Harold’s theme for this past Sunday, “March forth”, was obtained from a joke we shared over a meal of roast pumpkin and avocado, the forbidden fruit, offered to me by Harold as punishment. Gitegi Institute of Flawed Studies found out that the avocado was the mysterious Biblical forbidden fruit.
March forth, I said, was an instruction from the calendar, as last week’s Thursday fell on the fourth of March.
But Harold, who asked me to tell him I was thirsty so he could scream “March forth”, used it to motivate the faithful.
The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams start this week, and the few candidates who attend his church needed a rallying call; so Harold had a busy day, sprinkling ‘anointing oil’ on eager faces. By the end of it all, the church reeked of paraffin, which was used in the absence of oil.
“You realise that the olive oil we could have used is got from The Mount of Olives, where Christ was betrayed. We would be re-betraying him!” Harold cried.Harold ordered parents whose children would face the wrath of the Kenya National Examination Council to remain in the church compound after the service.
He also sent yours truly, to walk around the village, reminding all that presenting a child for prayers required that the parent parts with a token of appreciation.
So on Saturday afternoon, parents filed into our home, where Harold sat in a weather-beaten rocking chair and received kiondo after kiondo of goodies from exuberant women.
I saw Jared’s father in the long queue and whispered into his ear that his son was in Standard Seven and would only be a candidate next year. His face glowed with excitement as he dipped a hand in his pocket and pulled out a miniature gin bottle.
He gulped it and staggered out of the queue, and out of the compound, leaving Harold swearing at me.
The following day, at the pulpit, his cassock billowing in a wind that blew in from gaps in the church’s walls, Harold bellowed through clenched teeth: “Yesterday was the day we sent a prayer to The Lord. Today, we are supposed to burn incense so that the prayer can be heard and appreciated. So we shall have you offering more than you did yesterday!”
A man whispered in protest behind me: “Ah, he is making too many demands. I think I will just let my son fail and repeat classes until Ndumia is the priest.”
Ndumia, secretly funded by Sue, has been trying to topple Harold from the helm of the church. Ndumia’s ascendancy to power would mean more freedom and less intimidation.
Also, unlike Harold who preaches wine and drinks wine, Ndumia preaches water and drinks rum.
“So many of you brought me bananas,” shouted Harold, and I buried my head in my hands. I knew what was coming.
“Does it mean that you want me to go bananas?”
My heart sank.
Harold tells everyone in sight that had he not prayed for me ahead of my KCPE exams, I would be selling myself on the streets of Gitegi and begging for alms. When I asked him what he meant in saying that I would be selling myself, Harold said: “You would be selling pumpkins. And as we both know, you are malenge!”
After the sermon, I saw parents who did not belong to Harold Assemblies of Holy Associates (Haha) church filing into the compound.
Harold sent me to go and tell that they were not allowed in without tithe and another gift for the pastor.
But contrary to what we thought, they had come to ask for goodies that they had brought to Harold the previous day back.
One of the women, a charismatic lady called Njambi, told me that Harold had told her that her son was going to “pass away”.
“I asked Sue and she told me that that means that my son will die!”
I know Harold well enough to know that his English is flawed enough to allow him say something like that.
Others said their children were not good enough to perform as Harold had promised, especially because he had given them unrealistic targets.
“Your daughter will hit 600 marks,” he had said to a young parent, who had for the whole night tried to calculate how their child could exceed the 500 total marks available in the tests.
Other parents said a credible source had told them that most of what they had given the previous day was either thrown away or spent carelessly by Harold and myself.
“Did you or did you not call the avocado a forbidden fruit and throw it to the dog? Did you not then say the dog yelped because you helped? Did you not laugh stupidly after that joke?” said one parent, trying to prove they had correct intel.
The detail that followed made me know who the snake was.
“Do not ask who the person is. But that is someone who can pray for our children for no fee.”
“What do you give in return?”
“Nothing. Just go and enjoy our bottle of beer in the evening.”
I knew who that was. She sells at the bar. She is our usher, but she was not present that Sunday. She often lives with us and so knows our secrets. If people drink more, he gets more money.
She had let the cat out of the bag. In the list of the men who have fallen victims to cunning women in history, after Adam and Samson, we could add Harold.