Photo: A. Elmi
Jesus' Carving (4/6)
By: A. Elmi
1st of December 2022
Mum slouched into her bedroom hours later and seemed to sag even more under the dreamy and sluggish weight in the air. I was twiddling with a rubber on her desk, Xirsi was sprawled out on her bed chewing gum, and Idris was gazing out the only window. Mum shut the bedroom door, dropped her work bag on the floor, and sank into the bed with a loud yawn.
‘What did Awoowe eat today?’ she asked us, dabbing away yawn-tears from her eyes with the back of her right hand.
‘The mute burnt the food,’ Idris said, turning away from the window to look at her. ‘But don’t worry. I made something for him.’
‘Good! Where the hell is this Jesus?’ Mum asked.
‘We’ve put him up in the basement,’ Xirsi answered.
Mum took several deep breaths, then paused to sniff and squint around. ‘Is there smoke in the house?’
‘Yep. Turns out Jesus Christ’s a chain smoker,’ Idris said, now leaning against the wall beside the window, his arms crossed over his chest. ‘The basement’s a mess. Cartons of cigarettes everywhere, many more cigarette butts littered about the place, and the prophet himself is covered in ashes.’
‘What did Aabbo tell you and Adeer Long Nose?’ I asked Mum.
‘Your Aabbo spoke to his Eedo, Aunt, Maryan, who is Jesus’ Mum, and she told him the best thing to do is to find out what Jesus wants from us, give it to him, and then take him to a remote train station, and leave him there.’ Mum drew in another deep breath, then coughed. ‘Damn that Jesus! Safia, Idris, run downstairs and tell that man if he wants to smoke he better do it outside. Tell him I have asthma if you have to. Xirsi, darling,’ she said, shifting around on the bed and placing a hand on his shaven head, ‘air the house and then make me something to eat. I’m famished,’ she said, and slumped back down on the bed, one hand swiping lazily at the air to scatter the smoke.
The basement was like a black and smoke-filled club closed minutes ago and filled with a vast silence that made our footsteps echo. A narrow corridor stretched out from the foot of the single staircase towards a solid, green door. And beyond that was a cosy billiard and card-game room which doubled as a guest room. We were feeling our way along the corridor when the door to the room shot out at us. I narrowly missed being hit, stumbling aside just in time to give a stocky shape enough space to stride past. If it weren’t for the hazy light trickling out from the room, I wouldn’t have made her out.
‘Maryan!’ I called after her.
She swung around and peered through the smoke for an age. ‘Is that you, Safia?’ she whispered eventually.
‘Never mind that! What are you doing down here alone?’ I hissed at her. ‘That man’s a stranger.’
‘Adeer Jesus!’ Idris called as he picked his way through the smoke into the bowels of the room. ‘What’s that you’re eating?’
‘Idris!’ Jesus greeted, chuckling. ‘Come in, come in! I’m having roast chicken, canjeelo, iyo shah, flatbread, and tea. There’s enough for you, too. Join me, please.’
Idris’ movements had stirred up a small wind that parted the smoke long enough for me to glimpse the food. I turned around to squint over at Maryan. ‘You brought him food?’ I asked quietly.
She dropped her head and nodded shyly.
‘You cooked it yourself?’
Her head came up, and so did her hands which formed into bird beaks that started picking at the air. ‘He’s our guest, and he was hungry,’ she said moments later. ‘We can’t have a hungry guest. It’s shameful!’
‘Wow!’ Idris shouted from the room. ‘This is lovely. Maryan, are you there? Where did you buy this chicken?’
‘I made it,’ she countered quickly but so softly I had to relay her message to my brother. ‘There’s more upstairs in the kitchen. I’ve made dinner for the whole family,’ she added to me.
‘The whole family except Awoowe. You burnt his food, remember?’ I pushed past her and made for the stairs. I paused and turned halfway around to ask, ‘I’ve been searching all over for you for hours. Where have you been?’
‘In the kitchen. Making dinner.’
‘I went into the kitchen more times than I can count, but you weren’t there. But maybe you were hiding in the stove or in the pipes, who knows,’ I muttered to myself as I turned to climb the steps.
I found Xirsi at the kitchen counter drinking in the sight of platters of roast chicken, canjeelo, grilled and seasoned vegetables, sambuusi, samosas, and tall carafes of cold lemon water with mint leaves.
‘I see Jesus turned parts of himself into food again,’ Xirsi observed at noticing me.
‘Maryan made this,’ I said.
His head snapped around. ‘The mute made this?’
‘So she claims.’ I reached for a plate and piled it high with food. ‘Let’s go give this to Hooyo.’
Mum was munching on the food as I related what I’d seen.
‘Idris is supping with Jesus?’ she repeated around a mouthful of chicken.
‘Yes,’ I confirmed.
‘Well, it’s his last supper with the lunatic,’ she said. ‘Tell that boy to never be alone with that man ever again. We still don’t know what he wants from us or what he’s capable of.’
Xirsi licked his lips and stretched five fingers towards Mum’s plate.
‘Tastes as well as it looks,’ Mum said to him, as she shielded the plate from his grabbing fingers. ‘She burns every single food she cooks in this house, and then, voila, a meal worth a chef’s kiss.’ She eyed her plate with a mixture of appreciation and suspicion. ‘They say poison enhances flavours, makes food taste so much better.’
‘Hooyo,’ Xirsi said, alarmed, ‘what if it is poisoned?’
‘Go vomit,’ I urged her, leaning forward to snatch the plate from her.
Mum clung to her plate. ‘Don’t be dramatic!’ she said. ‘She can’t have poisoned it. The girl isn’t capable of such things. But it is strange.’ She was about to say more when a huge yawn interrupted her. She handed the half-full plate to Xirsi with an encouraging nod and said, ‘Finish it quickly, dear, then return it to the kitchen and wash it. I’m off to bed, and so should you. Safia, darling, go and drag your brother out of that basement and tell him it’s lights out. Lock your bedroom doors tonight, you hear me? I don’t like the idea of a lunatic roaming about freely so close to my children.’ She sighed. ‘He should never have been let inside.’