by Mazuba Mwiinga
Village Chikuni was covered by the morning sun rays which were cozily shinning brightly over creation. Birds were happily singing in trees, well-coming the sweet smelling breeze from the east, as cocks crowed announcing their survival from the night jars while hens crocked in homesteads as if announcing how wonderful their sleep was. Animals on the other hand were mooing in kraals and insects bursting out in squeaking irritating noise. Women were seen walking up and down stream, their heads carrying pails of water as their wooing voices were being carried away with the morning dew. The homesteads were already filled up with flying dust as girls swept compounds to make sure before visitors moved about; it was all neat and tidy.
At Hamooya’s home the wife Lubono was busy washing kitchen utensils as her daughter Purity was sweeping the compound. Her last born child Dan was already at the kraal milking the cows in readiness for the morning meal. Her husband Hamooya had left home before sun rise to check on his friend in another village about the sale of an animal that was not feeling well of late in his kraal.
After sweeping the compound Purity took a pail and headed to the east to draw water at the Well. Her mother prepared fire at the heath in the grass thatched kitchen. By then the sun was shooting smilingly far away from the eastern dome. “Dan!” she called out from the kitchen. But Dan could not hear. “Dan woo…” she repeated. And from the kraal Dan answered in an occupied voice, for at that moment he had put the cow’s nipples into his mouth gulping stocks of milk direct from the cow’s adder.
“Can you please hurry up we are running out of time”, she said.
“I am coming mama.” He replied. And talking to himself he remarked, “This cow is stupid. It has hidden the milk”. He lifted the Can with milk and walked to the compound. His mother asked him to sieve the milk and boil it as she prepared nshima. Then Purity entered the compound her clothes soaked with water to her brother’s surprise. “Why is your dress so wet Purity?” Dan asked.
“Why do you ask as if you don’t know that water makes things wet”, she snappily answered.
“Why do you answer your brother like that Purity. He is concerned, that’s why he asked. When are you going to grow up? I thought those things protruding on your chest are not horns but signs of maturity”, her mother unhappily remarked.
“That’s how she is. She is very naughty because no one beats her. Just wait, one day I will forget that you are my elder sister. I will whip you like a baby”, Dan said walking into the kitchen carrying a pot of milk with both hands.
“You can’t whip me you goat! Atah! Why don’t you try now and you see how I will whiz you around like a ball. Why don’t you just shut up your beak if you have nothing else to say…?” Purity angrily said.
“Purity, stop that!” her mother commanded. “Who taught you such bad manners of using such kind of language? What’s wrong with you? He was just asking you a genuine question and you bout out in anger why?”
“Dan is sometimes foolish mama. He thinks that I am his age-mate whom he can just be playing around with me.”
“Come on, go bring the table in the house and set the food outside here. Your Father will be in soon. He is going to town”.
“But where is Bridget?” Dan asked from the kitchen.
“Who is spending nights with her that should know where she is?” Purity commented.
“Purity I did not ask you okay. Did you sleep well last night? Don’t tempt me, its still morning okay”, Ben moodily warned.
“Hey people! What is going on with you? Get down to your work and stop the nonsense. Is Bridget sick? I thought she had gone to the Well to draw water. This time and she is still sleeping as old as she is? This is a taboo. Let me see her first of all”, Hamooya’s wife Lubono retorted and dashed in to the house. She went straight to Bridget’s bedroom and knocked on the door. But before Bridget could allow her in, she sprang the door wide open and stepped in. Bridget was only heard by her heavy breathing under the blankets.
Lubono moved close to her bed and shouted; “Bridget what the hell is this!” she roughly pulled the blanket from her head and Bridget screamed scarily as she tried to hide herself in her arms, “Not again please! Leave me alone! Dad! Dad! Mum! Please!” Lubono was shocked and realized something was wrong with her daughter. “Bridget! Bridget it’s me your mother! What’s the matter?!” she announced as she held Bridget by the hand trying to pull her up. Bridget opened her eyes and they met with a bright lightened room, her mother gazing at her surprisingly worried.
“Oh it’s already morning?” she said full of embarrassment on her face.
“Are you fine Bridget?” Lubono asked.
“Yes mother I am very fine”, Bridget answered in a low sad voice.
“But why were you wailing so loudly calling for help when I came to wake you up?” Lubono worriedly asked.
“Me? Wailing? I don’t remember having been wailing mother. Maybe I was dreaming when you came in,” she lied.
“I hope so. But why are you still sleeping up to this time? Look at your wall clock. Its half past eight and you were in the middle of sleep had I not come to disturb you. Are you sure you are fine?”
“I am fine mother. I don’t know why I slept like a baby today. I am sorry mother”.
“Wake up and help your brother and sister working. I thought that you had gone to the Well to draw water. How does a woman like you for sure sleep so carelessly?” Lubono complained as she walked out of the room not believing what Bridget told her. She suspected very much that she might have been sick for her to react that way when she went to wake her up.
Once outside she sent Dan to call the visitors at the far end of the compound to have their morning meal.
The two visitors Jack and James were two weeks old at Hamooya’s home. On the day of their arrival they were passers by going round the villages selling second hand clothes of all types. They would be carrying heavy bags on their shoulders and spent nights at the last point of their sales when the sun sank in the west. Then as days went by they found it so tiresome carrying the heavy loads and walking long distances. They also realized that it was very risk for their business as they could be attacked at any time.
So one day as they were trading their products at a beer party, one man approached them to sample what they had.
“How much is this shirt?” the man had asked.
“Twenty pin bosses”, James had responded giving it to him.
“No twenty pin is too much”, the man had protested.
“Okay, bring eighteen pin bosses. These shirts are from South Africa they just arrived three days ago”, Jack had joined in.
“You town boys are a problem. How do I know that you just brought them three days ago? I don’t even know where South Africa is. Just give it to me I will pay you ten pin”, the man had suggested.
“Ah bosses muzatipaya manje. We won’t make any profit. We actually buy these shirts at eighteen pin. So if we sell you at ten pin then we have made a big loss. Okay just bring fifteen pin since it’s you”, James had explained. The man accepted but did not pay them saying they keep it for him and would collect it when leaving for home.
“In case we forget you since we are still new here, what is your name?” James asked.
“Oh just write Hamooya, everyone knows me here”, the man had told them and left to join his friends in drinking gaankata opaque beer. In the evening as the two traders were about to leave, Hamooya came to demand for his shirt. He told them he had only five thousand kwacha instead of the fifteen thousand kwacha agreed before. Jack refused to give him the shirt until he paid in full. He told Hamooya that just as he is a farmer they also depend on this business for survival. Hamooya told them to go to hell with their shirt saying after all he can afford a more expensive shirt in town than this one. But James intervened asking him how he would pay the balance. Admiring James’s diplomatic language, Hamooya rebuked Thomas. “Look at your friend. He knows how to talk business. It doesn’t mean that I can’t manage to buy this shirt. I have money it’s only that I have used it. So next time you do business with me, try to be business-like. So let’s go home you get your ten pin”, Hamooya had said and started walking, Jack and Thomas trailing behind.
When they arrived at Hamooya’s home it was getting late though the family members were still watching a television broadcast from a TV set powered by a car battery. Hamooya knocked at the door and Dan opened the door for him. He entered in the house and went straight to his bed room leaving Jack and James outside. When he came out of the bedroom he sat at the dinning table, washed his hands and started eating. Just as he was finishing his evening meal, Bridget came out of her room going outside. She greeted her father complaining that he has not been home the whole day.
“That’s what it means to be a man my daughter. If you stay at home the whole day idling around then, you wont feed your children”, Hamooya responded.
“Look at this shirt its nice father where did you get it?” Bridget asked.
“Ahoo! A snake finds food by walking about my daughter. I bought it from these boys who sale salaula. Oh by the way; look at my foolishness I actually came with them! They are outside. Gosh tell them to come in”, Hamooya regrettably said.
Bridget peered outside through the window and told Jack and James to get in the house. Hamooya apologized to them and without wasting much of their time gave them their money so that they leave quickly in time for looking where to spend a night. James thanked him but asked whether he can help them with somewhere to sleep just for a night since it was already very late for them to look for somewhere to lodge. Reluctantly Hamooya told Dan to clean the small grass thatched house adjacent the main house outside so that Jack and Thomas could use for a night.
After cleaning, Dan led them to the hut to sleep. James asked for a pot so that they could prepare some food before they went to bed. As Jack started cleaning Kapenta in a plastic plate, James sat beside the heath waiting for the water to boil in the pot on fire. Then he told Jack that the coming morning they should take their merchandise to a neighboring Kachenje village to sell so that they spend a night there. But Jack disagreed saying that village Chikuni was good enough for their business. He emphasized that all they needed was to find a settling place so that after their walk-about they could just go to their lodging place and rest.
“But where can we find a place here boy when we are just strangers in this area?” James asked.
“What is the problem with you James? Were we residents in Pingililo when we found a home to lodge? Even here someone can help us. We just have to ask. Why don’t you try this same man Hamooya at least you have gotten on well today”, Jack suggested.
“He looks to be a difficult man my friend. May be we try that man at the beer party”, James fearfully stated.
“That’s a sheer waste of time. Let’s just see him tomorrow and if he refuses then fine; we will look for another place”, Jack insisted. James agreed saying that it would be a good place for them to do business while residing from here since Hamooya was one of the respected people in village Chikuni. Then James out of topic remarked, “Did you see that girl? Who could she be?”
“The brown one we found in the sitting room?” Jack asked.
“It’s like she is Hamooya’s daughter. I looked at her very closely mwana. She is a baibe and a half. Her legs are as smooth as a bottle. And you know what? She had even put on a see through night dress. I could see beyond her dress”.
“Thomas, you talk as if something has already occupied your dirty mind”.
“You know James it’s very difficult to resist attraction to girls like her. She is beautiful, boy. Even in town she can be among the top five. That’s very true”, Jack said admiringly.
“Hey don’t lose your senses into things that you can not manage to have. Come and fry the kapenta I have finished preparing nsima” James advised.
“James you talk as if you don’t know me. I am capable of doing anything that my heart desires. Have you forgotten our famous town saying: ‘there is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure’. And I am far from that. We will see as days go by mwana. We just have to make sure we convince Hamooya that we stay here during this period”, Jack explained.
He then prepared the relish and they had their supper. They then chatted a bit before they retired to bed where they continued talking about their business, hardships and future plans and finally were caught up un aware by sleep.
And that’s how the two young merchants found themselves being two weeks old at Hamooya’s home.