Kantae is a Maasai boy. Kantae can tie a tie. If Kantae can tie a tie why can’t I tie a tie like Kantae?
-Basic African tongue twister
‘What are you waiting for? Go on. Tie your shoelaces!’ The inspector was starting to get annoyed. If this wasn’t the highest form of defiance, then what was? Chris had just stood there not moving yet this was the third time in a row that the Inspector was repeating himself. To Chris, however, the Inspector had just opened a can of worms. The trauma he had so far kept at bay was brought back with only one order: Tie your shoelaces…
Chris stood there panting. The Inspector thought that he was doing this out of anger. He raised his arm so as to put him in his place. As he lowered it, Sandra caught it midway. She had been his guardian. She had helped him start afresh in a whole new town. They didn’t have much but her savings saw them through. They had enrolled in the labor unit used in maintaining the railway. She said something to the Inspector and the Inspector left them. Chris was still panting and sweat had formed on his forehead. Sandra took him by the arm and sat him down by the roadside. The railway could wait; This was more important. She stood opposite him and squatted. Had it been any other day, her descending upon him would amount to indescribable pleasure. This time she was only going down to tie his shoelaces. She always did it slowly, just like the other thing, the only difference was that she would recite the Kantae tongue twister as she did it. Chris would join her midway and by the time they got to the end of it, his racing heart would have stabilized and he would have calmed down. Today was no different. He kissed her on the forehead.
‘What would I do without you?’
‘Tie your shoelaces!’ The order had been given. Chris had heard of this many times but now he was to go through it. He had had the same feeling during his circumcision but that wasn’t life or death. This was. Actually, there was no life. Only death. They had been marched from the police jeep deep into some forest. It would seem that they were the only humans for miles; That was appropriate. No speeches would be given for it was clear to everyone why they had been brought here. They all shook in fear. None of us is really afraid of death until it stares us in the face. It didn’t help when they were assured of painlessness. Chris regretted not having listened to his mum. She had been poor, yes, and weak but at least her way would not have had him lie lifeless in some godforsaken forest.
They were all made to kneel in a line. Their blindfolds were removed, the purpose of which had not been clear. Two askaris with AK47s stood behind them. The mahabusus were 5 or was it 6; Chris wasn’t sure. Quorum is not the last thing you want to think about, believe me! Corporal Sylvester told the first guy to stand up. Reluctantly, he stood. His hands were untied and he was told to go a little bit forward; Which he did.
‘Now, tie your shoelaces!’ Chris remembered very well how he met this fellow. He had borrowed a lot of money from the local kingpin to pay off his gambling debts. Since he couldn’t pay the guy back, he had to sell drugs on the streets as payback. One day he was walking back home after a rough day when all of a sudden this fellow deathrowmate appeared out of nowhere. He mugged him and took his drugs. On recalling how much shit he was in already, Chris went after the guy. His name was Jamleck.
Jamleck had never seen such a determined fellow. He had almost broken all his ribs and the guy could barely stand yet he still proclaimed that he would be given his shipment back. Jamleck took a liking to him and this was good for as Chris came to learn later on, Jamleck was the kingpins brother. Chris’ thoughts are interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. Jamleck’s lifeless body drops to the ground. One of the askaris carries it out of sight. The blood from the back of Jamleck’s head floods the scene.
‘I hope none of your shoes are porous!’ Sylvester laughs out loud. Chris remembers very well the first time he met Sylvester. Of course! How could he ever forget it?
He had rented a room at some lodge deep in the countryside. Jamleck’s task had not been easy but he had been determined to prove himself worthy. Jamleck had driven his brother from the seat of power and in many ways Chris was second in command. He had earned this post. He had been heir apparent to the crime throne but one thing still bothered him. He was afraid that Jamleck would require that he show his resolve by taking human life. It had been contradictory for him to hold his position without having ever shed blood. He still held on to the vain hope that his mother would one day forgive him. Every month he ensured to wire her money on her m-pesa. She had refused to welcome him home the three times he attempted to explain himself to her. Perhaps she blamed herself for his upbringing. She didn’t have to for he knew she did her best. It had been his decision to join the crime world and he blamed no one. Not even the father who abandoned him before birth.
‘Good evening, young man,’ his thoughts were interrupted by the deep voice of a well-built man. Sylvester had this aura of serenity that just signaled all would be well. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t. Once again, his thoughts were interrupted with the sound of the gunshot. His heart was about to get out of his chest now. Sweat dripped from his forehead. I bet he wouldn’t have thought that it was even possible to sweat this much on such a chilly afternoon. He was fourth on the line. The first two had been eliminated and so it was the third guy’s turn. He found himself wondering how many knots they had been able to tie. If the first three were the trinity then he was definitely the devil. The shoe did fit for it was he who opened Pandora’s box. Sylvester had played the good son card and promised to tell his mother that he had been undercover this whole time. In addition to that he promised him witness protection, immunity from prosecution and even safe passage out of the country if need be. In the midst of all these Chris forgot that the fish isn’t given the worm after he is caught.
He thought of saying that he didn’t know how to tie his laces but that straw was too slippery to clutch even for him. It had been fun learning how to tie his own shoelaces. He loved the feeling of independence. Look where that got him. Perhaps he was meant to live a humble life but his greed ruined his stars. He remembered his favorite quote: It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees! He couldn’t just wait to find out how many knots he would be allowed to tie. The third guy had been slow. He shook like a leaf as he squatted. This was his one and only chance and Chris knew this. As Sylvester aimed his gun, Chris stood and ran as fast as he could…
Sandra smiled as Chris kissed her forehead. Life with him had not been easy. She could neither complain nor blame him for her life had not been easy from the very onset. She had been a bastard child to a politician and so had to be kept hidden. She had all the money she could ever need but there is more to parenting than the financial aspect. Her mum was a go getter. This might be a good thing in the civilized world but to Sandra, she was a whore. She didn’t like her and she saw her mum in herself. She thus thought that by rebelling against her she could make herself different. She remembered very well how she met Chris…
She had been out on a road trip all by herself. She loved doing this. Solitude was her fort. She might have been a loner but one could hardly say that she was introverted. It was true, in her case at least, that the more people she had around her the lonelier she felt but she didn’t surround herself with people for company. She just wanted to feel different and the company offered this. She had stopped the car to take a piss. On her way back, she thought of camping by the forest but thought better of it. Right after she got into her car, a sweating, bleeding young man got in on the other side.
‘Please help me!’ The guy pleaded. Sandra was afraid. Although she had never been carjacked, she had heard very frightening tales. As her hands pressed on the driving wheel, she tried to calm herself down. She didn’t want to appear weak. That would have make her look vulnerable.
‘Why?’ She looked into his eyes. For a moment, Chris was quiet.
‘Because I have no one else.’ That phrase touched a tendon in her heart. She too had had no one else and she thought it would be nice to have someone she could lean on. She made her mind up; Nothing strange about this for she had always been impulsive. She turned the car keys and never looked back since then.