My village Thanda Maria is a beautiful place. It is hilly and green, with the resplendent Mathioya River snaking lazily along its valleys. This village is home to many stand-up people and many more dubious ones with bright and often illegal ideas. You could say that it is a testing ground for nuts.
It is also full of Ninjas that know how to drink alcohol. Here, you can find all-round connoisseurs of various alcoholic beverages; beverages that push the limits of what can factually, and legally, be described as beverages. The more sketchy and dubious an alcoholic beverage appears to be at face value, the more it is loved here. If it is dirt cheap and causes alcohol poisoning with a low-grade risk of blindness; then it is adored with reckless abandon.
If a brand has a sketchy production and distribution process and a consistently inconsistent alcohol concentration by volume; especially when the inconsistency means that at times it is mistakenly more potent than it says on the sticker; then it is guaranteed to be a resounding success with consumers here. Out here, Ninjas treat death pretty casually, so guaranteed intoxication with an outside risk of death is held in higher regard than general well-being.
Many times, the committee of experts on throat irrigation affairs that convenes daily at the farthest corner of our local Kiharu stadium called Kímura-iní, has discussed the profitability of many of these brands at length. Incidentally, this so-called Kímura-iní, which is marked by a heap of sawdust, happens to be our designated recuperation facility for serious cases of over-intoxication and alcohol poisoning.
The committee claims to know many things. It often questions how a given brand can cover costs of production, bottling, logistics, all manner of taxes, and still churn out a profit while being priced at a suspiciously pocket-friendly one hundred shillings, or less, per bottle. Of course, these legitimate inquiries are usually done by a group of people sipping the same sketchy beverage of questionable quality. It is important to note that a key ingredient of taking these beverages is to drink them with as little regard for one’s well being as is theoretically possible. This is standard operating procedure; or at least that is how the ardent consumers of these beverages make it appear to be.
Needless to say, many of our friends have died from excessive consumption of these suspect beverages. I intend to tell all their stories. Today however, I will tell you the story of my friend Wawerù, better known here as Tevez.
Tevez was a middle-aged man who worked as a wielder at the Mùrang’a University of Technology in Thanda Maria. He was a prolific lover of alcohol. In the hierarchy of proficient drunks here, he wasn’t considered anywhere near a top 10 talent in the field of alcohol consumption. It might interest you to know that at Kímura-iní, we maintain a list of the unofficial ranking of the most feared consumers of fluids of the intoxicating variety in the village; a list that is updated regularly to reflect changing trends. You see, in a place where pretty much everyone knows how to drink alcohol, there must be first amongst equals; or prima inter-pares if your Latin isn’t rusty.
The most prodigious talent in Thanda Maria is my former classmate Mbía the rat; a man whose abilities with the bottle are world-class. Mbía with a bottle of suspect liquid in a shady bar is like Michelangelo with a paintbrush in the Sistine chapel. He has consistently been ranked by industry insiders as the most competent user of throat irrigating fluids of the judgement impairing variety in Thanda Maria and it’s environs. My friend, The Hungry Tiger, has the third or fourth driest throat depending on the day and depending on whose list you rely on.
What Tevez lacked in drinking capabilities; he more than made up for in reckless spending of his salary. He was well known for blowing a month’s salary in a matter of hours. When his tonsils became a sufficiently moist, he would hand out money to complete strangers like a politician without offering an explanation, and for no apparent reason. Words weren’t his traditional area of strength. Anywhere he went, he would drink standing up, with a wand of notes in hand, usually hundreds. If he thought he knew you, he’d dished out a hundred. If he thought he didn’t know you, he’d dish out a hundred. If you looked at him funny, he’d dish out a hundred. If you brushed shoulders with him, he’d dish out a hundred. On general principle, he’d give you a hundred for existing in his drinking space. As a matter of fact, you would have to work very hard for him not to give you a hundred bob unprovoked.
Incidentally, if he had invited you to accompany him on one of these spending sprees, you were best advised not to question his spending habits and excessive generosity. If you did, you would get summarily cut-off and left to meet the cost of hydrating your own throat from then on out. It was in your best interest to stay quiet because you also risked attracting a clobbering from the beneficiaries of his generosity.
At times, due to a well-established tendency to be generous when drunk, and all-round dubious spending habits, he would go home after payday and hide some of his money amongst banana plants before heading out to drink.
At best, hiding money in this manner was usually a very risky affair. You see, one of the hallmarks of consuming copious quantities of these suspects drink out here was something medical practitioners refer to as retrograde amnesia. This is an inability to recall events of the previous day. He would hide the money, go and get intoxicated to within an inch of his life, then completely forget where he hid his money. He would slash down countless bananas the next morning in search of loot he wasn’t completely sure was hidden in them. He was married to a pretty calm woman. If he didn’t find any money hidden in the bananas, he would start chasing his wife all over the compound with a machete demanding money she supposedly stole from him. He lost a lot of money this way.
Tevez was a very shy man when sober. He rarely spoke or made eye contact. When drunk, however, all bets were off. He would become excessively happy. Walking would become too mainstream, he would hop and gallop like a dikdik. In addition to handing out money to random strangers, he would dance vigorously; and many times he had to be asked to leave an establishment because his excessively energetic stomping was making the floor tiles loose. Of course, he would only be asked to leave after the management had established that he had indeed run out of money. When he wasn’t dishing out money, he immediately became a nuisance and a disturbance of the peace. Out here, that is derogatorily called a thùmbùra or sumbua.
Tevez once stripped down to his worn-out cowboy underwear and carried his clothes on his shoulder on his way home from a bar in broad daylight. My mother had to unleash a spectacle of violence on him outside our gate to make him go home because he was entertaining a bunch of kids in the nude by staging a dancing exhibition. He was reed-thin and it wasn’t a very pretty sight by any standard.
Tevez had no working knowledge of English, but he loved speaking his version it or at the very least, English-sounding words when a certain intoxication threshold was breached. He occasionally spoke words I couldn’t readily identify. He would find me seated minding my own business and unprovoked, he would go; “Macharia, Gùtirí na ndifcussashen. Ríu rí níùndù wa gofrackshen na grifashen”.
He also loved to say to random people, Congresh! Congresh! This I later came to decipher was his way of saying congratulations for imaginary good deeds one had done. It is safe to say that you could never have any discussion with the man when he was intoxicated because he had a strong inherent inclination towards using words that didn’t exist in any known language.
Then one day, the crows came home to roost.
Late last year, on a sunny Saturday morning, a day after payday, Tevez made his way into Mùrang’a town. He was accompanied by his friend Rubita; another villager that possesses a very dry larynx. When Rubita gets drunk, he considers himself a very dangerous man; a man to be avoided at all costs. He calls himself Kamoja Kajaribu. He is regularly inviting unknown people to try him amd suffer his wrath. Naturally, his nickname is Kamoja. I cannot stress enough how fast Kamoja flees from anything that resembles a physical confrontation for someone who claims to possess unquantifiable bravery.
When Tevez and Kamoja got to town, they consumed a considerable amount of alcohol in a few suspect establishments in the name of kùruta mithi. This is that drink that is consumed after a night of excessive drinking to arrest the profuse shaking from delirium tremens. This shaking is referred to as mithi, which is short for misfire. They had one drink too many. After a while, they went to a watering hole they call Ha-Mondeni. Before they got in, they decided to have a boiled egg at an adjacent hotel. Being a well funded individual, Tevez bought them an egg each and they downed them in a hurry because the whole eating business was eating into their throat irrigation time. Tevez immediately began to sweat and gesture with his hands. The waiter gave him a glass of water.
After Tevez drank the water, he went outside and sat on a bench. Kamoja followed him outside. He tried to speak to him but Tevez just kept gesturing without saying a word. Because Kamoja knew that Tevez had a flair for the dramatic and a tendency to gesture after a few drinks, he left him there and went to purchase some worm medication for his goat. He came back after an hour but couldn’t find Tevez anywhere.
By Tuesday, Tevez had not been seen. After Kamoja was questioned at length about his whereabouts, his family began looking for him in earnest. Like any self-respecting Kenyan search party, they began at the local police station, then they went to the county referral hospital. He was nowhere to be found. Because there had been talk of a drunk who was found dead outside a hotel over the weekend; the next logical place to look was the county morgue. There, they found his body. They were informed that Tevez been found dead outside a hotel in Mùrang’a town on Saturday morning.
Naturally, Kamoja became the main suspect. He was summoned by the officers from the directorate of criminal investigations in Mùrang’a to record a statement. The family immediately afterward ordered for a post-Mortem which turned out to be a very brief affair. When he was split open, a solitary piece of a boiled egg was found lodged in his windpipe. The cause of death was ruled to be asphyxiation.
The committee of experts seating at Kímura-iní remarked that that was no way for a drunk of Tevez’s high standing to bow out. They registered their deepest disappointment with the nature of his demise. Even in death, they liked flair.
Naturally, no charges were preferred against Kamoja, but the whole mess scared him stiff. He didn’t drink for a while afterwards.
Tevez was my friend and a good man.
Aromama kwega kuuraga.
An unlikely series of events unfolded on the day of his burial. Stay tuned next week for that!