“A knife, a spear or a simi?” he asked.
“Simi,” Koko responded after a pause. She stopped beading the necklace and looked up at him. He lay on the mat, facing the roof of their home. He was shirtless, his ribs sticking out like the thorns of an Acacia tree.
Several flies hovered over his face but he looked calm, undisturbed.
“The Morans will be dancing during the initiation, their hair flying over their heads as they jump,” he continued. “I will stand straight completely naked, with mud applied on every part of me awaiting the cut. And I will not flinch when the Oloibon pulls the foreskin and cuts. I will be still, silent and still. The Moran’s will growl like the lion, the women will dance and I will be a man.”
The last part came out as a whisper.
“That’s right, a man.” Her voice was more of a whisper to herself. She stood up, stretched herself and walked towards the door.
“And then I will hunt and kill a lion. I will become a Moran, strong and feared.” His voice became softer. “I will then pay the dowry for the beautiful dark girl. You know which one I am talking about Koko, don’t you?”
She grunted in agreement, pushed the animal skin that acted as the door aside and stepped out. The rays of the hot sun illuminated the room but he lay there, without moving, still talking.
She returned carrying a basin half filled with water.
Gogo followed her into the mud and dung plastered room. She stepped softly, as if the earth was sacred. She carried with her a small gourd and a fly whisk.
His eyes were closed; he had stopped talking and was half asleep. Koko woke him up, wiped the sweat off his face and then helped him into a sitting position.
Gogo made him drink the contents of the gourd. He sipped once, twice and then coughed out thick darkish phlegm and blood.
They wiped him again and put him down on the mat. He drifted into sleep and started a gentle snore. Gogo sat next to him swatting off the flies.
“Is he still hallucinating again?” she asked.
Koko sat on a three legged wooden stool. “Yes. He still thinks he is a child.”
“What did they do to him in Barma?” Gogo asked softly.
“I don’t know,” Koko turned her head away from Gogo.
They sat in silence, one swatting flies, the other beading a necklace. He turned to his side, coughed and then went back to sleep. They looked at him with worry. When he started snoring again, they continued with their chores.
The only sounds they heard were the occasional chime of cowbells, the gentle snore of Koko’s husband and the flapping of the door.
His snore was gentle now, his dream pleasant. He was running the cattle to the river. They ran following him like a bee follows flowers. He reached the river and stood. The cattle drank slowly. He watched the calf his father had given him with pride. It was a cow now. It drank water slowly. He moved towards it and touched its side. It looked at him.
He coughed in the real world and the women looked at him. He turned to his other side and continued to snore.
He was no longer with the cow but with Koko. It was dark, heavy cloud rains blocked the moon and the stars from the earth’s vision. His words came out trembling.
“Just once,” he pleaded. “No, not until they cut you,” she responded. “Then, I will be all yours.”
His back leaned on the tree and she pressed against his body. He could feel her warmth. Her full round breasts rested in his chest. He held her by her bottoms, pushing her towards him. He was hard. He caressed the bottoms as he pressed her onto him. She moved one leg aside, caressing his shoulder. “Once,” his voice was a whisper. “Once,” the sound of her voice caressed his ear. He pushed her legs apart with his knee.
In the real world, he groaned and moaned then coughed. He opened his eyes and closed them. The dreams came automatically.
He wiped his face with the back of his left hand. His right carried the heavy gun and on his back, he carried his provisions. They were now matching through the muddy forests of Barma. The rain had just let up after a week of heavy pouring and mosquitos rained on them mercilessly.
A low rumbling made them stop and suddenly everyone was running for cover. He dived into some bushes and stayed still. The plane hovered around, sounding like a huge mosquito before the bombs began exploding. He covered his ears, shaking. Koko, he called out. KOKO!