Chained

William Khalipwina Mpina

Their road to education was rugged, rocky and a pot-holed one.

Torn exercise books clasped under the armpits stuck out as three girls, Yamikani, Tiyamike and Mayamiko walked back home. Taking short strides, often looking at vendors along the road, they passed by Police Training School on the right side and Works Training Centre on the left side before they disappeared into a dusty path that snaked through maize fields to connect with the main road that entered Teachers Training College Campus. They followed a path behind the fence of the college so that the imposing Soche hill—their destination to fetch firewood before they met their mother—was in full view.

The headmaster had once again disallowed them to attend classes. School fees for two terms had not been paid. Nachisale, their mother, had promised to pay but her kanyenya business had suddenly crumbled because Mbondo, their father, had spent her ‘capital’ on beer. The headmaster did not want to understand them for he thought both the woman and her girls were cooking up stories because Mbondo was always drunk.

Slowly, the three girls picked up firewood and descended the hill for home. Their road to education was rugged, rocky and a pot-holed one. Mbondo was the problem. He was sucking every coin his wife brought home. When the issue was brought to the attention of his relatives, nothing changed. The only thing the three children saw was that their father was angrier than before.

‘I fed your mother and his brothers when I was working with Lever Brothers Limited. Tell them to pay me back,’ he used to falter when uttering this statement. Nachisale was tired, but there was nothing she could do. She was always gawping at Mbondo when his tongue was vomiting piripiri sauce. Trying to convince him to change his drinking behaviour was almost impossible. He loved more beers than taking care of the family. Not once but several times, her colleagues had bailed her out by paying school fees for the children.  Though it was boring to assist an able man who would do nothing but eat from his wife’s purse, her colleagues were doing the self-sacrificing job in silence, without protest.

When the three girls met Nachisale at Misesa market, it was a few minutes past noon.

“He has sent us back again.” Tiyamike woofed.

“Oh, my God,” yapped Nachisale.

She went into her rented grass thatched house and brought back a tin in which she kept some coins. As usual, there was nothing in it. Mbondo had swept everything that was there for a cup of masese, yet on return he would demand food on the table. The girls surrounded her like a swarm of flies to check what she would do next.

“Bring the photo album and the mirror.” She uttered.

“I was a beautiful girl before I lost my eye,” she began, her fingers flipping through the photo album. “I went to the University of Malaya. I wouldn’t be starving like this.” That was the last statement she produced before she cried her lungs out.  Mayamiko snatched the photo album from her, but chose to sit very close to her to listen to the story. It was because of Mbondo that Nachisale lost her place at the university. He said he would be doing everything for her.  Against the wishes of her relatives, Nachisale married him, and it was because of him that she lost her eye as well. Mbondo had a girlfriend. Mad, Nachisale would not share a husband and wish to hear that the girlfriend was disparaging her at the waterhole. They met and a fight ensued. The two women were fighting, tearing apart each other’s clothes, spitting basins of dirty words, when Mbondo approached. Staggering, he thought he had to rescue his girlfriend. He took a plank and threw it on Nachisale. She fell down, but at a speed of a cheetah rose up and ran to pick a stone. She threw it and the spike missed its target. Mbondo lazily picked up a piece of wood and threw it. The missile flew in the air at a straight angle and directly jabbed her left eye. Nachisale fell down. The piece of wood stuck out on the eye to the amazement of all. The girlfriend unobtrusively limped away.

The matter was taken to court. Mbondo pleaded guilty. He was ready to go to prison but Nachisale thought the punishment would be too much. She had lost her eye. It wouldn’t be replaced by imprisoning her husband. ‘If Mbondo promises that he will no longer go to his girlfriend after I have been maimed, then he must be forgiven.’ She told the court. That was an easy thing for every man to do. But, with circumstances choking her throat of peace almost daily, Nachisale would shed tears of regret. She should have allowed that Mbondo be imprisoned before life grew a thick skin on her and her children.                                                                                                     The end