Brown cow
Photography by Antonio Grosz

Achievers Christian Academy, 3.30 pm.

We gathered, said thanks, and prayed in an evening parade. My shut eyes invited thoughts of and cravings for tea, roasted maize, and some leftover from lunch. I strayed further to a 4 pm ritual: hide-and-seek at my cousin’s, and my blood raced. I thought about the preceding rabbit hunt in our tea plantation and could hold my eyes no more.

All gathered careered from the assembly ground.

I watched, my bewilderment stretching each second through eternity. Had we said the grace? How spaced out would I have been to miss it? I afforded time to wonder if we were free to leave… then, oh, screams. Echoes of confusion and fear. Oh, feet, scrambling through limited space. A stampede. More screams. I afforded time to wonder if we were fleeing something…

A snort tore into the confusion. Terror welled, as a pair of hooves pounded the earth—an elephantine figure emerged. I turned, cramped in an attempt to flee, managing only a couple of steps back and a couple to the side. I froze.

A beast hurled itself into the assembly ground. Inches into the earth, went its rage—it did a thing of dread with its horns, and snorted, raising dust. A trickle of sweat dripped. My heart sunk. I reckoned that no meal, game, or hunt could save me. Would God listen?

“Boy!” A set of lungs thundered—Mr. Kalya. But I could not take my eyes off the beast. “Boy!” Our headmaster echoed.

I observed caution, as I turned to him. He waved a signal, incomprehensible in the chaos. The beast charged.

One second, I was squizzing Mr Kalya; the next second, the beast was lunging at me. One second, the beast and I were eye to eye; the next second, I could not feel the lower part of my body. Oh, I spun, swayed; I smashed on something and must have broken something.

With much effort and absolute resignation, on the brink of pleading, I looked up and noticed that the beast was not done. It wheeled its massive figure and, with the same rage, charged at my tiny, askew body. Its devilish horns had a target, its snorting was at full gear. It missed a jab at my right hip but came a mighty sweep.

One second, I was on the ground, certain of my fate; the next second, I was floating, spinning, and spinning. One second, it was all dark and quiet; the next second, I saw a flash of bright light, I heard screams, I spun, and like death, all was, again, dark and quiet.

Insensible of time, my eyes flickered cursorily. I felt drowsy—how my entirety ached! Nakufa (I’m dying), I thought, Sikuomba (I did not pray).

“Boy! Simba! Strong, fierce, boy,” Mr Kalya noted, running up to me.

Familiar faces and voices gathered around the flower enclosure that I was squeezed into. I looked up at everyone, feeling worn out and sad. Perhaps, hurt, too? Perhaps, a little lonely? And maybe a little too… mushy. Mushy, ah. I cried.

“Oh, poor boy… msaidie, jamani! Help him, somebody!” Cried Miss Terik, my Language and favorite teacher. Her voice aroused more tears. Voices, murmurs, and muffled laughs joined in.

“Idiots! Disperse before I make you-you-hm. I will make you sit with Buku the Bull.” Miss Terik's fierce backing touched my heart.


Buku the Bull, I thought. I paused, crying to look. Sure enough, Buku, my Beast lay a distance away, all fours tucked and tied. The beast did not look any less threatening, yet it managed to feign calmness.

A pair of strong muscles helped me out. Miss Terik saw me to the school's infirmary, where the school nurse checked and confirmed me okay. Moments later, Miss Terik drove me home and informed my folks about the incident. They listened, traded looks, and politely nodded, thanking her.

The following morning, Father phoned the school to request my day off. Miss Terik happened to be on duty and was all too willing to grant up to two days for fear of trauma.

My old man had a plan for the trauma.

At 10 am, he asked that I accompany him to our grazing fields. There, at least eight of ours like Buku, my Beast, grazed among at least a dozen other cattle. We sat on the earth, a safe distance from the herd. So close, I thought.

“You will have to learn their language,” Father advised.

“What language?” I wondered out loud.

He glanced at the herd and turned to me.

“The language of the herd.”

I write poetry and fiction from Nairobi, Kenya. Africa swirls in African and African culture brims with life. I weave Africa into fiction tales on society, the impossible, the deniable, and the possible. My skin is as black as my ink on white; Africa swirls in me, as I scribble my black..

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