You have passed by a garage. The setting is intriguingly familiar, workmen in oversized greasy and dusty overalls, strong arms where the difference between the palm and the back hand is null. A keen observer would note a missing finger or one so crooked it would make for a spanner. Their pockets are always full of pieces of metal, bolts and nuts, bearings and screws that they walk in a limply swagger. They also have an inverted view of life perhaps from ages of lying upside down checking for loose bushes beneath vehicles. They attract another band of brothers, dogs and bitches with loosely hanging tities. I mean female dogs that scavenge around and live under the mangled wrecks of motors, another notable feature of a garage. These ugly hounds are surprisingly friendly and so respectful. Secondly, there are these cats. Super fat cats that I believe can talk, they say hi to new customers and even ask for tips. The mama uji kiosk is another key zone in a garage. The Mama Oti from Kendu Bay runs this base, she sells all types of food, and she has hired several Kaos from Kitui who make larger than life chapos in equally large and dark white vests. She hates the new joint Mama Fridah from Ndumberi has opened just doors away.
These garages are timeless, you eat well cooked Githeri at seven in the morning since food is focal to the garage community. The mutura sold by suspicious Kim is another story.
Last week, I happened pass by, as usual the welcome smell of auto paint and the hissing of the motor sprayer as a certain Prime East was being refurbished. The noise from panel beating of metals by a certain muscular Oti was disturbing but only to me for being the outsider. My old man had sent me to enquire about the price of wheel realignment and panel beating of the bumper.
“Son, are you still schooling?” he asks. No, I just discovered KC coconut.
“Yes Awa. School is fine.”
“You are finishing next year.” I know he is tired of my phone calls asking for money.
“Yes but there is attachment…”
“Good I’ll attach you to the dairy factory here, I know the HR. So I had an accident in my Buick.”
“God I’m sorry. What happened?”
“I reversed but the stupid thing jerked forward into the wall.” I think I have heard this story.
Father boards the Buick, ignites and allows the engine to pull oil religiously for five minutes. He engages the gear and looks back. There is a whole lawn to reverse on. He steps on the gas strongly but the gear is still on drive, he rams into the wall.
I hold the call and laugh for a while. I rejoin him later lamenting on network and how safaricom has become unreliable.
“Son please go to Kariokor, pale kwa makaburi and search for Ndegwa. He is very good at panel beating. I also need the wheels aligned and the arm…” I do a quick reckoning. Some thirty thousand was to leave the family kitty. The Buick was another last born.
“Of course, I will do it this Eid.”
The parting shot is short.
The Bull is phenomenal at the garage and I locate his place very quickly. I overheard rumours that he is also my uncle. I ask several Kaos cutting and rethreading some tires The Bull’s whereabouts and they point to a Hino truck. I make out a brown garbage lot but it moves soon connect the whole body. It was the price bull, the best on the land and the hero in the village. He got under a lot of bums in the village, more than he got under the Hino trucks. He finally pulls out after an eternity. He takes time before he acclimatizes to the light and upright pose and more time to note my presence and acknowledge me. He finally stretches a very black hand and I take it losing my tiny one in his. He is a giant and I’m Jack. He shakes hard and I feel my ulna crack. I sigh in relief when he finally let go.
It’s one and we were both hungry, he leads me through some shanties to this joint. Smoke was billowing from the low roof and men sat inside, it was silent apart from the yelling of the supervisor at the timid waiters. Men sat in rows, bent over their aluminum bowls devouring on the meals, they were all black, darkened by sweat and grief, hardened by work and troubles and deafened by commands and responsibilities. They were around forty of them, each had a tale to tell but the one opposite me had more than a fair share. He ordered for ugali and greens, keen to remind the waitress to weka supu ya matumbo. He looked at my disparity, my small hands and petiteness and sneered scornfully. He thought that maybe I was a rich and corrupt bastard waiting for my lorry to finish offloading and could use the time to spy on them, the race of the workers. His scrutiny ended when the girl finally brought the meal, he thwarted the plate and I waited for him to gulp it down in one but he ate pressing on the ugali and dipping it into the greens. Watching him eat was like watching a cancer patient swallow the pills, sorry for this, each mouthful gave away a lot. He probably lives in a mabati shanty in Dandora with his family of six, he wakes up early, to walk to work and escape the morning breakfast fight. It was a tale of not enough in his house. Not enough food, light, space and even sex. He wipes off the greens plate and requests for water. The Bull pokes my ribs with his elbow and almost kicks me out of the seat, my arm flies for support but not before hitting the cup of water in the man’s cup. It spills all over him. I am utterly sorry but am pathetic at apologies and just stare completely confound. I expect a smack and an insult but the man, filled with the heart of Christ shakes off the beads of water on his overalls before they seeped in and poured himself another cup of water. I mumble a quick sorry as I watch his throat twist as he lets water to his bright heart.
He walks away, without a word.
“You see, he is better off. He is strong and occasionally gets hired by the Indians or a tycoon in the garages. Others are weak and just beg,” The Bull tells me amidst of a heated conversation in my brain.
I leave Quarry Road, but I will be back, part to have the Buick fixed and part to see the face of the man shine.