Two men and one woman

“Where is he?” “Gone to his family,” she said, licking her lips. “I thought you were . . . ” “Thought we were what? “Forever.” “Nothing like that. But he is mine all the same.” “Ah?” he gasped. “Shut up!" She ordered and rose and left but he didn’t know that she hadn’t gone out of the shed completely. He followed and found her crouching in the eaves. He invited her in to select one bream from the fish before his customers trekked in. “It is not about the fish,” she said. “Come here instead, Sando” she pleaded and he wondered why she regarded him in some kind of awe when its him who should worship her. He crawled to where she was on the earth-bank because the eaves’ roof was short. They sat there together. “I had a child and a husband and a happy life and this place was going,” she whispered. “Then lightning struck.” She closed her eyes and shivered and he could hear the crack of thunder and the blinding lighting. He saw everything clearly and he felt his soul retreat into its shell like on old tortoise. Then he heard her again from far off like the sound of a little van negotiating up the slope under the weight of sacks, tied goats, suitcases and people: “Mari. This Mari of ours. Now he always came here to commiserate and I asked him to stay once for a while. Sometimes he stayed for a week in a stretch. And you came, just like that, from nowhere. Sando. And I knew you would come. The three of us here together, do you hate it? Do you? Then he felt like he always felt when he got to a funeral ‘ a kind of elation. She gathered her skirt and went to the house and he felt bad. He thought he should have said something to her. Then he saw Mari emerge from behind a baobab tree. Had Mari heard? They did not greet. Mari quietly walked into the house and he and Kubika were in there together for a very long time and Sando wondered what they did in there. “I found them here,” Sando finally surmised and he knew that he had attained a certain notch in his understanding of them and everything. He got down to work on his fish and the village folks came, one after the other, to buy. Then one night Kubika and Mari came to sit with him in the shed. They told stories in the firelight until Sando felt dizzy with sleep. He wished he had a fish to roast for them. Later he wished they could just leave him alone and go to sleep in the corrugated house but he did not know how to say that. Subsequently he wished he had a bottle of the fast-brew from beyond the river so that he could drink with them in order to go on and on. Then Kubika burst out, “Mari you are dosing! If you want to sleep, go in now and sleep. Are you ill? Go in there, I say.” Mari rose without reluctance and crossed the yard and climbed the steps into the house. “Why?” Sando asked, all his sleep gone. “Why?” Instead, she said, “Tonight I am accompanying you down to the river.” They rose and went. But midway he knew it was wrong to go out to the nets and other traps with her. He stopped and said, “Why don’t we go back?” “Why?” she asked. “I want to show you something else.” He did not know what he meant. They trooped back. “You know, I am very sleepy and weak tonight. I have never felt like this in a long while,” he said when they came to the shed. He spread out his mat, rekindled his fire and lay down. He felt bitter that Kubika and Mari had taken much of his time already and had disturbed his routine. “How can you?” She said looking at his eagle spread laid body. “Are we not going down to the river?” He only laughed. In the morning, Mari, with only shorts and a vest on, found them lying deep in sleep in the shed. He only gasped, span and backed off. He climbed back into the house and was in these a long time. When he descended, he was in his heavy jacket and carried a small suitcase. He went past the shed, in their full view and went into the morning mist. But after a week he was back, saying that there was a big row in his village and that he wanted a break from it all. He went up the steps, lit a matchstick and brightened the house. After a very long while Kubika and Sando saw the light go out. He had blown off the lamp. They let him be. That night Kubika and Sando sat in the shed, twittering, eating fish and telling stories. They even went into a singing competition. Very early in the morning they went down to the river and fetched some fish. When they returned they found Mari sitting on the steps. “Do you want some fish to take to your family?” Mari only nodded. “But I am still around here,” he said, much later, smiling even. And he stuck around but avoided Sando’s shed, only happy that in the afternoons Kubika went to take a nap in the main-house. Mari would follow her in there and chat excitedly and laugh with her. Sando did not mind. He took this as opportunity to mend his nets and smoke his cigar by a wide rock outcrop near the baobab tree. Soon night would come. It went for months in that fashion. And the newspaper people came from nowhere, pretending to talk about the crops and the rivers! They put up a poor show. There was not much happening here. When the headman brought the paper and read out the story and interpreted to them, they were clearly amazed. They broke up – each to his and her thoughts ‘ only for a while. There was the corrugated house for Kubika and Mari and the shed full of smoke, fire and fish for Sando, his customers and Kubika.

May 2006
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