When we were young and played in the sand, we would go to Mazi Mbanu’s house and like little monkeys, climb his udala tree and make away with the fruit. When it wasn’t udala season, we climbed his paw paw trees and gorged ourselves with the orange meat. Our bellies would be distended by the time the our scout sounded the alarm. But we all agreed that udala season was the best.
Mazi would run after us with his bow legs. He would curse at us and say ‘Your mates are getting women pregnant! Stop acting like children!’. But that’s all we were; children! And we loved every moment of it. we would scatter in different directions. He never seemed to be able to catch anybody. Other days, he couldn’t seem to be bothered. He just walked slowly and ignored children running in every direction.
I would run home and my mother would be waiting with her cane. ‘Leave the boy alone. He is only being young.’ My father would say. ‘Being young shouldn’t involve sending that old man to the grave’ My mother would retort.’ ‘He is already there’ Papa would reply with a solemn voice.
Mazi had lost his entire family in a bus accident on their way back from the city a few months back.
Sometimes, we would imagine that the graves of his wife and children would open and they would come and get us for stealing their fruit. We took turns scaring each other and getting a laugh out of it. I shiver now to think of the brazen acts that only youth could afford.When we were young, life was day by day. Our only worries were not getting caught at our petty crimes and who got to scrape the bottom of the pot at the end of the day. Life and death and the people left to carry on meant little to us
Mazi Mbanu died at the beginning of one udala season. I never forgave him for that. He could have waited till the end of the season. We had our fill that day. We kept rotating scouts. The alarm never sounded. I remember stocking my pockets full with as much fruit as possible. maybe somehow i knew it was the end.
He was found early the next morning when a neighbor came calling to borrow snuff. We never went back. What his physical form couldn’t achieve, his spirit did. We were cured. None of the gang ever braved Mazi’s compound again. To think that we had committed atrocities while his body grew cold was the source of many nightmares.
By the next udala season, we were clad in khaki shorts and herded off to school. Mazi won after all. We grew up.
Song of the day: The Corrs- So Young