Cicadas stopped droning as if to listen to Tsoka’s tear soaked story, or simply to ensure that the jury paid attention to only one voice at a time
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
The wind whispered its melodies across the prickly leaves of the reeds as Mrs Tsoka’s arms gathered Mr Chazera into a hot embrace. It was their first meeting after the village court hearing, in which Tsoka had made a fool of himself, earning the ridicule of the entire community.
This clearing among the reeds, on the sandy bank of Save River, was their usual meeting point. Here they weighed the delight of being animals against the responsibility and restraint of being human beings and opted for the former.
The savage delight of being animals was a convenient escape from the boredom of bonded social life and its narrow orbits that constituted a kind of emotional slavery.
“You have wasted a whole talent my Dear, ” Mrs Tsoka said, searching Chazera’s side pockets for his handkerchief to wipe her face with.
“What Talent my Dear?” Chazera asked.
“You should have become a lawyer,” Mrs Tsoka said, wiping her face of the sweat that was always part of her reaction to his presence.
Tsoka had dragged Chazera to the Village Court, complaining about his neighbour’s social indiscipline and total disrespect of his conjugal space. Chazera had visited his homestead as Mrs Tsoka was preparing a meal and Tsoka was thatching his barn. Chazera had given his neighbour the kind of assistance expected of a man friend, and hence there was nothing wrong in him having a share of his friend’s meal.
For a reason best known to Mrs Tsoka or perhaps, to Mrs Tsoka and Chazera, the food was served in two separate plates and Mrs Tsoka invited Chazera to eat with her from the same plate. The emotionally disturbed Tsoka said nothing on that occasion, and his wife and his neighbour did not notice his eyes turning red as pepper.
The two continued feasting from the same plate, which sat on Mrs Tsoka’s lap , their shoulders brushing against each other each time they dipped their fingers into the fast depleting plate.
They could hardly hear the noise of his tortured breath as they licked their fingers after cleaning their plate of its contents. But when they raised their eyes from their plate, they noticed that Tsoka had left the kitchen hut, leaving his food almost untouched.
On his return to the hut, Chazera had left and Tsoka said nothing to his wife. He drank a glass of water and returned to his work. His wife never thought anything might have touched him where it hurts most.
It was two days down the line when Chazera and Mrs Tsoka were summoned to the village court, and as is characteristic of the people of Buhera South (Sabi Drift), the villagers had turned out in great numbers to hear the case.
The Village Court sat under the usual gigantic tree. The wind held its breath as Tsoka narrated his case. Cicadas stopped droning as if to listen to Tsoka’s tear soaked story, or simply to ensure that the jury paid attention to only one voice at a time. Tsoka who was known for stammering never stumbled upon a word as he presented his facts.
“What do you say to that Mrs Tsoka, you are the one who served the meal?” asked the Village Head.
“Nothing at all. We shared a meal in his presence in the kitchen hut, not in his bedroom,” Mrs Tsoka said, amid an undercurrent of disapproving whispers from nearly one thousand villagers who had come to hear the case.
“Tsoka, you seem very much aggrieved. What do you expect the court to do for you? I wish the court to fine Chazera two beasts for encroaching into my conjugal space?”
“What do you say to that Chazera?” the Village Head asked. “I will not give him any of my beasts. I can only give back the meal I ate in his house. He is free to come to my house and eat,” Chazera said as laughter from his audience shot through the branches of the colossal tree.
The court adjourned for twenty minutes as the village head consulted with his advisors before resuming for the verdict.
One of the Village Head’s advisors called the court to order and delivered the verdict. “Tsoka will get nothing from Chazera except the equivalent of the meal the latter ate in his house. The court sees nothing incriminating in Chazera’s behaviour as it is Mrs Tsoka who invited him to eat from the same plate. The court, however, urges Chazera to keep his distance from Mrs Tsoka.” The last statement was received with uproarious laughter from the elder’s audience.
Now, back to the reeds, Mrs Tsoka and Chazera had every reason to celebrate Chazera’s easy victory at the Village Court. As the sun was slowly declining towards the western horizon, the love beds rose from the sandy floor of the river bank, ready to separately return to the boredom of the life of social responsibility.
Something unforeseen happened as they said their goodbyes. Tsoka’s dog appeared on the scene. The cheating couple froze, thinking that it was in the company of its master.
The dog picked up Chazera’s handkerchief and disappeared among the reeds.
The lovebirds were dumbfounded and the warmth of sweet company drained from their bodies. A foreboding silence descended upon them as their hearts froze within their chests.
They left their love nest quietly without the delightful anticipation of the next meeting.
That night, Chazera’s dream took him back to the small clearing among the reeds, but Mrs Tsoka did not turn up immediately. He found his way among the reeds to the edge of the river bank and he saw Mrs Tsoka emerging from the river, like an under water goddess, with a plate of delicious food. He received it quietly and began to feast on the contents of the plate. He ate the food to the last finger lick, as Mrs Tsoka whispered a few reassuring words he could not decipher.
Waking up to the reality of the new day, Chazera felt the presence of an unusual load in his tummy, as if he had eaten thrice his normal potion the previous night. He was afraid of telling his wife what was happening, as the whole thing would bring back their quarrelsome moments about his relationship with Mrs Tsoka.
Within a week Chazera’s tummy had significantly bulged, and he began to stay in doors. He could no longer relieve himself.
“You need to go and apologise to Tsoka and pay him the reparations he demanded, ” Mrs Chazera suggested as her husband’s condition continued to deteriorate.
“Woman, I have done him no wrong,” Chazera said.
That same night Chazera sat with Mrs Tsoka in his dream, eating from the same plate among the reeds. The plate sat on Mrs Tsoka’s lap and he sat next to her, his legs stretched out, his left hand resting on the sandy bank like a pivot supporting his body.
On waking up, he sensed that his belly had expanded enormously and there was hardly any space in his lungs. He could hardly breathe.
As darkness began to settle upon him, the image of his young wife appeared before him. She was only sixteen when they first met. The girl fell into his arms and the warmth of her body coursed through his veins, but that was only for a moment. His lungs continued to shrink as the life force began to evaporate from his body.
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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