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    Crossroads knew condoms were free.
           They could not comprehend it, therefore, when Broker turned up among them, all
    excited and offering them the very same condoms for money.  They had to scrutinise him,
    long and hard, before agreeing that he appeared quite sane.  Some could not help but
    wonder what kind of fool he had turned out to be.
           “Don’t you know it, man?” they said to him.  “Kodoms are free.”
           “Correction,” he told them.  “Condoms were free.  Condoms are not free anymore.        
    Condoms will not be free again and condoms will never be free again, understand?  Not ever
    again!  Do you understand?”
           They could not understand.  Just yesterday, Janet was there, down on her knees,
    begging them to take the condoms away from her, to do with them whatever they wanted to
    do with them.  How come now they could not have condoms but for money?  They laughed in
    his face and told Broker to go try his tricks somewhere else.
           “Tricks?” he laughed at them too.  “You just don’t get it, do you?  There’s nothing for
    free anymore; this is the new world order.”
           They did not believe him.  No matter how hard he told them, he could not convince
    anyone he was serious, that they had used their last free condom, ever, and they would not
    be getting another free condom for as long as they lived.
           “Never again,” he said harshly.  “From now on, you will have to pay up, and pay up well,
    if you want to go on using condoms.”
           “We don’t use kodoms, man,” they said to him.  “We are total men.  That’s why Janet
    gives them to us for free.”
           He had news for them, he told them patiently.  He would turn off their supply of free
    condoms for ever.
           Si you turn it off,” they said defiantly.  “Kwani what are you waiting for?”
           “Turn it off?” Broker laughed.  “I just did; turned it off and threw away the key.”
           “But you can’t do that,” they reasoned.  “Only Janet can do that.  You are not Janet.”
           “That’s right,” he told them angrily.  “And you have no idea who I am.”
              Most of them were toddlers when he was the Spanner Boy.  They had not experienced
    Broker in those old days; when women would count their daughters and men their goats after
    Broker had been to visit.  But he had no intention of wasting a whole day arguing with young
    fools and went in search of real men; men who, like himself, understood well the
    uncompromising principles of supply and demand.
           The men heard him out, mostly out of politeness, but could not understand a word he
    said.  He gave them all the deal of their lives, an offer he said would never be repeated.  But
    they, too, refused it all the same.  Like everyone else in Crossroads, they knew that kodoms
    were free.  They dared him to turn off their supply.
           Broker was defeated, but not discouraged.  He called them unflattering names, told
    them they were as foolish as their drooling sons, and went in search of total men; the
    entrepreneurs who had kept Crossroads ticking over all these years, against insurmountable
    odds.  But they too knew condoms to be free and were certain they could never sell any.
    Broker was sweating heavily, and going mad with frustration, when he finally called on the
    proprietor of Crossroads General Store, the oldest retail business in town.  The man was
    away in Sokoni for supplies and the wife, who ran the shop most days, said she knew nothing
    about condoms and that Broker would have to wait for her husband.
           To pass the time, Broker called on the girls at Highlife Lodge.  They were all new faces,
    most of them barely past their teens.  They had enough education to understand half the
    instructions on the condom wrappers and asked him to tell them what the rest meant.
    What happened to a condom when it expired? they asked him.  Did it go stale, like old
    mandazi or did it disintegrate and fall apart like an old wig?
           Broker answered their questions the best he could.  He told them everything he knew
    about condoms and what he did not know he made up on the spot, determined to satisfy their
    hunger for knowledge.  But the girls were only half listening.  Alice, a rustic beauty with dark
    eyes, was looking at the huge car outside and then at the famished man with his carton of
    condoms under his arms and trying to put the two together.
           “Is that your car?” she asked him.
           He assured her that it was, all of it.
           “Then why are you selling condoms?” she asked him.
           “I believe in condoms,” he told her.
           She had never met a man who believed in condoms before; none of them had and they
    were all very amused.
           “You may laugh all you like,” he said to them.  “But I’ll break the neck of the first cow to
    call me the condom man, you hear?”
           They heard him and laughed even louder and decided to like him.  He had to be a rich
    and important man, they said to themselves.  How much money did he have, they asked him.
    He had not come to buy, he told them, impatiently.
           “Will you stop asking foolish questions and listen to me?” He said harshly.
           He flattered them, told them how important they were, how they were the vital vanguard
    in Crossroads’ war against the plague.  Only they could stop Aids dead in its tracks and save
    themselves and the community from certain death.  They had the power to do it, and he had
    the equipment to do it with.  What they had to do was to insist that their clients use a condom.
           “Men don’t want condoms,” Alice told him.  “They pay us not to use condoms.”
           “You must insist that they use condoms,” he said to her.  “Think of yourselves first; do
    you want to die painfully like a dog just because men don’t like to use condoms?  You have
    to protect yourselves, you understand?  Otherwise you and your ignorant men will soon be
    as dead as donkeys.”
           “You don’t know men,” they said, laughing at him.
           “I’m a man,” he reminded.
           “Would you wear a condom?” Alice asked him.
           “Would I be selling condoms otherwise?” he said to them.  “Believe me, I have my best
    interests at heart too.”
           But, more importantly, he had the girls’ welfare in mind too.  They could make lots of
    money from the deal he was offering them, if they bought the condoms from him and sold
    them to their clients for a profit.
           The girls were better read than he had thought and could read well between the lines.  
    They let him talk himself hoarse, then laughed in his face again and wondered where he had
    come from.
           “Real men don’t wear condoms,” Alice informed him.  “Even Janet knows that.”
           And that was that.
           “You foolish cows!” he suddenly went wild, on realising he had wasted his precious time
    and flattery on a herd of village sows.  “Don’t ever say you were never told.  Don’t ever say I
    did not warn you, when they pack up your wasted carcase in a matchbox and stick it down a
    rat hole.”
           The girls were stunned at his sudden change of humour.  They could not understand
    his anger at all and fled from him in fear of their lives.  He picked up his carton of condoms
    and stormed back to the general store, in a dark and seething rage.  The man was not back
    yet, and the woman still knew nothing about condoms.  Broker moved on, called at other
    lodging houses and tried to persuade the proprietors to include condoms in their room
    charges and insist on their guests using them.
           “We can’t do that,” they said, drowning in embarrassment.  “We have nothing to do with
    that business.  You must talk to the girls.”
           “What?” cried the girls.  “We can’t do that, we’d lose our customers and our jobs.  Do
    you want us to lose our jobs?”
           At this point, Broker seriously considered dumping his carton of condoms in the nearest
    dustbin, then jumping in his car and driving till he fell off the edge of the earth.  He could see
    no light at the end of the dark anymore, no way at all to penetrate the swamp of ignorance
    and apathy around him.  Then he remembered why he was doing it and soldiered on.
    He found the proprietor of the general store on the third try and offered him the deal of the
    year.  The man promptly refused it.  He knew, like all the others did, that kodoms were free.
           “Not anymore,” Broker said, as he had said to all the others.  “There will be no more
    free rides here.”
           The man was not interested in rides, free or otherwise.
           “I’ll give you a special price,” Broker offered, in desperation.
           “What for?” he asked.
           For the best condom he had never used, Broker told him.  Not the standard
    Government issue but the real thing.  Gold-wrapped and all. Guaranteed to stay fresh
    forever.  It was made from very special rubber, a latex-rich medicinal rubber from a genus of
    rubber trees that grew in only one place on earth.
           “Have you heard of Kasai?”
           “Kasai who?” the trader asked.
           “Kasai is a place,” Broker said, wearily wiping heavy sweat off his face and neck.  “It’s a
    place deep in the Congo.  You have heard of the Congo.  You have not?  It’s the largest
    equatorial forest in Africa; so vast its inhabitants have never seen its outside, and believe
    they are the only people on earth.  Well, Kasai is right in there, at the heart of this mighty
    jungle, and that is where the best rubber comes from.”
           “So?” said the man, a little intrigued.  “It is still only a kodom.”
           “Only a kodom?” Broker acted scandalised.  “This is the best condom in the world.  
    Here, take a good look at it.”
           The trader took the condom and examined it curiously.  Like many people in
    Crossroads, he had never before seen a condom at such close quarters, and was now
    surprised to see how simple and ordinary it looked.
           “But do not underrate this little bit of latex,” Broker warned him.  “The only thing it will not
    do is sing to you.”
           The man was examining the condom with undivided concentration and wondering how
    such an innocuous bit of equatorial jungle could create so much maneno, so much
    hullabaloo, all over Crossroads.  Was it possible, he wondered, that it really did contain
    medicine that revived the flagging libido of old men, as he had heard it mentioned once in
    passing?  He was loathe to ask.
           “I will give you a really special discount,” Broker was telling him.
           “Discount?” the man glanced over his shoulder.
           His wife was at the back of the shop, cooking his supper.  There was no one else in the
    shop, except himself, Broker and the cat sleeping on a sack of flour in the corner.  But he
    lowered his voice all the same, as he asked, “How special?”
           “Very special,” said Broker.  “Something like ... thirty percent?”
           “Only thirty percent?” the man asked.
           He knew a thing or two about discount.
           “This is a very special condom,” Broker said to him.
           The trader scrutinized the condom, glanced again over his shoulder and finally
    asked,         “How does it work?”
           “How does what work?” Broker asked him.
           “Kodom,” said the man.
           “How does a condom work?” Broker asked, confused.  “What do you mean how does a
    condom work?”
           “Does it have batteries?” asked the man.
           “What for does it need batteries?” Broker asked.
           “You say this thing can sing,” said the man.
           “Did I say that?” Broker was devastated.  “No, I did not say that.”
           He fought to keep his collapsing face straight, and his raging temper under a tight leash.
           “I did not say the condom could sing,” he said, calmly.  “I said ... I said ... Listen,  
    condoms can’t sing or dance.  Condoms don’t perform, not by themselves, anyway.  What am
    I saying?  Listen, it doesn’t require any batteries at all, OK?  Condoms don’t use any
    batteries.  Are you listening?  You wear them over your ... you know.  To stop your wife
    having a baby.  And to protect yourself.”
           “Protect myself?” the man wondered.  “To protect myself from what?”
           “From disease,” Broker was on the verge of despair.
           This cannot be, he was thinking to himself, this is not possible.  He had heard of famine
    in the midst of plenty, but this went beyond mere dearth of information.
           “From disease?” the man was studying the condom in his hands, and not quite listening
    to Broker.
           “Have you ever heard of STDs?” Broker asked him.  “Diseases such as Aids?”
           The man suddenly looked up, “Aids?”
           “Please, don’t ask me what that is?” Broker pleaded.
           “I know Aids,” the man smiled.  “Aids is the disease of men who manga-manga.”
           Broker nodded vaguely, not wanting to be embroidered in any more of the man’s
    ignorance, and pointed at the condom.
               “What do you say?” he asked.
           The man glanced over his shoulder.
           “I will take two,” he announced.
           “Good man,” Broker clapped him on the shoulder.  “I like doing business with smart,
    decisive men.”
           The man was flattered.
           “I’ll have your two cartons delivered within the hour,” Broker promised.
           “Cartons?” asked the man, confused.  “What cartons?”
           “With the condoms,” Broker said.  “Your two cartons of condoms.”
           “Two cartons of kodoms?” the shopkeeper was now bewildered.  “Two cartons of
    kodoms?  What shall I do with two cartons of kodoms?  I want two kodoms ... two kodoms like
    this one.”
           “Two condoms?” now it was Broker’s turn to be confounded.
           “Two like these,” said the man.
           “Two pieces?” Broker finally despaired.  “You want two condoms?  Two pieces of
    condoms?  What on earth do you want to do with two condoms?”
           “I’m an old man,” said the trader reasonably.
           “I can see that,” Broker said.  “The condoms are not all for you.”
           “My wife is old too,” said the trader.
           “I understand that too,” Broker told him.  “I don’t want you to use all the condoms by
    yourself.  I mean, I want you to stock them for sale.  For your customers.”
           “My customers?” the man said scandalised.  “My customers do not buy kodoms.  Si they
    can get free kodoms from Janet.”
           “Not anymore,” Broker struggled to remain calm and composed.  “I thought I told you
    that already.  I thought I made that quite clear.  Can’t you understand anything, man?  There
    will be no more free condoms from now on.  Never again.  Can you understand that?”
           “No one uses kodoms,” said the trader, reasonably.  “I told you my wife is too old to
    have children and I don’t manga-manga.”
           He was ordering the two condoms so as not to waste Broker’s time.  He could see that
    Broker was an honest and hard-working man and, therefore, wanted to help him out.
           “I thank you very much,” Broker said, his voice strained.  “That is very considerate of
    you.  But what I’m telling you is this, from today on, anyone who wants a condom will have to
    go to a shop.  If I give you a monopoly now, in a few weeks’ time, men will be lining up to buy
    condoms from you.  Think about it.  All of Crossroads will have to come to you for their
    condoms.  That is how fortunes are made, my man.  And I’ll do even better.  I will give you
    sixty percent discount. Imagine that; a whole sixty percent.”
           “Sixty percent of what?” said the man rationally.  “The silly things are already free.”
           “Not anymore,” Broker tried to suppress the outrage rising in his voice.  “Don’t you
    understand anything, man?”
           “I understand everything,” the trader said, suddenly offended.  “You want to make
    money out of me, that is all you want to do.  I don’t like that and I don’t need your ... things.  I
    have no use for them.  Take them back.”
           “Wait!” Broker ordered.  “Listen to me.  We can make a deal.”
           “What sort of deal?” the man asked.
           “Something beneficial to both of us,” Broker told him.
           Broker wanted to make money, yes, but he also wanted the trader to make money too.  
    He wanted to be friends with him and to help him.  There was a whole lot of business ahead,
    for the both of them.  He would get the trader something to revive his virility too.  That was
    how much he wanted to be friends with him.
           “You can’t get rhino horn anymore,” the trader informed.
           “Rhino horn?” Broker laughed contemptuously.  “That is all old hat now, haven’t you
    heard that?  No one uses rhino horn anymore.  I’ll get you something very special, very
    powerful.  Have you ever heard of Super GTP?”
           The old man had never heard of it.
           “That is because it’s very new,” Broker told him.  “I invented it myself.”
           He had also conjured up the lofty sounding name himself, after the patent office
    rejected the original name.
           “It’s a secret recipe,” he said to the trader.  “Here are your two condoms.  I really wish
    you would consider stocking condoms for your customers.  You will never regret it, I assure
    you.  I know money is not your problem, but who ever said no to more money.  Look at me,
    look at my car.  Wouldn’t you like to drive a car just like mine?  How do you think I got such a
    car?  Not by saying no to good business opportunities, I assure you of that.  You too can
    have a car like mine, anyone can.  The secret is in selling.  Selling anything and everything.  
    You have talent, I can see that in you.  You can sell anything you want to, I can see it in your
    eyes.  And I’ll give you a really super deal on the Super GTP too.  You must stock it also.  
    The two go together, like tea and mandazi.  You will be a famous man, not to mention very
    rich.  You do want to be rich, don’t you?”
           The man considered.  He had been working at getting rich the whole of his life.  The half-
    empty general store was the closest he had come to realising his dream.  He had a grandson
    who would soon be on his way to University and he would need all the money he could get.  
    He did not have to think too hard about it; he wanted money, lots and lots of it.  He nodded.
    Broker talked on, not giving him time to think or ask any more questions.  By the time he had
    finished, the trader was nodding vigorously at his every word and soon they were talking
    orders.  Cartons full of orders and advance payments and all.  Then, as the man was about
    to hand over the down payment for his first ever stock of condoms and GTP, his teenage
    grandson arrived home from school and broke the spell.  The trader swept the two free
    condoms deftly off the counter into his pockets.
           “Sorry,” he said, suddenly remembering he was old enough to be Broker’s father.  “I can’
    t help you.  I only stock things I can sell.”
           It took Broker a full moment to realise he was serious.  Then, waving his sword-stick
    menacingly at him, he swore at the trader in the foulest language ever head in Crossroads;
    the shockingly dreadful language Malindi fishermen used to such devastating effect it was
    known to have shamed attacking sharks into fleeing.  It brought the alarmed wife out of the
    back room of the shop to stand with her son by her husband’s side and wonder what on
    earth had transpired.
           “What is the matter?” the boy asked, confounded.
           “Nothing,” said the father, trying to remain calm.  “You go to the back, Anderea.  You
    too,  Grandmother, this has nothing to do with you.”
           “Wait,” Broker said to the boy.  “You might need some too.”
           “Some what?” asked the boy.
           “Nothing,” answered his grandfather.  “Go, Anderea.”
           Then he turned to Broker and pleaded, “The boy is only fifteen, for heaven’s sake!”
           “In that case,” Broker said, full of malice.  “He will need twice as many as the father.”
           “Twice as many what?” asked the boy.
           “Nothing!” said his grandfather.  “Get out of my shop!”
           He picked the carton of condoms off the counter and hurled it into the street.  Then he
    took the two condoms from his pocket and threw them after the carton.  One of them
    bounced off Broker and landed at the boy’s feet.  The boy picked it up and handed it to
    Broker.
           “Keep it, son,” Broker said to him.  “It’s on the house.”
           “Thank you,” said the boy, pocketing the condom.
           “Anderea!” his grandfather barked.  “Give it back, at once.”
           The boy threw the condom at Broker.  He caught it deftly and put it in his pocket.  Then
    he winked at the boy and went out onto the hot street to collect his condoms, where they
    were scattered all over the dust.
           “What was that about?” asked the trader’s wife, confused.
           “Nothing!” he said.  “Go back to the back.”
           She led her grandson to the back of the shop, leaving him to sort out his thoughts.
           Broker returned to the teahouse at sunset, in a tired and depressed mood.  He found
    the old men sitting out on the veranda, reading the latest batch of old newspapers to arrive
    on the Far Traveller, and enjoying the last warmth of the dying sun.  Uncle Mark stopped him
    to ask if he knew  wa Guka.
           “No,” he said, brusquely.
           “You don’t know the most celebrated bank robber in the world?” Musa asked,
    incredulously.
           “No,” he said.
           “Really?”
           “Should I?”
           Musa shrugged and let it go.
           “We just thought you might know him,” Uncle Mark said, lamely.
           “I don’t,” Broker said, with a little too much anger.
           He declined Uncle Mark’s offer of a game and rejected Musa’s offer of a free meal,
    which he knew he would pay for anyway, and left them.  He retired early to his simple lodging
    room to lie awake the whole night, staring at the sooty roof and trying to convince himself that
    he was still Broker Ben Broker, the monarch of Pwani brokers.   >>> READ MORE
HM Productions Intl.                                                                            All Rights Reserved
copyright 2020 by mejamwangi.com

478 Pages
Crossroads
$ 19.95
Book Code:CR    
KSh. 450

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