I have been searching my brain for his name, but it just won’t come. All I have are vague memories of his face, and receding hairline; my high school’s Games Master. I was in Maranda High School when it was still a provincial school. Before Kenyans east of the Rift Valley knew it existed. Back then, Maranda was just a village cock crowing loudest amongst the broods of Nyapiedho.
There was this one rule that scratched my spine. It was mandatory that once the bell gonged for games at 4pm, the entire school, all 800 plus students, had to run around the field four times. Our games master made sure of it. Now, those 800 plus students who had to run round the field did not include the prefects. Those were excused because they wore red ties while we wore blue ones. They stood at strategic points in the field, watching out for those who slowed down the rest. As for the kawaida students, we who were apparently children of a lesser god, panted around that field. The stampede raised dust to our noses, but we braved this daily torture for four years because our games master said it was exercise.
I remember our games master today for what he once said to us during a morning assembly. It was just before school holidays. He didn’t have to speak. We hadn’t won any games that term, so why should he bother? Yet he had the cahones to tell us that we should not play pool because it is a game for wakora. Ati if he so much as saw anyone standing within a Christian’s hugging distance of a pool table’s shadow over the holidays, he would put their lashing in ice until we opened.
Of course at that time he was referring to students from Bondo, his neighbours. I lived in Kisumu. But I still dreaded being caught playing pool by our games master. The thing is, in Maranda if a teacher promised you a lashing in front of the assembly, be sure that he considered it a debt. And it would not just be a lashing. It would be a panel beating.
Seven years later, I have grown taller, I have grown pubes, and I have broken my front tooth. Kuria wa Gatundu has been known to wear the density of his mind around his neck like a rosary. He takes swings at our foreskin, baptizing all nyikwa Ramogi as kids with a not so well meaning tone. Omera bwana, a Luo initiation involves someone hammering out six of your lower teeth. Mine may be just one chipped tooth, but it is pretty damn close yawa.
Anyway, I have loved playing my first game of pool, and the 1763 that have followed. I am a man now. A goon. I am man enough to defy Mr. Games Master. But he was right. Pool is a game of wakora. Characters in Kinyanjui Kombani’s books get hard on from shooting pool. On that table, people gamble to their last penny. And even then, after losing the last one, they go ahead to lose themselves. You walk into a seedy bar like Wambugus and you will find some pensioner at the table, pissing his money away, sometimes holding onto a cheap maiden; the cheap ones are the ones you have to pay for. She might be in it for just a night, but you can tell that she would have the pensioner’s babies if she could. You can even see her uterus that glow like the Samsung skyline ad at the top of KICC.
Regardless, pool is not defined by the people who play it, but by the reason people play it. And that reason is that it is too addictive. You never get over holding that pool stick. You never get over putting your balls into holes. Even when you know it is bad for you. But then again, those things that are bad for us are the ones that we love best, donge? The sweet taste of sin.
When Samsung gave me this TV, I scrolled through to find what I would do to pass time. Something that would take my mind off things when Mukundi is outside talking to the mama mboga. At times I feel like he goes to gossip about me. To brag about the TV. Someone tell me, how do you say “48-inch Samsung Smart LED TV” in Kikuyu?
Look, don’t laugh; I would probably do the same thing. Why not? If it gets me five nyanyas for 20 bob, I will. I am sure she believes him, given that Mukundi leaves in the morning wearing a suit and comes back in the evening holding its jacket over his shoulder, a loose tie hanging, and one hand in his pocket. I am just the one with a broken tooth who wakes up at 9.30. The jobless one.
Anyway, to pass time I play pool on the telly. It reminds me of those days in campus when we would skip classes to go play. Over a game, we would discuss which room in the boys’ wing that girl wearing a dress with three stiches goes to at night. Shelbies would hit their balls on the table, and say mean stuff, but we all knew that deep down, we all wanted to touch her down deep. Later on, the boring players would spark football banter, and the most annoying ones would bring up politics.
This Saturday (tomorrow) at TRM Food Court from 10am till noon, Samsung peeps have decided that I should meet you (dear reader) for a playoff. The battle field has been set. Now all you have to do is show up and show us what kind of metal you are made of. If it’s not Valyrian steel, ole wako.
Also, they picked the Food Court as the venue; maybe that means that they will buy lunch too. I am not sure. But you should carry packed lunch just in case.
If you are reading this, and you feel like you want this Smart TV, it’s showtime! Get your game on. If you are a form one reading this from Maranda, in between scribbling missives to to some jaber in Lwak Girls, and yet they still make you run around that dusty field, welcome to the grind. But if you are Mr. Games Master reading this aboard Easy Coach from Bondo to Narobi, please remind us your name. And then be reminded that TRM is in Machakos.
[Cover Photo Credit: Wilson House]