It took me a record 10 minutes to sprint from home to the lazy River Mukhuluchi. The sun had covered three-quarters of its endless journey across the blue sky. The noise from the football fans at Bukhakunga primary school grounds was deafening. The game was 30 minutes old. I was late. Very late to witness my team Wuyanchi demolish Esamichi. They were capable. In their last 4 games they had defeated their opponents with ease. I spotted him 100 metres away on the riverbank. My cousin Siaku was crippled in the legs. It came from a fight over a girl with some evil boys. That was 15 years ago, when Bukhakunga secondary was starting. Siaku obviously needed help to cross the quiet river. He was also a fan of Wuyanchi. He had started the journey earlier. The river had held him for more than an hour. He was excited at my appearance.
“My very mother’s son! You are an angel dropped from heaven,” he hissed like a cobra. “Lift me across this monster. I need to get the game before it ends.” I scooped him up. “I feel pain, put me down,” he bellowed. I obliged. “How on earth will I get you across this barrier if you continue wailing like a woman?” “Let me straddle you and sit on your shoulders.” I agreed and drunkenly we waded across the river.
Across the river, Siaku refused to alight. To drive the point home, he strangled me with his limbs. He pulled my hair and twisted my right ear. He was the boss. “Forward march” he growled. I was subdued and powerless. I meekly put one foot ahead of the other with a burden on my shoulders. Siteti Wechuli was the first Homo sapiens to see us. At first it looked funny and he started to laugh.
Siteti Wechuli’s laughter came short when he heard Siaku warning me not to return anybody’s greetings. I was sweating and panting. The terrain from Mukhuluchi to Bukhakunga was uphill. The journey was akin to the one from Jerusalem city square to the hill of Golgotha. By the time we were passing baba Danson’s place, I had picked the walking rhythm. However, I was blowing through my nose like a horse in battle. We had attracted a sizeable crowd that was trailing us with understanding.
Bukhakunga shopping centre was deserted, except for a forlon dog that was inspecting the empty open-air market stalls. It looked at us with disinterest. To show its contempt, it lifted one leg halfway through the air and proceeded to pee on an old tree stump that was a hallmark of the market square. We entered the playing ground at the start of the second half of the game.
I thought Siaku would vacate the high point on my shoulders and enjoy the game at ground level. It was not to be. The crowds were packed like sand in a tin. Every prime vantage point was taken by stubborn fervent spectators. Siaku insisted on remaining perched on my shoulders to get a better view of the game. Every complaint I made was met with pulling of my hair and further strangling. The crowd was riveted on the game faithfully to a man. I attracted no attention. I tried to sit on a rock in the northwest corner but my 70kg rider hurt my scalp bringing me up onto my two feet. My redemption came through the village headman Mr Namachemo.
It dawned on me that my cousin had no intention of disembarking from my shoulders. That meant one thing. I would be making the return trip with him in the same position. I put my mind in the scheming gear. My first option was to shake him off to the ground. However, he had me gripped in a vice. I thought of falling down with him. It would injure him and exacerbate his sorry state. Besides, I would end up irreparably injured too. I saw the school toilets in the direction of kuka Matayo’s home and an idea came to me. “I wish to go for a long call,” I implored. He squeezed my neck and that is when I protested at the top of my lungs attracting the attention of Mr Namachemo.
Mr Namachemo caught up with us 3 metres from the latrine door. “Eh, what is the matter?” he asked. I explained my predicament, concluding that I wanted to visit the toilet urgently. “You can do your toilet business with me on your shoulders,” said Siaku. That made the headman go berserk. He grabbed Siaku and ripped him from my shoulders roughly. His limbs lacerated my neck and shoulders in the process. They were rough like motor vehicle tyres. I took off to the opposite end of the field. The game was in its sunset. Two minutes later, I joined the spectators in celebrating a Lusava goal from the middle of the field. My tribulations were forgotten for the moment. The next day, I learnt that Mukopi Makumba (RIP) ferried my cousin unpleasantly home from the game. He always had a story to tell about the tribulations he endured on that trip.
I have visited Siaku severally over the years. However, I never let him come closer than a handshake. What I underwent at his hands was too much to care for a repeat.