Once upon a time a young boy taught his brother the use of dodo*. They had been born at the tail end of a gaggle of sisters whom they strove to understand. Their emotions filled the house, clashing against one another, and their voices varied in tone from the excited shrieks of the preadolescent, to the deeper bored vibrations of teenagers who had all of life’s answers. Often, the boys could be found seeking reprieve behind the doors of the small room they shared, tucked in one corner of the bunk bed.
The young boy whispered softly to his brother, pulling out a curious package that had been hidden between the wall and the bed. “I’m going to show you something. But it’s a secret and you can’t tell.”
“I promise,” the brother replied, his eyes wide with wonder.
“This,” the young boy began, his voice several decibels below a whisper, “is very secret and the girls hide them from us.”
“They have wounds.”
The brother’s face, frozen with horror, and the memory of stinging crushed herbs that killed germs on his own wounds.
The young boy did not think his brother’s horror was sufficient, and decided that his story would have to be slightly more gruesome.
“Their wounds never heal,” he continued, “and they have to…”
“Where?” The squeaked question bounced around the walls of their small room.
“Where are the wounds?” The brother asked, lowering his voice to match his brothers.
“On their bums.”
His brothers mouth hung, agape.
Not entirely satisfied with the reaction, the young boy pressed on. “They stick these long bandages inside their underwear because their wounds don’t heal.”
“Even if mummy uses enyabarashana*?”
“Do you think she hasn’t tried?”
“You listen first!”
“The wounds bleed and bleed all the time, and they take medicine…” the young boy stopped, watching his brother, whose wide eyes were fixed on a point somewhere between them. “Don’t be scared.”
“But what if their blood gets finished?”
“That is why mummy gives them dodo.”
“But mummy gives us doodoo!” His brother’s distress began to roll over his story, capturing it and turning it into something else.
“But you also!” he exclaimed, irritated that he could not complete his horror story in the face of his brother’s logic. “Is your bum bleeding?”
“I have to check.”
“I’ll check for you.” He sensed an opportunity here. The long plastic contraband had been burning a hole in his mind, worried his mother might find it when she cleaned out their room. “Bend!” He commanded.
Obedient to his brother, who he trusted was older and wiser, he pulled down his pants and presented his bum.
“Ayayayaya,” the young boy sang, alarm ringing menacingly in each syllable.
“There is a little blood.” No need to alarm him too much. “But at least we have a bandage.
Several minutes later, when the call for dinner was raised, a dejected boy came down the stairs, holding tightly to his brother’s hand. A weird waddle distorted his walk.
“I hope you made dodo,” he said in a small trembling voice.
*Dodo, pronounced doh-doh is the name used to refer to amaranth, a common vegetable in Uganda that grows wild
*Enyabarashana is bidens pilosa, another wild plant that is used for medicinal purposes.