It’s six on a Saturday morning, the weather so chilly and the sun is yet to rise,

Bend in the freezing cold water of R. Sio, is a well-built young man with sad face,

He’s industriously scooping sand from the riverbed and spewing it the riverbank, his tattered old shirt already drenched in sweat,

Sand-harvesting is what he does for a living, others are in the city working while he’s stuck in the village and maybe that’s his fate.


His name is Cheku, an orphan from a young age and now living with his grandmother,

Dad was killed by a crocodile in same river he’s bend in, few years later followed her mother

Pamela died of a mysterious disease, some people say it was witchcraft cast upon her by mzee Okrim,

Their evil neighbor rumored to harbour jinnis, he was cruel and never spared anyone who crossed him.


He tried school but it didn’t work, playing both student and man of the house wasn’t easy for the boy, 

Had to drop out of school to nurse his ailing grandmother, she was the only family he had and his joy,

Had taken care of him after the passing on of his parents, now his turn,

Bills are very expensive for a boy, he has no option but to become a man.


He started going around the village in search of a job, did odd jobs just to put food on the table,

But first worked on his piece of land growing various food crops he sold, their land was arable,

Rainful was enough, and red volcanic soil that was so rich in fertility,

Rode his bike to the market with a sack full of vegetables, had humility.


And when he was not on his farm, Cheku would be at the village market,

Splitting wood for Mama Samaki the fish-seller, or fetching her water in a bucket,

Before the fish could be fried in oil for the customers, first Mama Samaki had to wash it,

Later went home with some few shillings and a fish for grandma’s pot, had something to eat.


Sometimes he would be spotted on the other side of the river bare-chested, breaking huge chunks of the hard ground with his hoe,

His perspiring back glittering in the afternoon sun, women and young girls collecting firewood sneaked in the bushes and watched him for show,

Thought he was handsome and strong and hardworking but scared of him, disturbed them since they wanted to know what drove him,

When the sun was about to set would pick up his shirt and with his hoe on the shoulder head home before dusk, across the river he’ll swim.


It’s so peaceful by the river, all quiet except for the chirping birds in the surrounding bushes,

A monitor lizard is creeping towards his lunch kit flicking its tongue, scares it back into the bushes,

He’s tirelessly working to harvest enough sand, ought to be done by noon,

A buyer is coming with a lorry, needs money he’s traveling to the city soon.


She asked him to join her in Nairobi, the girl he accidentally hit with a football while playing for the village team, 

She’s his grandma’s best friend Lucia’s granddaughter, he apologized and she even accepted to go out with him,

Became friends and promised to get him a job in the city, grandma gave him permission to leave,

Thought it was time to let him go explore the world and figure out his destiny, has a life to live.

3 thoughts on “Cheku

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