Recently, I felt the urge to talk to a certain beggar I usually see on the main street of my home town. On a hot Saturday morning, after stepping out of the supermarket, I walked over to him and sat next to him. I had it all planned out in my head but once we exchanged greetings, I found myself speechless.
I started fidgeting with my bag before blurting out “why do you sit here?”
“Because I have to get food or because I am poor.” Something similar to that.
In my young mind, I thought asking him about his family was the appropriate next question. So I did exactly that. In a piteous voice, he told me all his family depended on him. I had nothing else to ask or say so I made my apologies for the intrusion, lots of them, deposited some money on his hand and left.
Even though deep down I knew it was no fault of his to be a beggar, I found myself quiet annoyed with him for feeling sorry for himself.
It hit me then that the couple of times I have used self-pity (lost mother card) to get what I want (discounts), I must have annoyed the salespersons . I made a mental note to never do it again.
My little brother and I have always been partners in crime. I still remember the morning mommy brought him from the hospital, after his birth. Mommy sat by the dining table and told me to sit down so that I could hold him. I took one look at him and decided I wanted nothing to do with him because I couldn’t believe anyone could be that tiny. I don’t remember what happened that brought us close, all I know is that one day, we were inseparable and it has been so since then.
When I was 12, he was 8 then, we developed an unquenchable interest in frogs anatomy. I can’t tell whether it was because of Nat Geo or the big McGraw-Hill anatomy books we had at home. Anyway, after our own amateur research, we decided we were going to operate on a frog.
The day of the crime was a hot Sunday afternoon. You know how lazy people get on Sundays afternoon, after church and a heavy lunch. So it was the perfect day as mommy wouldn’t be paying that much attention to us.
After making sure mommy was doing her habitual Sunday afternoon reading , we set out to look for a frog. It did not take us long to identify our victim, a male frog hopping by probably looking for food or going back to his family. We kidnapped him and ran to the front of our house which was our rendezvous crime scene. I sneaked in to the house and stole the sewing kit. We had just cut his tummy open when we heard mommy’s footsteps. We quickly gathered our incriminating evidence and ran to the clearing on the left side of the house.
“Shah… Phil… Is that you?”
“What are you up to?”
“Mhhh…. Just kicking a ball around.”
“Okay then, don’t play any rough games.”
The two minutes exposure of the frog lungs caused it to inflate. All we wanted to do was cut it open and sew it back up, you know, like people do on TV and the pictures in the books. We did not want him to die on us.
“Hold it down by his limbs to keep him still while I sew him up, okay?
I frantically started sewing him from the neck down but the lung just kept ballooning. We were now desperate to keep him alive.
“Why don’t you tuck the lung in?”
“He will die.”
“Then puncture it a little to release some air.”
“Don’t you get it? That will kill him.”
After one more failed attempt of sewing him up, I threw the needle down.
“I guess he is going to die anyway. Let us release him so he can spend his last few minutes in freedom.”
We released Mr. Frog and for a moment, sadly watched him limp away before gathering our stolen kit and headed back to the house.
We had planted maize on the shamba at the back of the house and mommy had a habit of checking it every morning before settling for her tea. The next morning, as usual, mommy went to check on her maize. We had just started on our breakfast when she came back.
“I have just seen the most unsightly scene on the left side of the house.”
She liked pausing to let each sentence sink in whenever she was telling a story.
“This frog was lying dead on his back with his tummy open and what looks like a burst lung.”
Our appetite for mommy’s delicious pancakes was gone just like that.