I Will Always Love You
In a small ramshackle shed a nanny goat wails. She is mostly white with reddish-brown specks on her flanks. The colour of rust is solid on her legs. She is fussy, stomping around in a circle. The dry grass beneath her hooves is flattened in preparation. She wails again. The sound cuts through the dark night breaking the silence. Her eyes flit around the small enclosure. The farmer doesn’t bother with it as long as his goats kraaled inside. He has twenty-three. By the morning he’ll have twenty-four.
At 8 O’clock in the morning, Kiptoo – the farmer – walks to the goat shed. There’s a newborn kid in the enclosure. Its mother stands before it defiantly but she won’t hurt Kiptoo. She knows him. He’s the man who makes sure she and the others have enough to eat. Now if only he kept the shed in good shape but Kiptoo is a farmer and not a carpenter or a construction expert.
Kiptoo carefully walks toward her. The other twenty-two already ran out into the cold morning. He checks on the kid. It’s a male. Kiptoo debates about naming it. He decides against it. Naming always attaches feelings. The nanny goat did not have a name and neither will her offspring. He carefully ushers the pair outside.
As he waters his flock, one of Kiptoo’s many neighbours walks past him. His name is Martin. He’s one of the friendly ones. The others are too snobbish to even glance the way of a goat farmer. As always, Martin says hello.
“Habari ya leo?” he says.
“Mzuri sana,” Kiptoo responds.
“I see you have a new addition to the family,” Martin nods towards the small kid.
“I do. God is good.”
“Have you named it yet?”
Kiptoo hesitates. “It’s a male. That’s all I need to know.”
Martin chuckles. “I believe in giving things names. I call my laptop Dormammu”
Kiptoo laughs and almost chokes on the tea he’s been drinking. “Why?”
“Because every time I use it I feel like telling it, ‘I’ve come to bargain’.” Martin smiles. “It’s so slow, this one.”
“You should sell it and buy another one,” Kiptoo says taking another sip. He recalls that movie Martin copied him in a flash drive. It made no sense to him but he enjoyed the story.
“Nobody will buy it.”
“You never know.”
Martin shrugs, “Anyway, you should name him Kemboi.”
“Why?” Kiptoo asks puzzled.
“Because if I were a goat person, I would Kipkemboi,” he smiles and walks away.
“Wewe ni mjinga sana. Go to school and learn something useful.” Kiptoo calls behind him. Martin was a character. He needed help.
In a few months, Kemboi had grown into a dashing billy. He had his mother’s colouring and his mother’s voice and the grandest goatee a goat could have. His horns had come in and they protruded proudly from his skull. He towered over his mother who was expecting another kid in a few weeks.
Kemboi had everything he could want. A farmer who always took him (and the others, of course) to pasture, made sure that he had water and even hooked him up with a good female ‘friend’ his mother would be proud of.
Today the farmer was planning an outing for him and a bunch of his pals. He had hired a truck to take them somewhere where the grass was greener, no doubt. The farmer and the truck driver tie them down to keep them safe during the journey. The truckful of them wails goodbye to the others as they pull away from the farm. They pass the farmer and one of his friends.
“You didn’t want to Kipkemboi?” the friend is saying.
The farmer is standing with a grin on his face counting bits of paper that Kemboi would happily chew on if he were allowed to. “Wachanga ujinga, Martin,” he says back.
Kemboi and his friends pull up to a yard that had a creepy eeriness to it. They are offloaded from the truck and Kemboi immediately notices that the grass is not greener here. There isn’t even any grass. The air smells like iron and dung. He has a funny feeling.
One of his nameless friends is led into a room. He wails. The staff here are not gentle. Kemboi can hear him wailing in distress and suddenly his voice is cut off as if he fell down a well.
Another of Kemboi’s friend is led into the room. His voice disappears as well.
The cycle goes on until it’s Kemboi’s turn. He doesn’t want to go into the room. He is scared. He wants his mother. He goes into the room and sees a man – a big round man – with a long knife in his hand. It is bloody. From the corner of his slit eye, he sees the lifeless bodies of his peers. He wails. He tries to pull himself free but the rope is tied securely around his neck. He can’t escape. The round man takes the rope from the guy who led Kemboi here. He is tripped. Lying on the cold floor he wails for his mother. He feels the cold wet blade against his neck.
He feels the slice.
He can feel himself get cold. His life slips away.
His blood stains the slaughterhouse floor as it gushes from the wound on his neck.
Of course, I don’t know how abattoirs work because I’m not a butcher but I do know that I ate goat recently and that goat deserved a blog post.
Goat meat is called chevon, by the way. Like sheep meat is mutton and cow meat is beef.
It was fresh, tender, juicy, and generally goat-like. Like God intended. Nyama choma at its finest.
It felt like it had lived a sheltered life and went to USIU. That goat had an accent. All the other goats cheered when he belated. He was a star athlete. The greatest headbutter in the world. He was on the honour roll. He won awards. He loved his mother and that nanny goat girlfriend of his. That goat had a back story. That goat had a name.
And his name was Kemboi because who wouldn’t want to Keep Kemboi?
Kemboi was delicious. Hot diggity dawg!
Here’s to you, Kemboi. Here’s to your Meeeeeh-mory.