the heart of my hearts.
Please be mine,
Heart, spirit and soul.
Forever your love, Sir Wanjohi.
(By now, Wacuka is in a trance. Wanjohi gets up and moves near her. He gives her a long kiss which she passionately responds to. Then, recovering her wits, though still dazed, she quickly picks up her jerry can and excuses herself.)
Wacuka: I must be off at once. Meet me at the banana grove behind our house on Saturday evening.
Wanjohi: Have a blessed day.
Wacuka: (Having covered a considerable distance, Wacuka carries on a monologue with herself.) Come to think of it; that kiss smelled funny. It must be muratina. He must have downed it to get the courage to talk to a beautiful person like me. What a strange animal love is! Still, that kiss was good. (Licking her lips.) Really good. Wish he would kiss me more often. I love you like I love boiled cassava…Mwaaa! You are the Ashanti drums in my heart… Mwaaa!
(Shortly, we return to the present where Wacuka is still conversing with herself.)
Wacuka: It is as though he had a talent… no, a penchant… no, no, he was gifted in the art of garb…no, no, no! That would not do- too trite and banal. Anyway, whatever the perfect terminology, he was good at it. “Kweli, maneneo matamu humtoa nyoka pangoni.” Though, in his case, it was more of “Maneno matamu ya Wanjohi humchelewesha Wacuka kuenda kuteka maji mtoni.” And what the ‘the greatest first date it never was…’)
(As she chuckles to herself, we are once again taken down memory lane. Wacuka is inside the house busy doing her homework while her mother is knitting a sweater or some other mundane task. The textbook she purports to be reading is held upside down.)
Mother: How is the reading coming along? (She glances at the textbook and knits her eyebrows).
Wacuka: It’s coming along just fine.
Mother: That must be a first. I mean, I’ve never heard you speak highly of physics before.
Wacuka: We have a new physics teacher.
Mother: A new physics teacher? I am pretty sure he knows his Hooke’s law and Avogadro’s constant.
Wacuka: (Perplexed, though she has to anwer in blissful ignorance.) Duke’s law? Avocado’s constant. Ahh, yes. Those too he has taught. Duke’s law states that a prince must marry from a royal family, preferably the duke’s daughter while Avocado’s constant says that a girl must consume avocados constantly in order to grow up into a beautiful princess.
Mother: (Nonchalantly.) I see. (She continues with her knitting while Wacuka resumes with her reading. Presently, the happy chirruping of a bird is heard coming from the direction of the banana grove behind the house. Apparently, this bird has not had much of a rehearsal and is doing a bird job as it is.)
Wacuka: That bird sounds like it has been trapped. Really a bird thing to happen to a fluffy, dear thing that delights everyone with itys melodies.
Mother: Stop being so sentimental and nonsensical. That was the sound of a mole.
Wacuka: (Admonishing.) Mother! How can you say that of God’s little creation?
Mother: I tell you, that was amole. All this week, they have been eating the roots of my sweet potatoes. One of these days, we are going to starve.
Wacuka: (In urgency.) Mother! It is a bird and I must hasten to its rescue!
Mother: Stop with your foolishness! It is a mole. I’ll check it out and if it happens to be a bird, free it. Satisfied?
Wacuka: But mom… (She shrugs her shoulders in resignation. Mother goes in the kitchen and comes back with a sufuria full dirty dish water. She emerges from the house and heads off in the direction of the banana grove.)
Mother: (In an aside). A bird? What utter nonsense! Does she not know that I wasn’t born yesterday? Doesn’t she know that mothers have eyes on the backs of their heads? Duh! Well, I am going to illiterate this her bird from the face of the earth. (She chirrups and waits for a reply. The bird chirrups back. The trend continues with the bird’s chirruping edging closer and closer. When she judges the bird to be within her reach, she throws the dirty dish water at it- accompanied by a loud ‘Riswa! Shetani ashindwe!’ The bird takes off in full flight in the underbrush, much like an elephant scrambling madly after poachers who have taken captive of its calf. The scene shifts to the present.)
Wacuka: Despite this and other travails that befell him, he still sought after my heart. Indeed, the patient ones are the ones who eat the ripe fruits. But this drinking of his, it must stop! Every day is the same. He comes in the middle of the night, dead drunk, and starts much botheration. (Taking on a drunken stupor, she mimics him.) ‘Where is my angel?’- in front of the children! Heat up my dinner. Culvert, Choppy, where are you? Have you finished your homework? Come I help you with it.’ And he starts upturning the whole house and making a maddening din.
Then Mukiri comes and asks if everything is alright. That boy has me worried; sickly and silent all the time. Worrying about his father’s drinking. Worrying about what the neighbours will say. Worrying if tomorrow there will be school fees and enough food for everyone. And that sister of his? Hee… I tell you! Ngomongo is the talk of the village. Yesterday she got suspended from school. Today, she has broken the leg of the neighbour’s cow. Tomorrow, she is leading a strike in their school. And Culvert, he will grow up into a comedian someday.
I wish they were all like Choppy. The model child and student every parent and teacher yearns for. Today she has won a trophy for this’ tomorrow an award for that. I hear they intend to make her the head girl soon. I only hope she will not be too lenient when it comes to the matter of her sister’s indiscipline. I don’t know what I’d do without these children to keep my hands full and not constantly worry about my husband. As well as deflecting their father’s unruly behaviour. For example, take Choppy. A lot of people wonder how she possibly could have descended from Wanjohi. If it was not her uncanny resemblance to Wanjohi, I am sure only a DNA test would convince them that indeed she was Wanjohi’s daughter. I guess this means everyone has some good in him. Thank God for small miracles. (Looking at her watch.) It’s now 11:00 A.M.; I wonder where that rascal of a husband might be. (In the distance, Wanjohi’s singing- or what passes for singing- is heard; and with each passing second, it edges closer and closer till he makes his appearance.)
Wanjohi: Njohi ũtũire ũĩ
Wĩ mũtongoria wakwa
Amu kĩrabu nĩ gĩakwa
Cia arĩa makundire mbere
Nandingĩhutio nĩ maithori
Ma arĩa ndigire mũciĩ.
(The curtain falls.)
SCENE TWO: Act One: Divine Invasion
(Inside Wacuka’s house. Reverend Githingithia, Pastor of the Revived and reformed Fimbo ya Kumchapa Shetani Church of latter Day Prophets of East Africa, has made a visit. Clad in a cassock and chasuble and carrying a big bible, he is the very epitome of piety.)
Rev G: The Lord be praised!
Rev G: Since the last time we met, I am still strong in my faith and have seen the hand of God in all facets of my life. For indeed, as it is written in Ephesians 1: 10-18: ‘Do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.’
Wacuka: Reverend, that may be so but…
Rev G: No, do not doubt Him for a moment. All else may fail but God never fails us, for as the scriptures say in Psalms 42:5 ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
Wacuka: It is hard, Reverend. It is really hard. This unceasing drinking of my husband is proving too much of a trial for me and my family. It is as though God has forsaken me in my hour of need. Every day I pray for my husband to stop drinking, but nothing happens. I am tired of waiting Reverend. I am tired of waiting.
Rev G: Rejoice, Sister Wacuka, rejoice. For the moment of God’s manifestation of His glory in your life is well-nigh. Let not your husband’s drinking trouble you. As it is written in Luke 21: 34-36 ‘But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the ‘Son of Man.’ All it takes is courage and prayer, sister Wacuka. Courage and prayers… and surely, you will be blest in abundance. (Breaking into song, Wacuka joins in the chorus onwards).
The other day, when I was in trouble
I was so sick and so deep in debt
You sent me a good Samaritan
Who settled my hospital bills and my debts.
Dear Lord, I love you so much
Cause every day, you are there for me
When I am down, you lift up my spirits
And never ever have you ever let me go hungry.
Lord, I want to ask for your forgiveness
As it is like daily I put you on trial
And when temptations come my way
Lord you are there to give me the will to overcome.
Dear Lord, this I know of you
In times of wealth, or times of adversities
In times of health or times of infirmities
You are always there by my side.
Though the road, be fraught with dangers
Though my adversaries seek to bring me down
Though the storms of life strive to uproot me
Lord you remain my faithful guide and anchor.
Lord, you understand, that I am just a mortal man
That’s why sometimes I seem to forget you
Especially in times of bountiful abundance
When my mind is preoccupied with the good life.
Though I know I am a hypocrite Lord
When travails come I run back to you
But Lord, instead of judging me
You pick me up and embrace me in your bosom.
Rev G: Come near, Sister Wacuka, that I may pray for you. (Wacuka obeys the command. Reverend Githingithia holds her head with both hands and proceeds in prayer). God loves your head Sister Wacuka! Tea bread, tea bread jams and eggs. (Purportedly, he speaks in tongues).
Wacuka: Riswa! Shetani ashindwe! (The responses are accompanied by the stamping of feet on Wacuka’s part).
Rev G: (Caressing her head.) God loves your head so much Sister Wacuka! Kweliumeumbwaukaumbikamithiliyamalaika!
Wacuka: Riswa! Shetani ashindwe!
Rev G: God, remove the spirit of ignorance in her head! Umebarikiwakotenyumanambele!
Wacuka: Riswa! Madaimoni kazii!
Rev G: God, reveal to her that she should be a sharing soul. Barikiyeyeapatekunigawiamahaba!
Wacuka: Riswa! Madaimoni kazii!
Rev G: That she should share her everything with me! Especially her ass…ets. Her assets Lord.
Wacuka: Riswa!Shetani ashindwe!
Rev G: (Placing his hands on her shoulders and caressing them.) God loves your shoulders Sister Wacuka!
Wacuka: Riswa! Madaimoni kazii!
Rev G: God loves your shoulders so much… you are making me so hot! (He has opened one eye and is admiring her cleavage and behind mischievously.)
Wacuka: Riswa!Shetani ashindwe!
Rev G: Oh… You are making me so horny!
Wacuka: Riswa!Shetani ashindwe!
Rev G: One shot is all I want… Oh… Oh…
Wacuka: Riswa!Shetani ashindwe!
Rev G: (In a frenzy.) God loves your shoulders so much… Oh… Oh… Oh…
Wacuka: Riswa! Madaimoni kazii!
Rev G: Oh, please Sister Wacuka! Just one shot… Please… Oh… Oh…
Wacuka: Yes! Yes! Yes! Riswa!
Rev G: Is that a yes, Sister Wacuka! Thank you Jesus!
Wacuka: Oh… Yes! I feel something encompassing my whole being. It must be the Holy Ghost descending upon me.
Rev G: Oh… God loves your breasts so much Sister Wacuka! (He is about to place his hands on them when Choppy and Mukiri burst on the scene, carried away in their own banter, hence calling for a change of tactics. Once more, he places one hand on Wacuka’s head, and with the other hand raised to the heavens, beseeches the lord for a miracle in Wacuka’s life. Choppy and Mukiri join in the prayer session.) Dear Lord, may your presence descend upon us. May you touch Wacuka’s husband and the father to these children to stop drinking.
All: Riswa! Madaimoni kazii!
Rev G: Lord, bless the children in this home. May t6hey realise their dreams to the fullest.
All: Riswa! Oh… Yes! Bless us!
Rev G: May the evil spirits that lurk in this house be destroyed!
All: Riswa! Shetani ashindwe!
Rev G: May you break Satan’s hold on this family!
All: Riswa! Madaimoni kazii!
Rev G: May Lucifer and his works on this homestead be annihilated!
All: Riswa! Shetani ashindwe!
Rev G: May Your precious blood cover this house, Oh Lord!
All: Yes, Lord.
Rev G: All these I pray believing in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.
All: Amen! (After the prayer, Rev G shakes their hands and prepares to leave.)
Rev G: Now, I must be off, Sister Wacuka; but I am sure God has heard our prayers. Very soon, something good is going to happen in your life.
Wacuka: Why all the hurry, Reverend. At least, I should make you a cup of tea before you take your leave.
Rev G: It’s alright, Sister Wacuka. Your intent is as good as a kettleful of tea. Thanks.
Wacuka: It will only take a few minutes, really.
Rev G: Not to worry, sister Wacuka. You know how busy my itinerary is. Other members of my congregation await me.
Wacuka: If you say so, then. (Rev G is now at the door.)
Rev G: Thanks again, all the same. One more thing- tonight is Ladies Liberation Night, just in case you forgot.
Wacuka: I haven’t forgotten at all. It commences at 11:30 P.M.?
Rev G: Yes, at 11:30 P.M. And remember, it’s strictly women’s empowerment business. You should not be accompanied by any male whatsoever- whether your husband or otherwise.
Wacuka: As though my husband would make an appearance at the church… (Catching herself.) Yes, no male whatsoever.
Rev G: Bye for now. May God be with you till we meet again.
All: Bye. Go in peace Reverend.
Choppy: (Cheekily, after the Reverend has left.) It is as well he did not wait for tea. You know, sugar ran out last week…
(The scene now shifts to the roadside. Wanjohi is on his way home after a bout of drinking. In between falling in ditches and uttering obscenities and profanities, he engages in drink induced intelligence.)
Wanjohi: Fools, I always tell them. They are all fools. Yet, they call themselves experts. Experts on what? Of what? For what? Take Kuria for example. Who doesn’t know that between his ears is only empty air? Still, you should hear him open his plate of a mouth to talk. Millennium Development Goals. Global financial crisis. Equitable distribution of resources. Paradigm shift. He talks so eloquently of them and the other drinkards listen to him in awe. Yet, it is all recycled news material from the NGO and government bureaucrats types. What utter nonsense!
And Masese! He thinks he inherited King Solomon’s wisdom. Yet, a simple thing such as getting drunk is a herculean struggle. Everyday, he is the first at our waterinh hole, yet the last to get drunk. ‘Kumbe, kutangulia bar sio kulewa.’ I guess this is so because he lacks a drinking plan. Any nincompoop in the street can tell you that ‘Planning to fail is failing to plan.’ No, that doesn’t sound right. Failing to plan is planning to fail.’ Yes, that is it.
Me, I have a drinking strategy. I always insist on the six ‘Ps’- Prior proper preparation, prevents poor performance.’ Brilliant! Prior as in beforehand. Proper in the sense that you have to be in the right state of mind. Prevents obviously prevents. Poor performance is just that- a performance that is poor. That’s professional drinking for you.
Then again, one of these days, I am going to open a church. ‘Drinkers’ Paradise. And what a following it will have… turning me into an overnight millionaire. There on the pulpit stands I, Most Reverend Drinkard Wanjohi; and as I toast to my followers, I lead them in prayer. Our Brewer’s Prayer.
Our Brewer who art in Sweet waters
Hallowed be thy liquor
Thine drinkdom come
Thy spirits be consumed at home, as it in the pub
Give us this day our daily brew
And forgive us our part time abstinence
As we forgive those who interrupt our drinking patterns
Lead us not into places where they distil not
And deliver us from Eva
For thine is the drinkdom, the power alcohol and the gory details.
And why should we be delivered from Eva? You see, Eva is an opportunistic lady. Sometimes she happens to be in the mood for maximising profits, and so, what do we end up with? Chang’aa spiced up with mortuary drugs and methanol and drunkrads shouting ‘Even if you switch off the lights, we will still drink.’ Which is bad for business. I think it would be a good idfea if the government came up with a commission of inquiry to look into this thing. Else, Eva as usual, turns into the proverbial proverb of a ‘Mgema akisifiwa, tembo hulitia maji.’
(Wanjohi is now within the vicinity of his homestead.)
Wacuka: Hear! Hear! There goes my embarrassment of a husband! Shouting to the hills and the valleys about his ‘professional’ drinking. One of these days, I am sure he is going to be awarded an honorary degree for his service to mankind. DDaT. Doctor of Drinking and All Things Alcoholic. And who is this Eva he is talking about? Hee! Let him try to introduce her as a second wife in this house. I will cut her to little pieces and make soup of her! She will know that I am a full blooded Mu-Kabete, an amazon from Kabete where we have arrowroots for breakfast and arrowroots for supper!
(Wanjohi is now at the door.)
Wanjohi: Woman! Open this door before I walk right through it. Don’t you know that I paid for you in goats and cows?
Wacuka: (Opening the door and in a sarcastic tone.) Yes dear. How was your day? I can see you jhave been working hard in building this our nation.
Wanjohi: Woman, do not start with me! I know what you are doing…
Wacuka: And what is that dear? I am curious to know.
Wanjohi: I will tell you again woman, and do not try to ‘dear’ me. You are thinking what a drunkard I am. But I tell you, I am a professional drinkard and not some helpless drunkard. I control my drinking; it does not control me.
Wacuka: I see. I didn’t know drinking was a profession.
Wanjohi: Yes, classified right there with the arts and the sciences. In fact, it is the finest of arts and the most exact of the sciences.
Wacuka: Oh… so can you apply it to get employment anywhere? (Shakes her head in mock disbelief.)
Wanjohi: You women never cease to amaze me. Of course, you can get emolument as a taster of wines and other drinks. A ‘connoisseur’, they call him. Or in other words, elegance and sophistication. What were you doing in Beijing anyway?
Wacuka: (Aside.) I guess I underestimated his drinking. ‘Kumbe’ he is a more lost cause than I thought. It seems as though Rev. Githingithia’s prayers are not working and I should look for help elsewhere. (Aloud.) Do you remember those days when you used to look up to he bible for wisdom and guidance?
Wanjohi: I still do. Now that you have mentioned it, I am thinking of…
Wacuka: You have become a slave to drink. That’s what you have become. A slave to drink. Proverbs 23: 31-35: ‘Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly. At the last it bites likes a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?’
Wanjohi: Alright… I can see where this is going. Push coming to shove. So, did you also read Proverbs 31: 6-7: ‘Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his mystery no more.’
Wacuka: (Laughing sardonically.) Uuuuiii! Eeeeiaye! Now, you are bitter and perishing! What a twisty coincidence! And us, we are miserable and poor! Myself, I couldn’t have put it better.
Wanjohi: And while we are at it, did you skip reading 1st Timothy 5:23: ‘No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.
Wacuka: (Sarcastically.) Rather startling, I must admit, when a ‘professional drinkard’ suddenly turns into an enlightened preacher, don’t you think?
Wanjohi: (Mistaking his wife’s ‘enthusiasm’.) One beer for the price of three!!! Special offer!! Sale!! Sale!! It will be located on an upmarket neighbourhood and there on the outside, it will feature a large notice. ‘Drinkards’ Paradise.’ I am thinking of opening this church. I was coming to that.
ACT TWO: DEUCE INTERVENTION
(As the stage lights up, the scene is changes to that of a typical medicine man’s workplace. Dr Mashida Mingi is clad in a hide and his head gear consists of a strip of hide in the shape of a wreath- with colourful plumage stuck on it. He is conversing with Culvert.)
Dr MM: Life is politics, I always say. Though it does no good to have everyone know.
Culvert: I disagree, life is art. You see, every time you do something, you are creating it. That is the essence of art.
Dr MM: There you go again; agreeing with me as always. Politics is about doing something… making something… creating it. As you so succinctly put it, ‘That is the essence of art.’
Culvert: (Exasperated.) Do you always have to win every argurment? Perhaps, you would be rich by now if you were graceful enough to accept logical defeat now and then. Let the people that matter save face. Anyway, how can life be equated to art?
Dr MM: ‘Survival of the fittest’- Charles Darwin termed it. This means that in life, you have to be extremely self-centred, that way, you will go places.
Culvert: Well, it beats my mind as to hoe selfishness can be a virtue.
Dr MM: It is, I assure you. Even Jesus extolled his disciples to be like the people of the world. It seems Charles Darwin was a disciple of Jesus too.
Culvert: Illogical logical. That’s what you are. Illogical logical. Charles Darwin and Jesus in one sentence? It sure beats logic!
Dr MM: Listen, my friend. In this life, you have to be artfully self-centred. When you have two loaves of bread, you eat one, the other you share with your neighbour. Though you make sure you eat the first loaf in the privacy of your room.
Culvert: To my conscience, that seems like being generous- of a kind, though.
Dr MM: No, you don’t understand. That is being self-centred as you think of tomorrow’s survival. Tomorrow, when you are hungry, perhaps, and I stress ‘perhaps’, the neighbour you shared your loaf with will share his cake with you.
Culvert: Mmmh… I must admit it makes some sense; weird as it is.
Dr MM: Look at me; a bachelor of arts in the science of education, yet no job.
Culvert: Eeeh! It is either a bachelor of arts in education or a bachelor of science!
Dr MM: Yes, a bachelor of arts in education from the University of Nairobi. The science of education part comes from the reality of living as a jobless senior bachelor who has to pay rent at month’s end and put food on the stomach. And that’s why I am clad in a hide today. Putting my degree into good use by teaching people a lesson or two.
Culvert: The last bit you mentioned; did they teach that in university too?
Dr MM: Yes. The university of life. Especially the philosophy professor- my landlord.
Culvert: A wasted opportunity, it must have been. You could have been a student leader, then joined politics. Development and progress.
Dr MM: (As he sighs nostalgically.) Whoooo! I guess I was just too idealistic. ‘To dream is happiness, to wake up, reality,’ I say. Otherwise, had I been a little less naïve, I would be well-off by now. At the end of it all, I knew I was going to be awarded a doctorate and be a doctor. ‘Kumbe’ a doctorate is not the same thing as being a doctor; the kind that treats people. So, I thought a first degree was good enough and opted out. Still, we interacted with real doctors and I came to discover a thing or two about medicine. It is kind of fifty percent facts and fifty percent probability.
Culvert: So, it has some mathematics in it? I always hear my eldest sister talking of probability, especially when she wants to be downright rude. ‘What is the probability of Culvert taking a bath this month?’ That’s when she finds me indulging in her make-up. As she says, it doesn’t grow on trees.
Dr MM: If I may ask, what do you do with the make-up? I mean, I was made to understand that the beauty of a man lies in his wallet.
Culvert: Nothing out of the ordinary. Just colouring myself as a clown. You know, in this life, you never know from which direction your daily bread will emanate. Hence, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for any eventuality.
Dr MM: I was telling you about medicine. You don’t have to go to medical school to qualify as a doctor. There, you might end up as a patient instead. What with opening up dead people’s bodies! Then getting post-traumatic stress and going for counselling from another doctor who is experiencing post-traumatic stress after listening to other people’s endless problems…
Culvert: And be thoroughly exploited as a medical student and intern for many years…
Dr MM: You just have to learn some medical terminology; post-traumatic stress; that a corpse is a cadaver, a skull a cranium… learn the Latin names for various parts of the anatomy and you are ready to go. Then, you set up shop in a nondescript location and in between waiting for sick customers, dodging City Council askaris and evading officials from the Medical Regulatory Board, you scan various diseased and disordered textbooks for signs, symptoms and prescriptions. And remember to be nice and comforting to your customers. That way, they will bring in a lot of referrals your way. Lastly, don’t quack too much; else, you might attract unwanted publicity.
Culvert: That sounds to me like an extremely risky undertaking.
Dr MM: Life is all about risks. Otherwise, if people didn’t take risks, they might not need your services to begin with. A man adulterates his neighbour’s wife, he is machete-d on the head and you are in business. He stays faithful to his wife, no machete, no job creation for you.
Culvert: Still, people might die if you give them a malarial injection for a cut toe.
Dr MM: No, you do not go to that extent. Drugs are expensive and many of your customers can ill afford the amount. So, you dilute the medicine with water- that way, more of it can go around. Else, you can choose to go the herbal way. Less risky though less rewarding. You will be given a business permit and no Medical Regulatory Board officials breathing brimstone and fire down your neck. Only expense, besides rent, being brimstone and treacle.
Culvert: You have lost me there.
Dr MM: That’s another aspect of it. Your customers should never fully understand you, else, you will have destroyed the mystique and mystical aura about you; which equals lost business opportunities. Remember, medicine is meant to be understood only by doctors. As to the procurement of medical concoctions… In the bush, you go foraging for herbs. Boil the stinging nettle stems- a cure for asthma. Maize inflorescence palliates urinary incontinence, and so on and so forth. It’s all about being enterprising in R &D: Research and Development.
Perhaps, you discover that the stinging nettle is no cure for asthma (or of anything for that matter and might even be poisonous). Therefore, the next asthma patient gets treated with avocado leaves powder. Some get worse, some get better. Others die. The relatives you comfort, ‘We treat, God heals.’ They remember the many you have cured. ‘It’s god will.’ They say. Tomorrow, they fall seek, they come back to you. For the superstitious, you conjure up spirits.
Culvert: Not forgetting the power of advertising. In strategic locations, you erect notice boards proclaiming your services for all and sundry: Dr Mashida Mingi; Highly qualified medicine man from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He treats various ailments like asthma, malaria, kidney stones, diabetes, skin problems etc. Specialises in finding lost persons, job promotions, courts cases, retrieving a lost wife, brightening dull children, employment and treating people affected by evils spirits. For further inquiries, contact this number, 07………. Or email at email@example.com. (A loud knocking on the door means cessation of the above conversation. Quickly, Culvert sprawls under the bed while Dr MM starts blubbering various incantations- if they may be called so. The knocking stops for a while, then resumes; but this time, more softly, more hesitantly).
Dr MM: Abra cadabra jibri ji. Ayeya asusa… (He goes and opens the door. Wacuka enters.)
Wacuka: (In a trembling voice.) G… goo… good… morning?
Dr MM: (In a frenzy and doing a jig while rattling a fly whisk with tonal variations for additional effects.) Abra… ra ra ra… cadabra… ra ra ra… jibri… ji ji ji… oh… oh… the spirits… they are talking…oh… she has… yes… a problem… a job problem?… Oh… not? … A malicious relative problem? … Oh… not? A lost love problem?
Wacuka: Yes. Maybe.
Dr MM: A home based problem?
Dr MM: An unfaithful husband? Oh… spirits of my ancestors… talk to me I beseech thee!
Wacuka: Perhaps. That barmaid she was talking about… heee… I must find out!
Dr MM: Oh… hear… hear… the spirits are talking. It is a drinking problem. Thank you spirits for finding favour in me!
Wacuka: (Eagerly.) Yes, yes! That’s why I came. His drinking is drinking me mad. Please, please… help me. I will do anything for you. (All this while, Culvert is in a trance. His fertile imagination is running wild. If his mother can visit a witchdoctor, what else could she have done? Like that meat for supper that tasted funny last week, etc., etc. Meanwhile, Dr MM’s theatrics have come to an end with a bit of pomp and flourish.)
Dr MM: Good morning. Please have a seat.
Wacuka: (Sitting down in a three-legged stool that has seen better days.) Thank you. I definitely knew I would get help here. This drinking, I tell you…
Dr MM: Can I offer you something to drink? Tea? Water? A soda?
Wacuka: Water will do just fine. (Dr MM offers her a glass of water. Wacuka eyes it suspiciously as gelatinous specks are floating around; but anyway, manages to down a sip or two.)
Dr MM: This bad drinking spirit has possessed him for a long time.
Wacuka: Yes. He has been drinking for far too long. As a matter of fact, many of my nights have been cold. Very, very cold. You see, he can’t rise to the occasion any more. If it weren’t for Rev Githingithia and his Ladies Liberation nights, I would have divorced him a long time ago.
Dr MM: (An opportunist seeing an opportunity to seize.) Enhe… this Ladies liberation thing, another bad spirit possessing the Right Reverend, I suppose.
Wacuka: Definitely not the Holt Ghost at work, I dare say. You see, most of these nights, I am the only client; and what tempest nights they are! All tossing and turning and contortions that defy gravity. He makes love like someone possessed. That scallywag of a preacher couldn’t stop my husband’s drinking, but at least, he is able to satisfy my bodily urges… ( A very audible sigh escapes from a scandalised Culvert; prompting Dr MM to start his chanting and theatrics again. After a while, he ceases.)
Dr MM: Wow! Even the spirits are shocked. Abracadabra… jibri… jii! Oh, spirits of my forefathers, I hearken to you… Oh! Hear me, helpless as I am. Descend upon me and touch me. Oh, all-knowing spirits, you understand that she is just a mere mortal lost in the cravings of the flesh. Please, I beseech you, do not hold this against her. Forgive her and intervene in her affairs. Take the drinking demon out of her husband, cast it into the dark, bottomless abyss, lock it and throw away the key into the Caribbean Sea. (He is so carried away that he breaks into song.)
My brother, my sister
My neighbour, my friend
Come to Jesus for He cares
For He cares… for you
For He cares… for you!
Wacuka: What! A medicine man who knows Jesus! That is a first! He definitely must know what he is doing! (These shocked statements brings Dr MM out of his reverie.)
Dr MM: (Embarking on what might be a slightly blasphemous and offensive dissertation in some quarters- but this being art, nevertheless must be told.) My dear sister. Do not be shocked. You see, Jesus is a spirit; a good spirit. In the spirit world, there are bad spirits, like the drinking spirit, and good spirits. Hence, when dealing with bad spirits, you have to invoke the names of the good spirits to aid you in your cause.
In the spirit realm, a never-ending war is going on, and when the bad spirits are defeated, they are cast down on earth. In order to survive and regain their strength, they must attach themselves into the person of a human being and feed on his soul. Thus, when we invoke the good spirits to come down on earth, and they heed to our pleadings, the bad spirit is utterly destroyed. Therefore, it cannot trouble anyone again. There being thousands upon thousands of both good and bad spirits, this translates into even the best of us having some vive about him and, conversely, the worst of us having some virtue about us.
Wacuka: So, you mean to say that my husband has been freed of this drinking spirit?
Dr MM: Now, now, now… not so fast, woman. You see, you have to give him some concoctions to ensure that any part of the spirit that remains in him is killed. Otherwise, it will multiply and trouble him again; this time with a vengeance seven fold as deadly.
Wacuka: Mmmh… and where do I get these concoctions to do a full job?
Dr MM: Further, you must appease the good spirits too. In the olden days, it was through sacrifice, but the spirits have now gone digital. They understand that the price of unga has gone up. That cash has become a scarce commodity for, especially for a woman who is unemployed. Well, the spirits have spoken to me. They have shown me what a good woman you really are inside your heart. It is only that a small demon inside of you is hard at work. Therefore, today at night, you must come for some cleansing ceremonies. We have to destroy this demon before it becomes too big. Come alone with your fridge, oven…
Wacuka: It seems as though you will have to be disappointed again. The only fridge in my house is a pot while the only oven in my house is a charcoal stove…
Dr MM: (More incantations, though less frenetic.) Abra ca da bra… jibri… jii… hosama… ingokho… The spirits have spoken. A radio and TV set will suffice.
Wacuka: Well, it seems as though you will not have to be disappointed after all. Those I have. Those I can bring. (As Dr MM starts packaging for her the aforementioned concoctions, another troublesome spirit starts conversing. It does so in a European accent- as though talking through the nose. The voice of this spirit emanates from under the bed.)
Spirit: Bling bling… ding dong… hickory dock… You greedy man, I warn you. You’ve made us very angry with your greed.
Dr MM: (More incantations) Tea bread… tea bread and eggs. Oh! Mighty Spirit; but you said it was ok if she only brought the TV and the radio. (A very trembling Wacuka, who is rooted on the spot, is the intended audience as far as the spirit is concerned.)
Spirit: Bling bling… ding dong… hickory dock… Oh, greedy man, I didn’t say so. That was a figment of your own fertile imagination. If you do not change your wayward manners, we will punish then desert you.
Dr MM: Tea bread… Tea bread and eggs… Tea bread and eggs and not forgetting the jam… but… but… Mighty Spirit…
Spirit: But… but… but what? That you are greedy? Yes. That you are a liar? Yes. Tell this to the woman. At once must she leave your precincts and hurry to a marriage counsellor. That’s the only intervention we can indulge in on her case. (Directly addressing Wacuka.) Woman, do you hear me?
Wacuka: (In a quacking tone.) Ye…s… Yes…
Spirit: Stand up and run to a marriage counsellor before my wrath falls on you.
Wacuka: But…but.. the… the concoctions…
Spirit: Woman… do you not hear me? And neither shall you return here with your TV or radio… In fact, never set foot in this house again… (In a booming voice.) Now, run to a marriage counsellor before I… (Wacuka does not wait to hear the rest. She jumps and like the wind, is off. On this day, I hasten to add, several Olympics records are broken. The naughty spirit comes out of hiding from under the bed.)
Dr MM: What’s wrong with you? Have you become possessed? Making me lose a customer just like that!
Culvert: A customer? That was my mother!
Dr MM: Your mother! But you could have warned me beforehand!
Culvert: Warned you? I was too shocked; that my God fearing mother could stoop so low as to visit disreputable establishments like these.
Dr MM: I still do not believe it. She is too young and too beautiful to be your mother.
Culvert: Beautiful? Night visits? How can you talk of my mother like that you imbecile!
Dr MM: Accidents do happen. I sincerely apologise.
Culvert: Apologise my foot! Hee… and wait till that lousy pest of a preacher comes around to our house. God help him when he does.
Dr MM: (In a conciliatory tone.) I think it will be wise if we let bygones be bygones. We forget the matter and pretend it never happened.
Culvert: You don’t have to say ‘I am sorry’, ‘cause the damage already done. So much damage, already done.* I knew this business would be a risky business. Still, I only have myself to blame for agreeing to be a clown in your scheming venture. I think it would be better if I go home now. (He exits.)
Dr MM: (Addressing the audience.) Time to close shop and get out of town, I guess. (He too makes his exit.)
(We now return to Wacuka’s homestead. Culvert can be seen and heard whistling quite merrily. Now and then- perhaps seeing the absurdity of it all- he breaks into a chuckle. Enters Ngomongo.)
Ngomongo: Don’t you have anything worthwhile to do? Whistling and grinning all the time.
Culvert: It keeps me young, unlike most of us.
Ngomongo: Don’t start with me. Today I am in no mood for your sarcasm.
Culvert: Our biology teacher says that one uses less facial muscles to smile than to frown. This keeps one young, healthy and in constant company of a boyfriend.
Ngomongo: Did the biology teacher also say what happens when a fist connects with the face of an idiotic boy?
Culvert: point taken… Anyway, I was at Dr Mashida Mingi’s place…
Ngomongo: Clowning around while making concoctions for him…
Culvert: … when Mother made an appearance.
Culvert: Yes, Mother.
Ngomongo: In God’s name, what did she want?
Culvert: Help over some drinking issues.
Ngomongo: But she recently joined the Mother’s Guild?
Culvert: She also joined the Medicine man’s Guild, the Politician’s Guild, the Preacher’s, the Market Guild and what other guilds we know not about.
Ngomongo: Heee! Spying on your mother! (Still, she sits down to be fed on the juicy details.)
Culvert: A drinking demon was the issue.
Ngomongo: Father, I am sure.
Culvert: A concoction of dishwater and laundry water was the cure.
Ngomongo: Dishwater! Laundry water!
Culvert: Half of it. Add a TV and the radio for a full cure.
Ngomongo: You mean to say that today we’d have seen the news at our neighbours!
Culvert: (Being a sensible fellow, at any rate, he leaves out the juicer part about the preacher’s Ladies Liberation Nights which Dr Mashida Mingi was eager to replicate.) Luckily, the spirits of Dr Mashida Mingi’s ancestors spoke.
Ngomongo: Spirits! So, they exist after all?
Culvert: (Pinching his nose as he talks.) No TV. No radio. Run to the marriage counsellor at once. (Reverting to his normal self.) And once more, the day is saved by the clown ‘Karavati’. (Ngomongo is left in stitches.)
Ngomongo: I wonder how that girl I saw you talking to will react when I tell her of your role in this episode.
Culvert: That’s none of her business; so leave me and her alone.
Ngomongo: (Feigning shock.) What! He is a medicine man’s apprentice!
Culvert: Well, if you tell her so, I will know that in your house, you are so many that the lastborn is called enough is enough.
Ngomongo: And you are so dark that when you pass near darkness, it says, ‘Mmmh!’
Culvert: And your boyfriend is so hot that when he sweats, he sweats Ribena!
Ngomongo: Well, you have such a big mouth that you eat avocadoes like peanuts.
Culvert: Oh… Your legs are so thin that you wash them in a thermos flask. And what about your ears? They are so big that when you enter a café and they flap, all the cups of coffee turn cold. What about your lips; so big that when you want to say Busia, you say… Brrrusia! (Sensing defeat- something to do with girls being ill at ease whenever their physique is being criticised- Ngomongo starts chasing Culvert all over the house. Still being chased, Culvert enters another room in which Mother is present. He does not notice her, however, and starts tottering around while singing ‘drunkenly’.)
Njohi ũtũire ũĩ
Wĩ mũtongoria wakwa
Amu kĩrabu nĩ gĩakwa
Cia arĩa makundire mbere
Nandingĩhutio nĩ maithori
Ma arĩa ndigire mũciĩ.
Wacuka: (Hysterically.) What! Culvert! You have started to drink! Following in your father’s footsteps… Oh Lord have mercy on me!
Culvert: (Not taking Mother’s hysterics seriously and still tottering around.) It is not drinking. It is only a drinking problem. Very different things… drinking and drinking problems.
Wacuka: Wuuuiii! Mary Mother of Grace! (She crosses herself.) What has descended upon my household? Tomorrow must I go to see the marriage counsellor. It was the parent; now the child too has a drinking problem. It seems as though the iniquities of the fathers have visited the sons! (In enters an inebriated Wanjohi, prompting Wacuka to start cursing him.) What an exemplary example for the children you are! Starting a school of drunkards right in the middle of your home. Drinking 101: when you drink, drink as if there is no tomorrow. Drink until you see the ground shifting haphazardly on your way home. Drink until the roadside ditch appears as a very Slumberland mattress.
Wanjohi: What’s with you woman? Can’t one have a moment of solitude in this house?
Wacuka: A moment of solitude! Good Lord! A moment of solitude when the head of the house comes yelling at the top of his house about the virtues of drinking. Indeed, it is a moment of solitude when the son too has a drinking problem!
Wanjohi: A drinking problem? And which son is this?
Wacuka: (Sarcastically.) This son! Very soon, he will excel his father in his drinking. And what will the whole village think about me?
Wanjohi: (A bit sobered up.) Culvert has a drinking problem? Doesn’t he know that drinking is for adults only? Haa! Let me remove my belt and solve his drinking problem once and for all. (Which he proceeds to do.)
Wacuka: Do you think caning him will do him any good? Unless you yourself you stop drinking, his liquor will be done in hiding. And what will the good neighbours say: Poor Wacuka, her husband is a drunkard and she knows it. What a pity. Her son is a drunkard and she knows it not. What a tragedy! Very soon, I will not have enough face to borrow salt from the neighbours.
Wanjohi: (Approaches his son menacingly.) What is this I hear of a drinking problem?
Culvert: But it is only a drinking problem… dad.
Wanjohi: Well, a problem needs to be solved. (Raises his belt to strike Culvert.)
Culvert: (Shrugging his shoulders in defeat.) Okay. It needs to be solved if it must be solved. If I drink half a litre of wine… (Seeing his father glare, he changes tact.) If I drink half a litre of water, and my friend Robert drinks one and three quarters of a litre of water, how many litres of water we’ll we have drunk altogether?
(The curtain falls.)
*Antony B- Family business
Scene Three: Act One
An agonised Auntie
(Prof. Hellen Irving’s, PhD; marriage counsellor- office is a small affair but with all the trappings of a quite successful shrink. On the mahogany desk is a computer, a telephone and some files. Prominently displayed on the wall is a plaque inscribed the words ‘Prof. Hellen Irving; PhD; UCLA.’ Behind her executive seat are some cabinets. There are also some chairs for patients and visitors. Wacuka has made a visit.)
Wacuka: Good morning.
Prof H: Good morning to you. How can I help you?
Wacuka: Well, I have a problem… or rather, my husband has a problem.
Prof H: I see.
Wacuka: I have tried everything, but nothing seems to work.
Prof H: Including counselling?
Wacuka: No, no, no! Everything but counselling. That’s why I am here.
Prof H: That will be thirty thousand shillings, upfront.
Wacuka: ( A desperate Wacuka grimaces but nevertheless exacts the money from her purse.) Well… here it is.
Prof H: So, what is this problem?
Wacuka: It’s my husband. He drinks too much. Nowadays, he has turned into the village joke.
Prof H: Has he always been drinking?
Wacuka: Now that you mentioned it, he has since I knew him. At first, he would drink occasionally, like around Easter or Christmas; but lately his drinking has progressed beyond measure.
Prof H: and how long have you known him?
Wacuka: I have known him since he was a little boy.
Prof H: was he drinking then?
Wacuka: No, he started drinking while in college.
Prof H: And how long have you been married?
Wacuka: We have been together for seventeen years.
Prof H: And how long did you date before you got married?
Wacuka: If it can be called as such, we dated for around three or four years. That’s when he started drinking. During Christmas or on such similar occasions, he would take me out for dinner or for a picnic. Then, if he had some spare money, he would down a drink or two. At that time, I attributed it to him wanting to gain some Dutch courage to do something daring like to kiss me.
Prof H: When you got married, did he stop drinking?
Wacuka: He was what I hear some people call a social drinker. You see, he was a sales manager and he said that he was required to entertain clients at times. A business lunch or dinner, he would say.
Prof H: Meaning?
Wacuka: That he would drink once or twice a month. Mind you, he didn’t have much money and he needed to further his career, hence he could not afford to drink often.
Prof H: And nowadays I presume he drinks daily.
Wacuka: Yes. And leaves me to mind the family, the family business and the family farm. Very stressful; not to mention the embarrassment he causes his family. If I was a lesser being, I would have committed suicide or turned to alcohol a long time ago. Now and then, though, I contemplate doing precisely that; suicide, liquor or go mental.
Prof H: This daily drinking, when did it start?
Wacuka: Yes, this daily drinking… There was this time when he was sacked from his job and though he was given quite a golden handshake, he didn’t adjust well. Furthermore, I had to support him, myself and two children. Well, I was not going to have it- I got married so that I could be taken care of; period! I was not going to support a lousy bum of a man- that much I stated clearly. Anyway, what kind of a man expects to be fed by his wife? And did ultimatums I gave! Get a job, get out or I get out! Finally, he landed a job as a low placed clerical worker. That’s when the drinking started.
Prof H: What of his father? Did he drink too?
Wacuka: His father passed away when he was little. He was raised by his mother and his grandparents. His grandfather was a drinkard, though.
Prof H: A drinkard?
Wacuka: He drank almost on a daily basis, but you would never see him staggering around or insulting people.
Prof H: I see. What about your husband, is he a drinkard too?
Wacuka: Hee…! A drinkard? You should see him! Sleeping in ditches, urinating on himself, blaring idiotic songs like a radio… (She gets up and imitates Wanjohi.)
Njohi ũtũire ũĩ
Wĩ mũtongoria wakwa
The children are home because of school fees.
Amu kĩrabu nĩ gĩakwa
There is no flour in the house.
Cia arĩa makundire mbere
The land rates have not been paid.
Nandingĩhutio nĩ maithori
Ma arĩa ndigire mũciĩ.
The electricity bill is due… What a shoe of a husband! Bure kabisa! Empty coconut in the head! I think God lent his share of wisdom to King Solomon. He is a hundred per cent certified drunkard. Two hundred per cent even.
Prof H: Indeed there is a problem.
Wacuka: A drinking problem.
Prof H: You have a problem too, as his wife.
Wacuka: A problem? But he is the one doing the drinking! (Aside.) It seems this marriage counsellor has a problem too. She doesn’t know what she is talking about. Perhaps this PhD thing of hers stands for ‘Pengine Hana Degree.’
Prof H: What I mean is that he is an alcoholic addict while you have a problem in communication. You see, there is a link between, the two.
Wacuka: Well, I don’t see.
Prof H: There are some reasons why people abuse alcohol. Some do it to escape daily pressures and stress, some out of boredom and some for the thrill it brings them.
Wacuka: Ati I should not pester him to support his family! If this PhD doesn’t stand for Potential Home Destroyer, then I’d be damned!
Prof H: (Assuming her.) Therefore, one drinks to forget his problems. The drink wears off. The problems are still there. He drinks again; it turns into a cliché… a vicious cycle. As the drinking continues, the body’s tolerance to it increases. This means that if, for example, he took two drinks before he would get drunk, he would need to take three or four drinks to achieve the same effect. The alcohol alters bodily functions until one cannot do without it as the body craves for it. Furthermore, drinking becomes a pattern- a habit. In order to break the habit, you have to create a conducive environment in which the addict realises that he is an addict; a drunkard, not a drinkard, as you put it. From that point is when he can be helped.
Wacuka: And how do I make him realise that he is an alcohol addict in order that he might be helped?
Prof H: As I said, you have to create an environment that is conducive for him to accept himself for what he is: an addict. One, you can start by becoming non-judgemental; place yourself in his shoes, however awkward that might be.
Wacuka: By placing myself in his shoes, you mean that I should start thinking as he does?
Prof H: Yes. You see, there are many things that goes on in the mind of an alcohol addict. There is the denial stage in which he is in shock. “Not me!” He says. “I am a drinkard, not a drunkard!” There is the anger cum isolation stage in which he engages in self-stigma; essentially asking, “Why me?”
Wacuka: Does this mean that a drunkard will go through all these stages?
Prof H: Not necessarily. Some stages will overlap or be absent altogether, depending on an individual. That’s why it is good to convince him to visit a counsellor for professional help.
Wacuka: about the stages.
Prof H: Then comes the bargaining stage. “Maybe… if…” He thinks. “Maybe I wouldn’t have started drinking if my wife understood my predicament.” “If I didn’t lose that job, my wife wouldn’t have been so mad and…” Then the depression stage sets in. “I am useless.” He thinks. “Life is not worthy anymore.” He contemplates suicide. Then, it dawns on him. “Yes, it is me. I am a drunkard, not a drunkard.” Acceptance stage. Management starts from acceptance.
Wacuka: And once he accepts himself, how can I help him to stop drinking?
Prof H: Refer him to a counsellor who will counsel him and refer him to a support group.
Wacuka: A support group? What is it?
Prof H: This is a group of people who are alike in some particular category or status and have accepted themselves for what they are; for example drug addicts. Having gone through the same experience, they are better placed to help and encourage each other to reform. Empathy. In the case of your husband, he can join AA- Alcoholics Anonymous once he accepts himself as an alcoholic in need of help. The whole process is known as rehabilitation.
Wacuka: (Aside.) Have I understood even half of it? I think this PhD thing stands for Permanent Heart Disorder. (Addressing Prof H.) You mentioned something to do with communication.
Prof H: Yes- imperative towards leading someone into the acceptance stage. There is talking to someone and there is communicating to someone- very big difference. I once knew of a friend of a friend who had a very successful marriage. His secret? They were both actors. She –excellent at rhetoric. He- excellent at acting like he was listening.
Wacuka: (Chuckling.) Else, the wife should be dumb and the husband deaf as they say.
Prof H: When you are speaking and you want someone to listen, communication, you should do the following. Relax. Open up. Learn forward. Use eye contact and sit squarely; body articulation. This implies that you are paying attention. Then again, your communication should be CLEAR. In a nut nutshell;
- C- clarity
- E- encourage
- acknowledge/ audible
- R- repeat/reflect
Wacuka: Thank you.
Prof H: One more thing. Remember that the sooner this is done, the better for everyone. You know, alcoholism can lead to death among many other things.
Wacuka: Death? Other things?
Prof H: Stomach ulcers, liver failure, impotence, irresponsible sexual behaviour leading to STIs and HIV infections, brain damage…
Wacuka: Brain damage? (Recalling something.) One beer for the price of three!!!! Special offer!!!… I was coming to that!! I am thinking of opening this church, ‘Drinkers’ Paradise’. It will be located on an upmarket neighbourhood and there on the outside it will feature a large notice: Sale! Sale!! Special offer!!! One beer for the price of three!!!!
Prof H: (Alarmed.) What is it? Are you alright?
Wacuka: (Coming out of the reverie.) It’s nothing. Continue.
Prof H: (Warily.) Well, I’d advise you to implement my advice at once before things get out of hand. Remember, a change of attitude is vital.
Wacuka: Like when we were first married. I’d cut the sukuma wiki to little bits- with lots of love. He’d bring a ‘quarter’ at the end of the day. Nowadfays, I cut the the sukuma wiki into prison bits and he hardly brings even matumbo home.
Prof: I see. You are now getting it.
Wacuka: And I’d… (The rest is acted out as the setting changes to Wacuka’s homestead. Enters a slightly inebriated but coherent Wanjohi.)
Wanjohi: (Grunting.) Good evening. (He makes as if to pass.)
Wacuka: (Stopping him.) Good evening. May I have your coat please? (A shocked Wanjohi permits him to remove the coat from his person.) Have a seat please. (Wanjohi sits down.) Please, may I serve you a glass of water?
Wanjohi: Ye… yes. (He is served with a glass of water.)
Wacuka: Let me prepare your bathing water. (She exits the room.)
Wanjohi: (Soliloquy.) May I have you coat please. Have a seat please. Please, may I serve you with a glass of water? That’s how a good wife ought to be. But not today. There is something fishy fgoing on… something bad about to happen to Wanjohi… dejavu… this might be my last supper… well, I am not waiting to find out what happens next! (A very shaken Wanjohi exits and heads off to his favourite drinking hovel. Wacuka appears and finds him gone.)
Wacuka: Wanjohi? Wanjohi? My dear, where are you? (Realising that he is gone, she starts calling out to the children.) Choppy! Mukiri! Ngomongo! Culvert! (All the children appear on the scene.) Have you seen your father?
Mukiri: I saw him go out of the gate. One more for the road, I guess. (Shrugs his shoulders.)
Choppy: What has he done this time?
Ngomongo: Has he insulted the headman again?
Wacuka: He is alright. It’s just that I wanted to talk to him; and at least he was a little sober.
Choppy: So, what do we do?
Mukiri: I guess we can wait. He always comes back.
Wacuka: Well, didn’t you hear what I said. That I wanted to talk to him and that he was a little sober.
Ngomongo: Okay. We’ll go and fetch him.
Wacuka: Please hurry. I must talk to him when he is sober. (Hurriedly, they exit the stage. In the meantime, Wanjohi has had one for the road –four to be exact- and is already returning home.)
Wanjohi: When the womenfolk start blaming men for all their troubles; trouble is brewing in the land. Big, big trouble. They say that all their troubles begin with we men… menopause… menstrual cramps… mental fatigue… Run brother run, for hell hath no fury as a woman blaming a man for all her troubles. (He collapses in a hopeless heap and where the children come to collect him and take him home.)
Choppy: (In a concerned voice as she tries to pick him up.) Father, are you alright? (Addressing Mukiri.) Don’t just ogle there, help me lift him up. (The children lift him up.)
Wanjohi: Leave me alone… I am a man… I can walk home on my own. ( He takes a step forward and almost falls, though the children are quick to support him. Ngomongo goes through his pockets.)
Choppy: What are you doing? Leave his pockets alone.
Ngomongo: Well, I need the money for the upcoming geography excursion. Mother wouldn’t give me the money.
Choppy: Can’t you at least have some pity? You know how much she struggles to feed us, clothe us, see us through school…
Ngomongo: (Extracting some coins from Wanjohi’s pockets.) Alright, I get your point. (She hands the coins to Choppy to be handed to Wacuka. They exit from the scene. Meanwhile, back at home…)
Wacuka: She said communication was vital. Relax. Lean forward. Sit squarely… No, no, no! Relax. Use eye contact… No, no, no! Relax. Open up… whatever. Well, today I will try to be nice. Today I will communicate. (In the course of which the children, together with their father, makes their entrance. A disappointed Wacuka makes her way to another room. Choppy follows her.)
Choppy: Here. He had a few coins with him. (She hands the coins over.) What is it you wanted to talk to him about?
Wacuka: Nothing. It doesn’t matter now. Go to the kitchen. On the upper right shelf, you will find some milk. Go and give it to him.
Choppy: Should I heat it?
Choppy: Should I add some sugar on it?
Wacuka: No. You know how sugar is not good for your father as he is diabetic.
Choppy: Alright. (She makes her way to the kitchen. There, she finds Mukiri.)
Mukiri: Where did you place the tea leaves container?
Choppy: On the third shelf, I think. By t6he way, can you do me a favour? I need to go to Chebet’s house and borrow a maths textbook. Can you take this glass of milk to your father?
Mukiri: Certainly. It looks cold, though.
Choppy: (Hurriedly as she exits.) It’s alright. Take it to him. And yeah, no sugar.
Mukiri: (He mishears her.) Yeah, some sugar? Alright. (He tastes it.) I better warm it. (Which he does. Enters Ngomongo.)
Ngomongo: There you go again. Dirtying the utensils. I wish you were born a girl so you would know the pain of washing them.
Mukiri: Okay! Okay! I will leave them alone. (He makes as if to exit.)
Ngomongo: And whose milk is that?
Mukiri: Father’s. You can take it to him.
Ngomongo: (Tastes it.) Hmmm, no sugar… Should I add some?
Mukiri: Ummm… I think Choppy mentioned something about sugar. (He exits. Enters Culvert.)
Culvert: I am famished. Pass me the milk.
Ngomongo: You manner-less brat! You only think of yourself! The mind belongs to your father. Here, take it to him.
Culvert: (Tasting it.) Yummy! Though it has no sugar.
Ngomongo: I nearly forgot. Choppy said something about sugar. I think you should add some. (Culvert adds five or so tablespoonful.) Don’t you think that is too much sugar?
Culvert: Who cares? He is too drunk to notice anything. (He exits with the milk. A few seconds later, loud screams and shouts emanating from the living room are heard. Wacuka, Mukiri and Ngomongo rush in to find a screaming Culvert and a convulsing Wanjohi.)
Wacuka: (Hysterical.) What is it? What is wrong? Uuuuiiiii! Help!!
Culvert: I… I think it was the milk.
Wacuka: The milk? Was there sugar in it? (To which Culver nods weakly in the affirmative.) Uuuuiii! They have killed my husband-o! Quick! Let us rush him to the hospital! (Amid more shouts and screams, they exist.)
Scene Three: Act Two
(Wacuka has come across her friend, Wa Mucene, by the wayside.) There is some ululations, hugging and pecking of cheeks- mannerisms peculiar to women friends who have not seen each other for some time, more so when they are members of the Women’s Guild.)
Wacuka: Hee! Long-time no see!
Wa Mucene: Indeed, long-time no see, no hear, no talk! The Lord be praised! (More ululations, jigs, hugging, etc., etc.)
Wacuka: I even though: Perhaps Wa Mucene has left us; such a long time it has been.
Wa Mucene: (Playfully.) Even if I died, my ghost would have come to prod you to attend the funeral. (More laughter, etc.)
Wacuka: How are the children? The better half?
Wa Mucene: Fine, fine. And yours?
Wacuka: The children, fine. The husband, a gone case.
Wa Mucene: He is till drinking?
Wacuka: Only that it has become worse. Doctor of Drinking, he calls himself.
Wa Mucene: I, too, had the same problem with my dear. His folks had spoilt him. It was: spend, spend, daddy will send.
Wacuka: Lucky you. Me, I am at my tether’s end. It is now coffee harvesting season. He will spend a day or two helping us in the shamba in order to justify his getting the bonus money for drink.
Wa Mucene: I feel you, sister. I really do. In my case, I tried everything.
Wacuka: Men of God.
Wa Mucene: Witchdoctors.
Wacuka: Marriage counsellors.
Wa Mucene: Demonstrations against brewers.
Wacuka: Petitions to the president.
Wa Mucene: To no avail.
Wacuka: Totally to no avail.
Wa Mucene: Until I hit upon a master plan…
Wacuka: And he stopped drinking? Enhe, the master plan…
Wa Mucene: It was a coffee harvesting season… (They start to exit the stage.)
Wacuka: Just like this one. A coffee harvesting season…
Wa Mucene: He would need money for drink.
Wacuka: Just like he does. Money for drinks…(The voices trail off. Enters Wanjohi. He is carrying a plastic container. By his actions, we gather that he is in the farm, gathering coffee berries.)
Wanjohi: (Soliloquy) What a waste of time! Harvesting coffee berries while I could be out drinking. But these drinks are not given for free. They do not just pour out of the heavens. They are brewed; and the brewers want money for the drinks. This money, I tell you, it does not grow on trees… Actually, come to think of it, this money grows on trees. Coffee trees. But first, you have to gather the berries, sort them and take them to the factory. What the factory does with them after milling them, me I know not. Anyway, after some time, they do send you money and that is why I like them. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am wasting my time here in order to get some money which equals drinks. (The rest of the family joins him. They gather the berries while talking animatedly till around 2 pm.)
Wacuka: 2 o’clock! Let’s hurry home for lunch. (They exist to go home, though Wanjohi branches off in the opposite direction. Later on in the evening, Wanjohi will arrive home just as the rest of his family is done supping.)
Wanjohi: Good evening to everyone. Where is my supper?
Wacuka: I’ll go get it for you. (She exits. Wanjohi sits at his regular sofa and dozes off. The utensils are cleared and the children head off to sleep. Tonight’s dish was mukimo- a mashed meal made of coked maize, beans, potatoes and pumpkin leaves. Wacuka approaches Wanjohi with a dish of the same. Then, carefully so as not to wake him up, he applies bits of it on Wanjohi’s lips, beard and the front part of the shirt. The next morning, very earlier…)
Wanjohi: Why do I feel so weak today? Oh! I forgot to have supper. Wacuka! Wacuka! (She appears) Where is my supper?
Wacuka: Ululuyaye! Hee! Supper! Didn’t you curse me the whole of last night to heat it up for you?
Wanjohi: Well… I don’t remember eating it. Again, heat it up for me.
Wacuka: Hee! Which part of it don’t you remember? (She goes out and returns with a mirror which she forcefully thrusts in front of Wanjohi’s face.) There! See for yourself. Eating greedily and even forgetting to wipe your mouth. A fine example to the kids you are! (Wanjohi is unable to argue against the evidence.)
Wanjohi: Well, bring me breakfast.
Wacuka: What! My foot! Didn’t you see how much ripened the coffee berries are? We need to harvest them before they dry up; so there is no breakfast and lunch for the whole duration of the coffee harvesting season. That’s final! (The setting changes to that of a coffee farm where they harvest coffee berries until 3 pm then sort them abd take them to the factory- a very weak Wanjohi being part of the group. The whole supper thing goes on for three consecutive days, with Wanjohi getting weaker and weaker. On the third day, an exhausted Wanjohi collapses. He is given first aid and a hot meal prepared for him. When fully recovered, he mutters something to the effect that he has quit drinking.)
(Slowly, the lights are turned on. Wanjohi and his whole family are on the stage. Wanjohi is dressed in an old fashioned suit and is clutching a bible- a church elder. Wacuka is attired in a Mothers Guild uniform. Choppy has a white overcoat on and a stethoscope around her neck. Mukiri is dressed in a kitenge suit and cap, Ngomongo in a power suit and Culvert in jeans and a t-shirt. Everyone is grown up, older.)
Wanjohi: What you have seen, dear friends, is the story of how I stopped drinking. Very many years back. It was tough, but I managed it.
Wacuka: Getting saved and becoming a church elder helped too.
Choppy: As well as turning into a grandfather.
Wanjohi: Of course, the best way to stop drinking is to never start drinking in the first place. Abstinence.
Wacuka: And to learn other ways of relieving stress.
Wanjohi: Well, I managed to stop drinking and now see what a wonderful family I have. However, were it not for my family, especially my dear wife, I wouldn’t have pulled it off. Indeed, it is true that a good wife comes from the Lord. I think she must have truly loved me to put up with me in my drinking years. (Wacuka dusts off an invisible speck of dust from the lapel of his coat.)
Wacuka: None is righteous, so says the scriptures. Everyone has his weakness and strengths but we continue living in God’s loving grace.
Wanjohi: And it behoves us to help each other overcome our weaknesses and enhance our strengths.
Wacuka: Very true. See how our family has been transformed- from the village joke to the village icons.
Wanjohi: My first born, Choppy, a happily married doctor. (Choppy takes a step forward and takes a bow.) and who would have thought that Mukiri (He steps.) would turn out to be a famous author? Already he has published two books, ‘How to Make One Million in One Hour’- though he is still poor, and ‘The Ramblings of a Lunatic’- which as a writer I suspect he may be. (Mukiri bows and steps back.) What about Ngomongo? (She steps forward.) She turned out to be a brimstone and fire lawyer and she has ambitions of becoming a non-tax paying honourable member of the August house; though why it is not called the January Cottage or September Mansion eludes me. (She bows and steps back.) Finally, we have Karavati (Culvert steps in front), a successful businessman. Among others, he is the proud owner of two slaughter houses, five butcheries, six matatus, a hardware shop and a construction company among many other investments which I will not name for fear that you might mug him; but do I say? Yes, it pays to put God above everything.
(The curtains start to fall and the lights to dim. In the background can be heard ‘A True Friend’- softly at first, then gaining momentum.)
Through life’s valleys low
When you are feeling low
When you are about to slow
Yes, I’ll always be about
To carry you high.