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After The Eulogy, Came The Reality

Videos of the funeral were sent to him via WhatsApp by an old neighbour By Nhamo Muchagumisa He drank at this tavern on regular occasions. Although he said very little, his absence from the popular waterhole was very noticeable. What was it that had killed his thirst for the wise waters? Could he be ill and recuperating in hospital? There seemed to be nobody to ask as he was friendless, too reserved to earn another human animal's desire for company. Now he was back, and no sad story was sad enough to match his decrepitude. The body under his old, familiar clothes, looked sapless, like a cactus plant from which one had drained all the water. He sat in his usual corner in the tavern, drinking his favourite alcoholic spirit with the gasto of an imbiber with a  spare liver to replace the one he was so willingly digesting. There needed to be someone with the audacity to intrude into his silent world. The revellers needed to know what was eating one of their own.

Videos of the funeral were sent to him via WhatsApp by an old neighbour

By Nhamo Muchagumisa

He drank at this tavern on regular occasions. Although he said very little, his absence from the popular waterhole was very noticeable. What was it that had killed his thirst for the wise waters? Could he be ill and recuperating in hospital?

There seemed to be nobody to ask as he was friendless, too reserved to earn another human animal’s desire for company.

Now he was back, and no sad story was sad enough to match his decrepitude. The body under his old, familiar clothes, looked sapless, like a cactus plant from which one had drained all the water.

He sat in his usual corner in the tavern, drinking his favourite alcoholic spirit with the gasto of an imbiber with a  spare liver to replace the one he was so willingly digesting.

There needed to be someone with the audacity to intrude into his silent world. The revellers needed to know what was eating one of their own. Whispers about Cheukai became louder among the patrons than the noise from the four enormous audio speakers from which African dance music was being blasted at maximum volume.

Despite being the wreck his dwindling physical wellness made him appear to be, Cheukai kept his calm demenour, in a way that would make  one wonder if he had had a worse experience when he disappeared from the public eye than he was experiencing now. Still, there needed someone to break into the stonewall that sheltered the man whom nobody had cared to think about until his withdrawal from the scene, and the return of his paling shadow.

 

 

Cheukai had been once a family man, a proud husband and loving father in one. He once owned a house at a growth point in Mutasa District. Now left with nothing to call his own, and no one to share his sorrows with, Cheukai had relocated to the city and resorted to the bottle therapy that more of drained him than brought him back to his original self.

He had not told anyone his story, but it was particularly a sad one. He had never stood up against his domineering wife until she insulted his mother, calling her a whore because she had had all her four children with four different men.

He had asked her to apologise to him and his mother, but she would not swallow her pride for any price.

That is when Cheukai became abusive, always pouncing on her with clenched fists after taking a few gulps of alcoholic waters.

Matilda had been his choice, so when she abused him, he had borne it patiently. When she scalded his ego with senseless admonitions, he only took every word in as if he had boundless space within him to accommodate every vituperative term.

Things went grievously wrong when his mother visited him after a four-year break. She had given up visiting his son and family because she had been greatly annoyed by the way Matilda treated her son; even in her mother in-law’s presence, Matilda would let a word fly out of her mouth to hit the reserved Cheukai where it hurt most.

On that particular visit, Matilda would not allow Mbuya Cheukai to sit on any of her sofas or chairs. “You sit on the carpet. None of my sofas can absorb the odium of your presence old witch,” Matilda had said.

“You cannot speak like that to my mother, do you hear?” Cheukai had protested, with a calmness that would be dangerous for Matilda to trample upon.

 

 

Matilda ignored her husband and addressed the woman whose tears were watering the carpet on which she sat. “Listen whore. You who had four children with three different men left this place unceremoniously, only to come back asking my husband to buy you farming inputs because your trade is not paying any more because you have finally lost the appeal.

You will sleep on the carpet tonight, and tomorrow you will get what you came here for and leave, never to return.”

“Enough Matilda, or…” Cheukai had protested. “Shut up son of a whore!” Matilda had shouted.

Cheukai had let the palm of his right had land with a seering slap on his wife’s shameless face. She gasped for breath as she fell backwards. The angry man lifted his mother from the carpet and sat her on a sofa.

“How dare you…” Matilda began to say, but she found her wrists in the iron grip of her husband’s   hands and being dragged towards one of the spare bedrooms. Cheukai locked her up and offered his own mother food, which she could not take.

The three children of the house emerged from their bedrooms to be with their father and grandmother after the restoration of order in the house; they had been trained to excuse their parents whenever a quarrel between them ensued. They were however continually perturbed by their mother’s sobs and gasps  in the spare bedroom.

 

After Mbuya Cheukai’s departure, Cheukai had demanded his wife’s apology. “We will also drive to Chidazembe, so that you will apologise to my mother.”

“Apologise for calling a whore a whore? Never!” Matilda had retorted.

Drunkenness had turned out to be Cheukai’s escape from his predicament. Whenever he returned home, he would pummel his wife, demanding her apology. He lost popularity with his own three sons.

Slowly, Matilda thought of a way in which she would become the devil’s match. She nearly shouted eureka one night  as she watched her husband, snoring in bed after he had pounded her with clenched fists. She took a sack needle and threaded it.

Then carefully, and discreetly, she wrapped her husband within a huge blanket, and fastened the fringes together with the threaded needle, so that the huge piece of linen became a bag, within which Cheukai was trapped.

Mrs Cheukai then left the room and took an axe handle from a corner in the passage that led to their bedroom, then reentered their matrimonial space. She began to pound her husband furiously with the heavy weapon as if she intended to turn him to pulp. His shouts and agonised struggles were to no avail.

 

 

Cheukai spent four months in hospital. Upon his discharge, his employer found him unfit for work and put him on early retirement. He was only thirty-three years old. Immediately, a fallout with his brothers and relatives came when he refused to take legal action against his wife.

His unrepentant wife never stopped abusing him, until he walked out on her. He started renting the cheapest accommodation in Mutare, buying and selling second-hand clothes. That is when he began to feature at the tavern.

Remarriage was Matilda’s next move, and she brought the man into the very house that by right belonged to Cheukai and her, but that is not what pained Cheukai.

It was in deed the death of Matilda’s second husband, fifteen years down the line, that brought back to life all the pain Cheukai had ignored. His funeral was a large event, and his own sons had given their stepfather a hero’s send off.

Videos of the funeral were sent to him via WhatsApp by an old neighbour, and one of them included a graveside speech delivered by his eldest son eulogising “this” father figure in his life.

Cheukai had collapsed after playing the videos and one of his fellow tenants had rushed him to hospital. Something started eating him from within, something he would easily catalyse through his regular drinking rituals in the tavern.

 

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 +263771271478 Email him at: muchagumisan@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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