Celebrating East African Writing!
A week later, the mother assumed a buoyant mood and acquiesced to let Zachariah go to South Africa to accompany his brother drive back home. But the parents had final words to say to their departing son. It was on Friday afternoon, the sun was still burning oppressively through the deep blue sky. Anambewe’s earthen vessel of water that served as a fridge was empty from frequent drinking by members of the family. The father asked Zachariah to buy cold water from the nearby canteen. There were three cups of cold water standing on the coffee table. This time Anambewe sat next to her husband on a two seater sofa and Zachariah sat on the one seater sofa opposite them across the coffee table.
The father took a long gulp from his cup and wheezed, his face contorted from the ice cold water that had attached his teeth. He put down his cup with a soft thud and eyed Zachariah penetratingly. Anambewe’s cup was still full as she sipped the cold water slowly like a chicken making herself a letter of seven as each time bowed and sipped the cold water. The father cleared his throat, squashing his larynx and the sound that emerged was like that of a saw tearing at a wood. He coughed thrice when he had realized that his voice was betraying him and making fun of him. A minute later he managed to tune his voice into a hoarse, velvet and high pitched voice. He rubbed his palms together and leaned forward from his seat, Zachariah shifted in his seat and eyed his father straight into his face.
‘As you can see,’ he said coughing a bit, ‘your mother has acquiesced to your going …but we urge you to encourage your brother to come home.’ A smile exploded on Zachariah’s face, his chubby cheeks rippled as he strengthened his smile.
‘I am going to fetch him!’ he said energetically. The mother shifted in her seat, she leaned forward, her hollow eyes wandering at her husband for a while and at her son, her lips parting slightly as she prepared her script in her head. Few seconds elapsed and the father winked at his wife for her to speak.
‘I am not at all happy,’ she paused, silence fell over the house with profundity and the unfinished sentence confounded Zachariah who moved to the left of the arm of the sofa as though the words and silence had pushed him.
‘That you are going,’ continued Anambewe, ‘but since your brother now has decided to heal my troubled heart and dry my tears, I have decided to let you go. We will use you as a bait, if you find him so hard to persuade him to come, threaten him that we would go to the herbalist to seek charms that would force him to come immediately.’ Zachariah got the words in his mind and sifted them on his sieve of conscience.
‘As I have said, I am bringing Hadrak here!’ he said with emphasis on the word here.
‘Tell him that Malawi is developing and it needs people like him to help develop it. Tell him that most of his friends are now well-to-do, for instance his once closest friend Lameck has got his own business of stationery in City Centre,’ said the father.
‘That’s not so important, Malawi kwacha cannot compete with South African rand, one rand is almost equivalent to twenty kwacha, but tell him that Lameck is married and has two handsome children,’ said Anambewe with gusto.
‘Is that so important,’ said the father dismissively.
‘All I want is that he must come home and get married and make babies. Look he’s over thirty already and life expectancy here in Malawi stands at 34. Do you want me to die without seeing his child, eh!’ said the mother.
‘Mother..mother… Hadrak is now almost 36 years old, he’s past that ostensible life expectancy mark. And by now he must have fathered a child there, I know him. Just count how many young girls fought over him when he was still a teenager,’ said the father playfully.
‘A child by a South African woman! Never…ask me how many guys who claims have children in South Africa manage to bring them along?’ asked Anambewe.
‘Some bring then along, you must go to Mangochi at M’baluku village you would see Zulu women loitering around the trading centre with their babies strapped on their backs speaking Zulu,’ said the father.
‘And we had a friend whom we schooled together at Central College of Commerce whose mother was from South Africa and every school holiday he used to go to South Africa to see his mother,’ chimed in Zachariah.
‘You see! The child used to go his mother. I don’t want such grand children. I want him to give me grand sons or daughters that would gladden my last days on this planet. Children that would be so proud to be near me and call me agogo fondly,’ said Anambewe.
‘Alright…right!’ cried the father so ecstatic that he lost a globule of saliva that fell onto the table, he wiped it clean with his palm, the formica that covered the table shone against the ray of the sun that had streamed into the house from the open window.
‘Have you prepared his foods he asked for? Marambe, kapenta, raw cassava?’ asked the father.
‘I bought that yesterday at Kawale market and I packed them nicely in a newspaper, they’re there in the storage room,’ said the mother as she walked to fetch them. A minute later she brought them and put them on the table. The father fumbled with the parcels and managed to extract one raw cassava which he gave it a sharp bite, took out a piece, peeled it off and threw it into his mouth, his upper and lower jaws moved up and down mechanically, tearing the piece and the lips met in the process just like the way the goat munches the sumptuous shrubs. ‘Where did you buy this nice cassava?’ he mumbled as his teeth mechanically attacked the cassava like a miniature mill, making audible crushing sound. Anambewe retrieved the parcel from her husband. ‘It is not yours, it’s for my son,’ she said
‘Okay, Zachariah tell us how you will convince your brother to come here after he had spent ten years without a letter only occasional phone calls that sometimes take half a year or so?’ asked the father, eyeing his son with penetrating looks. Zachariah shifted in his sit and projected his torso forward and played with his fingers.
‘I know, you know it’s a difficult question, but…no question is difficult if it deals with worldly matters, always there are answers to it,’ he was smiling complacently.
‘You sound like a true savant,’ said his father playfully. He gave a scrutinized look at his larynx and the cough was inaudible though he had exaggerated it by placing his punched first over his mouth.
‘I will start with you father,’ said Zachariah. The father turned his astonished face to his wife, ‘I have noticed that you can hardly take long walks, how many times did you stop on our way to town? You gasped for breathe and sat down every three hundred metres we had covered. This is the sign that you are indeed getting old and soon or later you would hardly walk to town.’
‘My son…you are indeed right, my legs are troubling me indeed,’ said the father.
‘So I will tell Hadrak that you are considering retiring by the end of this year and you want him to manage your construction business, how about that?’ said Zachariah. The father just nodded his head in ratification.
‘As for you mother, you are neither getting younger, I can see streaks of a gray hair sticking out from your headscarf.’ Anambewe abruptly ran her finger on the edge of her headscarf.
‘I don’t mean it now, today you have managed to cover them up.’ The mother gave out a laugh when she had found out that her son was saying the truth.
‘And recently I have seen you crying without tears, your tears are dripping inside your being and your mind is not at peace. You worry too much about Hadrak and I have heard on the grapevine that Hadrak was the only one in this house who was born through operation, and it was a difficult one that at one time either you or Hadrak would have passed on and my father was caught peeping through the key-hole to the theatre room his face beaten with grief.
‘Who told you that?’ cried the mother.
‘It is true my son I couldn’t bear it that my young wife would be cut up, I prayed hard for the success of the operation,’ he said with sentiment, looking at his wife.
‘Alright… even though I don’t know how I was born.’
‘You came straight into my hands, I was there when you burst out into this miserable world, and the nurses showered me with praises for bravery and helping your mother deliver you,’ said the father.
‘I owe my life to you both and there’s something though is not so strong enough in my heart that tells me not to go but it is losing its strength day by day,’ he said.
‘My son I know you love me, don’t go, let Hadrak find you here,’ said Anambewe tearfully. ‘Without him, Hadrak would not come, trust me,’ said the father.
‘Remember mother I am the bait, Hadrak is the fish, your tears is the hook and father is the stick. It is high time Hadrak returned home. Mother I do not want to leave this land, this is where I belong, whoever leaves his land of birth and accustom himself to the foreign land is stupid for no matter how long he might stay there he would never become like the natives of the land,’ said Zachariah.
‘You have spoken like a man, do you know that I had worked in the mines in Zimbabwe?’ said the father. Zachariah shook his head.
‘I worked in the mines for three years and at last decided to return back home, that was the time I met your mother. I was like a celebrity in our village and many beautiful girls threw themselves at my feet, but your mother was the most beautiful of all and I married her instantly,’ said the father, smiling.
‘Why didn’t you get married in Zimbabwe? I could have been born in Zim,’ joked Zachariah, his mother eyed him sternly.
‘I am joking mother,’ he said playfully.
‘Isn’t so nice Anambewe exchanging jokes with one’s children,’ said the father smiling. ‘It is, but many people are so stupid, cognizant and protective of tradition and speak slightly of our easy manners with our children. They say we encourage them to be disrespectful to elders,’ said Anambewe.
‘Those are crackpots, stupid people, by the way, son you will be leaving next week Wednesday, what last words do you have for us that we should believe you that indeed you would bring Hadrak home?’ asked the father seriously.
‘I have no tangible proofs that I would accomplish this feat, but I am confident that I would be of great influence to my brother so that he would return home, no matter what!’ said Zachariah firmly. Anambewe shifted in her seat and criss-crossed her feet, brewing up her last words to her son Zachariah. ‘I hope you know that I am very depressed and I am not having a peace of mind because of Hadrak. I don’t want his money, all that I want is just to see him. Maybe he don’t miss us but we miss him terribly. Please bring Hadrak for me and tell him that if he does not come as he has promised I would go to the traditional doctor to bring him home at once, do you hear!’
‘I understand mother,’ he said.
‘You can now go and bid your friends good-bye, your mother and I have agreed from the bottom of our hearts to let you go,’ said the father.
‘Thank you so much,’ said Zachariah as he got up, he picked up the cups and walked off to the storage room.
This is part of a longer story that begun in last week’s blog. Tears of a Mother (Part One) If you like what you read so far, please comment and rate below, and the remaining part will be posted in the next week’s blog.
© Nixon Mateulah 2009
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