This is a simple story of two worlds; one, the underbelly of urban Dar-es-Salaam where Moses the child vagrant stakes his claim to eke out a living and the other, the wilderness of Tanzania where man remains an unwelcome intruder.
See Moses through the eyes of this one old man who contemplates him at the local market in Dar as the boy wolves down the food offered by the older man:
What does one do with such a child? A child soon to become a man with nothing but his shirt? And what a shirt it is, held together by strings.
Moses has just turned 12 and he returns to the city – to the old man with the club feet whose fruit he used to steal and run off – after an eventful sojourn outside his comfort zone. If there is any such thing as a career street kid, it is Moses. For him, the hull of a disused ship at the harbour is the warmest home he’s ever had. There he must contend for space with the other street kids and homeless people. Memories of his mom and dad stretch farther into the past of a life he’s barely started to live.
Life is basically survival – going into town to scavenge for food and beg for change, with stealing in between. The highlight of the day is returning to their sleeping quarters with something to eat for the night.
Moses finds it easy to relate to other people – including Grace, the prostitute and Mama Tesha, the Good Samaritan who offers the urchin a job and lodgings at the back of her shop. Through Tesha Moses gets a chance to go to a school for the first time in his life but the trouble is he’s an itinerant soul.
Having just upped and gone from Mama Tesha at the back of a truck driving out of town, providence presents him with the chance to meet up with his old buddy, Kioso, another street kid with whom he stowed away at the back of the truck. His quest for Only-God-knows-what takes him away from the school into the wilderness, where the younger Kioso unfortunately suffers a lethal snake bite. Moses, meanwhile, is left alone – lost, hungry, and on the verge of death.
Rescued by a hunting pair, Moses finds himself caught in the middle of a shootout between his rescuers and a band of poachers. He ends up in the hands of Toroye, a local who knows the forest like the back of his hand.
Safely delivered from the wild where he buried his only friend and saw a man die for him, Moses returns to the only life he knows.
Released in January 2012 and published by Jacana Media, Kid Moses is Mark Thornton’s debut novel. The author is an internationally respected wilderness safari guide and conservationist.
© makatilemedia 02/2012