Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net, Sibanda is the author of Notes, Themes, Things And Other Things, The Gushungo Way, Sleeping Rivers, Love O’clock, The Dead Must Be Sobbing, Football of Fools,Cutting-edge Cache, Of the Salivaand the Tongue, When Inspiration Sings In Silence, The Way Forward, The Ndaba Jamela and Collections and Poetry Pharmacy .
THE IMMIGRANT WITH A DIFFERENCE
Destiny It heralds wild and dramatic festivities usually accompanied with champagne toasts, fireworks, dancing, singing and even whistling. They fill their champagne glasses of life to the brim with values and hopes and drink deep to their life and the joy it can and should…They reflect and remember the previous year`s feats and failures as they make resolutions, and look forward to the promise of a new start, a new year, a new look. The most active-minded and most celebrated holiday in the world has lost its meaning and lustre-- that is as far as it relates to Sipho Mbongolo`s life. Over the years he has been taking stock and planning new courses of action to better his life, but all that has been unrewarding and frustrating. A life of losses and misses. That is his reality, a construct of his mind. It is as if his stance supports the notion that the conditions and circumstances of one`s life are as a result of one`s beliefs and thoughts. He has lost track of most of his childhood friends. He does not know any longer where they vanished into. Did they disappear into the country`s exodus crisis? Like quite a lot of of his contemporaries and compatriots, maybe they migrated to the UK, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, US-- you name it—any livable land, even a war-torn one seems to be habitable, for that matter, all in search of greener pastures. Do people not say there is a little Zimbabwe camouflaged in some parts of the UK? He knows it is a mirage for him to go there, and let alone to become a British citizen. He always comforts himself with : we can`t all be British. He wonders without end why people fought frantically against a biased system in his country only to follow those they had fought later in the UK. He is conflicted. He is not confused because he experiences the socio-economic chaos in the country. The liberation war ideals are lost on the perpetrators of the chaos. Independence time is like a fairytale he once heard of. It is a lost cause too. He wants to stay aware of the time but a sense of hopelessness has imprisoned him like someone who binges on alcoholic beverages day and night without realising they are constipated. He has lost track of time, he has lost sense of time. He is oblivious to the passing time. For time waits for no man. He is worried, for no man lives twice. Unschooled, unknown and untravelled, what odds and opportunities does he have? What does the future hold for him? What is in store for him? It is on the eve of the New Year that Sipho Mbongolo sets out on a journey to Bulawayo. As far as he is concerned, the heeding of Mzwakhe`s call could be synonymous with a bold walk into his destiny. His cousin, Mzwakhe, has invited him to the big city, affectionately known as the City of Kings and Queens to try out his luck in a bid to eke out a better living. Indeed, the New Year is a time for reflections and resolutions, a moment to recommit oneself to the causes and ideals one holds dear. For Sipho Mbongolo, a youthful bucolic citizen, over the years that moment of happiness, positivity and celebration for a number of individuals in his corruption-ravaged country has sadly become a mere transition from one day to the next, less like an illusion. It is something he finds hard to hold so much significance for. Time. He has lost sense of time .Yet time is a reminder that the clock is uninterruptedly going tick-tock. It is a cue that the alarm clock is heart-beating driiiin or beep beep, tick tack tick tack as it ticks away, that life is not stagnant, and that is too short to be unlived and unnoticed. He is merely existing, and time seems to overlook his existence. Is time, like everything else, not felt and appreciated by those who live?
If Bulawayo is where his call of destiny is expected to manifest itself or to be unlocked, or to be walked in, then again time does a mockery of his hopes and efforts, at least for a period of six months of wandering, wondering and languishing before he bumps into Lady Mumba. At heart, he is on the verge of going back to the rural areas when the unexpected happens.
Monday It looks like Lady Mumba won’t look Sipho in the eye. “How old are you?” In spite of the fact that it is not dark, the pupils of her eyes have been acting up, growing in size as if in an effort to provide her with a clearer vision of the rustic man. “I`m t----wenty –fi---ve”, Sipho responds in rather a shaky, strained voice. She is thinking: was that perhaps an intrusive question? No!Good girl, fire another. “You`re a man. Relax. What skills and experience do you have?” “I can look at goats, cows, donkeys, cheap, I mean …shee…sheeep”. “Ok, you`re good at looking after beasts…I wish I had a farm”. “What? Beasts! Bad things? No, I can`t!!” His astonishment is palpable and protesting. “Livestock. Domestic animals. That’s what I`m talking about.” Lady Mumba titters. “Sorry, sorry very much. I understand now.”
This afternoon Lady Mumba is heavily hunched on an expensive-looking, fine-looking gold-coated garden chair. Her huge back is jiggling and wiggling as if itchy, or as if baulking at something bumpy or spikey. How could such a magnificent chair be needle-like as well? Sipho wonders, thinking of his father`s stool that was said be a no- go area for children as if it were spear-shaped. Actually, he was told: no other ass, big or small ever rested on it, not even the rude asses of tired or fussy visitors and relatives. “Sipho, with whom do you live in Old Magwegwe?” So short are Lady Mumba’s lacey shorts that Sipho’s eyes are magnetically riveted to where her enormous legs are joined together in a union of fat and flesh. The sight simply drives Sipho’s poor heart into a series of emotional jerks. She still cannot look at him directly, but as if that emotional unrest is not enough distress for Sipho, she launches light and frisky kicks on his lap, and his chest in turn vibrates breathlessly as the hormones run really riot. He drowns deeper and deeper into a pool of emotive and explosive agitation. “Ah…ahh…. Madam Mumba, I sit with my small father, my small mother and their children: Makhi, Mzwakhe and Sethekeli.” “Sipho, please call me Mona or Monalisa. Are your cousins friendly to you, do you get along well?” Sipho’s bloodshot eyes roll in their sockets as if at that point in time all they seek in this tempting world is to flee. “They have the stubbornness of a black millipede, largely Sethekeli who has no shame to say she cannot be under a man. She has a mouth and I always protect her when her brothers want to beat her. But she thanks me by counting for me, hey I eat too much, hey I finish everything she gives, hey this, hey that. She has a tongue too, that’s why I don’t tell her my secrets, because her chest was kicked by a zebra. She sees me quiet and thinks I have no liver to tell her not talk bad about me.” Madam Mumba cannot help laughing hysterically. “She has a mouth! A big mouth! A tongue...? Well, she critises you baselessly. But what does a person who has a liver do? We all have a liver, don’t we?” “No, some people don’t have a liver. Those who don’t have the encouragement to tell you you have a mistake. I have a liver even if I see a lion, I don’t urinate with fear. I face it like uShaka!” “You mean courage! I see, but what do you mean your cousin counts for you? You cannot count money?”
“No. I can. She counts for me. Uyangibalela ukudla. She says to people I eat too much of her father’s food. She forgets tomorrow is yesterday.” Lady Mumba’s ribs are itching from a bursting of laughter. She steadies herself, before tapping Sipho in a playfully hooking and tickling manner between his legs. The rustically inclined man draws away, batting his eye. He gasps, looks askance – much to the amusement of the teaser. She picks up a glass of wine and ungracefully some wine splashes out, dropping on her fatty neck. “Sipho, you talk of your uncle, aunt and cousins; where is your biological father? Ehmmm. But before you respond to that question please towel the spilt wine on my neck with your tongue”. Sipho’s yellow-tainted teeth are bared. In fact, if he were swimming one would be forgiven for thinking that he is on the verge of drowning. He is practically gasping for breath. “My bio-o-ological father, he died five years old while the maize was kicking and the pumpkins were vomiting in the fields.” His face is a little gloomy. He adds: “It was the disappearance of luck as elders say. He, my father, didn’t like a person who doesn’t hear. His stomach was running him, running him…” “Sipho, my goodness, you’re such a fascinating literal translator. Your parlance is what is sometimes referred to as Ndenglish. I guess that even if you cannot give me a blow-by-blow account of how your father died five years ago, you’re basically saying he died while the maize plants and pumpkins were blooming or tasselling”. “Is that so?” The reply is phrased like a question. “Yes... Madam. No… Mona. Yes is that so, shuwa. Maa... Mona, I mean he was going outside fast-fast. He was carrying heavy.” Lady Mumba tells him that life is a journey and a lesson on which trials and tribulations can be transformed into triumphs, brokenness into blessings. She concludes, “I believe in elevating and motivating others. Some people look for the rays of light instead of becoming the sunlight themselves”. Sipho is enthused. Outside, out of sight, she walks around, sneakily sprinkling salt all over the yard. Time tears on.
Wednesday Night The urinary bladder threatens to open apart with sudden violence if Sipho does not respond to the call of nature right away. Talk of seeking to combat a sudden, intense urge to pass water. To end up wetting the bed would not only be a crime, but an awful act. How would he live with himself? He slips out of the double bed, blazes towards the door, hits against the door frame and curses, “Demedi!” Commonsense orders him to put on the lights. The lights uncover one thing: he is wearing a tattered undergarment. He does not care a dot because he is alone. He slips into a pair of purple trousers – and races into the toilet. Inside the beautifully painted small room, he feels for the zip like an inept, butter-fingered fellow. “Demedi! Where is the damn zip?” The zip--it is the other way round, at the back! He struggles with the waistline, hitches the trousers down but, no, the urine is irrepressible. Tremulously, he navigates his irritated human hosepipe to face the toilet pan – but the urinary stream just sprays and is hard to aim! It is already too little too fast… There is a desperate whirlwind inside him. It is spurting out, making the floor messy and cloudy. The short bursts of the coloured watery waste have made an emergency landing on an exclusive imported tapestry of the quilting products. Mess looks him in the eye as if saying: I`m having the last laugh in my bubble bath. He glares at it. At his hosepipe too. It looks innocent, stress-free, calm and collected now. He calms down after relieving himself. Like an efficient scrub-man, he fetches the scrubbing cloth, sorts out his mess, sighs a sigh of a fireman who has stumbled and fumbled before putting out a raging fire. He walks along the passage. At Madam Mumba’s door, he hears vocal noises. Sipho wonders: Mumba dreaming aloud? Is she soliquising? He places an ear on the lockset. “I care for you.” (An inaudible sound). “Yes, I confess I was going out with that Minister but… (An inaudible sound). “Please… Let’s not dwell on that issue. You killed him out of jealousy, now you suspect I am going out with that …” (An inaudible sound) “I won’t shut up! I don’t have a crush on him. He is just my… eh…” (An inaudible sound). Sipho says to himself: I am convinced that Lady Mumba is arguing with a boyfriend. Hmmn… so she has a boyfriend after all. Anyway, she is only human. Once in bed, he recalls everything. How last Saturday he met Lady Mumba in a salt queue, his speechless admiration for her high-class car. How a naked man burst into the queue and started fondling the backside of a plump woman who, on discovering the presence of the mentally challenged man, took to her heels like her body was a mere feather. How they talked about the incident and the endless queues, ending up discussing the sad state of the economy, and how Lady Mumba was prepared to dig him out of his financial mess by offering him a job as her bodyguard. How they later weaved their way through the bustling crowd into her gleaming car. Then on Monday, at what appeared like a billionaire’s evening party – at the Mumba residence, men and women who drove the latest and most expensive cars, spoke on the trendiest of cell phones and wore immaculate designer suits converged, wined and dined. They swayed in an English way and even sneezed in English – or so it seems to Sipho. He remembers one silly man with an elephantine neck who gave him a glass of wine, and when he told him that he was a teetotaler and a member of the Zionist Bakhonzi Beqiniso Church. The man with a heavy neck, called him a stupid, rustic pumpkin who did not know that Heaven is on earth. He also has a vivid picture of a lady who told him squarely: “I love you boy. I’ve gold and silver. Gold is my first name. Fun my second. Bodyilicious my surname. What more can a soul want? Those who have had the privilege and pleasure of rubbing shoulders with me have confessed that I uniquely nurture a soul’s heart and body like the earth’s axis is on my palm. Run away from this portly pig, Mumba. I would pay you more; give you my everything, boy. Just bring your freaking fresh figure to my place, boy. My body oozes love and more love for you. Your body, oh boy, I feel like licking you up like a chocolate bar. Please make me feel like a girl again?” He remembers his response: “I appeared for my wife sometimes ago. The go-between asked for a fire. I paid the open-the-mouth money. I will pay the suitor be-known money. Sorry, besides in my culture, a woman does not smoke or point a man.” The smoking, swaying and over-embellished woman unleashed f-prefixed obscenities at him. She called him the most unintelligent, rural, backward cat she had ever seen before reeling away and canoodling a man who could easily be her youngest grandson.
He is now half-asleep. He hears some patting sounds from a distance, but finally he drifts into sleep. He has a grandparent of a nightmare.
Thursday Morning Sipho is feasting his eyes on the furnishings in the living room .He is gazing in awe at fittings like an exotic lalique crystal coffee table with its high quality and gorgeously detailed designs. His eyes fall on an end table, lamps, a chair, an ottoman, a neat bookshelf, and a Panasonic Keymat Yalos Diamond TV and stereo system. The couches in the spacious room are enclosed with a pigmented leather that speaks of being durable and resistant to soiling. It has a chocolate-like taste and floral aroma. Lady Mumba and Sipho are savoring the exotic Ethiopian coffee.
“That picture on the wall was taken some years back when I was in the UK. Isn’t it beautiful, Sipho?” “It`s beautiful. Lady… Sorry Mona. So you lived in the UK?” “For ten years. That`s where I met some of the party attendees you saw on Monday”. Sipho hops into a different subject. “Madam, me thinks there is a witch here?” “What?” grimaces his boss looking him in the eye, perhaps for the first time. Sipho takes a mouthful of the coffee as if he is unconscious of a tonal change. “Me thinks there’s a witch who’s doing rounds and sounds here.” “Sipho, get this clear, I hired a bodyguard, not a witch-hunter, okay?” “Sorry, madam, but I’m made to see in my dreams as a Zionist…” “Antiquated nonsense! Whether you’re a Zionist or whatnot, I don’t bloody care a whit. Stick to your job description or else…” Maybe this subject is a no-go area. That is it. Madam Mumba is angry now. She is a flooded river. Maybe it is my fault? Maybe her boyfriend made her angry? Is he not loving? In Ndebele we say she is so angry she can swallow up a chameleon. Imagine the anger of a chameleon that has projected its long tongue… He too probably drives a stunning car? He must be one of the billionaires who were at the party. Maybe he too returned from the UK? These billionaires, they will tell you they were once broke before they became billionaires! These people have expensive things. They have lots and lots of money. If everlasting life could be bought, l think Lady Mumba and her billionaire friends would have bought it. People usually say life is not fair. However, I think the fairness of life is in that we breathe the same air, we live and die no matter whether we are wealthy beyond description or poor in a sorry way. I think the difference is that people who have money enjoy because their lives are soft-soft yet ours are hard like a rock.
Do they know the troubles of life? Life is harsh. These people live in their own world. A soft world that shines because of gold and silver. Most of them have soft bodies, they eat soft things, do soft jobs, shake with their soft hands, and sit on soft chairs. Who does not want to live in that world? I think these people have a good living. Poverty is a far-off thing to them. They probably do not know how it feels like to go for a day without a meal. I know it. It is my daily bread. I hum a little song or whistle even if l walk into our crammed small, darkbedroom.Once l get there, l sleep on the hard floor on my empty stomach, and sometimes dream big dreams. Dreams about having good things, soft things, peace, only to wake up and hear my stomach making funny sounds, complaining about emptiness, emptiness and emptiness. I think their stomachs complaint of too much different food, too much food and too much food. Or maybe not. Their stomachs are used to it. That Monday evening, l ate many things with different colours, and my stomach, instead of celebrating, started behaving as if it had thunderstorms inside. My stomach made me shy because it was ‘crying’ and ‘crying’ in the presence of visitors. I am happy no one mentioned it.
Lady Mumba is now dazzling in her dress. She shows him where to find food whenever he feels the pangs of hunger. After whispering “Take care. I`II be back soon”, she drives away.
Friday Evening He has been searching for it high and low for almost five minutes to no avail. Has the TV remote control developed legs? He has no shred of doubt that an hour ago it was on the coffee table. His TV control remote skills have improved vastly since he came to Lady Mumba`s residence. Tuesday was the day she taught him how to use a remote control for TV, how to start a car and how to start up a laptop. Prior to his arrival here, he did not know how to turn the TV using a remote, let alone scanning for channels. Lady Mumba has been kind, and sometimes full of mischief and fun. Last Tuesday, did her right hand not stray all the way to the chubbiness and warmness of his laps when she was showing him how to operate the remote control? Did she not pat and pinch him on his waist? In the absence of a remote control, he gives up on watching TV but momentarily he dozes off, and tries to fight it off until he finally drifts into a slumber. Sipho has on several occasions slept through noises and disruptions of stray dogs and donkeys in a dark hut in the village. He has always been regarded as a heavy sleeper by his family members in the countryside, but when there is a rhythm of weird footsteps, an echoing screech of windows, a scratching of doors, a howl of door fulcrums and a flipping of pages of books in the living room, his deep sleep seems to desert him and scurry for cover too.
7:55 pm “Lady Mumba, sorry …Mona, are you back? “Dozily, he looks around the room, but it is dark. Who has turned off the lights? Is Lady Mumba playing games? He wonders. Wait a minute. The orchestra of a variety of noises and goings-on dazes him. He feels unusually exhausted and uneasy. Daze and dizziness dance and conspire to hold him captive. He does not think it would be a good idea to stand up and make his way into his bedroom. He feels too shaky and too petrified to make a move. He wishes he had a blanket to bury and shrink his entire body under. If some mindless mosquito or some lice were to nibble into him, he would not flinch, or that is what he wishes he could avoid. No body movement. No sound. Only if he could be motionless: no yawning, no sneezing, no coughing, no burping,…maybe the fear-provoking noises would subside. However, on the sofa his body betrays him because he cringes, yawns, sweats, sneezes and freezes. His body talks, twists and toots. Like an ostrich burying its head in the sand, he grabs three sofa cushions in a bid to shutter his head under them, but one of them slides away from him in the process. For what seems like an eternity he tosses and turns on the sofa. Sleep seems to be elusive. A fugitive. Now and then he kicks, lurches like a restless soul lying in bed under a confused pile of interwoven sheets. It is hunger or the heat?Or the cold air? Is it by virtue of the odd commotion? Is this a haunted house? Whose ghost? My dreams gave me an idea that there is something strange here. It is a ghost… I remember the conversation I overheard on Wednesday. Lady Mumba said: You killed him out of jealousy, now you suspect I am going out with that…” This is perhaps the ghost of her former boyfriend. Yes. I’m no Shaka, if a hole were to open up I would melt into it in no time.
9:55 pm Giddy, startled and stuck, Sipho wishes the curtains could close on his nightmarish experiences. Nothing lasts. Happy times. Mourning times. Bad or good dreams. Any party will eventually come to an end. Good days never last, so should these bad moments. As if his prayers are being heeded and answered at that very moment, miraculously the lights come on and the rhythm of footsteps, echoes from the roof, a shriek of windows, a scratching of doors, a howl of door fulcrums and a turning over of pages of books in the living room ceases. He regains a little measure of physical, mental and emotional stability though drowsiness continues to take a toll on him. Obviously he is relieved.
10:00 pm Rats make noises while rolling nuts. Non-vocal noises. Rats and mice usually find refuge in lofts or ceiling cavities as they gnaw at electric cabling and other materials. Such interference with electric cabling can result in fires. Now no sounds reverberate and rumble somewhere on the roof. No rolling ball noises. Maybe the noises were caused by small nocturnal creatures. Maybe there was no power, he imagines. He prays that he does not spend a wakeful night. Sleep has made his eyelid as heavy as lead. His eyes are so sleepy that it is a challenge to keep them open, nonetheless surprisingly he catches sight of the TV remote control. Dreamlike. It is back where he had left it! No that is something. He wants to take a closer look at the remote control before laboring his way to his bedroom. Perhaps because he has been lying on the sofa for too or possibly he has some inflammation of the muscles, he finds it a bit difficult to get up from the sofa.
10:05 pm Suddenly there is a high howl of door hinges, and a sound as if someone has hit the main door with their knuckles. Maybe the person outside does not know that the doorbell is not broken. As if the night has not been difficult, distressful and wearisome enough, Sipho`s eyes fall on… a small, terrifying humanoid creature like a gremlin. If he is drunk with sleepiness, he speedily sobers. The sight of a brown bear-like humanoid right in the room makes his hair stand on end. It has slithered into the room with neither a key nor the yanking open of the door. It seems like a dream. If it is a dream, in the deep, dusky recess of his soul, he just wants to be able to get out of it sooner than later. The glowing bloodshot eyes of the scary creature do not make any matters better by torching and torturing his mind. The sight of the hairy creature stabs his heart into several palpitations, confusions and tensions.
10:10 pm Sipho studies that dwarf zombie with radiant red eyes and long claws. It is approximately 1.068 metres in height. Its face is capable of pushing both children and adults into freaked screams in a dream. The subhuman creature is attired in a wrap made of leopard skin and a necklet of beads, little stones, feathers and other strange bits and pieces. Around its waist there is a small bag. Sipho wonders what could be inside that pouch. Maybe a knife? It is in possession of a knobkerrie, too. This is the dreaded Tikoloshe, concludes Sipho. A thought capers on his head. Let me alert neighbors. A child who does not cry risk dying whilst strapped to the back of his or her mother, so goes the wise Ndebele proverb.
10:20 pm Sipho is like a badly injured, lily-livered soldier who has had a tortuous and agonising journey, nevertheless is ready to soldier on, to summon enough strength and escape. He is not prepared to be kept as a prisoner for eternity by a creature that seems to be rooted next to the main door without saying what it really wants. He straightens up straightaway, tries to open up his mouth in a bid to scream himself into a tizzy, but the Tikoloshe is equal to the task. It swings at him in a flash and lands on his left shoulder. He can feel something heavy dangling on his shoulder. Does it have a heavy, long tail? Maybe it is an arm? He can feel its head too. Nearly it is a head the size of a huge water pumpkin, its nose is a weird sniff which is snake-like in shape, yet its ears are leaf-like in form. An attempt to slam him with a club sees the knobkerrie hover over his head, missing it by a few lucky, anxious centimetres before it plummets off.
With its emaciated, long legs and long claws it tries to push and pin him down. Sipho rolls over the sofa, seeking to repel it with his tired arms. The human and subhuman wrestle and wheeze, call and curse. It clenches its teeth together tightly because of its anger and ego. The gritted teeth are all set to bite and chew off his right ear as the hairy goblin`s head is thrust on his body. Swiftly, it leaps up like a possessed mortal, before its sharp curved nails wedge into his neck, throttling him in the process. He winces. Like a defeated wrestler in the ring, Sipho is a gasping, bleeding, pleading on the floor. The goblin lets out a throated chuckle.
Friday Midnight “People believe we, the Tikoloshes, are malevolent mythical elves of short statue that pride in choking the life out of them! Well, you can see that if one humbles oneself, like you did after regaining consciousness, we chat, we bear no malice. We make peace. We bury the club!” “Yes. Thank you, sir. I`m glad that your knobkerrie didn`t smash my head into pulp”. The hobgoblin sneezes, sending out a yellowish, smallish and circular fluid across the room. It patters on the ceiling. The little thing has jagged teeth. From a distance one can perhaps mistake it for a boy, not a grown man. Its skin is mottled and leathery. From their proceeding, revealing chat he has discovered specific attention-grabbing, puzzling basics about the zombie creature. For example, it is always a male, it has a single buttock, and it is known to be covered in hair or scales. It has hairy legs and feet. It is constantly barefoot. It is usually naked but sometimes it wears a cloak, it wraps itself in the skin of a leopard or in the skin of baboon when it is chilly. It speaks with a lisp. Its red eyes are capable of seeing well both in the dark and during the day. It does not have a tail. Sipho is imagining: how is it be possible that women can be attracted to such an ugly thing? Fine, it has strong, bony and sharp fingers, and is stout in build with a potbelly but the face is very unpleasant, the skin is shocking. “You are at liberty to ask anything about me?” The brownie`s words cut into Sipho`s thoughts. “You`re stuck….no …stocky in build with a potbelly. What do you drink?” “Sorghum beer and sour milk”. “Is it true that you like moving into sleeping people`s rooms, and cause problems?” “We can be visible and invisible at will. You can call us half-spirit, half-human. Hence, we derive pleasure from creeping into sleeping people`s houses, and scaring the hell of out kids!” It laughs out proudly and loudly. Its child-like voice is peppered with a swishing streak. “There is a …thought…rather a belief that you are used for seducing women?” “We`ve a mystic way of making women fall for us. A little charm. “I had a girlfriend who also worked for Mumba. Coz I’m a blast furnace in bed, the maid left in a state of panic. But me thinks she was already pregnant! Coz I`m a sharp-shooter! I`m a red-hot iron. We`ve no match when it comes to sexual prowess. Shen…hhh…How can I put it? Shen, Mumba had no choice but to hook up with me. Needless to say Mumba and I are an item. I’m a jealous, lascivious and dangerous man. So velly jealous shat you don’t mess with our relationship by hook or crook, day or night and live to see another day. Forget.” As if flaunting its weaponry, it paces around the room, carrying a manhood so long that it is slung over its shoulder. Sipho is dumbstruck. What a sizable scrotum! “Do you know the whereabouts of Lady Mumba?” “I’m disappointed with lady Mumba. She won’t get away with it. I brought her all the fortune she possesses and parades. Now she wants to get rid of me. Shat day she served me with salty relish, yet she knows in our clan, salt is an allergy. She`s spreading salt all over. I read the mind. I visit the sea. She forgets shat. Now she has left for Chiredzi, to seek a muthi man who will wipe me off the face of the earth. If my memory serves right, a few years, just one, one man of God managed to kick me out of a certain house. Overwhelmed by his powerful prayers, I ran for dear life. The sangoma thinks he or she can ward off a ‘malicious’ spirit, exorcise the area with salt, charms, oil and what-have-you. It`s game on. This is set to be a battlefield. A titanic battle looms large. Bring it on. The sangoma must come over here prepared to put up a perfect fight, or else he or she will faint, fall sick or die. How narrow-minded!! Kill me? Never! I killed her meddling minister boyfriend. I will kill her too if she continues running madly like a nervous fool trying to castrate a burly bull with their bare teeth!” “How did you make Mumba reach?” “Rich, you mean? I loot. Yes banks, factories, stores, mining concerns, you name shehem – I raid.”
Saturday Morning It is 4:30 am. Sipho cannot believe that in spite of his fears, trials and weariness, he has been firing questions at the creature for that long and learning much about it. He remembers the words of Lady Mumba. “There will come a time when you will protect me in every way possible. When that time comes both of us will happy. I will be happy. You will be happy”. He recalls when she added rather softly. “l hope you won`t mind looking after me in my room when l ask you to, especially when l fall sick. Sipho, would that be a problem?” He was thrown into an unanticipated state of speechlessness. Let me ask one more question, and avoid thinking about what Lady Mumba said or else this creature reads my mind and I get into trouble again. “So Madam Mumba will point the house where there is beer?” “Yes, shat woman will taste my wrath. They don’t call me Ntokoloshe for noncing”. The dwarf disappears into Lady Mumba`s bedroom before emerging from it after a short while with a container. “Lishleen ,it`s time for you to strike gold. Now take shis and disappear. Don’t ever come back here. You did not talk with me. You did not see me, is shat right? You disclose, you’re dead. Shat me!”
Sipho cannot believe it. A suitcase filled to the brim with crisp notes! US dollars. He walks past the computerised colourful gate. With a trembling joy, he hurries on, his horizon characterised by the diminishing grandeur of the house and the snowballing mysteries therein. If this is not a dream… if these are real notes… If… he wonders. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Glossary Small father: uncle. Small mother: aunt. To have a mouth: to provoke people to fight you. To have a liver: to be courageous. A person who does not hear: one who is either disobedient or hard of hearing. To count for: to accuse one of eating too much (especially of the given food). To have a tongue: to talk about someone else (usually) in a damaging way in that person’s absence. A chest kicked by a zebra: this refers to a person who cannot keep secrets or whose chest `leaks` confidential information easily. To point: a direct literal translation which refers to propose love. Tomorrow is yesterday: Bear in mind that whatever bad thing you do or say today will haunt you in the future (e.g You can laugh at someone else’s abject poverty today but when you are in need in future you may turn to the same person for help). The maize is kicking and the pumpkins vomiting: this a literal translation used to refer to the stage at which the maize plant is tasselling and the pumpkins are blooming. Shuwa:sure. Sangoma: a herbalist, a traditional seer. Carrying heavy: Toiling or suffering. Inyanga: In SiNdebele, this term refers to a herbalist or traditional healer Has a black: a literal translation for bad luck. Ask for fire: When a suitor’s delegation goes to the girl’s parents/relatives in order to tell them that a man is interested in marrying their daughter. (It used to be a fiery affair, with the mediators being sometimes (initially) beaten/tossed about or chased away. Open the mouth money: the money that kick-starts the above negotiations. Point the house where there is beer: to be in hot soup. Tikoloshe: half-man half-spirit, it is believed to be a dwarf-like male creature with pronounced sexual characteristics. References to this mystical creature date back to before 1700.