The Confession, a short story by PIUS NYONDO

The elbow-knee contact and the pain steadily stemming from it assures me of two things: one that my head is considerably weighty and, second, that we have been here for some good time. Curiosity sends my eyes to the Ching Su plastic wristwatch on my hand: 14: 00, it reads. 

Brewhwbrrrrh! 

My stomach screams. The middle-aged man, who keeps on wiping mucus from his nose with the back of his right palm, looks at the others around – and then me – with a you-are-the-one-don’t-deny-it look. He thinks it is a fart.

Pius Nyondo - The Author

The mound of soil on which we are sitting comfortably on is a stone’s throw away from Ngwata’s prepared final resting place. It is a fresh grave. CHAWEZI MSIMUKO, the home-made tombstone reads, 1999-2016. Beloved son and brother: YOUR KILLERS WILL BE KILLED. REST IN PEACE.

Chawezi was found dead around the perimeter of this very same graveyard yesterday. Eyes, teeth, heart and both arms missing. Two days ago he had left home early in the morning for school and never returned. Until he was discovered yesterday. Dead. We buried Chawezi yesterday, at around this very same time, after his body was discovered by the village head’s right hand men who check fresh graves each morning whether any foul play has occurred.

Brewhwbrrrrh!

The Mucus Man looks at me, and then around before turning towards me. Your farts don’t stink, he says solemnly, why?

‘It is my stomach.’

‘Huh?’

‘I’m hungry,’ I say but, strangely, he laughs heartily. So much so that everyone has turned towards our direction. I look down, embarrassed.

‘Shshshshsh…’

‘And as the Bible says,’ the voice of Prophet Nicodemus Panja of Fuck the Devil Ministries Int’l booms, ‘we must be on our guard for this world is not our home. We are on a journey. A journey to where we all belong. A journey back to our God. A journey to eternal life. Someone shout AMEN!’

The women do it, and offer him some kind of rehearsed ululation as bonus. And as if possessed Prophet Panja jumps from this position to that, now and again narrowly wanting to fall into Ngwata’s prepared grave. Fuck the Devil Ministries’ success has come overnight like a heart attack. A secondary school leaver, Prophet Panja, dedicated his life to God after he had failed to get admission to public universities despite having excellent grades. The Leader, then, so the story goes, wanted only his folk to go to the government universities and, Panja, coming from one of the unfortunate tribes was not spared of the blow.Until now, Panja calls the Leader and his brother who is now the Leader stones – devil's incarnate. He has been arrested twice for conduct likely to cause breach of peace.

The peak of Prophet Panja’s career, some two years ago, was when he prophesied the death of his sick daughter and later of the Leader; both of which came to pass. It was Prophet Panja and his Fuck the Devil Ministries Int’l on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some made fun of the name of his ministry while others called him names. But that only made him more famous. Prophet Panja commands immeasurable respect and has a following of thousands on Facebook.

‘He was in Heaven last week,’ a voice says from behind. ‘He actually took pictures with Jesus Christ and Moses and the Virgin Mary.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes,’ the first speaker affirms, ‘the Prophet has a powerful anointing of the Lord. He talks to God like how one talks to his wife.’

‘Have you seen the pictures yourself?’

‘I am intending to sell one of my cows to buy some.’

‘He is selling?’

Brewhwbrrrrh! 

The sound has now graduated into a sound of total hollowness. The Mucus Man looks at me, and turns to concentrate on Prophet Panja who is still jumping up and down. But the Mucus Man turns to me again, waving his hand around his nose. A disturbing smell has swept past. Everybody knows what the smell is.

‘It is not me,’ I whisper to the Mucus Man.

‘Stupid boy.’

‘That is what happens to me when the Prophet is preaching,’ the voice behind returns, ‘the smell represents the sins. I am being cleansed of my stinking sins by the mighty Prophet of God.’

We all turn.

The founder and the overseer of Fuck the Devil Ministries Int’l is at work. He has promised a massive crusade the coming weekend, right in the village, where he says the lame will walk, the blind will see and poverty will disappear. 

But I am no longer concentrating. My mind is on the food I must eat once the burial ceremony is over. There is no food at home. Mother said I would eat at the funeral.

She sent my siblings Ndamyo and Ndagha to go and play at the Teacher’s house. You will eat there, she told them as we left for the funeral. This has been the day-to-day dingy way of survival – eating at a friend’s place or at a funeral like this one.

My Ching Su plastic wristwatch reads 15:56. Prophet Panja is walking to his seat, sweating profusely despite there being a canopy of trees offering an affable silhouette around. The rest of the trees around the village have been cut down for charcoal.

Bwana Li, who worked for CBC that worked on two bridges here and did not return to China after marrying Belita, buys the charcoal at affordable prices. He does not allow people to sell the charcoal to the city on their own. He says city people are bad and can dupe them. Bwana Li is in fact a good man. He paid more than what he was told to pay for bride price when he was marrying Belita. He has selflessly paid for the ‘house’ in which Ngwata is right now.

After a brief face-seeing ceremony in which only a selected few take part, Prophet Panja is invited yet again to conduct the final rite of committing Ngwata to God.

‘Ash to ash,’ he says solemnly, ‘dust to dust.’

Ngwata’s wife breaks to uncontrollable wailing as the shirt-less young men are determinedly creating another mound with their shovels and hoes. A few cough due to the dust that has now enveloped the entire area. Once they are done, the Master of Ceremonies, Jakobo, a humorous fellow in a badly patched Patriotic Party t-shirt announces the total of what has been collected before calling upon Ngwata’s son to say ‘a word or two.’

Brewhwbrrrrh! 

The Mucus Man looks as Chipiliro, Ngwata’s firstborn son, stands. ‘My father left a confession before he died,’ he begins after salutations. Everybody turns up. Ngwata was a famous businessman and farmer – owner of Ngwata Grocery and Ngwata Ox-cart Logistics. He was also a strong member of the Last Church of Nazareth.

‘Perhaps he has left some money to finish the new church building,’ the voice from behind.

‘He confessed that he was behind the death of Chawezi, the albino and wanted his parts to boost his business but realised that he had been fooled by a witchdoctor…’

There is cacophony and tumultuous talk. Chawezi’s mother, Nyaukandawire, is shaking Chipiliro by his shirt-front. Jakobo, with the help of two other young men, manage to get off Nyaukandawire. Chipiliro continues, wet-eyed.

‘He said to calm the spirit of Chawezi, so that it rests in peace, the first person to leave this graveyard will die as sacrifice…’

As Chipiliro walks to his seat, the Mucus Man stares at me as Prophet Panja stares at the village headman.

Brewhwbrrrrh!


~From The First Collection, forthcoming.

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous12:21:00 PM

    Such an enthralling read, scribe, couldn't stop reading until I finished it.

    ReplyDelete
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