By The River

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The phone was ringing, that he was sure of. What he wasn’t sure of was if it was his phone. He could hear it from afar, like it was ringing from 1987. Like it was ringing behind walls and beyond time and a yawning chasm. And it was ringing incessantly, unabatingly, like a wailing baby startled awake by the oppressive afternoon heat, and now wants to be lifted from the cot. But then as he rose from the bed of semi-consciousness, he realised that the phone was ringing in the very room he occupied, and that it was his phone. He groggily turned his head towards the lit screen on the dresser and reached for it in the darkness. 

Truecaller said it was his mother-in-law. It was 3am and he was at a lodging and he was still high.

I don’t suppose you know where Rongo is. It’s in Migori County. This is irrelevant information to this story, but their official football team is Sony Sugar FC. I don’t know how they perform in the league, but then I also don’t know if Bata Bullets still play. These are mundane questions we can always explore when we have more time on our hands. Anyway, Rongo is a typical small town in the country. There are goats and hawkers and men who have leaned their bicycles against walls and trees and are gathered around a newspaper guy who gives a very false and skewed political review. There is a bus station where buses emit hoots from their bellies and manambas chew sugarcane while talking loudly. Cows chew cud under the tree shades. I have never been, I’m just imagining all these because I suppose it’s something like my own shags. 

He was in the lodging because he and some friends had travelled to Rongo to attend a church Harambee earlier. They were three chaps who you wouldn’t normally see in a church choir or a church committee. You wouldn’t refer to them as Brother Mike or Brother Timothy. These are men who never left the streets. Luos call it “Pap.” After the Harambee they had gone to a local club/ pub and mowed down a few bottles of whisky and finally retired to their rooms. 

His mother-in-law never called him. They didn’t have that kind of relationship. Where he comes from, you don’t fantasise about your mother-in-law. You don’t engage her too much, you give her a wide berth. So when he saw her call he rose up on his elbow and wondered if it was a butt-dial. But still, your mother-in-law butt dialing you at 3am? There must have been trouble. 

So he cleared the sleep off his throat and answered in a voice that sounded like one who attended a church Harambee the previous day. 

“Joseph?”  

“Yes mum,” he could smell the whisky in his breath.

“This is Mama Miriam,” she said. “Sorry to call you this late, but Miriam went into labour and was rushed into the theatre.”

Mirian was his wife. They were pregnant but she wasn’t due for another month or so. She lived in Nairobi and he lived and worked in Kakamega. He came to Nairobi as often as possible. It was a long-distance marriage which often is the type of marriage that lasts longer because then you don’t waste time fighting about why one of your socks is in the blender. 

“Is she okay?” He was now sitting up in bed, his heart hammering. 

“Yes, you are the father of twin boys. Miriam is also fine. God be praised.” 

“That’s good news.”

“You have to come to Nairobi tomorrow.” She said.

He hung up and lay in the small stiff bed. He could smell the curtain from his bed. It smelled like hooves. He couldn’t go back to sleep. He stared at the ceiling, waiting for dawn to pack it up and leave for Kakamega. He could hear the things that one hears in a lodging; doors opening and slamming, laughter muffled by walls, a dog barking outside in the distance, someone dragging something across the corridor, maybe a carcass, maybe a bad decision. A drunken lady shouting at an open door, “By the way,  huwezi nipeleka mahali, Dan! Nyasachiel, huwezi!” 

At 7am he knocked on his pals’ doors and woke them. It’s hard to wake up people who are hungover and so they didn’t set off until 9am. An hour later they stopped to grab something to eat at a small town called Oyugis. There are a lot of bananas in Oyugis, and a lot of manambas chewing sugarcane and speaking loudly. And cows chewing cud under trees. Two hours later they set off towards Kisumu. The roads are now great. 

“I was very full from the lunch and coupled with the fact that I had barely slept, I was feeling quite sleepy.” Joseph—not his real name—said. When they got to Ahero, just before the bridge under which the indomitable River Nyando flows, unable to fend off sleep anymore, he nodded off. For anyone who has nodded off behind the wheel, it’s hard to tell how long exactly your eyes were closed for. Normally, although it feels like a minute, it’s actually a second or so. When your eyes close, the car invariably becomes an uncontrollable weapon. Or a moving coffin. 

A loud bang woke him up with a start. “The first thing I saw was a man from a motorbike flying over the car as if in slow motion,” Joseph said. The man disappeared over the roof and when he looked in the rearview mirror he could see him, legs flailing, arms flailing, shoes flying, dropping like a stone. He could also hear someone screaming, a collection of gasps in the car, people running towards the man, some standing shocked, mouths agog, frozen in O shapes, more pointing with looks of horror. He brought the car to a stop immediately. They all turned in their seats to look behind. “My heart was pounding so loudly I could taste it in my mouth.” 

Suddenly a group of men started charging at the car. You haven’t been to Ahero. Like all small-town centres, it’s boisterous and loud, with mostly fairly tall or well-built men who won’t shy away from confrontation. In those necks of the woods it only takes someone to say, “Onge bwana! Ongee!” then shit quickly hits the fan. An angry mob started approaching the car. They were shouting. “One of my friends said, ‘they are going to burn us in this car, drive! So I drove out of there fast. We drove to Kisumu in stony silence, wide awake. There, I reported it to the police station.” The cops called Ahero and they were informed that the guy had died on the spot. 

It’s amazing how you can close your eyes for one second, open them and find that your whole world has shifted. Now he had someone’s blood on his hands.  He had killed someone. Also, he wasn’t supposed to be driving that car to a goddamn Harambee in Rongo because it was a company car, so if it got to the bosses he would be jobless. He sat on a bench at the police station and wondered what would befall him. His friends, who were also shaken, tried to console him. They said, “It was an accident, it could happen to anyone.” The first thing they did was fix the car at a garage. Turns out the man he had killed was in his mid-20s, a boda rider. He lived with his mom and sister. When he hit him he had just started his shift because he worked until 10pm. 

“I sent my brother and my uncle to find the mother of the guy we had hit. They found her and had a meeting with her, and the deceased’s uncles. They told them that I was very sorry, that it was an accident and that we were requesting to settle this out of court. We offered them 200K.” The deceased’s uncles said that wouldn’t cut it. 

The file had been transferred to Ahero and the wheels of justice started moving. Unbeknownst to him, a policeman who took over the case was also talking to the family of the deceased. He told them that the man who killed their son had “a lot of money” and they should clean him out. He would require a small portion of that amount, you know, for his trouble. The family refused to consider an out-of-court settlement. They wanted to go to court. The hearing started, but the family would miss court appearances. One day the cop told Joseph,  “Listen, for 100K this case will disappear.” 

“I was young and very scared. I knew nothing of traffic laws. I thought I’d be thrown in jail and die there. So I parted with the money to save my skin.” He says. 

The case died. He wasn’t fired from work. He continued with his life, a father of twins.

A few months after the incident, the freak accidents started. First, he was driving his own car that he had just collected from the garage. Out of nowhere, a boda guy avoiding a pickup ran straight into him. Another time not long after that particular accident, he was driving when suddenly, another car blindly joined the main road. He collided with that car, whiplashing his neck so badly, it felt like it would snap from the impact. Another time, a Nissan rammed into him from behind. Then there was the time he was riding his motorbike and a car veered off his side and aimed for him, nearly hitting him, forcing him to ride off the road, crashing into a swamp. He was thrown clear off the bike,  but luckily, the swamp broke his fall. He sat up in the swamp and thought, this is not normal. 

So he spoke to one of his friends. He told him about all these accidents he was getting into. He told him about how a few months before he had hit the man in Ahero, he had ferried his colleague’s body from the morgue in Kericho to his shags in Vihiga in the back of a pickup. His colleague had died from a road accident. His leg and back had snapped like a twig. He drove on for hours, his colleague’s body moving about in the back, just the two of them. 

The guy said, there is a bad fate following you. “He told me that as Luhya culture dictates, the relatives of the colleague who died should have given me a chicken upon delivery of the body. I was to release that chicken on the roadside to avoid the spirit of the dead colleague following me. But I didn’t. I didn’t because they never gave me any chicken and because of that the spirit of the man had followed me and was still following me all over. I know it sounds wild, but my life up to that point was pretty wild…all these weird mishaps. It was like evil was stalking me.” Then he remembered something. “Did I also tell you that I learned later that the father of the young man I ran over at Ahero was also run over at the exact same spot a year or so before? At the exact same spot the son died by being hit by a car, his father had also suffered the same shit. Freaky shit was just happening, man. I just knew it was not normal. They should have given me the chicken.”

So he went to his deceased colleague’s family in Vihiga. He met his deceased colleague’s father. They sat under a tree on makuti chairs. He told him they forgot to give him the chicken that he was owed. He said, wait here and left the boma. His colleague came from a humble home, just a small house with a small kitchen out back. A few farm animals. The father came back with two wizened wazees. They asked him questions. They listened keenly. One had heavy hooded eyes, like Derrick, the 80s TV detective. The other looked as grave as a priest who reads last rites. He never interrupted him as Derrick did, just stared at him like you would look at your X-ray results. When he was done with his narration of how his life had gone topsy turvy with accidents, Derrick said, sure, they owed him a chicken and they were sorry it wasn’t given to him earlier. A chicken was brought, it was a normal brown chicken. Its legs were tied. They bade him goodbye and good luck and at the main road he untied the chicken’s legs and released it. The chicken was confused, but as he drove away he saw it pecking the ground for food. 

He had also been advised to go to a river in the exact same clothes he was wearing when he had collected his colleague’s body from the morgue. He was to take a bath and abandon the clothes at the river bank. So that evening—when the sun was going down—he went to River Misikhu and changed into those clothesbeige khaki pants, a white shirt and black canvas shoesthen he bathed. He then left them there at the riverbank. 

The accidents stopped. No pick-ups rammed into him from behind anymore. No bodaboda guys blind sided him. He didn’t fall off his motorbike anymore or get hit from behind by a lorry. Death stopped stalking him. “For ten years I didn’t experience any accident but I never stopped thinking about that man I hit because as fate would have it, his death coincided with my sons’ birthdays. You see the irony here, every year that I celebrate their birthday I also remember the death of that man.” 

Of course he also saw a pastor soon after the event, after the river and chicken, because the guilt was drowning him. He was prayed for. He asked for forgiveness. He continued asking for forgiveness. He also asked for forgiveness to the family of the man he ran over. He gave them a token, some money, through emissaries, even though the case had been snuffled. He also picked the Bible after that and has been reading it committedly. “I like the story of David the most,” he says. “He did many horrible things, sending a man to die at  war so he could steal his wife who he had impregnated. I mean, God forgave him, yes, but when Prophet Nathan confronted David, God lifted the sin from David but brought calamities to the house of David. Look at what befell his son, Solomon, he was never really settled in family life; all those concubines and wives. David tried to undo God’s curse with prayer and fasting but still the calamities hounded him.  Initially, I wondered if my sons would pay for what happened in Ahero, but then again in the New Testament, Jesus died for all our sins and gave us a clean slate. Also, I have come to accept that it was an accident. I didn’t plan to run over anyone that day. I’m at peace.” 

He says, “Things that happen in our lives can be strange and confusing. Some are coincidences and some are engineered in heaven or by men’s hands on earth. We have to stay vigilant in spiritual warfare and always pray for God’s guidance.”

 

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69 Comments
    1. You wait… Biko will announce the reward one day… 🙂 In fact, I aim to comment as the 1st person for an entire month… uninterrupted … 2022 goals… 😉

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  1. One of my relatives is in this vicious cycle of accidents that can’t explained…..an ongoing court case for a deceased kid from an accident…the family refused an out-of-court settlement. The kid was from western…

    Since that accident, it has been a series of traffic misfortunes and car breakdowns. Maybe the spirits following him.

    Hope he gets a break from the accidents…of course the kid’s family would never give him a chicken….

    Drive safely everyone. Don’t drive when drunk.

    Cheers!

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  2. I love these kind of random stories, they are so interesting and intense.

    And also Biko was the wife’s name Miriam or Mirian? The little things always catch my attention lol

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  3. How Joseph* chose to proceed back to kakamega as opposed to Nairobi to celebrate his new fatherhood status baffles me… Haunting!

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  4. It’s always good to hear the other side of the story because when its a hit and run we imagine the worst of the driver. Thank you for sharing your story Sir. The God of all comfort be God to you always!

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  5. Wueeh! Must be harrowing indeed – don’t think that memory of a dying man in your rear view mirror ever leaves your mind. And a mob baying for your blood. Unfortunately, the only sane thing to do is driving off.
    A good time to remind you not to drive and drive good people.

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  6. For a moment, I thought the whole ‘chicken saga’ was just some creative anecdote Biko just wrote to spice up the storo. Kumbe it was this guy’s reality? I felt for him – the accidents and accompanying guilt. But then again, isn’t it just wonderful that he has and continues to go through the motions of healing by clinching tighter and exploring his faith? Beautiful story. I love it!

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  7. I have enjoyed reading today’s post, must be because my Home town Rongo is featured and yes Biko, you got the descriptions right.
    Also there’s no better way to emphasize the closure ” We have to stay vigilant in spiritual warfare and always pray for God’s guidance”.

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  8. Dude ignore MIL phonecall that’s whom he should have appeased not getting chicken from some already pooi people yaye.
    Am glad the torments went away.
    You can’t make this stuff up!!

  9. Eeh! Biko! If I say impeccable piece of work, I don’t think that will be the right decorum. But anyways. Today I’m late to comment but I’m sure I’ll be among the top three when you announce the deserved! Haha. See you next Tuesday. Cheers

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  10. What a story! Why didn’t he go straight to Nairobi?
    Glad he found God, John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
    Psalms 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
    Also I haven’t heard the word manamba in a minute

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  11. We have to stay vigilant in spiritual warfare and always pray for God’s guidance….Everything is spiritual….And how is the vegetables diet taking you…

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  12. Everyday I fight with the idea of existence or inexistence of such spirits…., What if all the freak accidents were just a coincidence;

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  13. Good read!
    I only second guess the sincerity of forgiveness and the sudden end of calamities due to the rites. Why would one go for rites then find it in their hearts of hearts to ask for God’s solace and forgiveness yet they did not start off with God?

  14. “Curtains that smelled like hooves”….hahaha.

    This is a tough story, but completely believable.
    Everything that occurs (good or bad) in the physical realm is a manifestation of something that was ordered/arranged in the Spiritual realm.
    I’ve come to understand that ghosts, ghouls, demons, jinnis..basically bad malevolent spirits are by God’s law disallowed on this earth realm. Just as it takes a human being to invite them, it takes a human being to expel them. Jesus Christ coming in flesh, being crucified, shedding His blood.. has given mankind the authority to expel these spirits through His name.
    The bodaboda’s death at the same spot and same way his father died is not a coincidence. Someone possibly cursed him, and that curse can be broken through what Christ accomplished on the cross, and in His name.
    I also don’t think the spirits of the dead follow people. These are familiar spirits that masquerade as the spirits of the deceased, and pretend they are avenging the deaths and come to cause accidents and so forth.
    Spiritual warfare is no longer optional. It is obligatory, simply because the dark side doesn’t give up. So one has to constantly be on the offensive.
    I wish that churches taught spiritual warfare often, because it is an area largely ignored in churches. So people are still being oppressed yet Jesus Christ finished His work over 2000yrs ago.
    I found these books helpful in understanding the Spiritual realm.
    “Spiritual warfare” by Richard Ing
    Books on warfare by Win Worley
    “Prepare for war” by Rebecca Brown
    “Dangerous prayers from the courts of heaven that destroy evil altars” by Dr Francis Myers.

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    1. Oh the power of our African Spirituality!! Understanding that we are spirit beings having a human experience and the spiritual connotation behind each act brings about a freedom that’s very much needed among our people. Cheers Biko to more of such.

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  15. Biko!!!
    A beautiful read it is. Pole to the man. Sometimes life throws you a cocktail of issues and you gotta deal with them best way you know how. He needs to know that people have altars speaking in their lives. The Ahero dude had an altar speaking in his life and he died in the same way as the dad moat probably Family or Foreign altar. Our guy here was just used to accomplish the altar’s mission.

    This read has got me wondering how my Kuyopean culture and hubby’s Luopean culture deal with incidents like this. I must find out!

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  16. I had heard tales about abandoning chicken by the roadside but didn’t believe it happens! Anyway I don’t believe it is what stopped all those nightmares. These are just mere superstitions. But what a waste. I would personally have taken the chicken home and turned it into stew and then see what happens!
    Interesting read though! Very interesting. But he should have gone to Nairobi – as opposed to Kakamega – as advised by his mother-in-law or as they sometimes like to say these days; mother-in-love!
    What if this was fiction? I can only imagine what a turn it might have taken ——after going to River Misikhu in the very same clothes to bathe in the river ..,,,,,,,,

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  17. What an interesting read! Indeed we have to stay vigilant in spiritual warfare and always pray for God’s guidance. Thank you for the post Biko. Beautifully written as usual.

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  18. A great read, with the usual Biko suspense and some hilarious curve balls thrown into the story – ati Derrick from old time TV, and the guy who looked like he reads last rites :-). Lovely ending, yes we need to always stay vigilant and pray unceasingly for God’s guidance in our lives. Looking forward to another great read next week

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  19. Captivating story. Good job biko. To those who reduce this forum to a mere “number 1 to comment”
    Muende sesame Street sasa. Munaboo

  20. Hey Biko, back to the guesthouse scene, what did Dan do? or he had ate and forgot to pay?

    This story hit close home. Calamities can follow you back to back until you’re left wondering if it’s your rightful potion. He did well sharing with that friend.

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  21. Funny enough I dropped by my neighbor’s on my way home this evening and happened on a Bible Study, the topic was spiritual warfare from the book of Ezekiel and the story of dry bones in a valley.

  22. Only the Blood Of Jesus breaks the curse of death and speaks better things than that of Cain and Abel.ONLY THE BLOOD OF JESUS

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  23. I always think about our cultural beliefs and wonder whether it’s all psychological. Yet I often feel that some things only have explanations in those beliefs we threw away and can only be handled in the spiritual realm.

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  24. ‘It was a long-distance marriage which often is the type of marriage that lasts longer because then you don’t waste time fighting about why one of your socks is in the blender.” this one cracked me up.

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    1. familiarity brings contempt they said. when you think about it critically, the other way round makes more sense though. You want her attention every now and then so that she does not get snatched by the round-the-corner neighbor. There is no winning clearly, you got to just wing it at times and hope for the best

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  25. Never have I ever not enjoyed reading a piece from here. The stories here are all brilliant works of art, addressing intricate topics like Spirituality, in a manner that is nothing short of perfect.
    Hope to one day tell stories in such a manner.

  26. Manifestations, we are energy magnets. Whatever you believe and think of so much, you attract into your life. Now the rites just took off the thoughts of guilt and changed his energy. May he find peace.

  27. Been a while since I was on here.
    You sound different. Your voice is different.
    Love the story though.
    But I rushed through it guess because you sound different. Almost like you another person.

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  28. It is said,”ignore the spiritual realm at your own peril”. It is real,more real than the physical; the latter was made from the former. I don’t think this guy would be alive had he not sought for a solution.

  29. Oh yeah Biko, Bata Bullets is still playing and is now called Nyasa Big Bullets. Spiritual warfare is real and we have to be vigilant indeed.

  30. Well, this is absolutely hilarious! It is evident that our cultural beliefs run deep. Anyways,it is understandable.
    Sometimes we need to be set free.

  31. This reminds me Last year 2021, I was driving towards Awasi at Ahero junction, I hit aboda boda guy with two appilion passengers… one of them rolled over on the tarmac suffered some slight injuries but none of them lost his life. I have been driving for over 10years accident free, never had an accident not even hitting a dog on the road. we had just a new car barely two months old. I came to learn that the young man that suffered the injuries had lost his dad at the exact same spot a few months earlier. The corrupt officers at Ahero tried those tricks one but we were lucky or perhaps wiser. They told the victims to demand kshs 250,000 as compensation even after catering for his medical bills. I got advice to go to Court and was fined Kshs 20,000. I was free after that but the calamities didn’t stop, a month later my brother was hit by a motorcyclist just after the vehicle left the garage luckily there were no injuries. I lost my savings because of the case and ever since that accident I have been financially unlucky whenever I am about to seal a deal with a client everything goes south and I am constantly broke however much hard work I put in place, I am constantly on debts even at the moment I can’t comfortable pay school fees for my daughter… A streak of bad luck has followed never mind it was an accident. Any advise anyone ???0715568806

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  32. Things that happen in our lives can be strange and confusing. Some are coincidences and some are engineered in heaven or by men’s hands on earth. We have to stay vigilant in spiritual warfare and always pray for God’s guidance …

  33. When I was young I thought life was plain simple;Now am old and I have realized there is the unknown part,the spiritual realm which we hardly control.This makes life super complex.To each their own we can practice spirituality the best way we know.