The policeman’s grin broadens. He pounces. Long fingers. A girl would shave her head for fingers like his. He spits on my finger, and draws out the ring with his teeth; the ring I have worn for 18 years – from the day I was recognized by the priests as a man and a prince. It was supposed to have been passed on to the son I do not have. The policeman twists my hand this way and that, his tongue caught between his teeth; a study in concentrated avarice.
Those who have been in the fresh produce business longer are immediately visible: mostly old women in khanga sarongs with weary take-it-or-leave-it voices. They hang out in groups, chatting away constantly,as if they want no quiet where the fragility of their community will reveal itself in the this alien place.
He grew stronger and the weight started coming off. And though he did not time himself, or know how many kilometres he covered, how much weight he lost, he knew that he ran a little further everyday, he did not sweat as much, the aches and pains were more bearable and his body felt lighter.
Carried within these pages of The Fifth Columnist is the story of Ochieng’s life – education, work, social life, beliefs – as told through interviews with the career journalist, his family, friends, neighbours, and workmates, and from his writings and travels.
It was not the Old Man’s rage that he feared, nor the prospect of police cell and the gunbutts and kicks of his fellow corporals. He did not fear any of that. It was that the Old Man had faded. That was why he had left. There was nothing there anymore. Everybody was leaving, and lying about it.
Maina is a violent robber whose disgust for blood and craving to be loved forces him to quit for a better career. But when Maina lands the job of a matatu driver, he realizes that he has slipped into the underworld bedeviled by corrupt traffic police, city council askaris, and cartels.