Fiction: A Game of Hoopla

November 25, 2016 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Madoda Mkhobeni



Nixon Mateulah



It was time to retire for the day, husband and wife kissed each other passionately and then the husband picked up his lovebird and lumbered crookedly on impact of her weight to the bedroom, his bare feet making deep hollow thudding sound against the floor. He kicked the door violently like a soccer player kicking a ball on a penalty spot with his right foot, pushing the stubborn door with his right shoulder that was closing in and passed through quickly. He deposited his lovebird gently on the bed like a sleeping baby. She got up and with amorous eyes gazed fondly at her husband’s fly where something had bulged into a sharp point. The paraffin lamp was burning brightly on a stool, sending up a swirl of soot to the roof, producing huge comical shadows against the limed wall.

Mandevu, as he was popularly known owing to his huge, glossy beard he had never forgotten to brush ever since he started growing it five years ago, unbuttoned his Reuben Bridge shirt and hung it on the nail, seething with lust, beckoned his wife to undo his trousers. Consumed with tamed whirls of lust, Anabetha jumped from the bed and knelt down before him and feverishly undid his belt and zip. Mandevu stepped out of his pair of trousers trembling with excitement.

‘What is this!’ said Anabetha awe-stricken.

‘What!’ he was nonplussed, turning back expecting to see something.

‘I mean this!’ said Anabetha, as she violently got up and stepped back, sitting on the edge of the bed. Mandevu stood stock-still shamefacedly and totally flabbergasted like a dazed dog.

‘Amuna anga!  (My husband!) Whose underwear is this?’ asked Anabetha furiously.

‘Of course it’s mine! What’s wrong?’ said Mandevu taking a good look at his underwear and discovered that he had worn it inside out.

‘Didn’t you put on this underwear properly this morning, eh!’ cried Anabetha scornfully.

‘I did,’ responded Mandevu, incoherently sounding guilty. Then he remembered that he had put on the underwear wrongly at the resthouse where he had gone with his lover, when all of a sudden the power went off when they were about to leave.

‘You are sleeping around, isn’t?’ cried Anabetha baring her teeth, her nose flaring with indignation.

‘It is not what you think,’ he said, sitting on the edge of the bed, ‘you know whenever I go to the toilet I take my clothes off, so maybe when I was putting on I put it wrong mistakenly.’

‘Shut up! Don’t dare to deny, the truth is as white as the albumen of an egg and is wrapped around your groin!’ cried Anabetha seething with fury.

‘You know I grew up in the village where often we relieved in the bush and no one answered nature’s call with his clothes on to avoid dirtying them with excrement, and by the mere bliss that one felt naked relieving like a baby without any restriction of clothes. Why do you think other people sleep naked?’

Anabetha just looked at him scornfully and clicked her tongue in disgust, burying herself between the sheets. Mandevu did not bother to pull off his underwear; moreover his thing had deflated limply with an ice cold water of floundered mind. Anabetha moved to the wall, the bed creaking in protest and gave Mandevu her back. Sensing that game yagona (the game is over); Mandevu lowered himself in between the sheets and moved slowly with utmost care towards Anabetha. He tentatively stretched out his hand and landed it gently on Anabetha’s shoulder. She pushed it away, clicked her tongue and curled herself up in a foetal position. Mandevu, flummoxed by his wife’s antagonism, moved away from her and reached for the lamp and blew it off. Dogs barked repeatedly piercing the stillness of the night. They yelped and growled irritatingly to one’s ears as their pitch rose and fell in uniform cacophony. Soon the heavy sound of running feet were heard so distinct passing by Mandevu’s house.


The following Sunday morning, Mandevu eyed his wife coldly as she went about her house chores in silence. Mandevu was sitting on a low stool outside against the wall enjoying a morning sun. The sun was still in its rudimentary state, the chilly wind blew gently, but it was so chill still that Mandevu put on his tracksuit and a blazer. He called out to Anabetha when he had consulted his watch and verified that he was late and his friend Malikesi might have left for the tavern.

Anabetha! Anabe…!’ he cried. A few minutes passed before Anabetha appeared carrying a wet rug dripping with dirty water.

‘What’s it? She asked softly.

‘Bring me my black pair of shoes, Kiwi polish and a brush,’ said Mandevu massaging his beard with Vaseline Blue Seal.

The items landed at Mandevu’s lap with a force of a pelted stone. He got up swiftly and followed Anabetha into the house who had thrown the items.

‘Umenewo ndi ulemu?‘ cried Mandevu as he forced the door open which Anabetha had locked. Mandevu shook the door frame vigorously and leaned with all his strength on the handle. Anabetha, cunning, turned the key and darted into the bedroom and locked the door behind her. The door swung open on impact sending Mandevu headlong and hit his head against the wall. He got up seething with anger and banged the door violently with madness.

‘Open! You…slut!’ cried Mandevu.

‘Leave the handle!’ barked Anabetha. Mandevu left the handle and waited with suppressed anger for the door to open.

‘What you want?’ asked Anabetha. Mandevu was stunned with the question and his anger, on the verge of exploding, subsided abruptly and his mind became clear, facing the situation with the sane heart of a nobleman.

‘I want you to explain the meaning of all these,’ said Mandevu gently, feeling his forehead for a swelling. He had felt a tiny lump, and then discovered that it was only a mole.

‘I am still unhappy with yesterday’s incident,’ said Anabetha.

‘Didn’t I explain enough?’

‘You did not, you only gave disgusting non sequitur of your childish tomfoolery reminiscence!’ cried Anabetha stepping out with boldness.

‘I am sorry anyway,’ said Mandevu beaming with a forced smile.

‘I am not smiling.’

‘This is not how we have to live, now that we have managed to blot out our turbulent past, our days now need to be filled with love and happiness,’ said Mandedvu sounding so endearing.

‘Leave me alone! I have to go to church, today is Sunday, excuse me,’ said Anabetha walking out.

‘I must see my friend, Malikesi that’s why I would like to polish my shoes,’ said Mandevu.

‘Can’t you go to church with me for a change?’

‘I am not ready yet, I do pray secretly to God, read Mathews 6: 3 – 4,’ said Mandevu following his wife out.

‘Unbelievers talk as you do. Are you not the one who used to pray every day? Why did you stop?’ asked Anabetha ghastly.

‘I have just realised that going to church or mosque does not make one a good person, unless one is enlightened,’ said Mandevu.

‘Anyway, your life is not mine and we shall never share a grave,’ said Anabetha firmly.

‘That reminds me!’ he said smiling, ‘that two people who love each other so dearly would never share a grave nor good deeds of the other expiate the other.’

‘Only fools thinks like that!’ she yelled, as she hurried to the kitchen.

‘A church is a last place for a man with a noble heart!’ Exclaimed  Mandevu.


After breakfast, around 9 a.m, Anabetha picked up her bible and hymn books and galloped to the church. Mandevu geared himself for another guzzling of Chibuku beer at Kawale Tavern. He checked himself in the mirror, combing his hair and beard, buttoned up his neck button of his sky-blue shirt which he had tucked into the black twill pair of trousers. He went outside to fetch his shoes he had polished and let them dry in the sun, taking a clean piece of cloth and wiping his shoes which shone like a mirror in the sun. He put on the shoes, fastened the shoe laces and cantered off to Malikesi’s house just up the road opposite the graveyard.

He found Malikesi already gone to the tavern and felt very piqued at heart; lurching forward and sometimes trotting, and sometimes breaking into a run. Within ten minutes of walking and running the Kawale Tavern could be seen from a distance. The mere sight of the tavern tortured his taste buds and impulsively saw a long saliva dangling down from the corner of his mouth. He hastened into the tavern and threw out his eyes in all corners but saw no one resembling Malikesi. The jukebox was playing his favourite song, Zulu Woman by Lucius Banda and drunkards were dancing drunkenly to the beat. He wanted to dance but felt he would look stupid among the drunkards, dancing soberly following the beat perfectly unlike the way they danced opposite to the beat of the song. Then he decided to look for Mai Nabanda who always sold them nice beer (yesterday’s Chibuku). As he made up his mind to look for Malikesi outside among the people who were drinking under big umbrellas, he spotted Mai Nabanda at the entrance carrying four Chibuku Shakeshake beers in his hands, and ran after his friend.

‘Hullo!’ cried Malikesi when he had seen his friend Mandevu approaching and holding a packet of an open Chibuku beer.

‘Here you are! Penalty! You’re late!’ cried Malikesi enthusiastically as he handed him the beer.

‘Why are you sitting outside?’ asked Mandevu, receiving the packet with both of his hands.

‘Penalty!’ persisted Malikesi. Penalty was a tease among beer drinkers, if a person arrived late he was forced to gulp down one packet so that he could be in the same drunken stupor as his friends. Mandevu ravenously gulped down the beer and threw the packet away with a belch of satisfaction. A little boy with a stack of Chibuku packets on his shoulder picked up the packet and drunk the dregs, and then slotted it on his long stack of packets.

‘This is what I don’t like, you see that little boy is collecting Chibuku packets and drinks the dregs. Look at the stack of the packets. It is almost over my height, it could be the boy drunk the dregs from each of the packet,’ observed Mandevu.

‘No…no…by now he could have been drunk, look at that stack of packets, they could be over hundred packets,’ said Malikesi smugly.

‘I wonder why parents send their children to fetch the packets,’ observed Mandevu.

‘Yeah! it’s those stupid teetotalers with chicken’s brains that send their children to these places, no drunkard can send his child here to fetch Chibuku packets just for mere reason that they use it as fuel to set fire especially on stubborn gmelina firewood,’ said Malikesi.

‘We are the only ones who know how these children behave at taverns, they run errands for drunkards and others drink beer as you have just seen,’ said Mandevu.

‘But you know what, today, Lucius Banda will be performing at Manyado Samatha Leisure Centre,’ pointed out Malikesi.

‘Sure!’ exclaimed Mandevu excitedly as he wiped his mouth with a handkerchief.

‘All beautiful sluts will be there,’ said Malikesi picking up a packet of Chibuku with both hands, the utmost care of an egg seller.

‘Prostitutes of all kinds would storm the place on the lookout for possible clients,’ said Mandevu taking a long swig.

‘Yea!’ retorted Malikesi.

‘By the way, have you seen my girlfriend, Flora lately?’ asked Mandevu.

‘Why you are so infatuated with Flora, a woman you know is every man’s bed?’ said Malikesi smugly.

‘You don’t know Flora. Why do you think men flock to her like flies to stools? That lady is magic in bed; she does what your wife has never done to you before. I enjoy every round with her, with much pleasure and vigour,’ said Mandevu.

‘You know why you foolishly love Flora?’ asked Malikesi, eyeing Mandevu with gleaming eyes as alcohol was taking its toll on him.

‘I don’t know!’ exclaimed Mandevu drunkenly, swaying his head from side to side.

‘You have never had one steady girlfriend when you were young, am I lying?’ asked Malikesi.

‘You are right, I am the type of a man who never gets satisfaction from one woman, every woman that captures my heart I must see between her legs,’ conceded Mandevu.

‘In that case, you shall lose your good wife, Anabetha,’ said Malikesi with vehemence.

‘Never! We came a long way together from Nambuma where poverty ground us to a pulp. She could have jilted me that time but we managed to get along. She started brewing kachasu (rum) and I went to Kasungu to work on the tobacco farm. When I returned with the money I earned at the end of the season and adding the money she had saved from her kachasu business we agreed that I should go for driving lessons in Lilongwe city. Luckily, after my successful driving lessons, Mr. Gaffer offered me a job. I started driving a staff bus. After working for six months I invited my wife Anabetha to join me in the city. So you can see how the past has intertwined us,’ said Mandevu.

‘If I were you, I would stop this gallivanting about of yours and stick to her like a paper on the wall, Anabetha is a very good person. She is also a God fearing woman, she always goes to the church, when last did you go to church?’ asked Malikesi.

‘Going to the church for the sake of going is a waste of time. Many people go to church just as other people go to a football match or gig. Everything ends just there, back home they resume their daily sinful lives. Pleasing Almighty God is not an easy thing; it is a gift, it needs a very strong heart that cannot be tempted even by a bag of money one finds on a solitary road,’ said Mandevu.


Just few metres away, the sound of tuning musical instruments were heard so distinct were the loud booms of the drum and clashes of cymbals.

‘They are getting ready at Manyado Samatha Leisure Centre,’ said Malikesi drinking quickly.

‘We must make quick,’ said Mandevu emptying the last packet.

‘You know what, Lucius Banda will be dishing out songs from his latest album, Freedom,‘ said Malikesi.

‘I like a song, Zulu woman,‘ said Mandevu getting up.


It was now almost around three in the afternoon, the sun was still reigning oppressively hot in the clear sky unlike in the morning when it was mild and warm with a chilly wind. Mandevu and Malikesi hastened to the Manyado Samatha Leisure Centre. They had found Zembani Band of Lucius Banda testing the equipment and members of his dancing crew gearing themselves up for a showdown of music. They walked to an empty table at the end corner of the arena and sat down. Mandevu then got up and walked over to the barman at the counter. In a minute, he returned with four bottles of Carlsberg beer. Scores of people burst in and stormed the dancing arena. A few minutes later, Lucius Banda appeared on the stage smiling as usual. He greeted the crowd amidst loud applause and promised them unforgettable entertainment.

‘Our first song is…guess…!’ cries Lucius as he waved at the crowd with the microphone. The crowd burst into wild applause, the noise was mingled with hoarse, guttural voices of drunkards.

‘Adelaide!..Adelaide!..Adelaide!…’ cried the audience. Soon the audience went wild as Lucius Banda played Adelaide. A minute later, Mandevu spotted Flora cavorting with a young man, his heart went sluggish. He jumped up like someone whose barefoot had mistakenly stepped on a nail. Flora was looking gorgeous, her hair was dreaded perfectly reaching her shoulders, her ears sported big round gold ear rings, she wore a clinging blouse that seductively jutted up her bosom and a short denim skirt that barely reached her knees. Her Jockey underwear was seductively sticking out from her denim waist band. Her calves were toned from the high-heel shoes she was wearing like a real Tina Turner.

‘Hey! young man, leave my ‘wife’ alone!’ cried Mandevu furiously, a couple who were smooching to the Adelaide rendition bumped Mandevu, who staggered and propped on the young man, who stepped back and saw Mandevu himself landing on the dance floor on his hands. The other drunkard stumbled over him spilling his beer on his shirt. Flora pulled him up. ‘Come here!’ yelled Mandevu drunkenly, staggering as he pulled Flora to their table. The athletic ,built young man, stout’ with burly hands, muscular chest that jutted up his clinging vest and who sported a Shabba Ranks hair-cut followed them.

‘Hey! madala leave my girl!’ cried the young man.

‘Fuck off!’ cried Mandevu with forced bravery. Flora sat quietly and watched the scuffle with agitated heart. ‘Madala!’ cried the young man stabbing Mandevu on his shoulder with his strong forefinger, ‘I will show you!’ He walked away and was swallowed up by the dancing crowd. Lucius then announced that the next song was Zulu woman, much to the wild applause, there was pushing and shoving as the audience surged forward to have a clear glimpse at their hero, Lucius Soldier Banda.

Mandevu got up abruptly and pulled up Flora and they smooched to the beat of the song, every time Mandevu stroking Flora’s behind. Malikesi drunk by now, leaned his head against the wall his mouth wide open like a dead dog. After the song Mandevu bought three Carsberg beer and they sat down.

At around 8 p.m, Malikesi got up from his drunken stupor and informed Mandevu that he was leaving.

‘It is too early!’ said Mandevu drunkenly; swaying side to side and at times leaned against Flora.

‘I will see you tomorrow,’ said Malikesi staggering as he waded through the crowd. Mandevu and Flora danced the night away until they retired at the nearest resthouse.


Mandevu got home around 3 a.m, in the morning, his wife, Anabetha had refused to open the door for him. He had slept the remaining morning hours on the veranda and woke up to the sound of whacking of the broom against the ground as Anabetha swept around the house, only then he realised that he had slept outside. He got up and went into the house. Anabetha followed him, brandishing the broom.

‘You must be ashamed!’ fumed Anabetha, her nose flaring with seething anger.

‘It is not my fault coming so late, ask Lucius Banda. I was at Manyado Samatha Leisure Centre watching Lucius Banda live playing Zulu woman, our favourite song.’

‘Stop it!’ cried Anabetha with venom.

‘Ask Lucius Banda if he did not see me at Manyado Samatha,’ mumbled Mandevu as he staggered to step out from his trousers, he was swaying slightly and managed to lean against the wall and at last shoving his pair of trousers away with his right foot.

‘Aha! what is this?’ cried Anabetha pointing her index finger at his underwear.

‘What is wrong with me?’ asked Mandevu wondering.

‘Whose underwear is this?’ Mandevu took a good look at himself and discovered that he had put on Flora’s underwear by mistake.

‘Why do I always make silly mistakes?’ he thought bitterly.

‘Am…sorry…but…it one of your underwear that I put on mistakenly because you always mix our underwear,’ lied Mandevu.

‘Foolish man! Do I have a Jockey underwear!’ She slapped him hard across the face and fled out, fearing a probable fight. Mandevu, consumed with guilt, walked out to the tap and drew the water in a basin taking it to the bath house. That morning he washed himself with cold water. He left for work without eating his breakfast; he just threw one thousand kwacha on the table and hurried to work.


He returned from work in the afternoon, a terrible headache had troubled him. He had dreaded going home during the day to face Anabetha’s vitriolic outburst of anger over the morning’s incident. Instead he walked to his friend Malikesi. He found him busy under the huge gmelina tree cutting wood with a big saw. Malikesi was a carpenter who most people relied upon because he was a man of his word. If he promised that your bed would be ready by tomorrow he meant it unlike many carpenters who took ages to finish a bed until a client’s pair of shoes got eaten away from frequent walks to and from the carpenter. Malikesi started laughing when he saw him approaching.

‘Khala apa bwanawe (sit here my friend),’ said Malikesi, giving him a low stool to sit.

‘When did you go home last night?’ asked Malikesi.

‘Around two or three in the morning,’ said Mandevu laughing.

‘Why are you laughing now?’ asked Malikesi.

‘I made a very grave mistake last night,’ he said laughing.

‘What happened?’ asked Malikesi curiously.

‘I really don’t understand how I wore Flora’s underwear instead of mine,’ he said still laughing. Malikesi burst into a guffaw of laughter. Then his wife Anachulu emerged from the house carrying a huge cup of thobwa (sweetbeer), she curtseyed a metre away and called Malikesi to fetch it.

‘It is so nice,’ said Mandevu with satisfaction as he gulped the thobwa.

‘So, what happened Mandevu?’ asked Malikesi curiously.

‘It is my wife who discovered that I was wearing a woman’s underwear.’ Malikesi convulsed with laughter, he stopped cutting the wood and sat down.

‘You must be in trouble,’ said Malikesi wiping tears of laughter and picked up the cup of thobwa.

‘And this is not the first time I made such a silly mistake, last time after making love to Flora, the power suddenly went off and I put on my underwear inside-out and my wife saw it. I don’t know why I make such mistakes,’ complained Mandevu.

‘You must be very careful of Anabetha, maybe she’s praying hard for you so that you must change your behaviour, that’s why every time you make those silly mistakes,’ said Malikesi. The words fell on Mandevu with effect; there was a moment of silence as Mandevu digested the words.

‘I am only unfortunate, that’s all,’ said Mandevu.

‘We husbands, whose wives pray all the time cannot go astray for a long time before we are actually caught in our act. Our wives pray for our family’s well-being, especially at us husbands so that we should not go astray,’ said Malikesi.

By this time, the thobwa was finished and Malikesi got up and took a plane and started smoothing the plank with it.

‘I don’t know how I would apologise to my wife for she presses for confession. She believes a confession that’s not genuinely confessed aggravates the problem. So for her to forgive me I am required to tell her everything – how I found myself putting on Flora’s underwear, you see my friend, and she wants me to invite Flora for dinner,’ said Mandevu.

‘That’s right my friend,’ said Malikesi.

‘I don’t want to be a referee when they fight.’

‘There won’t be a fight,’ assured Malikesi.

‘What you must know is that no one is perfect – our wives could be gallivanting about at the church,’ said Mandevu, ‘have you forgotten the story that happened at the airport, a pastor and a woman in their church garbs were found making love in the car with no evidence of a condom used.’

‘It rarely happens my friend,’ said Malikesi dismissively.

‘So what happens under the church apparels?’ asked Mandevu.

‘Nothing, prayers and more prayers!’ interjected Malikesi.


Twilight hung over the countryside, the last golden rays of the sun illuminating the sky, some streaks of purplish clouds hanging far away in the west. Mandevu got up in preparation to leave.

‘But I will have a hard time at home!’ complained Mandevu.

‘Just apologise to your wife, everything would be fine,’ said Malikesi.

‘But, remember in today’s life my friend; life is a game of hoopla, whoever encircles it with underhand activities wins,’ said Mandevu as he strolled home.


Just as he was a few metres away from his house he heard choral singing wafting from inside. All the windows of the house were open and the front door was wide open like that of a grocery. He stopped abruptly and palpitated. He took a protracted look at his house to ascertain if indeed it was his house or not, then an old man carrying a bible in his hand patted him on his shoulder. He turned back and his eyes interlocked with those of him.

‘We have prayers at your house, I am the pastor,’ said the old man walking towards his house. ‘Life my friend is a game of hoopla, whoever encircles it… wins,’ he muttered to himself, following the man behind, every time looking back he saw three women carrying bibles following them.

‘Life my friend is a game of hoopla, whoever encircles it wins…encircles it with what? …Prayers…good deeds…maybe,’ he mumbled as he entered into the house sombre like a cornered dog with its tail between its legs.









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.


No Comments Yet!

You can be first to comment this post!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.