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Young Runner: Fiction by Tuntufye Simwimba

Brother, I hate your wife.

She rolls her eyes when you are not looking. She bites her lower lip at the corner. Her fingers get into her mouth. She licks them. Then she isolates her ring finger. She strokes its tip in circles with the end of her tongue. She descends to the knuckle like she is about to swallow it. She then brings it out daubed with saliva. She repeats the motion again and again, only to stop when you are about to look in her direction. I don’t know why she licks her fingers that way like they are greased with chicken oil.

There is no na in her name, your wife. At her age she should be a na something – a Nangozo, Naphiri. But when you got me from the village you told me her name was Chloe. You call her Chloe and told me to call her that too. I tried to call her Aunt Chloe once and you said no – Just Chloe. Maybe she is young. Mama told me that people here in the city eat softer food that makes them grow big and poop little. Maybe, that is why she keeps licking her fingers like a baby.

She licks more than her fingers when you are not around. She slides her top to undo her bra. Big round breasts fall off. They must be full of milk, her breasts, because they are tough like the ball I see on TV. She licks them and looks at me funny, your wife.

I try to leave. She say no Eugene. Sit here and watch. You like this, I know you like it. I don’t. I sit because I don’t want to offend her. I don’t want to be sent back to the village where Mama beats me when I don’t do my chores. I am only Eleven; turning twelve in March. Chores make my back hurt and my hands swell. Mama says when I do them every day my body will get used.

I sit before Chloe. I try to look away. She holds my head and says look here Eugene – straight at me. Then she starts to touch herself like she is applying Vaseline. I look away again then she says I will not let you play with my phone if you don’t look here.

I like to play with her phone. It has a game of a person running and I have to make him jump over things so that he doesn’t trip and fall. One day, I want to run like the man in the game. Gerry, the boy who lives across the street, says I can be an athlete if I want and go to countries where people are paid for running. He runs slowly every morning himself. He says it helps him become slim and with a bumpy stomach.

But I like fat people myself. They are all rich and they become presidents.

But Gerry says no. He says there is a country far far away where our forefathers were sold to farm on its land. He says its president is black and slim like me and he has a lot of money. I do not believe him. If it is true then it’s a land of lazy people who can’t even farm for themselves or feed their own president.

Everyone in the village tills his garden with his wife and children and bulls. And they eat and the families of both man and the bull become fat without buying people from other lands.

Chloe makes me look. She touches herself everywhere. Her hand goes under her dress and searches and searches and searches. I don’t know what she searches for. I have never asked. But I know there is something there, a wet underwear I think, because her hand always seems to come out moist.

Sometimes Chloe helps me with homework. I don’t like anyone helping me because I know all the answers. My school, Sir Johnson Academy, says we all should be assisted but Chloe gets some questions wrong.

Madam Nthala from school says I’m highly focused and that I read Henry Sugar, Matilda and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. She wrote on my school report that Eugene is a boy with towering intellect. She praises me and the whole class stares and older girls smile and let me eat their food at break time. She says I will go into college when I grow up. I will become rich and important. One day she even said I would be president. Me, I just want to run and win. I only read the books because they have funny people in them.

When Chloe is assisting me with homework she likes to touch my shoulders and squeeze them gently. It tickles when she runs her fingers around my neck. I try not to laugh because Chloe gets excited when I do. She gets her big hands inside my shirt and touches my body. Then she pinches me gently and tries to touch me everywhere. I fail to finish the homework work. She caresses my thighs.

I do not like the way she talks to me sometimes. She says I do not wash my body well and I still smell of the village. There is cattle dung in my stink, she says. She undresses me to bath me. I don’t like being bathed. Mama told me that I am big. I can wash myself. Chloe says no. Her sponge hurts because Chloe grooms me very hard like she is cleaning a pot. One day I will bleed.

When she is drying me with a towel she touches my pee-pee. I don’t like the way she touches it. It gets big and itchy. I just want to go and chat with Gerry.

I like Gerry. He tells me stories of people who run. He told me once of a runner without legs who killed his lover.

“You are a liar, Gerry” I said

“I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. Do people see without eyes?”


“Taste without a tongue?”


“How about chew without teeth?”

“Some have fake teeth.”

“Have you ever seen a person with fake teeth?”


“So you don’t know?”

“I guess so.”

“How can one then run without legs?”

She touches my pee-pee a lot, your wife. She says it’s big. It can make a teen rush back to her mother with tears and blood. I don’t know what she means. She talks a lot of things I don’t understand.

She tells me never to tell a soul. She says Eugene I will send you to the village. Eugene I will never let you play with my phone. Eugene I will not send you to a running school. I want to run. I want to get at the finish line someday with sweat on my face and hands in the air. So I let her touch.

She comes in the night to touch my pee-pee when you are away drinking. I am afraid she will bite it because she puts it in her mouth like she does to her fingers. My pee-pee gets big. Your wife wears strings for an underwear. She undresses her strings. She sits on me and does things to my pee-pee. She is heavy, your wife and my pee-pee hurts. When she is done, I look at it. There is blood on my pee-pee. I hate blood. I wipe it. There is a wound.

I cannot wear my underwear because it presses on the wound. I fail to walk properly. So I put on my big Adidas short for school. One day the girls in the front row started whispering in each other’s ears, passing notes and looking under the desk. They were laughing at me. My pee-pee could be seen from my big shorts. They call me ‘pant’ now because I don’t wear an underwear. They write on my desk and the covers of my books. I want to cry, brother.

She puts off her clothes too when she is bathing me these days. She runs to the living room, her wet feet soiling the tiles. She puts a CD of Beyoncé and starts to dance. She doesn’t know how to dance. Chloe cannot dance with the strength of Ndolo or Vimbuza like the village women. She runs her hands in her hair, then breast and hips. Her body movement is slow, lazy. But she dances on and on, each time saying, “Eugene look.”

I don’t want her coming to my room because I can read no more books of funny people. I see her every time in my mind. She says Eugene smack my ass. She told me once that ass is the city name for bums. I only like to smack her ass. It makes me laugh. It shakes like it is full of water.

She comes to pick me from school sometimes. She takes me to places with jumping castles, ice cream and milkshake. I love milkshake. It tastes better than chambiko from the village.

Pressure builds in my pee-pee now and again. Chloe says this pressure is not strange to man. It will intensify as I grow. It’s a craving for her. She touches me. She tells me, “Eugene, if I am not around do this to your dick and you will feel better.”

“What is dick?”

“Your pee-pee, Eugene. You have to be pushing it this way. Try.”

I cannot look at the girls in school. I imagine doing things to them that Chloe does to me. I try to stop it but my mind plays tricks, bad tricks. It gets itself where it was before – somehow. I try to think of the goats in the village or running but Chloe comes into my mind. All the beautiful girls in school flood it.

When the girls are looking at me I look down or stare at something in the air. I’m afraid they see my thoughts. I’m ashamed of my imagination. I fear there are pictures of naked women in my eyes.

I’m uncomfortable at looking at their chests. When I do I hear Chloe in my head, Eugene squeeze my nipples. Squeeze them like you milk a cow but gentler, slower.

Madam Nthala tells me to go in the front row. She says I look distant in class these days. Everyone says so, even the older girls. Gerry says my eyes look swollen and my body weary like I have not slept in days. Chloe gets my body tired.

When Madam Nthala is teaching and pointing at the white board her breasts bounce. She comes close to me when she sees that my mind is far. The line separating her breasts is deep and it disappears into her blouse. I look at it when she is talking. I think of Chloe. My pee-pee gets big.

“Eugene,” Madam Nthala calls when she catches me staring, points at me and continues teaching. I feel ashamed. Sometimes I go to the toilet and touch my pee-pee the way Chloe does it. My pee-pee feels better but my hand gets tired. My body too. I sleep in class.

I cannot sleep at night because my pee-pee is hot. There is fire in my pee-pee. Sometimes it feels itchy and I scratch and scratch and scratch but it does not stop. I toss around in bed. Sleep never comes. When it gets itchier, I scratch again.

Gerry says I keep touching my pee-pee. It makes him uncomfortable when people get hands in their trousers. I like Gerry. I told him that my pee-pee burns. I showed him my pee-pee. There are sores on your penis Young Runner, he said. I love it when Gerry calls me Young Runner. I love the way it sounds. The sores have spread to my testicles. Gerry told me to go to the school clinic.

The nurse at the clinic undressed me to see my pee-pee. I don’t like women staring at my pee-pee like that. Chloe stares at it a lot and plays with it. It makes me shy. I don’t like being shy. I want to be like Gerry. He never gets shy he says, he only gets uncomfortable. He talks a lot Gerry. I want to tell stories like him someday.

“How old are you?”


“Who is you partner?”

“What partner?”

“Mmmh…forget about it. Let me get your treatment.”

She walked out. She was on a phone in the next room, “Is that the police? I want to report a suspected case of sexual abuse.”

I don’t like the police. They arrested Mama once after she bought a stolen goat. I jumped through the window and run like Patrick Makau. Like Deenar Kastor. Like James Kwambai. There was power in my muscles and strength in my bones. I could feel the spirits of runners urging me on and on. I was the wind blowing. I was the white smoke of a jet flying above. I was quickness. I was speed. I was a track runner in London. I was a believer in my dreams. I was a young runner.

Brother, who is my partner?


Image: Pixabay.com

Tuntufye Simwimba
Tuntufye Simwimba
Tuntufye Simwimba is a third year law student from Malawi. He was the overall winner of the 2008 Malawi PEN Short Story competition. He is a contributor to the Imagine Afraid 500 short story anthology. He writes to deal with anger and boredom.


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