COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO! The farm’s cockerel stirred up life in the farm. Mama walked into my room and found me staring at the ceiling. The carroty rays of the morning sun had pierced through the old curtains creating lovely patterns of light. One pattern looked like a peacock’s tail. Mama thought so too when I pointed it out on my bedroom wall. She then told me to go take the warm bath she had prepared for me and later on head to the hut where Nyanya, my grandmother, was. I sprung out of my mattress and left my little sister Dory* tucked into her bedspread. Mama didn’t bother waking her up. The poor girl was exhausted! She had spent her entire afternoon running around the farm on the previous day when we had arrived at our rural home.
My older cousins had already started doing their chores in preparation for the great family feast in the evening. The boys helped my uncles to choose the best cow for the banquet. The girls accompanied my aunts to the market to buy kitchen supplies and grind sun-dried maize at the millers.
Papa was a busy man. His quick and long strides told it all. He walked from one side of the farm to the other making sure that everything was in order. The cattle had been released. The cows had been milked. The poultry in the farm had been freed from their pens. The guard dogs had been fed. Money had been given to purchase supplies for the feast. A true Kenyan man he was, attested by his special request for a generous order for beer – Tusker to be specific! I never understood why Papa and my uncles liked the soda they called Tusker. I had tasted it once from Papa’s glass but it did not taste nice. It gave people a funny smell in the mouth!
“Omwitsukhulu (grandchild) let’s go!” Nyanya called out to me. It was time for our walk. She liked morning walks in the forest. It was the only time she got to take-in fresh whiffs from the Kakamega forest, before the farm filled with activity. I liked accompanying Nyanya. She was the tallest old woman I knew. No one really knew how old she was apart from Kuka, my grandfather. Whenever she sang, I hummed silently to her tune as we picked fresh wild mushrooms amid the jamboree of trees. She sang in a language that mother had been trying to teach me. Her voice blended well with the choirs of forest birds and the chattering of monkeys. At times I just stopped and stared at her as she slowly knelt to pick mushrooms. The gingery sunrise waves settled on her so gracefully, covering her with a golden coat of light. I followed her closely behind as I picked the mushrooms she uprooted and stored them in a small sisal basket. From a distance, a group of women gathered firewood for their households. They all waved at Nyanya who was quite popular with women from the local church. Every harvest season she gathered women from the fellowship to harvest crop at our farm and go home with a sack full of produce as a token of appreciation.
As soon as we arrived back at the farm, it’s as if we had returned during resurgence. There was clamour from every corner. People hurried from one point to another. The look on some animals confirmed that I was not the only one in shock. And so I let go of Nyanya’s hand and run towards Dory who was playing with some ducks. Kuka sat nearby on an old tree stump to ensure that Dory finished her breakfast which he held in his hands. The two were inseparable – wherever Kuka was, Dory was just a stone’s throw away. Nyanya said hello to her old love then headed for the kitchen where my aunts and mother were.
As Dory and I played with the birds, groups of men started approaching my grandfather for greetings. It was tradition to do so as a sign of respect. Whenever Kuka wasn’t around, Papa took his place as the eldest son to receive guests at the compound. I couldn’t help but feel so proud of Kuka. He was a short old man but very active in the community’s welfare. After Dory finished her breakfast, he stood up to put the bowl on the stump. Kuka grabbed his brown walking stick and went for a walk near a stream that flowed near his old hut. He did this whenever he wanted to pray. Perhaps he wanted to pray for a good feast and that Nyanya grants his request to make his favourite stew. Or perhaps he wanted to pray that Nyanya doesn’t cook his favourite rooster, she never liked his rooster. “It makes too much noise,” she used to say. Kuka always claimed that the rooster always woke him up in good time. Nyanya often disagreed and took the credit saying that she’s the one who woke it up before other farm animals. I loved how my grandparents got lost in their arguments and then laughed it off in the end.
Dory noticed that Kuka’s turkeys had fed well and gathered under Nyanya’s avocado tree to laze around for a while. The birds were so huge that I thought they would burst if pricked by a sharp object. There was a funny noise they made which I confused for one of Dory’s loud farts. For some reason, she quickly picked up a stone and threw it towards the group of turkeys. The impact it had was unexpected. Suddenly we were scampering from an angry mob of turkeys. The giant ones scared me the most. I thought that I was going to die if even one caught my toe. “Would it swallow me whole?” But I feared most for Dory and wasn’t sure if a bird had grabbed her already. I cried out loud wondering what I would say if Kuka asked me about Dory. How could I tell him that one of his turkeys had swallowed his best friend?
Luckily, I spotted a clear path that led to the main kitchen at the farm. I could see Mama cleaning some utensils. I thought she was my best chance to prick the turkeys that were chasing me. I hid behind her and watched her scare away the fat birds like a superhero. I clung onto Mama’s colourful khanga tied round her waist and started crying. When she told me to calm down, I let out the secret. “I’m so sorry Mama! Dory threw a stone and the turkeys ate her,” I confessed. “What do you mean?” Mama asked. “Mama, what will I tell Kuka? His turkeys ate Dory!” What I expected to be a loud cry came out as a loud laugh by Mama. I was confused by her reaction then she reassured me that turkeys don’t eat children. I dried off tears from my eyes and jelly from my nose with the hem of Mama’s khanga.
The relief was short-lived as I heard the sound of Dory wailing nearby. Mama and I quickly ran towards the loud cry hoping that she’s alright. I had prepared to see the worst – Dory screaming from the inside of a giant turkey. My heart pounded hard in fright only to find Dory curled up at the foot of the avocado tree. She was crying as she held something in her hands. When she saw us, she uncovered her little hands to show us a young turkey struggling for breath. She asked Mama to rescue it since she was a nurse. Before Mama gave her an unfortunate response, the little bird stopped breathing. I knelt down next to Dory and cried with her. We had never seen anything literally die before our eyes. Mama told us to calm down but Dory shouted, “I killed him mum! I chased his family then his father stepped on him.” We broke into loud cries leading to quizzical reactions from relatives within the compound. To avoid attracting attention, Mama told us to stand up and give turkey to one of the farmers who stood nearby. She said that he would know what to do with turkey. She did not like that Dory held onto a dead bird in her hands. The look on the farmer’s face was so scary that it made Dory immediately surrender turkey to him.
Mama told us to cheer up and go to Kuka’s house to keep him company. She rushed back to the kitchen. Luckily, as soon as our mother disappeared into the kitchen Kuka found us with the farmer. He had heard Dory’s cry which made him worry.
With Kuka by our side, we requested the farmer to let us bury turkey. Kuka told him to let us do what we had asked. He put the bird in an empty packet of wheat flour that had been swept by the wind from the kitchen bin. Kuka walked into his hut and warned us not to get into trouble especially with Nyanya. I think he feared her tempers more than a lion’s roar. The farmer said that we could throw it into the farthest latrine in the farm. Silently, we walked to the latrine as we stared at the packet. The latrine greeted us with a slightly pungent breeze. Luckily, lots of hot ash had been poured into it to mask the full force of a reeking latrine.
A toilet fly kept us company as it buzzed inside the latrine which was made of stone. Dory said that we should pray first before burying turkey, “God please forgive me for throwing a stone at turkey’s family.” I nodded in agreement. “Dear God, please forgive turkey’s father who stepped on him,” she pleaded as she cried. I held her shoulder and helped her complete the prayer by asking God to save some food in heaven for turkey since he would miss food from the feast. “Amen,” we ended the prayer. Dory let go of the packet which landed inside the latrine with a punching plop.
We walked out of the latrine feeling sad that we had lost turkey. But then again we were so glad that he would be in heaven with God who loves turkeys.