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Published by: api-128402546 on Feb 23, 2012
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09/28/2013

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Boonoonoonoos, little bit Boonoonoonoos
 
1981It is Friday.Eunice and Milkah Wanjiru, sixteen and fifteen, are form-three students at Lamdiak Secondary school—a series of longdark wooden buildings that sit deep in a thick plot of soft Kikuyugrass in front of the Mau forest, one of the coldest places to livein Kenya.It is five-thirty in the morning. There are already lines of girls washing in buckets at the end of their dorm. Form-four girls, cheeks burnt black with cold, have been up all nightstudying for exams.The air is cold and foggy and smells of cow shit andcharcoal irons and foaming Imperial Leather 
 
soap. When Euniceand Milkah Wanjiru walk outside the cold squeezes themimmediately, like two women holding the ends of a wet blanketand squeezing. For a moment it is hard to breathe. The throat isseized. Then heat and air bursts out of them, they puff out warmair from their bellies—it licks their noses, their cheeks.They tiptoe slowly past the school security guard, acantankerous old Gikuyu and Dorobo man, Josphat, who is paidthirty shillings by the school for each girl he catches sneakingout. Josphat is wearing a khaki overcoat from the 1950s. He isasleep, and so this is the best time to sneak out of school.Usually Josphat is up all night smoking bhang. During the day,he likes to sit outside the gate near the bus stop, sewing patcheson his overcoat. The coat smells of old milk and old smoke.
 
When he catches girls sneaking out, he is usually satisfiedwith asking them to let him touch their breasts and put a finger into their panties. The finger lasts a few seconds. Then he’llfrown and say, “moto sana.” That is his nickname, Moto Sana.Josphat was a tracker of Mau Maus in the 1950s, and talksof his days of glory as Sergeant Meeks’s right-hand man. He metIdi Amin twice, while they were hunting down Mau Mau. Hesells very good bhang to students, and is popular for hisstories—of tramping through the Aberdare forests, of elephantsand the day Dedan was caught, of strange white men like LordEgerton, whom he once worked for, and who would not allowany women onto the grounds of his castle, a few kilometersaway.The girls start to breathe harder, and shuffle faster. Wet,frosted grass slurps and slaps against their heels. A boy streaks past them, coming from the Senior Girl’s dorm, buttoning histrousers and carrying books self-consciously. Maina. His jaw isworking, like most miraa chewers. He smells like strangledcigarettes, Big G chewing gum, and stale plant juice. He is aschool legend—he can drink a whole tin of changaa, can studyall night for three nights in a row if he chews miraa. He winks atthem, and Milkah Wanjiru winks back back. Eunice looks at thegrass and hides her eyes.They walk past the history teacher’s house. The girls canhear morning mood music on his general-service radio. Startling basses and the sound of old American railroads:
 NORTH! To
 
 Alaska! North to HUNT for GOLD
. Mr. Simiyu is singing along.He likes to talk about his days studying in Manitoba.They giggle.Dark is unraveling quickly. They shuffle past the last guard post, past the little line of whitewashed stones, the large schoolsign, and into the small trading center on the main road to Mau Narok. Only a few miles from the roadless woods and wheatfarms of Masailand, and the giant mountains of the Mau forest.They have known each other since they were in primaryschool in Njoro DEB, five or so kilometers away. They were inthe same class for seven years, but did not once speak to eachother until they found themselves in the same dorm on the firstday of school at Lamdiak Secondary.Eunice is the shy one. Sharp bones at the top of her cheeks push her face forward. She has wide round eyes surrounded bywhat she calls her Rings of Satan, circles of darker skin that giveher a feverish look.Milkah Wanjiru is short, round, and hard, with round hard breasts, and a round yellow face. One of her front teeth iscracked, and has a small streak of brown.When she was nine, she cut off the legs of a school chickenand let it stumble and whirl like a dervish in the school playground, spraying gouts of blood. The headmaster, Mr.Gachohi, whipped her in front of the whole school with a longswaying stick cut from the tender new branch of a caterpillar tree. After three or four strokes aimed at her back and legs

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