A Seed of Hope

BY MASIMBA MANYONGA Back in the days when the zeal for the Chimurenga incessantly simmered in his blood with such lively vigour, fellow fighters had given him the cognomen Nigger X. But those were the days then. Today he is a sad, lonely and one legged old man. He has developed the rather puerile

habit of polishing the artificial tip fixed at the end of his maimed leg, pothering about the rains and recalling the days of the struggle when he still had both legs. He recalls running, taking cover behind a bush, cocking his gun and taking aim at the enemy – pulling the trigger and releasing – then the sound of death. Those had been the days then, days when he had fought fearlessly for the liberation of the land. Everybody needed the land. The old people and the young people alike, they all needed the land. And X, together with his fellow comrades, was determined to see the land returned back to its owners. And he was determined to fight to the very end.

Nigger X sits on the stone facing the entrance to his pole and dagga hut, the roof of which has the appearance of an old straw hat worn on the lee side of an old man’s head, looking like it would fall down with the slightest touch of the wind. Nearby, further to the east, is the stretch of field he had earlier on prepared for planting, bare and scorched lifeless. The few grasses which had the guts to sprout out bear a haggard appearance, hopelessly dying in the treacherous sun. Invisible tears begin to form under his shrunken eyelids. The rains are hopelessly late and X fears another drought.

Nigger X shifts on the stone, feeling uneasy. It feels like one of his buttocks is gashed on the side. He tries to relax, shielding his eyes from the terrible sunrays piercing deep into his soul. He adjusts his old threadbare hat. He feels like he is sitting on a mat of thorns. X moves his crippled leg and his torso aches. A loud sound escapes from his bowels as his intestines contort once again in a desperate clamour for food. For three days now, the man has not eaten anything. The few grains of maize meal in the clay pot cannot help. He is so hungry. But hunger is slowly becoming part of his daily life, as if he entered into a memorandum of understanding with it. Still failing to relax, X shifts again. Then he reaches for his crutch and struggles up. He stands for a moment, leaning his good leg against the stone, feeling so sad. There are so many things he doesn’t understand, so many worries and so many fears. Underneath, the soil is boiling, sending pulses of heat into the cracks of his foot. X positions the crutch comfortably in his armpit and hobbles towards his hut, doddering and tottering like a small baby. He settles down in the shade of his hut, resting the crutch on his side. He cups his cheeks in both palms.

Soon, X is lost in the hazy mazes of his mind. So much seems to be going wrong. Things seem to be getting worse by the day and life in the rural areas is proving tougher than X ever thought possible. When he got the plot, X had such a thrill in tilling the land and in becoming a worker of the soil, but alas the rains won’t come. Everywhere everything is grey and lifelessly pale. Hope is slowly fading away for the season in hand. X wishes things would change and the heavens would open up the floodgates a little. So much is going wrong. Young people are fleeing the country and the land is plunging into recession by the day. Soon, X fears, this land will be home to just toddlers and wintry people. If only it would rain, God knows how much the people want to till the land. If only it would rain, all these things would get back into line. If only it would rain. There would be no economic slump, no war and no hunger.

Nigger X is so lonely. He rises up with the aid of his crutch and limps into his hut. He stops, the persistent hunger eating at his intestines. He is choking and he feels dizzy. Then he quickly sits down to avoid crumpling into a heap on the floor. He is dazed. He tries to fight the hunger off – another losing game. X is baffled. Why is it not raining? Why does the land have so many enemies, local and foreign? Why are they seeking to destroy the land through their sanctions and lies? Is it a crime to reclaim what belongs to you, what rightfully belongs to you and your people? No! No! X feels a surge of power filtering through his veins to his pumping heart. The land belongs to the people! X bellows it out. There are so many problems facing the land, so much confusion and so much sickness, both of the body and the mind, but the land still belongs to the people. Rain or no rain, nothing can change that. Politics or no politics, the land belongs to the people! X is becoming infuriated, at no one in particular.

Nigger X remembers the war and how tough it was. He had fought so diligently alongside his comrades. The issue of the land was the medicine which gave them new strength each time they felt like giving up. How they suffered in the bush, fighting tooth and nail against the enemy. And now, how can anyone say the land should not be allocated to the masses suffering all over the country? Insanity! X curses through his teeth. A bomb had claimed his leg, forcing him to leave the battlefront. He feels anger growing deep in his heart. He holds his head forcefully in his palms, as if to granulate it into small fragments. He feels the pain and he lets out a piercing cry, which seems to have been torn from the very depths of his soul. A terrible ache spreads gradually from one end of his head to the other, causing him to feel as if someone is smacking the intersection of his nose and his forehead with a log. He feels so detached, so alone and desolate. Everything around him suddenly begins to swirl, swooshing and twisting his line of balance into a whirlpool of staggering and gyration. X tries to get up, resting his full weight upon one leg, but fails, falling into a heap on the ground with a single thud. He remains still, heart pounding and head aching. X tries to fight it off, but, in the end, he faints, the hunger and the pain overwhelming him.

When X comes to, his stomach still aches for food. All these things will soon come to an end and the rains will soon come, he soothes himself, endeavouring to ignore the calls for food from his belly. Things will get better. The rains will come. The currency will gain and the young people will embark on another journey, this time back into their own land. Soon everyone will be able to till their plots and produce crops. Soon other nations will envy this country like before. X and his comrades hold on to their hope.

The hunger announces itself once more. X has to eat something. He goes to sit on his stone, to peruse the sky for a sign of rain. None. The sky has the appearance of a boring page of text with no punctuation. The sun blazes on, mercilessly devouring any remaining vegetation. X decides he has to do something about his hunger. If he faints again, he may fail to make it. He cannot die, not now. The present Chimurenga has to be won. It has to be and he has to see it to the very end. He decides that the only thing to do is to slaughter one of his remaining two chickens, sell the other one and visit his nephew in the city.

(to be continued)

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