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Tout

Hello readers! I have not been a good blogger. I know I say things like that from time to time, when I realise how long it has been since I blogged. It’s not that I don’t have things to blog about, especially since this is a more-or-less anything goes kind of blog, it’s just that I don’t get round to typing it out while the stories are fresh in my mind.

Anyway, now that I’m here, here is a story I wrote months ago:

Tout

He should have left an hour earlier. He never seemed to learn. He was annoyed with himself. He had dilly-dallied in the house until past noon. Now he was going to be late and he may have to push some of the things he had planned to do to his next visit to town. Oh well. Nothing much to be done about that now.

He sat in the matatu- the small Nissan van that was authorised to seat fifteen, including the driver and the tout who called for passengers and collected fare, in five rows of seats. The Nissan may actually have been a Toyota, but for some reason people called them all Nissans. Peculiar Kenyan habit.

The arrangement of seats was the same in most of the matatus: the driver had two pasengers to his left. Behind him, was usually a partition of some sort. Some matatus had speakers installed there, some just had metal rods. This matatu had some sort of board behind the driver’s row. There may have been speakers within that board, but if so, they were not on. The row immediately behind the driver usually sat three passengers – sometimes four when demand for matatus exceeded supply. The tout’s traditional seat was on the third row right next to the vehicle’s sliding door. This seat was separated from the other two seats on its row by a gap that allowed passengers to pass to and from the last two rows. The fourth row was similar to the third.

He sat on the fourth row, moved his fare from his wallet to the more easily accessible shirt pocket, then settled to continue reading the Ruth Rendell mystery he was currently on.

The matatu set off. There were the usual activities – the tout collecting fare from the passengers, row by row, issuing change where necessary, tapping the vehicle to signal the driver to stop to drop or pick passengers and so on. He was engrossed in the novel and was not paying too much attention to the goings-on around him.

Usually, the conductor asks one of the passengers on the second row to collect fare from those at the front. Actually he does not really ask – he simply taps the passenger’s shoulder then points at the front-row passengers. The selected passenger in turn taps the shoulders of the two and they pass the money backwards to him or her. In this case, The board behind the driver’s row made this ritual impossible. The conductor therefore had to lean out of his window and reach towards the front passenger window to ask for fare.

From his seat on the row behind the conductor, G saw the conductor lift his right leg. This curious sight drew him from the mystery world to the real one he was in. Before he fully took in what was happening, he wondered what the conductor was doing – trying to step on a passenger? Oh, he’s just collecting fare. But why has he lifted his leg so high? He first recoiled as he realised what was happening, even as it unfolded, then lunged forward to try and save the tout.

The tout’s left foot that was on the floor of the vehicle lost balance for some reason (a discarded polythene bag, it later turned out). The left foot slid towards the right, making the tout lose balance. The tout’s body was mostly out of the window and this offset made his upper body now lean downwards. In panic, he tried to better grip the area above the door, but his hand was holding money and was therefore not fully available.

G tried to grip the tout’s leg, but gravity won and the tout fell out of the window and onto the tarmac. Inertia carried him forward, which was both a good and a bad thing. It was good because it saved his arm from being run over by the back wheel of the matatu, but it was bad to have one’s face and body scraping on the tarmac.

The driver stopped the vehicle almost immediately. The shouts and screams from the passengers reduced as they got out of the vehicle and cautiously looked at the tout, who was still lying on the road.

G didn’t look much, not wanting to see grisly scenes that would stick in his mind for long. In fact, he stood there for a few moments, looking at the backs of the small crowd that was standing around the injured man and debating what to do, just so that he would not seem callous if he just walked away immediately. After what he considered a respectable time, he walked back to the nearest bus stop to wait for another matatu.

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Glossary:
Show – In this case, The Nairobi International Trade Fair. It used to be called the Nairobi Show.
Bodaboda – motorbikes that carry passengers usually short distances – up to maybe 6 kilometres


The chaos started just as the matatu (public service van) slowed down at the stop, even before it actually stopped. The motorbike guys, upon seeing me with a child, immediately started offering to take us to “Show ndani.” (into the Show) There were also some guys selling balloons.
No, No, I said making my way past them, but encountering many more motorbike guys.
“Do you have a helmet?” I asked.
“Yes. ”
“How many?”
“One.”
“No thanks.”
I looked at the many motorbikes there and did not see any with two helmets.
Just the same morning, my wife had told me how a colleague of hers encountered an accident. There was a motorbike rider and his passenger. The motorbike rider had been wearing a helmet, while his passenger had not. The motorbike was nursing a leg injury. The passenger was not nursing anything, chiefly because his head had split open.

One rider followed us and made his offer as well.
“Do you have a helmet?”
“Yes”
“How many?”
“One.”
Moja aje na tuko watatu?” (How do you have one and there’s three of us?)
“Helmet ni wewe ndio utavaa mtoi hatavaa na ni hapa tu.
(It’s you who will wear the helmet, not the child and we are going just here.)
Later, I wondered if that guy has a child.
I told him to bring his bike, since it seemed no one had more than one helmet.
When he arrived, I gave the helmet to Amor, told the rider to go slowly and off we went. We arrived without incident and the rider set us down at a place near a sign saying ‘No Bodabodas beyond this point.’

There were VERY MANY people around, a good number of whom were pupils in school uniform. It turned out we still had a bit of a walk to reach the gates.
Again, predictably, there were guys selling things for children – mainly balloons and shades.
“Buy this one that matches what she is wearing”
The balloons were those long ones that had been blown and twisted and had a loop. A number of the sellers placed the balloons on Amor’s head. I firmly refused to buy. I asked Amor if she wanted any of those things and she said no.
I bought two bottles of water, though.
At various points, we passed groups of the uniformed pupils forming lines and holding hands. I remembered what my wife had told me, that when they were young and used to go to the show, they would be told to hold hands or they would get lost.
I told Amor, “If you get lost, or if I get lost,” (I added this because it’s a matter of perspective, isn’t it?), “don’t start looking for me. Just stay where you are until I come find you. Do you hear?”
“Yes”
“What did I say?”
“If I get lost and you get lost, I don’t start looking for you. I just stay where I am until you come find me.”
“Good. Because if you start looking for me and I start looking for you, you may be going like this,” (I moved one hand in a semi-circle) “and I am going like that,” (I moved my other hand in a semi-circle away from the first hand) “and we don’t find each other.
I will go back to the places we have been until I find you.”

We queued for a security check and queued again for tickets, but both queues moved pretty quickly. Ticket prices were 300/- for adult and 250/- for a child. Then we were in.

ShowTicket
Almost immediately, Amor asked me “Wapi pahali pa kucheza?” (Where are the places for playing?)
I decided that since we were late (it was maybe a few minutes to 2:00 p.m.) we should start with the fun fair, so that if we run out of time, at least we will have done that.
So off we went to try and locate the places for playing.

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Riding Blind

This story is based on actual events.
====
Here in Kenya, we drive on the left side of the road. My cousin Donald (is that his real name? Ask yourself) rides a motorcycle. Being a relatively young man, he sometimes goes rather fast. He wears a helmet, as indeed he should.

One fine afternoon, Donald was going about his business, riding from place to place. He put on a cheap dust mask over his mouth and nose, so that even when riding fast, the wind coming in under his helmet’s visor would not make breathing a problem. He then donned his helmet, got onto his bike and rode off. He joined Karen Road and kept to the leftmost side of the road, to allow the cars that were behind him to pass him easily if they so wished.

He increased his speed to 50 km/h, enjoying the sound and feel of the relatively new bike. 61 km/h. A BMW X6 passed him. “Who’s got the keys to my Biemer?” he sang to himself.
In his side mirror, Donald could see at least two other cars behind him. He rode on.
77 km/h.
Suddenly, the wind that had been blowing under the helmet’s visor blew the dust mask that was covering Donald’s mouth and nose, and moved the mask over Donald’s eyes. Donald could now only see the white of the mask. The speed of the bike was no longer something pleasant.
This is how people die! Donald thought.

Many hours of riding kicked in. Donald slowed the motorbike down somewhat, as he heard a probably annoyed driver hooting as he drove past. He imagined that if he let go with one hand, the bike would veer to the side still holding.
Donald slowed down further and felt a vicious bump as the motorbike hit a pothole. He was momentarily lifted off his seat, but he maintained his grip on the handlebars and tried to keep the bike straight. Gravity put him back on his seat.
There should be a ditch to my left, he thought, further slowing down.
But maybe there is a pedestrian!
What speed was he doing now? 60 km/h? No need to waste brain power calculating. There were serious things at stake.
Another car passed him, this time only sounding a warning horn, implying that he was keeping the bike on a relatively straight path. Good.
Another bump. This time not as bad as the first.
Donald turned the bike gently off the road, hoping not to feel and hear the bike ploughing into some hapless pedestrian.
Fortunately, there were no screams and no feel of soft flesh under the bike. Instead, Donald was thrown forwards as the bike’s front wheel sank into the ditch. He fell and heard the bike’s engine go silent.
He quickly removed his helmet and pulled down the offending dust mask. He had fallen about a metre ahead of the bike, which was lying safely off the road.
Donald took a  few moments to perform a quick check of his body. All seemed okay, save for a slight ache on his arm and what felt like minor bruises. The only pedestrian nearby was a young man on the other side of the road, who looked at him with mild curiosity as he walked on.

Donald got up, went to his bike, found it still functional and started wheeling it along the road, vowing to never use such a dust mask again.

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The company car was going to leave him. That would mean a mile’s walk to the place where he could get public transport.

“I’m right behind you!” he said to his colleagues who were taking the lift from the fourth floor and going to get into the car. He shut down his laptop and made a beeline for the stairs. He pulled out his phone to call his wife.

Open window at stairs landing

Open window at stairs landing

Three stairs down, he stepped on a shoelace and tripped. His phone flew out of the window at the landing. He followed.

He reached the ground before his colleagues after all.

100 words

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These are my submissions for Friday Fictioneers that is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.
You can read about Friday Fictioneers at the end of this post.
Join us.

Below is the picture prompt for this week and below that is my story.
Picture copyright Claire Fuller

Busted
Genre: Paranormal

Picture copyright Claire Fuller

Picture copyright Claire Fuller

Friday January 13 2012
Jane asked “Who moved this statue?”
“Not me, mum!” said Jill. “I’m off to school. See ya!”
“You mean the statue whose head you say is aging?” said John “I didn’t move it”
“Don’t be sarcastic.”

April 13
“I’m sure this wasn’t here yesterday.”
Jill looked at her mother and refrained from rolling her eyes.
John, looking over the newspaper, gave his wife a look.
“Don’t even say a word!” she said.

July 13th before dawn
Jane opened her eyes and found the statue next to her bed.
The now much older statue suddenly grinned.
—-
99 words

You can read pieces by other participants here.

Below is the picture prompt for 25th Jan and below that is my story.
Picture copyright Renee Heath
—–
Black Spot
Genre: General Fiction

Picture copyright Renee Heath

Picture copyright Renee Heath

Why don’t we ever sit under that coconut tree?
My grandfather fell silent, then said:
Like many fathers, I had great hopes and dreams for our first child. I myself still had dreams of traveling the seas. One day, your grandma asked me to look after our son as she went to the market. I carried him to the beach and we lay under that tree.
The sound of a passing ship brought me to my feet. I gazed at the kind of ship I hoped to sail with one day.
The wind blew, a coconut fell, my dreams died.

100 words

I read all your comments and I appreciate them, even if I take long to respond and even if I do not respond to each comment individually.

Comments
Last week at the time I think the prompt from our Great Leader went live, I was in the labour ward delighted at the safe delivery of our son Giovanni. You can read about him on my new blog http://theGioChronicles.wordpress.com (Link opens in new window/tab).

About Friday Fictioneers
Friday Fictioneers is a group that works as follows:
Every week you get a picture.
Prompted by that picture, you write a piece of fiction that is 100 words long (or as close as you can get).
You add a link to your story on the Fictioneers page, and read the (awesome) stories by the other Friday Fictioneers.

Feel free to join us! Everyone is welcome.

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