Stumbling, BC (Before Christ), life was a better place to be in, but now we gather papers so we can live. Molahlegi is a father with a pregnant woman and a son who is about to go to college. This seems a bit heavy for him, he owes a loan-shark money lending business, and can’t afford a living. What else can he do?
His boy has proven that even a black cow has white milk. He made it all the way to college (which is a factor that makes his empty pockets scold at him) regardless of walking with an empty stomach. Each day that came and went sjamboked him with unpleasant thoughts; his boy has worked his fingers to the bone and that paid off. But then pounding any pavement couldn’t find him occupation, left him enveloped with despair for he couldn’t afford his boy’s tuition fees.
His eyes are just fixed on the kitchen table as flies play on that plate of Mala le mogodu he is about to take in. To keep their souls and flesh together, he takes various jobs. Sometimes he’d find a piece job or collect recyclable-trash to sell. Sometimes his Matshepo would find a piece job as well.
“O seke wa tshwenyega (don’t you worry) tomorrow is still a day. No one can tell tomorrow but only God knows, Molahlegi. Ke kgopela o je (please eat),” says his wife, Matshepo, standing right beside him. She always has his back whenever he feels spineless. It has been such a while since he asked about the young soul in his wife’s uterus.
He makes his first attempt to devour the food. He eats on both dirty soul and hands because he never says grace or washers his hands. His sense of taste too is distanced from his wife’s delicious dish.
Dice was his social-polish during his days of happiness; they knew he’d leave young man’s pockets ashamed. He had a reputation of always walking with triumph from any lady he confessed love to, seatla ntepeng (womaniser) as his peers would call him. The only time he wore a green willow was the occasion when he proposed a romantic verbal-contract to Matshepo. Her beauty flirted with his heart from the first time he set his eyes on her. Everyone couldn’t comprehend how she could go for that type of a lad.
“A man who has no purpose, no dream, she is walking straight into poverty,” they would say. She became gossip-mongers’ subject of talk from the moment she decided to tie the knot. But she somehow never contemplated on potential fate of letting Molahlegi marry her.
He lives to hope for better promises of tomorrow but this time he seems so down. He can’t ingest or sleep and has become such a social-midget. Mosquitoes are giving him some love bites but that’s far from being a reason for his sleepless-nights.
It’s Saturday morning and they are having breakfast. Mopane-worms and pap, such a heavy breakfast. It’s a reign of silence between the three of them.
“Kalushi, ngwana wa ka, my son,” Molahlegi breaks the ice as he feels its coldness, “we need to talk and I hope you will comprehend everything I’m telling you,” he continues. Kalushi just stares with a solid silence. “You might not be able to go to school this year, I…”
“Ah! Papa, a whole year with no purpose?”
“O tshwanetse… you have to…”
“Like, it’s not you who kept on lecturing me about school, when will you be a father to me?” Kalushi promptly stood up after uttering these words.
“Kalushi! Re sa bolela le wena, we are still speaking to you, and that’s not how we taught you how to speak to us,” his mom says, but then he went on and shut the door behind him.
“Ga kena taba le seo, I don’t care,” Kalushi’s voice is heard from outside.
He hates to see his son like that, merely thinking of the next step. Suddenly there is a knock on the door.
“Kena, come in,” Matshepo answers it.
It’s Kwena and his two boys carrying baseball bats, followed in by two hyenas in guard.
“Ba Makitla, goring, how are you?” says Kwena with a half grin on his face.
“Aowa re sa phela, we’re still surviving,” says Molahlegi, Matshepo was just in her state of silence as always. She loathes the man with all her heart; she’d add her lung to that hate if it was possible.
“Ke nyaka tshelete yaka, I want my money, Molahlegi!” he says irrelatively as the grin suddenly smokes in air.
“I’m still working on it,” Molahlegi replies.
If there were no elephants in the jungle, the rhino could have been a big animal. That’s how it was between Molahlegi and Kwena back then. Kwena was popular for his quietness and good gambling skills as well, but it was a different story when it came to Molahlegi. They were cronies back then, but now Kwena has become a heartless mashonisa.
“Utlwella nna, you listen to me, I give you three days to gather half of it, or else…” he says it as he points at Molahlegi. So hostile.
“Hell no…” says Matshepo, rather rudely.
“Be calm, Matshepo. Kwena, please, thaka, pal. How will I gather R10 000 in three days?”
“That’s a business I can’t franchise, it’s your own. Or else if you don’t pay up, I’ll burn this house. You don’t want to live in the streets akere, not so?”
“Who do you think you are? You are not gonna come in here and threaten us like that. You are half a man, you are not even thinking of our son.”
She clicks her tongue and says, “Like you and Molahlegi never ever flocked together, I see no man in you.”
In this time Molahlegi’s mind trips far from this world.
“Molahlegi, are you gonna let her?”
“Matshepo, please remember this man has helped us,”
“Well his help is no use! We are no longer secured under the roof he helped us build, he loaded a dice against us, BETRAYAL! Ke monna ka borukhu fela, his pants are the only thing that make him a man!” she says as she looks away.
She never realised how Kwena came apart at the seams after those words.
He calculates a few steps from where he is standing then he hits her with the back of his hand. Molahlegi tries to stand up, but the two boys have already reached him to prevent him from saving his lover. Kwena throws more and more blows at Matshepo, she cries like a little baby. He turns to Molahlegi then says, “That’s how a real man puts women in their place,” as he points at Matshepo.
“You bastard, how could you hit a woman, a pregnant woman?” says Molahlegi as anger grows inside him.
“Don’t be King Kong, don’t dare die for beauty. Boys, a few punches will do,” Kwena says as he orderes the boys to hit Molahlegi.
Kwena is a man with anger close to his heart’s skin. His neighbours would hear his wife’s load wail as a sign of one of his shuddered days. They’d say, “Who dares tells the lion that its breath smells bad?” One day he tried to encourage his wife to go and report him, the poor man ended up losing his fore-finger. “I want to cut it off so you never ever wear a wedding ring again because you don’t know how to treat women,” he said to him as he sent it flying to the ground with a knife.
After their work, the two boys follow their general out.
He had dreams for her, dreams of perfect kingdom the perfection of her beauty deserved. He felt his pride remote from him, rather appeared wan. Seeing his wife baring a pain from another man’s hand in his presence made him feel like an ant under the elephant’s foot. He never thought he’d live to see such a hostile day. He stands up and just leaves without saying a word…
Sun crosses the sky, Molahlegi never showed his way home. Matshepo nursed her hurt face and joines Kalushi who was already in bed. She leaves the door unlocked hoping that he’ll show up at midnight.
Matshepo wakes up to a rare morning, for she never woke up before her husband this morning. “Where did he sleep in this cruel world?” she asks herself. She goes to the kitchen and a rare agony hits her heart with an immediate feeling. A totally troubled soul pours in her. Involuntarily, she takes her knees down to the floor as her eyes are fixed to this rare sight before her.
“Ahhhhhhh! No, no, no, Molahlegi, Molahlegi. Hii! Hii! Modimo waka, my God,” her wail reaches the neighbours and sends them out of sleep.
No stretch of imagination ever made anyone believe that Molahlegi could grow up to be so weary, so feeble to the point of hanging himself within his troubled days.
He leaves his wife’s face with tears of a widow and his son fatherless. The young soul in the womb will not ever experience his touch. Kalushi stands like a statue behind his mother, as his eyes float in tears, wishing he never chained his father with complaints.
In many of my days
I wished you were not my dad, father,
Now that your breath
Collides with mine no more,
I miss you more, I wish you’d father me again.
I wish I appreciated
The rose buds you gave to me
For they too mature to roses,
I was blind to your heavy trunk
And now I see, father.
Mom drowns in coldest tears, father.
She walks to your grave
Hoping for your touch, father,
She gave birth to a brother
That will be a father, father.
May you find peace
In Abraham’s bosom, beloved father.
Kalushi wrote after his father’s entombment.
Seven months after his answer to the final summon, Kwena was found stabbed dead in a river. This made up a whole story to Matshepo. Molahlegi killed Kwena, so they may gain freedom after his death. Alas! A Heavy Trunk.