Short Stories, Tale Africa

The Maiden and The Bear (5)

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By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa:

“Ah!” I cry out as the sangoma rubs muti inside my fresh wound.

It feels like a knife cutting me once again, only this time inserting …. chemicals that are supposed to heal it. I don’t have time to nurse wounds really; there is nothing more irritating than being injured. I’m a bear roaring in agony and anger, no bear gets injured and doesn’t seek revenge.

The sangoma burns incense and starts speaking in riddles. He moves the incense around me three times and puts it aside. He takes some lotion and rubs it on his hands. It is the same lotion he rubbed on the incense before burning it. I prefer watching what is being done to me even though my oldest brother says it’s rude. Mzuvele always insist that I should stop staring at the healer but I can’t help it. I’m beginning to feel a bit drowsy; all the medication is taking its toll on me. He brings the incense to my face and blows towards my eyes. Great! Now I will shut them and fall asleep. I despise that; I never know what happens while I’m asleep. My last sight is a fuzzy view of Mzuvele carefully assessing my wound.

“All your sticks are ready. That Dlamini boy has packed them in the car.” I hear the sangoma say as I come to.

I hear a rumble, a couple of feet walking out of the room and then silence. I try to lift my head but a sharp pain forces me to put it back down. My hands are still tied to poles, I’m put down like a wild animal.

Eventually I hear the feet coming back. People discussing something; even my father is here. I can hardly make sense of what is being said but surely my father blames me for this – as usual. I’m the problem child that never does anything right. He even told me to my face, that I would lose Ntombi too because I’m good at ruining things. It’s good to know I have my father’s vote of confidence.

“Bafo.”

(Brother)

Mzuvele calls out to me and kneels next to my face. He looks worried; more concerned than usual. Mzu has always been there to bail me out from trouble even though he never really starts any.

“Why am I tied?” I ask.

I’m surprised by how low my voice sounds. I can’t see which other brothers are here because I can’t lift my head but I can feel them surround me. We are all very close and would do anything for each other. Mzuvele doesnt talk much; I know he won’t tell me what happened while I was unconscious.

“We are going home now,” he says.

Someone is untying me as Mzu carefully handles my head and helps me up. My whole body is sore but this should be over soon. I need to avenge. I’m thinking of how disappointed Ntombikayise is. She had to witness me at my weakest; I fell like a useless bag of potatoes being thrown by a fool. I’m disappointed in myself. Ntombi can’t have a weakling for a husband. I am what I am for her.

“So who started this whole stupid fight with the Emadlangeni boys?” Daddy dearest asks as we settle in at home after a bumpy trip.

Good for him to at least wait until I’ve rested. I know he wants to pin everything on me, as usual.

“We didn’t start anything,” Babili answers. “Mnqobi was fighting and next thing those fools attacked him.”

Father: “Those fools are to be left alone, am I understood?”

Nqobizitha: “That we can’t do taima. They went too far.”

This is the first born from father’s second wife. With the name meaning conquerer of enemies; he is almost my age, just a few months older. So our mothers were pregnant at the same time and our names almost mean the same thing… He is also the only boy from his mother. All his three siblings are girls. I’m from a very large family, try to keep up.

Father: “Listen boys; there are times to strike back and there are times where you let life deal with things.”

My father never encourages us, unless he feels it is necessary. When Nsizwenye was insulted he told us to sort it out. Here I am, barely able to move and he wants us to let it go. Great. I will not utter a word. Tonight I’m totally silent.

Mbongeni: “Uncle those people hit Mnqobi with his own sticks. You can’t hit a man…”

Father interjects: “Dlokovu took care of that, didn’t he? I’m warning you against this but whether or not you listen is up to you.”

With this he stands and leaves the room. That man is brave; the room is full of 20 hot blooded young men hungry for a kill and he has a nerve to say they should drop the weapons. All my brothers are angry, so am I. The tension in this room is so thick; it needs those Umfulo blades. Yes I said it!

Mzuvele: “Mnqobi do you think we should let it go?”

He always does this; checks with the victim before moving on.

“I don’t even know why they attacked me. This all seems like a set up really,” I reply.

Zethu walks in with meat. She is Nqobizitha’s sister – my sister. Our mothers taught us to not speak rudely in front of the girls. I withdraw my comment as our sisters come in with food. They know when the situation is bad. They put all the food down and quickly exit the room.

Mbongeni: “Say the word Mnqobi and we will take care of it.”

He has always been a hot head, this one. No one has started eating. The way they are looking at me is scary; they want blood.

“Mbongeni please go and check on Ntombikayise. Tell her Dlokovu is keeping me overnight,” I say eventually.

Mzuvele: “Let’s eat.”

Mbongeni storms out of the room as the others hesitantly start eating. Mzu understands I’m not ready for a decision and he isn’t pushing it. I somehow feel this was more than just a small attack and we need cool heads to strategize. Even if it’s not today, we will strike back.

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