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.