Death on Wheels by Lenni Mdawini Sibanda

Death on Wheels

I lie on the black asphalt my cheek is resting on shards of broken windscreen glasses , a stream of blood swills around , paints my cheek some of it is hardening like stale pig trotter soup ,the pain is excruciating ,it as if it is an antlike creature is aggressively chewing every pain sensor on my nerve endings. I try to free my stuck torn body from the car seat but its futile it is as if my whole frame has been riveted into my Kombi, my mouth can only let out some guttural sounds .Blood is gurgling in my throat. My conductor Thamu is writhing outside his neck is grotesquely twisted like some ragdoll ,he is dying or maybe even dead .Just a few steps away from the conductor lies the Kombi placard Sweet Gedle… the rest has been torn off   .Maybe it’s just right this Kombi and I, we started a lot we never finished so why should it have its full name at death.

I try to chuckle as I think of the last time I had driven the Kombi at such extreme speeds, it was the same situation but way back my conductor had jokingly said “You can hear the car whimper when you pass 120km/h ,it is scared of death just like us .So next time if we reach such speeds we will definitely Die …the three of us” .                    We had laughed that day , but right now the situation is totally different. My body is slowly losing all its blood and reflecting in that pool of red life, I can see an onlooker coming over he is asking me something. But before I can even answer him my mind has wandered away .Away, back to a time not very far back ,specifically 24hrs back , back to the last day of my life. I won’t waste my energy on fighting death, but I’ll channel all I have left to see what and where I went wrong. This was my to be my last day on this god forsaken world, damn maybe I would have lived it differently had I known I was to die.

Tracey’s hand is still wrapped all over me damn ,aren’t whores supposed to be emotional disabled ,okay maybe I shouldn’t say this about her she loves me or so she says. But as I trudge along the tiny room, it’s not good but it works well enough for her job never for living in. I am haunted , every night it always goes back to that girl back at school she was beautiful, ravishing and the fact that ironically a drunk Kombi driver took her life away that fateful night ten years back .Fate can be so evil .Back then I was just a victim but right now I am the kombi driver who is always drunk, ironic isn’t it. At night I see her young face, without fail every night I see her grotesquely spread on the tarmac her face more beautiful in death .

I stare at the mirror ,can’t see anything its pitch dark like ancestor domain, I think Tracey did not buy electricity vouchers any way it’s just as well she works as a prostitute no need for light . Right now I am in the external bathroom , I open the window slightly Oh yes the moonlight is coming in I can see my face on the mirror ,my hair is always shaggy no wonder my wife Sihle hates it, but it frames my face brilliantly makes me look strong like those niggar slaves in Roots, .My eyes are red it seems like they always are these days, maybe it’s the dagga but I haven’t smoked it in years …I know it’s a hangover .Good Xi, how the hell could Tri(Tracey) and I down all that booze in only a couple of hours, 2 Straights ( two 750mls bottles) of spirit and a half a dozen cans of lager .

How the Good Xi did I find myself here , I Khethani Mlilo ,28 years occupation kombi driver ,married Yes but Tracey is not my wife she is just some whore I picked up in Manor Hotel’s Glass Bar , she reminds me of my first love Gloria (that beautiful dead girl on the tarmac) but well she died 9 years back when I was in high school. The cell phone says its 4:45am, I have to wake up early ,collect the kombi.

As I walk to the bedroom ,dining room and kitchen all rolled into one ,I should admit this is a sign my marriage to Sihle is failing we have been together for 9 years now but it’s always the same she and I are fighting .it dates back to the day I fell in love with her ,or well I fell in love with the idea of loving someone who looked like Gloria .Two months down the line after Gloria’s death ,we had met during a township birthday party ,maybe it was my loss or maybe the notion that I would be shagging a girl just like my first love. But well other than the son(unwanted pregnancy) we had nothing to show after 9 years together other than some S.T.I.’s I brought into the home and the scar she etched into my back, with a broken beer bottle.

As I enter the room its clingy there is that smell I was so used to during my teenage years, semen, sweat the sweet stench of sex. Right now Tri is wide awake I stare at her luscious body slightly covered by a thin sheet .When she is not sleeping my girlfriend oozes that feeling people are taught to ignore as a result of “Civilization” basic carnal instinct .For she has been selling sex to survive but well for me it’s free I get to milk the chocolate cow everyday and I love the sweetness .We have been together for 6 months and my wife has never come to look for me ,maybe it’s a sign there was never love between us .

Tracey  knows me maybe even better than Sihle ever did ,cunningly her sheet is pulled lightly to reveal her a silhouette for me ,damn those thighs shaping upwards and pointing me to her ‘thing’ .I just stand there staring in the soft dancing candle light ,she asks of me , “Kats I thought you had run away from, would you run away?…..from me” .Saying this she opens her legs wide ,I am now her gynecolo…  ‘what ever they call the women doctor’  I have to inspect her privates ,but not with a spatula .

I fall asleep moments after making love to my prostitute girlfriend , her hand is returning to its spooning position I wonder if she does that with her customers .For the past two months another  recurring dream has come into my life  (more like nightmare, but nightmares are for kids) ,this idea of her with her clients might save me today from those dreams.

I am on a plane, and suddenly the plane door swings open, the force is too much as the air gushes out through the door. the sky is bright blue but yet as I hold on for my life I see it turn dark red the color of blood .Its calling out to me , suddenly I am powerless  and the air pulls me out and I fall. For that time as I let go I feel relief, it’s over now I am going to die and leave my harsh life. Sihle suddenly peeps out of the plane door she is carrying my son, without any emotion she throws him out. A loud earth shattering scream breaks out from  my throat, I am in crisis he is joining me in my death ,No!!! this is my death, punishment for my sins not my boy he has to live his life. I  grab him as he falls past me ,I hold on to him his tears fall onto my chest ,but as he sees me he stops crying ” Daddy is here” .But we are still falling and as I turn to stare down I see the ground growing beneath us .My boy won’t die ,so I hold on tightly to him ,I will fall on my back  , I will be his cushion  and the crush happens my back hits the ground there is no pain but I hear my spine shatter my head plops and my blood gushes out , Death is close by ,my child is singing a funeral song ,I know it’s a funeral song cause it talks of God taking all the ones he loves and leaving the wicked to fill the earth ,I am EVIL I should be on earth forever.

And just like that the dream ends ,there is loud banging on the door, for a moment I don’t care I think of my son how old is he now,9 years old now ,I have to see him today .But the banging on the door continues , who the hell is it ,or maybe Thamu (my ‘windi’ or conductor) am I that late .The knocking gets louder ,more stronger ,the noise is starting to enrage me .Tracey stares at me she knows what is about to happen ,slowly I am seething and as usual all of a sudden I burst out. Kicking the blankets off me ,I jump out of the bed, my head is aching ,an electric spasm of pain drowns out all notions of normalcy (maybe it’s from the dream) ,it has happened before I become so angry I lose all touch with reality.

I don’t even care that I am dressed in only my briefs , I pull open the door and the weak  morning light rushes into the room ,blinding me temporarily . I blink twice and as I adjust to the light I can see her ,Sihle of all the times to show up why now !  Her face is wrinkled with deep lines , it looks like she has aged  a full two years in those 6 months I have been away. Tri forces her way out of the bed ,she is confident in her nakedness ,So the two ladies in my life stand face to face ,Sihle dignified and motherly whilst Tri is a naked sexpot .It’s an explosive situation my anger has evaporated ,two minutes back Sihle had been banging on the door but now she is quiet .

Not knowing what to say, I blurt out “Come in”  ,Tri knows my wife she had seen her before ,Tri gets all worked out ,she screams “Come in to whose house” .Sihle calmly walks in her stately movement is chilling I know her ,she is at her most dangerous now, I look about at least there is no deadly utensil about. Tri is now tripping; her arms are flailing about as if she is some out of control mannequin. What can I do other than stand by and watch, it’s always amazing I mean Sihle’s transition from being a docile creature into this fiery fiend. It’s already started her eyes start to twitch ,her mouth is pursed no words are going to escape those thick lips at least  for now .Her left hand ,is rising if she was a Philadelphia boxer she would a southpaw , and man can her slap tear apart a man. Home chore worn hands scratch at manicured hands, its intense but brief , the fight is short I am forced into intervening ,Tri is losing this fight.

As I pull away Sihle I keep away from her jagged nails ,learning my lesson from Tri’s scratched out face ,blood is oozing from gashing lines , the artificial weave is hanging out loosely .I know Sihle’s strength she might be  a housewife but she can fight better than even the most messed up prostitutes that Bulawayo City can offer  .I have to calm her down now , it’s been long but  guess I know the words to make her relax , cautiously I say them out  “My lady ,my queen ,you rule me .Forgive me”                                               back in the day whenever I said those words she would stand still and let out a smile .She is now still ,so I release her slowly .her stiff body falls limp out of my grip .Sihle says “When are you coming back to your son, he needs you”

Embarrassed I grope for my wallet on the side table , I pull out a number of  USD$50 notes ,maybe eight or ten I’m not sure (That is all the money ,my Taxi ,Sweet Gedlela [kettle] has made this week). I push the notes into her hands, but they fall hastily on to the floor clearly something is wrong.
      “He doesn’t need your money he needs to his father”              Sihle blurts out angrily.
     “I don’t know what you want from me , you chased me out of my house and… you look for me after 6months”

Further awkward silence moments fleet into the room , we will never come to an understanding , We both know I don’t deserve her .But she wants me and what do I offer other than heartache , venereal disease and pain…..NOTHING

Everything will sort itself out: it always does, Sihle my wife had again walked away from me that very morning (with the money, hunger will eat your pride)  it is always going to be like that between us we just can’t communicate like adults it is hard .But right now I have to get to work early morning traffic is about to hit the streets of Bulawayo and where is that stupid conductor Thamu he is never late yet he chooses the worst day of my miserable life to be late. I have to walk faster to the Car Park you know I might stay in the low density suburbs of Killarney but these are the areas with highest number of car-jacking in the city ironically whilst I still stayed in the ghetto of Old Pumula I could sleep peacefully with the car just outside the yard it was safe. I check on my Chinese make cell-phone its almost five am ,man if I don’t find Thamu anywhere near the car park he is dead to me.

The soil is still wet with morning dew, it reminds me of a story I once heard from my late grandmother about the night time she had the most sweetest of stories like this one time she told me of how dew drops ware the tears of angels shed late at night crying over the evil acts of human beings conducted under the covers of darkness, she said the most wisest things.

My boot is leaving deep wounds on the moist soil , but  I have to walk even quicker work is what keeps me alive and  right now I have to keep my work alive because I have to make money , all the money I had on me that was taken by Sihle Mlilo ,earlier.

The Car-park stands out in the thin mist ,from all the cars in the park something has already taken my eye her beauty is astonishing her whiteness is like goats milk cooling my parched throat .SWEET GEDLELA the logo is written in a contemporary African  letters all jagged but yet still professional and respectable , that is my car my lady the only lady who has never disappointed me , after all the years together she still moans when I fondle her gears and moves faster when I want her too ,NO she never nags or complains about useless things .This is my lady ,my baby ,my sweet heart ,my friend and the only thing that has given me value for my money a direct contrast to Sihle whom I paid lobola for but has never given me good returns .I stand in awe of her beauty the white paint is almost silver in the pale morning sunlight , but something is amiss a most un agree-able sound coming from my car ,what is it? , I have to listen closer it’s like a rat tearing away my upholstering or is it a snore .if it’s a rat in my car I will definitely kill him and eat him up (some people do that) I pick up a thick metal bar yes this will bash the rodent’s brains out .Then with all the predator instincts I can muster I pull open the door and swing hard fortunately for Thamu whom  it turns out was sleeping in Kombi ,I have a heavy hangover so I miss by miles and break a green beer bottle near Thamu’s head the noise of a hundred breaking glass pieces stuns the boy .

What is always funny about Thamu is how his history pops up in inconvenient times ,like right now as he is surprised he jumps like a police officer at inspection and mumbles some Yes Sir’s it is a throwback to his days at Morris Depot before he was expelled for some never divulged scandals ,it is hilarious .

Thamu’s eyes are reddish like he was rubbing red hot chilies on them if I am complaining about a hangover then I should stop ,this boy has times ten the hangover I have .I can only smile as I listen to his half baked excuse ridden apology , this boy is a sorry excuse for a human being .My good mood is extinguished as I find a used condom and its creamy contents staring at me from the car seat so that is what the boy was doing in my Sweet Gedlela ,what disrespect I can only manage a short sentence                ” Thamu are you crazy”                    Thamu is acting stupid    “Bra ,What is it ”                   ” Boy you think this is a brothel where you can come in and screw    your whores”  ” No bra this is our work place I should respect it”                                                         Okay so this boy knows how to handle me ,he is quick at apologizing way before I blow off my surge protectors .I have to stop this anyway I respect my workplace but this is my boy he reminds me so much of when I was young , STUPID .

I look around and further evidence stares at me, I ask the boy “Who the hell do those panties belong to , hopefully not some Evelyn Girls School kid”.                                                                Thamu mistakes my adult concern for some offbeat crude joke and laughs like crazy, I continue “Boy , you will go to jail for statutory rape.”                                                 I do not add “I know better” because I don’t… breaking the law is in my bones how can I be a role model to the fool.

Thamu gets into the mood as he rushes about checking the seats and doing whatever ceremony that he seems to perform before we start work .

We are in it now the daily grind our ship ‘Sweet Gedlela’ chugging along the black rivers of tarmac which are the blood vessels of a dying economic city, “Bulawayo Dying” , a large newspaper poster screams. Even if my city is dying ,man , I have never loved it as much as I do today .The hustle of the early morning , workers going to the depleted industries and civil servants in worn out office attire, they all face the day with the ferocity of a pride of lions going to the hunt. They are my customers today , unfortunately for me  I missed the early birds , our market women , these are street vendors  -they wake up at the crack of dawn off to 5th avenue , in the centre , there to get the freshest and cheapest green produce.

It’s 6am , and I’m like an old Kalanga lady without her afternoon tea, scraggy and haggard. I know what I am missing it’s the delicious gossip dished out by the street vendors , oh how they decorate their tales like for example I heard one of them talking of her neighbors’ two teenage sons who were caught in a particularly nasty spot both of them had simultaneously been stung (infected with venereal disease). Of all the things in the world the mother was at her wits end how could her two sons both be infected with an STI at once .As I was driving , I screwed my ears up and heard the most ludicrous explanation ever, as it turns out those two kids were having a very nice time whilst their mother was at work .These two school pupils asked over one of their fellow female students, understand I am not talking of a scene from a porn movie but this happened and not only on one occasion , these two would look for the most wayward girl in their class and bring her over whilst others were having sports practice. Then the real funny part began they would have sex with her , but the catch was that on each occasion they only had one condom which they kept on re-using taking turns with it. So imagine the shame when the mom asked both of them who had infected them, and she fainted when she heard the answer as  her sons pointed at each other so she could only presume that her boys were two perverted incestuous  homosexuals .

You know as a driver I have noticed that people forget we are human we can hear their scandals , but yesterday those ladies changed their opinions as I was the one who laughed the loudest when I heard the conclusion of that story .

I stare at my speedometer the point is dancing at 50km/h , as I speed past Pata Pata Bar .The large concrete cooling towers of Bulawayo Power Station are looming ahead , these towers are the reason why this city is named “KoNtuthu ziyathungqa ” the city where the smoke is always bellowing. It is an old urban adage which for years has drawn thousands into this city to get work but nowadays its different millions have fled the city to go to SA .Jobs are scarce but everyday our kombis carry thousands into the city centre ironically some never come back they board early buses to the South African boarder.

So my first trip was through by 6;30 am. And so the real mathematics starts , I have to balance my equations it never ends .

Getting paid

It is never that easy ,for we have to wait for over two hours to get our cars into the loading zone at Egodini Terminus, but as for me patience has never been my strongest point. My arm  is hanging from the open window I love to feel the breeze blowing through my fingers , but today I have seen something that somehow evaded  my attention .That is the reflection of Sweet Gedlela as we ride through the wide two ways of Bulawayo right now we are in 8th Avenue passing BYO Central Police station .NMB bank opposite the pigs station has some nice glass surfaced walls so the car is blurrish , it is like a white streak of light, okay so this is a reminder that I am now close to over speeding .I hate the policemen to me they are the worst scum on earth for they steal from us every day and they get paid for doing that to society ,FUCK THEM I think to myself. Thamu starts laughing I don’t understand, he explains it to me … “Bra, you are doing it again”                                                                                                                                                                                              ” Doing what?” I ask                                                                                               “talking to yourself like an old man” he answers flatly

So as others wait at Egodini taxi Rank , I am out on the streets doing my bread and butter business. I am a man who stands on two feet ,I am both in legal and illegal business as you know a man has to eat. So as I walk out I can feel a light breeze Man in all my years on this earth I have never thought of nature. But right as I think I should have seen or felt it, too philosophical it was a sign today was my last day on earth.

I step into the bitchery sorry I meant butchery there is that smell of flesh and blood, the teenage butcher girl keeps her cool but not for long her eyes just can’t keep away from me. She steals a glance at me but I am prepared for that, I give her the biggest wink possible and a dessert of licking my lips suggestively, which gets her in a tizzy her hands start fumbling with a bloody chunk of meat. Thamu spots that and he laughs loudly saying “Bra , you drive her crazy” .                        I answer back “If only I had seen her in my teens now she is too young for me, but she is good .Try her” .                                                                                                              Thamu stops laughing replies “Who?  Me. I like the quality girls who are easy to lay”.

I signal for him to stop and wait for me , I am just not in the mood for his screwed up nonsense he has to stand and wait for me with the low quality girl in the shop front as I ramble on to the dingy , stuffy back room .

Knock! knock ! I hate knocking on metal doors they are just too unnatural but this is her shop and if she decides she wants a metal door then it’s her business .I stop after the second knock and I wait for it and there it is “Come in”                    it’s that throaty beer scoured voice typical of a shebeen patron type woman AND I LOVE IT.

Every time I enter that room I don’t know what to expect for Sis Khethi ( 48 years old Business lady , owner of Mfazomithiyo Butchery and most importantly a whore) is like a damn chameleon you  can  never  be sure of what to expect one day she is all smiles then the next day she is a demon from hell breathing fire on everyone. Come to think of it there is this one day I asked her about that peculiar quality, and she innocently answered “Aren’t we all , crazy”  ,                     how can any sane person understand  her hogwash.

Today it’s something different , because what I find in that room is pleasantly shocking ,for I am briefly entertained with an impromptu  porno show. Sis Khethi is bent over her iron desk her skirt is pulled up all the way to her neck and behind her is what I presume to be a school boy , trouser on the floor , they are coupling right there in the office , in a butchery. For some seconds , the two cannot see me , in those seconds I make the deduction that the “Come in”  I heard was not meant for me it was an instruction for the school uniform wearing boy.

You can just picture the embarrassment on the two’s faces when they noticed me ,standing by the door with a mischievous ‘I caught you ‘ grin on my face. The boy fumbled with his trouser zip and I could not help but notice the boy’s tiny ‘package’ maybe that is what she likes. Sis Khethi hands over a thick wad of notes to the boy and he hastily leaves the office , all through this I am ignored .

A few minutes later, we are seated and take note that my hands are not resting on the iron table I am scrupulously when it comes to semen .Sis Khethi is clearly embarrassed by the fact that I saw her cot-robbing secret, hands are frequently adjusting her panties as we speak. in a an un-characteristically low pitched she ventures to speak “Khetz , what you saw today”        I don’t interrupt and act as if  I am listening carefully , I am enjoying seeing the pitiful look on her face .So there is no option for her but to continue speaking “Khetz don’t tell anyone you saw me with Qhubeka , it could destroy my reputation”                 What reputation I think to myself , but she continues “We are all human we can make a mistake”             What mistake, judging from the 2 used condoms , say mistakes old whore ,She keeps quiet it’s as if she can hear the internal damning judgment I am giving her.

I have had enough of judging her , so I speak business “Sis Khethi I didn’t see anything (except your wrinkled ass being banged by a teenager But I don’t say that) I am here for business where do you want me to collect today” .                       A little bit relieved Sis Khethi answers ” I want you to collect at Nyamandlovu, you still remember Nkanyamba ” .            I nod , and she hands me the thickest bundle of US notes if have ever received from her , maybe catching her in her , what’s the word , ummh Paedo something oh yes Pedophile act was of benefit to me.

As I step out of the office and walk through the smelly back room  my heart is content as is it jingles along with the money in my pocket,  Life can be good sometimes .Thamu has left the shop and the Butcher lady is still busy with a customer and when he walks away , guess who she sees standing before her its none other than me. if black girls could blush then she would be a red robot now, Man I am happy so I decide to do a little mischief so I say “I want you”         she is shocked I have never shown her any serious attention , I continue “I want you on your knees sucking my dick , then later on I bang your brains out” .    The old lady in the queue just behind me lets out an embarrassed cough, to my surprise the teenage butcher girl reaches over the counter pulling me by the neck , kisses me fully on the mouth. Funny now as I intended to get her embarrassed but it I am the one who gets embarrassed by her act. I walk out as she calls after me “Khetz ,when will I see you” .                    The old lady follows behind me muttering and I catch the last part of her statement being “I won’t buy , from these prostitutes ever again”

Okay so there is no need to tell you that what I am about to embark on is illegal , that is why it pays ten times better than driving passengers in the city routes. It is simple I go and collect meat for Sis Khethi in the plots close to Bulawayo , the meat is from stolen cattle. In Zimbabwe stock theft is a very serious crime it carries a minimum jail time sentence of 8 years and in the deplorable jails of my country 8 years is certain death. But I have to risk it , risk all the road blocks with illiterate police officers lying in the grass ambushing us with FN rifles yet what can a man do ?  .I have been in this trade for the past 3 months and I have never been in any trouble with the pigs it’s as if I am untouchable, they can’t see me.

Thamu knows how we go about this, so he has to go and wait for me at Egodini, the boy has never accompanied me on these trips, I never want to risk his young future with my crime. Yet at the end of the day I pay him his share of the business. As I drop the boy at Watering Hole Bottle store, I buy myself a 750ml bottle of Viceroy Brandy , No I don’t care about the fact that it is 8am I need my booze for my hangover bruised system.

Tri is still beeping my phone, “What the hell does she want” I say to myself. Most probably she heard from Sis Khethi that I have a trip today, damn Sis Khethi most likely Tri wants to accompany me to Nyamandlovu. Talking to Tri can be tiring sometimes, it’s as if she forgets she is a hardened street prostitute not some soppy love struck teenage girl, so as I put my phone down I know she is waiting for me at Bulawayo Centre just in front of Baku Coffee shop.

I pick her up , and I am impressed by the amazing transformation especially her face .Early that morning I had left her face bruised and battered but right now , a heavy dab of foundation and blusher can work wonders on that face , yah being an experienced street fighting hooker has its benefits. Her kiss is wet and moist, reminding of something ….I hold her tightly and then I let go of her as I remember that I am  running out of time. We then drive off , our car taking the backdoor route out of Bulawayo right next to Victoria Falls road , it’s a bumpy ride but at least my hands can find something soft when they miss the hand-gear.

When I am close to the pick-up point Nkanyamba’s grass thatched homestead , I pull over .My leather boot falls conveniently on a pile of still warm cow dung, “Damn, these stupid cows” “What is the matter Khetz” “What is the matter?… stupid whore , can’t you see everything is the matter ”                     I am losing it , and okay I have lost it I move away from  Sweet Gedlela on to the grass near the road and I keep on prancing about like a mad man , saying a lot of obscenities, and hurtful things. “You and the world, that is my problem .Why do you have to be on this trip you think I will pick up another whore , or you think I will go and see my wife and my son. Damn you and  Damn Sihle , Damn Gloria ,Damn all of you women in my sordid life”                                                when I finish speaking ,I pant like the tired dog I am, then slowly I walk back to the car and start driving .

On the road , Tri stares away from me and through the window on to the rolling vegetation outside , her shoulders are heaving  .I reach out to her and gently I grab on to her and turn her to face me. A sad sight she is , her eyes are streaming with un-checked tears , it’s hard to say but if manage to say it “I am sorry sweet Tri, you know I love you, I didn’t mean what I said” “How do I know, Khetz. To you I am just a whore you fuck whenever you want to; I thought I would someday be your wife”

We both keep quiet I have no answer for that. She will never be my wife but I love her or maybe I love sleeping with her it’s hard to differentiate between love and lust.

Nkanyamba is as grumpy as usual and when we finish loading the Kombi, he just walks away without even saying goodbye, stupid fool, in-fact stupid criminal fool.

On the ride back , Tri is on the phone .from what I hear she will be hosting one of her regulars tonight so I will have to sleep in a lodge in town. It’s just one of the inconveniences of having a prostitute for a girlfriend. I check my own phone for time, it is now 12mid-day.The bumpy roads don’t help in my quest to keep time, so I increase Sweet Gedlela’s speed. This is to be my greatest undoing for just ahead some pigs with their speed trap lie in wait, their blue, brown and white BMW patrol vehicle under a tall Mopane tree.

Before I even spot they pop out like a loud public fart , one of the officers stands on the road signals for me to stop. What to do , or what to do? Either way I have to stop even at top speed my Sweet Gedlela is no match for the new BMW police patrol vehicles. If I stop and they see I am carrying stolen meat I am doomed.

I stop the vehicle try to keep my cool as the officer walks over to my open window, he says “Aren’t you too far away from your route Taximan and the reading on my machine says you were clocking 100km/h in an 80 zone” “I didn’t see the sign officer” “Don’t worry you can just pay the fine .isn’t it that you taximen are a rich lot, but first I have to search your vehicle. There is an anti-stock theft operation ”

Throughout all this Tri is quiet until she sees the other officer who now comes out of the patrol car , obviously to assist with the search .From nowhere I assume she just calls out a name “Big stuff Kwasora, Biggie officer” ,                                 the other officer walks over excited to see her. ” Tri . is it really you .Tri it’s been long .I have to see you again cause these days it’s hard to find you at Manor Hotel. “Baby  I will be there tonight , if you want I will give you a quickie for free. But right now we are in a hurry we don’t have time to be searched”

The two officers converse for a short while ,then the magic hand signal for us to move on is given by officer Big Stuff , (sounds like a porn star’s name).Tri says as we are about ten metres away from the police , ” Isn’t it great , to have a prostitute for a girlfriend, and I am sure you are glad I came along for this trip” ,                                 I just humph a reply.

3pm . I drop off  Tri at home and I hurry to the city centre more specifically to Mfazomithiyo Butchery , hurriedly I drop off the meat at their loading area. Khethi is not around maybe hunting for more town school kids to abuse but who cares I have already been paid .

My Chinese make phone tells me it is 3:15 pm and  I still have enough time for my daily confidential act .I follow my routine religiously ,never have I missed it for the six months I have been away from home.

Driving slowly through the streets of Pumula Old , I try to spot him among the multitude of uniforms they are like zebras you can’t find one easily. But I know mine and I spot him walking alone , his heavy satchel burdening him a bit. My son Qhubekani , my boy the greatest achievement of my miserable life. Everyday I drive to his school, and watch him as he dismisses. For all this time I have wanted to walk over to him and talk to him, tell him how proud I am of him and how much I love him. But I have never done it an old man is afraid of a nine year old, he should never associate with me I bring misery and bad luck to everyone I love.

I trail him until he enters my former home , then I drive off .My heart heavy like lead , and tears forming in my eyes but that is life I should not talk to Qhubekani lest he will end up like me. I study each of his movements as he opens the steel gate, his hands are very big always have been and they take me back to the first week of his life .I remember how I used to feel his tight grasp as he lay in his crib , My Boy ,My Son the one person whom I could always trust to give me hope whenever I felt down and out , he was the future and my contribution to tomorrow, my attempt at immortality. But then in a short while he is running to the open door and to his mothers open arms .DAMN it’s so hard I wish I could have run after him , in to the open door , and join in the hug, but pride! Man , pride kept me away from doing the correct thing.

So I stare at my cellphone and it’s time for my early evening trip 4pm , and Sweet Gedlela’s tires ate the dust .I am off to Egodini taxi rank in the city centre.

As I park the car at my Nkulumane bay ready to await my turn at the pick up point, I call Thamu on my cellphone. “Where are you boy? I need you here we have money to make.” “Sorry bru, I am coming over”

It is always a long wait when one wants to pick up at Egodini , and at the end of the day we head for the illegal pick up points in town, because there is just no business sense in waiting a full hour when in that hour you can have 3 trips and make more money .

As I seat on the passengers seat pondering on these thoughts an  image keeps flashing in my head ,its  my son and his large hands. A large squealing sound jags me from the reverie , Thamu is opening the sliding door.

I jump at him with a question “Thamu why should we wait here , we should go to 5th Avenue” “But bra i just heard that the beemer is patrolling like heavy at that spot, We could get caught” “I almost forgot , I have a little something for you” ,        I hand  him two , one hundred dollar bills taking out his crocodile skin wallet he carefully places the bills inside. “No doubt Thamu you are the richest windi in Bulawayo”

Sweet Gedlela chugs out of the taxi ranki for the last time ever, but neither of the occupants knew it at the time.

When we reach  the spot Thamu  is raved into action he jumps out and started the illegal activity called touting (Illegal but very common and accepted).Within ten minutes the kombi is full , and I roll  out Sweet Gedlela like it’s on soap.

Second pick up at the illegal spot was like a fairytale, very smooth and  it went in without an incidence .

6pm and the sun is starting to set slowly ,a cold chilly air starts to welcome the night-time. I was even relaxed the two trips had been easy, and no policeman in sight. Checking my scraggy face on the rearview mirror I spot them. Lying in wait like a lion waiting for its prey to fall from the tree it had climbed in fear, they are waiting for Thamu to start touting .Squealing sound again as Thamu pulls open the door and puts one foot on the ground, that was their signal because immediately they raved  into action , their overhead indicator lights turning a fury red and cold blue, plus that unpleasant eerie beep they make, they took off straight at us.

My signal too , to leave as I step  on the pedal and took off too, almost causing Thamu  to
fall through the open door. I turned into Hebert Chitepo street, the police patrol car in  heavy pursuit.

As I turned to look at the police car in pursuit, I hear something loud , then I feel a shower of broken glass partly pierce my neck and  natural instinct diverts my eyes to the front. But they are momentarily blinded by a caustic white electric light .then a violent powerful force rams into my body and finally total blackness.

This takes us back to the beginning of our story as I lie on the tarred road breathing my last, dying slowly and painfully. Total blackness it is over for me Khethani Mlilo father of Qhubekani Mlilo and achiever of nothing much.

The end

One thought on “Death on Wheels by Lenni Mdawini Sibanda

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