The Christmas Gift

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We grew up in that sort of trusting farm village where you could leave just anything around without anyone nicking them. And for this loyalty, we were feasted with an old friesian cow every Christmas.

That being the  way the farm owner of Jacaranda farm gave a baksheesh to his employees and  their families, everyone itched for this day which happened to be the only time of the year that feasting could have  been as merry as it could ever manage to be.

On this day, the village foreman would be obligated to kill such a cow with an air gun while Baite, whose privileged duty was to inseminate and attend to every sick cow as the farm's "veterinarian" would oversee its skinning and the chopping up of the meat into equal portions so that every family got a hunk each the size of two kilogrammes.

Of course the choicest cuts like the liver, the heart, the tongue and kidneys were undoubtedly meant for this same man though his other share was way twice bigger than what each of the other villagers carried home.

Meat

As always, all the children from the village were to be gathered here to join in in this orgy, each carrying an aluminium bowl with them.

And it was at such a time that if you were a first time visitor to this place, you would most likely be struck by the physical resemblance of some of the children. From their facial looks to their way of walking, you could easily pick from them the duplicity of the deceptively innocent looking village foreman though no one complained. He was known to stalk the breadth of the village by night like a colossus and made impromptu visits to the mistresses of the men he had assigned night duty.

Nevertheless , this  was the parameter  upon which the moral standards of the villagers in general and that of the  foreman in particular would have been fathomed .But as we were often told , the walls have ears .Therefore , like the politics of the day , It  was an open secret  that  the business of minting new children to add  up new faces to the already fast growing village  child boom   was conducted in the thick of night  under the eaves of the  houses  almost imperceptibly but for the occasional whispering,  coughing, moaning and that rare whoosh of a fart  punctuated by the clinking footsteps of a late walker. That means the only evidence that something that really mattered ever transpired here was peripheral and since it was left to the keenly trained eyes only, it was at best wished away.

Anyhow, on such a Christmas day Baite would have a colleague fry for the children the blood, intestines and lungs in a drum while ugali was prepared in another. Still on another fire some meat for him and another two men who would have helped him with the skinning would be sizzling on green wattle twigs. And after about two hours of the cooking the children would be asked to queue and get a serving before they sat on the grass to eat.

The fast eaters among them would devour the cooked blood greedily, sop up the traces of soup from their bowls with pieces of ugali and then dip their fingers into their mouths and lick them until they were slimy with saliva.

Others would chew on the intestines and the rubbery lungs balefully, gulping them down and bulging out their eyes as they choked. The slowest, though, demolished their food with grim determination, crumbs of ugali clinging to their lips. Still some of the more creative ones  moulded their ugali into human shapes and ate  them  head fast  down to the legs which forked at  the mouth and  stuck out  like two white  pieces of wood facing different directions.

After eating the roast meat, Baite would bring up a prolonged, deep belch and then mop ineptly at his greasy mouth with his hand and by using a thin twig, he would leisurely pick his teeth.

Eating meat at Jacaranda was that rare. However, whenever any other cow died for no known cause, the standard practice was that it had to be buried or better still be burned. But Baite knew better and such carcasses ended up in the tummies of the villagers.

He had a pet a cat named "doctor" by the villagers. This cat was purposely kept by him for testing whether any meat was good for consumption or not. If it never as much nosed that meat, the whole lot of it was condemned.

I recall two incidences vividly. In the first, one naughty boy had bashed this cat with a big stone on the head only moments after it had "tested" the meat and which had by then been shared. With no physical signs of injuries, it had retched up the meat, convulsed and foamed at the mouth. After jerking and kicking its legs in the air it died, its legs stretched out stiff in that attitude of running from death.

This news sent panic and anxiety through the village where everybody waited for the worst just before someone explained the course of its death.

In the second incident, there was something horribly wrong with the meat. Everyone was sick. Their stomachs were so woozy that they felt like they were undergoing fermentation and the constant lurching and churning in them produced noises that were really weird.

 That evening, both the grown-ups and children started to flounce off to the only toilet in the village. As they impatiently queued up behind one another, some clutched at their stomachs whereas others made languorous and long fingered movements on them.

And when the waiting took longer than expected, many  among  them began to spring about the same spots they stood at, rubbing their legs against each other and clenching them tightly while at the same time they loudly uttered the  uh-uh! phoey! aaagh! woo-ee! noises.

With their invisible faces contorted in pain, some had their backsides bursting and making  incessant  clapping sounds or the  frog-like discordant cloaking like that of frogs on a mating splee.

Amongst them were those that doubled over to vomit until there was nothing left to bring up but yellow bile. Many others braced the pressure that was building up in their runny stomachs by biting hard at their lips but they soon found their backsides erupting so that they rushed back to their houses and  cleaned  after themselves with the bunches of green leaves each one of them picked from the nearby bushes.


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