Short Stories, Tale Africa

Singing for the Minister (II)

Egan Tabaro:

The road to Boma Grounds is a dusty one that snakes its way through the beautiful hills of Komunteete. We pass by our Parish church, St Jude Thaddeus the Turgid and there, tending to the garden around the Vicarage, is our Parish priest, father Chrysostom. Father, as we all call him, waves at us, bellowing “Hello my children!” “Good afternoon Father, how are you today?” we answer back in unison. Father Chrysostom then catches sight of me at the back of the file and, not bothering to respond to our greeting, he quickly lifts himself up, raising his right arm in the air, he shouts, “Oh Diadora, please remind your parents I will be visiting your home this Sunday after mass, will you my child?” Waving at him, I shoot back, “I will do so Father!”  Now it is well known that father's pastoral visits, whether on a Sunday afternoon or Wednesday evening, always coincide with meal time at his host's house.

Past the Parish we march, onward to Boma Grounds. In the middle of the second formation, the children are giggling. It is Muwanguzi at it! That scallywag can talk the hind legs off a donkey. He is regaling the boys with his never ending tales that are very funny, and in equal measure, difficult to believe. They now burst out laughing really loudly. Richard's laugh is the loudest and longest of them all. Just then the teachers, who are walking ahead of us, notice the noise. Teacher Sande, wielding a cane, quickly walks to where the boys laughing are, and unleashes two sharp strokes of the cane on the one who is still laughing – Richard. The boy pleads to teacher Sande that it was Mugisha and not him who started it all. His pleas fall on deaf ears as Teacher Sande unleashes two more powerful strokes on Richard's bottom, effectively cowing the boys and everyone else into silence. We all fall back into our neat formations as Teacher Sande this time takes his place behind the lines, from where he can see, in his own words, “who is causing fujo fujo”. I turn to look at Muwanguzi as the look of fright on his face fades, breaking into a wry smile. Clearly this incident will be a theme in yet another of his silly stories. Ah, the scamp!

We march on to the Boma Grounds, crossing the bridge over the “River of Tears”. Now the legend behind the name of the river is a scary one. It is said that many aeons ago a woman who had been cursed and banished from the village gave birth to the river and that after her death, her spirit haunted the valley where the river flowed so that her continuous flow of tears from the pain and anguish she suffered from banishment, ensured the river never dried up! But I, Diadora, am not the kind to believe such old wives' tales.

As we march on we can see the Boma Grounds, the large crowds of people cheering the police band as they play. There are tents decorated with the national colours of green, amber and yellow. I now feel more excited; more than before. We then hear a loud noise coming from behind us. It is the unmistakable honk of a truck. The blue Dyna truck hurtles past us sending all of us scampering for dear life in the cassava field by the roadside. The driver, Massoud, lets off another deafening honk and waves at us from his window. The rest of the children wave back excitedly, while laughing at Massoud's crazy antics. Everyone in Komunteete knows he is an over grown boy. A Muslim who will not eat pork, Massoud drinks alcohol and smokes leaves that make him act as though he is possessed by some menacing phantom!

To be continued…

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