Sometimes he would run through the routes of the small village yelping like a wounded dog causing the children to scamper away to their mothers who would hug them close to their bossoms while men stopped their conversations to watch his next move.
Every local knew Duncan. He had visited almost every home, most of the time, uninvited. He often explained that his visit was just to greet them but never said no to a cup of tea or a plate of food. Even when his stomach showed all signs of fullness, he would still nod to the next offer.
Duncan would sometimes wake up from his bed and scurry outside the bedroom, out of the house and through the gate naked but for a short. He would run screaming “Yaaaaaaaa!” and the children playing by the roadsides would scream as they hastened to their houses for safety.
Then when fatigue completely overwhelmed him, he would walk back home quietly, his mind so far away and completely oblivious of the staring eyes.
He was the only son to Rehidi and his wife. The couple had two other children, daughters but Duncan gave them the most headaches. They at first thought he was just being a boy but the hypermania became extreme.
At toddler age, he would bang his head on the concrete wall for no reason or sometimes, in the middle of the night wake everyone up with a song. He would sing for hours , repeating the same lines and no amount of coercing or soothing would make him go back sleep until his body wore out.
Doctors gave them different opinions about his condition but they all agreed that Duncan was ‘not normal’. They also agreed that as he grew up, the condition would manifest itself in a more clear way.
At school, the teachers had a hard time trying to contain him. When a teacher became too strict, Duncan would jump from his chair, tear his books, yelling his lungs out then in cheetah’s speed, sprint out of the class.
“I will not entertain any misbehaviour in my class.” A teacher once said. The teacher was new and had noticed a restless Duncan shuffling his feet impatiently.
Duncan in an unexpected move, started with his usual loud bawl, “Yaaaaaa!” then stood up from his chair, lifted the chair and with hurried noisy steps ran out of class and banged the door behind him. The rest of the class had expected this outburst, they quickly moved away from him and watched the rumpus.
However, the new teacher, was stiff scared and trembling her wits out as she witnessed Duncan’s eerie fit of rage. She had not anticipated such a scenario in her class.
Upon explaining what had happened to the headteacher, the latter smiled.
“At least he did not pass through the window this time. Just be calm with him next time. ” He advised the flabbergasted teacher.
When bored by school, Duncan would sneak out to the nearby dam. It was a prohibited area but Duncan and a few other naughty boys loved to take risks. They would take off their uniform and dive in for a swim. Worse still, they loved to test their ability to hold their breath underwater. There was always someone to stay on guard and if any adult approached, they would take their clothes and scuttle to a nearby bush to hide.
At one time, one of the boys took Duncan’s clothes to prank him when they were alerted that someone was approaching ‘ their’ dam. While the two boys hid behind a bush, Duncan was looking for his clothes but determined not to be caught, he dived into the water. The man unaware of a boy hiding from him in the water, stayed around for a few minutes and left. Duncan’s head emerged a few minutes later to the applause of the other boys. That was a great day for him.
At the village, people had come to understand him. While he was not having his fits of impulsiveness, he was with the local mama mboga (grocery lady) talking about her family or he would be seated near a shop gobbling a loaf of bread with a litre of soda whose bill would be given to the parents or a kind customer passing by would just foot the bill for him.
Duncan also loved to race with moving cars. When he had had his full, his next move would be to pick a car of his choice, chase after it and be the “Number One!”on the race in his mind.
“Yaaaaaa!” He sprung up and started to chase after Mr Baraka’s SUV . The driver peeped through the side mirror and saw him running after his car. Mr Baraka was not a fan of Duncan’s stunts. He hated the boy.
“It’s him again. See, his mad mind tells him he can compete with a vehicle. ” It was a scorned Mr Baraka telling his wife.
“Why don’t they just send this lunatic to a mental hospital?” His wife said, glaring haughtingly through the window as Duncan ran alongside the car determined to ran past them.
But Duncan, too focused on winning the race in his mind, forgot that Mr Baraka had to take one last turn in order to get to his house. Were it not for Mr Baraka’s car’s good brakes, Duncan would have been hit.
Mr Baraka hopped out of his car, bristling with rage at Duncan who was too frightened at the near accident.
“You! What are you planning? To kill yourself?” Mr Baraka was now holding the sixteen year old’s boy by the collar who was struggling to get off the firm grip. People were now crowding and screaming at the engineer to leave the boy alone.
“My dear!” Mrs Baraka shouted from the window, “Leave the loony alone, let’s go home !”
Still seething with fury, he let go of Duncan’s shirt.
“I never want to see you anywhere near my car, or my home or anything that is mine!” He hissed and pushed him on the side of the road then jumped into his car and steered it off leaving the watching people to cough out the dust the duo Barakas happily left.
Rehidi got wind of what happened. For the umpteenth time, the parents warned Duncan to stop the mad car-chasing games but they knew they were squeezing blood from a stone.
“Why can’t the Barakas just understand our son like the other locals have?” Rehidi’s wife asked later when it was just the two of them.
“Some people are just too arrogant. We just have to keep reminding Duncan to avoid the Barakas. Not everybody will be nice to Duncan. We have to understand that.” Her husband replied.
At the Barakas, it was the same topic that evening only on a different point of view.
“That mad boy will cause a huge mess one day. I should have him confined in a mental hospital” Said Mr Baraka pacing up and down.
“He is too annoying! This place will be very peaceful without his outbursts. Do you remember his loud singing yesterday? We just could not have a good Saturday’s sleep because his singing was too loud ! Our kids are too scared of him!” She whined.
He would do something, he promised his wife, as soon as the following day.
“No, tomorrow is a holiday. Tuesday, I will pull some strings. I can make a few calls and it’s done. Don’t worry.”
The next day, Baraka’s two children burst into their parent’s bedroom in excitement. Their father had promised to take them at The Navana Gardens. He thought this would be a nice idea to get his mind off previous day’s experience.
“Ok. Ok. I am awake. Just go down stairs and wait for us there. We will visit The Navana today.”
That promise drove them to sheer excitement and when they finally arrived there, Ester and Edgar wanted to visit every corner of The Navana Garden.
Baraka and his wife took a table and a waiter took their orders.
“And a soda each for the children.” Mr Baraka said. He looked around and realised he could not spot any of his kids. He felt a sudden feeling of panic. His wife, felt it too, like a premonition of imminent catastrophe. They rose up quickly and started to yell out their children’s names.
“Then a nine year old emerged from the waterfalls area, trepidation written all over his face. His mother ran to him.
“Kenny, what is wrong?”
“Mum, the boy will fall into the water , he is holding onto his sister. ”
“Kenny?What is wrong, what did you see?”
What the Barakas heard made their blood ran cold. They knew the kid was talking about their children. They ran to the waterfalls and saw him hanging dangerously by the walls of the waterfalls, wailing and holding onto the finger of his sister who was desperately trying to save her brother from falling down.
How they got so near the waterfall was a mystery. There was absolutely no way the two would be saved from up there. The only choice was for them to separate or both to fall into the water. If they seperated, a stick would be extended to Ester to hold onto while Edagr would be saved by an expert swimmer.
However, Edgar and Ester’s parents did not know how to swim. There was no one in the forming crowd who wanted to dare enter the deep waters down there and the only way the Navana Staff could be of help was to call the lifeguard who was some miles away.
Duncan, the ‘mad’ boy had been strolling around The Navana when he heard what was happening there. He dashed to the waterfalls and saw the worried throng of people, holding their mouths as the young girl finally, out of exhaustion, let go of her brother who screamt as he plunged into the deep waters. The multitude yowled in despair as they urged each other to volunteer and help the poor boy.
“Give me way! ” Duncan yelled as he undressed quickly. The mob turned at him, wondering why his fits were attacking him at that crucial time.
“What crap is this?” Mr Baraka who had been trying to break some branches to save his children was so irritated that he thought of running to beat up the poor boy but what happened next left everyone’s mouth wide open.
“Yaaaaaaaa!” He screamt as he ran straight to the falls and took a long leap into the water. Small drops of water reached them from the splash of Duncan’s giant jump.
It was a long wait characterised by anxiety, despair, hope , fear and every possible emotion.
Baraka’s mother seeing the fruitless outcome caused by the delay, cried, “My boy is dead, and the mad boy too!” No one said a thing, even the man who helped Ester crawl back to a safe distance did not announce that Ester was safe. The atmosphere was too sombre. The girl quietly went to her forlorn father and they hugged each other amid tears.
But the water broke from underneath, then Edgar came out first, Duncan was holding him like a trophy with both his hands. The faces of all lit up but they was still a taut and unbearable tension.
“Is he alive?” Someone whispered. Women held their eager chests. The men anxious to see the boy, directed Duncan how to manoeuvre his way up safely, guiding him where to step or not step.
He reached up and put the boy down. Mr. Baraka handed his daughter to her mother and ran to his son to try a resuscitation. He tried chest compressions and mouth to mouth trials several times, but there was no response.
“No my son, you cannot die, please!” He mournfully said, placing his head on the immobile body of his son. Then they heard a mild cough and then a bigger one. The little boy came to life in intermittent coughs and was getting better by every cough and spit of water.
Claps, cheers and ululations tore the euphoric air. Mr Baraka could hardly contain his happiness while his wife sat down, paralyzed with joy and crying tears of bliss holding her daughter close to her.
Mr Baraka looked around for Duncan, to thank him but the boy had disappeared. The big mob of people were now dispersing, ready to narrate what they had witnessed to those that had been unlucky to see.
The Barakas walked slowly behind them, each lost in their own thought. The children knew they were in big trouble for the danger they had exposed themselves to. Their mother was just over the moon that her children were now safe. As for Mr Baraka, besides buzzing with happiness he felt a strong surge of regret eating him up.
“Dad , are you quiet because you will cane us when we get home?” Asked a terrified Ester as they were both being strapped into the car.
He bent his head and held his seven and eight year old’s’ tiny hands. “No momma, I am just too happy you are both alive.” He looked at them and shed a tear. His wife knew the weight of that tear.
“Momma, papa. Of all the things that I will teach you in life, please note that this is of utmost importance; never, not at one time, should you ever look down upon anyone.” He said and drove home.
The Barakas changed henceforth. They afforded time to have chats with Duncan. They even bought him his favourite foods and presents. Duncan could also visit the Barakas anytime he felt like and eat as much as his stomach could hold. When he started to race with their car, Mr Baraka drove slowly to let him win.
“You won again!” His wife would scream through the window and leave a wide proud grin on Duncan’s face.