“You don’t know what you are talking about, that is nonsense,” said Comrade Mobiliser.
By now, there was an awkward silence in the bar. The silence was momentarily broken by someone pulling a chair.
I was with Baba VaTata, Fatso, Rasta and Handitika, who was the only one drinking a Pepsi Cola. The rest of us were drinking beer, Chibuku in particular and passing it around the traditional way. In the War Veterans Corner, was Comrade Mobiliser and his war- time friends and others like Dropside. I did not know his real name, but the nickname had stuck with him for as long as I can remember.
Dropside was a tall lanky man who liked to wear English khaki shorts that exposed little pebble- sized black spots all over his legs. He picked fights easily and enjoyed street brawling, not that he was particularly a good fighter. He took advantage of his height to clobber his opponents, mostly of a shorter stature than him.
On this occasion, he had struck a raw nerve as Comrade Mobiliser looked like thunder in a tea cup, ready to explode.
“I want to repeat myself, Smith was better,” said Dropside.
“That is nonsense, you are mad!” Comrade Mobiliser was furious. He looked ready to strike Dropside with his walking stick.
“How can you sing praises to your former coloniser? It’s because you did not go to war. You did not witness the agony and horror of war,” said Comrade Mobiliser with much emotion.
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His black gaunt face reminded me of my landlord, Mr Tigere, who got easily excited and invariably angry each time he came to collect rent and I had long tales instead of money.
On the big screen was a live soccer match between two English Premier League teams, Fulham and Leicester and even the soccer fans had their attention smothered by the heated exchange.
“There were jobs to be found in the industries," said Dropside. He wanted to say more but he was cut short.
“You take the freedom we fought for, for granted, people lost their lives for this freedom that you are enjoying,” said Comrade Mobiliser. He was using his forefinger pointing angrily at Dropside. It was also for the first time I noticed that his index finger was missing.
“Tell that to the born frees, they don’t care about this war you talk about so much. They want jobs and a better life,” fumed Dropside.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Mr Tigere enter the bar. He cast his eyes furtively at our table. He reminded me of a cat after its prey. I had nothing to worry about. This time I had paid my rent in full. It was still mid- month. I was in good standing; I had my freedom for many days to come.
What I did not like about him was, later on he would mention that I drank too much beer and squandered money needlessly.
Baba VaTata, who was sitting by my side suddenly rose to his feet.
“Elections are over guys, we don’t want to hear anything more about politics,” he said.
At that point, I also saw Thabo enter the bar. He had graduated at the local university more than 10 years ago. Everyone knew his story. His frantic search for a job had yielded nothing and in no time frustration overtook him and he was swept off his feet by drugs. The good thing was that unlike many others in his predicament, he managed to shake off the habit before it could destroy his life. Thabo was now a big airtime vendor and would move from table to table selling airtime. Many others like him were not so lucky.
“I think we all agree that the Independence War was not a stroll in the park, thanks to Comrade Mobiliser and the other comrades, we now have our freedom. It’s time to fix our economy and move forward,” said Baba VaTata. I had for a moment forgotten he was still on his feet.
“That’s why I like you, you are talking sense,” said Comrade Mobiliser. He hobbled on his feet coming to our table. Dropside also moved away, the tension was suddenly gone and people turned their gaze back on the big screen.
Baba VaTata bought a quart of beer for Comrade Mobiliser, who seemed too pleased with himself as he strutted like a peacock back towards the veterans’ corner.
- Onie Ndoro is a an IELTS tutor, ghostwriter and storyteller. For feedback: Twitter@Onie90396982/email:[email protected] 0773007173