Grandma's House

When the Supa arrives in Kampala he decides to go to take a look at the old family house. He strides out of Kampala station with a purposeful air. The childhood memories of the house on the wide track off Bukasa South come thick and fast. 

He smiles as he remembers playing in his grandmas colourful garden with his cousins running and tagging around the banana trees. His little cousin Caffetti with her shining eyes and huge watermelon smile. The Supa frowns as he realised he has lost touch with his cousins and knows that no one was left to ask where in the world they were now.

As he rounds the corner the Supa is shocked to see several army vehicles that are parked against the homestead fences. He looks over the fence of the old house and sees it has been cleared into a small parade ground. A group of soldiers lounge on the veranda, their guns propped against grandmas porch steps. The beautiful turquoise green paint, which had been his grandmas pride and joy, is peeling off window frames and the front door off its hinges is propped up at the end of the broken balustrade. On the bullet pockmarked door is pinned a double spread of a naked girl with three large darts stuck into her. This last pornographic detail makes the Supa frown. Grandma, a stalwart member of the Bukasa Charismatic Revival Church Choir must be turning in her grave.

One young thin young man is on defaulters running around the perimeter with his gun held high at arms length. The Supa remembers having to do something similar when he was on a minor army charge. The men with assorted pieces of uniform from various militia throw burnt out fags at the runner as he sweats along the fence edge at a fast jog. As he gets nearer the gate the Supa steps back and walks unhurriedly back the way he has come. He ducks his large head as it brushes the lowest leaves of the only green banana tree left at the corner of the plot. The spicy matoke his grandma used to make was the best in Kampla.

Out on Busaka Road the Supa finds a cafe and drinks a coffee slowly. 

Even knowing his grandma has been gone a while he still feels quite unsettled. Who were those young men. He was certain they were not regular Ugandan army soldiers. The sweet smell of weed smoke that twisted under the veranda roof and curled onto the parade ground was a sign that all was not as it should be. He shook his head staring blindly at the passers by feeling uneasy that the once beautiful garden and wooden bungalow was now a ragamuffin militia enclave.

‘But what to do?’he asks himself shrugging his shoulders. 

‘What can I do about it? I don’t even live in Kampla no more.’

He stirs his Ugandan coffee morosely round and round.

‘They’d probably hunt me down and kill me if they find out it was me that said something about them. It would put HoneyThigh in danger, too. So there ain’t nothing I can do anyways.’

There is a leaflet on his table. 

‘The Lunatic Line Festival. The Kampala to Nairobi line reinstated along the Rift Vally escarpment for a limited time only’ it reads. Chris Tarrants cartoon face smiles leaning out the side of the old steam engine.

Something stirs in the Supas memory. His trip with Grandma when he was nine to see the Nairobi cousins.

He decides he will go to the ticket office and see about a Lunatic Line ticket for his return journey.

He recalls the strange distant pink line he saw in his childhood and longs to see it again from the train.

‘How far away is that lake Grandma?’  The clickerty clack of the train is mesmerising.

‘That is mebbe fifty mile all the way across there, son as far as your eyes can see.’ He could hardly believe anyone could see such a far distance.

‘What is that, Grandma?’ he had asked, pointing and staring out across the Great Rift Valley.

‘That pink line is the pink feathers of thousands of flamingos wadin’ along the lake shore way down there.’ 

He had never forgotten the sight and yet he had never been to see the flamingos up close and personal.

He finishes his coffee and picks up the leaflet and buttons it into his shirt.

‘I would like to meet that Tarrant millionaire fellow. I saw his Lunatic Line program back in the day. Mebbe I’ll get on his millionaire program. Mebbe make me a fortune.’ 

With that happy thought he puts a couple of Ugandan pounds on the table and leaves the shade of the cafe for the sweat of the afternoon streets.

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