Two thoughts kept nagging my brain every time I scratched my body. First one: pricking the skin with a needle will cause bleeding, why isn’t the case with a bedbug bite? Kimutwe came to my aid; mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs have a magical way of opening the vein and closing it down after feasting on you. Don’t take his word for it because Kimutwe is the kind that will never graduate from a medical school in a lifetime. Second idea: if I was scratching myself this much after one night what about a guy who was beaten every night? Damn, he had probably forgotten what going without scratching feels like. And there was an opportunity. If I could rid Kiangukuni of the bedbugs I would become a hero
‘That is a bright idea,’ Kimutwe said when I shared the idea. ‘Whether the bedbugs die or survive you get an opportunity to campaign door-to-door.’
After calling a pest control company in Nairobi and getting a quotation equal to burning down a house and building it afresh I sourced local expertise. Kimutwe happened to know of a bedbug expert by the name of Kim. Now, I wonder why every parasites expert is named Kim. There was a Worms Expert on Mathare matatus called Kim. When Kim the Worms Expert opened his mouth he left no doubt on your mind that your body was a colony of every known worm. Kim went on to display two tiny tablets that, in his expert opinion, would do to the parasites what a mill does to maize. Kim had never been to a Worms College if ever there was one. However, he knew that if the God-knew-what tablets wouldn’t kill worms they would certainly not kill you. Kim could also help you wash your stomach and blood. As expected you will find yourself wondering how many times you have brushed your teeth but never washed your stomach. If you should brush your teeth thrice a day just because food pass through it, what about a stomach that stores the food for hours? A word of advice: if you ever, ever, ever agree with Kim to wash your stomach just make sure you stay at home, the toilet is working, you have enough rolls of tissue paper and no visitor comes knocking.
Kim the Bedbugs Expert arrived in a worn overall, torn gumboots and a knapsack labelled BEDBUG EXTINGUISHER.
‘Automobile accidents claim human life,’ Kim said, ‘not bedbugs. A bedbug can survive the whole year just waiting for you to wrap up your journey abroad. Next to the vulture the bedbug is the most patient: they will wait until you are still to strike. Rice decreases as you become clean; bedbugs multiply as you fight them. I remember the time I was invited to state house… sorry, that is a matter of national security.’
Kim’s observation had me thinking. Why couldn’t God create man like a bedbug – not the hiding and biting in the dark – but suspending eating for a year? Man, I would have become a millionaire years ago.
‘All but one pesticide are but appetisers to the reproductive stimulants to bedbugs.’
‘What pesticide is that?’ I wanted to know.
‘Sorry boss, trade secret.’
As soon as we arrived in Kiangukuni a crowd mobbed us. The word through the local churches had worked magic.
‘Eliminating bedbugs is like finding your way to the mouth,’ a drunk passing by said. ‘Just get a male, a female and a kid bedbug and drown them in Githioro River. You will thank me later.’
Asked how to tell male and female bedbug apart his answer was simple: ‘The male is big, muscled and aggressive; the female is shiny and her bite is a little like a massage.’
After a short speech Kim got down to work. The memories of having to boil my favourite suit made me to remain on my feet no matter how majestic a chair looked. Before Kim did his thing I would visit the household, sell my manifesto and declare Armageddon for bedbugs. Many people, even after a night of being feasted on by bedbugs, will swear they can’t differentiate between a bedbug and a tick; not Kiangukuni people. In some quarters you are worth some respect only if you have never been bitten by a bedbug. Some said they applied kerosene before bed. Others had their bed legs dipped in containers with oil. However, by climbing to the roof and letting go, the bedbugs still had their way with them. A story was told of a guy who, after his girlfriend dumped him following a bedbug bite, torched the house and rebuilt anew. Only then did the girl marry him.
I knocked on this L-shaped house and was ushered in. But for the knowledge that we still don’t have artificial human beings I could have sworn that the woman standing in front of me was plastic. In front of me was a testimony that indeed the girls on perfume bottles do exist. With a camisole and a mini skirt that knew not how to demarcate private from public parts she embodied the letter and spirit of My-Dress-My-Choice gospel. The possibility that she was smiling in response to my own smile sent shockwaves in me. I articulated my mission in her house, stammering. Why is it that you seriously fall apart when you really want to impress?
‘If I have bedbugs then it is my problem,’ the woman said.
‘Only one pesticide can kill bedbugs,’ for a moment I wished I was a bedbug and this was my home.
‘If you say so. Where were you all these years?’
‘There is time for everything.’
‘What is your name again?’
‘Honourable Bartholomew Wangai.’
‘Bartholomew. Can I can you Barth?’
‘When was your last bath Honourable Barth?’
My mouth hung open. How dare she?
‘“Honourable”, and I doubt there is anything honourable about you, is just another way of saying you want ride on my back. You are a talking bedbug.’
‘My leadership will be –’
‘– servant leadership. I have heard it all before. Let’s cut the crap, shall we? You wouldn’t be here if you could have my vote by other means.’
‘Ah, I admire your candour. Your vote will go a long way –’
‘I want money, not dead bedbugs.’
‘My dear lady, we are where we are because, most probably, you’ve been voting in incompetent leaders because they give you what, fifty bob?’
‘Just that you know the kind of person you are dealing with I never carry any note less than a hundred.’
Well, here was a tough customer who could drive a hard bargain. Something was bugging my mind but the smile on the plastic lips made it evaporate. I fished out a hundred bob and held it between the pointing and middle finger.
‘I admire people who know what they want and how to get it.’
‘Thank you. Fifty thousand.’
I chuckled. ‘Excuse me?’
The woman tore her camisole.
‘What the hell are you doing?’
‘You want our permission to raid the coffers; I am taking my cut now.’
I turned to free but a Mt. Kenya of a man had completely filled up the doorway. He yanked me with one hand and dropped me in the sofa.
‘How dare you rape my wife in my house?’ the giant bellowed.
‘She tore her own clothe!’
‘He was on top of me!’ the woman wept.
‘What is the matter?’ Kimutwe burst in through the door. The giant airlifted and deposited him by my side.
‘Get me the mattock!’
The woman was back in a flash with a mattock. Kimutwe and I fell on our knees with pleas. I shouted but my ears recorded no voice.
‘We can find an amicable solution,’ Kimutwe said.
‘Nothing can undo the psychological trauma I have undergone in the last few moments,’ the woman said. ‘Ben, kill them.’
‘You have a minute to knock on heaven doors,’ Ben said.
‘If you love me, if you care at all these bastards would be dead.’
‘Get out woman!’ the woman walked out. ‘One minute.’
Kimutwe turned his guns on me, ‘How could you?’
‘How could I what?’
‘Why no marry?’
‘Excuse me? I didn’t even touch her!’
‘I heard you the first time. It is your word against hers.’
‘You know me, Kimutwe, we schooled together.’
‘I wasn’t there, was I? Damn, I offered to help you win the seat not to die a rapist.’
‘I didn’t do a thing.’
‘Then why would she lie?’
‘Have you ever heard of blackmail? I offered her a hundred shillings and she demanded fifty thousand.’
‘Then give it to her.’
‘We should raise the alarm.’
‘And bring in the entire village to help them kill us?’ Kimutwe started to cry. ‘I don’t want to die. Bobo is only four and I have a kid coming up. I plan to see them grow, do you hear me?’
‘I only have ten thousand on me.’
‘What? Do you think they will cut us loose for ten thousand?’
The couple walked in. ‘Time is up.’
‘We have ten thousand,’ I said.
The man raised the mattock.
‘Wait!’ Kimutwe said. ‘We can get you more!’
‘How much?’ the woman asked.
‘Forty!’ Kimutwe said.
‘Ten!’ I said.
The woman stretched her hand and I gave her ten thousand.
‘Your rapist boss thinks your life is worth five thousand,’ the man said. ‘I’ll give it back for ten.’
‘What?’ I gasped.
‘Thank you,’ Kimutwe jumped to his feet.
‘Not so fast,’ the man said. ‘Kill him first.’
‘If you let him go I’ll make sure you get thirty thousand more,’ Kimutwe said. ‘Please.’
‘Put it on paper,’ the woman said.
‘We will do anything,’ Kimutwe said.
I blew my lid. ‘We are done here. If you want to kill me do it now! Come on, get it over with! Before you do just know this, I know people who will hunt you like dogs to the end of the world. Oh, you will tell the world that I am a rapist. Go ahead. Put it on radio and television. Allow me to help you out.’
Six eyes widened in disbelief.
‘What do you think you are doing?’ Kimutwe asked.
Ben grabbed me and threw me out of the house.