A pictory is a picture and a story speaking of and from each other. That is how Ngartia Bryan and Kimani Wanadaka chose to define this exciting project that basically involves Ngartia (a writer/poet) interpreting Kimani’s (a photographer) images in his own way and then writing a 100-word flash fiction story thereafter. If in deed a picture is worth a thousand words, then this collection of 10 pictories has a lot to say. So listen close.
1. Renovated History
We have been coming here, one day before our anniversary, for eight years. It’s simple and fun, part of small traditions we’ve formed to mark our milestones.
I take her into my arms, and then climb slowly, with her tickling me and joking about her weight. The staring strangers have never mattered. We sit at the top, stare at her wheelchair resting at the bottom, and reflect on our journey from the day I found her unable to access the second floor lecture hall and offered to help.
Today we came expecting the same, only to find that a swanky ramp has replaced the stairs.
2. Honeyed Memories
Those two months after dad’s second stroke paralyzed him, we’d sit him by where he could see the farm, and then mum would feed him small spoonfuls of honey – the one thing he hadn’t lost a taste of.
Later on I would have to clean the floor because her hands kept shaking with emotion and spilling it as she updated him on the latest church gossip, family issues and neighbourhood news.
After he died, mum avoided that section of the house like it never existed, but, up to date , on random afternoons, I inexplicably find the floor sticky with honey drippings.
Njeru tried supporting himself against the wall, but slid to join his ambitions on the floor.
He had wanted to go to America after watching his first Hollywood movieaged six. He was going to Dubai. It wasn’t America, but was still overseas.
When the agency confirmed, he withdrew and sent all his 5,000 shillings worth of savings, got a haircut and borrowed his brother’s clothes.
They said his passport would be ready by the following Wednesday. So at 8:00 he was looking for the address the pleasant voice had given him over the phone; 2nd floor, door number 18.
The address had led him to a small package locker at the end of a long corridor.
4. Like Smoke in the Wind
As he sat, he assured me that he was not a beggar.
“I thought I’d be alone.”
It was at the Nairobi Arboretum, I was waiting for a model. I shrugged and indulged him when he sparked a conversation.
He’d just returned from Israel where he’d allegedly met government officials and convinced them to stop the inhumane treatment of Palestine.
“Do you know why Mossad is so good?”
He lit up a blunt and went on to ask me if I knew the passage in the Bible about Jesus coming like a thief…
It was 15 minutes after he had excused himself to go meet emissaries from Syria that I noticed my bag, containing my laptop and camera, was also gone.
If in deed a picture is worth a thousand words, then this collection of 10 pictories has a lot to say. So listen close
If in deed a picture is worth a thousand words, then this collection of 10 pictories has a lot to say.
5. Two Feet Away
The sound was an odd combination of thump and a chink – flesh giving way to the sharp steel and bone resisting. Over and over. It is the last memory I have of my uncle. When they were done with him, they dragged his wife from under the bed and pinned her on top of the table as she screamed for mercy in their own language… then for God to help her.
God was deaf on 20-January-2008.
I cried silently, curled inside the cupboard, hoping they wouldn’t burn the house after. Not knowing that the memory of two feet moving with thrusts and grunts would haunt me from that morning – choking me every time the word Mungiki got mentioned.
6. Beautiful Enough
“Calm down Wambui”
She repeated that to herself every minute of the 43 that he kept her waiting. The restaurant was open air – she had let him choose it, to make sure he was comfortable – but the sun on her skin didn’t help with the goose bumps and slight shivers that took over every time a man walked through the entrance.
Could that be him?
When the text came, she had been checking her make-up on her phone, wondering if she looked pretty enough for him to stay.
“I got held up. Can we do this some other time?”
Cold. Dry. Emotionless.
She remembered how her mother had wept as she burnt his pictures 20 years before and deleted his number.
7. Highway Endings
Every time he takes a turn into this section of the highway, he remembers the look she gave him before saying, “You know, the first time I saw you, I thought you were the adventurous kind.”
It was just after he had coaxed her out of a club’s dance floor because he needed to sleep. Minutes later, as they drove home, she had unzipped his pants, pulled his dick out and tried to kill them both by putting it in her mouth. The shock made him pull over.
As he caught his breath, she straightened up, started reapplying her makeup and whispered, “You should have rolled the windows down and accelerated.”
She left him the next day.
8. Following the Current
Years ago, before the new bridge was installed, the river flooded in the rainy season – freezing all activity that required accessing the other bank. The only form of crossing was a submerged log that would often disappear under the furious brown depths.
Only Kaimenyi dared to cross it.
He would swagger over, reeking of alcohol and glare with disgust at the helpless folks sitting on the banks then proceed to teeter, knee deep, over the log.
People did consider following him. They would have, had he not, in one of his countless crossings, slipped halfway through, balanced on one foot for an uncertain second, before plunging into the depths and going over the waterfall, all waving limbs and screams.
9. Building Relationships
At 17, my daughter brought her boyfriend to the office – a lanky lad with scruffy hair, a tattoo peeping out of his tee’s sleeve and an air of delinquent adventure. He looked like a series of heartbreaks waiting to be activated.
His hot chocolate arrived before the water Naomi had gone to fetch me, but he was distracted by the bulldozers my drivers were parking outside the window.
“Do you like them?”
“I love them… Sir.” He replied.
I strode closer and sighed heavily.
“Imagine what one of those could do to the home of a young man who hurt your daughter.”
He stared on silently till his girlfriend came back 15 minutes later. Then they left – his hot chocolate still steaming untouched.
10. Blue Ball
At the beginning, she had taken the black 8-ball and placed it on the counter.
“What game is this?”
“Whoever bags all their balls first wins. We don’t need the uncertainty of the last one.”
I shrugged and picked my cue-stick. The game was a bet; it would end up with sex. Or not.
She was a pro. By the time her last green positioned itself, in such a way that the slightest nudge from any side would hole it, I was sweating. I took my final one shot and held my breath as I watched my blue number 2 roll over slowly, almost leisurely, stopping at the edge. My girlfriend’s face fell.
I was screwed.