Confessions: How A-Student Would Sell School Piglets to Afford Bread 

  • Mejja is in his third year at a prestigious national school. He had won a coveted church scholarship. He wouldn't afford it, otherwise with his poor background. Dirt poor.

    On the flipside, Mejja was the brightest kid that ever graced the school's academic corridors. 

    Mejja would miss class for weeks, stuck at home. The church paid his fees, but dude lacked an anchor guardian. He would need upkeep, like travel expenses.

    Plus, social pressure in high school is real. It's a hard place to be, if everyone but you is chomping on buttered bread at break time.

    Mejja would breeze in a day into the exams - and score straight A's. Brilliant stuff. He also loved the school farm - pigs, dairy cows - and spent lots of time there. He became Chairman of The Young Farmer's Club (YFC).

    He wasn't A-grade material in other things, though. He had an image problem.

    He came across a joker - but, in essence, he had dreams of a career in comedy. He had been in several comical escapades. The good grades - and the sponsorship asterik on his file saved him most times. 

    The problem with Mejja wasn't his clowning. It was his other habit that often irked people - laughing at the most inappropriate times. He had this kind of laughter that made people laugh. He would laugh, and people would laugh at his laugh.

    High School

    Picture a Wednesday afternoon, dreary hot. The class is not halfway through a difficult Chemistry lesson - it's a double. The bestacled teacher in smart, fitting casuals - no tie - is dancing through his pet subject: The Mole Concept.

    The front row students are devouring his every word and scribble on the board. The middle row is, well, developing a headache - but hangs on.

    The back row - backbenchers - are in space, literally. Otieno is deep into a tattered paperback under his locker, a John Kiriamiti bestseller - My Life In Crime. Mejja is lazily doodling. Neither here nor there. 

    The teacher is a wizard in Chemistry. Breaking Bad level - type of wizardly. However, he's not so polished in English. He keeps mixing verbs, adverbs and adjectives. Suddenly, Mejja recalls a teacher joke he had read:

    The headteacher meets a teacher rushing to class on the hallway.

    Headteacher: Are you the new English teacher?

    Teacher: Yes, I are...

    A sharp chuckle escapes his lips. Then grows, like a series of bad decisions on a Friday night out - into a full guffaw. Mole Concept, be damned.

    The teacher throws a missile. The chalk misses. He stares at Mejja. No, he drills the air with his eyes - like you would stare at a Lingala belly dancer on those shows. He mouths a silent 'OUT', pointing to the door. 

    The hapless comic shuffles out, elbows showing through holes in the sleeves of a grey sweater.

    Right now, though, it seems like his hour of reckoning is nigh.

    As a kid, Mejja had watched as his grandfather rigged his compound with a cypress fence. He'd asked why. The old man had said snakes didn't like the smell of cypress, especially in the morning. As he crouched into a ball, he hoped his grandpa was right.

    Mejja is hiding in a bushy cypress fence. There's a row of latrines between the fence and the dormitories.

    The entire area is lit by a bare, yellow bulb. A cloud of termites flies around it. The school used an industrial antiseptic that would stick to clothes. The students would leave sweaters on the fence as they entered a latrine.

    Mejja squints at the dials of his watch. Only 4.30am. What was a captain doing in a latrine at 4am? It wasn't a sweater on the fence, but a blazer. He had taken so long. Perhaps, it was a running stomach. They enjoyed a special diet - and were hated for it.

    The clock ticks by. Heart beating on the double. Mejja is shivering. It's so cold. A drop of dew crawled down the back of his neck every five seconds.

    Everything was off, but for the aroma of cypress - fresh, lingering, pine-like, resinous, evocative and slightly smoky with a sweet, balsamic undertone. He fell in love. Like the smell of earth when the first drops of rain sink in.

    From the corner of his eye, he sees the latrine door open. A figure shuffles out. He's pulling up his pants. Thank heavens for the termites flying around. He starts swatting at them, almost immediately. He grabs his blazer and starts to leave, then pauses - and looks around.

    It's the indefatigable dining hall captain. At 4am, he's in full school uniform - stripped tie, polished shoes and all.

    High School

    Mejja stays frozen, dares not to breath. Suddenly, he feels a wiggle beneath his shirt. A shot of panic shoots up his spine. Is the piglet waking up from its stupor? For the first time in his life, Mejja starts to pray:

    Dear Mary, Mother of God, please talk to your son Jesus. Dear Jesus, Son of The Virgin Mary... Take care of the captain for me, I'd be forever be a good boy after this...

    It worked. The captain starts walking away, towards the dining hall. 

    Mejja sneaks through the cypress fence. He half-runs, crouching, past the row of latrines towards the corner of the fence. There's supposed to be a hole. It's still dark, but it's getting lighter. He's supposed to be at the hole at 4.45am.

    Will the guy be there to pick the piglet? It's beginning to turn against his belly. It felt like a lump of meat swathed in a towel.

    He'd followed every instruction. He'd met a guy on the school grounds, previous day. The school had hosted a regional soccer tournament, the local community had been allowed in. 

    As the games started, a guy in a leather jacket had approached Mejja. He'd introduced himself as Moses. He'd told Mejja he's an old boy. He'd apparently heard Mejja's exploits in his old position - as the YFC chairman - in his time. He'd infact, pioneered the pig section. He's now a full time pig farmer.

    Mejja was in awe.

    "So, how's your farming project going?" Mejja had asked.

    Moses tells of how hard it is to get a good breed, afford feeds and so on. He needed help. Can Mejja help him get a pair of piglets to start off  with a good breed? He'd be forever indebted. 

    Plus, he'd also pay him well. Images of buttered toast floated past Mejja's eyes.

    "It's hard, Moses". Mejja tells him. He's wondering if his desk-mate has butter in his closet.

    "It's not hard," Moses says.

    He hands Mejja a bag. It's filled with regular household shopping - some sugar, a loaf of bread, some biscuits and chocolate, juice.

    There's a plastic water bottle. Moses says Mejja can have everything - except the water bottle. It wasn't water, it was chang'aa - a locally brewed, very potent spirit.

    He could only eat half of the loaf, too.

    Tomorrow morning, he had to wake up at dawn. Preps started at 5am. He was to soak the other half of bread in the illicit drink - Chang'aa. Feed one of the piglets. It'll pass out from the booze. 

    Mejja felt like a movie star getting a briefing from the director. 

    Moses tells him of a hole in the corner of the school's cypress fence. He'd be waiting for him at 4.45am. A whistle blew, and soon after, groundsmen had started shooing the visitors out.

    As he left, Moses had pressed a crumpled 100-shilling note in his palm, and whispered: Tomorrow, 4.45am. Don't be late. I'll make you rich!

    As Mejja crawled into the hole in the cypress fence, he saw a face on the other side. He could hardly recognise it. It was Moses, alright - but he had the darting eyes of a pilfer. And, had an horrible breath, reeking of stale spirit.

    It dawned on Mejja, that he had created a movie and became it's villain.