What if you woke up one morning with a broken arm, a broken rib, and six stitches of some fiber across your heavily bandaged face, and you were in a room you couldn’t see, except it smelled like carbolic acid (excuse my archaic language); you knew that you’ve been badly banged and your body ached generally.
Sure there was a feminine voice in the room, and the voice was saying that you’ll be okay; that you were worse a few days before; that some people she couldn’t talk about in public nearly killed you. “You’ll live, Mr. Okoth,” she says, walking out of the room before you could tell her that you were thirsty. Regardless she couldn’t have heard your mumbled words, and she couldn’t have obeyed your need because you were a Nothing-by-Mouth case.
You walked out a month later with a part of your life left behind. You move on back to your life as the headmaster of Soko Primary School, knowing quite well that a middle-school foe had been behind your ordeal; that the woman you remember having shared beer with; the woman you spent a night with, had been a police bait placed on your alcoholic path by friends of your middle-school foe—a bait that would deliver you to hungry intelligence dogs looking for Mwakenya sympathizers. Don’t worry if you never heard the word Mwakenya. Those who lived through Kenya’s politics in the 1980s know that Mwakenya was an underground movement whose sole agenda was to bring down KANU’s one-party state. You were beaten senseless because someone—your middle-school foe—claimed that you were Mwakenya agent, yet you were not, and you had nowhere to complain.
You, Okoth weren’t that lucky, for a few years later, the same foe now was the chief of your location at a time when Kenyan location chiefs wielded much power and directly answered to the President of the nation. You remained a mere headmaster of a Middle School. You drunk together with your chief, call him Chief Omolo, and the chief could insist that you escorted him home, and you did so because no one ever said no to the chief. Along the way to the chief’s abode, you sampled chang’aa (an illicit brew) and the chief did the buying, and you did the drinking. In fact, he only sniffed the bottles of chang’aa you shared. You felt happy as you ambled your way deeper and deeper into the chief’s village, sampling chang’aa as you went. To an observer, the two of you were just two buddies walking shoulder to shoulder. But you were drunk and he wasn’t, and the chief was up to something sinister.
What if you woke up early dawn on a strange headache, singing in praise of your wife Jane, except you were not in your home? You were two ridges away to the south in the house of some widow left behind by a distant cousin. She had been asleep before you sang, and your strange song ticked her off, and now she was ordering you leave her house before sunrise. In her deal with Chief Omolo, who had delivered you to her, the sun was not supposed to rise with you still in the home in mourning; your mission was supposed to have been so secret that even you, the drunkard, wasn’t supposed to have known that you had been in the home of curses. Now you understood the joke. You knew that the late Otieno died a strange death, a fact that had kept his brothers away from his beautiful widow. Your situation stunk: In your drunken stupor, you had inherited the spiritual burdens in your late cousin’s home. If you were a scholar of the Old Testament, or if you had read Apostle Paul’s Letter to Hebrews, you understood that you had become what the people of faith called the scapegoat—the goat that left the sanctuary with communal sins for an uncertain journey into the wild desert where predators roamed.
To continue . . .)