Mrs Chinesimba had had a quarrel with her husband before he succumbed to the water melon disease
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
Mrs Chinesimba watched her husband breaking the water melon. Chinesimba held the melon in both his hands and bumped it three times against the hard ground until an even crack ran around the turgid ball.
He then forced his thumbs into the crack and split the juicy melon into two appetising slices. He began to feast on the melon, tearing the delicious flesh with the tips of his fingers and loading the pieces into his mouth.
Suddenly another man like Chinesimba, his very replica, appeared on his side, sitting on an identical stool and eating an identical water melon.
Before she could ask what was happening, two other Chinesimbas joined their brothers, followed by another two and yet another two, until the whole yard was a sea of identical men, enjoying water melon flesh.
When the meal was finished, the men all started coughing in one mighty voice and then began to retch. Mrs Chinesimba screamed herself awake and she could hear the sound of footsteps retreating from her bed, running towards the closed bedroom door as she awakened.
The coughing and retching was how Chinesimba’s death agony had begun. He had been bedridden for two months, coughing violently and retching.
The mess that crept back from his stomach in convulsive reverse peristalsis was always laced with pinkish water melon flesh. What a strange illness, what a bewildering sight! Why would the incessant vomiting not cleanse his stomach? Chinesimba had stopped eating water melons, so what really was happening?
Mrs Chinesimba had had a quarrel with her husband before he succumbed to the water melon disease.
He had banished his pleasure chasing daughter from home.”How could a decent girl run to five different men, blaming each of having made her pregnant?
She has to leave my home right away and go where she pleases,” Chinesimba had declared.
“Where can she go? All the men have denied responsibility. Do you think..? Mrs Chinesimba had protested.
“Think what? Who does not think except Saliwe?” Chinesimba had interrupted his wife.
“Give Saliwe another chance. I beg you my husband. Give…”
“Another chance, for another scandal. This time it will be ten men. No I will not have her under my roof any more.”
Saliwe took refuge with her aunt. Mrs Chinesimba was not amused with the banishment of her daughter.
Whenever Chinesimba was away, as he worked in the city, Mrs Chinesimba would readmit Saliwe into the family. She would send her away when Chinesimba’s return was imminent.
Whenever Chinesimba returned home, she would beg him to reverse his unfatherly decision, but Chinesimba was as firm as a brick wall. “You are not the first to have a daughter of such a character, neither are you going to be the last, “ Mrs Chinesimba would say.
“Saliwe will serve as an example to Spiwe, Susan, Tatenda and Chioneso. They must know that I have no space for such nonsense under my roof, “ Chinesimba would conclude such arguments.
Then a plan hatched in Mrs Chinesimba’s heart, growing steadily like a flame, licking at dry straws, until her heart was ablaze with the desire to find a traditional way to tame her husband.
Mrs Gonhi was an expert at taming troublesome husbands. Once Mrs Chinesimba had made up her mind, she did not waste time. She visited the woman whom she thought would level the play ground between her husband and her.
The prescription Mrs Gonhi gave was simple. Only one dose was enough to melt away the hardness of Chinesimba’s heart.
All that Mrs Chinesimba would have to do was to fill a hypodermic syringe with the liquid extracted from Mrs Gonhi’s roots and inject it into a water melon, Chinesimba’s favourite fruit.
Mrs Chinesimba had carried out the herbalist’s instructions to the smallest detail, but the result was not what Mrs Gonhi had promised. Chinesimba’s soul had evacuated his body after a traumatic battle with a strange illness.
The presence of the water melon flesh in Chinesimba’s vomit had always made Mrs Chinesimba want to confess, but the courage eluded her as soon as the words touched the tip of her tongue.
The agony of her secret tortured her day and night.
When Chinesimba’s soul finally evaporated from his emaciated body, the sight of his coffin being lowered into his grave was not a dreadful sight to Mrs Chinesimba. The sight of the stone lid used to seal the deeper section of of the grave did not send chills down her spine.
Stone lids were common place at burials. The shovel fulls of earth men threw into the grave did not ruffle Mrs Chinesimba’s nerves at all.
It was the stones that were thrown into the filling pit that turned her nerves into a network of livewires. The rocks somehow looked like pods of green water melons in Mrs Chinesimba’s tearful eyes.
The men framed the grave with huge flat surface rocks and piled stones within the frame until Mrs Chinesimba could see a platform of water melon pods. Her legs finally gave way to the weight of her body and she collapsed in a faint.
When she regained her consciousness, Mrs Chinesimba was lying in the shadow of a musasa tree that stood adjacent to her kitchen hut.
Her breathing was spasmodic and her chest was a blast furnace. The fire in her chest gradually subsided and a strange coolness sat in her chest. She was then led into the kitchen hut and mourners poured into the shelter to commiserate with her.
She had to endure the ordeal of describing how her husband had fallen ill and how his health had continued to deteriorate till he gave his last breath.
After the funeral, the water melons would not leave Mrs Chinesimba’s dreams. The water melon dreams wasted her body and she knew that the entire village was talking about her condition. Saliwe returned home, but her return did not bring any comfort, neither did the arrival of her baby.
Mrs Gonhi packed her belongings and left the village for an unknown destination.
In the next farming season, Mrs Chinesimba did not plant any water melons, but the seeds scattered from the previous season germinated just the same. Nothing aggravated her more than the sight of a water melon. As the water melons ripened, Mrs Chinesimba’s health deteriorated drastically.
Her water melon dreams became more frequent, but nothing affected her psych more than Chinesimba’s recent nocturnal visit, in which he was accompanied by a multitude of other Chinesimbas, eating water melons.
Whenever she walked alone, she would suddenly break into a run, shouting unintelligibly like a lunatic. She began to shun the company of other women.
One morning Saliwe woke up to see her mother perched on the roof of her kitchen hut. She wondered how her mother had got up there without a ladder.
Horrified, Saliwe would not say anything to her mother. She hastened to alert the family’s nextdoor neighbour and within half an hour the place was flooded with onlookers.
Mrs Chinesimba’s next door neighbour had brought a ladder, but Mrs Chinesimba would not even look at it. “Please MaSaliwe, come down,” one of the neighbours entreated her.
“First clear my yard of all those water melons,” she answered.
“What is the matter Mrs Chinesimba?” another neighbour asked.
“I see an ocean of water melons. Please, don’t throw them at me! Oh please stop it! Stop it!” The neighbours were flabbergasted.
Before the neighbours could do anything, she came down, rolling from the roof, breaking her neck as the solid ground received her body.
She coughed thrice as her body convulsed and then she folded her legs and breathed her last. Her neighbours were mystified, and everyone started talking to everyone else.
Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263777460162. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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