The sickly white man had declared that we were ‘bery sick’ because of the swellings behind our necks.We knew we weren’t sick, but the way he looked at us with pity made us sick.To avoid the sickness he gave us by telling us that we were very sick, we avoided swimming by the river where he used to pass.

For a long time we never swam.Mango season came and went.Then came the guava season and the fruits that grew near the river had no one to pick.The whole place smelled like a dying orchard. Avocado season followed and every boy doubled in weight for eating too many of them.Finally came the plums-the fruits that said Christmas was around the corner.Still, no boy had died from the swellings on the necks.

But there was a reason for it.When our cucu Wamutirima noticed the swellings on our necks, she had an antidote that worked like magic.She had put the tip of muiko in the fire then rolled it over the swellings.Yes, it hurt, but not like Sister Maculatas injection.Two, the treatment didnt involve removing our shorts which we hated.

After that, the swellings on our necks went away. We forgot about the mzungu who used to run in the mornings.But somehow, the hum of river Kanyiri beckoned us to go swim in it.And so we did.

As sure as mangoes come out in January, the white man came running as before.Poor man! Who had given him the punishment of running from mango season all through to plums season?

When he came,we were seating on a rock, chewing stolen mangoes.Our jaws going up and down like those of a cow chewing a particularly tasty cud.’


The pale sick man hailed us.Even now, he had not learnt to say ‘muriega‘.His raw skin was even sicker and reddish like a freshly plucked muchunu chicken.

As usual, he inspected our necks for swellings- expecting to find them having grown bigger.Instead, he found thick healthy necks with no swellings.The way he shook his head indicated that he had expected us very sick- or even dead.

The sick white men then shook his head all the more and spoke in tongues.Then he continued with his unending punishment of running when boys like us were having fun.

Truly, he was sicker than us.

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