It was still early dawn. The room felt very hot. I opened the window surreptitiously to let fresh air in. At the same time I did not want to disturb Mai Maidei who was sleeping peacefully.
I saw Baba VaTata, my friend as if in a dream. As he opened the gate, I stuck my head out through the window and shouted, “I am coming.”
What could have gone wrong? I was asking myself not accustomed to this early visit by Baba VaTata.
I quickly put on a pair of worn out chinos trousers. I then selected a t-shirt I had only bought a couple of months back at the flea market in town. On the front of the t-shirt, it was written; if you are a loser, you die a loser.
Mind you, this was not the only t- shirt with this kind of cheeky message.
It had become a habit for me buying t-shirts with all sorts of message. I can literally say this habit had become an obsession. I liked the other one which was written both at the back and front, JESUS IS COMING.
After this dress rehearsal, I whispered in Mai Maidei’s ear.
“I will be back soon; Baba VaTata is waiting for me outside.”
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I doubt very much if she heard me.
As I joined my friend, the fresh breeze of air hit my face and I could not help to notice the clear blue sky. It was early morning, a good time for jogging or early morning exercises for those with peace of mind of course. In the ghetto, it’s very difficult to do the early morning exercises as one’s mind will be full of ideas to make ends meet, quite an exercise on its own!
What was common at that early hour was the men and women taking up their strategic positions in the street as they prepared to sell their wares. The things on sell included vegetables, sugar, milk, cooking oil, sugar beans, firewood and even clothes.
“What’s the matter? “ I asked Baba VaTata.
“There is trouble at home, Tsano vabura nyowani,” he said
I also noticed that he had on a pair of corduroy. These days I never see people wearing corduroys. But of course for my friend his dress code left a lot to be desired despite his money.
“What has Tsano done this time around?” I asked. Tsano is his brother-in-law. His actual name is Farai but we all knew him as Fatso. As we proceeded to walk to his house, Baba VaTata told me that Tsano Fatso had been cohabitating secretly with a local girl for some few days in his room which was at the back of the house. The room had been used as a tuck-shop before but ever since Tsano Fatso came to live with them, he had been using the room.
Tsano Fatso was not your usual kind of guy. He was as lazy as they come.
He had never done a hard day’s job. He never made enemies. He had a ready smile for everyone. Most of the time he kept to himself.
He was always drunk most of the time. I was not sure if he ever drank water. He had long ago made beer a substitute for water. Smoking cigarettes was second nature to him. Harmless and useless can be used in one sentence to describe him. And there were many young men like him in the township. Many of them on completing school had failed to secure jobs, and like losers they gave up on life and simply wasted themselves on drugs and intoxicating substances sinking deeper into oblivion.
I had always offered my advice to Baba VaTata that he was not to give Fatso any money at all.
“My wife always gives him money,” he had said.
Being the two of them in their family, Tsano Fatso always took advantage of his sister to get some money. “I can’t let my only brother suffer while I am still alive,” Mai VaTata always said.
It was a case of blood is thicker than water and Fatso had become a master at feigning victim to extract any money from his sister. Many a quarrel between the couple was on account of Tsano Fatso and my friend always came second best.
I knew that short of murder, Baba VaTata would do anything to get rid of Tsano Fatso.
“Who is the girl by the way?” I asked.
“It is Chipo, Mabhatiri’s daughter,” he said.
This was real trouble. We lived in the same street with Mabhatiri. He was notorious for his intransigent behaviour and was known for his violent streak. No one ever wanted a quarrel with him.
“Don’t you think Tsano has swallowed more than he can chew?” I said.
“I don’t want any trouble with Mabhatiri; I don’t want him here anymore. He must go kumusha,” said Baba VaTata.
I laughed. He had to content with his wife first. She had the final say on this.
By the time we reached his house, there were a few people milling outside.
This was not surprising in the ghetto as news, any news at all, especially spiced with some element of a scandal always spread like a veld fire.
Just as we opened the gate, Mabhatiri, super charged with emotion caught up with us.
“You are going to pay for my daughter and marry her. I hear my daughter is here,” said Mabhatiri pointing a dirty forefinger at Baba VaTata’s chest.
For me, this was real drama. Mabhatiri was so sure that it was Baba VaTata who had his daughter. Then my friend did the unthinkable. He took Mabhatiri’s right hand and led him to Tsano Fatso’s room at the back.
“Here is your son-in-law,” he said as he opened the door. Tsano Fatso was lying on the bed. Mabhatiri’s daughter, Chipo was sitting at the other end of the bed. On the floor, were several empty bottles of all types of beer? Cigarette butts were everywhere. The whole room was filled with a smell of decay.
Mabhatiri cast his eyes everywhere, on the ceiling and on the floor. He did not like what he saw.
“This is bullshit! You will hear from me. This man cannot marry my daughter!”
He was angry. He pulled his daughter from the bed. He literally dragged her as she tried to protest. She had no chance, her father half dragged her and half carried her.
While all this was happening, Tsano Fatso remained lying on the bed as if everything was normal. I could see that he was drunk and unconcerned. Mabhatiri was right to take away his daughter. A man like Tsano Fatso could never raise a family.
Onie Ndoro is a writer, educationist and IELTS tutor. For feedback: [email protected] Twitter: @Onie90396982 Mobile Number: 0773007173