I love short stories. Sometime in the first third of 2010, Lion Press (Sarudzai Barnes)in the UK are going to publish what is going to be my third short story book, ‘Toriro’s goats and other stories’. In this one (just as I did with Tudikidiki), I am still searching for a tempo that is accessible to both the young and old. I just love short stories. There is the Mozambican short story writer, Luis Bernardo Honwana. I keep going back to his smallish collection of short stories, ‘We Killed Mangy Dog’. I also keep going back to Charles Mungoshi’s stories, ‘Coming of The Dry Season’. I also cannot avoid ‘Luanda’ by Viera of Angola. I have come across many better and bigger books but those three are important to me.
Now here (below) is just the first quarter of one of the short stories in ‘Toriro’. It is called ‘Nakai, you are killing me’
NAKAI, YOU ARE KILLING ME (A short story by Memory Chirere )
Nakai was a simple girl of nine. She was in the fourth grade. Her friends were Nyasha, Tsitsi and Marita. After school they would come out of the gate and sing and run home.
First they would turn right into Nyani Lane. There were houses on both sides of the lane. They were red brick houses with neat lawn beds in front of them for children to play. Towards the end of Nyani Lane, Nyasha would say goodbye to Nakai, Tsitsi and Marita and walk through one of the gates.
The other girls would wave at Nyasha and turn right into Mutamba Circle. They would sing louder and louder as they went and Marita would say goodbye and walk into her home. Nakai and Tsitsi would go on home towards the end of Mutamba Circle. Nakai and Tsitsi stayed next door to each other. They would both walk through the gates to their houses, wailing to each other, “Be- be-be-be a sweet girl!” Only they knew what it meant.
In the morning Nakai and Tsitsi would come out of the gates at the same time! It always happened like that but they had no watches. It was fun, always running out of two different houses at the same time. They would go down Mutamba Circle. They would call out to Marita until she came out. Together they ran on because soon the bell would ring and they must not be late. In Nyani Lane Nyasha would join them. They would run and run! Finally they would turn left and walk into the school gate.
They would go straight to Grade 4A. Their teacher was Ms Chirara. She was a pretty lady. Ms Chirara liked children but everyone knew that she could hit pupils for any silly thing anytime. Silly things like laughing when you should all keep quiet and get to work. Silly things like dropping your ruler loudly onto the floor.
If you did a silly thing Ms Chirara would ask you to come forward. She would then ask you to bend down and touch the table. Then she would whack your back side with a huge rubber rod which she kept in her drawer. Whack! Wham! Just like that. She would order you to quickly go back and sit down and be quiet. That was not a good thing. That is one thing the pupils did not like about her. But the pupils saw that she was a pretty woman and who liked children.
Nakai was a simple girl of nine and she liked school. She liked Ms Chirara. She liked to look at her dimples and plaited her and her brown shoes that made her look nice.
One day Nakai dropped her ruler by mistake onto the floor. It clattered onto the floor very loudly. Everyone stopped reading and writing and turned their heads.
“Sorry, madam,” Nakai said.
“Come here,” Ms Chirara said to Nakai. When she was angry, her dimples disappeared. “Come here, girl.” She said to Nakai. She was very cross with Nakai.
Nakai went to the teacher’s table. “I am sorry,” Nakai repeated.
“You know me, Nakai,” the teacher said. “Bend down and touch the table.”
Nakai was sorry. She was just a girl of nine who had just made a mistake. The teacher was very cross. Nakai bent down and touched the table. Whack! Whack! The rubber rod sang on Nakai’s back. It was not a good thing.
Nakai cried out in pain. The whole class cheered. Nakai looked at the teacher without blinking. She was in so much pain. She continued to look at the teacher without blinking. Teachers do not know how angry their pupils become when they hit them. It is bad to be hit by your teacher when you like her so much.
“My God, fire!” the teacher suddenly cried out. The teacher staggered back from Nakai. She dropped the rubber rod and held her chest, “Fire! Nakai, you are killing me!”
Nakai did not see any fire. She was only angry with Ms Chirara. All the other students saw no any fire too. They only saw Ms Chirara holding her chest and crying like a baby.
Nakai was still angry. She looked again straight at the teacher and the teacher cried out again, “Fire! Nakai, stop it! Do not burn me.” Then she pleaded, clapping her hands, “Nakai. Nakai, my dear!” The teacher staggered and went out of the room. “I am burning up, Nakai.”
In silence Nakai walked back to her place. There were tears in her eyes. She had dropped the ruler on the floor by mistake. She was just a grade 4 girl who stayed at Number 1890 Mutamba circle. She went back to her place and sat downs and cried. It was not nice to see Nakai crying. Her friends Nyasha, Tsitsi and Marita started crying too.
A big boy called Hardline asked loudly, “What is the fire about, people? Ms Chirara talked about fire. Nakai, what was it all about?”
“I do not know anything,” Nakai said, crying. She did not know anything. Nyasha, Tsitsi and Marita knew Nakai very well but they all did not know anything about the fire.”
Just as they were all settling and getting quiet, Ms Chirara came back into the room with the headmaster. He was called Mr. Pasi. The boys called him Danger because he was short tampered and you did not want to make him angry.
Ms Chirara kept holding her chest. There were tears in the corners of her eyes. Nobody wanted to see Ms Chirara crying. She was a pretty woman with nice dimples. Now she looked sad and it was not good.
Ms. Chirara and the headmaster came very gradually to Nakai’s desk.
“How are you, girl?” the headmaster said.
“Fine and how are you, sir?” Nakai said.
“What was it about?” the headmaster asked and touched Nakai calmly on the shoulder.
“It was a mistake, sir. I dropped a ruler and she hit me. I said I was sorry but she hit me. I love her but she hit me.” Nakai began to cry.
“What about the fire that burnt Ms Chirara?” the headmaster asked
“What fire sir?” Nakai replied. She was surprised. The whole class was surprised.
“You caused the fire that burnt Ms Chirara, didn’t you?”
Nakai was surprised. She did not know about any fire. She was only allowed to make a fire at home when they were a power-cut. She was not allowed to make fires. Children were not allowed to make fires. She got frightened and began to cry. She liked Ms Chirara and the headmaster but why were they thinking that she made fires without permission? She burst out very loudly, crying.
Then the headmaster who was still holding Nakai’s shoulder suddenly screamed and shot up, “I’m burnt! Oh my God.” He ran towards the door rubbing his hands and looking at them...