Confession by the Stream

Kids in Kenya

We used to find the dry chicken shit on the ground, not the fresh stuff, and use it for toothpaste, rub it on the teeth. If you ask Amina, Amina will tell you. I have so many Aminas, but this one had a big heart, even if she was a thief. She and I were how old? Smaller than Kamau is now. Who is that age that you know? I can’t think of anyone, but I was young. I don’t know where we learned to do that. We didn’t eat it, just use it for toothpaste. I was born with very white teeth, but it was those days of using chicken shit that made my teeth what they are today. Amina could steal your dress or a blouse and wear it in front of you. She could rob anyone, a Japanese or European or an African. There is still a Japanese looking for her. She is a drunkard today in Nairobi West, twenty four seven.

Amina’s house had one of the first TV’s in the neighborhood then. When her mother went out one day the brothers decided like doctors to do an operation on the TV to find out how the people got inside from the back of the TV. They took it apart to find the people in there. How did those little people get into the TV from behind and how could they be so small. Everyone was watching to see where the people were, how they could fit in and live there and be so real. The TV was in parts all over the place. We never found the people and the operation never finished. Those boys were beaten like nobody’s business when Amina’s mother came home. They also broke the radio with an operation looking for the voices inside.

I had to clean the house and compound every day even before I started primary school and we had a cat that used to shit in the house and it was my job to clean up after the cat. I was the only child with the same father and my Mother hated me sometimes, not because of what I did, but because I made life difficult for her, like I was extra baggage. Maybe she knew I would be like her when I was older and she hated herself or her life, so she had to hate me in advance. But I love her now in her grave. I love her so much. I think of her every time we pass the roundabout below the cemetery and I know she is looking over me. She used to beat me like it was my fault that my Father took another wife.

I called my cousin over to take care of the cat problem, we were living in Kiambu, and even if it looks like a paradise, it was for me terrible at times, I used to go to my special hiding place down by the river where I could just sit away from everyone and think. My cousin came and I told him to get rid of the cat and he did. He is now in maximum security in Naivasha, I can’t remember what for. I used to know someone to get him out, but now I don’t know anyone anymore. You know his father. What do you call the father of your cousin? He came up to us on the street yesterday and said hello to us.

Children. That’s why they call them children.My Grandfather's Place