SHORT STORY: A rewarding day for doing no work

Friday September 10 2021
The farm

The farm was a mix of hues of green and brown and shockingly vibrant pink and red and orange colours dotted here and there as a cluster of flowers or weeds bloomed suddenly in a bush or tree. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


Kamande’s feet and back hurt. So did his arms and his head and his shoulders and, well basically every part of him he was aware of. He hefted himself up slowly and stretched under an all too bright sun. He needed to move back under the shadow of a lusciously thick mango tree, under which he’d been snoozing before it moved, as shadows do. Lifting one fat arm to shade his face, Kamande peered up to see where the sun was in the sky.

“Just a few more hours,” he muttered sleepily to himself.

He’d been on this large beautiful farm he’d been employed to till since the sun had risen that morning, earlier even than the cocks crowed. He’d met the elderly couple who’d hired him at the entrance to the sprawling farm, his dull face brightening at the sight of a bowl of porridge held in the old woman’s hands.

“Morning Kamande,” the old man had called out, “have some breakfast before you head out,” he turned and took the bowl from his wife with a smile, “My wife’s sweet porridge is the best around,” he hobbled over and proffered the bowl to Kamande who begun slurping it up with only a grunt of thanks, that might have been a swallow.

Turning on his heels after wolfing it down and handing the bowl back to the old man with a nod of thanks, Kamande made a big show of walking briskly and industriously away, moving his large body with surprising ease. As the old man returned to his wife’s side, they both remarked how hardworking and dedicated the man was, as they watched him practically jog away. Tilling from sunrise to sunset.

But once out of the elderly couples failing eyesight, Kamande slowed down to a literal crawl. He huffed and puffed from the effort of his show, feeling the familiar aches and pains of a body that rarely moved. He shifted one foot in front of the other tortoise like, moving so slowly insects and flies landed lazily on him and sat comfortably as he lumbered along. It was almost an hour before he reached his spot under the mango tree. But it was not time to rest, yet. First, he had to make it seem like he was working. So picking up a hoe cleverly concealed under dirt and leaves, he begun to turn the fertile red-brown sweet smelling soil over and over. It was not long before he was done for the day.


He’d done such a big patch, he was proud of himself. Five feet by five feet almost! Tossing the hoe aside, he hefted his weight to where the shade of the mango tree called invitingly to him. There were always ripe mangoes to be plucked, and so Kamande first filled his already bulging tummy that hung well over the stretched waistband of his pants. Then, settling himself comfortably in the shadow of the riotous tree, he’d fallen asleep until his shade had been interrupted.

Now that he was awake, Kamande sat up, leaned against the tree trunk and stared boredly off into the distance, untouched by the incredible beauty around him. The farm was a mix of hues of green and brown and shockingly vibrant pink and red and orange colours dotted here and there as a cluster of flowers or weeds bloomed suddenly in a bush or tree.

Kamande was still sleepy, but he didn’t want to risk sleeping through the sunset and finding himself here after dark. This farm was too big not to have one or two nasty creatures lurking, he told himself. He’d heard their strange calls as he hurried back to the farm house to receive his dues at the end of every day. He arched his back against the tree and sighed, he could feel every kink in his massive body. Why did he have to work so hard? He could’ve tilled half of what he’d done today, and no one would complain. The elderly couple couldn’t come down to see how far along he was on the work, arthritis had made sure of that.

The sun was getting low in the sky. Kamande lugged himself to his feet and begun his walk back. Crickets sounded shrilly in luxuriant hedges and tiny birds flew briskly, two by two across the dusky purple pink sky.

As he neared the farmhouse, he slowed and finally leaned against a wooden fence that surrounded the property. There he stayed until twilight begun to melt into night, then he inhaled deeply and jogged up to the entrance of the cozy bungalow covered in rich green ivy.

Rapping sharply on the door, a breathless, sweating Kamande was welcomed into a brightly lit kitchen where he stood before a roaring fire to receive his pay for the day.

“Hard day I see,” the old man said as he counted out notes and shillings before dropping them into Kamande’s outstretched hands.

“Yes, yes…” Kamande panted, already turning to leave, “Till tomorrow,” he called over his shoulder as he stuffed the monies into his pockets and stepped out into the cool night air. His mind was now occupied with thoughts only of food and his bed. He’d had quite a taxing day he decided.

Yes, he squared his fleshy jowls, he’d take tomorrow off. He’d show up to work of course, but he’d not lift one pudgy finger. As he strolled slowly home, he hoped the old woman wouldn’t forget to make her sweet porridge.