Excerpts from a fiction novel, Let Close On Me
by Temba Magorimbo
At the end of his life at Harare Polytechnic College, his cousin had invited him to Redcliff for the Christmas holidays. He was flashing with pride. His articles had been published in the Australasian media giving him some pocket money. Some articles he had researched and written had been given space in a motor trade, and golf association magazines in South Africa. The rand they had sent him had been worth almost $0-89 against the dollar.
He was walking towards his cousin's flat. The blocks of flats were arranged one across and along each other like match sticks writing a secret code. They were all three bedrooms, bath and shower upstairs with a lounge, kitchen, toilet and dining room downstairs. His cousin lived at No. 7 Simbi Flats when he met the girl. She was tall and slender with grey eyes going the opposite way. He had stopped and made a U-turn confronting the girl. His hunter class submarine instincts had been awakened. This was a Soviet spy ship, which he needed try to sink. "Hi."
"Hi to you too."
"Excuse me," he had said. She had stopped. “Sorry for the bother. But my! I should comment you on your very beautiful hair do, Ebony isn’t it?”
“Sure, thank you for the compliment.”
"Would you happen to know where King George Road is?"
"Ah, there," she had pointed.
"Just like that?" he asked disappointed. Why hadn’t he asked for Sir Cornelius Mall instead which was further off, or Ripple Creek Drive which was about four kilometres away?
"Where do you live?"
"Rocklands Avenue," she replied watching him with unmoving eyelashes. That was that avenue next to the foothills of a hill, he remembered going up and down on a bicycle.
"Are you going there?" he tried another angle like a fencer.
"I am coming from there," she corrected. That was splendid. If marks for stupid questions could be given he had won here by behaving as if he didn’t know the environs of Redcliff.
"I am David Jonathan Steele, and you?"
"Vera Osborne," she had replied. "You won't get lost, right turn ahead leads you into King George Avenue."
"Are you in the books?" he asked like a fisherman trying more bait. She had been quick to dismiss him.
"My aunt is," she replied.
"Is she an Osborne too?" he asked.
"I will remember," he had replied. He stood in the street watching her walking away. She looked back a couple of hundred metres later. He raised his hand. She did not. A hooter made him jump out of the road. When he looked back, she had disappeared into Sir Cornelius Mall.
He knew where King George Avenue was. He was now a fundi of Redcliff having done what he loved best. He was adept at studying an area's geography. He had studied the map of Redcliff. He had walked, scouted and discovered the small but vibrate town‘s life.
David was coming with a married friend of his cousin down McNab Crescent when he saw two girls walking ahead of them. "Aye, see those angels?"
"I am married."
"I am getting hold of one before they both fly away," he replied.
"See you then David, slayer of Goliath!"
"Okey doke Mark," he trotted towards the two moving girls. They looked back as he joined them. "We met before."
"Hi," she replied.
"I forgot your name," he had replied.
"Vera Osborne, my friend Jill Fletcher," Vera had replied. "You are David?"
"Correct," he had shaken their hands. Presently Jill said he good byes returning leaving him and Vera walking together. They talked about this and that until she stopped.
"That is my aunt's place."
"Oh, can I come in?"
"Not today. I will see you David, nice meeting you again."
"I will phone. Hacking is it?"
"Yes," she replied.
"How do I leave this road?" he asked.
"Turn right at the next turn which is Jacaranda Drive then left at the next turn into Rhodes Crescent. Head down Rhodes Crescent for Redcliff town centre," she replied before opening a pedestrian gate.
“What if I am coming from the town centre?” he asked softly. She didn’t hear. She was already gone. She was gone swallowed by the trees, shrubs and greenery of her aunt‘s home. Reluctantly he started down Rocklands Avenue looking at the foothills of the hills of Redcliff. He turned left into Jacaranda going south up a ridge before turning right into Amethyst Drive. He went up the hilly drive, which ended up making his knees feel painful. Blocks of flats arose on a right turn before him. They appeared to be of the same design as those of Simbi. All were double storey building built into a hillside with acute drops at one end. He just wanted to see Redcliff. He liked geography and exploring was part of his youth.
Three days later, he had joined a throng of people at Torwood stadium to see a football match. His fraternising with the locals had had him called a kaffirboetie. Those that had done that at school did it behind his back because he had sent one large boy into the urinary. Ever since all bullies had been wary of him. Instead, they had cultivated friendships. He alighted on his return near Redcliff Junior School. He walked up Rhodes Crescent before turning right then left again into Rocklands Avenue. He walked in uninvited and knocked at the hall entrance door. He heard soft feet coming. He thought it should be the house cleaner.
"Hi," she opened the door showing surprise at seeing him.
“Hello I don’t want to intrude. I was passing by and I thought I could say hi,” he replied. She looked at him for a few seconds. Her hair was made into a bun tied by a towel. She indicated that he could come in. She wore shorts and blouse.
“Oh thank you for the company.”
"Telegram ma'am," he said.
"Seems like there is going to be some rains," she led him to the lounge. Pointing outside, he saw how lucky he was. It was raining. She made him tea. They talked.
"I start work in Bulawayo on the 2nd of January," he had said. ”I hate to say it but I will surely miss this well organised little town of Redcliff.”
"I am in Bulawayo too," she replied. "I finished my finals at United College of Education. I start teaching when schools open on the 21st of January."
"What are you doing at Christmas?"
"Nothing," she replied. “Where do you live?”
“I live in Gwelo, which is my home city.”
“Oh? What were you doing, at is it college?”
“Yes mass communications.”
“Oh journalism, what a rich field. I can see in my mind’s eye elements of the film Tour of duty where reporters were going into the front lines. How does it feel to get bombed by the ‘enemy’?” she asked. “Are you going to be involved in dangerous assignments?”
“I do not know but I will be willing to go. It is a noble profession and yours?”
“Student teacher status expires on the 31st of December. I officially assume duty on the 1st of January of the New Year.”
"Great! Can I be your date?" he asked.
"Please!" she stammered opening her eyes wide and closing them. He had completely taken her by surprise. She had not expected him to be so point blank and blunt as he had been just now.
"I insist," he said. "Do you drink?"
"Don't tell my aunt, I do, smoke too."
“Me too,” he took out a packet of cigarettes. “Are these your kind?”
“Camel, yes but let’s smoke outside because she doesn’t like smoke. Besides which, she does not smoke and she would smell the smoke any where within the house.”
After sharing, for him two cigarettes and for her one, they returned indoors-chewing mints to dissipate the smell. Ten minutes later he made to take his leave. As she opened the outside door for him, he pulled her to him and started kissing her. She came easily into his arms. He found his hands rubbing against the back of her shorts. It was not long before he had cupped her small breasts into his hands pushing the blouse to her neck.
“No David, no sexual contact, please,” she had pulled up her shorts that he had brought alongside her pants to her knees.
“I am sorry I didn’t mean to _________.”
“Okay, see you Dave,” she replied. A minute later, she saw him into the road.
“When do I make love to you?”
“I am on my monthlies,” she replied.
He invited Vera home when his cousin was away with his family. He remembered that everyday thereafter, he invited Vera in. Redcliff had never been so sweet, especially with two hours everyday of naked lovemaking.
David had been to KweKwe. His African friends had introduced him to a nightclub where he had had his fill of opaque beer. It was fermenting inside him like a beer tank.
"David!" Melanie, his cousin George's wife had admonished when he had walked in.
"You are drunk."
"I'm ______ not." Why was the passage spinning? Who had built these walls of jelly?
"Yes you are."
"No I am not. You are lying to me because I am not drunk."
"Stand on one leg," suggested Melanie.
“But I have two legs and two arms to go with. Oh I also have two nostrils, one for air and another for my smoke. I tend to have two hands and a set of shoulders. You asked something didn’t you?” he asked.
“I said could you stand on one leg?” was the question.
“Suppose so if you ask again seriously.” He replied. Why behave like a cock defending its territory and harem.
“Please stand on one leg with all your hands spread out like this,” she demonstrated. She wore a tight fitting set of trousers and an overlapping mini dress. David held both walls standing on one leg. She was stuck on being between sixty-five and seventy kilograms in weight. She had a height above a metre sixty. Her green eyes went over him without blinking. Watch out he thought, there are mosquitoes looking for those sea green eyes.
"See I am sober."
"Don't hold those walls."
"Okay," he tried it. When he realised, he was on the floor landing on his buttocks. The back of his head had exploded. Someone opened a tap within his stomach. David sent jets of Chibuku opaque beer shooting and landing on the passage floor. Gorge was beside himself with laughter.
Melanie looked at the mess in agony and revolt. “David! That is disgusting. You are a disgrace to the Caucasian community.”
“You started it Melanie, you surely started it,” replied George.
“Sorry I started it as a joke. Nyarai!” Melanie called the housemaid.
“Madam,” she replied.
“Come and clean up this mess!”
Afterwards David sang Thomas Mapfumo’s Pfumvu paruzevha. When he woke up the following day, one he had an immense hangover. He was very hungry too. George upon looking at him was beside himself with laughter. The wife wasn't amused.
"David!" Melanie shouted looking aside. Why didn't she like him? Why did she at times pretend to smoother him with hugs when she looked aside now?
"You are not dressed!"
"Oh sorry," he had bolted up the steps to his room. Here he discovered he had gone out wearing pants and a shirt only. When he had corrected the error, he went down to breakfast. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s good that you don’t sleep naked,” his cousin replied.
“Its not a joking matter,” Melanie replied seriously looking at her husband. “This is not the machine shop workshop were you prance around semi nude you know.”
“I am attorney for divorce, which side do I represent now,” David asked.
“No one!” Both replied.
“Is this when I say I have an erection?” George asked.
“George!” Melanie berated David for his socialism with the other race.
“Who do you think you are fraternising with the black race?” she asked.
“I am David! Where do you think people of mixed blood, Caucasian and Black blood came from? Since we have them in the tenth generation, full blood coloureds, it means ______”
“What?” he asked his eyes popping out as he looked at Melanie. Her cheeks had coloured. Her eyes were narrow slits. “My God George, Melanie is planning to murder me.”
“I should but I won’t,” she bellowed. “If you feel comfortable being a kaffirboetie, whom am I to tell you otherwise. Wait till one of those Torwood urchins puts a knife through your scrotum then we will sing your blues.”
“Sorry Melanie darling!”
“Don’t darling me. Your likes could have easily pinned Nyarai down and made a night of it in my absence,” she replied.
“Melanie dear,” began George with a cough.
“I am sorry, “she raised her hands in the air.
“Speak no more you have said enough,” George said coolly which was the most reprimand he would give his wife. They had an odd relationship. She had a very explosive temper yet he was so cool, calm, reassured and collected. Just a few simple words from him would deflate her tempter. They really loved each other. David could tell by the gentle exchanges of the eyes, their hands touching or just holding hands as they walked.
“Someone said they have an erection,” suggested David.
“David!” Melanie shouted.
“Sorry ma’am,” he ate his breakfast preferring black coffee, two mugs of it to be precise. She demanded he be sent back to Gwelo where she had already telephoned and accounted for David's behaviour.
After breakfast, while the family went to church, he returned upstairs to remove the sheets he had wetted. He brought them and his wet jean trousers to the bathroom and called the maid up. He also brought out the mattress to air and dry it. He next opened the windows of his room.
"Why master David?"
"I was drunk, Chibuku® you know," he spoke in Shona. ”You know your traditionally brewed stuff does wonders in the stomach. I have never known a beer that erupts out of the stomach like a volcano. You cannot stop it I tell you. It just goes out and out. As it leaves you behave as if you are possessed by the Devil and eleven demons short of one to make the same number as the children of Israel. You just go mouth wide open like a victim of the dentist or a bite by a tiger on the crotch. It gives a strong erection and a huge hangover.”
“I can only stop the hangover not the erection. Don’t even try it,” she defended.
“I had not offered to remove it on you,” he had replied.
"Yesterday they made me clean your vomit and fumigate the passage," she complained. “That is not in my job description.”
"When I get stoned like yesterday, a hose-pipe opens and releases water," he said.
“Aha, you are a female maid and I am a teenager. Don’t even think of sex with me. I don’t take it,” he corrected. “I will have you reported to the defunct British South Africa Police or the disbanded Special Branch intelligence.”
“I did not say that. I don’t waste my body on boys or better still grown men.”
“Look at how unhappy white men who ‘marry’ their former maids are.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You have made many implications.”
“I am sorry master David. I never meant what you thought I meant. For goodness sake master David, I am just a nineteen year old virgin going to get married some good day as a virgin too, to a black man too.”
“All right. We could try anal,” he suggested with a flicker of a smile.
"Say no more," she replied.
"My lips are sealed. Not a word to cousin," he replied.
"Not even about the girl gets laid here every morning weekdays?" asked the housemaid.
“How did you know about that?”
“When she comes, she does scream a lot in delight,” she replied. “She does shout about what she wants you to do be it sucking her breasts or whatever.”
“Confound it Nyarai, who told you!”
“Who am I to tuck cotton into my ears? Three four times she screams within three hours, the hosepipe is surely big, long and strong. There must be a gallon of stuff every day.”
“You are starting it.”
“Just a comment master David.”
"Not even about that. See no evil and hear no evil," David replied.
"Now how do we seal my lips?" she asked.
"I will kiss you if you like."
"If you like," he replied.
She showed him her palms. "Grease my palms if I am to do your dirty work."
He slapped a five-dollar note into her hands. They remained outstretched. He slapped a ten-dollar bill. She started washing. Vera telephoned a few days later. They met at the Zisco club and began drinking. They walked back singing all the way home. He sang songs like, Hey Joe; I still haven't found what I am looking for and Three o'clock roadblock.
George made a mockery of his drunkenness. It wasn't that he was drunk but rather that he couldn't stand on one leg for more than a minute. He was quizzed, his answers, slurred in speech sent the family laughing. He didn't mind. He woke up in the morning late. He went down to confer with the rest of the family forgetting it was a weekday.
"Where is everyone?"
"They went to KweKwe sir," she replied. "You are sober?"
"Not for long," he promised.
"Madam and sir have gone to work, the toddler to crèche and Stephen to school. It's only you and me. Now that you don't have any washing for me to do, can I make you breakfast?"
"I will shout when I am in need of breakfast," he went down for a cold glass of water. He ran a cold shower singing all the while. He had started writing freelance articles using his Harare connections. The local payments were not good but they sustained him. He had no need to draw on his account.
He was through when the doorbell chimed. He listened from the top of the stairs. He heard footsteps; it was the maid and Vera. Suddenly, his erection started growing. He showed Vera into his bedroom. The maid stood with her broom and an outstretched hand. He put in a fiver and made a 'silence' signal, with his finger on his lips.
"My lips are sealed," she replied.
“Good for you.”
“Keep the silencer on, she does scream,” she replied.
“Count and lets’ bet.”
She shook her head continuing on with her thorough cleaning downstairs. Though he had been tempted, David had never gone for the African race. She wore a flowered wide skirt cut short. It had a matching belt fitted into the waistband loops. She had on a T-shirt that he soon had over her neck, caressing her breasts and touching. He started by caressing her thighs while she talked non-stop updating him on the latest gossip to hit Rocklands Drive. He followed by kissing her lips, her breasts, her neck and face while he removed every item of clothing on her body until she was butt naked before him. He undressed slowly as well.
He sat her on his lap.
At last to conclude their day they shared a cold shower coming down to have salad and chicken pieces before he saw her off as far as the kitchen of her aunt’s place.
He had had a feeling that Nyarai was listening outside the door and he had been correct in assuming she had eyes for him. He knew she wasn’t a virgin because he had heard stories from Melanie in which she was rumoured to be sleeping every weekend Saturday in Rutendo where she had no known relatives. Her parents were in Torwood. These girls were out to catch any spring rabbit even a white one for a lifetime job as a housewife-cum-maid. The cultural differences had held him in check. He had gone out with coloureds. He had even visited the clinics for some treatment after some overzealous entertainment sprees.
Reluctantly, when the time was due, he bade farewell to Vera, leaving for Gweru on his way to start a new life in Bulawayo.
David was subletting a bedroom in a two-bedroom apartment. The tenant had a family of three including him and a wife. There was a daily help who came and went every day.
"David!" his landlady called on a weekend. David had just finished his bath and change for the day.
"I haven't seen him," he replied.
"Who is replying?"
“I said I haven't seen King David, he died a long time ago in Israel," he replied.
"Oh I was talking of the shepherd boy."
"He was swallowed up by a big fish," David replied.
"That was Jonah, you imp!"
"Oh a lion got hold of the shepherd boy before Samuel's advent," he replied.
He heard her laughing. "You have a visitor."
"KweKwe?" he suggested.
"Hey, why can't you be surprised," asked a familiar voice as she brought in her small travelling case.
"I guessed, correctly," he stammered both surprised and frightened that Vera had paid him a visit. Was she pregnant, he wondered? It had been three months since he had been smuggled into her aunt's house in Rocklands Avenue over night. "Thanks Wilma."
"My pleasure," she had replied.
He took her to his room. As soon as the door was closed, she started kissing him. He buried his fears and replied in kind. He fondled her small breasts pushing them out of their hold. He sucked at them as she started undressing. "Vera?"
"Are you by any chance pregnant?"
“Me pregnant? You must be joking. Not before I settle for a high-powered career. I am not the type to think marriage is the solution to lonely nights,” she had replied. “Did you think I was after you permanently?”
“No, I take life one day at a time. I am on the pill, have been ever since I went to college.”
“Thanks for your understanding.”
“At least you understand me.”
"I am on the pill," she replied. "I just thought I could visit before I leave."
"I will be working in Mutare," she replied.
"Oh so far away," he replied.
“I have friends in Manicaland. My elder brother is there in Paulington so it will be a little stretch going to work. Parents limit movements, I want my freedom.”
"I will explore with you today and tomorrow," he replied. "I have an assignment in the evening, four p.m. sharp. Maybe I will come one time to Mutare and delight you. You won't mind?"
"That butters your bread, I can't interfere," she replied.
When she left for Mutare by night train that was the last he ever saw her again.