What did you say your Name was? – A Novel, Chapter 5


For Chapter 4 click here:  Chapter 4

To go to chapter 1 of the novel click here: Chapter 1

(Author’s note: This chapter has multiple pages. Please click the number at the bottom to continue reading the next page)


Two years after Demond was accused of stealing the mosquito nets, his mother Bayo died. She never fully recovered after the birth of her second daughter. She couldn’t eat and suffered from diarrhea. Akua, Demond’s father, didn’t have enough money to take her to a doctor. When Demond stole the mosquito nets that were provided to his family, he was just following his hunch to bring in some money for the family. His friends were doing the same. Bayo was glad that the judge didn’t punish him severely but she told him many times to avoid the company he was keeping. She didn’t want him to follow Akua in farming, but instead to learn a profession.

Demond remembered how as a child he had accompanied his mother to the farm. He liked hanging around her when she cooked. Even as a teenager he snuggled close to her in moments of playfulness. After Bayo died Demond spent most of the time outside his home. Sitting alone, dreaming about how he can make money. He didn’t want to follow Akua and tend to the farm.

With Bayo gone Akua wanted his children to help him in the farm. The work on the farm was hard. They started at five in the morning and worked for eight to twelve hours. In spite of the hard work they were at the mercy of the weather for a good crop.

Akua looked after the children the best way he could. He cooked Nsima, but it never was as good as Bayo’s. After dinner he and his children sat outside their hut. Akua told them stories of ghosts and goblins that he himself had heard from his father. Demond made some excuses to spend time with his friends. He was mad at his father to take him out of school to work on the farm.

Owen took a liking to Demond despite his theft of the nets from his family. After Rachel’s departure he needed something to keep his mind occupied. He volunteered to tutor Demond in English, science and mathematics. Within a few months Demond became reasonably fluent in English. He didn’t like science and math.

Demond never abandoned his friend Nanji. He met him many days a week, in secluded areas around his father’s farm. Demond never visited Nanji’s home. He didn’t know whether Nanji was an orphan because he never heard him talk about his parents. Maybe they were dead from TB or something. Perhaps he lived on the streets. He had told Demond that he worked part-time on a tobacco farm.

“Those guys are rich,” he said. “You should come work with me.”

They smoked handmade cigarettes. Demond didn’t care where his friend bought the stuff. Nanji could as well have stolen it from the plantation. One day Nanji offered him a special one wrapped in maize leaves.

“Tell me if you like this one,” Nanji said.

“What’s this man?” Demond said after one deep puff. He liked the sweet aroma and felt good. He inhaled a second time and started feeling high.

“This is Malawi Gold. Precious stuff!”

Demond had never smoked anything like this before. He felt as if someone had given him a magic potion, an elixir. All his tiredness from the hard work he had done on the farm vanished.

“I like it, I like it.”

Nanji nodded. That’s the last thing Demond remembered seeing. He was on his back looking at the clear sky and dreaming of a life that would be if he was rich. He felt like someone was shutting his eyes closed. As hard as he tried he couldn’t keep them open. He didn’t know how long he dozed off. When he opened his eyes Nanji was gone.

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