This Was Colonial Hangover, No Less

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Every first day of the year Fasto's wife, Nyakiondo (so named because of the basket of palm fronds she carried everywhere), had Jacaranda farm's foreman assemble all the children at 8.00a.m outside the farm dairy before she zoomed in in her cream-coloured jeep.

Behind the driver's seat, as always, would be Tom her collared dog, blinking and poking out of the car window which she would have certainly cranked down for him.

After getting off the vehicle, her basket in the crook of one arm with which she also clasped a red apple fruit with the fingers, Tom would follow suit on cue and tumble onto the ground as she rammed shut the door, the rabble of innocent children exploding and gamboling all around her.

"Jambo, toto (Good morning, children)?" She would shout out greetings through her large crimson polyp lips, her mouth working noisily with accustomed violent speed on a piece of chewing gum.

Tom held himself every bit as his owner. He would walk around, nose us one after the other probably because we were precocious and smelt of imminent poverty. Ours was a life of virtual homelessness in this penal colony and for the obvious reasons of near tangible poverty; we had lice and fleas --- the works!

Dog

After doing his round, he would take a breather and lie facing Nyakiondo, his head resting on his paws. He would whimper every now and then, lift his head and sweep the ground with his tail as he looked up at her, licking his grizzled lips. At other times he would sit and stay to command or fetch the apple for Nyakiondo and drop it at her feet, soaked with dog spit, if she had thrown it through and past the ring of children.

Nyakiondo, in a white blouse with dotted lines of varicoloured inks, a shirred bra and a frosted aqua billowing skirt with matching ballet slippers would tap softly with her red-garnet polished fingernails at her exquisitely sleek plaited coronet in which her hair was arranged, very conscious that we inhaled her faint musky fragrance.

Flickering her long curiously gold-tipped lashes, she would eye us with her amber-brown prominent eyes as she scratched her small slightly reddish nose. And in a luxurious moment of respite she would look around, rustling sweets and chewing gums in the basket.

"Here, we go!" She would shout, stretching her right arm above her head and after glancing upwards, she would toss the sweets into the air, the wistfulness of her smile almost banished -- or almost so -- in a flash of roguishness.

Sweets

The children and the dog as well who all along stared at her incredulously would simultaneously leap and scoop the sweets out of the air, clawing and scratching wildly at each other. Tom would greet you with a hysterical barking, jumping and wanting to bite your cheek if you stepped on him, something that to us seemed more of a heartbreak than an inconvenience.

Nyakiondo would stand there looking at us with that strange imperceptive gaze of a sleep-walker, only ending the confusion and paranoia by shouting at Tom after which she would give him dog biscuit which he would crunch ravenously before sniffing the ground and running off in pursuit of some enticing scent trail.

With a mischievous and a melancholic smile on her lips, she would seize that moment to leave, Tom loping alongside the car after she had hooted at him.

It would then be our turn to filter back to our homes, childishly popping out of our mouths the sweets we were sucking at or chewing on the spear-mint bubble gums long after their sweet flavours had gone.

And our wonderment about Tom would not just stop there. He was widely travelled, both by car and aeroplanes while none of us had for once sat in a car chair. He played with apples which we thought were a kind of tomatoes and even fed on biscuits.

Dog

To us Tom led a better life than us and we truly envied him, many wishing they were just like him and all because we were on hard times those days. We could not account for the perverse way God sometimes chose to bestow His gifts.

For this reason, our parents would pretty much forget about us ever seeing the inside of a classroom or even getting enough education to go some day to university.

Our poverty was real and for many days afterwards,  we still chewed on the spear-mint bubble gums, sticking them at times on the mud walls of our houses or hiding them under the legs of our soot-coloured wobbly beds till they got such a colour that you wouldn't tell them apart from tar.

 

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