Wednesday 25 October 2023

Short Fiction 2023 Longlist, Ndaba Sibanda

 The Headman’s Oxymoronic And Dramatic Monologue  

It’s not old news that Methuseli lived remotely close to two neighbors whose unneighborliness was amusing. The two were biologically related in a distant fashion. 

Then their wives were found missing on their farms, not that they had decided to go to another planet and become resident aliens, but because they had to dig up a well in an almost exactly waterless river. Their faces wore clear confusion since portable water seemed to be nowhere to be found or simply elusive. Legend has it that dryness danced down the river the moment the villagers chased away a mermaid.


Certainly, it could be that they spent futile fourteen hours there, and their overbearingly modest and understanding men would not understand it a bit! Methuseli was not only one of the villagers there but also was a humble headman who climbed down a step or two and availed and offered his services  to the community members with poise and pride.

“People should learn to live in harmony in this village. The only choice the two of you have is to either leave our village or to live in peace. Is this clearly understood?” An eloquent and earsplitting silence descended on the scene.  Indeed, both the Moyos and Dlomos screamed silent squeals.

Both accused the headman of cruel kindness, and both were openly deceptive because they did not wear sad smiles and did not tell him that he was exhibiting caring cruelty. “Your silent screams mean that you’re either living dead or are loyally opposed to my intervention and jurisdiction.  I mean , l know that I'm not mean. Either way, the difference is the same, just get a life and be extinct if you’re not going to listen to me, the chief’s envoy!”

Both families wondered whether they were icy hotheads and wise morons seeking to find the meaning of life in an island  surrounded and punctuated with a sea of meaninglessness.  

They pondered whether they were merely clever fools whose life was nothing but a web of confusions, convolutions and conflicts, an array of oxymorons, ironies and paradoxes. Where were life’s formulas, manuals, templates, trajectories and prescriptions? Were they not like learner drivers bearing the letter L when it came to living and making sense of life, its highs and lows, turns and twists, sweetnesses and aches, moods and melodies, temperatures and temptations, grins and frowns, days and nights, strolls and riddles, rights and wrongs?

What makes one glad doesn’t necessarily make the other person contented.  What heals one patient doesn’t essentially cure the next person. Right? What angers one soul sometimes pleases the other. What is one’s preferred plate is another guzzler’s spurned pollution. What is one’s success story is another person’s fiasco or mediocrity. Even words like development and democracy mean different things to different people. One man’s issue is another’s no- issue. Such is life. A bulky ball and breath of colours, creeds, complexities, contradictions, controversies, consensuses and corrections. Feats, flaws and failings.  Different people have different perspectives and perceptions.      


Certainly, life is a gift to be cherished, cared-for and celebrated. It is a celebration of stars, the days, the moments and the opportunities. An embracing of love, friendships, families, funniness, foolishness, the beauty of the breeze, the marveling of the moon, the sun and the vastness and uniqueness of the sky. 

Of seeking peace of mind, stability and compromises even in the face of silent screams, right wrongs, virtuous liabilities, uninvited urgings, dressed transparencies, unstable sanities, static flows of impossible solutions, easy riddles, blissful elegies, painless pains, bright nights, dark days and  genuine imitations. It is a bold stride in spite of repellant pulls and unruly, noisy serenity. Life is a legacy. A mysterious, matchless march towards nobility and exceptionality.  


It turned out to be a turning point for the two families whose nights had working vacations, whose bodies had restless, sleepless calm by virtues of being locked in frequent friendly battles of tossing live snakes and truthful lies at one another, that day was a dawn and an end, they swore a silent, stern and sane vow to live life awfully good the way they knew how. Life had to be lived, relearned and relished.       

“You are no longer the original copies of children. Yet your actions indicate that you’re growing smaller and shorter like burning candles. At least, burning candles give out light. You don't!  Irresponsible responsibility or unbecoming behavior  won’t be tolerated here. We don’t allow adult children to live in this village. Kids, yes.  Hope your deafness has heard, for it has to heed”. The headman concluded.    

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