Fiction: Bwagera takes a trip

Early one morning, old Bwagera set out from her home at Kanzira.  She had to walk barefoot for three miles along a winding path that led to the main road.

Early one morning, old Bwagera set out from her home at Kanzira.  She had to walk barefoot for three miles along a winding path that led to the main road.

She was smartly dressed in a brightly-coloured ‘mushanana’ and on her head; she skilfully balanced her bundle of belongings wrapped in a green table-cloth. 

She knew practically all the people who lived down that path and she would frequently wave to those she saw on her way. She was going to Masaka to visit her grand daughter. When Bwagera got to the main road, she placed her bundle on the grass and sat on it to wait for the Umutara bus.

Suddenly, she heard the screeching noise of the brakes of a lorry. That would get her to Masaka before the bus. Bwagera got up and hurried towards it. As she struggled to get onto the lorry, she felt the strong hands of a young man helping her up roughly.

“Forward! Move forward!” shouted the fare collector to the standing passengers. Bwagera pushed as far forward as she could go, then put her bundle down and sat on it. As the truck sped over the potholes, Bwagera was badly shaken. How she regretted having not waited for the bus.

 She tried to look out, but she could not see much. As the passengers swayed, however, she caught sight of trees and bushes and the roots of houses racing by.

After half an hour, she was covered in dust. After an hour, the dust clung tightly to her clothes, to her hair, to her sweating skin. It got in her eyes, in her ears, in her mouth.

The journey seemed unbelievably long. “My son, don’t forget to tell me when we get to Athanase’s big house,” she called out between spells of coughing.

“Bwagera are you Athanase’s guest tonight?” asked one of her fellow villagers jokingly.

“Would any of Athanase’s guests travel in this fashion?” retorted Bwagera. When the lorry stopped again, Bwagera struggled to her feet.

“Not yet, Mukecuru!” shouted the fare-collector. “We’re only at the Sekeleni Bar.” And looking down, she saw the sign ‘Skyline Bar’.

When they reached the next stop, though, Bwagera was dozing and was awakened by the fare-collector’s shout of ‘Mukecuru! Time to get off!’ she got off and was half-lifted down by the fare-collector, anxious to be on his way again.

She tottered uncertainly and felt every bone in her body aching. Wearily, she put her bundle on her head and limped down the path that led to her grand daughter’s house. She reached up a tired hand to steady the bundle on her head as she passed Athanase’s gate.

benjis07@yahoo.co.uk

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