By Mayeso Bello
A palm tree was waving and dancing to the tune of the gentle blowing wind. Its shadows brushing the walls of a well constructed ceramic wall. She moved on, loosely carrying a slippery metal tray with black edges and black dents full of oranges on her depressed head. Her white blouse with a long embroidery collar drew the maps of her body and exposed her dangling breasts and the erect nipples. She was walking slowly and carefully to avoid losing the tray on her head. It was her only hope. Survival. But it was going to change. The man had promised her a future she couldn’t deny.
Her dark shadow trailed her footprints. A reflection of her life. No choice.
Every day it had to follow her on her journey. The oranges on her head were a future that had already been decided by fate.
She dwelled in the slums. Every day she zigzagged past stunted homes that dotted along the mud and dust leading to the city’s rich neighbourhoods. She would walk slowly to stare at ducks and pigs comforting themselves in the still waters that had made their homes closer to the crowded market place. They were always as jovial as her little brothers and sisters and cousins whenever it rained. No dreams to chase.
At the end of the long winding route, there were mansions and villas that glittered at night. This was where she would always go with her oranges. To feed those time and fate had blessed. She would knock on gates. Sometimes she would meet the boss or his wife. She hated wives because they over-bargained. The bosses would stare a little above her belly, smile, and ask for a peeled orange to taste. Then, at times, overcharge themselves.
Mostly, she would wake up in the morning and bath along with school kids. She would always match with them until they left her talking to some man into buying an orange or two. She envied the boys most, she liked their English khaki shorts. She envied the hope the kids’ tattered uniforms smelled. They would rise some day. And rise.
She wished she could join them. She wept silently every day. Basket on head. But it was going to change.
She had told nobody that a gentleman- a customer-had offered help. She would surprise her family. A school uniform. Books. Shoes. Like her friends.
The gate opened.
In the slums, a girl was missing.
“She has married herself off to some man. I’m certain.”
“She has found herself a job somewhere. She doesn’t want to help us,” her mum fumed.
One sunny morning, boys digging mice plowed into a rotting corpse. No head. No limbs. Just the torso with stains of blood and mud.
Mayeso Bello holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural and Communication Studies from Chancellor College. His short stories, poems and articles have appeared in Malawi’s weekend papers and online publications. His writings reflect his personal experience.