It’s around mid-day and I am at home. I am alone because the sorghum plants in our farm are the size of small child crawling and so mother is at the shamba weeding. Reki, my brother, is not here either because he went to a place called Dubai. Dubai, my mother tells me, is far far away. Further than Nairobi and one climbs into an airplane so that they can reach there. I have never been to Nairobi, but I have seen an airplane on the pictures that Reki sends mother, and I think mother doesn’t like airplanes because mother pulls her mouth like an angry person whenever Reki sends her photos like those. I would have told him to stop sending mother those pictures but he has never come back. I hope that he will come back.
I would have loved to go and help mother to weed but she says that I am small. This makes me angry because I am big and she calls me baby. Baby do this and baby eat that and baby come and sit on my lap. I don’t like it. I liked it when she called me Dedee. Proper name. Like a big person. But Reki left and she says that since my brother has gone, I am her only child. That gives her the right to call me baby. So she leaves me at home and tells me;
“Baby, please look after the chicken. Give them food”
“And lock the gate, don’t go away”
“If you don’t lock the gate they are going to steal you. Do you want to be stolen from your mother?” She says almost to herself but I still say;
We only have one hen. She is called Sunny. Mother was referring to her as ‘Chicken’ because Sunny hatched just the other day and mother still acts as if Sunny has chicks. But Sunny is a very stupid hen. She is very stupid because she does not know how to take care of her chicks and now they are all gone. Taken away by the hawk. The hawk is a very big bird and it looks like a vulture. It is always hovering above us in the sky. Even now it is there; waiting for Sunny to hatch more chicks for it to take away. I pity Sunny because she still clucks as if calling for her chicks to come and eat. She clucks and clucks and clucks and when her chicks do not come, she climbs on top of her small poultry house and clucks and clucks and looks up in the sky as if waiting for the hawk to bring back her chicks.
I am going back into the house to bring left over ugali for Sunny when the gate opens. I forgot to lock it. I am scared because Wanja walks right in, smiling and holding a heap of rags that she cuddles like a baby. Wanja does not smell nicely. She smells like the bad egg that Sunny had slept on for weeks and it did not hatch. She is wearing a torn American T-Shirt and a dirty Fuji Film lesso and she does not wear any shoes. Mother says that she is mad. Her head is not correct.
“Mother is not in.” I say, hoping that she will go away. She sits on the bench outside where Reki used to sit and chew sugarcane after coming from the shamba.
“You look like my child,” Wanja says and massages her swollen stomach.
“Yes.”I say although I have never seen her children. Mother was telling me the other day how Wanja is mad and she keeps getting pregnant and giving birth and her people taking her babies away, and getting pregnant again and giving birth and her people taking her babies away, and how she cries every time as if she would be able to raise her babies with the garbage that she eats.
“Come and see my child.” She says and points to the bundle of rags that she is cuddling like a baby. I don’t move.
“Come and say hallo to your sister.” She says and scratches herself here and there. I am scared, for real.
“See that boy; he is your elder brother. Wave at your brother so that he will take you with him when he goes to school tomorrow.” She is now talking to her bundle of rags and helping the ‘baby’ to wave at me.
“What is her name?” I ask, still standing by our door.
“She is called Hope.” She says and smiles and her eyes are happy.
“If I give you to hold her, will you return her to me so that I can suckle her?”She asks. I think she is scared because her eyes are pleading. I don’t want to hold her bundle of rags, they do not smell nicely.
“Let us give her tea. Does she drink tea?” I ask.
“Tea is for me, Hope just suckles and suckles and sleeps all the time.” She says and massages her swollen stomach. I go into the house and come back with tea and the leftover ugali.
“I am putting Hope down, please don’t take her away from me” She says and puts her bundle down and takes the tea and ugali and starts to eat.
All this time, Sunny has been standing on top of her house while clucking and clucking and looking at the sky expecting the hawk to bring back her chicks. On seeing the ugali, she comes down and waits for when Wanja drops a fluff of ugali and uses her beak to break the small ugali into many tiny pieces and calls for her babies to come and eat but she is stupid because the hawk took her chicks away and they cannot come back. So she clucks and clucks and clucks and waits for her chicks to come but they do not. Wanja stops eating and stares at Sunny.
“This hen’s chicks are not coming to eat” She says and looks at me.
“They are not here.” I say.
“Where are they?”
“The hawk took them away.” I say and she looks down at Sunny and shakes her head.
“To where?” She says and puts the ugali on the bench.
“I don’t know. Mother says that Sunny could not take care of the chicks, so the hawk took them away?” I say.
“Who told the hawk that the hen cannot take care of her chicks?”
“I don’t know.”
I don’t know what happens. All of a sudden Wanja starts wriggling this way and that way and screaming and screaming and screaming. I can tell whatever makes her wriggle this way and that way is painful. One minute she is putting her hands to her waist, and the next she is picking her bundle of rags and the next she is putting it down and screaming and putting her hands on her waist. The other one she is holding her stomach and the one after the other one she is picking her bundle of rags and screaming and telling it to suckle. Sunny stops looking for ugali fluffs and stares and Wanja continues to wriggle and scream and I am scared. Very scared.
I run to the shamba. Mother is still weeding.
“What is it?”
“Come” I am panting and scared and mother does not ask questions and she follows me.
We arrive when Wanja has removed her Chicago Bulls underwear and she is still screaming and shouting and shouting and saying;
“Bastards, during the day they say that I am smelling, at night they rape me.”
Mother on seeing this, tells her to push and;
“Baby, bring a lesso from my bedroom” I rush.
And bring me water to wash my hands”. She shouts after telling Wanja to draw in air.
“Bring me my phone” She says after I have given her the lesso.
“Stupiiiid peeeeooople; they say I smell but they take my babies from meeeeee… Oh my Goooood!” Wanja is shouting after me as I rush to bring mother her phone.
Mother is kneeling between Wanja’s legs and she does not feel Wanja’s smell. She tells her to push and push. Wanja screams and screams and screams and by the time I come back Wanja is smiling and crying and mother is holding a baby and she is crying and when I give mother the phone, Wanja shouts and says;
“Please don’t” And mother says to me;
“Bring me scissors. They are in the drawer where we keep Reki’s Certificates. “I run and come back and she cuts the long rope that connects the baby to the mother and she gives Wanja the baby and Wanja look sat mother and says amid tears;
“Our secret?” And mother thinks for a while.
“Our secret.” Mother says and they hold their arms and look into each other’s eyes.
“What do we call her?” Mother asks
“Her name is Hope.” Wanja says and smiles.
“Dedee, bring firewood, we are going to make food for Mama Hope and baby.” Mother say sand I realize that she did not call me baby and I am, hoping that Hope will stay with us so that mother will stop calling me baby.
Sunny looks at us confused and I wish the hawk would bring her chicks back.