HIS SKELETON

I watch him stagger towards me. No, he isn’t drunk, but he can barely see. “Natty…” Lyesa whispers as he heavily lands on his knees next to my bed. He wraps his hands around my waist, buries his head in my stomach and weeps. For the first time in the twenty-six years of my life, I have no idea what to say to my half-brother. For the first time in the twenty -eight years of his life, Lyesa hasn’t said, ‘Men don’t cry’ when his heart is tearing apart.

Just as I begin to wonder what happened to make him so wretched, Lyesa’s shoulders stop shaking. I look at him just as his head tilts so his eyes can meet mine. “Mama’s black pot broke.” He whispers and a shiver runs down my spine.  “Your mama’s or my mama’s?” I ask and look away because I already know the answer to that question. My mama never made pots. She hated pots. Ever since she found out what my papa’s first wife did with the pots she made, mama never went near a clay pot again. “You know your mama never had any clay pots.” Lyesa says as he stands and moves back to lean on the wall. Lyesa, Lyesa. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Perhaps I should scream because in God’s holy name, what has my brother been doing behind my back?

“Ly, thirteen years ago, when all our parents were tied up and murdered in that hut, when your mama’s pots were being sanctified, broken and buried, did we not agree never to touch any of the pots? When we moved to Nairobi, did we not swear by Wele, by God, that your mama’s sorcery would die with her?” I pause, stand and pick my car keys. As I swiftly pass by the door, Lyesa grabs my hand. “Mama gave that pot to me when I was nine. I did not think much about it when I was packing it.” Lyesa sighs and let’s go of my arm. I walk back into the room and there is silence as he rubs his hair roughly. “Look Natelo, did you think that me landing those big jobs despite my lack of qualification was because of grace? I tried to do it the right way, but people are corrupt. If I had not tried mama’s way, you and I would have starved to death. When she gave it to me, it was sealed. She said to only unseal, if one day I am in deep trouble. I swear by Wele, I only used it once.”

“Ly, sorcery, destroyed our family. Everyone in the village shunned us.” We stand in silence, each avoiding the other’s gaze.

A minute later, Lyesa stands upright and pockets. “Look at me Natty.” He says in that commanding tone. My eyes find his and I am startled to see the pain and fear in his eyes. “Lyesa…” I say, my voice sounding colder than I intended it to be. “…what was in this particular pot?” Lyesa chuckles in fear and pulls out a cigar from his pocket, lights it up and returns to looking me in the eye. Without blinking he says, “A big black snake…It was a small pot but when I unsealed it, a big black snaked crawled out of it. I sealed it right after I was done but now that the pot is broken, I’m afraid…” As Lyesa trails off, the panic in him grows threatening to trigger my anxiety attack. Was he crying because of fear? What has he done? What are we going to do?  Lyesa steps towards me and gently grabs my shoulder. “You have to help me, please.”  I swallow and step back. As my tears start flowing, I walk out of the room.

 From the cabinet in the living room, I grab a bottle of whiskey all the while ignoring the man who is now standing behind me. “Nat, it went into the neighbor’s house.” Lyesa says, deadpan. I slowly turn to look at his now expressionless face and finally understand his fear. “You want to keep your secret.” Lyesa looks away as a flash of pain crosses his face. “Yes, sorcery is not something I am proud of…I…I also, don’t want to hurt people the way mama did.” I slowly place the bottle of whiskey onto the table and take steps towards him. I grab Lyesa by the collar. “Brother, you listen to me carefully, I will help you, but you have to promise me, and keep your promise, that when we find that snake, it and everything connected to your mama’s sorcery will be destroyed and this shall be a skeleton in your closet that we will never speak of again.”

An hour later, we are set up in the backyard. Lyesa is ready to summon his snake. He chants the words I heard his mama chant many times back in the days. Words I still can’t understand. A minute later, something cold slithers around my legs and I freeze. “Don’t touch my sister.” Lyesa mutters, his eyes still closed and the snake slithers away from me. It coils right on top of the pieces of the broken pot and without wasting time, I kick the bucket of sanctified water and watch as it flows towards the pieces of the pot. I murmur the prayer that mama often used to keep, papa, Lyesa and I protected from whatever it is that Lyesa’s mama chanted every night. 

                               “Wele Khakaba, God the creator, create a shield for us, your children, that we may not be stained by that which is dark, cleanse us of the darkness that already clings to us.”

The hissing of the snake grows louder, and I cringe as I watch Lyesa set the snake and everything around it on fire. I do not wait for everything to burn. “I have done my part; I am heading out for the meeting. Our company could use the partnership with that South African firm. Take your time and clean up your mess without mistakes, I will make up an excuse for you.” Lyesa looks at me as I adjust my navy-blue sequin blazer and smooth out my white trousers. “Thank God I did not stain your white top with tears.” He says a small smile on his lips. I lift my left brow debating whether to be mean or not. After a second, I sigh and let it go. As I turn to walk away, I say “I will ask your bishop friend from the other church to come by later.” Lyesa chuckles. “No need, I found out that his snake was friends with mine.” I shake my head. “That’s no way to joke about a man of God.” Lyesa abruptly stops laughing. “Natelo, I am not joking.” I turn to look at him and find his face clouded by the serious expression he wears every time he is trying to pass a point across. A shiver runs down my spine for the third time that day and without a word, I walk away. Perhaps I don’t need to call any pastor, I think my prayers are enough to sanctify the entire compound.

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