SOWE rekuDomboshava had been the pastor’s choice.
He had said that there was power in those mountains; power to unlock God’s favour.
His sermon on God’s favour had been inspiring.
He had said: “God’s favour will give you the job you don’t qualify to have. God’s favour will give you the spouse everyone thinks you don’t deserve. God’s favour will open doors for you. God’s favour will get you the visa to the UK and the US nyore nyore with no questions asked.”
Alone, on some rock on the wooded dark slope of the eastern side of the mountain, the aspiring Member of Parliament was trying to come to terms with what had just happened.
His jaw was hurting where the bony knuckles of a villager had landed and floored him.
They had found the non-believers occupying the space the pastor had identified for their camp. Their challenge had rapidly degenerated to a push-and-shove. And, in the rough and tumble, he had chosen for himself a victim he had thought would be an easy push-over. And it was a villager sitting alone, shrouded in a black cloth and shaking to the rhythm of the mbira music.
The zealot had tried to pull the black cloth from the villager’s shoulders.…
The villager had been surprised and risen to his feet.
The zealot had moved to push the villager and immediately felt the unassailable solidity of a wall in the stranger’s chest. And he now had to painfully admit to himself kuti he should have seen it coming because the feeling of the wall had left his own sense of manhood dented. And, a foreboding sense yekuti ainge arova shumba nembama had assailed him, accompanied by the feeling that what would happen next was inexorable.
He had awkwardly thrown a punch, a mere gesture of token offensive, which the villager had ducked with a show of contempt.
The villager’s own strike had not missed. It had been bone-jarring and sent the zealot crashing onto the forest floor.
He had been surprised when the villager did not proceed to trample on him while he was down. He admitted to himself, with a sense of shame, that he would have himself trampled the villager if it had been the other way around. He would have trampled him in order to tell the story back at work, at church, to party associates, the neighbourhood and whoever would have cared to listen.
But, it had been the other way round … and his greatest burden was now how to keep it from reaching his workplace, party associates and his neighbourhood. That the story would become as public as a good sermon at church was, of course, a foregone issue.
He had sensed the shell-shocked flock watching the beating from the shadows of the night. And, his only luck was that the graveyard hour had offered not enough light for the watchers to film the beating on their phones. It would be the kind of video to go viral within seconds. And, that would have been a disaster and the end of him.
He had also been surprised that the villager had actually offered him his work-calloused hand and helped him back to his feet.
He had been even more surprised when the villager asked him to leave and never come back.
He had been surprised at the total absence of emotion exhibited by the villager.
And it was only when he was leaving that it occurred to him that the scuffling and shouting in the whole camp had stopped the moment he had pulled the black cloth from the villager.
After that, the only action had been left between him and the powerful villager. The rest of the people appeared to have just stood around watching from the shadows cast by the ring of light around the campfire
Alone, on the rock on the wooded dark slope of the eastern side of the mountain, the aspiring Member of Parliament reviewed the whole incident and let go a sob he could no longer suppress from his congested chest. And once he did that, he could no longer stop the others that had built-up under the major one and lain in wait.
He felt his body shudder from the emotional release.
Alone, on the rock, on the wooded dark slope of the eastern side of the mountain, the aspiring Member of Parliament remembered women ululating as he slunk away blindly and was swallowed by the dark forest.
He remembered the distinct sound of mbira rising again.
He could not remember if the music had ever stopped.
And then he felt a hand on his shoulder and shuddered.
And then he had swung his head to look.
He saw that it was the pastor and was surprised that he was not relieved to see the man of God
The pastor squeezed his shoulder…as in the movies.…
But…the emotional and spiritual assurance expected from the touch was absent.
Something had changed….
The aspiring Member of Parliament found himself thinking kuti the pastor’s grip on his shoulder was effeminate and the thought surprised him.
And then he realised that it was an inadvertent comparison with the unassailable solidity of the wall he had felt in the strange villager’s chest; an inadvertent comparison with the bony knuckles that had sent him crashing to the forest floor; an inadvertent comparison with the work-calloused hand that had helped him back to his feet without trampling him ‘to a stain’ on the forest floor; an inadvertent comparison with the voice that had told him (without emotion) to go away and never come back.
Something had drastically changed in the aspiring Member of Parliament
And, it was change, unlike the change in their party name.
The pastor said to the zealous aspiring Member of Parliament: “We have identified another site. We can go there. Others are already waiting.”
The aspiring Member of Parliament said nothing.
The man of God remained standing, his hand lightly resting on the aspiring Member of Parliament’s shoulder.
After some time, the zealot gently removed the man of God’s hand from his shoulder and said: “Go on ahead. I will be joining you time-time.”
The man of God read the message between the zealot’s lines and disappeared into the night.
The aspiring Member of Parliament listened to the sound of mbira in the night.
He listened to the thud of boots sounding in time to the mbira.
He listened to women ululating into the darkness.
They had ululated as he slunk away into the night after the beating.
He knew that women ululate in reverence and praise.
So, who was the villager who had beaten him up?
He immediately remembered the black cloth he had attempted to pull from the stranger’s shoulders and, a sense of alarm hit him like a bolt of lightning.
To be continued…