Short Stories, Tale Africa

As Bad a Day as This

By Fungai Chigumbura, Zimbabwe:

You never hear the shot that takes you down”. These words are not famous, but they resound for me in a way that popular platitudes and hackneyed phrases never can. They represent a truth that I have known since I was a teenager and one that I have lived by for almost two decades. Simply put, these words are a caution to the listener that, when things are going at their deceptive best, you will never anticipate the brass-knuckled punch that fate and the powers that be will deliver squarely in the gut. Whilst you are busy listening to the sounds of you various victories and the proverbial shouts of triumph, fate's ever lingering gun of indiscriminate sucker punching will deliver a solid shot of humility that will be either the beginning of your reckoning, or simply the end of your little tryst with good fortune. Fate's shot, for me, came in the form of a very rapid series of comically bad natured jokes by the Universe, delivered in one day, which all culminated in my world turning into ashes.

That day, the 5th of December, 2009, started out normally. I woke up next to my beautiful, albeit slightly ageing wife. I had no greater sense of foreboding than I normally would on a day as big as this. Today was to be the finalization of the merger between my company and a giant in the stock industry. I had been working toward this day since the first time I had picked up The Financial Times and seen my hero, D.W.K, smiling brilliantly on the magazine cover with a wristwatch rivaling the dazzle of that of a rapper's “ice” and a suit so perfect and extravagant looking that it would likely have provoked seizures of fiscal austerity in even the most profligate of Third World dictators. D.W.K, as revealed in the pages, was the youngest C.E.O on the stock exchange, a prodigy in financial circles, known as much for his faster-than-meteoric rise as for the questionable means he had employed to get there. I did not care for the aspersions on his character (as far as I was concerned, all these were the ranting of the envious). All I cared about was the fact that I could reach the sun before I was anywhere near forty and retire before I was too old to enjoy life's finer pleasures (women and partying, in case you're wondering).

With D.W.K as my measuring stick, I had set out on a road to legend hood and perdition. Like my hero, I did things that had made more than a few older magnates uncomfortable in their chairs. It hadn't mattered, because at age thirty, I graced that same magazine cover, in a pose not unlike that of my icon and aspiration. It had all been an upward trajectory from there on, and today was to be its culmination. I planned to take the millions I was more than likely to earn in the merger and fade away into my dream of rock stardom.

Now, perhaps I should've seen what now appear to be obviously foreboding and foreshadowing signs in the early part of the day. For instance, my wife refused to get up and make me breakfast, something she had done everyday for all four years of our marriage and which was of even greater importance today. I shrugged this off as being the manifestation of the temperamental nature of women in general and the intermittently lazy proclivities of this one in particular. It didn't matter; I would soon be rid of her anyhow. I made myself toast and sat down to envision the day ahead in my mind. I saw myself signing the contract, shaking the hand of my fellow C.E.O and walking out the offices of my company a much richer man. I smiled to myself. Today was going to be a good day.

I always leave the house early to avoid traffic, and on this particularly important day I left twenty minutes earlier than my usual time, just to be doubly sure. I cruised along the still uninhabited streets of the city, breathing in the smog and finding it as pleasurable as I would fresh open air in the country side. I stopped at a red light, and decided to switch on the radio to pass the time. I was greeted by the screechy voice of a woman who was preaching about how the wicked never prosper and gains made by evil means are short lived. I chuckled to myself. I stood as the exception of that. My wickedness was, in fact, very prosperous and was about to multiply itself many times so in that regard. I drove from that robot still amused at her obviously poverty inducing mindset and my mirth was only interrupted by the sudden rush of seemingly simultaneous occurrences that transpired just then. First came the loud hooting from my left side. I turned to look at its source and could only stare wide-eyed as a large truck bellowed and ploughed right into my new sports car. The sound of metal upon metal and glass shattering was deafening and I buckled against my door and hit my head hard on the dashboard. The last sound I remember before passing out was the screeching woman on the radio saying something about the wicked receiving their just deserves.

To be continued…

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