That thing he gave us I still remember. Aunt also brought for us one day when she went to Kampala. Uncle Tom found us when we were playing in the bananas plantation. We were doing our search for Nsenene, the grasshopper which often rain in that period of September. We search and pick them from the folded leaves of the bananas, some from the ground. Those staying in the folded leaves stands while their head is facing down, their abdomen detached from their wings hanging loosely below; with their long behind limbs making them to stand firm on the leaves. Occasionally, they use their long limbs against the wing to produce sound, like that of the cricket.
We wanted to tell him the news in rush before we could run back home. Mummy does not want to see us playing with Katumba. She said he got bad manners, he like playing with his male part in front of us. The part mummy said is use for drinking water. And she told us to call it “for drinking water”.
“Katumba, our aunt has come.” I told him from that cool shade where we got him plucking the wings and the legs of nsenene, which was to be fright for super. The wind was passing through the bananas plantation, swaying the leaves happily. Katumba dropped down the saucepan he was putting on his laps while plucking the grasshopper. Kato broke the sweet which look like a small stone with his teeth into two halves and gave one to Katumba.
“Eat.” He told him. They have been good friends in spite of mummy’s restriction on the friendship. Katumba threw the half into his mouth. He opened his mouth, with the lips almost forming a hallow way; as if the sweet was hot. The two lower missing teeth left a path for our eyes which was making us to see how the tongue was rotating inside his mouth. That threw us into a terrible laughter. Kato laughed until his bare abdomen was forming some clear vein toward his umbilical cord, which looks like a lizard.
“It’s sweet like ripe banana,” said Katumba amidst laughter.
“Yes, Aunt Janet said this make children tooth to grow,” said Kato.
Upon those words, Katumba started rubbing the small piece on the gum which was left by his missing teeth, which made us to laugh the more. Katumba went back to his saucepan and plucked the head of one of the nesene with easy and dropped it amongst the one he has already cleaned. Kato and I started running back home, wanted to hurry so that mummy should not realize where we have been.
We ran through the long trail of the banana’s plantation which connected our home with that of Katumba’s. It is belong to Mr. Mukasa the old man. He planted oranges and pawpaw at the side of his plantation and we always steal from his oranges and pawpaw when ours get finish. Mummy never want that practice, we only do it with those of Katumba and Joe when mummy is in the garden digging or busy doing some domestic work.
When we reach home, we found when aunt was telling mummy of the city. At some point mummy could laugh, yet at other she behaves like Katumba or Joe who have seen something strange.
“There are very tall houses,” mummy shrugged. “And there are a lot of businesses down there, big business.” I was just wondering what aunt was talking about. To have very big building somewhere in the city, yet I haven’t seen any in our village of Mukono, its sound like Joe’s dream that his father told him that there is something that can fly in the air by a human being; and that he said the thing always pass over our village but we could not see because of the bananas leaves. And Joe said he is studying to fly that thing. On my way to school I always see the same grass thatched houses just like the one of my mummy.
“Where do people get all those money for the houses and the businesses from?” said mummy.
“People work hard in the city my dear, some of the houses are for government, some private. And how they get them……” aunt looked at me and Kato, as if she was not very happy with her own words.
That morning aunt brought out some metals, the things that she brought from the city for piercing our ears. Mummy had suggested earlier on that our ears should be pierced. But daddy was against piercing of the boys’ ears, that it would make them to look like rouge. And that would make no one to trust them in future. So aunt and mummy pierced my ears, and cut short pieces from the grass of the soft broom and put it in the pierced holes to make it heal and leave the holes open. It was painful, but aunt said when it heals, I will put on the glittering things which will dangle above my shoulders, and that would make me very beautiful. So that made me not to cry a lot.
When Katumba and Joe came, we sneaked to go and steal some pawpaw from Mr. Mukasa’s garden. Mummy and aunt were busy working on their hair and telling stories. The men under the shade were also very busy playing coro, the game which men play on a piece of wood, made with four lines of round holes and each line is having seven to eight of those small round holes where they play in it using special black hard beans from a tree. We ran passed through the plantation; Mr. Mukasa was busy cooking his matoke and dodo in his hut. We love his pawpaw, because it’s red from inside like blood. Though we don’t like the color of blood, his pawpaw is extra sweet. He put snail’s shells tying them with pieces of clothes and vuvera to scare us off. Saying that once we eat his pawpaw; the snail’s shells would enter and twist our stomach. But Katumba is a different child to understand, he doesn’t fear anything. He said before we eat we should first cut a piece and throw it to that snail’s shells tied with the pieces of cloth and the vuvera. He said they also eat, so once they are satisfied they will not twist our stomach anymore.
After getting the pawpaw, we ran back to the back of our hut. In that place, no one could see us. It situated at the road leaving our village to our school, the road aunt said is going up to Kampala. And that is our lovely playing ground. There we sit for hours competing in throwing stones. Some time we fight rivaling over something small. We reconcile from the same place. We dreams from there, of becoming somebody big in the future. Kato one day told us his dream of becoming a president from there. Joe told us of how he is yearning to become a driver of that flying thing from there. Katumba dreamt of becoming a head teacher of our school from there. I too, told them of how I want to become a class mistress who will put on a transparent eyes’ glass just like Miss John our class teacher from the same spot.
Katumba pulled his “for drinking water” thing and wanted to start playing with it in front of us. I threatened him that I would report him to mummy, and that we shall never play with him again if I report him. He stopped it and resorted to using it for urinating.
Uncle Tom came from the road coming from Kampala. He wave at us—beckoning, then we ran into his direction. We were already having in minds what he was going to give us. Katumba would again lick his toothless gum with it sweetness. Joe, though he sometime gets it from home, he would still enjoy. When we reached his car, he pulled the sweets from the black vuvera and gave us. We were very happy and we began opening it immediately. As he was driving forward we kept on running after his car. Aunt, when she came from the city told mummy that Uncle Tom is one of the rich men in the city. That he can now buy the whole village with it content, though when he was going to the city, he was not even having a pan to change into when he washed the one he was putting on, but the business he is doing in the city has made him very rich now. He by-passed the men who were playing coro under the shade. He waved to them, and they waved back to him, cheering after him. We kept on running until he disappeared down the village where we can’t find him. We stood there watching the dust raised by his car; Katumba said the smell produced by the car is very nice he feel like biting posh after it.
When we were coming back from school that day, we kept on moving along the mark left by Uncle Tom’s car tyres. Katumba and I were on the right side, while Joe was on the left side. Kato didn’t come to school that day, he was not feeling very well. Mummy decided to leave him at home and went to the garden to get some ears of maize’s comb. So we were missing his company. That was what we always do, whenever we are coming back from school in the evening. We keep on playing on the road until we reach home. Reaching at the back of our house, Katumba saw something red mixed with the sand.
“It’s blood,” he said.
“No, that is drain from Mr. Mukasa’s pawpaw,” said Joe and we laughed.
“My Mum has cooked chicken today,” I said.
That same spot, our lovely play ground; whenever mummy wants to prepare some chicken soup, she slaughters it from there. She is always wonderful in doing that, she stepped on the wings with one leg then on the legs of the chicken with one, holding the knife with her right hand and the head of the chicken with the left hand. She sliced the neck of the chicken at once then release. Leaving the chicken headless to fly and fall down repeatedly, with the blood jetting from the neck. Kato and I would be standing there watching the chicken struggle headless until the blood in it stop before mummy could take it and submerge it in the hot water which has been boiling waiting for that time. Thinking about the chicken, my appetite rose; and it increased my hunger at once. I increase the speed of go in the house so that I can take some soup which mum might have prepared.
Reaching the compound, I found when many people have gathered. They were everywhere in the compound. Men sat in silent. Women mostly were inside; most of those in the compound were having tears flowing from their eyes. One voice was coming from inside our house in cry. It was a familiar voice to me. I rushed to the door, I wanted to see mummy and ask her why people are everywhere in our compound. But the door was congested with people. I could not access inside of the house. Aunt came and carried me from the door and went with me to the side of the compound, she was crying. I put my fingers into my mouth and could not ask her what has happened. I imagined mummy and daddy are no more, I would trace where Uncle Tom has gone and beg him to take Kato and I with him to the city, for I could not stay without mummy and daddy in this village. Or if I to stay, I would go and beg Mr. Mukasa so that Kato and I stay with him. We shall be having enough to eat from his house, we will not be stealing the pawpaw which looks like blood, we shall just pick and eat. Kato will support that idea of staying with Mr. Mukasa. Then immediately I saw Mr. Mukasa coming to join the crowd. His face look like he was laughing or crying, I couldn’t tell it clearly. He was bent with old age putting one hand on his waist, while leaning toward his walking stick. The posture that Kato quiet often imitate whenever we are playing.
“It is Kato,” aunt said amidst her tears. I looked into her eyes to make her tell me what has happened to Kato, but she bent and her tears were just pouring on me—crying.
“Where is Kato?” I asked aunt.
“The head has gone.”
The head, I thought. What has happen to his head? And why should he accept his head to leave him and go. What is aunt saying now, she should be clear. “Kato’s head has gone” what does this mean?
Then I heard my aunt was whispering amidst the cry; “I wished I had told your father the reason.” She sob, my eyes was filled with water, and I don’t know the reason why I was crying. Perhaps I was crying because aunt is crying. Because she only told me the head of Kato has gone, so there was no need for me to cry, so long as the head will come back. So long as the head will come and fix itself back on his neck, we shall still run in that long trail of the bananas plantation, we shall still meet Joe and Katumba, probably plan to go and steal the pawpaw from Mr. Mukasa’s plantation and eat behind our hut where Katumba love playing with his “for drinking water”, our lovely playing ground. When I opened my eyes, tears dropped down. I saw Joe and Katumba were still standing along the road near our compound; they had not gone home since we came from school. I heard aunt continuing with her cry.
“If only I explained that once the ears are not pierced he would fall a victim of child sacrifice, to boom their business.”
She was saying that when she went to Kampala, she found many sign post which were warning parents to protect their children against the witch who hunt children for the sacrifice. That the witches believe that when a human is sacrificed, a big sum of money will be got to boom a business. I got confused with what aunt was talking about. Then she finally told me that, Kato was actually killed and his head and penis were cut off and taken away to be buried somewhere either in a building foundation or just somewhere, where the head or the penis will make money from. And part of his blood has been put into the spiritual bottle for the same reason. My mind actually shut down after hearing that, no longer working. I was just seeing everybody as a distance mist, or as those birds flying far away trying to catch the nsenene from the air.
For two days, mummy and I didn’t say a word to each other. I wanted to say something so that it breaks the silent. For it was strange to fall into that sudden silent after the lost of Kato. I wanted to tell her that Uncle Tom has been giving us sweet whenever he comes from Kampala, but I didn’t know how to say it. Or should I at least say that we were following the mark of the car tyres of Uncle Tom when we were coming from school? That too, I feel like it couldn’t break that intense silent between me and mummy. We just kept on looking at one another without talking. And when I look outside avoiding her eyes, I always see the chicken that she used to slaughter, especially the one that she slaughtered one of the charismas period. How the chicken, upon mummy cutting it head and taking her foot away from it wings, flew high in the air. The headless flying chicken was amazing, I and Kato laughed at it; while blood was jetting from it cut neck. I was almost laughing at that image again. But when I thought of that same thing, the same knife has come from a hand and has cut off the neck of Kato, just precise from the beginning of his neck. Something came like wind and shocked me. My breath went away, I was sure somebody was squeezing me so that tears could roll from my eyes. When am crying mummy could scream like she is mad, without telling me a word.
That day Joe and Katumba came to me. Since Kato’s head went, I haven’t play with them. I was just with mummy most of the time watching how her tears are rolling down silently without an end. Only when aunt is around that mummy could talk in a low voice.
“Daddy said it was Uncle Tom who did this.” Said Joe.
“I don’t know.” I said.
“He might have given Kato some sweet for buying his head,” said Katumba.
“Dad said police has got him several times doing the same thing, but always he gets away. He told me not to respond once a stranger called me.”
“But Uncle Tom is not a stranger.”
“He is; he does not live in this village anymore, only come to hunt for small penis like yours to be taken to the witch doctor.”
“That is why he is rich?”
“Yes, he deals in children head and penis.” Said Joe.
God knows what the two boys were talking about. I was just there sitting and listening to them. The only thing which was coming into my mind was the picture of mother since the dead of Kato, how she could bend over a bunch of matoke for hours before she could pick one to be peel. Sometimes her mouth shakes as if she was saying something to no one. I counted most of the meals which entered her mouth, and counted them lucky.
“What if he gives us sweet again like last time, should we not enjoy?”
“Ha, you joke, your big toothless head will go and make money for somebody. Even that penis which you always play with, perhaps with all the testacles.”
Their words were unbearable, Katumba always speak just anyhow his six years, Joe is better in his words. Though their words have driven me off, I couldn’t stay with them anymore. I went to the plantation and sat near one cluster of the bananas trees. Here, we played since we were three with Kato; even now that we were already seven years we were still playing, before his head went. We had imagined why bananas give birth from it root, why its fruit does not germinate, and why once it has bear fruit it has to be cut off. Kato had made several wonderful arguments which made us to laugh. I sat there wondering if at all I would see Kato one day, if the money his head would make can be brought to mummy as well. Hearing Katumba and Joe faintly, I started singing a song, which I have never known before. As if the song was brought by Katumba’s and Joe’s words into my mouth.
My brother head has gone to the city
So that it can bring money
It has gone for money
It has gone for business
To boom a business
To make money in the city
Here children’s heads bring money
They boost business
I and mummy didn’t know that children head could bring money
Mummy would have sold one to rid our poverty
“Nakato, don’t cry; my dad will bring some sweet today I will give you some.”
“I no longer eat sweet Joe.”
“Uncle Tom will be caught and killed,” said Katumba.
“I don’t care, that will not bring back Kato.”
The two boys remained silent. The wind too has stopped blowing the bananas leaves. My heart was a public drum, very loud. It can be heard from a very long distance. One nsenene leapt up before it went down again. I remembered that day when Kato and I ran to break the news of aunt Janet’s coming from Kampala. We got when Katumba was plucking the wings of the nsenene. He left it immediately after he was given half of the hard sweet by Kato. And after finishing the sweet, he plucked off the head of nsenene with easy. Could Kato have turned into nsenene that day into Uncle Tom’s hand that the head was taken just with easy? Or he could have turned into that chicken that we enjoyed on Christmas? So children heads in this plantation can be plucked with easy and taken? Oh mummy gets one and……………
“But why are they not stopping this?” said Joe.
I heard Katumba laughing before he could say, “They will stop it one day if people get rich.”
“When is that one day, tomorrow?”
“I don’t know, but one day.”
My worry was now mummy, because she could cry the all day. Daddy from that time have been moving to the city almost every day and I didn’t know why he was going there very often this time round, could he still be looking for Kato. I don’t know. I wish dad could get Kato back again. I wish the lobe of the earth that I threw without looking into the pit with my one hand could bring back his head and bind it back to his neck again. If dad’s frequent going to the city is with the hope of finding him again, that would be very good news for me, even Joe and Katumba will celebrate with me. But when I hears dad speak faintly to mummy, my hope goes away. When I hear sob in the voice of mummy, I also cry. When I hears dad is telling mummy that though they got blood in Uncle Tom’s car and that did not give enough evident I didn’t know what to think. I coiled there on my lonely bed; the space has been left very big by Kato, we have been together from womb as twin; now this space is unbearable. Mummy told daddy to leave everything but dad insisted that he will still go back.
I wanted to open my eyes and I see, but the night was so dark I couldn’t see anything. And it was a long night, I can’t hear anything reasonable in my mind except the sound of Katumba and Joe’s conversation coming too my ears faintly that night. At least they were keeping me stay awake in bed in that night. When morning approached, mummy face was so heavy. My little face can’t carry it. I had to look for the company of Katumba and Joe. Much as their words sometimes make me not very comfortable, at least they give a kind of comfort. Joe in his eight years can talk maturely like adult. That kept me to keep longing for them. As soon as dad left for city that morning I also left home to go and look for Katumba and Joe.
When I got Joe and Katumba, I forgot everything. Immediately Katumba advised us to go and get some pawpaw from Mr. Mukasa plantation. We sneaked. Mr. Mukasa was busy inside his hut; he only greeted us with smoke on top of his hut. Getting one ripe pawpaw, Katumba cut a piece and throw it to the tied snail’s shells with clothes and vuvera. Then we moved deep in the middle of the plantation where bananas leaves couldn’t give way to the sun light to lit the place. It was very dark, yet we love it. We were getting accustom to darkness in our village. When we get a cleared ground, we uncovered the dry bananas leaves which are soft with coldness. We sat down Katumba cut the pawpaw for us. We were eating and giggling. When Joe stood up, we saw his leg was going down in the earth, he pulled it out and he said that we should run. Though I didn’t know why, I started running after him because I always believe in Joe. Katumba was laughing at us.
“Why are you running?” he said.
I stopped and looked at him. “Come and we go, let leave this place, it’s very dark.” Joe didn’t talk, he was just going ahead. Katumba went back, I saw him kneeling down near the place where Joe’s leg was sinking.
“It might be ripe bananas inside.”
He started scooping the soil with his hands throwing it behind. I went back and stood near him watching. Joe stood far away from us. Katumba continued until he saw a sack, that confirmed his thinking that Mr. Mukasa have buried bananas there so that they get ripe. When he scrubbed all the soil from the sack, he removed it at once, expecting to see the yellow bananas. He jumped abruptly to his feet; looking at me I saw his eye balls were dilating, opening wide as if to over look me at once in hurry. Joe came back near me, and then we move toward Katumba together to see what he was seeing, and what was almost putting him off his feet. Without a word, we began running, as if we were thrown to run. We ran, when we stopped somewhere to catch some breath, Katumba said; “he is alive?”
“Yes he is, even Kato was after they have cut off his head.” Said Joe.
“It is true Joe; he was looking at us when I remove the sack.”
“Go and you call him then, let him and we go home;” he started running again. Katumba hesitated, and then started again following me and Joe. That was horrible, more than anything else that I have seen in my lives. I have not seen Kato after they have cut off his head; I don’t know how I would have felt. That boy look like he was alive, his eyes were clearly open and seeing. Dressed in a black suit, he was quiet in his grave watching us silently. The white shirt that he put from inside the coat was gleaming white reflected to the green bananas leaves above him. He was holding his hands on his laps at that lying position. With a very big silver cross coming from his neck, rested on his chest.
“He was seeing,” I whispered as we run. “He was clearly seeing, only that he can’t talk. His voice cannot be heard, now. That child was seeing, but his voice…….” I kept on saying thing which I don’t know as we continued running toward Mr. Mukasa’s hut, we needed somebody to help us out.
“That coat and the cross he is putting on, we can also put on it,” muttered Joe as were running.
“Yes, we can all put on it.” I said, not knowing exactly what I was saying.
“I hope he cried, before he was buried.” Said Joe.
“But no one has heard; they could have helped him.”
“Children voices are small no one can hear. And this place is very dark, we are in darkness of the plantation, no one will ever see this.”
Katumba was very fast, we saw him entering inside Mr. Mukasa’s house. We rushed after him; when we reach the door he was now coming out of the room. He started just another speed, fresh this time.
“Blood in the bottle.” That was the only thing that he saw inside Mr. Mukasa’s hut.
Before we find out what he has said clearly we started running again. We ran, I and Joe kept on giggling at Katumba. We have never seen him frighten like that before. I ran and entered direct into my bed, and started sleeping without telling mummy. That night I dreamt that we were singing a song at school, Kato, Katumba, Joe and I; in front of school pupils about the long trail of bananas plantation in our village.
In darkness of plantation
We can’t be seen
We can’t be felt
We can’t be heard
Our mouth open vaguer
Our tongue weeps vain
Our screams too heavy to climb the wall
It hanged on the wall
Our voice small
Our right for granted
Sheep, goats and children are all better
Are all equal
Sips from the same pool
Dressed in the same coat
We get sacrificed on the same alter
Our throat yearn for the same knife
Our heads plucked with easy
They call cash our head
They boost business
They strengthen building foundation
Our blood purify
Children in the darkness of plantation
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