If I had stayed at home and minded my own business, I would not have been in trouble. And it seemed that trouble always followed me or to put it simply trouble always found me.
On this particular day, Mai Maidei was very moody. The reason for this was very obvious. For the past few days I had put them on a boring diet of sadza and muriwo.
What made matters worse was the sizzling roasting of chicken in an open fire from our next door neighbours. Mai Svinurai whom only the previous week we had rescued from the violent clutches of her truculent husband.
Over the past few days she had been on a roasting spree. Today it will be pork, the following day beef and the other day chicken. I was not sure if they were doing it on purpose but this next door culinary habits were creating tensions in my home.
And to make matters worse, on one of the days, I saw my children, Maidei, Marita and Marwadzo peeping through an opening in the hedge that separated house number 1458 and 1459. All the while they were salivating. “Can you get back in the house,” I said angrily.
“But Baba, can we also not have beef today?’ Said Maidei. I swore under my breathe.
I was very much aware that after the silent mood of my wife, what would follow as sure as day follows night would be the tongue lashing. The best defence for me was to give her enough space.
I went in search of Baba VaTata. His wife told me that he had gone to monitor his boreholes. I then decided to pass through the shops and maybe meet a couple of friends.
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All the while I was cursing the day I was born. Nothing is as humiliating as being broke and to make it worse, being broke soon after receiving your salary or can I say slave wages. In reality I was a member of the “broke soon after pay brigade,” or simply BSAPB.
If you have never been broke on your pay day, then you will never understand how it feels like. The pain, the humiliation and anxiety that comes with being penniless is unbearable. It’s a kind of torment.
A man simply wants to provide for his family. A decent salary, a living wage is all one desires after labouring for a full month. And what made matters worse in our economy was the coterie of currencies. The salary came via the bank as rtgs but the moment you entered the shops, the prices were tops turvy.
To make the shopping less painful you had to go to the money changers who were ubiquitous like water. These money changers were at strategic points in the streets.
By the time they were done with you, all your zeal for shopping would have evaporated. And that is when you would realize that your salary in real terms is maybe US$50 or US$60 and the landlord would take US$50 of it or more. It was all misery. Keeping a formal job in this kind of economy was a sure way of meeting your maker sooner than He actually expected you.
As I arrived at the shops, the first people I saw were the usual loafers. There was Jerry, Ticha, Rasta and another guy whom I had never seen before. There was nothing good that could come out of these guys.
If trouble had a name, this trio was really trouble. I was not in the mood for cheap talk or to meet the likes of Rasta. I really wanted to avoid them but for want of company I went straight to join them.
That was mistake number one. Mistake number two was to linger with them for longer than was necessary.
And that was the beginning of trouble for me. If only I had steered clear of them and minded my own business and do something that would bring food on the table I would not have been in double trouble. But fate would have none of it.
There was not even a warning unless I take into account the bolt of lightning that had struck the sky only a couple of minutes before.
From the blues, five policemen came straight for our group. The way they were walking there was no doubt of their mission. I tried to move away but it was in vain.
“Put your hands in front of you!”
Our hands all went up. They started searching our pockets one by one. I tried to protest. A slap that rang like thunder silenced me.
I saw a couple of stars that made up part of the galaxy. I became dizzy. There was nothing on me. In the confusion I noticed that they found a small twist of mbanje on Rasta.
“I knew that I would catch you one of these days,” said one of the policeman. The big catch was on the guy I had never seen before.
He had a small ugly gun that looked deadly enough and must have been used on several occasions. I swore to myself. This was certainly big trouble brewing. There had been a spate of armed robberies in the township in recent days.
“Let’s all go to the police,” said the policeman.
“I didn’t do anything,” I tried to protest. Wrong company begets trouble. I was in a spot of a jam. I was not sure of the ending.
All I knew was that little ugly gun could unravel some of the unsolved armed robberies that had occurred in the township. And I was right in the middle of trouble for something I did not know.
A crime watch report for the month of September and October had indicated that police had arrested twenty armed robbers nationwide. And the frightening bit was that these robbers included four soldiers and a policeman.
And in Harare, two incidents were reported in which the armed robbers used explosives to blast safes.
My gut feeling told me that only a miracle could extricate me from this mess!
Onie Ndoro is a writer, educationist and IELTS tutor. For feedback: [email protected] Twitter: @Onie90396982 Mobile Number: 0773007173