“Buda nitawapiga mkiwa wote wawili (I will beat both of you),” Kiai threatened as he moved towards my friends.
That boy could throw a punch and we all feared him for that. He had earned a reputation of being the ‘iron fist’, the pupil nobody liked to fight because he would always win. And nobody wanted to be on ‘wanted’ list.
But on this particular day, my friends and I pocked the bear...and he was not pleased.
We were playing ‘faya’, a mischievous game we played using our school ties as a catapult and small pieces of orange peel as ammunition against other pupils. Hitting them with the orange peels was naughty, but we cherished their reactions.
My friends – Sylvester and Matoro – and I had just returned to class after lunch break, and the 30 minutes' prep time before the teacher came to class was our ‘mischief time’. I was seated at my desk at the back, while my friends a few rows ahead but diagonally opposite me.
I decided to try and hit them with my orange peels.
“Ouch, ouch!!” Kiai bellowed. I was aiming at Matoro but I accidentally hit Kiai the iron fist. I wanted to apologise but since no one had seen me, I kept quiet.
But Kiai stood up, visibly angry, demanding: “Jitambulishe mapema mapema (Own up now).”
Matoro and Sylvester, amused at the spectacle, giggled. Kiai moved towards them and grabbed them by the collar.
He was bigger than them and my two friends shrank back in fear.
Thwack! Thwack!! He slapped Sylvester twice.
Despite being beaten up, my friends did not sell me out. We had an unwritten cardinal rule against snitching. But seeing them helpless made me own up.
“Ni mimi (It was me),” I said in a meek, trembling voice.
“Pole brathe nilikuwa na-aim Matoro (I'm sorry. I was aiming at Matoro, not you),” I added, more courageously.
I promised to do his dirty errands for a week if he would let it go.
But the whole class was watching, and Kiai didn’t want to appear weak by avoiding a confrontation.
On my part I had everything to gain by fighting him, but I really did not want to.
He moved towards my desk swiftly; while I bowed my head hoping he would not confront me.
The dead silence of the class was disturbed by the loud thwack, as I stood there stunned by the slap. He gave me two more hot slaps before I composed myself. I shoved him away and punched his nose.
He tried to kick me, but I blocked the kick. Finally, something good had come out of those ninja movies I watched at Freeman’s video hub—the fighting skills I admired in the movies were saving me from being beaten to a pulp.
“Fight! Fight! Fight!” some boys shouted, inciting us to keep throwing punches.
“Kuja brathe usiogope (Come on, don’t fear),” Kiai taunted while clenching his fists.
He punched me in my left eye, and it suddenly felt really hot.
I pretended to punch Kiai and he fell for the fake punch, moving his head to the left. I capitalised on that and with a strong header aimed for his nose.
He fell to the ground writhing in pain and bleeding profusely.
“Stop fighting!” Mrs Bundi shouted as she walked into the class.
Everybody ran back to their desks while I remained standing, knowing I was in deep trouble but burning with pride for having stood up for my friends.
I was suspended from school for two weeks and my parents had to foot Kiai’s medical bill.
The holy war I received from my mother is a story for another day.
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