Sophia sells beauty, and her soul

She falls head over heels for a dodgy beauty product

In Summary

• Makini has wised up after marrying, which makes it hard to speak his mind


There’s a story I remember we read long ago in school about a village that found itself with a sudden locust problem. Millions of those critters descended on the poor villages and began eating everything to the ground. The villagers tried everything they could lay their hands on: pesticides, smoke, noise — nothing worked.

Then this dude arrives in a pick-up full of these small pouches and promises they’re the best remedy for killing locusts. The villagers are prepared to try anything, so they buy the pouches like they are hotcakes. But how are they to use them? The oil-sleek merchant stands on top of his now empty pick-up, holding up one of the pouches.

“So this is what you do?” he says. “You open your pouch like so. Then you remove the two locust-eliminating implements from the bag. Like this.”

He removes two smooth stones and shows them to his captive audience.

“But these look like mere stones,” cries one of the villagers.

“Only because you don’t know how to use them,” says Mr Trader. “Let me demonstrate.”

He grabs one locust so fat from chewing on the crops that it can’t even fly. He places it on one of the stones.

“So, you put one locust on the rock,” the merchant continued. “Then bam!”

He smashes the pest with the other rock and instructs the villagers to do the same and repeat until all the locusts are gone.

“And you’re telling us to do this to millions of them?” a perceptive villager asked. “He’s a conman. He duped us.”

As the multitude starts throwing the rocks at the snake-oil salesman, he instructs his driver to set off and they disappear into the distance.

I always thought the story too preposterous to happen in real life. Now I have more respect for people who can sell saltwater to people at the Coast, and one of them happens to have paid us a visit.

“What’s all this?” I say as I come home to a stack of boxes taking up nearly half our small one-room hovel.

Sophia flashes a wall-to-wall smile. “This is how we get rich and escape this Godforsaken hellhole. Let me show you.”

She grabs one of the boxes, opens it and hands me what looks like mud in a jar. “This is the latest evolution in beauty care. You just dip two fingers in like so. Scoop some up like so. And smear on your face like this.”

She applies a generous layer all over her face and comes off looking like a playful hippo in a shallow mud pool.

“How do I look?” she asks.

“You look, erm…” I could be honest, but since getting married, I’ve become wiser. “Aren’t you supposed to ask me that once you remove the… what did you call it?”

She studies the container. “The Incredible Mud Pack.”

“Yes. When you remove the Incredible Mud Pack. Also, how do we get rich from this?”

“We’re going to sell it, silly.”

“All of it? There’s like 10 per Jiji Ndogo villager here.”

“The man told me once they see the results, we won’t have enough to satisfy them. But you know what’s even better? We get paid if we get enough people to be suppliers.”

“Who are they going to supply to?”

“I don’t know. We can take the business to Jiji Kubwa.”

By evening, Sophia has sold three packs. The following morning, she takes off her mud mask and I scream. She looks like a garden toad.

“So,” she says, “how do I look?”

Being married, I’ve grown wiser…

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