Elsewhere in the room, his mother was boiling water to make so strong tea for him and his brother before they step off for school. She did this for them despite having more than one hour to sleep before duty at her office would come calling.
He dreaded this moment but he had learnt to adopt it being routine for as long he could remember. His father who he referred to as dad was still snoring off. He had at least two hours to sleep.
He jumped from bed and searched for his short and shirt through the dark. His mother was using the only available kerosene lamp in the kitchen cum sitting room. He put on his only short but it was still dump… the socks too were dump.
“It is better clean and wet than dirty and warm,” he told himself as he made his way to the kitchen cum sitting room.
In the process, he stepped hard on the sheet dividing the sitting room from the bedroom and it feel down. His mother signalled to leave it alone as he would fasten it later.
“Run to the shop and get half a loaf. You will have to do with that for the day. In the evening I will make you some ugali and cabbage early enough before you are through with your homework,” his mother told him with sadness in her eyes.
The house was stuff and smelling of booze. This was nothing new. Waweru’s father was turning into a drunk and they only saw him in daylight on Sundays since the whole family was in.
“But dad said he was going to pay for us lunch at school. Why don’t you wake him up and tell him that we cannot spend another hungry day at school. Maina keeps crying and I never know what to tell the teachers when they ask,” he told his mother as we reached for the wooden door to run to the shop and get what may turn out to be their only meal for the day.
“Don’t worry son. Mum will try getting something for you as she comes home this evening,” his mother said as four teary eyes gazed at her.
Waweru got to the shop and after making his purchase, Kimotho the shopkeeper reminded him to tell his parent to pay their debts. He sagged his head as he walked back to the house and got his slice of bread and sugarless black tea.
But as he and his brother reached for their shoes, Waweru realized that there was no polish. It is inspection day at school and everyone has to be neat. The two pairs of shoes are as dusty as it can get after an evening of football with the other boys the previous day.
“Think fast,” he told himself as he tried to figure out the time since the only source, dad’s radio, had gone dead. The batteries had recharged themselves as the radio lay dead for the past week.
He moved to the corner of the room and got some charcoal. He sat outside the door, crashed some in the last polish tin, and added some water and some petroleum jelly. After wiping the dust off the shoes, he smeared the home-made “polish” and brushed them hard with the few twigs remaining in the shoe brush.
“Maina, here… let’s go now. I do not want to be beaten by Mr Kiarie for coming to school late,” he told his brother has he tired the laces to make sure that the shoes fit well without exposing his torn socks.
“Bye mum… see you in the evening,” the two boys said in unison as their mother put her bath water in a basin.
Hand in hand, they walked and 20 minutes later, they got to the school gate just before Mr Kiarie.
Waweru adjusted his brother’s shirt and made sure that he had entered his class two room. Before rushing to his class five room on the other end of the block, he warned some boy not to dire touch his brother.
Waweru got to class only to find everyone busy doing their homework. Well he was lucky because he had managed to get home before dark and did his.