Tom valued everything that was in his possession. From the pin that fastened his pants, to the mat that carried his tiny bones every night, not to mention his brother Pete. They were precious to him. His was a life of frugal living. Not that he desired it that way, but life’s circumstances had dictated.
It had not always been that way. Life had been one filled with plenty and luxury. He and his siblings never lacked and studied in the best schools. However, that was short-lived as his parents started falling sick often with a need to be hospitalised. This went on for quite a while.
They knew that all would be well so soon. Besides, people loved them enough to volunteer to nurse their parents during those long hospitalisations. So they carried on with their lives with an unfretted sense of security.
All that came to a halt on one Saturday evening when Aunt Teddy came to announce the demise of their parents. Then reality started to set in, faster than the speed of lighting.
The once loving relatives turned into monsters, grabbing whatever they could and making away with it. The children had no say seeing that these people had helped them without asking for anything in return.
Precipitant, the house was devoid of all that gave it charm. Then the ‘friendly’ uncles came and announced how they had to relocate them to the village so the house would be rented out to raise school fees for them.
They were quizzical about the proposition but had no voice or strength to put up a fight.
While all this was going on, Tom wondered what had killed their parents. He wondered how they would get them to the village for burial. However, there was no one to ask all this as it seemed rubbish in the face of wealth division.
It was later that he and his siblings learned that they would be leaving the next day for burial. That meant packing up what had survived the hungry relatives.
Looking at his siblings with pity and rage, he wondered how he would fend for them. He pondered about where Lucy’s medicine for asthma would come from. The future looked bleak.
Tom was not only the head of the herd and their parent from this day forward. The pain of the prevailing circumstances outweighed the pain of losing their parents. It was numbing.
The burial was hurried as there was no grandparent or bothered adult to see to it that they were sent off in dignity.
Then the sea of people turned into a desert. It was Tom and his siblings. He had never known what emptiness meant, it was staring at him.
Scavenging for something to eat for his siblings, he discovered that the roof of the house was leaking, the house was riddled with rodents, and there were no beddings for them.
No words could explain the misery that filled this young man’s heart.It was too much that he wailed. How was he to find a warm place for Lucy? What would he use to cover Pete? He was astounded.
Looking a little deeper, he found some old clothes of his late grandmother. With those, plus a tattered mat, he made a bed for the younger ones. He failed to sleep because the burden on his shoulders was too much to bear. He wondered where they that filled his parents’ house to no end with smiles plastered to their face were. He pondered about how he would fend for his siblings. All he did was moan silently lest he awoke the others.
Early the next day, he crawled out of the house, opening the door with utmost care lest he scared them. Though it was not so bright, the village folks were already in their fields. Talking to the first stranger he saw, he asked about work in the field. With a sneer on his face, he brushed him off. As though a can worms had been opened, Tom’s doggedness got the best of him. He vowed to find work, regardless of what it was, as long as it was decent. He walked to the next homestead and finding a lady, he asked again. This time, he got a welcome nod and was pointed to the right direction.
That was the start of his journey as a shamba boy, both at home and other people’s fields. Finding time to work at home after a day’s work in the other fields was bone breaking, but he did it anyway. Besides, Pete and Lucy helped with the miniature jobs around the home.
He was sure that there was food every day, and with the earnings from the fields, he bought basic needs.
Hard as he worked, Tom could barely save Lucy. With threadbare coverings, the attacks had become more frequent and more ravaging. The last straw was on a freezing cold night when Lucy started wheezing uncontrollably. The fire he’d built to warm up the room was bellowing gusts of smoke into the house, thanks to the great winds. This was choking her and increasing the congestion in her chest.
Hard as he tried to aerate the room yet still keep it warm, he was losing the battle. In fact, he lost it because in the wee hours of the morning, after several gasps for air, Lucy breathed her last.
She had fought so hard to live. With no money to transport her to a hospital facility or buy more medicines, they had relied on what they had managed to carry from home. For eight months, she fought off one asthma assault after another. However, this time, her frail body and lungs would barely take the blow. So she left two sobbing and deeply sad brothers with yet another loss to deal with.
Tragedy had visited these young people and it was set to strike again.
With many mosquitoes in the area, Tom had tried all he could to mend all the nets available. However, they had seen better days hence no handiwork would make them really usable.
That is how Pete got malaria. This lad fought all he could. The nights were the worst as his body would go into spasms. Tom barely slept; he could not imagine losing the only caring relation he had left.
Thankfully, he’d made enough friends, thanks to his honesty and zeal to live. That was how he ably got medicine for little Pete. At least, he did not have to lose him as he had Lucy.
Seeing him play with the other children once again filled him with glee.
After a year of work, he had saved up enough and made a lot of constructive relations to patch up the old house up. Life was a lot better despite the ever-present reminder of their sister. It was one that made him watch over Pete as a lion would watch its prey.