y being given out here? he inquires.
A young man turns and thoroughly examines him before laughing a laugh full of contempt.
Money, old man, you have to be out of dim wits. Who do you think would dish out money to anyone in this corrupt economy, huh?
X moves away and approaches an old woman jostling between two youths in the long queue.
Ah, mamazala, if I may ask & but what is this queue for?
Salt, mkwenyana, salt. I have been here for God knows how long, but the salt has not been delivered yet. Yesterday I almost fainted in another queue for sugar. Mkwenyana! What has become of our land is beyond me. She jostles again, prodding with her flesh starved elbows and squeezing herself into position between the swearing youths. X moves away. He enters Jason Moyo Street and heads down towards the Gallery. He switches roads and enters Main Street. There are queues everywhere. One by Bakers Inn opposite the Unity Village flea market, one by the Tredgold Building and another one for cars by the BSS. X feels so tired, so worn out. He sits by the Post Office for a rest before proceeding towards Northend where his nephew stays. By his side there is a youth singing a reggae song. X catches the words; too much pressure on the pipol say It’s too much & good lord & tings na raise by day again … but az you sleep it raise by night … almosah ghost. X shakes his head. He feels so weary. He decides to take a bus, but the queues zigzagging in circuitous tails all over the terminus discourage him. There are only two kombis loading passengers. The rest are in the queue for fuel, X judges. He asks an old man standing by the lavatory near maMoyos food cabin.
Ah, mfowethu! There is no transport in this city. There is no fuel. The few kombis available charge thrice the normal fare! What injustice.
This does it for X and he wanders away in short steps, his body drained of energy and his head drooped. Becoming aware of hunger again, X wonders how people in the city are surviving. With all these queues! Even salt is being queued for! Salt, of all commodities! This is totally insane, X thinks. Surely there are some unscrupulous businessmen withholding these basic commodities from the people. As he nears Highlanders Sports Club, he wonders why there are so many Vapostori women in the streets, so many of them. Maybe they are praying for the country? X tries to hobble faster, wishing he had both legs. He notices a young fellow roasting maize cobs by the roadside opposite Coronation Cottages. Where does he get fresh cobs from, X wonders? His mouth waters with a craving for a taste. And the hunger. He approaches.
Ah, my son.
Ah, mdala, zithini?
Hunger, my son, hunger. If only you could be of good heart and maybe give me a piece.
The young fellow smiles a sorry smile at X, holding the end of a wire pierced into the cob he is roasting.
Ah, mdala wethu. Uyazi izinto azimanga kuhle ngikutshele … there is nothing I can do for you, mdala wethu, nothing. These cobs, my wifes uncles cousins mothers husband has a small garden, which he irrigates using sewage water, and I only managed to buy a few cobs from him, so you see, I cannot afford to. He makes a gesture with his hand as X leaves.
Listening, all the way X hears things. Gossip. Speculation. Of killings and of abductions. Robberies. Of tribalism. Of many things. Many fears. Of hunger … hunger. X only hopes to find his nephew home. He is getting seriously hungry. He needs something to put into his stomach or he will faint again. Fainting, he fears fainting. In fact, he has so many fears. He fears mosquitoes and he fears rats. He has always feared rats, especially at bedtime, a rat sneaking up on him and feasting on the tip of his maimed leg, ripping off chunks of meat. Rats. Especially that big rat that used to sniff at the maize bag. That sneaky creature with the reddish eyes, he hated it when the sharp rabid eyes peered yearningly at the stump of his leg.
He knows he will not stay in the city longer than necessary. Already, he is planning his journey back to his piece of land. There he will wait patiently for the rains. And the rains will come. And he will till like a possessed man. Did the Ministry not promise tillage facilities and seed? He will go back to his plot soon and wait for the rains.
After a lengthy discussion about the problems facing the country, politics and rumours of war in the Gulf, X and his nephew finally settle down for the evening meal. A cup of lemon tea each and six skinny buns, naturally shared three apiece. X hurriedly consumes his share, wishing the tea had enough sugar. Before long, the hunger in his stomach suddenly rises up like the spirit of a demon emerging out of deep water in the form of a monstrous whale to tear his belly apart. A long silence follows.
Ah, sekuru, did you hear that Kule Sikipisi is no more? They say he was crushed under thousands of stampeding feet when the riot police fired tear gas at striking workers.
Ah, that, X shakes his head. Baba aJemu brought the sad news when it happened. We heard he died a painful death.
Another silence follows as each man concentrates on the small black and white TV screen. There is a Hondo Yeminda tune playing. War. It brings memories to his mind. Memories of the Chimurenga. And then he is in the war. And he has both legs. He is agile. Soon the war will be over and the enemy will flee. The masses will take back the land and a brother or sister will take over the reins. And he is crouching behind a bush. A chill runs down his spine. His hairs stand erect. Then the bullets. He is running furiously, clutching his gun. Running. Cries of pain and silence of death. He heads for the thicket, still clutching his gun. Then the loud bang and he is in the air, part of his leg ripped apart. He falls down and lies still for a few moments. He rises up, feeling no pain. He looks around and sees part of his leg lying in a pool of blood a yard or so from him, still wearing the shoe. He also sees the bleeding stump of his leg. His eyes widen in horror and a gagging sound escapes from his throat. His body is sagging. X begins to urinate and vomit spews from his windpipe. He bends over, gagging and retching furiously. He takes a piece of cloth from his pocket and begins to wipe bits of vomit from his clothes. He feels sick and …
Sekuru, are you okay?
Oh, yes I am … oh yes … It’s just that … X struggles to speak and gives up. He closes his eyes and wipes a trickle of sweat from his forehead. He shifts, trying hard to relax the stump of his leg.
Sekuru, you ought to sleep … you think too much and this is affecting you. Come now, catch some sleep.
X climbs onto the bed and draws a blanket over his head. The next morning, X wakes to the sound of thick drops pounding against the metal roof of his nephews lodgings. A wide smile on his face, he leans over to open the curtains. It is finally over! The rains have come … have come! Hondo Yeminda is in full swing now, praise the Lord. The rains have come … have come! It sounds like a song in his heart. And he knows that he has to return to his plot without delay. Now that the rains have come, nothing is going to stop him, nothing. And things are on track. Hunger will soon be over. No more fuel problems. No more shortages … no more queues … no more mayhem. It is all over! All over!Post published in: Arts