The High Branch – Short Story
By: mohammed hussein HassaN
In response to your letter, I must say I do appreciate your compliments, even more so I do thoroughly enjoy and take your views on my nascent writing very seriously. The following is a humble attempt to explain the concept of ‘The High Branch’ that keeps cropping up in many of my writings.
The High Branch is a height of oblivion regress on the African tree; a bad manner of public relations. The High Branch is the grave of sweet dreams; the poor home of astounding stories; the spear of arrogant people and the sheer joy of silly vagabonds. The High Branch is the disease of ethnicity that cuts deep into the African blood. My friend, The High Branch had threatened my dreams, froze my heart and changed my life.
Once not so long ago, The High Branch killed the dignity of a beautiful nation called Somalia, besmirched its sovereignty and rented its citizens complete hopelessness and destitution. Just a few years ago, as you know, The High Branch took away thousands of Kenyans from our midst. So I want to tell you a story.
The day of our story was a Monday about three years ago. I remember, very early in the morning, the sun awoke from its deep sleep and benignly smiled at me from the window of our grass-thatched house. I struggled to open my eyes- stretching my arms and legs about the mat. I was then habituated to the long, long days of sleep after primary school.
“Mohamed,” my mother called from the kitchen, her voice waning away into the thin air. ‘’Wake up! You must be late for school.’’
Ten minutes later, I slowly broke away from my sweet sleep and started preparing for school. I was then to be admitted in the village high school. I was very happy. Even the swaying trees of the village spoke hope. By then, I did not know anything about the big schools in the country. My dream was to join the highly coveted school nearby. But that was not how the day would end. The High Branch would get to sway, taking away the happiness that awoke me at dawn.
That day I left to school with my mother. My friend, I remember, I was clad in full school uniform- a white shirt, blue trousers and black shoes. My mother was wearing a long stretch of a cloth draped under her arms and tied above one shoulder in the Somali traditional way. She was carrying the hard-earned school fees in a small purse made out of camel skin. On the way, the mathematical set in my school bag would rattle with every step I take.
We reached the school when the light of the sun was gaining ground against darkness. Only then did I realize that I had not taken tea. But it was too late, anyway. I joined the students in the line and my mother stood under a big acacia tree a few yards away. A broad smile was on my face, for I could not hide my happiness any more.
It was my turn to enter into the principal’s office. I signaled to my mother and she came with the speed of a lightening, stepping on a fat man’s leg on the way. She went back to him and apologized. But the man’s face was already darkened with rage. He got hold of her and threw her down on the ground. He bent down to her and dragged her towards the office. I was watching from the office, my eyes full of tears.
“Do you know that you are from a small tribe; a helpless one,” he was shouting.
“Leave my mother alone,” I broke out. He loosened his grip on the old lady. But the school principal was just watching the scene silently. My mother did not utter a word either. She must have sensed fire in the eyes of the school head. Walls truly have ears!
“Old woman, can you get out of the school?” the principal finally spoke. “We cannot tolerate small tribes to dictate at our presence; The High Branch,” he added. Was he from the tribe of the man?
“Please forgive us,” my mother pleaded. But he did not lend an ear to her apology. From a distance, I could see another boy crying because he was from my tribe.
My mother kissed me, erasing the tears cascading down my cheeks with the balm of her hand. “Let us go,” she finally spoke with a voice that pierced through my heart. I tried hard to control my tears but in vain. Looking back at the office, I said, “I will one day come to change this rule.” My mother nodded, smiling away her sadness.
That day I learned a lesson. I learned that I was able to change. I learned that there was a whole village that waited for change. That ethnicity, ethnicity was a disease. My friend, a few hours later when we returned home, I started writing about The High Branch.
Your biggest writer,