Writers Space Africa-Rwanda
Children's Literature Issue 3

Thanks to Children | Anselme Dushimimana

“How disgusting it is to see a thing like you lying on your back on that torn mat in the beautiful shade of my house!” Mama Hoho threatened her neighbour, Mama Bless, pointing a finger at her. “You stink like cow dung! And your house is as small as an eye. That is why you dislike it! You rubbish, why don’t you lie in front of your rubbish bin? Get out of my sight before I call the police.”

Mama Bless was nervously folding her mat as she heard the fat woman’s spiteful message.

“Yes, but…” She drawled, biting her nails. She then frowned and coughed inaudibly. Heading back to her one-roomed house, she stumbled and bawled, and her right foot hurt. Mama Hoho chuckled. Then she approached the gate of her three-storeyed house, which contained a gym, a swimming pool, and a library. She hacked a loogie and spat towards Mama Bless’s house. She then opened the gate and banged the door shut. The entire neighbourhood dashed to the main road to see what was happening. Some thought it was a collision between two trucks.

Sitting on a white couch in her living room, Mama Hoho wiped sweat off her face and fanned herself with her hands. Her milky eyes gained a ripe tomato colour due to her anger. In no time, Hoho, her daughter, returned from school.

“How was your day, honey?” Mama Hoho said, trying to sound like a child. She wanted to entertain her daughter despite the wrinkles etched on her forehead.

“Beautiful, Mom! And yours?”

“Annoying, dear!” said Mama Hoho.

Hoho said “sorry” before she flung her bag into her heaven-like bedroom. She returned to the sitting room and leapt into her mother’s chest. The two kissed on the foreheads and hugged each other.

In the blink of an eye, Mama Hoho regained her hatred toward her neighbour, Mama Bless, and fanned herself. She slammed the table with her right hand and glared.

“What just happened? Your eyes have reddened!” Exclaimed Hoho. Her mom shook her head and wrapped her arms around it. However, Hoho kept pestering for the answer as she rubbed her gentle hands in her mom’s hair.

“It’s that fly that I told you to never greet.” She hummed, her face still hidden in her hands.

“A fly?” Asked Hoho.

Her mom sat up to explain a lesson she hadn’t grasped fully. Hoho smiled, but her mom frowned. She did not like smiling whenever she talked about serious things. This made Hoho pay attention.

“In this Mbyo neighbourhood,” said Mama Hoho, “I have never seen a spiteful person like Mama ‘Blesser’ [ a French word that means ‘hurt’]. She breaks my heart. She looks at me with spite on her face. She wears tattered clothes to make me feel disgusted and leave this neighbourhood.”

As she spoke, Hoho lay on her lap and started dozing off.

“Obviously, she does not wish me to live, but to die,” Mama Hoho screamed and woke up Hoho.

“That fly envies me because I am rich and she is penniless,” she continued. “I am not stupid; I know why she called her son, ‘Blesser’. I studied French and I understand the message from it. She will kill us. She hates us, darling! It’s high time I stood up against my enemy.”

Hoho patted her mother’s hair to soothe her. Her heart still festered with hatred. 

On the other hand, Bless was seated with his stressed mom on a bench inside their one-roomed house, packed with different materials: a bench, three pans, two cans, three plates, two forks, a spoon, a bucket, a bag of clothes, and a thin mattress.

“The truck wants to kill us.” Mama Bless said.

“Which truck, Mom? You’re not a hawker anymore; you don’t frequent the main road anymore either. And don’t worry, Mom, I always look left and right before crossing the road. In P1 now, my teacher says I’m a responsible young man. Don’t worry about me, beloved Mom!” Bless said, wiping her mom’s tears with his left hand. His right hand held a notebook and a pen.

“She does not love me, and I don’t love her either.” Mama Bless sobbed, and tears wetted her son’s shirt. Forcing a grin, Bless sang a song he was taught at school, making her mother’s face glisten. Mama Bless fell asleep.

A few moments later, Bless devoured a chunk of cassava, which choked him. He pressed his neck, but in vain. He led his way to a water can, poured some water into a small round plate, which still contained three more cassava chunks, and drank it. It worked well for him. He then exited the house to catch fresh air because the house had no windows. He coughed and wiped the sweat off his face. Hearing this, Hoho snuck out of the house.

“Hey there, are you playing with some other kids?” Hoho asked, but Bless did not respond.

Since their parents despised each other, the children feared each other and had never interacted or talked about anything. Bless was a pedestrian whereas Hoho had a driver who could drive her to school. Bless believed Hoho was just bad like her mother, and vice versa.

As Hoho hesitated to approach him, Bless coughed as if in pain. Concerned, Hoho rushed to help him. Mama Hoho, noticing this from the second-floor window, saw Hoho assisting Bless down the road. She stifled a laugh, then faked a cough. Quietly, she made her way to the ground floor to watch the commotion unfold without being noticed. She then went to the main gate and opened it. Here, she could see the children clearly.

“Are you okay now?” Hoho asked Bless, staring at him. Her mother overhead their little talks and smiled.

“Yes, I am. What is your name?” Bless asked, running away from her, but she overtook him.

In no time, they were under the shade of a guava tree.

“My name is Hoho, which means beautiful.” She finally responded. Bless giggled, and so did the girl.

“My name is Bless, which means that I am loved and blessed by God. I am pleased to meet you, Hoho!” He beamed, stretching his hand.

Hoho did not shake it, which prompted Bless to grunt like a pig to frighten her. Hoho meowed like a cat in response. The two laughed and finally shook their hands. Mama Bless popped out of her house to see where her son was, and she discovered he was playing with Hoho. She leaned on her house and peered at the children as they played. Mama Hoho was still in front of her storeyed house, laughing stealthily. 

“Let me show you something!” Bless shouted, climbing the guava tree. When he reached the middle, he turned his eyes from side to side, looking for ripe guavas.

“You big man, pick that big guava for me!” Hoho shouted, looking up at Bless with her eyes beaming.

“Okay, get ready to catch it then!” said Bless.

Instead of throwing it to her, he gobbled it up. Hoho scowled and then chuckled. Bless threw a bigger guava at her, and the two laughed. He threw many more to her, and Hoho wrapped them in her pullover. Their mothers peeked at each other wordlessly as the game went on.

“Hi Mama Bless. How are you?” Mama Hoho, unlike the previous days, did not turn ‘Bless’ into ‘Blesser’ – upon which Mama Bless became overjoyed. She approached her and the two leapt into each other’s arms and hugged. Noticing this, Hoho rushed to them. The two –mothers tossed her in the air and held her. They repeated that as they burst out into laughter.

As Bless swiftly alighted from the tree to join the fun, he slid and fell off the tree. He cried out in pain, clenching his teeth and fists. His mom, Mama Hoho and Hoho rushed to him. They lifted and carried him to Mama Hoho’s car.

“Thanks, Mama Hoho!” said Mama Bless. Unlike before, she pronounced her name correctly, and this time, it sounded like ‘beautiful,’ not ‘sand truck.’ Previously, she called her Hoho, to offensively make her name sound like a truck called Howo –many residents of Mbyo call it Hoho as well.

The two grinned at each other. They all felt a sense of comfort as Mama Hoho drove the beleaguered boy to the hospital.

“Look, we’ve arrived at the hospital! God, gracious! Your car is much faster than my legs. It’s kind of you to help my son get to the hospital so quickly,” Mama Bless cheered, thanking Mama Hoho.

“He’s our son,” Mama Hoho insisted, feeling a lump in her throat.

“Thank you so much!” Mama Bless shouted again, tears streaming down her cheeks. “My lovely son is going to be taken care of, and we will always be grateful for your help. You are a good neighbour.”

“We should always support each other, Mama Bless. I was wrong to treat you poorly, and I’m really sorry.”

“I’m sorry too for hating on you,” Mama Bless said, hugging Mama Hoho, tears of joy flowing down their cheeks.

The nurses began to take care of Bless.

Anselme Dushimimana is a writer of fictional and non-fictional works in the English language. In 2010, he was awarded by the Rwanda National Police as one of the best essayists in Rwanda. His work interests him in promoting Rwandan culture, peace, cleanliness, cooperation, behavioural improvement, and positive thinking. To achieve all this, he believes that writing is key. A friend of storybooks, he is working hard to polish his works for publication.

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