Well, well, well, what would have been for Sunday lunch when I was a kid. I heard Mommy Charles in the kitchen, she was humming again. I wanted to get up and go see what she was doing but instead, I stayed in my room and sniffed the air. Wait a second, wait a bloody second, is that seasoned chicken, hmmm, I do believe so. Looks like there is more hot pepper in it than usual. Hmmm, smells like there is a little curry in there too. Man this is going to be great as usually. I wonder what next she doing. I heard the pot clanking, the spoon hitting the kitchen counter. Then I heard a cracking sound, I thought, hmm what could that be? After the second crack, I knew exactly what it was, corn. Man, I was intrigued now, what was Mommy Charles up to. I heard the crumple of a brown paper bag opening, the quiet thud of flour falling into a pan. Ohhh could that be the beginnings of dumpling. A few seconds later I know I was right as I heard the pan scrape across the counter as she kneaded the flour. Then I heard the chopping of tomatoes and the bubbling of water in the pot. Still I tried to figure out what she was cooking. The scent floated from the kitchen throughout the house and into my room. The quiet Sunday was interrupted by my stomach rumbling. I got up walked through the drawing room and peeped into the kitchen, Mommy Charles was not in there. I looked at the pot, steam and aroma bellowed out of it. I looked around making sure I was alone, after all I was too young to mess with a hot pot. I tip toed into the kitchen, stood looking down at the pot on the coal pot. Without thinking I picked up the cover, ohhh what I saw was so enticing, it was a chicken soup, one of my favorite meals. Ohhh yes, there was corn, dumplings, chicken, dashin, and some tanyas floating in there, and of course I could smell the butter. And the smell was so intoxication I almost fell over like the village drunk. I was so engrossed with the food I did not pay attention to my burning finger. I screamed and dropped the pot cover. Immediately Mommy Charles said. “Andy, you not interfering with the pot of food are you?” “No mamie.” I said dancing around and waving my hand in the air. I found a kitchen towel, picked up the hot cover and recovered the pot. That scent made me forget my burning fingers. I walked back towards my room, stopped to snag a banana from the dining room table, after all, that damn cooking made me hungry. Thus was the magic of Mommy Charles cooking.
Nelson drove onto a narrow street lined with newly build houses. He stopped in front of one of the houses; it was a brick house with beautiful bay windows, flower pots were on the window sills, baskets of flowers hung along the verandah, African bamboo wind chimes serenaded the early evening, Nelson felt a sudden peacefulness. The big wooden door had a colonial style design to, it just like the mansions he used to walk by in Byumba when he was a child, relics of the once colonial rule. He walked up to the door and rang the bell, a female voice responded telling him to come in.
He entered the house, it was meticulously decorated, and pictures on the walls, soft rusty coloured carpet, and a scent that reminded him of his mother’s rose garden. The hallway leading to the living room was white, he called this her walk of travels, there were pictures of her taken in several different countries Kenya, Zimbabwe, England, China even Tibet. In every picture, she was always smiling, even when the pictures were of children suffering oppressive conditions. That is why he loved being around her, her constant joy of living was infectious. He walked into the living room, a beige coloured living room suit sat as if untouched, he went into the kitchen, and here too, everything was put in its proper place. In the middle of the room was an island with pots and pans hanging from a rack in the ceiling above it. He went to the fridge, it was the cleanest fridge he had ever seen, he got out a small bottle of orange juice and went back into the living room, she always kept orange juice for whenever he came over. He looked at the chairs and chose to sit in the black lazy boy next to the couch.
She entered the room and for a second he forgot to breathe.
“Hi Dianna.” He said smiling, she walked over to him, she moved so gracefully it seemed like she had floated into his arms, she clung to him, her warm body causing chill bumps to cover his body, her hugs always made him feel loved.
“How have you been? I have not heard from you in a couple of days, why did you not answer your phone?” She said, a look of concern in her eyes, it was not like him not to answer her calls. Nelson did not respond,
“Is something wrong?” She asked, Nelson looked at her, her golden brown hair moved gently as she spoke, her hazel eyes danced even with that concerned expression,
“Someone tried to kill me the other night,” he said, her expression of concerned deepened, and she reached over and rested her hands on his knees, she knew what he had been through, she had seen it first hand when she was in Rwanda. Nelson tingled all over, she had a way of making him relax, his whole body going limp like he had just came from a massage parlor. He looked at her hands; they were perfect, like one you may see in a magazine advertising nail polish, or hand lotion, only hers were naturally beautiful, her teal coloured nail polish matched with her purple blouse that swayed gently when she moved
“You have that look in your eyes; I have not seen that look in twelve years. You did not…….” She said,
“No I did not kill him, he is very much alive.” Nelson interupted
“So he escaped?” She asked, Nelson did not answer.
“I don’t think I should tell you, the less you know the better.” He said looking into her eyes.
“You should go to the police,” she said Nelson leaned forward.
“No police, I have to find out who sent him myself, I don’t trust authority you know that.” He said, she took his hand and raised it to her chin,
“You are not in Rwanda anymore Nelson you can start trusting people now,” she said gentle pressing his hand against her chin,
“I know I should, but if the rebels sent him, there is nothing the cops here can do, there will be another one and another one, they will not stop until am dead.” He said, she got up and sat in his lap, she would always do that when he was down and it always managed to calm him down. She smelled of roses, her lips curled into a smile, her skin was evenly tanned. He took a deep breath,
“I know it’s been a long time, but revenge can be a master motivator, a lot of his supporters are committing atrocities today, I don’t see anyone doing anything to stop them.” He said, she kissed him on the forehead, by the way they are together, many people thought they were a couple, but all that was between them is this intense romantic tension that never seems to pan out. She got up and walked into the kitchen he watched her walk away, it was not like he did not want to be with her, but he thought it would be unfair to put her through the nightmares and the depression he fought every day. She had come to the refugee camp with her parents to volunteer and they hit it off immediately, they spent countless hours talking and walking around the camp helping as many people as they could. Her parents had helped him escape to London just before the rebels attacked the camp, he had gotten his grammar schooling finished and attended Oxford university, later she encouraged him to move to America and here he was, sitting in her living room, listening to her shuffle around in the kitchen.
Vince walked into a small room, the walls were painted cream, there were paintings and pictures on the everywhere. Vince went into the cramped living room, a man in his mid thirties sat nervously on a maroon leather couch, a fat man in a cheap grey suit sat next to him. Ramon stood in the small kitchen that was visible from the living room looking at Vince. Vince walked over to the love seat facing the man and sat down,
“Hey Marty,” Vince smacking the man on his knee,
“Hows is life treating you these days, how are the wife and kids?” Marty sat visible shaking. He tried to respond but no words came out.
“Whats wrong with you man we are all friends here right?” Marty shifted a little in his seat,
“The boss is talking to you,” the fat man said smacking Marty behind the head,
“No need for that Marty, here is a loyal man, he will never do anything to hurt us, is that right Mart?” Vince said leaning forward and grabbing hold of Marty’s shoulder the man flinched and Vince shook his head,
“Why are you so damn jumpy do you feel guilty about something?” Vince looked at him and a strange silence filled the room.
“O K here is how we are going to do this, I will ask you a question, you will answer it, but if I feel you are lying to me things may get quite unpleasant, do we understand each other?” Marty shook his head tears rolling down his face, Vince reached out and patted him on the cheek then sat back and rolled his eyes,
“I hate when a grown man cry don’t do that it just serves to piss me off,” Vince stared at Marty, the frightened man sniffed hard and tried to stop the tears from flowing,
Now like I said, am going to ask you a question, and think before you answer, are we simpatico here?” Ramon shifted from one leg to the next as Vince leaned forward looking into Marty’s eyes as if he felt he would find his answer in them,
“Did you or did you not talk to the cops, remember be very conscious with your answer,” Marty sat his eyes as bigs as two moons around mars,
“Well am waiting,” Vince insisted, the man sitting next to Marty smacked him on the arm. Marty grunted and started talking and for a second no words came out,
“I had no choice,” He stuttered Vince chuckled,
“You had no choice? Don’t be an imbecile man you are educated give me an educated answer, analyze or something, make it intelligent yet entertaining,” Marty shook a little and tried to talk again,
“They had me dead to right I had no choice…..” Vince interrupted him,
“Don’t say that you had no choice, Ramon has no, choice he was born dumb witted,” The other men chuckled Vince continued, “The mayor had no choice his dick told him to purchase a whore, but this, this is life and death, your life and your death,” Vince sat back his eyes flashing with anger,
“Am sorry!” Marty shouted between sobs. Vince leaned forward and punched him in the face. Blood sprayed into the air leaving small drops on the couch and the carpet. Marty cupped his nose with his hands, blood gushed through his fingers and ran down his arms.
“You are sorry, were you going to be sorry when my daughters grew up without a family, when my beautiful wife suffers the shame of me being on trial huh?’ Marty looked up at him and for the first time he too seemed angry,
“I have a family too,” he stuttered. Vince growled,
“Who gives a shit about your family,’ Vince slapped him across the face sending blood in every direction,
“Don’t you yell at me, did your mother not teach you any manners never yell at your boss,” He screamed then looked over at Ramon, the giant shook his head and Vince turned back to Marty,
“As I was saying, damn it what was I saying,” Vince thought for a while. the room was silent except for the muffled sound of traffic going by on the street outside,
“As I was saying you do know the price for ratting out friends right?” The fat man next to Marty spoke,
“That’s not what you were saying boss,” Vince casted him an evil look then looked back at Marty,
“Like I was saying, the price of being a rat is a painful death, that’s not from me thats just the way it is,” Marty was shaking harder now, his blue eyes were now grey, blood soaked into the light blue shirt he was wearing,
“Take this piece of shit to the kitchen,” the fat man stood up and grabbed Marty’s arm. He resisted but the fat man grabbed him by the throat and yanked him off the couch, he fought all the way to the kitchen.
The room was small, painted in puke green. There was a dish washer, a small wooden dining table, and the sink was filled with dirty dishes. There was a chair in the middle of the room, someone had spread plastic on the floor. on the counters, even on the dirty dishes. The fat man wrestled Marty to the chair and sat him down,
“Please please, I have a family,” Vince stood in front of him for a second then punched him in the face,
“I hate snitches, I hate them. Because of snitches like you whole countries fall even Jesus was snitched on,’ Vince stepped back and Ramon came forward and tied Marty’s arms to the chair then he proceeded to take his pants off. Marty struggled but to no avail,
“Please My family,” Vince flew into a rage and grabbed Marty by his hair,
“You did not think of that when you were about to get me sent up now be a man and take your punishment I hate crybabies!” he screamed and slapped Marty again,
“To hell with all this talk, am becoming bored with this bitch, lets get started am going to really enjoy this,” he walked over to a dining chair that Ramon had placed in front of Marty and sat down. Ramon handed him his skittles and orange soda,
“Now entertain me,” he said, the fat man walked over to the counter and got an electric cord that was attached to a battery and clipped it to Marty’s groin Vince popped some skittles into his mouth,
“Will you at least apologize to me I may make this less painful if you do,” Marty spat at him the red and white froth landed on his brand new lamb skin shoe. Vince leaned over and took out a tissue from his jacket pocket and calmly wiped the spit. He looked at Ramon, the giant walked over and stuffed a rag into Marty’s mouth/ The frightened man tried to spit it out but the giant shoved most of his massive hand into Marty’s mouth. He gasped and choked but the giant was relentless. When Ramon was sure Marty was secured he stepped back and looked at Vince, Vince shook his head,
“Do I get an apology that’s what friends do for each other?” Marty tried to respond but the rag was too deep in his mouth Vince jumped up and slapped him several times, stopped and slapped him one last time. Blood flew into the air landing on the plastic like rain on a tinned roof. Marty moaned, Vince went back to the chair picked up the bag of skittles and popped some in his mouth,
“Fry the bastard not well done just enough, “Vince laughed Ramon flicked the switch. Marty groaned the gag almost falling out of his mouth. Ramón flicked the switch again and Marty slumped forward twitching and laboring to breath. Ramon removed the rag and Marty threw up, the green bile covering Ramon’s brown Swede shoes. The fat man laughed his belly rolling as he did, the young man that was at the door was in the room now. He walked past Marty and Ramon and went to the fridge, got out some beers and handed the fat man one, Raman looked at the young man,
“What the hell are you looking at keep doing your job,” he said with a snicker, Ramon glance over at him and for a second he looked like he was going to charge at the young man,
“Just get me a rag and some water,” Ramon said, the young man stopped laughing
“O K man don’t get your panties in a bunch,” he turned and went back into the kitchen. Vince took a drink of soda smacked his lips and popped some more skittles into his mouth,
“What the hell is this an intermission, this is not an opera get on with it,’ he said the other men laughed, Ramon went over to Marty grabbed his head and pulled it back,
“You should have controlled yourself,” He picked the vomit soaked rag up and shoved it back into Marty’s mouth, let go of his head and turned the switch. Marty twitched and what looked like smoke floated out of his body as he shook and moaned, the scent of burning flesh filled the kitchen. The young man sat a bowl of water and a rag at Ramon’s feet,
“Damn, that scent is making me hungry, I could go for a double cheese burger right about now,” he looked over at the other man,
Nah, I can go for a big steak myself, medium rear with lots of hot sauce, damn, my stomach is rumbling,” Vince looked over at the men,
“After this we can go get a bite,”
“Good idea,” the fat man said. Ramon flicked the switch again. Marty convulsed choking on the rag, sweat poured down his forehead,
“Hey don’t do that until I say when now I have missed some of the action,” Vince barked. Ramon apologized then flipped the switch off this time Marty was able to spit the rag out,
“Am sorry, am sorry please,” Vince leaned forward in his chair
“What I did not hear you,” Marty tried to talk again but a dry whisper came out at first ten he coughed,
“Am sorry please my kids don’t let them go through life without a father,” Vince looked at him for a second and there was another strange silence, the men not knowing what to expect next as Vince just sat there, cars went by on the street, the murmur of people walking by o the sidewalk, life was going on clueless to the events in the small kitchen. Vince looked at each man in turn then chuckled,
“You almost got me there,” he said looked at Ramon and nodded his head,
“This is getting boring let us wrap this up,” Ramon flicked the switch and Marty screamed and trashed around in the chair, smoke floated into the air, his eyes rolled back in his head, and his skin seemed to have this red glow to it, Vince popped more of the skittles into his mouth as he watched intently, to him there was something spiritual about watching someone die, maybe he could channel a little of their souls, maybe the good they had done would find its way into his soul.
I opened the front door and it hit me, the scent of fresh seafood cooking, ahhh yes I can smell the chives, the onions, the garlic, the sage, the peppers, and what is that? ahh yes a hint of nutmeg. I walked into the kitchen and sitting on the table is a bowl, steam still rising from it, I leaned in, closed my eyes and sniffed, my nose tingles, my stomach rumbles. Then I heard a voice behind me, “Wah you doing?” I turned around and my brother stood behind me/ “I was just going to eat,” I said, My brother stepped forward. “No yuh not, dat is my ital.,” he said, I looked and him and smiled, “Dat wah you tink, as far as I could see me is de one standing closest to it. ” My brother looked a little indecisive. I mean, I had a point, and I had the advantage. As we stood arguing over the one plate feast before us, Mommy charles silently walked into the room, picked up the plate and walked out. My brother and I stood looking at each other for a second. “Mamie, wey ours?” My brother asked. Well as Mommy Charles always said, ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer, “All you is grown men, cook yuh own food,”
Walk into the house, through the living room, into the kitchen, I am following my nose to this plate of food. Then I opened my eyes and realize it was just a dream.
Saturday afternoons our house was bustling with activity. Mommy Charles and my sister went on a baking frenzy. Back then we did not have no dough mixer, or blenders, none of that fancy cooking equipment. The cake batter was done by hand, Mommy Charles would stand and the table whipping eggs, kneading the bread dough singing, “There’ll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover, tomorrow when the world is free” My sister was on the other side of the room grating coconuts for the coconut buns, mixing the ingredients for her famous cheese curls. I stood there waiting for Mommy Charles to pour the cake batter into the baking pans, you see I was the official bowl licker, I loved scraping the remaining batter from the bowl, it was sweet for so. All afternoon the house smelled like a bakery as they put in the bread to bake. We did not have a fancy stove either, it was a concrete over that you shove the bread in and it was heated up with wood. If you ask me that was the best way to bake bread. When all the baking was done they would lay it out on the counters, on the dining table, I mean anywhere they could find room. That is when I got my opportunity, I stood at the kitchen door looking left then right making sure my sister or Mommy Charles was nowhere is sight. I tiptoed into eh kitchen grab a whole loaf of bread and ran to my room. I sat on my bed and took a bit of the hot bread then thought it needed a little something more. I want to the kitchen and grabbed a bowl of butter and went back to my room, the butter melted on the bread, my stomach rumbled with anticipation. After two bites I thought, some cheese would go great with that. I went to the kitchen, opened the fridge looked inside, turned around to make sure no one was around then took the cheese and a knife and went back to my room. The cheese melted on the bread too. I ate until my belly full and still half of the loaf of bread was remaining. I did not want to throw it away, I did not want to put it in the fridge because Mommy Charles would know I took it so I walked over to my dresser and put it in the top draw. The next morning I was woken up by a rooster crowing and my mother shouting ‘All you, its time to wake up!” I got up, stumbles over to the dresser, took out an underpants and put it on. I stopped when I felt like something was tickling my testicles. I shrugged it off and started walking to the bathroom. Suddenly my boys felt like they were on fire, I woke up real quick then, looked down and saw hundreds of fire ants running down my leg. I ran for the bathroom taking off my underpants as I did. mommy Charles was coming from the dining room when I ran by, “Buoy, why you running through the house naked?” she ask, “Ants in me pants, ants in me pants!” I screamed, “How you get ants in you underpants?” she asked walking into my room, I heard the dresser draw open, then I heard “Annnnnnnddddddyyyyyyy!” I tell you what hearing her shout my name like that made me forget that my balls was still on fire.
A tropical feast that will make your mouth water if you smell it from a distance. Mommy Charles cooked the best, you could smell it from the classroom as you sat waiting impatiently, knowing that she was in the kitchen, mixing her magical spices and vegetables, oh and don’t forget the cram or lobster ohhhh yes, miles away and your imagination running wild with the scent and the taste.