A shiny white car pulled over in front of the Indian owned tuck shop’s gate. It was briefly after everything relating to it came to a standstill that the driver came out. The driver, a figure with a slightly hunched-over posture, fiddled with the car keys in his hands and the car’s horn beeped, with flash of indicator lights within seconds of each beep.
He paused a little, as if thinking of what he might have forgotten in the car, then tossed the keys in the air, slightly level to his chin, caught them again as they descended. He then proceeded round his car’s front, to the tuck shop, his head still bent down. This time around it was clearly evident that he was pondering over an issue of great importance.
Mechanically, after greeting a group of idling youngsters standing on either side of the door, he wiped his feet on the threshold of the tuck-shop’s door. Once inside, he went to the shelf where spices were kept and there he stood aimlessly before the colourful sachets of different flavours of spices, his mind still abstracted from the present. His mind had been preoccupied for quite a while now.
Events that ensued days ahead of the present moment had been taking hold of his imagination. He had received a call from Dr Lesiba, a well-known and no doubt revered, if not feared, traditional healer of unmistakable reputation. A call of this sort, considering the numerous transactions he’s had with the man, should have come as no surprise, but this time around it had been different. And, following the recent indelible highlights of their acquaintance, it was most unnerving and provoked feelings of trepidation.
Prior to this occasion he hadn’t been at the healer’s beck and call but, undeniably, their transactions had stood him in good stead with the congregation entrusted to him. But since the incidence he had been at his mercy. Frankly he had been the one who was apt of calling the healer whenever problems arose except for that this time around it was the healer who had called him. He could remember his wonder at the sight of Lesiba’s name on his phone’s screen when it rang. He had answered the phone with a voice imbued with curiosity and fear:
“Bishop,” a monotonous voice had said, “Lesiba speaking here. An urgent matter has come up. Come and see me on Saturday night. Eight o’clock to be precise. See you then. Bye!”
After that brief announcement the phone was hung-up. What was disturbing was the brevity of the message and the nature in which it had been conveyed. And the words used as well made the Bishop be concerned. The words, an urgent matter has come up, had thrust the Bishop into deep muse and for a moment as he stood facing the spices he was thrust into a recollection of previous events.
It was three years ago when it all started and it was during a church service. Two young men were on debate. One, Ngaka Mosia, was fighting against what he deemed the misuse of church funds, saying that there were more important uses to which the money earned from the tithing could be put. He had cited the sporting codes, musical activities and musical instruments to name the few. He had pleaded with the congregation to allow him to be deputy to the Bishop so as to influence the decisions made about the church’s budget.
After he had sat down, another young man had taken to the podium, asserting that he acknowledged the depth of the issue put forward by his brethren but it was unfortunate that all those things could not be done. The decision regarding the spending of the church funds of each branch came from the head office of the Kanana Christian Church, and that should they do as they please with the money, the Bishop could face excommunication and in his place they will put a Bishop from some other town who won’t understand the congregation like the one incumbent did.
That had been Taunyana Motaung, son of the incumbent Bishop. And he had gone on to say a church is a place of worship, not for revolutions and rebellion, and the atmosphere must equally suggest that. With that he made the same plea as the speaker before him and turned to sit down. Ngaka had stood up again and made a plea to be allowed to sit down with the church’s youth national executive and tell them of his proposal.
At hearing that, Bishop had stood up and asked to be excused from the panel. He had made as if he was going to the toilet but went to the church office and when in there he took out his mobile phone and punched in some numbers and placed it on his ear.
“Sgonondo? Bishop Motaung. Organise your crew. Iraq alley. Ngaka Mosia. 20:00,” he hung up and punched in another number on the phone.
“Dr Lesiba, Bishop Motaung here I need your help, I have a parcel I need you to take care of for me. Thank you. Tonight around past eight. Yes around past eight. Thank you, morenaka,” he hung up and heaved a deep sigh and threw himself onto the sofa. He had pondered deeply about what Ngaka had said and dreaded the notion of him going to the head office and enquiring about his idea.
Not that he had feared that they would give him a go ahead and let him be his deputy; he had feared that they would wonder why he had not implemented the resolutions himself. Because they were long discussed during the meeting they had as Bishops. And whenever he had to report back he always said that the youth in his church were not responding well to it. And Ngaka had wanted to ruin it all.
Oh, the money he had been embezzling, they would have sent the auditors from the office and they would have found out how corrupt he was, and he would have surely been excommunicated.
While he had retired to his wife the mother Bishop came in too. She was worried; it was all over her face. She had paused after closing the door and held a facial expression that said ‘what are we going to do now?’
“How is the debate going?” he had enquired.
“Taunyana is not faring well, I can say,” she said with a voice filled with pity. He heaved another sigh and cupped his face with his hands in despair.
“Do you know what would happen if the boy goes to the office?”
“I have long thought about that, MmaKgotso okay, I have,” he said with pent up rage.
“What are you going to do then, Sebata?” she asked with a faint plea.
“Lesiba,” he darted his glance sideways and then leaned back to the back of his chair. “I have consulted with him and have already spoken with Sgonondo to organise his crew. Tonight all will be taken care of. All I have to do now is to go back in there and postpone the manifesto until that little bastard has consulted with the church’s national youth committee.”
That was three years back. He remembered how helpless Ngaka had looked that evening when Sgonondo and his crew captured him. He’d done it before and the disappearance of those poor souls is still a mystery to this day. And today he was summoned.
Outside the tuck-shop, the thunder struck and brought his mind to the present and he looked outside. It had started to rain; it was a slivery kind of rain. I better get going before there is a heavy downpour, he thought. He went to the counter and paid for the item he had come to purchase, went out of the shop to his car and put the item in the car, closed the car’s door and left it there.
He crossed the street and turned left into the street nearby and soon there was a heavy downpour. He ran a little and soon he was at the traditional healer’s gate. He looked around to see if no soul was around to see him and luckily the promise of the rain had cleared the streets of them. As he approached the shack a figure was standing erect outside as if there was no rain, a down pour for that matter.
“Bishop, I am glad you could make it, let’s not waste time and get down to business. Please,” he said motioning Bishop Motaung to the door of the shack. Once in the shack Bishop kneeled down at his respective place, the healer standing at the door told him to await him there while he went to find what he had called him for and then left. With the help of the candle light he could make-out some of the items in the shack and he kept looking around hoping to find something that would ascertain him that Ngaka Mosia was done with.
Then he heard something like a hiss, he listened intently, and certainly he was right it was a hiss. Fear assailed him, something in him said stand up and seek the healer, as he was about to following his instinct, from his left a head sprang at him, took hold of his neck. He screamed, it was raining outside and the rain made noise on the shack, only the healer and his apprentice heard him and to the rest of the world his screams were muffled by the rain.
It was a reticulated python. It held on to him, pulled him slowly into its coils and wrapped them around him. He was constricted. The creature monitored his heart beat, ascertained his death. He could feel his lung unable to draw in some air. He could feel the rise in the pressure in his body cavity being greater such that his heart could not counter it. He was thrust into cardiac arrest and then was done with.
The python loosened its grip and he slowly slid into its mouth, while outside the rain abated. “Will the wife not cause trouble; surely she knows that her husband had come to you?” outside the apprentice inquired.
“Fear not, she knows of my capability, she won’t take any chances. We’ve had a lot of transactions, me and her husband, and she was involved in them one way or another. She is not prepared to take that risk. I would curse her or drag her down with me.” He paused a little, and with a smile filled with menace he said “The former appeals to me”. The healer heaved a long sigh. “We are done with final phase of your initiation, Ngaka Mosia, and soon the world will know that you are alive and well, and you will succeed me.”