I would never have noticed it. I never noticed much. I lacked attention to detail. That was, of course, only when something did not mean much to me, was not expected to affect me, or, I, meant to interact with it. I simply let it be, let it pass, or let it slip through my fingers.
After I had done whatever it was I do not remember I was doing, I sat down, in the grass, besides my grandmother, Mary. With me on her left, and her on my right. We were seated beside a tall, thick, red hibiscus flower tree that she had planted many years ago and lived to adore so much. It provided the necessary shade – which we needed. We were entirely engrossed in plucking fresh groundnuts from a pile of her latest harvest. I always derived satisfaction from helping her weary self with whatever it was that she was doing. She needed it. I did it for her wise words, tales, jokes, and proverbs as my payment even thought, often, she invariably thought that her money was a preferred method of communication. She had endlessly repeated that a mere thank you cannot enter someone’s pocket.
Annette and Mummy had literally taken over the kitchen. Mum had lit a fire I between one set of the three stones – the bio-gas powered stove had run out of gas – and proceeded to prepare lunch. The time was somewhat ten or eleven hours of the clock – in the morning.
Annette had turned the katandaro – a local dish rack, made of logs of wood or bamboo shoots and well designed to lay on four erected poles – into her base, or rather zone. She quietly welcomed every dirty and clean cup, plate, piece of cutlery, and saucepan, calmly cleaned it, and patiently put it up to drip and eventually dry before she could wipe and keep them.
Angel and Gloria – our house help – attacked the family cum farm house, with brooms, from both the front and back doors to dust, sweep, and mop it. It was the 24th day of December, 2014, and we had just arrived in Rwanyanshando, from Mbarara. Like on all other days before this, nothing could really go on in the spirit of Christmas with a good cleaning both in and around the house, a good eating of a heavy traditional meal, and a good finishing of all notable chores still remaining to be completed before the 25th day of December.
After not so long, I saw Angel standing outside the house, and looking rather quite petrified. Not only was she motionless, she was speechless too. As a concerned brother, I walked up to her and asked her what had befallen a passionate person of her kind.
“There is a snake in the house.”
The words could not come out; either of her lungs, or head. They simply dropped out of her mouth, without any conviction whatsoever. An enormous amount of fear had taken over her. She could not even take me through the presumably excruciatingly painful details.
Also, it was surprising news. I could not understand how we had a snake for a guest. The compound had been mowed and there were people living in the house. It was strange that we shared the dame house with quite a peculiar thing.
I was, are, and will never be a fan of snakes. Even a recent visit to a Nairobi snake park which kept all tribes of snakes could not help anyone as fearful of them as me to properly get acquainted.
Since neither my frail Granny, nor my very religious and, as a matter of course, superstitious Mother, nor two fearful Sisters and an equally frozen house help could not do much, I had to forget all my personal fright and grow some more balls. I was the only man. I had to be it. I had to grow up. I had to man up.
Amidst both a ‘sitani’ and ‘yesu’ from Mum, and a “get a strong cane and kill it” from my Grandmother, and through the ‘go on’ faces that my Sisters portrayed, I gathered just enough courage to enter the house after I had been told that the snake had turned a corner in my bedroom into its home.
“Where is it?” with cane in firm hand, I asked, through a shaky voice.
“It is in that corner. The corner on the left of your headboard.” Angel, following behind, answered.
Having taken out all suitcases and beddings to breathe in the lawn, I jumped onto the bed, got into position, and started striking. I had to strike fast. I had to hit hard. Lest it would enter a hole it had made in the skirting of the floor. Lest it would not be dead as fast as we were all praying.
“Eh! It is ‘enchwera’ – a spitting cobra. And the damn thing is grown!” my grandmother, never short of something to say about anything, had appeared at the door and got started.
“Stop it! Stop talking! I bellowed out. “Let me do what I can or you will be the one to kill it!” I had to help her vamoose. The fear in me had built up.
It was not the first snake I had killed. Almost every time we travelled back to our ancestral home, I killed one. I dreamt about them by night, and killed them by day. I was fast turning into a killer. It was not an experience I fancied. I wanted to get done with it. I hit as fast and as hard as I could.
It was grey. It was thick. It was strong. It was long. When I hit its tail, its long stretch of a stomach bulged. I hit that too. I was relentless. I kept hitting. It kept moving, bulging, and breathing. However much I hit, I could not find the most important part – the head.
“Angel!” I almost cried out. “Bring me the rake.” I had opted to pull out a head which had poked into a hole it fit so well.
“Bring me the rake.” I repeated, loudly, like she had not heard me the first time I said it.
And, when she did hand it over to me, I pulled both crushed and living parts. I put all my poor fifty-five kilograms behind the rake. I put all my thought into that fight. I put everything into it. Everyone would be relieved if I succeeded. And that, I intended to be.
Snake came out of his or her hole – I was, are, will not be big on their sexes – raging and angry at me. It put up a fight of its own. It came with its head up, but not high enough to reach me. It came with its mouth wide, but not wide enough to engulf me. It came spitting, but not aimed well enough to towards me.
My champion was a dry and hard, long log of wood. It helped put up an equally good fight. I met it halfway and fought hard too. Thankfully, it was not like a rat which, when being sought, misbehaves by darting all over the place.
When the head was down and out, I did not spare a moment to decipher whether the rest of its body had died out too. I jumbled it on the rake while on my way through the lawn and in the depth of the pit latrine. It was a higgledy-piggledy affair.
I did not even listen to my Mother when I heard her say “throw it to the pit, to the pit latrine”.
The bloody fear had, with haste, moved both the unwanted and I there already.