The Baby that would not be Born

Wanjira was to be found most evenings in the local pubs in Shauri Moyo within the scraggly Eastlands neighbourhood of Nairobi. Since her husband had abandoned her, leaving her with three young children, she had constantly struggled to makes ends meet. She would sell secondhand clothes in the open fields outside the market during the day. This hardly brought enough for the family. It had become her usual practice to visit the bars each evening in the hope that she would hookup with a lonely man for the night. Sometimes she was fortunate and met generous men who would reward her handsomely for her companionship. Though it was a risky trade, she had no alternative. She knew she was already two months pregnant with another child. This did not help the matters at all.

One Friday at the end of the month, in the early hours of the evening she sat at her usual prominent stool near the bar entrance slowly sipping her beer. Her seasoned eyes were alert searching out for a likely man- friend among the myriad of faces that were merrymaking and talking in loud voices. It did not take long before she spotted the new face of a middle aged man who appeared carefree and who ordered his beer and drunk with relish. There was no question about it, he was loaded with money. It was just the kind of man she needed to meet. She fixed her gaze on him, smiling coquettefully whenever their eyes made contact. It was not long after, before the magic of the moment, bred on beer, music and dim lights, took effect. She was beckoned over to him; he gladly offered her a seat beside him and ordered a couple of drinks for the her.

As the night progressed, Wanjira came to know more about him. He was recently retired and was planning to proceed to his rural home where he wanted to install a maize grinding machine. This was to be his retirement occupation and he was confident it would bring him a handsome return. They drunk, talked and got to know each other more intimately.

“Would you like to eat something?” He asked after a while. She nodded. He walked out and came back shortly after. ” I have ordered some roasted beef. It will be ready soon” he said, as he sat and took a long sip from his glass of beer. They drunk and later ate the roasted beef. It was past midnight when he decided he had had enough and needed a place to sleep. Wanjira knew just the place. It was not far off and did not cost very much. Arm in arm they walked towards their night lodging. Before they retired for the night, she asked to be given some money. The man was generous and parted with two hundred shillings. The man did not last long before he drifted into sleep. When she was sure he was deep in sleep by his open-mouthed snoring, she got up and tiptoed to the chair where his trousers lay. She went through the pockets expertly and almost exclaimed in pleasure when she discovered a wad of new bank notes. She hid the money well before returning to the bed.

The man rose in the morning with a smug look of satisfaction on his face. He showered before dressing. It was then he discovered the missing money. His face contorted in fury.

“Where is my money Wanjira?” He asked.

“What money” She said feigning surprise.

“I had three thousand shillings in this pocket before I went to sleep. Where is it?” He asked, his hands turning all the pockets inside out.

“I just have the two hundred shillings you gave me” She said retrieving the two folded notes from within the cleavage of her bossom. “Maybe you lost it at the bar” She added trying to offer some solution.

“I had the money with me when we got here. I know I did because I checked before I paid for this lodging” He was most emphatic. “You must have taken the money from my pockets”.

They argued for a while without getting anywhere. The man was very agitated. Then he calmed down. He sat on the bed and began to put on his shoes.

“I am going” Wanjira said, beginning to open the door.

“Woman, you have stolen my money from my pockets. Three thousand shillings. I have pleaded with you to return the money back to me but you….”

“I have not taken your money, man! “She shouted rudely cutting him off. If you think I have the money why don’t you call the Police.

“I won’t go to the Police” He said in a strangely calm voice. “If you have my money you had better give it back to me, now. If you don’t… you will regret and you will look for me all-over in desperation”. He then added ” I have spoken”.

Wanjira was not easily ruffled. “I don’t have your money, old man!” She banged the door and left in a huff. The man finished dressing and left.

Time passed and Wanjira’s pregnancy advanced. Some seven months later the pregnancy came to term and she was admitted at the nearest maternity hospital. That’s when things began to go wrong. For as soon as she was due to go into labour, the symptoms disappeared. The belly began to shrink and she had to be discharged. It was most curious. Some even thought she had miscarried or that the baby had died shortly after birth. Wanjira herself was totally at a loss. She resumed her work and tended after her three children. It was not long before she noticed that she was pregnant again. The belly began to swell and she had the tell tale signs of morning nausea. She went to the clinic and it was confirmed she was pregnant. The pregnancy developed and again came to term. She was admitted at the maternity hospital once again and went through the process of preparing to deliver. Then it happened again. The symptoms disappeared and the belly began to recede. She had to be discharged. The neighbours began to talk about her in whispers. Some said she had murdered her young babies. It happened a third time. Nine months later she could feel the child kicking inside her womb. On admission the pregnancy once again receded. She once again had to leave the hospital without having given birth.

These events had Wanjira very troubled. She was often in tears and was gradually losing her sanity. A lady friend advised her to see a witch doctor. She declined. She seemed to know the source of her problems. Every evening she would wander round the bars of Shauri Moyo, looking for the man. She would go home disappointed and in tears. The voice of the man would ring hauntingly in her sleep: If you have my money you had better give it back to me now. If you don’t… you will regret and you will search for me all-over in desperation. I have spoken.

Then it began again. She was sure she was pregnant again. She resumed in vigour the searching for the man who held the key to the mystery. One month, two months, three.. four… He was nowhere. The belly continued to swell. Five.. six.. seven, eight months. She could still not find the man. She was so desperate, that she had began to contemplate suicide. Then luck smiled on her.  She saw this other man who had come over their table that night and exchanged pleasantries with her man. He was sitting alone drinking. With a pounding heart she approached him and nervously inquired the whereabouts of her man. His words were like sweet honey to her.

“Oh, he comes to Nairobi at the end of  every month to collect his pension. “The man told her.  “When he comes he spends a night in my house. He was here last month and he will be coming this month”.

Wanjira almost sprung in joy. Tearfully, she told the man’s friend how desperately she wanted to see her man. “Tell him I have his money with me”.

“No need,” he replied. “I am sure he will be coming tomorrow being the last Friday of the month. I will come with him to this bar in the evening. You will have an opportunity to talk to him yourself”.

Wanjira could not believe her luck. That night she hardly slept a wink. Time would not move fast enough for her during the day. That Friday evening, armed with three thousand shillings, she made her way to the bar. Her heart missed a beat when she saw her man sitting next to his friend, almost in the same position he had been those many years ago. They shook hands and she reached into her handbag and withdrew the money to hand over to the man. “This is your money which I took from you that night we were together”.

“Put the money away,” the man said declining to take the money. “Tell me what has transpired since I was last with you. You need not fear, for my companion is a close friend of mine”

Wanjira narrated in detail her ordeals. The man listened patiently without interrupting her. At the end, she was all in tears and pleaded with the man to take his money and remove the curse from her.

“So you admit having taken my money on that day?” The man asked, his eyes piercing into her very self. “Yes, I do” She replied tearfully. “Here, take it. I will even give you more if you want… Just take back what you did to me… I have learnt a lesson. Please help me” she whimpered. The man was pensive for a while, then said: “I will not take your money now. You will go back home and come back tomorrow at the same hour as we had met that day. You will then buy the same number of beers as we drunk that day. We will drink together. You will proceed to order a similar quantity of roasted meat which we will also eat together as we had done on that day. At the same hour as we left here that night we will go with you to the same lodging where you will pay for the room for a night’s accommodation. We will sleep together in the same room until the next morning. It is only the next morning , when you have done all these to my satisfaction that I will accept my money back and free you from the spell”.

Wanjira came prepared the next day and together they retraced the activities of that fateful day. They drunk, ate meat and slept in accordance with the wishes of the man. In the morning, he gave the man three thousand shillings. The man incited some words and spat on her swollen belly. Two days later, Wanjira was admitted in a maternity hospital and gave birth to a male child.

The child was born with a full set of thirty two teeth as in an adult, and was given the name of Makaria,  which means `the one who gnashes’. Nobody at the maternity hospital, nor anywhere in the environs for that matter, had ever seen, or heard of such an event.