He was a familiar sight amongst the villagers of Makutano, present on Main Street all day, every day. No one knew where he came from. But he was as there as an overlong incisor, chiefly because of his raincoat. Oversized and long, with a slit starting just below his buttocks all the way down to his ankles, it was greyish and had huge patches of yellow, blue and green. It earned him the name Mtu wa Koti. He seemed a walking rainbow amongst the villagers.
Every day, he sang for the children on their way to school and made sure they crossed the main road safely. And for all the things he did, including telling them stories they had never heard before, the children furnished their parents with stories of the stories he told them and the songs he taught them. Makutano had flourished on diversity. Its name meant ‘meeting point,’ as it lay at the junction of the two roads that led to Sokomoko and Karuganga villages. It had remained small, with just a pharmacy and a general goods store, for decades until people from far and wide moved in, one by one, and made a village of it. Makutano became a home for everyone.
Until that one day when Chief Kadiri held a baraza. Three children had been killed in suspicious circumstances in Karuganga. They had last been seen on their way back from school with a tall stranger, light-skinned, slim. Only one person fit that description in the village. So Chief Kadiri decreed Mtu wa Koti a persona non grata. The villagers’ reaction was swift and precise. They walked to his shack—a plain wooden structure with rusted mabati— and demolished it, one plank at a time, poking at his possessions before securing petrol for them. Because Mtu wa Koti was not around, no harm came to him, but there was no guessing what could have happened. So it was not a surprise that Mtu wa Koti disappeared. He got the message.
But a month later, the killer of the three children was arrested in his hideout in Sokomoko village. Makutano villagers decided to look for Mtu wa Koti. They even sent someone to the city, but their long incisor was gone. Soon enough, the villagers simply forgot about him.
One evening during the maize harvest season, just after the villagers had downed their dinners, news spread that Mtu wa Koti had been found dead on Main Street. The chief confirmed it. The priest of the local Catholic church confirmed it. So the villagers prepared to bury him. His funeral was solemn. A stranger arrived. This stranger stood out in his crisp, dark blue suit.
“My name is Peter Lugano. I am Mtu wa Koti’s lawyer. His real name is Joseph Lukaku. He was a teacher.”
Lukaku, the villagers learned, had run away from his village, Marisho, after being involved in an accident. A school bus, carrying forty-five children, was headed to Nairobi for a school tour when it veered off the road and hit a tree before rolling a number of times. Lukaku alone survived. He woke up in the hospital to the news from his lawyer that he had been sacked. Marisho villagers had denounced him for witchcraft for surviving their children’s deaths.
Makutano villagers stood in the open with arms on their breasts that cloudy Saturday. And when the church junior choir started singing, it started raining, as the villagers lowered their guilt into his grave.
Nduta Waweru (@beenduta) is a writer and a poet. She is currently a features writer at Nairobi-based newspaper The Star, and an editor at Lesleigh Kenya. She is one of the 2014 Storymoja fellows. Some of her stories have been published on Storymoja, Kalahari Review, Up Magazine. Her poetry have also been featured on the Koroga Project. She attended the 2014 Writivism workshop in Nairobi, and was mentored by Richard Ali.Follow @JaladaAfrica