Mfana Richie

Richard bolted out of his mother’s house, almost as if someone was pursuing him for the purpose of terminating his life. He didn’t see the car that was coming from Machipisa Shopping Centre at high speed. That the car missed him by a few inches, was not because of the driver’s ability, but through sheer luck. The driver never stopped, he kept on going at high speed, turned left, near the graveyard and carried on in the direction of Lusaka section of Highfield. Richard on the other hand, simply slowed down, ignored all the warning shouts from pedestrians and dashed in the direction of the Shell fuel service station. There, his friends were waiting for him. Why did people worry about him being missed by a car? These things happened everyday in his neck of the hoods. He had been born and bred in Highfield. He had not come from the rural areas the day before. He liked to live on life’s knife-edge, in the fast lane. Amazingly, he was a Grade Four pupil at Chembira Primary school where he was beginning to show some promise at football and athletics, partly because he was bigger than most of his peers and partly because he was a genuinely talented athlete.

His mother was a single mother more out of choice than fate. She was a nurse by profession, drove a small car that was parked more times than it was driven, either because she was broke or there was no fuel on the market. Richard’s father was an unemployed good-for-nothing drunkard who had gone to the same school with Mai Richard, (Richard’s mother). Mai Richard’s name was Matilda Huni. His name was Nhamo. Ironically, Nhamo and Mai Richard had also attended Chembira Primary School many years back. Nhamo came from a well-to-do family, but his father had been at Gonakudzingwa political detention centre for more than ten years while Richard was growing up. Quite clearly the temporary absence of a father figure in the home had created a spoilt brat out of Nhamo resulting in four children being born out of wedlock with four different mothers before he was twenty!

Richard met his friends at the Shell garage and together they started walking towards the swimming pool situated along the Highfield-Glen Norah road. They spent the whole Saturday afternoon loitering around the swimming pool area, before they found their way to the Zimbabwe grounds where a number of amateur football games were being concluded. After separating from his friends, Richard briskly walked back to his mother’s house and found her sitting on the sofa drinking from a quart of castle beer.

“Hi mum, how was your day?”

She mumbled something about coming home tired from the hospital and that there had been too much work on that day and then shouted,

“Sisi, isirayi mwana chikafu pa-table” (Maid, please arrange some food on the table, for the child.)

The maid heard the instructions and responded by stating that she had already warmed up the food. Richard walked straight from his bedroom to the dining room and was served his dinner. Richard attacked it from all corners of the plate until the plate was clean.

From the dining room, Richard raided the kitchen refrigerator coming out with a full bottle of Fanta orange. He joined his mother in the lounge and sat on the carpeted floor to watch the latest episode of Mukadota that was showing on television. Richard sat quietly concentrating on the programme, once in a while, laughing with his mother, as Mukadota pulled out a few tricks in his usual comedian’s style. When one of the many commercials came on, Richard went to the loo hoping that he would come back before the TV programme had re-started. When Richard came back, into the lounge his mother had just finished the quart of beer and was almost dozing off on the sofa. He knew that it was not advisable to disturb his mother when she was having a nap, after drinking a bit of beer. Dinner had been nice. Some roasted pork and a little vegetables from their back garden. The pork was brown in colour and it had been marinated in herbs before being slowly roasted. Richard did not like eating vegetables and, as a result, he had got into a pact with the maid. She would not report to his mother the fact that he did not eat the vegetables. In return, he would give her part of his pocket money from time to time.

As he was going to school the following day, Richard went to sleep early. His bedroom was modest by urban standards. He had a double bed that he had inherited from his mother. It had seen better days, but was still in reasonable shape. He had four blankets, all of them still in very good shape. He even had bed sheets that were still new, having been recently purchased from the city centre. The headboard was brown in colour and it had been purchased in one of the furniture shops in town as well. It must have been Nyore-Nyore Furnitures,. What Richard did not like about his room was the fact that the sun never seemed to visit his side of the house. As a result, it tended to be very cold in winter. In one corner, was a small desk and chair that was purchased for him by his loving mother. She had envisaged a situation in which her lovely boy would be doing homework in his room as he progressed with his education. There was no built-in wardrobe in Richard’s bedroom, but that was not a problem because her mother had bought one from one of the second-hand shops at Machipisa Shopping Centre. It was also a bit worn out, but not yet near the end of its life. The wardrobe was divided into two. The left side was supposed to handle the jackets and/or trousers and shirts on hangers. The right hand side had six compartments. This is the area that Richard used. In fact, it was the maid who spent a long time trying to put some sanity in Richard’s wardrobe. Like most kids of his age, he was not particularly organised. It would have been too much to expect him to be.

As he lay on the bed, Richard started thinking about school the following day. He was not particularly excited by the learning part of school. His teacher was a middle-aged spinster and Richard thought that she was a sadist. She appeared to enjoy it a lot when Richard was not able to add up the numbers as quickly as the others, so Richard felt. He enjoyed the breaks when he could run around with his friends, share some sweets and cakes. What he looked forward to most of the time was the football practice. Here, he exerted himself mentally and physically with satisfactory results. As they were coming towards the end of the year, he knew that they would have a long holiday from school, the Christmas break, when he could play as much football as he wished with his friends.

Around 10.00 p.m., Mai Richard stirred and woke up, surprised that she had slept for so long. It had been a long day at the hospital. She never enjoyed working on successive weekends. This time around, she had only agreed to do this because her friend Jane had pleaded with her to cover her shift, as she needed to go and see her boyfriend in Gweru. As she lifted herself, she accidentally pushed the empty beer bottle to the floor spilling a little beer on her carpet. She was too tired to be bothered. She opened the kitchen door and went straight to the large fridge that stood by the window. She took out a jug full of cold water and took it to her bedroom. She knew that she would need the water at some point during the course of the night. This always happened to her each time she drank two or more pints of beer.

She thought that she would sleep immediately after putting on her night-gown. She was very tired. She switched on the twelve- inch television set that was about two metres away from her bed. As she lay on top of the bed, she suddenly started to think about Nhamo, the father of her child. She was not bitter about the fact that he refused to marry her. Actually, initially Nhamo had completely refused responsibility for the pregnancy although he was almost sure that he was the father-to-be. Matilda’s mind went back to the time when he had first met Nhamo. She recalled that he had been introduced to her by her friend Chipo, who was now late, at a party in one of the tall flats located in Glen Norah ‘A’. It seemed like yesterday. Nhamo then, was extremely handsome, with his dreadlocks. He appeared to attract a lot of the good-looking girls at the party. Matilda did not think that Nhamo would be interested in her until they bumped into each other at a Chicken Inn outlet in downtown Harare. Nhamo paid for her quarter chicken and chips and asked for her telephone number that she happily parted with, almost too eagerly. Weeks, if not months passed, no phone call came through at the student nurses hall of residence where she was training as a nurse. She recalled that she had almost lost any hope that Nhamo would call when one Saturday evening her friend Chipo came running upstairs to her room and excitedly announced:

“Sha, can you believe it, Nhamo is outside and is looking for you!! Hurry up, let us go down, otherwise the vultures might strike. Kurumidza!”(Hurry up!)

The vultures were a bunch of about five “fast” student nurses who were in the habit of taking other girls’ boyfriends at the earliest opportunity, if they were given a chance. Matilda was not too keen to run down immediately because she wanted to tidy up her hair and make herself presentable. The two girls agreed that Chipo would go down and advise Nhamo that Matilda would be coming down soon and continue to chat him up until Matilda was ready.

The plan worked out perfectly well. Matilda had not only combed her hair nicely, but she had also put on jean trousers that fitted into her body like a second skin. It was tight and provocative. She put on a white see-through blouse that amply exhibited the top part of her rounded body. As she walked out of the hostel, she did not see her friend until Chipo shouted from an Alfa Romeo that was parked further down from the hostel’s entrance.

Matilda gracefully glided towards the car and she joined Nhamo at the back where he was sitting. The car belonged to Nhamo’s cousin who was an Accountant and lived alone in a flat in town. They spoke for about thirty minutes after which they agreed to meet in town over the weekend. Thereafter, the relationship blossomed and the two had been inseparable, especially, when weekends beckoned.

Matilda had gone through memory lane on many occasions. She was happy that the bitterness had long left her. She had many memorable outings with Nhamo, which included many trips to Nyanga, Kariba and Great Zimbabwe ruins. This is the bit that she was prepared to remember.

Matilda yawned twice and within a few minutes got under her silky sheets and she fell asleep almost immediately.

Allan Manyika

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