THE MALAVA TRAVELLERS 002

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

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THIS very morning a young man of twenty-four strolled the trails of Malava Forest.


Once a while he’d tour the forest to purify his mind, which was often upset by the anxieties of youth. When he tired from the walk he’d rest on a stump and read a thriller novel, or a book on geography, history or nature. He was a university graduate, not yet employed.


He was reading his novel this late morning when he heard a dog barking, and coming his way. He did not like dogs.


He saw a fluffy white dog come and stop at his boots. It was not an ordinary dog. The dogs he met at Malava market were street dogs, scrawny and tense. Against his habit, he did not kick this dog.


“Sss, ssss--simba, who is your owner?” He stroked the dog’s nose with his boot.

Then, in front of him, on the other side of the trail, the leaves rustled and a mzungu with soft and innocent eyes appeared.


A section of Malava Forest | Photo by Denis Chiedo on The Afrilens
A section of Malava Forest | Photo by Denis Chiedo on The Afrilens

The young man put his boot down. The dog ran to the mzungu:


“Oh, Small! There you are.”


The young man stood up.


A moment passed between them, when words would not come. The mzungu then said, “I suppose I should say thank you, sir.”


“Not a problem,” he said, “I love dogs.”


“You do?”


“Hundred percent. Maltese, Bichon Frise, Pomeranian.”


“That’s sweet.”


He saw that the woman was older than he; but with beauty that was greater than all. Another moment passed between them.


“--Gertrude.”


“Ah, Bruno. Great to meet you.” They shook hands.


Lady G. carried Small in her arm. Her camera slung over her shoulder. “Oh, Small.” She massaged Small’s nose. “You run away from your girl and come to stop at the feet of a handsome man.”


Bruno laughed. He had a box cut of his unkempt hair. He was plump, if not overweight. In height, they matched. Thoughts of thrill and thoughts of disengagement both danced in his head. Women like Lady G., at first sight, ruffle the sanity of many a man. He said, “You travel alone?”


“He is company enough.” Lady G. said of Small.


Bruno laughed again.


“And sweet, aren’t you?” She kissed Small’s head.


Whether to charm Lady G. or say goodbye he did not decide. Lady G. was older; but what of that? Anyway his words did not come. So Lady G. said, “What are you doing out here alone?”


Bruno raised his novel.


“Romantic?”


“Thriller.”


Bruno was not a talker at this moment; but inside his mind a contention continued, and showed on his face. He was pleased but nervous. And reading Bruno’s face, Lady G. then said, “Well, I do not have a guide but I am not alone. I have some unusual friends--oh, here they come.” Lodoviko and Syprosa approached.


*

COMING up to the two, Lodoviko looked at Lady G. in a manner to ascertain if she was fine. “I’m cool,” she said, smiling, “he is a sweet guy.”


To this Bruno smiled: he did not think himself a nice guy; a truth cemented by his grandmother. To be sure he drank a little and smoked weed and kicked dogs and rejected a job the grandmother had sourced and wooed girls the grandma despised but that was all. He had fine points besides. He loved flowers.


All right. Lodoviko then greeted Bruno and introduced himself. Syprosa, standing, knowingly, three strides behind, did not greet Bruno. She would not greet Bruno anywhere.


“Walk with us,” Lady G. told Bruno.


“Would hate to interfere with your tour,” he said, looking at Syprosa.


“No, you wouldn’t interfere,” said Lady G. “Right, Small? Yes, Small accepts. Come on.”


Bruno stored his novel in his backpack, which contained other books. The three of them then walked ahead; Syp followed from a distance. Lodoviko noticed this and waited for her. Syp would never greet Bruno anywhere. But why? She and he hailed from the same village.


It was believed in this village that Bruno’s bloodline was a lineage of witches. That even a devout Christian woman who married into the family would become a witch by adoption. That the family’s older members could cause boils in children’s eyelids and adults’ buttocks. Syp would not greet Bruno. But let us not stay on this so much:


A vehicle passing through Malava Forest | Photo by Denis Chiedo on The Afrilens
A vehicle passing through Malava Forest | Photo by Denis Chiedo on The Afrilens

Growing up, if Bruno did not stay with his grandmother, he’d shuttle between the homes of his step-uncle and step-aunt in Nairobi and Eldoret respectively, as he was orphaned at three. Having a curious and observant mind, he examined the lives of his step-uncle and step-aunt, which was middle class, and wondered if that was all. He was one of those people who say to themselves, is that all there is?


Anyway, now they walked in pairs; Bruno with Lady G., Syp with Lodoviko.


“First time in Kenya?” Bruno said. He had decided to chat with her regarding general matters.


“Haha. I have been around before. I have lived in Nairobi for some time. Beautiful city.”


“South American?”


“How did you know!” She slapped Bruno’s shoulder. “You are keen. People just call me mzungu.


Bruno laughed aloud.


“Yes, Colombian. But I was raised in the UK. Lived in different countries. People find my accent not specific.”


Bruno said, “You are just a mzungu.” They both laughed.


As they moved, Bruno taught Lady G. the local and scientific names of the plants and birds and insects that caught her curiosity.


Behind, Lodoviko and Syp followed:


“Are both your parents walking this earth?”


Syp nodded.


“Are you their only fruit?”