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Novel: The Ostrich Dance- Introduction and Chapter One
In the country of Aynek, one cannot really be sure of anything. Almost everything happens by chance. The best laid down plans come to naught as fate takes center stage. Naïve and only having just arrived from the US, Caephas still takes things for granted. He has come to bury his late father Hon. Absolom Jowi McOpondo, a former Minister of State. Between his arrival in the country and the actual burial, he realizes that romanticizing Africa is an exercise in futility. A plan is underfoot by psychopathic leadership types to disinherit him of the fortune his father amassed. Moreover, he emerges as a threat to the political status quo in his village. He realizes that Africans who are good, are good for a good reason. The rest are hypocrites, crudely ambitious without even the veneer of refinement of modern civilization. Plunder is more revered than constructive ideas and the praises of thieves are sung instead of hauling them to jail. The only exception to the village rule seems to be innocent Naomi, the girl he can’t resist. In the end she makes him stay, not going back to the US as the leaders expected. And so he is unwittingly next in line for political leadership.
The characters and events in this novel are completely fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons in any country is just that, a mere resemblance. It is therefore wrong to assume that this novel is about some people in particular. It is merely a reflection on the things that happen in certain countries at certain stages of their socio-political development. No offence is intended to anyone on the basis of gender, race or ethnicity. This is just a call for everyone to reflect, if they so wish.
Dedication and Acknowledgements
To all those daring enough to venture with gusto into the unknown against all odds.
All those who criticized me as I wrote this novel and those who refused to publish it. They spurred on my relentless spirit.
All rights reserved by the author.
About the Author and Publication
Geoffrey Odhiambo Otieno was born in 1972 in Homa Bay County, Kenya. He went to Asumbi Mixed Primary School, Cardinal Otunga High School Mosocho and Egerton University, Njoro Kenya. He graduated with a Bachelors Degree in English, Literature and Sociology. He is a teacher, actor, play director, producer, videographer, journalist and musician. He has acted in The Travelling Theatre of Egerton University and has subsequently founded many other community based theatre groups specializing on advocacy on HIV/AIDS, Child Rights, Women Rights and Community Development. At the time of writing this novel in 2006, he was a teacher at La Verne School in Nairobi. He has since quit teaching and is now a community trainer and writer.
Manner of Publication
This is the first publication of this novel. The first Chapter of the novel is included below in this hub. The other 14 chapters will follow in 14 subsequent hubs. Happy reading!
And the city came to the village. In eight cars, seven vans, five buses and two pick-up trucks. The cars were the most expensive. Two long Volvos, a Mercedes, a Porsche and three mammoth four-wheel drives that could take four complete lifetimes to save for under normal wages. There was, though, one small, old Cortina, which sputtered as the others bounced. It nevertheless, kept up with the others in the rather slow moving convoy that slithered over the tarmac. It stood out like a sore thumb.
After this high-power delegation came the two vans. One, all black, windows included, was in all ways the funeral vehicle. It told most of the story of the convoy, in fact, the whole story. All the cars in front only classified this story as a most affluent one and the ones behind underlined the fact. The main character was hidden in this van, a dead main character.
Behind it was the white van. It carried all the goodies that were to be savored by the City and the Village. Unlike the one it followed, it was bustling with life and its good things. It had a story to tell too, but this story would be told later, at the funeral.
Next were the other five vans. They were all liars. In fact, they were included in the convoy to tell lies, the lies of the city to the village. They had fancy names like “The Dancing Queen”, “Signorita”, “Hot Stepper” and “Princess” for instance. Then, they had all sorts of screaming colors; blue, yellow, crimson, red, luminous green and so on. In short, they glittered and blazed. Further still, they had booming music, albeit gospel for today, that made them sound like rounds of cannon fire. Moreover, they had all sorts of lights on them. These lights glowed and sparkled in an array of kaleidoscopic romance, in artificial competition with the early sun-streaks of dawn. Briefly, they looked posh and amiable. That was the first lie they told.
Once inside them, one realized that the comfortable looking velvet seats were actually very thinly cushioned metallic slabs, quite hard indeed. There was neither leg-room nor knee-room between them, especially if God had been a little generous in giving one legs. The music too was poorly synchronized with too much base and too little else. But then, such a lie and many others were only known to the City which used the Matatus daily to and from work. Not so the Village which would undoubtedly gape in utter admiration at them (since the village would never get inside) and envy the City as usual.
The buses behind were a magnified version of the Matatus before them. Though they were much more airy than the latter, they shared leg-room problems. And of course they had their own lies to tell, like monstrous engines that were as noisy inside as outside. But all in all, they were carefully selected new ones. That it seemed mattered to the City a lot. The buses were closely followed by the pick-ups which carried all sorts of odds and ends.
So in affluence, death, a blaze of picturesque beauty and a pack of lies; the City came to the village.
* * * * * * * * * *
The Village too came to meet the City. Masses and masses of the Village, on four hooves or paws and one two feet or wheels. The Village carried spears and shield, drums and drumsticks, leaves and feathers, hide-clothes and fur-clothes. This was the first lie that the Village wanted to present to the City. The lie that, unlike the City, the Village had a culture, a living culture, passed down generations.
This lie, was further emphasized by the hypocrisy of songs, chants, battle-cries, drumming, fluting, jumping, jogging and occult dancing. All this was geared at creating an aura of despair, bitterness and aggression towards the cruel, invisible hand of death. In reality, a quarter of the Village did not know, or even give a damn about, the dead man in person. They were here, because they had to be here, lest they missed “Big Time”.
The third shameless lie of the Village to the City was the ostensible unity of purpose; that the Village now had a common problem; that it was united in a humanitarian crisis inevitable to all. Fake! Quite fake indeed! Some were here to eat, others to drink, to make marriage arrangements, to make political speeches, to look for contacts in the City and to send messages to kith and kin. But most were here simply to see for themselves and thus gather rumors first hand; rumors that would be retold later in grotesquely exaggerated versions to those who were unlucky enough to miss “Big Time” and frank enough to admit the fact.
* * * * * * * * * * *
And so on the 15th day of September 1995, the City prepared to tell lies to the Village; lies that the Village would savor with relish and a deep longing. The City on the one hand always succeeded in fooling the Village. This was partly because the Village, as the Village, never visited the City – it was always vice versa – but, mainly because the Village always aspired to be the City and would not listen to any criticism of it.
The Village on the other hand, never really succeeded in fooling the City, at least not for long. This was partly because the Village never actually put in a concerted effort to do so, mainly because it was quite difficult to fool one who was right there to see for oneself. However, there was the odd chap here and there, who was not fooled by the City. These were the Villagers who had lived there and retired to the Village only recently. Even so, the more they stayed away, the more they began to believe in the City’s fibs.
Then there was the City chap who had never been to the Village or had not stayed there long enough. Such got totally fooled by the Village. One such fool was Caephas Jowi McOpondo, whose father it was that had died, causing the funeral currently at hand.