My last reporting trip as the Monitor’s Africa correspondent, mandated by my Boston editors, was one trip too many. In Mozambique, Rhodesia and Angola I tried to “finish up strong,” as I was urged to do in high school and college. This would demonstrate that I was “on the team.” However there were all the arrangements needed to be made before leaving Nairobi. Like Laban, new possibilities were dangling before me and part of my brain was wondering what the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference would be like. My work “The Hemingway Play” would be given a staged reading there in August.
Most vexing of all was the question of how Murugi intended to proceed about her injured ankle. Concerned about it, I trudged around Luanda, Angola, with a crick in my back. My rear end felt as if it were being dragged out of left field.
When I returned home, I got a report on the situation with Murugi. As soon as Donanne returned from taking me to Embakasi Airport, Laban informed her that Murugi intended to ask for compensation for breaking her ankle. It was not clear, perhaps even to Murugi, what that compensation might include.
“Did you give it to her?” I asked Donanne.
“No,” Donanne said. “I talked to her. Laban acted as translator.”
“What’d you say?”
“I assured her that our leaving could not injure her,” Donanne explained. I thought perhaps it had been just as well that I was away. I had served as a cultural diplomat, but Donanne was infinitely more diplomatic than I was. Moreover, this matter might be best resolved between two women.
“I assured her that we would take care of the hospital expenses,” she went on, “and would try to find her a new job. I told her that she had enriched our lives and we hoped we’d done the same for hers. There couldn’t be any injury out of that.”
“And she knew what you were talking about?” I asked.
“Of course,” Donanne assured me. “They understand these things a lot better than we do.” She continued, “While you were gone, every time I thought of Murugi, I affirmed all the good things about her: her affection for Pauly, her diligence and cleanliness, her good humor, her smile, her virtue. She really is virtuous, you know.”
“And we’re virtuous, too,” Donanne said. “And fair. And we love Murugi.”
“And how is she?”
“It is all right,” Donanne said, using the phrase with Laban’s special inflection. “She never asked for compensation. I’m sure she won’t.”
By the time we left Nairobi, the cast was off Murugi’s ankle and she was walking normally again. We wrote recommendation letters for both Murugi and Laban and gave them presents of money. Murugi seemed almost certain to find a new job and Laban had the funds he needed for the panel beating training.
As we said our goodbyes, both Laban and Murugi bent respectfully forward to shake my hand. Laban held it with both of his in that special African gesture of regard. When they turned to Donanne, neither Kikuyu spoke. But their eyes were misty. Donanne was not prepared to say farewell by shaking hands. These people were members of the family. Donanne hugged them both.
This is a time of the year when books make great presents. As regular readers probably know, Fred’s memoir of loneliness and adventures in the Congo, A YEAR AT THE EDGE OF THE JUNGLE, has just been published. It’s available from the publisher at www.cunepress.net or from Amazon. Moreover, Amazon has just announced that Fred has an author page there. Check it out at https://www.amazon.com/author/frederichunter. ABE AND MOLLY, THE HEMINGWAY PLAY and JOSS: The Ambassador’s Wife are available in soft cover editions at Nebbadoon.com.