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The man in black suit and the hawkers

 “You see that man in the black suit over there, that man who was driving that machine,” Maish begun.

The other young men turned to look in the direction that he was pointing. The man was very conspicuous. He had just alighted and was moving around his car. He had a reasonable tummy and was slightly balding.

“That man whose choice of a chick is amazing?” Chris asked sarcastically.

“Yea that one” Maish continued,” that man was my classmate in the university.”

The other guys burst into laughter. “University? You mean university. U can’t be serious, and you are here with us,” Chris exclaimed amidst laughs.

This drew the attention of some ladies who were passing by. They were university sly queens.

“Finish your courses and come for the internship in our businesses, who knows we can even marry you because by the time you finish your courses we’ll be damn wealthy,” shouted Chris.

The girls let out a loud laugh as they swung their hips away.

“Come we’ve got some stuff for you, have a look at the shoes,” Chris led the marketing song.

“Dresses,” John added.

“Jewels,”  Mwas continued.

“Jeans,”  Luke sang.

“Pants,”  Maish ended the song

“Pants,” Maish repeats sarcastically. “How do you even sell ladies pants? Is that what you were taught in the university?”

“So the university should have taught me how to give them out for free.” Maish shot back. Everyone burst into laughter.

“I was telling you about the owner of that car,” Maish continued. “He was a very good friend of mine. We spent most of the time together apart from when he was at church. That person was too religious for me. Sometimes I failed to understand whether it was religion, pretense or both.”

Maish paused and looked at himself from the shoes upwards. His sports shoes were covered with dust, his shirts buttonholes were wider than the buttons. Whenever he sang the marketing song the buttons slid out of their holes exposing his bushy tummy. Comparing himself to the person he had just seen he looked like a lunatic.

Another group of girls caught their attention by making them start the marketing song. Lucky enough they purchased some of their paraphernalia.

The man disappeared into the hotel reception while Maish continued with the story about him. “Last year, the bank sacked him. Rumors have it that he had been feasting on dormant accounts. He is a person who knows that man must live no matter what. Now he owns a church. I pity his congregation.”

It was time to move into the middle of the city west of where they were. The boys folded their wares and started the journey into the city. It was an exodus from the east to the west. To them, the more they moved to the west of the city, the more they got close to great harvests. Like safari ants, they moved into the city’s river road and started their marketing song again. Here they had to be the loudest to survive. And yes the customers swarmed around them.

At around ten o’clock, their spy shouted the hawker’s commotion chorus, “kanjo, kanjo”. All the hawkers and their customers disappeared among the buildings and the streets returned to the night quietness. Whether hawkers, their customers or bystanders if caught up in the commotion three things were likely to happen: buy the freedom at will or by force, get a hell of a beating or both.

It was obvious that the safest place that they would find themselves to avoid the askaris was the back streets. There they took stock just to ensure that everything was there. The CBD was safe no more. This triggered an exodus to Pangani north of was not wise to board a bus. If they did, they would not pass by their most important clients; the various bars patrons. Under influence of alcohol and the mare presence of ladies in a joint, the patrons would if loaded with money would buy almost anything that was on offer.

The cool bar and restaurant were just meters from the building they were living. It was a routine to pass by the restaurant to have a drink and some food. There they also got a chance to watch the news. As they did that some of the patrons would look at their wares, promise to buy and walk out. The hawkers knew that those were not the best cash paying customers

It was eleven o’clock when they got into the house. Everyone was seated very busily closely examining the remaining stock and analyzing the reasons why they were left out.

“So Maish how did you know all that about that man in the black suit?” John asked.

“We worked together but unfortunately the institution that we worked for had no vacancy at the top for staff who were not connected to the seniors; that’s Kenya for you. If you were not connected to them by blood, you had to connect yourself using cash which I did not have. How could I hold one position for ages? I decided to quit instead of that embarrassment. Since then, I saw him just the other day. I heard that someone was looking for me at the shop that I go for the small cloths. When we met, he had a brilliant idea; an idea to start a church.” Everyone burst into laughter

“People do change,” Chris interjected.

“Should someone realize that he is on the wrong after he is sacked?” John asked

“I thought that he had changed, Maish continued but when he told me of his plan I was fully convinced that he is fully a committed usher into hell.”

By the time Maish was narrating the plan to the peers, Chris was the only one who was awake. He showed a lot of attentiveness in the story. The others were too tired to stay awake Nairobi had beaten them mercilessly.

Chris was the most aggressive among his peers. With him, the group never slept hungry no matter what. He was dear to the group. When there was a threat of sleeping without throwing something into the stomach, Chris would wait up to around eleven thirty at night when he would excuse himself and walk out into the darkness. Then from a distance in the direction where there was a huge concentration of pubs someone would let out a loud scream. After a while, he would walk in and shout bora uhai and handsome notes to one of his colleagues who would, in turn, walk to the shops to buy some dinner.

On a Sunday morning, Chris woke up at around five in the morning. He tiptoed to one corner that acted as a wardrobe, he pulled out nylon bag and unfolded. In it was his best suit. After ensuring that it was intact, he took a bath something that he rarely did in the morning and wore it.

By five thirty, he was in the streets of Nairobi talking with a wagon guy. He knew that he would find him since he had seen him ferrying the same cargo every time he went to the market early in the morning. His interest was on the cargo that the guy was ferrying. He wanted it diverted to a destination that he wanted and for that to be done, he parted with a few notes.

In the Pangani house, the hawkers were off duty up to evening hours. No one among them had cared much about Chris’ where about; that was Chris, he would appear and disappear at any time but this time the disappearance was the longest they had ever recorded. He never even came for his stock for Sunday evening business boom.

At cool bar and restaurant, the hawkers were having supper. The news was going on and someone very familiar to all of them had gained access to the television set. Due to the noise in the restaurant, the hawkers could not hear the voice of the news anchor but just at the bottom of the screen read a headline “BOTCHED MIRACLE.” The familiar face and another man in the black suit could be seen trying to hide their faces. A building with a board bearing the name peace and holiness tab could be seen.

A man came forward to the reporter and after ensuring that he was squarely in the screen begun, “we are particularly flabbergasted, astounded by the events of today. Indeed when we heard that a whole pastor could fake a miracle to attract the congregation we fainted, I mean most of us, but personally, I did not faint. I am used to such pastors, I mean I have even assisted them. What disgusts me about this pastor is that he used people who are not used to the game. No wonder he has been arrested.”

The man continued with more sensation, “I hate the bloody policemen for distracting our right to mob justice which is well placed under the article, ah, article, just know that it’s there. Take them to court but if we see them out we shall exercise our right.”

The hawkers walked to their house having different feelings for Chris.

“Man must live he was just trying to make it,” said John calmly

“I regret telling him about the plan with the man with the black suit, I should have known,” murmured Maish. All the other men looked at him in awe.

That evening in their room the pin drop silence was broken by a knock at the door followed by the entry of Chris then the man in black suit. This time they both looked roughed up; they had bought their freedom.

Chris gathered all that belonged to him with help of the man in black and left unceremoniously. After a few seconds, the man in black walked back and shook  Maish hand vigorously. Man must live, we do what we do not because we like it but because we need to be alive or do you hawk because it’s luxurious.”


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