The kaleidoscope man and other short stories- The paradox of a Rose Tree

Pg 1, 2, 3 n 4

His name is Michael and he dwells deep in the bowel of Kenya’s largest slum, Kibera. He is a handsome man, tall and built like a bear; a reflection of the characteristics that are common of his proud tribe. He is a dark man as expected of a true son of Kenya and mother Africa. But he is a man robbed of both pride and heritage in a country where extreme poverty is juxtaposed with immense wealth, a true paradox of the rose tree. A rose tree which begets the most beautiful and fragrant flower in the world yet posses several sharp thorns. A rose which has the power to bring happiness and peace brought forth by a tree which causes harm and extreme pain. So our land is just like a rose where beauty and happiness mingles freely with misery and poverty. Poverty which follows men like Michael from birth to the indignity of dying poor, friendless and sometimes without family.

Michael was born in a nearby slum popularly known as Korogocho. He was the son of a mother driven to prostitution by abject poverty and a country which offers its people neither help nor pity. She was a mother who was never around and the few times she was, Micheal wished she was far away. The reason was simple and should be obvious by now. For this is a country afflicted not only by destitution but plagued too my illicit brews which turn the poor into useless zombies and end their sad lives on a regular interval. Brews concocted by greedy men who have no regard for the human life but care only to take the few coins possessed by these group of poor Kenyans. People who face this likely death head on, knowing very well what lies ahead but choosing that path rather than the gloom of their meaningless lives.

His education lasted only for five years since free education was not in effect in those days. Days when the Kenyan government was a bunch of thieves trying to act noble in public but pilfering the national wealth with abandon and contempt. A president who was not only incompetent but lacking the humanity to truly address the plight of poor citizens. So education was costly as headmasters emulated the same trend and overcharged parents in order to cater to their lavish lifestyles.  Parents had to struggle to see their children through school if only to offer them a bright future and yank them from this cycle of poverty. But times weren’t accommodating for some students and they had to drop out of school to find their way in this world by themselves. So by the unable hands of their parents and the incompetence and greed of government, Michael found himself traveling in a road that was destined to poverty, hardship and loneliness.

From a tender age he learned to perform hard labor if only to get a few coins to satisfy the hunger in his bowels and quench the thirst of his parched throat. He worked in coffee plantations that were very productive back in those days. Then child labor laws were unheard of and those merchants didn’t care who did the work so long as the profits soared. But best that such laws didn’t exist since most children would have starved or died of malnutrition hadn’t they been accorded the opportunity to fend for themselves. So he toiled late into the night to fill his sacks with the crops of his mother land to profit a few privileged sons while he and many others languished in dens not fit even for animals. In rainy days he didn’t have the privilege of skipping work and sickness and cold became his companion as he worked day and night, drenched by water and driven only by self preservation.

Michael would have joined mungiki if only his tribe made it possible to do so. Yet fate had denied him even such a chance and the only option still open to him was to join one of the lesser power cults. Where he came from ,security was not provided by the state but rather by the many gangs which roamed the neighborhood. Residents had to pay for security whether they wanted to or not or face severe beating and sometimes, death. Intimidation became the tool of enforcement and extortion the medium of payment for such security. So Michael became one of the enforcers regardless of his tender age, a position given to him because of his hardness and immense body strength. The elder enforcers showed him the ropes while desperation opened his mind to learning and closed his heart to empathy.

They showed him how to use the crude weapons which they bore as the tools of torture, intimidation and authority. He learned how to beat peoples senseless without feeling pity or guilt. How to maim those people who would threaten to take over their territory, maim them slowly and purposely. This would be accomplished by crushing their knees or cutting their feet if a bigger message required to be sent. It was not enough that cutting their feet was barbaric enough, it had to be done with a serrated blade to  inflict unbearable pain and deter future aggression. It had to be done in a way that the victim survives to tell his tale, a tale so haunting no one else would dare venture into this territory.

But the hardest part of the job included hurting people he had known all his life. people who had shared the little they had with him when his mother was absent and hunger haunted him like a disturbed unrelenting spirit. People whose crime was poverty, the unwillingness to part with the only coin they had to feed their malnourished children. He avoided the surprise in their eyes when he burst into their humble abode and rained blows and kicks on their emancipated bodies. He closed his heart to the wails of the hurt as strong hands choked the life from their tormented throats. He buried his conscience when they took the little these people had knowing very well that only damnation awaited him for such heinous crimes against the helpless.

In return they gave him a small place to live, a den where the beast could lay his head and wish away the cry of the innocent. It was just one room with a bad lighting and a small bed in the corner. The walls were made of mud and supported with feeble sticks where timber should be. The roof was made of old tin and leaked in some corners where age had taken a toll on it. But for a boy who shares a similar hut with mother and two siblings, this was a personal haven. On top of the house they gave him enough for food and some extra now and then for clothing and other things. Until it was time for him to feel pain, to be a man, he had to experience pain as he had never known before.

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7 responses to “The kaleidoscope man and other short stories- The paradox of a Rose Tree

  1. Very well written Peter. But I’m with Savvy on the ending.
    Remember…
    Put a man on a tree…
    Beat him with stones…
    Bring the man down…
    U’ve accoplished the first two very comprehensively.

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