Mike said … – Baeletsi Tsatsi

Nathan walks in to find the sitting room of their three roomed shack upside down. Mary is crying in the corner and her mother is sitting on their only sofa without movement. The Stars came to raid their house and after that two policemen came to tell them that Mike has been found dead near the stream. An old woman called it in when she heard a non-ending commotion but the police arrived late, The Stars had already killed Mike.

The Okuwo family moved to Kathu late 2008, a friend of Nathan, Chris, had promised him a job at the mine, but it was only because he didn’t know what to say to his brother, when he went to Zimbabwe the previous Christmas and saw Mercy pregnant with Mary and Nathan without a job and no prospects thereof. He felt obliged to say something. When Mike arrived in the small town and learned that his own friend wasn’t even working at the mine, he felt anger build up on him but Chris told him to be grateful for he at least gave Nathan a reason to leave their hometown. The two woke up every morning to look for piece jobs near hardware stores and some days were good and some were bad. Mike, their oldest son started school at the local high school after Nathan paid a heavy amount for him to be accepted without the necessary papers, but his peers did not accept him.

He has accepted the title of kwerekwere. Tshepo, who was a good soccer player and second in command in their gang, The Stars, disliked him, because Mike stole the soccer spotlight from him. For months they planned to hurt him but Mike never gave him enough reason. He stayed out his way, focused on his studies and reminded himself of the sacrifice his father made to get them out of their poor state.

But one Wednesday morning changed everything. The family woke up. Nathan was getting ready for work, him and Chris had started a company and they were installing tiles and ceramics in people’s home. The work didn’t pay as much, but it was better to be working for themselves than to be exploited by some big boss that everyone bowed down to. On big projects, they would even call in some of their home boys to assist. Mike sat on one of the plastic chairs and sipped tea while nibbling on dry bread. Their mother who was now selling fruit ad veg by the road side was bathing Mary who she took with to work every day. The seven o’clock news started and father and son said their goodbyes and left the house. Mike arrived at school and after their maths test, the grade 11’s were released to join the rest of the school in their weekly sports day. Today was the soccer trials and Mike was excited and nervous about making the team. Apparently Tshepo had been the goal keeper since the existence of the school team, which started in 2005, but Mike was looking forward to stripping him off the title. He knew this would cause ructions, but it was a risk he was willing to take. He went to the bathroom to change into his kit and just as he was about to leave, Tshepo walked in with two other boys he had never seen before. They were not wearing school uniform, the tall light skinned one, who he later came to know as Zorro had a tattoo on his arm, one that looked like something you could get in prison, Sting, the short one, wore a muscle vest and muscle was bulging everywhere and on both his arms he had dollar signs tattoos. He has a husky voice but he didn’t say much, he just nodded and agreed with everything Tshepo, who was called, The Destroyer by his friends, said. Zorro walked close to Mike, showed him a gun and told him to not make a noise. Sting instructed him to follow them, and even though Mike had the speed of light, he dismissed the possibility of running to the soccer pitch to report the thugs to the coach so he silently followed the boys. They walked a while before they arrived at the stream. The water was clear and birds were singing, if you listened closely you could hear the cars from the main road and an old lady’s walking stick hitting the ground from the double up.

“So you thought today was the day you stripped me off my position huh? Tshepo asked Mike. But like he had done many times, he kept quiet and this agitated Tshepo.

“Are you going to say something?’ he asked Mike who again said nothing. Deep down, he was saying a prayer.

Tshepo tried to punch him but he dodged, he tried again and he dodged, he then instructed Zorro and Sting to hold him on both sides and he punched away.

“What did I do to you Tshepo?” Mike asked after a few blows.

“Nothing. That’s the problem, you did nothing to me. You never answer me, and now, without saying a damn thing, you are about to take my position as goal keeper and you know what, Lilly broke up with me. She said, she doesn’t understand why I’m bullying someone who did nothing to me.” Tshepo said.

Mike didn’t know that Lilly had broken up with Tshepo, he wondered why such a beautiful girl would date such an idiot. He and Lily had silent competition. She was top of their maths and biology class, and he was top of their science and accounting class. They both wanted top spots in all the classes, but they never asked each other for help. Sometimes, Lilly would flash Mike a smile and his heart would race. Some nights, he would dream of her and he would wake up to the results of a wet dream. He silently wished that he would at least have the courage to ask her how she is, but the most he ever said to her was a lame hi.

“Aren’t you going to beg me to stop?” Tshepo asked Mike who was now bleeding everywhere.

“If your intentions are to kill me, then go ahead. You will forever be haunted by the thought of it. You killed a man who did nothing to you, your thoughts will forever remind you.” Mike said slowly.

This enraged Tshepo and before he knew it, he took out his knife and slit Mike’s throat. Blood spat everywhere and Zorro and Sting let go of him. The three boys ran back to their community.

When they arrived at the gang house, Zorro said “Let’s go to that idiots home and steal a few things. These kwerekweres must suffer. They washed the blood of their hands, changed clothes and they went to Mike’s house. The shenty town was quiet and Mike’s family home was easy to open, they got inside and took the new television that Nathan had bought a month ago.

When they realised that they couldn’t carry it because it would be obvious, they lifted it up into the air and dropped it down to their amusement. They broke up in laughter, imitating Mike’s rich Zimbabwean accent.

“You will forever be haunted by the thought of it.” Zorro said. Tshepo felt a chill go down his spine.

“Majita, let’s go,” he told his friends.

When news of Mike’s death arrived at the school the following day. It was during the English period , the grade 11’s were doing revision when they heard an announcement come in through the intercom, asking all the learners to gather in the school hall. The school principal stood in front of the students and gave a speech before he announced the death.

“The police found Mike Okuwo dead near the stream,” the principal said and continued to tell the students to walk in groups when coming to school and when going back home, he also asked them to assist the police in the investigation. But all Tshepo could hear was the chill that was going up and down his spine, and like Mike had said “You killed a man who did nothing to you,” kept chanting in his mind.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo

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