Fiction: A Price Of Sin

January 21, 2016 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

By

Nixon Mateulah

 

 

The day was very rough, the whirlwind prised off some roofs of houses and tree branches, and dust swirled in a huge sweep, sweeping everything away in its way down towards Lilongwee River. Little girls’ dresses billowed, revealing their innocent, immature, tiny legs and women tacked their dresses in between their legs like the way a dog tacks its tail in between its legs in fear when its life is endangered.

‘Will the hand of God protect our house this time around?’ thought George bitterly, ‘What about those people, whose houses have been destroyed, are not children of the same God? Why should He favour our house all the time?’

It was almost two o’clock. George walked out of his standard 5 classroom when the atmosphere had calmed a bit. The whirlwind was not completely calmed; there were tiny whirlwinds here and there. He had stood at the veranda of the classroom for a while before he started walking home clutching his books under his armpit.

The road down to his house was littered with leaves, wooden splinters and stones; his bare feet were at times attached by these objects but luckily, nothing pricked into his rough soles. A further ten minutes of walking found him scurrying along the array of Pawale 2 groceries. Nearby, at the maize mill, was a long queue of women that wound out from inside up to the road. He recognized some faces and they waved and smiled at him as he hurried home. No one stopped him to worry him about the state of his house, and he took it as everything was normal at home.

‘Is it okay at home?’ he mumbled, wobbling with agitated heart, admiring the houses that had stood the disaster and at the children sitting on the verandas of these houses. He strolled down the road, past the cemetery; here and there men were busy on top of the houses repairing roofs. The truth was about to be unfolded before his very own eyes. Luckily, no familiar face came to reveal to him the state of his house. As he turned the corner, scores of his friends swooned on him barring his visibility as though they had read his fear.

George stood for a moment; tears started welling up in his eyes. He felt sorry for his father, mother and family. He hated his home sometimes and wished he could just turn into a white or Indian boy.

‘It’s a pity children cannot choose their parents, nature forbids. As children we’re forced into this world; that is why every one of us cried before we landed in this cruel world. I don’t hate my parents or my siblings, only that I hate poverty and ignorance with passion. Parents shouldn’t be surprised when they see their children running away from their broken home and get themselves lost into the streets. I was tempted one day to run away and join other kids in the street after I learnt that one street kid was taken by a white woman to the United Kingdom. But I questioned my conscience and bid it to give me a sound answer why I shouldn’t run away. My heart bid me to requite the love my parents give me in abundance,’ thought George as he broke free from his friends, ‘I am not so stupid; I cannot turn away from my parents who love me very much, a father who never forgets to buy me something whenever I have done well in class. My inner voice bids me to go into that house and finish school, that is my mission. Parents can get rich through their children and vice versa.’

George found his father busy on the roof laying small bags of sands on the roof. When his father saw him he stopped everything and screamed: ‘George! Where have you been all this time?’

‘At school,’ he said looking up at him and entered the house. His mother, Anaphiri was busy sweeping the debris of the aftermath of the whirlwind.

‘Where have you been this long, my son?’

‘At school,’ he said.

‘Your food is in the cupboard.’

‘Okay, let me go out and help dad first,’ said George as he galloped out.

‘Who? Your stupid father!’ yelled his mother, ‘I am tired of this house, and this roof shall one day collapse on us. I am tired really, what kind of a husband is this one; I need a decent house, with tiled floor, like my brother’s house. Your father is stupid, his friends are making money, and all his work-mates are building nice houses in Area 36. But every night he says Anaphiri comes here…Today, I won’t give him, until he promise me that he would buy me a wrist watch and a pair of patent shoes. Why can’t he just accept that he has failed in life and release me instead from this dungeon, so a decent man out there could marry me?’

George who had been sent by his father to fetch a small tin of tar in the house stood stock-still behind the door and heard every fragment of his mother’s insinuating remarks about his father. Now he knew that his mother hated the man she married. He was very bitter at heart and wanted to warn his mother that he would tell his father everything, but decided to push the idea to the back of his head to avoid watching a scuffle.

That night George’s father did not put out the lamp, he let it burn until Anaphiri turned and sat up: ‘Do you have money for paraffin? Put out the lamp!’

‘Let the lamp burn until there is no more paraffin in the bottle!’ snapped George’s father.

‘What is wrong with you?’

‘I must ask you, why do you hate me so much?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I heard everything you said,’ said George’s father solemnly.

‘So, what?’

‘It’s my fault that you married a poor man, but don’t attack my poverty in front of my children. You may confuse them.’

‘You think they don’t know, eh?’ she said with laughing eyes.

‘They are children and they must be treated, cared like children. We shouldn’t expose children to adults’ woes.’

‘I am tired really! Your friends who earn the same salary like you got decent houses; their wives manage to wear according to the fashion of the day. But look at me, Anaphiri? I got no, decent national wear, my friends tease me so much! I am tired, you must do something or else!’

‘Or else what?’

‘I will leave you!’

‘Leave me, Anaphiri,’ he said as he got up and sat on the edge of the bed.

‘You heard me!’

‘Anaphiri, we must be content with what God is giving us. We cannot all be well off. ‘

‘There’s no excuse, you are poor because you are a coward!’

‘Mind your language Anaphiri, I am your lawful husband and a man of God.’

‘If you were a man of God, how come you are poor? Men of God today are very rich people. Look at Pastor Mandimu, what car he drives?’

‘Of course, he drives a BMW X6 but that is nothing. In heaven there would be no BMWs, whatever! Why worry about something that if you die today you cannot take it with you to the next world.’

‘You are stupid! Tell me who abhors good life? There is no life after this one. You got children, do you want your children to end up like you?’’ said Anaphiri sitting up and propping her pillow against the wall.

‘How come your friend Nyumwisa, whom you got a job at your workplace, is doing better than you? His wife got a decent cell phone.’

‘Let us not talk about other people’s welfare and how they make their money. It is just a waste of time,’ cried George’s father.

There was silence for a moment. Anaphiri shifted and faced George’s father straight in the eye.

‘And your friend drinks and he earns little money than you, but where does he get all the money?’

‘Don’t ask me, ask him,’ said George’s father gravely.

‘Does he steal, eh?’

George’s father shrugged his shoulders.

‘Where does he get the money?’

George’s father shook his head.

‘If he steals, I beg you in the name of the Lord, you must also steal!’ You see, his wife Ruth was able to go to Blantyre to watch Pastor TB Joshua. You couldn’t afford yourself.’

‘I don’t like flamboyant pastors like Joshua,’ he mumbled.

‘What? Our president, Mai Joyce Banda even went to Nigeria to drink his holy water.’

‘We got Pastor Wame, Pastor Mbale Mbuu?’

‘Poor pastors, ha…ha…ha…they cannot perform miracles.’

‘These are true pastors, they have nothing to hide.’

‘But remember, you start stealing at your work place, tomorrow ask your friends to teach you the ropes. Think about it, we cannot live like this,’ she said lowering herself into the blanket leaving her husband with his head in his hands in a very pensive mood.

‘Read the bible, woman!’

‘Tomorrow I am coming to your work place. I heard Ruth’s husband steals stuff and packs them into a suitcase, and same day his wife Ruth goes to the shop and buys the same suitcase that is how her husband makes money. Tomorrow you must do the same. I will come and pretend to buy the suitcase you had stuffed with the goods,’ said Anaphiri firmly.

‘I am a man of God, I cannot do that,’ said George’s father.

‘You’ll or else you shall never get peace in this house! I say peace!’

George’s father was silent like a dead fly that had been sprayed on with doom.

The paraffin in the lamp was finished and the only paraffin that fed the lamp was coming from the wick bound to end anytime. A minute later, George’s father got up, pulled Anaphiri’s chitenje on the line and wound around his waist, slipped on his slippers and walked out to the toilet to pee.

When he returned from the toilet he was so appalled to see his wife, whom he thought sleep had taken her, was sitting up, a blanket thrown away to the floor. He stopped short by the line as he was about to throw his wife’s wrapper.

‘Remember! Tomorrow you must steal or you’ll never find peace in this house!’ I warn you,’ cried Anaphiri.

By this time, the tin lamp was dead, Bambo (George’s father) turned the other way and tried to sleep, but words of his wife that next day he must steal or he shall find no peace in his house kept him awake the whole night.

 

 

Bambo was working as a shop assistant at Abdul Karim Emporium in Bwalo la Njovu opposite Tutlas’s Shop. There were four guys working as shop assistants. Mr Karim showed some preference towards Bambo than the others.

Bambo started working for Karim senior when Abdul was a toddler. He was a house servant and had seen Abdul growing into a man. When Abdul returned from England where he was studying law after the death of his father to take over the family’s business, he promoted Bambo to shop assistant. He was his right-hand man and Bambo kept the keys of the warehouse.

At a counter that day, Bambo was very unsettled in his mind that it led to the attention of Mr Karim who quickly asked him what was troubling him. He just said: ‘Family issues at home.’

Bambo all the time had focused his eyes on the wall clock. It was almost one o’clock, time for Karim to leave for afternoon prayers and Bambo’s wife to come and fetch the suitcase of goods.

In the morning, with the help of his friend Nyumwisa, he had packed a black suitcase full with clothes and a DVD player. At around ten in the morning, his heart beating fast and sweating from fear that his boss could catch him, Bambo wanted to unpack the suitcase and return the goods to their respective places. Nyumwisa tried to tame him and assured him that nothing would happen.

At one ‘o clock exactly, Karim got up from his chair, massaged his long beard with one sweep of his hand and announced that he was going to mosque. And at the same time his drop-dead gorgeous wife, her curvaceous hips accentuated in her tight-fitting robe walked in pushing a pram. She sat down and picked up her baby and dandled him for he was crying. Karim kissed his wife on the forehead and hurried to his car outside.

Barely a minute passed, Anaphiri walked into the shop. She was wearing a multi-coloured headscarf tightened so tight it fitted her head like a turban. She was not wearing her favourite chitenje as respectable married women do. She was wearing her favourite yellow georgette dress and black plastic pair of Bata shoes. She spotted her husband quickly and rushed to him. She looked quickly at Khadja (Karim’s wife) busy pacifying the crying baby.

There were about three customers at the counter. Bambo and Nyumwisa pretended to help Anaphiri who was pointing at the suitcases. The suitcases were packed on the top shelf; they were of different sizes and colours. Anaphiri satisfied like a typical customer pointed at the black suitcase. Bambo hopped on a stool as Nyumwisa unfurled a piece of chitenje he was showing the customer barring Bambo from Khadja’s prying looks. Bambo put it gently on the counter and ordered Anaphiri to pay the money to Khadja.

After paying Khadja, Anaphiri her heart dancing in her chest lifted the suit with both of her hands and perched it on her head gripping it with her left hand and walked to the exit door. In oblivion of her height and the suitcase, she knocked off the top frame of the door; the suitcase slipped from her hand and fell down and burst. The items scattered all over the floor.

‘Stop that woman!’ cried Khadja

The security guard at the door ran after her. Anaphiri ran for her life, crossed the road and zigzagged in the crowd of the people and entered into a public toilet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nixon Mateulah

Nixon Mateulah was born in Lilongwe, Malawi. He moved to South Africa in 1996. His short stories have appeared in Storymoja, Jungle Jim Magazine and many of his poems have appeared in Munyori, Aerodrome, Kalahari Review, Stanzas Magazine under the pen name, Chichichapatile Mangochi. His debut novel, A Test of Time will be out sometime this year. His play, The Beggars Forum was longlisted for 2013 SCrIBE Scriptwriting Competition and is currently working on his second novel, The Death of the Sun, hopefully to be completed by end of this year.

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