The headline screamed, “Herdboy Murders Wife of His Boss After He Caught Her Cheating Him!” The world was now a weird place. I was home. The Saturday promised to be quiet. The reason I was particularly home on this day was I had resolved to be a good father and to be a man of integrity.
All my children were playing wherever they could find space in my two roomed rented house. And I must hasten to add that they had to improvise in the space available.
Marwadzo, my little boy was frantically trying to create a highway under the bed in the hope that his toy car would travel safely. The other two, Maidei and Marita were arguing about something. They could hardly finish playing without accusing the other of cheating.
My wife, Mai Maidei had just finished cleaning the dishes and was getting ready to prepare breakfast. Earlier on I had bought some eggs. Upon payment of a dollar, USD of course, the vendor gave me five eggs. I thought she was rather mean.
Only the last time, the vendor, Mai Robbie, who hustled her wares at the other end of Hwata Street had sold me one dollar for six eggs. For one with money, it was much cheaper to buy a whole crate than these “tsaona” series. Going back to my story, I had planned a peaceful weekend. And as long as my landlord Mr Tigere, or simply Mr Tiger did not pay a visit, my peace could be guaranteed. I went back to read the newspaper, scanning the headlines and one of the big stories of course was the passing away of Queen Elizabeth at the age of ninety six. Seventy years on the throne was not a joke. I cannot say much on this except to say “Hail King Charles!”
And for once in several weeks, the Ukrainian War was at the periphery of global news. The story that caught my eye on Ukraine was of Russia preparing to hold a fake referendum to justify annexing more Ukrainian territory. If Putin had planned a blitzkrieg on Ukraine, he had completely failed as the war was dragging on endlessly. And one thing for sure, Putin could never be Hitler, however much he tried to rattle up global power dynamics.
As I tried to glance at the Sports section, there was a sudden knock on the door. I was not expecting anyone at all.
Maidei quickly rushed to open the door. And in entered Rosemary. One would think that she was young. She must be nearly sixty years of age but still everyone called her Rosemary. One thing to her credit was that she was a decorated gossiper, first with the news whether true or false, Rosemary would not disappoint.
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Earlier on, I had told my wife, Mai Maidei, that I didn’t want any of her friends on this particular day.
My bad luck was to have the worst of her friends. I was not too sure if she was really friends with my wife, but the work of a decorated gossiper also involved knowing everyone so that the news gathering and the spreading of it would be almost akin to spread margarine on slices of bread.
As she entered, Rosemary gave me a “talking eye” that was pregnant with meaning. And then she said, “Nhai Baba VaMaidei, don’t you have friends?”
I scowled at her. How dare she? I kept my mouth shut. My wife, looked at me with alarm not too sure of my response. But on this day I was going to stay put. A good father, a good husband should find time to be with the family no matter the circumstances.
Rosemary went and sat near my wife. Marwadzo had stopped playing his game. As usual when visitors came, he would gaze at them. However much I reprimanded him, he had a fascination of visitors. I would say, quite some bad awkward attitude.
As she saw that I was not going anywhere, Rosemary started gossiping in whispers to my wife, but I could hear everything as clear as rain rattling on the zinc sheets.
All the stories could not be true of course. Mabhatiri, one of our neighbours who lived in the same street had impregnated his wife’s younger sister. Baba Geshemu, who lived in the next street had only discovered that all the six children were not his according to the DNA tests.
I was wondering as to what had triggered the DNA tests. I pretended not to be listening but my ears were like a Wi-Fi antenae, catching every word. Some of the gossip was too weird to be true.
There was a witch at House number 1420. There was an owl that was always seen perching on the big avocado pear tree in her yard. I wanted to laugh at this. Rosemary was crazy!
At this point, there was another knock on the door. I knew the knock from experience. It had a unique quality. The knocking of a landlord and for instance a tenant are distinctly unique. The landlord’s knock has a ,”this is my house” sound to it. The tenant’s knock sounds like, “ I don’t belong here.”
I almost fainted. It was my landlord, Mr Tigere, whom I simply called Mr Tiger. I felt butterflies in my stomach. I swore under my breathe. This man was my biggest tormentor. Oftentimes I had always wondered how other tenants fared with their landlords.
With arms akimbo, he asked. “What is the story now?” I honestly think Mr Tiger enjoyed tormenting me. He never came when I had the money. It was like he picked the days carefully. I never had money, even on payday as I was always deep in debt and my landlord seemed to know this. The past year, my routine would be pay the debts off and then start on a clean slate the following month.
“May you come back the day after tomorrow.” I found my voice at last.
“You are a bad tenant, the worst tenant Baba VaMaidei. Start looking for new lodgings,” he said and closed the door gently as he left.
Rosemary quickly bade farewell and departed. I knew that in the next hour, everyone in the neighbourhood would know of my struggle to pay rent. It was still morning but I went straight to bed. Ndakapinda mumagumbeze!
l Onie Ndoro is a writer, educationist and IELTS tutor. For feedback: [email protected] Twitter: @Onie90396982 Mobile Number: 0773007173