Before everything happened, I used to be embarrassed by my father’s hands. No matter what he did, they were always dirty. When my mother was still around, she complained about the grease under his nails and in the cracks where his fingers bent. He would keep quiet, but my mother didn’t mind. She kept at it. She had a long list of evidence as to why she had married the wrong man. This was only one of the things on it.

She would list the reasons whenever something bothered her. If there was no money for milk, the list came out. If he came home late, she brought the list out again. Each time that she read the list out, from where it lay written in her brain, my father kept quiet. It is not his way to argue and fight. He would just get a sadness in his eyes and listen carefully as my mother tore him to pieces and stamped those pieces into the dusty ground.

My stomach turned over when this happened, even though I agreed with the dirty hands part – there were many things on the list that I didn’t think were really his fault – but I used to think he should have tried harder with his dirty hands. Maybe if he had tried a little more my mother wouldn’t have gone off on that bus. That is what I used to think anyway.

His dirty hands were because of his job. My father fixes cars under the wide camelthorn at the back of the house. There is a proper garage in the centre of the village where the rich people fix their cars. Rich people don’t look for mechanics under camelthorn trees at the back of people’s houses. My father is the kind of mechanic for poor people.

So the poor bring their cars to my father and pay however they can. After my mother left, many people brought plates of food for me and my father. Some offered to wash our clothes. One man brought a puppy – my dog, Shumba. Now and then they paid with cash. My father never made it difficult. He knew what things were like for his customers, because they were like that for him too.

When my mother left, we were just the two of us. For a while I still slept on the couch in the other room of our two-room house, but my father realised that that was stupid and soon I took my mother’s side of his bed. I missed her and so did he, but over time there were good things about my mother being gone too. One was getting to sleep on a bed.

I finished primary school after my mother left. I did well and got a place in the junior secondary school on the other side of the village. I was supposed to walk, and it was quite far, but since most of my father’s customers owed him something, I got a lift both ways on most days.

No matter when I woke, my father was already up and busy. Cars were always waiting with broken radiators, difficult starter motors or problem diffs. He would have tea made and hot water on the stove for me to bath. We found our way without my mother and soon it felt like it had always been just like that.


Tell us what you think: Is Kago’s dad a good father? Why or why not?