16 August 2009

We Shall Be Together by Christopher Mlalazi

MaKhabo walked into the kitchen. Zodwa sat alone at the table, a cup of mahewu in her hand. Another cup was in front of an empty chair on the same table.

‘I don’t want to hear anything about it anymore,’ maKhabo said as she pulled the chair in front of the cup.

The cup was also full of mahewu, and it had been prepared by Zodwa as maKhabo had been on the phone in the sitting room. She heaped two teaspoonfuls of sugar from an enamel sugar basin into the cup and stirred, her brow furrowed.

Zodwa’s face was expressionless. She was dressed in a nurse’s uniform. She had just come in from work where she had been on night duty. Outside the kitchen window, which had its curtain pulled, the day sparkled with the morning sun, as if it had been dusted with a cloth by a Godly hand.

MaKhabo sniffed, and drank the mahewu. ‘Surely how can I allow you to do that and call myself your mother?’

‘You do not like him because he is a flea market vendor,’ Zodwa spoke in a clear voice.

‘Yes if you want the truth. And you are a nurse.’

‘He is sitting for his exams at the end of the year. Next year he is going to be an accountant,’

‘What if he fails?’

‘After all self employed people are making better money than the employed these days.’

‘But there is no security. What if people don’t buy?’

MaKhabo sipped from the cup again, and then stirred the contents with a table spoon.

Zodwa was staring at her. A pot of water whistled on the stove, nearing boiling.

Suddenly, maKhabo gripped her stomach, her face twisted in pain. She stood up and staggered out of the room, moaning painfully. There was the sound the bathroom door banging closed. Zodwa stood up. She followed her mother out of the kitchen, and came to the bathroom door. From inside the bathroom came the sound of retching, accompanied by cries of pain. She opened the door a little, reached inside with the right hand, and removed the key from the lock inside. She closed the door and locked it. Inside the bathroom, the sounds of retching continued.

***


Fabulous was a very happy man. He was dressed in a brown new suit, and carried a plastic carrier bag with a live chicken inside, its head peeking from the top. Today business had been good at his flea market stall in town. Tomorrow he was travelling across the border to Botswana to buy more stuff, and he was going to make sure he bought Zodwa a present too, something nice, like earrings, or a blouse. He thought about buying her underwear also, but no, it was embarrassing buying that from a shop with all the women staring

Zodwa had phoned him on his cell to come over and spend the day with her at her home. ‘What about your mother?’ he had asked.

‘She has gone to the rural areas and is coming tomorrow,’ she had said, and he had felt his heart nearly miss a beat, for that meant spending the night over there too, something he relished. They had done it several times over the year whenever Zodwa’s mother visited out. An only child, Zodwa’s father was in self imposed economic exile in Canada.

‘What did she say?’ he had asked her over the phone.

‘Just come and I will tell you,’ Zodwa had said.

He went in through the gate, which was not locked. The house had a wire fence around it. He got to the door and knocked. He waited, and the door opened.

Zodwa stood inside, dressed in all black. Fabulous raised his eyebrows at her, almost shivering. There was something eerie about the dress – black for him was for mourners.

‘Come in,’ she invited him, and moved aside.

He walked into the sitting room, and the door closed behind him as he walked towards the coffee table in the middle of the room, where he wanted to deposit the chicken. He heard the key turning in the lock.

Behind him, Zodwa picked up a small axe that balanced against the wall beside the door, and hid it behind her back with the right hand. She looked at Fabulous. He had reached the coffee table, his back still to her. In a sudden move, she strode swiftly towards him, her bare feet soundless on the carpeted floor. Reaching him, she struck him on the top of the head with the axe, its blade sinking in deep. Fabulous tumbled to the floor.

‘Sorry my love,’ she was crooning as she neatly laid him on the floor facing upwards, and laying his arms over his chest. Blood was soaking into the mat from the ugly gash on his head that showed his brain matter.

There was the sound of a thud on the door. She picked up the axe, and looked at the door, her face expressionless, still kneeling over him. Then the upper body of a policeman in uniform flashed past the window, headed around the house. She stood up, the axe still in her hand, now gripped tightly.

***


Dlodlo had been in the police force for twenty years now. He lived by chimbadzo, and he borrowed from maKhabo, heavily. He had just knocked off from duty, and, still in uniform, was headed for maKhabo’s to borrow more, although he doubted she was going to give him anything, because he still had not paid for last month.

Three houses away, he saw a man in a suit enter through maKhabo’s gate. Another client, he thought. Though he stayed in the neighbourhood, Dlodlo did not know this man. Still walking towards the house, he saw the man knock on the door, and then the door opened and the man walked into the house. The door closed again - he had not seen who had opened it. He got to the gate, went through, and came to the door. He noticed that the curtain over the window to his right was not closed, and he could see into the house. And what he saw filled him with shock.

In a sudden move, he grabbed the door handle, trying to open it - it was locked. He raced around the house to the back, snatching up a log on the way from the ground. The kitchen door was not locked. He ran into the house, past the bathroom door, into the kitchen, and then into the sitting room. Zodwa was standing on a chair, a rope around her neck, and she was pulling the other end around the roof beam.

Dlodlo leapt at her and bowled her to the ground. She did not offer any resistance. He pinned her to the ground with his a knee on her stomach, and quickly handcuffed her hands. He looked at the face of the man on the floor and felt bile rise to his mouth. He raced for the bathroom, turned the door knob, it was locked, but the key was on the lock. He turned the key, opened the door, and stumbled into the bathroom, bile already spraying from his mouth, and had another shock. Through a fog of tears, he saw the body of maKhabo lying on the ground in a pool of vomit spattered with blood.

***


When he came back into the sitting room, Zodwa was no longer there.

***


She was discovered the following morning by women going to the forest to till their fields on the railway track. Dlodlo was one of the police who attended the scene. Her body, her hands still handcuffed, was lying on the rail embankment, and it was headless. A piece of paper was pinned to the front of her dress with a thorn. Dlodlo was the first to read it:

‘We shall be together in heaven, where God does not discriminate between the poor and the rich. Amen.’




We Shall Be Together was written by Christopher Mlalazi.


Copyright Christopher Mlalazi 2009.



Christopher Mlalazi writes prose, poetry, drama (TV and stage), and also children's fiction.



In 2004 he received the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED citation in the Sable Lit Mag/Arvon (UK) Short Story Contest. In 2007 he was shortlisted for the HSBC PEN SOUTH AFRICA SHORT STORY CONTEST, and in 2008 he was awarded the OXFAM NOVIB/PEN FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AWARD.



He has published short stories in Zimbabwe, Europe, as well as on the web, and was also published in the 2005 Cain Prize Anthology (Orbituray Tango),the 2006 Edinburgh Review, and the 2007 AFRICA PENS. In winter of 2009 he is publishing his debut short story in The Literary Review (USA).

Currently he is working on a novel he hopes to finish by mid 2009, if not earlier, and has a stage play under rehearsal.

On the 14th of Feb 2009, Christopher was awarded the NAMA in the Outstanding First Creative Published Work category for his debut book, a collection of short stories called Dancing with Life.


9 comments:

Jude Dibia said...

This was chilling and nice, Christopher! The episodic approach to the story worked. The plot was gripping and I like the fact that your language was sparse with some foreshadowing in the begining.

Really nice writing!

Emmanuel Sigauke said...

You demonstrated mastery of the suspense thriller. Now that the core character have died within a short time, it would be great to know the history of this story (in other words, what's in the memory of this story? Because I will be receiving my copy of Many Rivers soon, I am thinking of Mlalazi the novelist, in which case, I found my self reading this piece as a prologue to a longer story. Now that I am shocked, let the dust settle as I flip to chapter 1 of the novel, a thriller set in ...Nketa...Sizinda.

Zimbabwe Teachers Network said...

Kept me on the edge of my seat, is this the climax of the book. What made her to do this really springs to mind. I know the title gives the answer, but is this the full answer? She must have suffred from psychological problems surely. A gripping account Chris, well done!

Mama Shujaa said...

Christopher,

I really enjoyed this piece, it is dramatic and the way the tension is heightened to the unbelievably horrible end. I wonder too, is Dlodlo affected at all later in life? And the extended family? How did they cope? Looking forward to reading more from you. And I am going to look for a copy of your book, a review of which I read on Novuyo's blog.

Cheers.

Delta said...

Gripping....the story is fast-paced and the reader hurtles through head-first..no time to catch their breathe and when it ends...it haunts the reader. One can not remain indifferent; so absorbing..so violent and spine-chilling...how do you pack such potent horror into so short a story using so simple a diction? Quite a read... woza lazo Chris from Emakhandeni!

gugulethu said...

Fully loaded from the beginning right up to the end. I couldn't pause from the first word to the last...only catching my breath now. Very breath taking and impressive indeed...Keep it up Chris

Christopher Mlalazi said...

Thank you guys for these heart warming comments. I am inspired. Jah bless

Abdul Adan said...

I can't say I enjoyed this story, it was too fast a read. However, it's one that I will remember for a long time because of my appreciation for the writer's ability to squeeze such an intense and tragic plot into so short a piece; a masterly economy. Thus, it's my admiration for the story's brevity and the writer's evident skill I will walk away with from this affecting tale.

christopher said...

excellent work,characters are real,plot unpredictable i loved it

 
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