Friday, 29 July 2016

The Burning Woman part 4 & 5

May 1993

Sometimes I wish I’d never come to this god-forsaken city. Like a reed in the wind I’d followed the steady migration from reserve to city. The grass was only greener from the outside. A truth I’d learnt too late.
“Mr. Moyo we don’t have all day!” says Kevin my department manager.
I startle, almost sliding off the bench realizing that I’d retreated too far into my mind. But who could blame me? The letter I’d received from the village burned a fiery whole in my pocket.
My Dearest Morris, Rudo’s letter had started. Her mother was ill and she had gone to her family house to help care for her aged mother. They needed more money to take care of a few things.
He’d visited with the family over the Easter holiday. He’d left enough money for them knowing the harvest was bountiful and they could batter for what they didn’t have. Didn’t they realise his income was not easily earned.
To compound his troubles his lover and her aunt had shown up at his door step the day before. She was pregnant. I would either marry her or surrender three-quarters of my salary to her.
It was a little too late to remind her that she’d assured me that she was on the pill at the same time I assured her I had a wife and kid. I’d never felt like a clueless village boy before then. They had me backed into a corner and they knew it.
I’d barely slept. I’d barely closed my eyes before I had to prepare for work.
We had all known for some time that the company was bringing in newer equipment at the factory. What they hadn’t told us was that some of us would be laid off as more efficient machines came in. Hard hat in hand I waited outside the group manager’s office as one by one my colleagues were called in. The atmosphere was subdued as they walked to the clock–room to submit their overalls.
Chimusoro’s eyes slid away from mine as I tried to make eye contact. He shook his head and continued walking making it clear he didn’t want to talk. My stomach churned sickeningly. If I’d been looking for reassurance I didn’t get it from him. He didn’t speak to anyone as he shrugged out of his work uniform and was back into his street clothes before walking out.
Intrapak international was a huge multi-national company providing the needs of the whole of southern Africa. Our branch covered over six blocks of industrial departments. It would take at least thirty minutes to walk from block A to Block F. That was how big the company premises were. I worked in the packaging department Block F which meant I’d had to walk to block A on shaky legs as I contemplated the loss of my job.
I stood up and followed Mr Brown into his office. The door closed behind me with a soft snap. Kevin stood close to the door his expression bland, arms crossed across his chest. My heart beat in a tattoo I felt they must be able hear as I took the seat in front of the desk.
I barely registered anything else as I waited for Mr Brown to speak.
“So you’re the guy called Morris?” he said riffling through the papers on his desk until he found the one he was looking for. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.”
His statement surprised me but I didn’t hold out much hope that it would make a difference. Some people preferred buttering you up before delivering bad news.
“Thank you, sir.”
“As you know the new equipment is coming in this week. We’ve had to let go of a few members of staff...”
Here we go, I thought. Mr Brown’s voice droned on but I’d already tuned him out. I wasn’t particularly interested in listening attentively to my marching orders.
White paper appeared before my eyes and I took it automatically I looked up just in time to catch his last words.
“—the training will be two weeks long and will obviously come with a salary raise,” Mr Brown smiled broadly.
“You mean you’re not firing me?” I asked.
I must have looked as gobsmacked as I felt because Mr Brown laughed. Great belly aching guffaws. I let out a huge sigh and my heart rate slowed down to a manageable speed.
“No,” he chuckled. “Take a look at the new contract and bring it back tomorrow.”
I allowed Mr Brown and Kevin to pump my hand enthusiastically. Even then my mind was too numb to completely process. Relief was too paltry an emotion to describe my emotions at that minute. I didn’t take the contract home. I signed it on the spot. My hands shook but I didn’t much care. Disaster had been diverted for the time being.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Burning Woman part 3

April 1993

“Why do you have to choose those garish colours? Didn’t they have something in your size?” Morris glared at my new dress with obvious loathing. “You look like my grandmother.”
I could feel the smile fall from my face as I too glanced down at the offending dress. Though it was a bit loose around the waist Mary had assured me it was the latest fashion. She’d even bought one for herself though in a different colour.
“Only country bumpkins wear this,” his hand swept the air dramatically. One of the women unloading baggage from the bus giggled and I flushed with embarrassment. We should have waited at home I belatedly realised. I felt like everyone was staring at me as my husband continued his tirade.  “Can’t you even use the money I send wisely? Look at what junior is wearing.”
Clad in his equally new jeans, t-shirt and white tekkies Morris clung to my skirt fearfully. My husband had followed the other men to the city. Soon the man I knew disappeared replaced by a drunkard who abused us whenever he came home for his short visits.
“I don’t see anything wrong with what he is wearing,” I said.
“Of course you wouldn’t see anything wrong. You have no sense of style at all. I am a foreman is it too much to expect my wife and son to dress in the manner befitting my station?”
“I am sorry darling,” I murmured. “I will do my best next time.”
“See that you do,” he said. “Boy can’t you even greet your father properly? What in God’s name is your mother teaching you?”
Morris emerged from my skirts and took two fearful steps towards his father.
“How are you father?” he said.
“What’s wrong with your voice?” Morris barked.
“N...nothing father,” Morris junior said his voice deflating further.

Friday, 15 July 2016

The Burning Woman Part 2

December 1991

“Rudo wait for me!”
I turn around to see my close friend and confidante Mary approach at a brisk pace.
“Good morning Mary,” I say once she catches up with me. “How is your family?”
“My family is well. And yours?”
“The family is doing fine,” I reply.
As we walk to the well other women from the village join us on the trip to the well. It is customary to fetch water in the early morning hours. It is also the time we women socialize and get the latest village gossip.
The village is very primitive but we have grown-up here. Ours is a close knit community that shields and protects its own. Life in the village is simple with most people living off the land.
“Christmas is around the corner,” Mary says excitedly. “My husband will be here for the holidays any day now.”
“The holidays are always good.”
Families always gathered together and had special treats throughout the day. In the afternoon we would put on our best clothes, go to the township and enjoy the latest records.
“This time my husband will be staying for a whole week,” Mary said. “The last time he was here he only stayed for a day and that was months ago.”
“At least he has something to show for all his hard work,” I say, pushing my wheelbarrow through a sandy patch. “We can barely afford to pay school fees and keep Morris clothed.”
“I will speak to my husband maybe he can help your husband find work in the city.”
“I would really appreciate that.”
Times were changing very soon life would revolve around the big cities. Her family would have to adapt and look to the future.

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Burning Woman pt1

The Burning Woman

Burning Woman Part 1

It’s been twenty years since death stole my life. Yes, my life is tainted. Like a dark impenetrable cloud death hovers over me destroying everything it touches.
I wish it would take me and end my torment.
I don’t know why I always return to the scene of my torment. I am like a moth enchanted by the light of the fire. I breathe in the familiar yet hated scent of freshly turned air.
A shadow falls across me and black tennis shoes catch my eye.
“Gogo what are you doing here? You know this is not good for your back,” says Amanda.
I can’t answer her. The pain in my chest threatens to stifle me. My hand works industriously pulling weeds from the ground. Two more pulls and the dull black granite is revealed. I have been away for too long.
My chest tightens further. My sight blurs and tiny drops of rain fall on the ground.
“You have to stop,” my granddaughter says pulling away the weeds from my deathly grip. Her hand lands on my shoulder helping me to straighten. More rain falls on my cheeks but my granddaughter wipes it away with a trembling hand.
I let her lead me away but not before I look back and see the inscription Morris J Moyo 1975-1996.  A few meters to the left another stone lies covered with weeds.
Amanda glances back her eyes glazed with pain. “I will come back and clean up,” she says softly.