Mombasa to Nairobi – 1992 – Flash Memoir

FLASH MEMOIR

We’re running late – again. He says.

Our train won’t make it from Mombasa to Nairobi in time to greet some important visitor at the airport. How could a guy who’s lived in Africa for five years keep getting this wrong?

What does he do? Come to my compartment before light and tell me we need to get off. I slide out of the dark upper bunk, hoping I won’t disturb the other passengers.

Get off where? Where are we? Not sure? Just need to get off? Oh, walking to Nairobi will be faster? Hush, hush. You’ll wake the sleepers.

He’s spoken to the conductor. There’s a village coming up. They’ll stop the train so we can get off.

He grabs my bags. I follow down the narrow corridor stumbling side to side through broken florescent light. What else to do?

We drop into a sleepy village; earth and huts amber in the rising sun. People stare. They’re drawing water, washing, building fires for breakfast. A Korean guy and a white girl with packs are traipsing through their world at dawn.

We reach the main road. Dead straight and empty – both directions. Just scrub, asphalt and sky. In the middle of Kenya. But we’re late. So, I guess walking makes sense.

When the western horizon becomes a large, dark sedan, he sticks out his thumb.

Car stops.

Oh, great.

We climb in. Two men. I’m thinking – we’ll never be heard from again.

Turns out, they are headed for Uganda. Returning home from a business trip. Will be going right through Nairobi.

We make it to the airport on time.

Maybe our train would have too.

Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction – Longlist:

I see a pattern. Do you?

  • A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie – England, Turkey, India – WWI
  • Arctic Summer by Damon GalgutEngland, Cairo, India – 1912 (unclear from reviews if/how much WWI figures into the story)
  • Mac and Me by Esther Freud – England WWI
  • The Lie by Helen Dunmore – WWI France; Post-WWI Cornwall
  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – 1922 England, Post-WWI
  • Wake by Anna Hope – England Post-WWI
  • The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth – England Post-1066

Observations:

  1. Western writers and readers obviously still can’t get enough of WWI and WWII.
  2. The 1600s remains a popular era.
  3. The context of war is fertile soil for story.

Publishing note: The Wake by Paul Kingsworth appears to have been originally published in 2014 by a crowdsourcing process. See:

http://unbound.co.uk/books/the-wake

Can you guess which just jumped to the top of my TBR list?