The Potter (Fiction Series)

Mueni was a potter among potters. She was a soft-spoken, diminutive woman who smiled a lot and was well loved in her village. Her distinctive handiwork was sought after by the shop owners of Nairobi, who then sold the pottery to tourists at exorbitant prices.

Each morning, Mueni woke up at the crack of dawn and went to collect clay from her shamba. She watched the village women, sleeping infants strapped to their backs, toil on the unyielding land, their puny arms lifting their jembe up and bringing the jembe down,the thunk thunk noise revealing the hardness of the ground. Mueni saw the disappointment written on their faces when the mean skies refused to open and give them the rain they so desperately needed.

Mueni’s own grandmother had been a master potter as well. It was under her patient guidance that a young Mueni had learned that one must treat the clay kindly, greeting it each morning, asking that it allow her hands to take it from its home, mold it, put it in the kiln. Mueni believed that her kinship with the clay was part of the reason for her success.

One day, when Mueni was finishing up her work for the day, her younger brother Musyoka stopped by to tell her that he had found a way for Mueni to sell her pottery directly in Nairobi. It was simple really, all she had to do was open a roadside stall in one of Nairobi’s suburbs where well-to-do Kenyans and expatriates lived. They would pay a lot of money for her pottery, much more than she was receiving from the buyers who came to buy from her home. Musyoka was a shrewd businessman who had done very well for himself, and wanted to help his sister earn the most she could from her talents. Musyoka’s only concern was finding an honest employee who would remit the full amount of money to Mueni, and night time storage for the pots.

“Mueni, Nairobi is a big city, and as you know, every port has its thieves. I need to find an absolutely trustworthy person, because you won’t be there manning the stall”

“Musyoka, don’t worry about thieves. I have been making pots for a very long time, I leave them outside my house, and not one has been stolen. Just find me a stall and a reasonably honest worker, that’s all you need to do. Musyoka shook his head at his sister’s naivete.

“Mueni, Nairobi is not a small village. You cannot leave your pots by the roadside and expect to find them there in the morning”

“They will not be stolen Musyoka, trust me.” So Musyoka went back to Nairobi, found a reasonably trustworthy employee, Moses, a roadside stall in Kitisuru and just like that, Mueni was in business. As Musyoka predicted, business was booming. Wealthy Kenyans and expatriates bought the pottery in such large numbers that Mueni was having difficulty keeping up with demand. Some of her customers requested custom pieces, and were willing to pay more than double the normal price for their one-of a kind pottery.

One particular customer, a British gentleman sporting the very sun-burned red face of the newly arrived expatriate seemed very keen on a few of the pieces. He introduced himself as Sinclair, and asked Moses very detailed questions about the workmanship, duration of molding, firing and other minutiae of pottery. He said that he would be back later that day to purchase a few pieces, and wanted to know what time the stall closed. “We close at 7pm” said Moses. “Oh, does that mean that you cart the pots away at that time?” asked Sinclair. “No, we don’t, the pottery stays right here until I come back the next morning” “How strange, aren’t you afraid that someone will steal such fine pottery?” asked Sinclair, amazed at Moses’ naivete. “This is a safe area, and we have been very fortunate not to have had any pieces stolen from us” Moses replied. “Well, that’s a comfort, I just arrived from Reading, and I was nervous about safety here.” Moses nodded, not telling Sinclair that he already knew this because Sinclair’s very red face had “recently arrived mzungu” written all over it. The African sun was a shock on skin used to the gloomy climes of England.

Hours later, when Moses had closed shop for the day and headed home, a dark car pulled up to the stall. A shadowy figure stepped out of the stall and quickly grabbed one of the bigger pots. He clutched it to his chest and tip toed toward the dark car.

*       *      *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *        *          *         *        *         *         *             *

Early the next morning Moses off-boarded the matatu he used to commute to work, to find a large crowd at his stall. “Mwizi amepatikana, ameshikwa” murmured some in the crowd, cell phones recording something near the stall. A dark car was parked by the road. Moses craned his neck to see what the crowd was filming, but he couldn’t elbow his way in. He asked one of the men in the crowd what was going on.

“Huyu alikuja kuiba amekwama”, Moses nodded, not understanding what the man meant. A thief came to steal from his stall and was stuck? Stuck to what? Moses called Musyoka who arrived within minutes. Musyoka managed to shout above the crowd. “Excuse me, this is my stall, please let me pass, let me pass!” Moses followed right behind him and what he saw next would stay with him for the rest of his life. Sinclair, the red faced British man, stood holding one of the big pots, his stride frozen mid-step. His red face was covered in sweat, his hands gripping the pot. Veins stuck out in his neck, the strain of holding the pot evident in his bulging eyes. His face seemed frozen mid-scream. Musyoka walked up to him and touched his neck. “Yu hai.” Musyoka said, declaring that Sinclair was still alive. He whipped out his cell phone and called Mueni.

“Someone tried to steal one of your pots and he appears to be stuck here, pot in hand” It was then that it dawned on Musyoka. Mueni was not worried for the safety of her pots because they could not be stolen. The crowd was in awe. Over the years, they had all heard tales of spells cast on things so they could not be stolen. Thieves were stilled, loot in hand, but those were the fortunate ones. The unfortunate ones were turned into animals, or hoisted onto the tops of coconut trees by imaginary hands, and would not be released until they confessed to their crimes. Until then, most people in the crowd believed these to be moral tales aimed at scaring them, but now, they could all see, in broad daylight that these tales were true.

Mueni told Musyoka that she would be there in five hours. She needed to finish making some pots, have breakfast, and then she would come and free the thief. By the time Mueni arrived, the crowds had swollen to the opposite side of the road, blocking all traffic. News crews had huge cameras and microphones pointed at the crowd. Some international reporters were present as well, unable to pass up such a sensational story. The seemingly accomplished expatriate by day who was a pottery thief by night receiving instant justice.

Musyoka asked the crowd to make way for Mueni. She walked up to Sinclair and gently touched the pot. He released his grip on the pot, which Mueni put on the ground. Next, she touched his face, her lips moving as she recited something unintelligible. Sinclair seemed to come out of the trance and was stunned to see the crowd and media gathered around him. His driver materialized out of thin air and grabbed Sinclair’s hand. They took off running to a waiting car which sped off. Mueni asked Musyoka to take her back to her home. There were pots to be made. Her grandmother had taught her well.

The Potter (Fiction Series)

The Watchman’s Son Part II (Fiction Series)

All the major TV stations were present, cameras flashing, as Mheshimiwa cut the ribbon to mark the opening of his latest venture. His wife and children stood beside him as he smiled for the cameras, and walked into Nani Bank of Kenya. The past decade had been kind to Mheshimiwa. He had been re-elected twice, unchallenged. During the recent campaign season, there had been some noise about a long-dead watchman who had worked for him, and allegations that Mheshimiwa had not provided any compensation to care for the man’s family. He had denied knowledge of the matter, convinced that money had been poured to finish him.

Mheshimiwa had secured the business of several local companies, and with the marketing campaign he had run to promote his bank, hundreds of thousands of new customers had already opened accounts at Nani Bank. Business would be great, and with his political career soaring, Mheshimiwa saw nothing but bright horizons ahead. There were even whispers that he would one day run for president, and he had the assurances of those deep pocketed supporters who mattered that, come that day, he could count on their financial and networking support.

*                             *                             *                             *                             *                             *                             *

Three months later

Mheshimiwa’s least favorite part of his job as a politician was the wananchi visits. These constituents, having believed that he would fulfill all of his campaign promises, constantly hounded him for free food, free education, free healthcare, free, free, free. How could they actually have believed that he alone would be able to fulfil those promises? He had made them in the heat of the moment, warding off opponents who used the dilapidated hospital as Exhibit A of his failed leadership. However, once he promised that he would give everyone free things, the opposition noise had been drowned in the wave of “Mheshimiwa daima!”, which was also fueled by the wads of money he had paid to strategic community members, who then spread the wealth and voted for him en masse.

Today, an elderly woman was at his office, complaining about the lack of medical care at the local hospital. Mheshimiwa had promised to make it a priority if re-elected, but one year later, the hospital staff remained on strike for lack of pay, leaving patients with nowhere to turn. Mheshimiwa promised to look into the matter. When the old woman left, he called his assistant and asked her to tell the remaining constituents that an urgent matter had come up, and he could not meet with them. He had heard enough for one day.

When the office was silent, he put his feet up on his desk and took a deep breath. If everything went as planned with the bank, he would retire from politics and focus on his businesses. Then he wouldn’t have to sit through the litany of constituent problems that were part of being a politician. These people thought he was a magician who would magically wave a wand and solve their myriad of problems.

His cell phone rang, and he noticed that he had over twenty missed calls, all from his bank’s head of cyber-fraud. He answered the phone,

“Hello, Mike, kuna nini?”

“Mheshimiwa, we noticed that you requested that funds be transferred to several offshore accounts, we made the first three, but received additional requests. I was calling to confirm that these emails are coming from you.”

“Mike, it’s my money, transfer it!”

“Yes Sir!”

Mheshimiwa sighed and disconnected the call. Mike was extremely good at his job, if somewhat overzealous in his quest to ensure no fraudulent transfers occurred at Nani Bank. Mheshimiwa did not appreciate Mike’s lectures on the need to make phone calls to accompany requests for international wire transfers to authenticate his identity. It was his money, and he would transfer it as he wished.

Later that evening, Mheshimiwa was heading home after having a few drinks with his friends. Important people who would contribute to his wealth; poor people were a complete waste of his time. Even though he had grown up poor, he had left that life behind and he did not want to be near poverty.

As his driver headed towards Mheshimiwa’s imposing gate, Mike called again. An irritated Mheshimiwa answered the phone, the alcohol emboldening him.

“You idiot! Did I not tell you to stop questioning my decisions?”

“Mheshimi…”

“Shut up! If this is about a wire transfer, it’s my money, and if you don’t stop calling me, you won’t have a job tomorrow. Mark my words Mike.”

He hung up and switched his phone off.

Early the next morning, Mheshimiwa woke up and turned on the TV. He watched the news in disbelief. The police were having great difficulty keeping angry crowds in control outside Nani Bank. From what he could gather, customers had found their money missing from their accounts, and they were livid. A handcuffed Mike was being escorted to an unmarked car by what he presumed were Criminal Investigations Department (CID) officers.

Mheshimiwa quickly turned on his cell phone and saw over 20 voicemails from Mike. Each one detailed the series of wire transfers that were taking place to different offshore accounts, with the last one stating that the bank had almost run out of funds. As he listened to the last voicemail, Mheshimiwa heard a loud bang outside his bedroom door. He knew without being told that the five burly men in suits who barged into his bedroom were CID officers. He was not alarmed, because he was “somebody”, and they would soon realize the folly of their ways and release him.

He was hustled into a helicopter and flown to Nairobi’s CID headquarters. There, he found Mike detailing his conversations with Mheshimiwa the previous day, and Mheshimiwa’s admonishments for Mike to leave his wire transfers alone. It became clear that Mheshimiwa had intentionally ordered the transfer of his customers’ money to his personal off-shore accounts. Mike was released, and despite Mheshimiwa’s combination of threats, pleas and offers of bribery, the CID officers did not cave. Mheshimiwa was held in jail without bail, while awaiting arraignment for wire fraud. The local news channels had a field day reporting on the story.

Over the years, there had been whispers as to the source of Mheshimiwa’s vast wealth, and the news story was spiced with salacious rumors, leaving the viewer to believe that Mheshimiwa, contrary to his name, was not an honorable man. His lawyers informed him that Nani Bank’s insurance would reimburse part of the lost money, but because Mheshimiwa had waived full insurance, his personal assets would be sold to cover the difference. Attempts to recover the wired funds had hit a wall, as they had immediately been converted to various cryptocurrencies, which were intentionally murky, and would be next to impossible to recover, especially with the limited knowledge of how to trace funds that had gone down that wormhole. Mheshimiwa had joined the miserable ranks of people who had gone from rags to riches and back to rags.

*                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                 *

The man sat at his computer and watched the transfer into Bitcoin complete. He then distributed the Bitcoin to various currency exchanges, and waited a month before selling the cryptocurrency and withdrawing the US Dollar equivalents. He then anonymously donated funds to a certain local hospital, careful to use different accounts. In aggregate, the funds would be enough to rebuild the hospital, pay the staff for years to come while they negotiated their salary with the Government, and provide free basic healthcare for the locals. He stood up and walked to his car, his slight limp not slowing him down.

*                 *                 *                 *                 *                 *                 *

Eleven Years after Johnstone Kinyanjui’s death, his widow Waithera and her two children Wanjiku and Wacira stood alongside the other villagers to witness the re-opening of the brand new local hospital. Waithera, a beautiful twenty year old, studied Medicine at Nairobi University and was especially excited to see accessible healthcare available at her village. It was bittersweet, because it was not available when her father had needed it most, but no one else would have to lose a loved one because they lacked access to healthcare. Waithera kept saying what a miracle it was that funding had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, to rebuild this hospital. Her son Wacira, who at twenty three already had a master’s degree in computer science, and was a highly sought after cybercrime consultant, simply smiled.

Had it not been for the kindness of strangers, Waithera thought, her children would have dropped out of school for non payment of tuition fees. She held her children’s hands as they all walked away hand in hand, Wacira slightly limping.

 

The Watchman’s Son Part II (Fiction Series)

Storytime- Sospeter Chronicles- Tiffany’s wedding

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to this auspicious occasoooon of my beautiful and very well educated daughter Tiffany. Just like the very high end jewelry store, our Tiffany does not come cheap. We have educated her in the finest institusooons. No expenses have been spared in raising our very beautiful and educated daughter. In fact, people who have heard her speak think she is British because that is the schooling system she went through. She did not go to these cheap and questionable Kenyan schools, no, we has money, and therefore, we must rub solders with people who has money like us, donge?

But I digress. My name is Sospeter Owuor Esquire, JD. For those of you who are wondering what the letters after my name are, let me enlighten you. I have read books, many books. I have read these many books well enough that I have reached ‘no class ahead’. In other words, I have a PhD. in law. I am a very prominent lawyer, and for those of you who are not familiar with my name, you might have seen me on several TV programmes, giving high profile and crucial legal advice when called upon as my schedule allows. Soon, you will see my name on the Forbes richest people list. In fact, I was just on the phone with a member of their staff yesterday.

Just to give you some background on how I began my journey to my illustrious career, I was born in Kasipul Kabondo, and attended primary school at Pand Gikmoko Primary School. Because of my outstanding performance there, I was selected to join Alliance High School, which as you all know, is the only Kenyan secondary school worth attending. I proved to be more intelligent than some of the brightest minds of my generation, I passed with flying colors and was admitted to Nairobi University.

When I arrived at the university, I applied my superior intellect on those books and the lecturers had no choice but to award me first class honors. During my time at Nairobi University, the ladies would see me and they would come flocking! They all wanted to be part of the greatness that is Sospeter Owuor, future Esquire, JD. I conducted a very thorough selection process, and the lucky lady is this woman here, my wife and the mother of this beautiful daughter of ours. If you are dazzled by my accomplishments, let me tell you about my wife, Dr. Pamela Awiti. Now, this Pamela of mine, is very beautiful, and she is the source of our Tiffany’s beauty. I am the source of Tiffany’s brains hehehehe. So as you can see, this is a great partnesiiip of beauty and brains. My Pamela is a very prominent cardiologist in this our Nairobi, in fact she is often invited to attend conferences and seminars in countries such as, but not limited to: America, the UK, Switzerland, and Germany, to mention a few. So, from that brief summary, you can see that we has money, and that brings us to this auspicious occasooon.

My Tiffany has always been the apple of our eye. That is Sospeter Esquire and Pamela, MD’s eyes. We sent our Tiffany to British system schools here in Kenya, and then to the London School of Economics for her Law degree. As I said, she got her brains from me, so it follows that she would study law and join the family business. While our Tiffany was in London, she met this man who is sitting here beside her, who is now her husband. When she called me on my latest model iPhone and told me that she wanted to get married, I conducted some research into the background of this man. He comes all the way from the land of Chinua Achebe. I asked Tiffany. What is wrong with Luo men? Could you not find one? But you know how these children are, once they make up their minds, that is it. So I find myself giving my daughter in marriage to a man whose ancestry I don’t know, who could be those Nigerian princes who send people questionable emails. Haidhuru, when my Tiffany told me this was the man she has chosen, I decided it is better to save my energy for real battles, and not fight a small boy from the land of Boko Haram.

Before we sent our Tiffany to the land of William Shakespeare, we did our research. We did not just launch our daughter into a foreign land full of people who speak through their noses when they have perfectly healthy mouths. Dr. Pamela and myself scouted a few locations and found the Grosvenor house apartments in London to be most suitable to our precious daughter’s needs. If any of you deign to google the rent there, please hold your jaw because it will drop to the floor.

As you all know, British weather is depressing, and if you look to their food to lift your spirits you will be sorely disappointed because their cooks are the worst in the world. The combination of the weather and the bad food is enough to compel a sane person to jump into the river Thames in despair. It is no wonder they escaped that land and conquered the rest of the world, where the weather was better and the food actually tasted like food. That said, their education system is the best, therefore we decided that Grosvenor house, with its spas, would relieve our beloved Tiffany from the depression of eating British food and persevering the horrid weather.

But again, I have digressed. We are here today to celebrate the union of our dear Tiffany and the man from the land of Chinua Achebe. Our Tiffany, being the daughter of JD, Esquire and Pamela, MD, has had the best life has to offer. As you know, these Kenyan roads are terrible. The potholes here are deep enough to be used as an underground granary, and the dust on the roads is enough to grow Sukuma wiki. Because we did not want our Tiffany to feel any discomfort, we decided that she will be ferried exclusively in German cars. All the other cars out there are unsafe. I mean, some of these mkebespassing for cars I see on the road today are beyond unfit. If they hit you, you can get tetanus! Some people might ask themselves, why is Esquire telling us all this? Well, I am saying all this because I want the people from Nigeria to know that they must maintain Tiffany in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. If the dowry they brought is any indication, then my daughter, utaona siku ndefu, or for our non-Kiswahili speaking guests, she has a rough journey ahead.

Once Tiffany told us that she was getting married, we hired the best wedding planners in town. Some of them had never handled a wedding of this magnitude, and we knew this by the low prices they quoted for us as if we don’t has money yawa. We wanted the wedding to be an exclusive and once in a lifetime occasion. The flowers on your table were grown especially for this occasion. The wedding party’s clothing was custom made by Vera Wang herself. My bespoke suit, which you will never see anywhere else, was fitted and flown in from Paris, but do I say. Dr. Pamela’s clothes and shoes are by Valentino himself. Everything around you is unique and special. We don’t want our daughter’s wedding to look like these weddings you see on the wedding show. In fact, we declined to be on the wedding show because this wedding will be on Mtv. Many people wanted to be here today to witness this special occasion, but you were chosen, so you should all be very honored to be here today.

To my new son-in-law, take care of our Tiffany. In case you haven’t gathered it from my speech so far, she is very precious to us. She is always welcome to come back home if she finds that your ways are too strange for her to handle, or that her classy upbringing did not prepare her for the rowdiness of your people. We are gifting you a brand new Mercedes S550, in addition to the home we have purchased for you. I hope you have the money to put fuel in that car because they are after all the best of the best and they tend to drink fuel like an elephant drinks water. Also, we do not want our daughter driving around in a non-German car, because that is what she is accustomed to. Cheers to you all and enjoy the caviar and the Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1998, which, if you are wondering, cost $2,000 a glass. Let me now welcome my brother from the land of Oga to speak on behalf of the groom’s family.”

Storytime- Sospeter Chronicles- Tiffany’s wedding