Isdore Guvamombe

Back in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, a man who swallows a mango seed, surely trusts that he has a big opening, for, the undigested seed would want to come out one day. What with the dictates of nature!

And, it is a true moral truism that when you see a lizard nodding, don’t think it is happy, in fact, it is its nature. The northern patch of this land is the one that is hot and rugged. There, the Matosiadonha Mountains run along the Zambezi escarpment in outstanding bravery, defiance and stubbornness.

In the intricate network of valleys and on banks of trickling rivers, banana trees grow in families with children of varying ages. Mature members with tattered yellow leaves bear bunches of fruit. The youngest trees are usually, short, broad and have untorn leaves.

On the foot of the mountain the bush thickens out, stretching out to stunted Mopane bush shrubbery and grasslands. Last week this villager was forced by traditional chores to visit one uncle, Mambongi, a kraalhead and hey, the man has 11 wives.

He has a central bedroom and each of the wives is given a weeklong conjugal rights duty and so, it takes 10 weeks before duty revisits each wife. This villager is no good mathematician, but counting up to 10 is easy because it is not beyond the number of his fingers.

The bedroom is an unassuming one room whose grass totters with age. Its mud-and-pole wall leans backwards, with a little door that is always firmly closed.

The bedroom has kept many secrets. This bedroom knows every wife, but never says a word. It knows many family secrets, the gossip. It has listened to many quarrels between Mambongi and his wives. The bedroom antics and indeed, the scandals too! But it remains quiet. In its belly, most if not all, of Mambongi’s children were manufactured. This villager cannot remember the other names of the wives, but vividly remembers the first wife, Muchaneta and the ninth Mazviita.

On arrival at sunset, Muchaneta, the first wife, was winnowing. She deftly held the winnowing tray full of grain at an angle, agitating in such a way that the clear grain dropped down on the reed mat, while the chaff was blown off by the wind.

The chaff that looked like straw coloured dust and spread thick on everything within reach. She was a dark woman with a straight narrow face and European-shaped nose. Her eyes were deep set and had a hard glint, maybe from years of seeing too many women join the family. A goat intermittently sneaked and gamboled on the chaff.

Upon seeing this villager’s car rattle to a grinding halt, uncle Mambongi rose stiffly from a stool, smoothly polished by many years of use. He uncharacteristically pulled a smile, exposing his tobacco stained teeth.

He walked with a stoop, and one could easily see dust caked on a former T-shirt, now tattered and a web of strings tied on loose end with reef knots. This villager was taken to a shed where one-by-one, the wives came for greetings, traditional way and so deed the children of all ages. The compound was alive with playing children, their sturdy legs already caked with a mixture of dust, mud and dung.

It was the return of the herdboys! Soon the boys came to sit with the father around a bonfire at the Dare, while girls went into the various kitchens, each grass thatched and each, tottering under the weight of the thatch.

Food was soon to come and hey, the boys fell for it like maggots and it disappeared as soon as it arrived. From that observation, meal times seemed an ordeal, for the 10 or so boys ate from one plate. My taste buds turned upside down.

The night never stopped and it was time to sleep! As I was being led to my sleeping hut, darkness was defiantly arrogant. One could hardly see beyond his nose. There I was inside a thatched hut, its two small windows were mere gaps on the wall. For a moment it was difficult for this villager to see until his eyes became accustomed to the poor lighting in the dark hut. The bed consisted of four wooden poles, firmly staked in the ground, with a rectangular reed mat and a bale stuffed with cotton straight from the fields, being the mattress.

The night suddenly seemed oppressively silent.

The only sound this villager heard were screeching crickets and the distant hoot of an owl and the howling of the jackal. Sleep took its course. Before this villager could settle in deep slumber, there was a flash of light through the small window, directed first to this villager’s face and then around the room. It was a torch.

“How is your sleep so far?” To which this villager answered: “Good, thanks.” This was to be repeated four times that night. Each time the villager had to shake off the lethargy of sleep to say “Good thanks uncle!” This villager wondered why Mambongi was so concerned about his comfort in sleep. Lo and behold! It turned out Mambongi suspected one of his sex-starved wives, would sneak into the villager’s hut. So he needed to check on this villager. On five occasions Mambongi came searching and on five occasions this villager woke up. What a night! Mambongi was insecure for, he knew he was not satisfying them, sexually. The second night was very dramatic. The sex starved ninth wife, Mazviita, pulled a trick. She pricked her 10-months-old boy with a needle and he cried loudly. Muchaneta was on duty. Mambongi, left her in the bedroom to attend to the crying child. As soon as Mambongi got inside the hut, you can guess what happened! It had nothing to do with the child. Cheating!

Muchaneta, pissed off by the time taken by Mambongi and suspecting foul play, went to knock. “Mambongi is this still about the child or you are up to something else?” Caught red-handed and huffing and puffing, Mambongi dressed up and went out to the rightful duty. The night proceeded, but not without incident. Another starved wife called for Mambongi’s help. She had spotted what seemed like a snake in her bedroom. Out he went again but you can guess what happened once he got in. Cheating! Muchaneta, followed again, worried she was being cheated and indeed she had been cheated.

The morning was not without incidence. One of the wives took Mambongi to the garden, she had a problem with the thorny bush fence. But it was really not about the fence. She cheated again. This villager got the feeling that man was weighed down and worn as the women demanded their conjugal rights.

Each woman devised a method to cheat on the other. It was cheating, cheating, cheating. It is still cheating, cheating, cheating! The village soothsayer, the ageless autochthon of knowledge and wisdom, says many men are in trouble, they lust for many women, but hardly satisfy one. Inhamo yebonde and they have aptly named him Nhamoyebonde.

“A man who brings a maggot infested log must not be surprised when lizards start visiting him.” This is nature at play. A one-man one-woman, world is the most ideal. But all men are greed!

These women were like buttocks, always in constant friction but never separating.