The Villainous Neighbor

It was less than two years after three children lost their daddy to a car crash.  The rawness of such a loss still fresh in their minds, the world seemed like a battlefield with every step.  Strangers turned to friends, while friends they had known left, not able to withstand the sense of grief clouding around the three children and their little mother.  It was a hard time for the small family of four.

Now, their home was a farm at the end of a stretch of land with a very muddy access road.  On very rainy days, a lake of sorts would form in the middle of the access road.  The mother of these three children would then have to find a way to get them across daily in order to get them to school.  There were two pairs of shoes to be worn.  Gumboots and rain coats to get through the massive swamp and school shoes to wear when the three children got to the bus stop.  The family that owned the property closest to the main road was kind and allowed a small path at the driest part inside their own farm away from the access road.  But even this little path would sometimes get hard to pass through.

In any case, the little family survived the best they could through the very rainy season and the massive swamp lake that formed in the middle of their access road.

One day, the neighbors who owned property opposite the little family’s farm opened a small gate on to their access road.  They wanted a second exit they said.  One that would allow them to have two gates.  One gate on their main road on the other side of their property, and the little one on the muddy access road with the swamp in the middle.

The mother of the children had no problem with this development.  In fact, she thought it would be a blessing.  Perhaps the kids would have an easier time going to school now.  They might use that small access to get to the drier road on the other side, and their path would be easier to school. 

In the dry season, this little gate never came to play for the little family.  Their access road was fine, and they went about their lives as usual.

Then the swamp in the middle of the road returned after a particularly rainy day.  It was holiday time, and the three children did not need to go to school.  However, their mother did want to send them to the shop, so she handed the three money and asked them to get a kilo of sugar from the shop.  They had seen others using the small gate made by the neighbors to escape the swamp, so they thought, ‘Oh, we can also try this gate.  It will be easier to escape mud and swampy water.’

They were nervous about it, after all this was a new route, but they thought they would try it and see if they could get to the other dry road.  After all, the owners also use their access road in the dry season.  All would surely be well.

They were wrong.

A panga is a Machette, very popular farming tool in Kenya

They barely made it to the opposite gate of the quiet property to the other road when a man came out swinging a panga from his house.  The panga was sharp, his words sharper and he chased them as one would chase thieves.  He screamed insults at them, and threatened to cut them to pieces, fear grew and the three children screamed running back home at the speed of light.  They forgot why they had ventured outside their home and went to find their mother.

When the three children ran home, their little mother was in shock at their crying faces.  She asked if they had been robbed off the money she gave for sugar, and tried to soothe them, wiping away their tears.  In minutes, she discovered their story and a burning anger fueled her to confront this villainous man who would dare threaten to cut her children with a sharp panga.

When she got to his gate, she asked him why he would do this, and he threatened the little mother, telling her to shut up or he’ll kill her.  This mother was not one to take insults quietly.  She screamed for help and the neighbors came.  As she was calling for help, this villainous man wrapped his hands around her neck and tried his best to rob her off breath.

It took three men to pull this villainous man off the little mother.  Her voice was hoarse from the assault. Her neck damaged. The three children were in shock.  Not less than two years ago, they had all buried their father after a car accident, now here was a man doing his best to turn them into orphans. Sinister yet, he was not sorry about it. 

It became clear that a path to the dry road on the other side was not worth this hefty price of death.

In any case, the courts became involved.  The villainous man was tried with attempted murder and the illegal path into the muddy access road was closed by a judge.

Life continued, as it often does.

Three little children grew up and in a blink twenty years passed.

Their little mother still struggles with neck problems, as a result of the assault on her neck.  Some nights she has to sleep with a neck collar.  The children often make sure it is new and available even when she travels. This was a price they paid for daring to think that all neighbors are made equal.

They all learned that the kindness of one family cannot be carried to the next family.  Their access road still gets terrible in the rain, but they endure and find ways to pass through it without complaint.  Muddy shoes are a much easier price to pay than death from murder by a villainous neighbor.

A few years ago, the villainous man’s family opened a path to the muddy access road again.  They use it unstopped by the little mother and the three children.  No pangas raised against them or hands wrapped around their throats in a grotesque picture of murderous intent. None of the villainous man’s family help fix the muddy road, after all they still have the other side to use during the rainy seasons.  This lesson is that the nature of a family’s values remains and does not change.

Recently, the little mother was helping one of her daughters transplant a tree from their gate into their farm.  She saw a woman pass their gate heading for the now illegal path at the end of their access road and said, “Ah, that’s that villainous man’s daughter. You should know her in case she comes to yell over electricity poles near their fence.”

Yes, the spectacle of a woman screaming over electricity poles has happened to the little mother, but that is a story for another day.

The little mother’s daughter spared the woman in question no glance.  After all that woman’s daddy almost cost her a mother.

“It’s better not to know or interact with them,” the daughter said. “Nothing good can come from it.”

“True, ” the little mother said, touching her neck.

In the end, the little family lives on, but the question still remains, what makes people so unreasonable as to want to murder over a small moment?

Can you forgive someone who tries his best to choke you to death because you asked a question about your children, who tried to pass a path this person’s opened, that others have used unstopped, but your children had to face a machette on the first attempt?  What would you do with this reality?

Life continues, as it always does.