I was updating myself with wacky news from my beloved country when I stumbled upon some news article about a man who had swallowed a toothbrush.
“Wait! What?…… but how?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. I read several other online papers featuring the same story looking for clues if it was fake news – I don’t think it was. I called a few people to ask if they’d heard the story – few had. The story, [just because it happened in the coastal region of Kenya – miss the white sands], reminded me of stories I heard growing up. Stories of gravity defying incidents, of levitating inanimate objects, talking cats and most bizarrely incidents of sleep walking to work on other people’s farms and people rearing jinnis for financial gain. I remember as kids we were warned that if we ever travelled to Mombasa, not to touch or pet goats that roam the streets – apparently these were not goats but people who had been cursed or jinnilised for various crimes against other individuals. We were also told to avoid cats, esp. black ones, and not to look into their eyes as they might transfer something in you and you became a slave of some sort for eternity.
So, naturally my first thought when I read about the toothbrush man, was jinni magic – there was no other reasonable explanation. How does one swallow a toothbrush – for starters it’s too hard and long – wouldn’t the person gag? Unless his mouth was so big such that if he threw his head back and opened his mouth super wide and the contents of his stomach were visible, there was no way he could just ‘swallow’ a toothbrush. And why would anyone want to swallow a toothbrush? On further prodding, I read that he was brushing his teeth so vigorously that the brush slipped out of his hand and flew into this stomach. Honestly the things I hear. I bet by the time this story is told to this man’s great great grandchildren it will have morphed into a tale that will send shudders down people’s spines.
Have you heard the story of the coffin thief? I bet you have, but I wonder if yours is the same version as mine. Chinese whispers effect and all that. There was, once upon a time, a conniving thief who decided to take advantage of this jinni nonsense in Mombasa. He became a thief – a coffin thief no less. He would watch funeral processions that looked like ‘money’, and plot to steal the coffin at night. At night he would dig out the grave, steal the coffin and rebury the dearly departed without a coffin. In the morning he would be so exhausted and when asked why he was always so tired during the day, he claimed that someone jinnilised him so that in his sleep he worked as a slave. However, his luck was about to run out one night: after redigging a body, stealing the coffin and reburying the dead, he heaved the heavy coffin on his head and made his way out of there.
Suddenly he heard rapid footsteps and a flash light danced behind him.
“Stop!” Someone bellowed. The coffin thief was rooted to the spot. “Oh crap!”
He turned to face the spotlight.
“Who’s there?” He asked meekly feigning an eerie voice.
“This is the police! What the hell are you doing? Put that coffin down!”
The thief had seconds to think of a reasonable explanation. He didn’t put the coffin down.
“Basically officer, I am originally from central Kenya. I died a week ago. I had implored and begged my friends to transport my body to central Kenya for burial, but they didn’t. Instead they buried me here and I cannot rest in peace, so now I’m doing it for myself and ………”
The spotlight holding cop jumped several feet in the air, fell backwards on a headstone, scrambled to his feet but not before tripping on some undergrowth, skedaddled out of there and disappeared into the night. He went straight home where he didn’t speak, eat, drink or sleep for two days.
The thing though about these stories is that no one can know for sure what is true and what is fabricated. For example, there are two sides to the coffin story – the one the coffin thief told people and the one the cop told. Or it was completely made up. What I know for sure is that if there was indeed a coffin thief, he took full advantage of the sinister ‘things-you-hear-down-coast’ chronicles to avoid arrest and humiliation. He knew if he pretended to be ‘a walking dead’ person, the cop would flee the scene crapping his pants because it was highly likely.
One of the many things I’ve heard was that cats in Mombasa don’t meow like normal cats instead they talk in swarabic especially if pissed off! Not that this happened to me, but FYI.