by Mazuba Mwiinga

short story
Copyright: © Mazuba Mwiinga 2017

In this work of fiction, the characters, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or they are used entirely factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Published by ™DipThink Group
Lusaka, Zambia

Condition of use
This story can be used subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, sold, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser or user.

Moonga didn’t know it would come to this; at least not that early, or maybe he just wasn’t the paranoid type.

What begun like the usual domestic differences over what marriage counsellors most of the time told him as mundane relationship tussles, ended up his head going through the doctor’s needle; twelve stiches patched his forehead, after his wife Catty found the cheery mood of exercising her rage by slashing him with a kitchen knife. No one cared prior to the incidence; why would one care for them anyway; that was the daily life of the Moongas – bickering.

The judge was very lenient on Catty. Considering her medical and psychological report of insanity, he sent her to a psychiatric house till she got back her normalcy; if at all that would happen. Moonga was relieved. For once in a long time, he was able to take Rick their four year old son to a movie at the Cinema hall. It was such a momentous time for him to be able to lick a cone of ice-cream without any aorta of thought about how to approach his home when he got back; what to explain and how to romantically say it, as in the days of Catty’s presence. Now it was all water under the bridge; at least as far as he considered it that way.
The movie ended earlier than he thought. With his son Rick occupying the passenger seat, they drove back home in their newly occupied Benz. Rick was busy munching popcorns, as Moonga whistled to a piece of music that was playing from the car radio. He seemed so happy driving the car he had spent so much money on, as a gift to his wife to celebrate their tenth marriage anniversary. Unfortunately Catty couldn’t drive it because it arrived just a day after she was relocated to the mental institute. Poor beautiful Catty; how romantic would it have been seeing her telling Moonga to wash it every day in the morning before she went for work. It would have supplemented the envy she already had of the neighbourhood as the queen of the house.

But how less stressed however, Moonga felt now, driving into a home of calmness and peace. He was surely in his best mood. He constantly looked at Rick with a bright smile on his face as the Benz moved on a congested road.

“Pop corns are finished”, Rick announced, looking at Moonga with a flat stare.

“Okay buddy, let’s get home and we help ourselves to some corn flakes or anything nicer” Moonga tried to be nice.

“I want pop corns”, with his tiny fingers, Rick squeezed an empty paper pack that carried popcorns.

“Let’s get home sonny and we will get something done. Look the road is jammed with traffic”

“Find a place to park then”

“Why can’t we get home sonny and forget this popcorn thing?” Moonga’s tone was tense.

“I wish mom was here”, Rick mumbled. And the car jerked. Moonga mistakenly put his foot on the breaking pedal, and just then realised he was in the middle of the road, both ends of his car closed in with traffic. He stared at Rick, his face twisted like one feeling an excruciating pain as he continued driving on.

Rick got out of the car soon after Moonga parked it in the garage. He half walked and half ran into the house and went straight to his bedroom. Moonga thought a delicious meal would do; that good meal perhaps of roasted chicken with gravy made out of pre-packed soup sachets. He had observed Catty prepare her delicious meals from such arrangements; and being adventurous as he always was, remembering Catty’s dexterity with food wouldn’t have been much of a hustle. He placed pieces of chicken in the oven, while a pot of water was boiling on the stove ready for cooking nsima. Done with the first stage of catering; letting the pot boil with care, he begun washing plates in the sink, but he was immediately interrupted by the sound of a weeping child. He rushed to Rick’s bedroom leaving the water gushing out of the tap. The door to Rick’s room was locked.

“Rick..!” Moonga called out. “Rick…!” But from inside, Rick wailed even more. Moonga paced round the door, his heart thumping furiously against his chest. He went back to the door, held the door lever and continuously whizzed it, but it was as intact as before. He rushed back to the kitchen, searched around for he didn’t know what. On his way out, he had eye-contact with a metal bar placed against the wall. He instantly stopped and looked at it. Two months ago, it was this metal that had landed him three weeks in hospital with a deep cut on his head after his wife mercilessly let it on him during a domestic brawl. He signed deeply, reluctantly picked it up and hurried to Rick’s bedroom.

He placed the metal bar in the door lock and forced the door open by breaking the lock. Rick was there sited on the bed with no shirt on, tears rolling down his cheeks. Moonga enticed him with popcorns in the kitchen that never were, prompting Rick to stop crying but without moving an inch from the bed till the popcorns were delivered.

Suddenly an awful smell drenched his nostrils. Moonga turned to leave. As he dashed out of Rick’s room, he missed a step and his forehead came into a nasty contact with a door frame, sending a shattering pain through his nervous system that brought him to an instant stop before he pushed himself forward again. Just then the land phone rang as he was passing through the living room. It was placed on a small table at the corner of the room. Moonga was in a deep dilemma.

His left hand holding his forehead, the other one lifted the phone receiver. It was Catty on the line, sobbing. Moonga looked back, Rick holding a shirt in his right hand, stood by the door staring at him; the scent of burning food getting more and more dreadful.

“I am coming home” Catty said from the other side of the line. Her voice, half polite and half contorted.

“Is that mom?” Rick asked, walking slowly towards him.

“Have they discharged you already?” Moonga quavered, swallowing saliva that chocked him in the process.

“How would I have managed to call Moonga? You don’t miss me, do you?” That was the question he wouldn’t like hearing. His body began sweating. He stood there holding the phone receiver oblivious of any thought to help him decide to what to do.

“Something is burning!” Rick tweaked in a tinkling meek voice, standing closer to the kitchen door. Moonga looked to Rick’s way, smoke was gushing out of the kitchen to the living room. His trembling hands dropped the phone. He could hear a voice shouting from the other side of the line. He lifted his heavy legs, as he tried to reach out to Rick. He opened his mouth to tell him to run outside, but his mouth was filled with dark smouldering smoke that impaired even his vision. Momentarily, he found himself crawling towards Rick.

Unexpectedly, what appeared to be fog took over the smoke scene. As it cleared, before him stood Catty, her left hand tightly clutched on Rick’s throat, a kitchen knife on her right hand raised in the air pointing at the tip of Rick’s head. Moonga wobbled his bottom to the floor. His sprinkler muscles got weaker by a milli-second. He didn’t know it would come to this; at least not that early, or maybe he just wasn’t the paranoid type.

What happened next only the heavens could assure him of things beyond his mental capacities. There was a man in a white robe standing beside his bed. A tube from an electronic machine hanging above him was placed into his both nostrils. His chest bobbed in and out as he struggled to fight for life with his breathing. He couldn’t see properly until a vail was removed from his face.
“What’s going on here?” he murmured, almost like talking to himself.

“You are badly suffocated”, a woman in a white robe replied. Moonga’s eyes were aglow, his breathing rate faster than before. The woman in a white robe knew what it was; nervousness.

“Am I going to survive?” he asked, a tear drop rolling down his pale cheek. His eye lashes flashing continuously like a fly wiper, his nose letting out clear fluids on his clean shaven base of his upper lip. His forehead, giving birth to tiny drops of sparkling water. His breathing was failing him. He needed to know his fate and that of his son.

“That depends on you” the woman in a white robe answered him with so much casual attitude to get from someone he thought he would bank his luck on for his survival.

A siren dramatically blurted. Two other women in white dresses rushed in the room and stood beside the bed next to his. A man dressed in a white robe approached the bed where the two women stood and examined a woman lying on it. He got a sheet of paper from one of the two women and scribbled on it, then left. The women drew the curtains close as they hid themselves inside. Moonga who all that time watched the circus, began to debilitate when he realised what had just happened.

“Depends on what?” he asked the woman in a white robe, his tone very low.
“You didn’t miss me, did you?” she asked, her eyes bright with fury. Moonga heaved like a palm tree in a tornado. A siren from the machines started beeping. He heard it ringing, percolating his ear drums as the sound entered the ethers of his brain, his eyes fixed at the woman beside his bed.
He didn’t know it would come to that.

Minutes later another woman in a white robe approached his bed. Moonga was very vulnerable. He couldn’t do anything. His muscles were weak, so was his entire body. But his brain still performed at high speed. He could see her walking towards her, feeling much better, for he was so uncomfortable with the one standing beside her. That one smelled death. When the other one came closer to the one standing beside him, she whispered in her ears. And they both looked at him with deceiving stares. Moonga’s heart beat raced with fright again. The machine reading his pause started beeping too. The two women in white robes panicked.

“What the hell is happening to him?” the second one asked.

“I have totally no idea”, he heard the first one reply, and he was furious. He shouted out for help, but no sound would come out. He wanted someone to come to his aid by removing the first woman.

Suddenly, the second woman retreated in a rush, to reappear with a phone receiver in her hands.

“It’s your wife” she told him. Moonga could not believe what he heard. Someone was trying to trick him, and he was not going to allow the first woman who stood there attentively looking at him, deceive him again.

“Your wife is on the line Mr. Moonga”, the second woman repeated, stretching his hand to give him the phone receiver. He looked at her, a slight sense of trust rushed through him. He gazed at the first woman; she was there standing appearing worried and in deep pain.

“What….is it?” Moonga whispered.

“Your wife Catty wants to talk to you?” Moonga’s body froze. The two women were stung with shock. Every time the name Catty was mentioned, there observations showed convulsion in Mooonga’s reaction.

“Talk to her Mr. Moonga. She desperately wants to talk to you”, the first woman at last spoke. Moonga blinked, then stretched his left hand to receive the phone handset.

“Hallo….” he whispered. Catty came on the line with sobs, begging him to visit her at the mental hospital and convince the psychiatrists that she wasn’t demented. She asked for forgiveness from him.

“How did you know I am here?” he asked, so unsure of what was going on.

“Rick…Rick called me last night talking about the fire at home, and your unconsciousness, and that you were sent there for resuscitation”, Catty sobbed out her words on the phone. Moonga’s eyes were aglow with shock. He dropped the phone on the bed, his rolling round the roof.

“Where is my son?”

“In the lobby with a care taker”, the first woman replied, the corner of her mouth trying to paint a friendly smile.

“What happened?”

“Your son called 911. You were found unconsciousness in the living room. Smoke from the kitchen suffocated you. You left a pot on a stove that ended up melting down”, the first woman explained.

“I received a call from Catty, then Catty came home and had knife placed on Rick’s neck while I looked on in the smoke”

“No. your son called 911 when the smoke made you weak. He found you lying on the floor struggling to stand up”.

“What’s the problem between you and your wife Catty?” the second woman asked. The pause reading machine’s pointer instantly shot up, as the beeping sound tooted with speed. Moonga’s face sparkled with germinating sweat, his nose releasing tiny drops of water.


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