“Push! Push!” I could hear the elders scolding at her. “Don’t you dare stop pushing young girl! You will suffocate the baby! Come on push!” She was screaming at the top of her lungs. You would swear they were trying to kill her in there. Her squeaky voice was grabbing the attention of every living thing within this world. “Why can’t you help her? She’s your girlfriend, isn’t she?” I asked Shimane. We were standing outside the hut with the other villagers. “I can’t. She’s no longer my girlfriend,” he said. Shimane is my best friend. He is the king’s shepherd. I often help him to flock hundreds of sheep for the king. He is the only one who knows how to speak to me. Others don’t. “I lost her forever. She’s the king’s wife now”. Shimane added, his hands clinging tight onto a long dry stick. Poor girl. “Wait a minute, how is she the king’s wife?! You got her first!” He looked at me with a big sigh; “You are just a dog. You won’t understand”.
This is the king’s seventh wife. According to him, this wife is his last hope. “I have six wives and seventeen children. All of you bore me girls! I want a boy! KebatlaMojalefa!” The king would shout at his wives in frustration. “You are all useless! I will marry the seventh wife.” The king desperately wanted a son who can inherit his wealth and take over the throne. He once abandoned his traditional healers and went to seek help from the western doctors. They said the chances of him getting a boy are very slim. “Le a tsenwa!” the king retorted to the western doctors. “Your bloody machines are useless like your brains!” He then abandoned them too and went back to his traditional healers. They assured him the ancestors will make a plan for him. “Seven is a complete number. Palesa will complete my wishes.” He assured them. That’s her name by the way. That girl in the hut. The one who is screaming with a squeaky voice. Palesa. The seventh wife.
She was once Shimane’s girlfriend. She used to visit us in the bush and play with us. Sometimes she would spend hours under the Marula tree with Shimane. They loved each other. They were happy together. One day Shimane spent the entire day crying underneath the Marula tree. He said people from the royal family didn’t want to see them together anymore. He was sad all the time. Heartbroken. “What can I do? I am just a shepherd. I am not from a royal family like them. Now she’s gone. She’s going to be one of the royals. She’s going to be one of them.” He would say, crying himself dry. I felt sorry for my friend. I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes I am grateful that I am not human. They like making things difficult, yoh! Anyway, before we knew it, the king married her. Seventh wife. Imagine that. Seven.
Now here we are. The entire village. Gathered outside the hut to hear the big news. Is it a girl or is it Mojalefa? We are all waiting. After a couple of minutes Palesa’s screaming stopped. An elder came outside the hut. She looked at everyone. Everything went silent for a few seconds. And then she delivered the news. “It’s a boy! KeMojalefa!” Everyone shouted with joy. “Mojalefa! Mojalefa! Mojalefa!” There were ululations from women. Men were reciting praising poems. Even birds of the sky could not help it but to sing to the great news delivered. I was barking on top of everyone’s voice. Shimane was dancing like he just won millionrands. It seemed that he had forgotten that this is his ex-girlfriend. Maybe he was happy for her. He looked proud. “Someone please go and call the king!” The elder shouted. The king didn’t waste time. On his way to the hut he was cheering, shouting with pride: “The ancestors have answered- Ba arabilebadimobarona! Ba refile Mojalefa!” He got in the hut. The elder handed him the baby. He was wrapped in a soft warm towel and was looking very tiny. Palesa was tired. Sleeping. The king looked at his son, smiling. The smile slowly faded as he observed the baby, his nose, lips, ears his cute tiny toes. He couldn’t believe it. He then turned towards the crowd. His face now fuming with anger:
“KE MANG O JETSENG KGOSI?!”
Everyone looked at each others’ face. Some were confused. Mostly women. I looked at Shimane and he looked at me in return. I am glad I am a dog.
Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo