She then alighted from her car with the rapidity of a panther that had spotted its prey

By Nhamo Muchagumisa

Milkah was angry with her father for forcing her to accept her new job. He had found no reason why she was rescinding from her earlier desire to work for Shandukai Industrial Equipment Dealers. The reasons she had given him were so desperately childish that her father had not given any of them a second’s consideration.

“My daughter, I cannot be there for you forever, so get the job that will pay you enough to live on when I am gone,” he had argued. “But Dad, why don’t you allow me to follow my heart?”

“Where was your heart when you applied for that job, when you went for the interview and when you drove back home to tell me that the interview was fair?” Mr. Murasiwa grilled her.

“Dad, it may not be as easy as you think. My…” “Tell me what is not easy about taking a new job, with a higher salary and brighter prospects,” her male parent interrupted her.

“Most office employees at Shandukai have master’s degrees, and I have a first degree. At Matope Marketing I was the most qualified office employee,” Milkah had said entreatingly.

Mr Murasiwa rose from his sofa, still trying to glean the sense in his daughter’s discourse and called for the maid to clear the table. “I wish your mother had lived long enough to help me reject this child play.

 

At 23 you are not yet intellectually spent, as you work, enroll for a master’s degree with a distance learning university; two years down the line, you can stand tall among fellow employees as an early achiever,” Mr Murasiwa said, leaving for his bedroom.

Milkah felt herself sinking deeper into her sofa as her new predicament engulfed her. She scanned the entire sitting room as she resisted the urge to dial her father’s number, just to ask him back and resume the discussion. All the ornaments on the walls seemed to be admonishing her like her father had done. She wished she could follow her father to his bedroom.

Milkah did not even notice the maid clearing the supper table. A sleepless night stared her in the face. She knew that she would look like someone who had had an encounter with a ghost on her first day at her new work place.

Meanwhile, her sofa now seemed to be sinking into the tiles. She knew what she had to do to avoid the prospect of a bleak night; she invited the housemaid for prayers.

Milkah had done exceptionally well at the job interview. She knew precisely that she had to impress. The most difficult questions had come from a male panelist with a thin crack running down his left cheek. But surprisingly, it was his questions she answered very well. “If this company gave you the authority to send its workers for a staff development course, which program would you choose, and what topics would you include?” the panelist had asked.

 

“Business Communication,” she had answered effortlessly; “and the topics would include business letter writing, writing memos, negotiation skills, advertising and information media technology.”

It was only after the interview that she had begun to feel tense. The apology she had not made for humiliating one of the panelists would have to come the hard way. The film of her encounter with the panelist began to play before her with an aggravated nastiness.

She was once again standing face to face with him on the roadside, cursing him for his negligent driving. She sat behind the steering wheel of her car, waiting for the film to play to the last drop before driving back home.

On her first encounter with the panelist, three days before the job interview, she had not forgotten to put on the hazard lights, when she had pulled to the side. She then alighted from her car with the rapidity of a panther that had spotted its prey.

The driver of the Toyota Wish, that had nearly crushed into hers,  also alighted from his car and reluctantly walked back, towards Milkah, but before the word of his apology formed on his lips, Milkah had struck him with the open palm of her hand. Milkah wondered where she had got the audacity and the energy from. A crimson crack had formed on his left cheek just after impact.

 

In an effort to overtake the car ahead of him, the Wish driver had not cleared enough space between the two vehicles wheeling concurrently on the tarmac road, resulting in the two vehicles getting into forced contact, with the faster car seemingly dragging the other along.

But after six or so metres the two vehicles had separated and the Wish surged a further four metres before coming to a dead stop. “You ought to be mad not to respect simple road rules,” Milkah had shouted, and then spat into the offender’s face.

Now the man she had humiliated was one of the panelists at he interview. The hope that he had the veto powers to stop the company from taking her on board conveyed a momentary sense of relief when she drove through the gate of her father’s mansion.

Knowing that her father never tolerated a negative disposition, she had to give him a cheerful feedback and the result, when it came two weeks down the line, should have been cheerful had it not been for the man who had continued to say “I’m sorry” after she had given him a searing slap.

When she started work, she found everyone including her victim very friendly, and that made the coals within her chest more infernal. There was only one way to douse the fire within her; approach the man and say “I’m sorry”. If he rejected her apology, her consolation would be in the fact that she had played her part.

The Human Resources Manager always reported very early for duty, and Milkah capitalised on that merit of his to visit his office. He was busy on his phone when she passed the doorway towards his desk. “Good morning Mr Manaka, I have a small word for you,” Milkah said, her confidence slowly evaporating.

 

“The word may wait, I’m chatting with someone special,” the youthful Human Resources Manager said.

Rebuffed. Milkah turned around and walked out of the office, but not without reading the time on the clock face hanging up the wall behind Manaka’s desk, for a precise entry of her embarrassment in her diary. It was 0733.

Back home she would compose her resignation letter and go back to her former employer who had told her that he was giving her six months grace period to claim back her post. “I’m not employing another book keeper on open contract until the lapse of six months,” he had said.

The fretful workday finally elapsed and after signing out Milkah walked like an invalid towards her car. Sitting behind the wheel she opened her dashboard to retrieve her smartphone, as it was her tradition not to take her smartphone into her office.

As she switched it on WhatsApp messages stumbled upon each other. The tap of her thumb found a message sent at 0733, a love letter framed in read roses from a new contact.

“Who could this be?” Milkah heard herself asking. “Let me view the profile pic.”

Manaka! Problem solving was a skill she still needed to master. The lack of it had exhibited itself when she slapped Manaka on the face and went on to spit at him.

Now he was proposing to her, would she give him another slap? Here was another opportunity to exercise more power by saying no, but then Manaka’s message seemed to remind her of what she wanted when she crossed the doormat into his office earlier that day.

 

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