Fiction

Red Cocks and Black Goats: A Short Story by Sandra A. Mushi

They are all so desperate, gullible and insecure!  Greedy too!   They will do anything to get their ways.  How sad!  And on Sundays, they sit on the very first pews at church, singing hymns the loudest, giving out the most alms and shouting the loudest “Amen” and “Hallelujah” after a sermon.

The purring of a car driving slowly up the hill interrupts my thoughts.  Careful of the sudden sharp corners and potholes that are as wide as the Ngorongoro crater.  I had chosen this area on a hill purposely – to see and hear them better.

I move the gunia to the side to take a peek of the visitor.  It is a black Mercedes – driven by a woman. Must be some bored wife, I chuckle.  I watch her parking her car at the bottom of the hill, then hesitatingly getting out of the car.  I always laugh how they all want to change their minds once they get here.  They would pace up and down by their cars, while biting their nails or scratching their heads; some will sit on the boulder at the foot of the hill for some minutes – they all do and then eventually they will look around to see if anybody has followed them before coming up.

I can always tell who wants what from their actions – the ones who want babies will rush up, if at all hesitant they will spend a few minutes at the foot of the hill clutching their wombs with a sad disappointed look as if cursing them for not bearing them children.

Sometimes how they are dressed also tell me what they want – the ones who want riches and positions are always well and expensively dressed and have an air of arrogance having already tasted a bit of that bitter sweet nectar and now wanting more.

She is wearing a green dress.  Around her neck she has carefully tied a fuchsia and green scarf, bringing her ensemble together with fuchsia hand bag and pair of pumps matching the flowers in her dress.  Yes, definitely a rich wife.

She pats her hair and checks her lipstick on the side mirror, then she smoothes her dress while glancing at her reflection on the car windows.  She walks up with her head held up high.  I study the tell-a-tale signs – pride, vanity, conceited – husband problem and she wants him back as she is afraid of losing her comfort zone.

I pull back the sack fabric that I use as a make shift partition, then I start preparing the room and myself.  I light the incense, spread on the earthen floor the crocodile skin then on it scatter pots, shells, amulets and bones, before quickly putting off the lantern lights that had been lighting up the room.  Instead, I light one candle, casting the small room with eerie shadows.  I take two more candles and put them in two skulls of monkeys and place them in front of me.

Quickly, I drape across my left shoulder a leopard skin, then finish off with a pat of some white powder on my face and some amulets around my ankles, wrists and waist.  I pull the old drum between my stretched legs and start hitting it angrily, chanting incoherently, and shaking my lion-head covered head furiously.  She walks in holding at arm’s length a red cock in one hand and a news paper cut-out with my name she probably got from an advertisement from one of the dailies in another.

Padre Alhaji Sheikh Joni Profesa Makwayu Magwaya Karumanzila Simba-Mbiti’ it reads.  They are all drawn to the too long to mouth names.

Her eyes first fall on the skulls – they always get their attention.  I smile as I remember the one who came yesterday – although he has been here before, the skulls always get him stammering.

After he had finally caught his breath, averting his eyes from the skulls, he announced about his big promotion, while grinning from ear to ear.

“Make sure you get to work before anybody,” I had told him, handing him a sachet of coloured sea salt tied with a black ribbon, “sprinkle this around your office.”

“Tawire baba.”

“Leave ten minutes late for your lunch and return ten minutes earlier,” I went on handing him a sachet with incensed pieces of tree barks, “leave these where you usually park your car.”

“Tawire baba.”

“And always make sure you leave last,” I told him as I handed him another sachet, this one with a red ribbon, “sprinkle this one at your boss’s door.”

“Thank you, baba. Tawire baba.”

“Do this for eight weeks.  Come back the Friday after that when there is a full moon.  Bring with you a black she-goat that has just given birth, we will use her blood to cleanse you and sacrifice the meat to the ancestors.”

They are all so alike – riddled with greed and so desperate to hold on to something, anything – not believing in what they already have and not wanting to earn it.

I watch her leave, smiling silently.  I remove the money that she had wrapped in banana leaves – as per my instructions – from the  ash covered mental calculations – the children’s school fees; finish payment for the motorcycle; buy the sewing machine the missus has been nagging about – this should be enough.

That Member of Parliament will be my ticket to a big house, I think as I glance at my three bed-roomed house through the holes of the mud house I use as my consultation room.  He wants to win the elections.  Don’t we all want to win, I smile.

I sometimes feel guilty about taking from them so easily – giving them what they always had.  But then again a man has to feed his family.

“Rehema!” I call my daughter.

“Yes baba.”

“Take this to your mother,” I point at the red cock, “tell her that Mosi shouldn’t kill the black goat anymore.  We will have this for dinner.”

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