Potion

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs


A young woman's ambition was greater than her ability.

Submitted: January 01, 2018

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Submitted: January 01, 2018

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Gifti had never shown any interest in Baraka, she liked the bigger, more muscled boys. The ones who rolled their hips and shoulders as they walked along, look cooling, kicking up dust. But she felt miffed! Although she kept her eyes downcast, as tradition demanded, and she secretly did those special exercises to make her bum round, none of them took the slightest notice of her! The lack of attention worried her because it was believed necessary to be married before her twenty second year began, otherwise she could remain a miss.

Gifti and Baraka had been in the same year at primary school, but they had never been friends – or enemies, for that matter. They were just fellow students in class. Baraka was an enterprising young man, at an early age, he cut and sold roadside grass to people who had zero-grazed cows, and he collected fallen branches, chopped and sold them as fuelwood. He went to the Wednesday market to help elderly people carry their purchases home. Sometimes they would pay him a few shillings or they would give him an egg or perhaps a couple of tomatoes. 

Gifti suddenly took an interest in Baraka when he built a small shop with an attached two-roomed house. The slabwood building sat on the edge of the village. He stocked his shop with items useful to the village folk: sugar, kerosene, matches, soap, washing powder, candles, Vaseline and more. Gifti decided he might be a good catch, so each day she stood outside the shop, trying to be noticed and paraded to show off her behind. He did notice her, and he was polite to her, but he was too focused on his business to show her the attention she craved. She discussed the situation with her mother.

At the Wednesday market, on the western corner, beside the hunched man who sold sweet potatoes, sat a woman from Tanga. She sat on a red mat and was surrounded by an array of small coloured bottles, each bottle contained a powder or a potion of some sort. None of the bottles were labelled, but the woman knew precisely what was in each bottle. There were potions for everything, absolutely everything, and they were not at all expensive. Gifti had asked her mother if the woman was a witch, everyone was afraid of witches! Her mother didn’t answer directly, instead she told her daughter to approach the woman with respect, never look into her eyes and use both hands to accept the potion and to hand over the money.

Gifti found the woman without difficulty and was pleasantly surprised by her looks and demeanour. She had expected to see and old, bent, ugly woman, but she was no older than thirty, pleasant-faced and wearing a pretty kanga. Gifti told the woman that she had chosen a man she wished to marry, but he showed no interest in her. The woman asked if she loved him. Gifti didn’t, not yet anyway. The woman tore a square from a sheet of newspaper and chose an opaque brown bottle. She measured the powder with a bottle cap and tipped it into the square of newspaper. She instructed Gifti to find something personal of Baraka’s and to sleep with it under her pillow. After three days, take him a Thermos of tea with the added potion. He would be ready by the next full moon. The woman thanked Gifti for the money, and told her that all potions come with a cost.

Baraka used one of those round scalp massagers to keep his hair tidy, customers appreciated a tidy shopkeeper. While he was serving Mama Kina, Gifti took the chance to secure a few of his hairs that were stuck in it. After the three days, Gifti reached over where Baraka’s Thermos stood, pretending to reach for a packet of matches. She succeeded in knocking it over! Her sorrow was convincing and as promised she returned half an hour later with a fresh Thermos of tea. True to the woman’s word, almost a month later, Baraka arrived at the door of Gifti’s parents with a crate of soda, a gift of contrition. And to request permission to marry Gifti.

The wedding was a modest affair, which matched the circumstances of both sets of parents. Baraka was well liked in the village, which is why the wedding gifts were of a generous nature and why the shop became such a profitable little business. Gifti didn’t much like the work, serving customers, and dusting shelves, it was her opinion that they could afford an assistant, but Baraka enjoyed his work and tried to coax Gifti to play her role as a business partner. He encouraged her and showed her how to decant one kilogramme bags of sugar from the bulk bag and how to display items on the shelves. Gifti thought she could run the business better than him and she would employ someone to do the work.

She went down to the Wednesday market, to the woman from Tanga. She asked the woman for something to slow her husband down, something to allow her to have more say in the business. The woman said nothing and reached for a blue bottle. She told Gifti to put the powder into her husband’s evening cup of tea. Gifti asked her for a double dose in case she prepared a brew and he didn’t drink it, which happened occasionally. The woman shrugged and added more. After Gifti paid, the woman told her that all potions come with a cost.

Temptation is a tiny innocuous seed and it flourished in Gifti, she couldn’t resist putting the double dose into Baraka’s cup! The next morning she noticed he wasn’t quite his alert, energetic self. With each following day, he became less and less interested in his work. Within two weeks nothing much interested him save sitting in the shade of the Mango tree and laughing at people passing by! Gifti employed a girl to help her in the shop, but they constantly argued! Gifti found that she didn’t know anything about purchases or credit, in fact so couldn’t manage the business at all, so failed to pay her worker! Customers gradually drifted away and the shop soon fell into disrepair.

One night, Gifti disappeared, deciding that bright lights of town might afford her a better life. Baraka’s parents took him home because he was no longer able to care for himself. One day, with a heavy heart, his mother sought out the woman from Tanga.

 

 

 


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