The Return of the Prodigal-By Edward Maroncha

The tiny village of Ganga is usually sleepy. This is especially so during the school term when the cantankerous little ones are in school. Occasionally, a cow will moo, followed by another moo and a bleat. At this time of the year, people are usually in the farms planting maize. Smoke can be seen from the huts where women are boiling githeri.

But today the village is alive. There are so many urbanites disturbing the peace of the village. Their rowdiness does not betray the fact that they are coming for a funeral. They generally look happy, taking photos with their expensive phones. Their cars are parked on the sides of the dirt road, all the way to Mama Evangeline’s gate. The gate itself is a simple mabati one that leads to Mama Eva’s compound.

This compound is full of people today. The only cars in the small compound are a hearse that brought the remains of Eva’s only son from the mortuary a few hours ago, and two vans that came with caterers that are feeding the mourners. Sam has now been lowered to the ground; dust has returned to dust.

Eva sits in her mud hut, numb. Before his return a month ago, Eva saw her son four years ago. Last month was the first time she saw her grandson. She would call Sam; sometimes he would pick, sometimes the phone would go answered, and other times his wife, a girl called Adriana would pick his phone and curtly say,

“Hatuna pesa,”

Then hang up. That used to hurt Eva. She is poor, yes. But can’t the poor greet their children? Why did that girl think that all she wanted was money when in fact she (Eva) has never asked them for money. Eva has never met Adriana.

Eva struggled to bring up her children. Her husband had died when they were young, leaving her with just a half-acre of inherited land. Her brothers-in-law wanted to grab it, but Eva fought them with the ferocity of a nursing lioness. She did odd jobs to raise her cubs’ school fees. She pleaded with school teachers when money came short. She applied for bursaries. Ultimately, the two made it through High School. They both got scholarships: Sam became a news anchor in a leading television, and Janice became a lawyer.


When Sam completed his studies from Daystar University he was euphoric. He had made it. He called his mother and she squealed on the phone. She traveled all the way to Nairobi for his graduation, just as she did a year later when his sister graduated. Sam got an internship at a radio station. Later he was hired by the TV station and rose from a reporter to an anchor.

He met Adriana at a friend’s party, and he took her to his house that night. Three months later, she moved in with him.

Sam quickly learned that life is expensive. There were places he could not live. So he and Adriana moved to Kileleshwa. He started drinking, but his new friends, including his wife, told him that men of his class do not take beer. They only deal with expensive wines and spirits. Palates have class too, Adriana cooed.

He learned that he could no longer visit his old barber in Roysambu, neither could he buys suits in Eastleigh. Adriana needed to have her hair done. She needed clothes. And weekend trips out of the city. Then they got a son, and of course, he had to go to a high-end baby care.

Sam was earning more money than he had ever imagined as a child, but he was constantly broke.

He stopped going to the village to see his mother. He felt guilty that he had nothing to give her. He also felt guilty parking the Prado next to Eva’s hut. He would sometimes call her and occasionally send her a thousand shillings, but soon stopped that too. Besides, Adriana hated these village trips. She never accompanied him, and whenever he came back she would sulk for a week. So for four years he did not visit his mother.

Then he got into an accident one early Saturday morning while driving home from a club.

The injuries sucked his body dry. As if that was not enough, the treatments gobbled up his finances. His friends did a fundraiser and he was taken to India for specialized treatment. His sister told their mother, and Eva called almost daily but Adriana talked to her rudely on every occasion.

As Sam’s condition deteriorated, the TV station terminated his contract, and he was given a notice to vacate the apartment. Adriana fled. She packed one morning and left, leaving Sam and their son behind.

Sam managed to call his sister. Janice helped them both pack up their things and took them to the village. Eva received them with both arms. In her humble hut, she took care of her son and grandson the same way she had taken care of her children.

She worked hard to put food on the table. Her daughter Janice did not help, but Eva did not complain. Her son and grandson were her responsibility.

Then Sam died.

Janice organized a huge funeral for her brother. She and Sam had told her friends that they were orphans, so the entire selfie-taking brigade was shocked when the church minister presiding over the funeral introduced Eva as Sam and Janice’s mother.


Janice stands beside her brother’s grave, lost in thought. Tears are rolling down her cheeks, ruining her make-up, but she does not care. It was not supposed to end this way. She and Sam had big dreams. Part of them was to build a beautiful home for their mother Eva. To make sure she is comfortable.

What had happened to them?

Nobody knows how they will die, but did Sam have to die because of (his) drunk driving? Janice thought about the many times she almost died because of the beatings she received from her boyfriend Eric. That loafer uses her money, lives in her house, drives her car and still has the guts to beat her if she does not cook for him on time.

Enough is enough, she whispers to herself. She will have to change her lifestyle, and the first thing will be to kick Eric out of her life.

She finds her way to the hut and finds Eva sitting on her bed. The crowd has thinned. The Nairobi crew has departed, and most of the villagers have gone back to their homes. Only a few are left hovering about.

“Mama,” Janice whispers.

Eva does not respond.

“Mama I am sorry. Sam and I have not been treating you right. I apologise on his behalf and on my own behalf,”

Tears start rolling down Eva’s eyes.

“It is okay Janice. All I ever needed was you, children, to call and visit. Just knowing you are okay would have been enough for me. Being insulted by Adriana and Eric was painful. But I forgave them and you two,”

She pauses and looks at her daughter.

“I don’t need your money Janice, but I need a favor from you. Please take your brother’s son and take care of him. He deserves a better life than I can offer him. That is the only thing I ask of you,”

“I will mama. And from now on I will take care of you too. I will do all those things Sam and I promised you when we were children,” Janice says and breaks down crying. Soon, mother and daughter are locked in an embrace, sobbing.


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