Only A Thousand Bob

Monday, August 03, 2015


Nobody could pretend not to know the conspicuous Sossisoya. Sossisoya was a moniker he got from his love of a common dish. So, Sossisoya. Who exactly was Sossisoya? There were a thousand explanations and his other names suggested so. Ngiri and Eluf were also his tags. They meant one thing—a thousand bob.

He was a hunk. Actually, the mass-gainers made him a hunk. His hair shimmered from blow-out and his lips glistered with lip-balm. His clothes sounded a warning—he was not some commoner from the bush he lived in. He was not supposed to be where he was. He was not gay despite all the embroidery. Girls called him ‘Browny’. Some called him ‘Charm’. But to the writer, he shall remain Sossisoya though the writer knows he was also called Joseph Jake. Jake was fake. His real name was Joseph Shitumamwoshilikoshe Imbitsimushipwoni. Ouch! That is a whole sentence. A painful sentence of a name.


The month was at the corner. Everyone at Chebarus Centre felt it. The dust on the rough-road proved a point. That whoever had money had nothing more than fifty shillings. And the fifty shillings was supposed to see you through the remaining part of the month which seemed a couple of centuries packed together. Sossisoya was no alien. He felt what other earthlings felt. His condition was as bitter. But this was not the first time the month had proved a tigres. Around fifteenth, all months were equal. They had torturous and cancerous spikes in their wings. But Sossisoya had survived and he would survive. No apologies.


“How are things, Evans?”

“Things are as you see, Jake,” replied the shopkeeper.

“Bwana, I’m telling you this economy of ours!” he clicked after showing his capacity in speaking Kenyan English. “This government of ours! Ah! I am planning to relocate.”

Relocate? Where to? These were the questions ringing in the shopkeeper’s mind. And if Jake relocates … wait-wait! People crying that they did not have a grain of sesame to put in their mouths. One man, Sossisoya, wants to relocate. This guy must be having a whole bank in his pocket. And yes, Evans believed that. Look at his imported shirt. Trousers that he had not seen on earth. The costly trench-coat and a tie Evans knew cost a fortune. Oh-oh! The infamous ‘sharpshooters’, the blings and bangles. Pure gold. This Sossisoya dude has money. The correct spelling of money. Evans respected him though he was not his elder, let alone his tribesman. What tribe did he belong to anyway? No one bothered to know. All they wanted to hear was JJ was hot like a hotdog! Expensive. The golden studs on both ears sang the song of tycoons. Money, money, money.

“So, you want to relocate?” Evans asked the heavy man who had blocked way for other customers who had come to Okoa Jahazi at his shop.

“Yes. I am relocating to Vatican City soon. Life in Kenya is terrible. Leaders are greedy!” He didn’t distill his words.

If you heard such and you had come to OJ, short form for Okoa Jahazi, you just found yourself vanishing. This was not your camp. People talking of Vatican City yet yourself you have so much stress on how you will eat that day and wait to die? You did not even know whether Vatican City was north of you or south of you. In fact Sossisoya had brought some light to you. That there was something called Vatican in this world and that thing was a city.

“But I believe we’re to bla…”

“No, Evans. Look here. How long have we cried that life is hard? How long? Since independence, right? And we cry and die! Nobody listens. Nobody!” He was born some decades after independence.

“I get you. So this Vertical City … are there jobs in it? Or is life horizontal as it is here?”

“There is near heaven. People drink honey, milk … they feed on bread, scones, biscuits. As long as you do one thing …”

“What thing?”

“You accept to be a citizen.”

“Only that?”

“Only that.”

Evans had never thought of such. That all you have got to do is accept. Nothing more and paap! Bread, scones, biscuits, milk, honey … and other delicacies.

“Do you have any sossi soya left?” Sossisoya brought him back to Kenya.

“Yes, Jake. You are lucky! I have only one packet left …”

“Wa! This economy of ours … and what of rice?”

“Yes. That one too … only one packet.”

“Eh! This economy of ours!!! Give me both.” He searched his left pocket with his left hand and unleashed a brand new a thousand shilling note.

“Uko na change ya eluf?”

"No-no-no! that is big Jake.”

“Wa! Now what do we do? You mean you …”

“Yes, mister. I have no change for that … completely.”

“Eh! What do we do?”

Evans did not want to risk all his money in the name of giving Sossisoya balance. Yet he needed more money. What if another customer comes with the same problem? Ah! An idea. A good one.

“Why don’t you ‘break' it then come back when you have small money?”

“Sawasawa. Hakuna matata.”

Sossisoya took the food in his hand and disappeared. Evans was bewildered. How in Chebarus did a human being have enough money to buy him, his shop and the whole of land he owned! Sossisoya was rich like … like … argh! So rich.

Dangling the two commodities, Sossisoya made to his flat. It was actually not his. He was the caretaker of the same but it looked his anyway. When you saw someone at that time of the month walking with rice and dried meat, you felt … argh! Nkt! These rich people, poo!


Mr. James Rulaaha counted losses. So many of them.

“What a reckless human being! Son of a (censored)! This mother-(deleted) just left like that? Red (erased)!” he said politely.

“I cannot believe this! He did not even pay the debt he owed me!” Njoroge cursed.

“You mean he also had …” Evans who was standing next to Njoroge, at Sossisoya’s flat, mumbled. “So he went to Vertical like that!”

“You know where he went? (cannot be printed)!” Mr. James thundered. “How come you (close the curtains) never told me his plans?”

"I thought it was a thing of the future when he said he would fly to Vertical City.”

The villagers laughed. They had come to witness this phenomenon of vanishing Browny. And where is Vertical City?

“Vatican City!” Mr. James. “That fool can’t go to Vatican! Vatican is not a city of (ouch)! Plus, where did that brown pig get the money to get to Vatican? He must just be hiding in one of the holes around, that mole!”

“But he was rich!” one village girl defended petting her protruding belly.

“Rich he was!” another asserted also with an abnormally huge belly. “He had nothing less than a thousand bob in his pockets!”

“And nothing more than that!”

Murmurs took over. Mr. James must have gone crazy. Jake was horribly rich!

“The clothes he used to wear cannot be found anywhere near this town!” a young boy observed. “He even had a car!”

“We even thought this plot belonged to him!” Evans said swimming in tears.

“That rodent!” Mr. James was not anywhere near losing his temper. “I brought him to town naked and famished, gave him food, clothing, shelter and all luxuries. I even gave him some money. Now look at the way the goon has left my flat—like an empty match-box!”

It really was empty. Even the ceiling board and some iron sheets were missing from the rightful place. The villagers went round the compound to behold its beauty and behold!

“Wooooiiiii!” Mama Makumi, the owner of the local breweries, laughed … oh, cried on top of her voice.

What had she seen? A python! A leopard! An anaconda! No-no, calm down. Sossisoya had made himself a swing by the guava tree behind the flat. Bare-chested and holding only a thousand bob in his left hand. He had gone to Vatican City. To drink milk, honey … to eat bread, scones and biscuits … people laughed. Even Mr. James.


Adapted from
Man of The Cloth and Other Stories
An Anthology of Short Stories
by Brady Kenya
First Edition

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