Ben and Jane were prattling with his mother in the house. The kids, Rebecca 7, and Roy 4, were playing in the yard.
The family had been in the country for one week now for the festivities. The kids were savouring the glees and new friends that each day on the farm gifted them.
In the middle of their chat, Granny Stella thought she had perceived a squeal. She however snubbed it, assuming that the kids were losing themselves in their puerile merriment.
They rippled on in their tête-à-tête.
Then a sharper screech.
This time, granny’s misgivings thawed. What she had heard was an unmistakable howl of distress. And each of the three adults had heard that.
“The children!” Jane cried.
FACE OF CALAMITY
Springing up, Ben cannonballed outside, his instinct urging him to wheel towards the lawn where the kids had been playing.
His children’s three playmates stood, now flummoxed, and now panicky. On their countenances sat marks of confusion and gloom, horror.
Ben had a seizure of profound foreboding. He readied himself for a tempest. The tempest which was to follow soon.
The decayed metal sheets covering a borehole had caved in on his children. Thirty feet, the siblings had tumbled, and met their death in the dry pit.
“They’re gone,” he whimpered, his manly timbre cracking with the haplessness that is human nature in the face of calamity.
In Ben’s quick deduction, Roy had tripped first, and in a haphazard effort to rescue her brother, Rebecca had met similar fate.
Jane could not behold the scene. A menacing wave of fragility and devastation washed her over.
She blacked out.
A grown man may not weep, much less in front of his mother. All his adult life, Ben had never allowed despondency to overcome him. But this tragedy, this mortal torment, weighed his shoulders down, pushing the walls of the fortress of his manhood down, whereupon he bawled without the littlest hit of restraint.
Meanwhile, his mother wailed, calling out in all manner of cultural terms.
Soon, the homestead was swarming with neighbours, traumatised and heads down. While the bodies were being retrieved from the pit, Jane was rushed to the hospital.
The cardiac arrest had been almighty awful, irreparable.
It was on the 24th December, a Saturday, a forlorn day from Hades, when his wife Jane, Bex and Roy were interred adjacent to Ben’s father.
He did not cry.
Cry he wanted to, and even desired, except he couldn’t. What escaped his mouth instead were sporadic spasms of moans of heartache. His was a laden heart, laden with an unspeakable angst that tore through his manhood. There was nothing quite like this horror, a horror whose enormity can’t fit into lexical terms.
A man may lose a lifetime’s fortune. He may endure the sting of losing limbs, sight. But the agony of Ben’s loss, no amount of fortitude could pacify.
Three days later, Ben was ready to set off for Nairobi. Alone. For one last moment, he walked to the gravesite.
At length, he stared at the three hills, hills that only a week before had not been there, hills in whose bosom lay his young family. He was mumbling things, things that his mother – watching her son with brokenness of heart from behind a curtain in the main house – could not make sense of.
This is his parents’ home. And this graveyard, these three graves, will forever carry the memories of the disastrous events of December 2016.
When schools open for the new term in 2017, Ben will have no children to drop off to school on his way to work, no kids for whom to buy treats after work.
Gloomier even, he will have no one to welcome him home in the evenings.
The family nanny, the adorable Leah, is leaving, after staying with the Bens for five years. In all fairness, what will she do now that the family is no more?
All this, all these hard-hitting realities, the wretched man hopes he can gather enough grit to take on. It’s an altogether new beginning for Ben.