Leave My Bible Alone

Every Sunday morning Mudhara Gore attended the service at his parish church, St Barnabas. His wife, MaMoyo, woke up very early to fetch water from the communal bathrooms; this water she heated on a firewood stove outside the house. Soon afterwards Gore joined her to get ready to leave for the service, which started at 9 o’clock. Bathing. Breakfasting. And dressing up, in their Sunday best. Gore chased his wife around for his unpolished shoes, his socks, his Stetson hat, his cream shirt tha

The late Julius Chingono
The late Julius Chingono

The firewood would just not catch. The breakfast of the left-overs from the previous night’s supper of sadza and fish needed heating. And Gore’s wife stopped using her hands every time she opened her mouth. She was a talker of huge stories that continuously cropped up in her small head to find their way out of her small mouth with no disturbance from her hands and legs. Everything about her body was small in contrast to her husband’s huge frame. He was a fisherman, whose muscular shape was fit for his job of casting fishnets and pulling them out of the water with their enormous load of bream, eel and bass. He carried his load through the forest to his home alone, making several trips to and from the dam at night. He knew the dam area well, as well as he knew his talking wife. The community knew that he only worked five days a week. His customers had learnt that the business of selling fish only took place very early in the morning, before dawn, at his two-roomed house in the high-density suburb of Katanga in Norton, a town semi-circled by Darwendale Dam.

He spent his Saturdays drinking beer in shebeens, but he stopped drinking early in preparation for Sunday. A heavy cigarette smoker, Gore did not indulge in smoking on Sunday mornings before taking Holy Communion. A personal vow that was adhered to religiously.

Gore and MaMoyo were always late for the service. On their way to church Gore took long energetic strides at double the speed of his wife as she trotted behind. Holding the bible to his chest, with his other hand in his trouser pocket, he urged his wife to hurry up. “We are known for coming late every Sunday – a bad attitude towards the creator and towards those who arrive at church early. Walk, hurry up MaMoyo.” But she could not keep pace. Every time they walked the one kilometre to church, the distance between them increased until Gore was out of her sight.

Gore always found a place to locate himself near the back of the school hall the church hired for its services. His loud baritone voice signalled his presence as he sang his lungs out to the Lord. Gore did not need a hymnbook because he knew all the songs by heart, having been born and bred an Anglican. He enthusiastically followed the readings from the Epistles and the Gospels in his bible. If called upon, he could even conduct matins and recite the Creed without hiccup, not to mention the confession prayer and the order of Holy Communion. But he did not belong to the strict sect of Vabvuwi. Genuflecting again and again and kneeling for long periods were not a problem, even for his body of fifty years, but the vows of the Vabvuwi sect of abstinence from alcohol and tobacco were. Gore knew of priests who would puff a cigarette immediately after a church service and of a few who did not hesitate to consume such large amounts of church wine that their sheep were deprived of Holy Communion. “Men born of Adam and Eve are not perfect. Why just throw words at them, why not stones as well?” he would chuckle to challenge the congregation when they questioned the behaviour of some of these men of the pulpit.

One Sunday after church Gore joined the usual company of old time guzzlers. At this time backyard drinking joints selling illicit alcohol had sprouted all over, as municipal beer halls were not functional and legal alcohol was too expensive and in short supply. Afraid that the drinking hole would be raided by the police at any time, Gore and his friends hastily downed two 750ml bottles of kachasu. They parted in very good spirits, their bibles clutched to their chests.

Now alone, Gore walked with his feet wide astride to keep his balance. He staggered along on the side of the road to avoid bicycles and motor cars. He stumbled over tins, stones and other play material left by children. Other road users going and coming his way could not fail to notice the bible-clutching, heavily built Gore as he lurched forwards and backwards. He swore every time his shoes came into contact with one of the objects discarded by the children. The children enjoyed the free show of drunken Mr Gore clutching his bible as he made very little progress in his efforts to get home.

‘Vakadhakwa! Vakadhakwa! Vakadhakwa!’ the children taunted. Staggering drunkenly with one hand in the pocket and the other hand clutching a bible to the chest is a precarious endeavour. The body ends up horizontal to the ground. As Gore fell flat on his face, he lost grip of his bible, his other hand not finding time to leave his pocket. The book of God fell in a thud a metre ahead of him.

“Ah! Ah! Ah!” exclaimed the onlookers at the spectacle of the fall of the man of God. They did not immediately come to Gore’s help. We rise and fall, rise and fall and rise on our way to heaven. They expected him to rise and stagger on.

“Whose road is this?” Gore growled, his face pitted by the brown gravel that made up the road he had trod. No one got the gist of the drunken enquiry, maybe the devil’s road? The children yelled and jumped about him as he struggled to rise. Elders who were not in a hurry joined the children in poking fun at the parishioner.

A teenage boy tried to retrieve the bible from the ground to return to Gore, but he shouted, “Leave my bible alone… my bible alone.” Gore stumbled forward and landed on the bible before the teenager could pick it up. The fisherman’s face, hands, cream shirt and brown suit gathered more soil. His hat that had fallen was delivered to his side by a wire toy truck, driven by a ten-year-old boy with a mischievous grin on his face.

“Siyana nebhaibheri rangu…” The drunken emphasis discouraged anyone who tried to help. They watched as Gore grasped the bible to his chest with the hand that had eventually managed to free itself from his pocket.

A middle-aged woman recognised Gore the fisherman. She did not attempt to ask the man of God to rise and rise. She sent an SOS message to Gore’s marital angel, MaMoyo, who responded without delay, bringing the family wheelbarrow. MaMoyo painstakingly wheeled Gore away, his blotched face covered with his dirty Stetson and his bible clutched to his chest.

Post published in: Arts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *