By JJ Mponye:
Everything had been going on well between Nama, Tricia and I until Tricia’s curiosity got the better of her. She was snooping around for some sort of evidence in Nama’s bedroom when she landed on some bizarre stuff. It sent her scampering into the sitting room in unimaginable shock and anger. One would have thought she had just seen a snake.
Nama and I had bonded, if I could put it that way. I had finally come to accept her dressing. I think it was even good that she wore a gomesi all the time. It made her look like a mature woman and earned her a significant amount of respect from us. Tricia always talked to her calmly. If she raised her voice while speaking to her it was simply because Nama’s hearing was poor. Nama’s body odour was no longer an issue to me. The odour threshold had increased logarithmically overtime since my nasal receptors endured a daily bombardment from the volatiles she let off. My ability to endure her odour, as we engaged in lengthy conversations every evening, sometimes reminded me of the drivers of cesspool emptiers. Once in a while I would drive past these guys along Bugolobi sewage treatment works. Though I always struggled to hold my breath, as I hurriedly drove past, I always found these drivers seated in their trucks, with doors wide open, talking animatedly or even having lunch. To them, the warm and putrid odour emanating from the sewage tanks was just like soil to a farmer.
Nama and I were watching the 7’Oclock Luganda news on NTV when Tricia burst into the sitting room, “Oh my God! Nama, Nama! Just pack all your bags and leave immediately. Right now!” Confusion filled the air as Nama and I looked at each other and then back at Tricia.
“Auntie, what is wrong? What have I done?” Nama enquired.
“Don’t even call me auntie! You just pack everything that belongs to you and leave my house right now. You even pack that mat you are sitting on. Pack your cup and plate and go!”
Nama looked at me prompting me to intervene, “Tricia, what is wrong? You cannot tell her to pack her bags and leave just like that! What is wrong? What has she done?”
Several weeks prior to this I would have been inwardly bursting with joy at Tricia’s pronouncement. Then I did not like Nama that much. I did not have any compassion whatsoever for her. Now I knew Nama. I knew her past. I knew her struggles. I knew that she had left her children with her sister in the village. I was aware that she was laboring everyday in our home to try and earn some peanuts to send back home. There was no way I was going to let Tricia just burst onto the scene with an immediate and unexplained expulsion.
“Honey, this woman is evil. She is a witch! You can’t believe what I found in her bag and under her bed,” Tricia explained, with her voice trembling. She rushed over to where I was and sat herself on the arm rest of the sofa. I didn’t express any shock at her revelation. I don’t know why! May be it was because I personally do not believe in witchcraft. Or because I had encountered a lot of weird things in my career and had gotten used to such stuff. I had seen women undress, for check up, with charms tied around their waists: not the traditional erotic waist beads but cowry shells tied on strings of backcloth. But I could hear Tricia’s heart thumping loudly against her chest. I also felt her elevated pulse when she touched me, begging me to act, “JJ, you don’t seem bothered at all. Please do something. Tell her to go! She can’t sleep in this house!”
“Honestly Tricia, why were you even searching through her stuff? Doesn’t she have her right to privacy?”
I knew I should not have asked this. I should have been joining forces with Tricia instead. “Honey, it is not about why I was going through her stuff that matters now: it is what I found! Can’t you see?!” I suspected that Tricia must have been looking through Nama’s room to check if she had been pinching some household supplies. Tricia had for sometime been complaining a lot about sugar running out so fast. I twice heard her asking Nama if she had eaten the soap for lunch. And I remember that particular night she told me a story about a maid who had been stealing cooking oil and rice over a period of time and hiding them under her bed. Her workmate’s maid would always take off small amounts and deposit them in her room and when she got a sizeable amount she would ask to go visit her relatives. Her luck ran out when she fell sick and was hospitalized. When her boss came to pick extra clothes for her she was shocked to find a mini grocery store under her bed. Tricia was probably hoping to find something like that.
“Well, maybe instead of throwing her out give her the chance to explain herself.” I had personally come to a point where I treated people who believe in witchcraft as practitioners of another religion and not necessarily devils. Just like I would not scream because I had met a Moslem with a Koran saying his prayers while facing north. And I would not panic because I had stumbled on a rosary or any other religious paraphernalia, I would surely not lose my breath over a desperate woman’s charms.
“JJ, explain what? Why she has dried sticks and leaves in her bag. And a basket with backcloth, shells and coins under her bed?! In our house? God, I can’t even believe you are not with me on this one! She has to go. Period!”
“No, she will not go anywhere honey!” I said firmly.
“Oh my God, has she already bewitched you? Now you are even supporting her!” Tricia shot back.
“Auntie, those sticks and leaves are my herbs. I use them for fever, cough and any other pains.” Nama finally tried to defend herself. “And the basket? Are those herbs also? Are those herbs Nama? Are those herbs, or do you think I didn’t see them?” Tricia pressed on.
“Auntie I can explain, let me explain,” Nama said with tears already running down her face. “You explain as you pack your bags. I think your uncle would like to know. Me… I just want to see you out of this house.”
Nama explained that she went through a very rough time after separating with her last husband. She always had nightmares and would see a woman coming after her wanting to kill her with a knife. A friend finally convinced her to see a medicine man. He gave her the basket and its contents to keep under her bed as protection. The medicine man had warned her, “The woman who took your husband wants you dead. But this will protect you!”
“Tricia, do what your Lord would have done under these circumstances,” I said when Nama finished her story. Tricia claims to be a born-again Pentecostal, although she spends most of her time riding on banana peels. “Eh, eh, honey, what do you mean? What would he have done?”
“Cast out the demon, not the possessed!” I said as I got up and headed for the bedroom. I left Tricia puzzled. She must have felt abandoned. But I am sure she was challenged because she didn't follow me straight away. And Nama wasn't thrown out either.
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