When time is ripe,life will make you a judge,a decision to choose between life and morality which one takes the hang.
The wet pavement creates a thud,on every footstep he makes,a dull rythm that once and again draws him from his mind to enjoy this childishness that man never seems to let go, but it's not enough to move him further to observe all around him are countrymen running to shade from the rain ,he is oblivious off.
Nairobi in 1980 was quiet, a new regime had settled in gracefully but not peacefully. A coup planned by young officers of the air force had failed,earning them a curfew and the wrath of an insecure leader.As he passes through Tom mboya street, where the shopkeepers are busy closing down,he quickens his pace,just to save himself some time from the embarrassment of receiving a night beating past curfew hours.His clock tells him on this decision he has only three hours to go.
The ride home is quiet,the people have learned to use silence as survival, not surprising considering the rate at which people keep disappearing. Though the government has created a narrative that people are moving out to neighbouring countries , this everyone knows as a lie.Our current state is better than the rest,from their no further question or you to will be 'moving out.'
He slides his hand through his pocket to get the fare,only fifty shillings exact and without looking hands it over to the conductor.The conductor shakes the coins in his hand , signaling something he cannot comprehend ,so he just holds the stare till the conductor speaks,"where is the twenty shillings." "I said am going to Thika it's fifty,I paid that yesterday,' 'Today is seventy so pay it up," " I am sorry, somebody forgot to pass the memo,"he says it with sarcasm but before the conductor reaches out to rough him up,a woman at the back pays the twenty shillings for him,he feels embarrassed,it pains a little ,so he looks away from her smile for his pride is injured.
The dawn covers the tears in his eyes,that anger that boils inside.The thought of a man leaving in shackles in a place he should have found refuge .The pain of the increased cost of livelihood caused by the IMf and the world bank to punish their leaders into submission has indirectly punished them,only them, because their leaders atleast have the little that is left.He hates his weakness,the fragility in man, to always endure pain if the other choice is life,ooooh God who gives us life and the heart to love it.That was your only mistake.
The second floor of the dilapitated flats holds the door with a silver paint, twenty three,one that he has known for the last ten years.sometime back he could have named all his neighbours but now all his neighbours cannot name him.The pipes release water once a week,the electricity they use is actually considered illegal and with the constant government crackdowns, it has to be cut off till only on weekends,all these together with the cracks on the wall scared people away,himself included only his failure to have a real job keeps him there and at least it's cheaper.
He walks lazily to his door,he has learned to count the steps.Twelve long strides from the stairs,he smiles everytime he proves himself right,then pockets on his jumper to get his bunch,all this a script he has repeated time after time but something makes him stand still,the script today has been rewritten.His door is open.Slowly he slides it outwards to cushion the outcome,only one thing in his mind, justified with this kind of economy. And at first the scattered papers and boxes on the floor come close to confirm these but his valuable possession ,a black and white tv set, is still at its usual,makes him relax a little bit before a cough somewhere in his bedroom catches him off guard.
Fear and expectation are mixed in times of danger,one that if you come out alive you will bear a story to tell and the other one is not knowing what lies ahead.His heart pumps in anticipation,not sure what the cough carries.A man a little slender in shape,tall in build and perfect fit for his black suit walks out followed by two others,almost the same size and height in police uniform carrying boxes.while he covers the light of the door,none seems to notice him.They drop the boxes on the table,and begin skimming through documents.He finds this strange and to exert authority or rather to catch attention forces himself to speak but his voice comes out shaky, not what he wanted,"Can I help you."The man in suit turns and studies him for a while then shakes his head in the negative,"then maybe you are in the wrong house,"The man turns and studies him again,"nope." "Is this a prank or something,where is the hidden camera ,we end this joke right now."The man in the suit rises and walks towards him.He is way taller than him but his muscles prevent him from been seen as child from anyway that might be looking."Mr Elias lowry,this is not a prank,"he smiles at him," we are government officers and we have reason to be suspicious that you hold papers that are considered to be treason by the laws of this land."
At the mention of his name lowry shrinks a little,"what are you talking about."The man in the suit smiles,then opens his suit which lowry at first thinks its a gun, but the man removes a slightly old newspaper handing it over to him,"something like this,"lowry looks at it and remembers it ,a smile creeps on his face .A coffin labled democracy is been lowered to the grave by cartoons resembling members of the new regime and aside are red tapes placed on the public next to cameramen who have been tied to their cameras and far ahead are police officers giving gun salutes,lowry smiles.The controversy that that material carried, made him who he is today,jobless. The newspaper got banned for sometime.He raises his head looks straight at the man,"And when did opinions become categorized as treason,wait which government officers?."The man in the suit twitches a little,"my friends back there are from the local police and I work with Nsis,for our own safety,our names will remain a secret and as you know,,,,,,,,,Mr lowry, opinion have always been part of treason,only the context of articulation has put people from the hang.' "And I presume my letters failed me in that right."Now the man put a serious face."I did not come here to break the down articles or clauses,I came to gather evidence to put a divident in jail." "Then you are doing a poor job because the dividends are the people who ordered us to be fired,and if that is not enough they come and try to lock us in." "Mr lowry I advise you to choose your words properly,you were proven to be a negative influence to the stability of this country.......,lowry interrupts with laughter," you mean the 'bad apples,'but wait.When you order the firing of a cartoonist which I must say in a not so constitutional manner and leave those who drain the coffers of this country in office,is the opposite of stability."
"Despite all you have against this government,this has been the only one that has put more people in prison for corruption charges than any other." "You mean more opposition people in jail than in any other ,but why has it also been the one with more corruption scandals?We call that clearing the path." "Mr lowry.....," "I think we're done here,the nature of you knowing my name and I failing to know yours puts me at risk and let me guess you don't have a search warrant (smiles)that's my government."He walks and holds the door open,The man in suit signals for his two companions,who were silent during the ordeal to follow him ,then he turns to lowry who closes the door before he speaks.
As lowry drops in a sofa he knows very soon he might be 'moving out.' He has to deliver quickly the few caricatures he has sketched for the 'monitor' aka the people's newspaper, pronounced illegal from its inception. He knows his last piece will be called, 'clearing the path' he laughs at this before he remembers his fathers words.
He walks to a picture of a man in a frame,dressed in a white beret and a leather jacket,a slight smile but deeply his eyes look distracted,as if peering for something way beyond."In a case between morality and life,,,,,,,I chose to hang life because what's living without a choice of right and wrong."