Autumn Leaves (a novel excerpt)

By Christopher Mlalazi

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‘I want my money right now wena shlama!’ A woman yells at the old man.

Lungisani knows the old man. His real name is Mbambo, but all the kids in the neighbourhood call him 2Pac. He is a cobbler at the shopping centre just like his father. Lungisani knows that his father does not like 2Pac because he gets stupid when drunk, and has heard his father telling his mother on several occasions. His father once worked with 2Pac a long time ago before Lungisani and Persuade were born and they also hail from the same rural area of Jiba in Plumtree.

In 2Pac’s right hand is a beer bottled grabbed by its neck. The mouth of the bottle is frothing.

‘Bring those shoes back before I hit you!’ 2Pac is shouting back at the woman above the noise of mbaqanga music. He waves the bottle of beer at the woman. Despite his advanced age, exhibited by a thick white moustache that sits under his nose as if it has been mistakenly planted there with stickistuff, 2Pac has a short strong looking body. A red cap sits on his head back to front, revealing fringes of white hair at the edges. ‘How many times have I told you that they belong to a client?’

2Pac and the woman are so angry at each other that, even though Lungisani, is in full sight of them, they give no indication that they have seen him.

‘You are going to hit the buttocks of your grandfather not me!’ The woman is shouting. ‘What kind of an old man are you that picks up women and then fails to pay them after you have satisfied yourself?’

‘I will hit you wena sfebe!’

‘Hee-hee’ the woman gives a shrill laugh. ‘Hit me and see what will happen to you bhoyi!’ She throws cigarettes at 2Pac, and the bottle in 2Pac’s hand streaks towards her head. Quick as lightning, the woman ducks, and the bottle explodes against the wall.

After he misses, 2Pac leaps at the woman, and she runs away, with him in hot pursuit. The woman runs and screams. ‘Vele I want my money my buttocks are not for free.’

Sfebe! 2Pac shouts back as he chases after her. Lungisani notices that 2Pac is running as if he has shat his pants, his legs are spread apart, and one hand is holding up his trouser, which hangs low in a style reminiscent of the original 2Pac. The woman and 2Pac disappear around the house, and Lungisani also runs.

He emerges into Khumbulani Street six houses away. He paces fast along the street, past pockets of people, mostly agitated looking women standing in groups looking as if they are discussing grave matters. The thought of Green Bombers makes Lungisani have goose bumps, it is an issue that is now hot news around the township ever since the Green Bombers camped at Ilanga Youth Centre and immediately started harassing people with stones and any weapons they could lay their hands on.

He walks on, until he comes to the traffic lights at the intersection of Luveve Road that leads to the city centre. The road is busy with cars, and several commuter kombi’s are parked haphazardly at the intersection whilst a group of touts chant in loud and possibly drunk voices for customers. Lungisani waits for a chance, and then, darts across the road to the other side.

A few minutes later, he is climbing up a well-used-rock-strewn path that digs itself in a twist up a hill. As he toils up, he has to step out of the path to give way to joggers who are either running up or down the hill. Finally, and out of breath, he reaches the hilltop.

A religious group is congregated on a flat space of rocky ground at the summit, singing in loud voices. Further from the open church, Lungisani could see two men with stomachs bulging out of their t-shirts as if they are hiding soccer balls underneath them, doing something like press ups. Their bodies were slightly pressed to the ground, but only their big stomachs were going up and down; their arms didn’t bend and their shoulders remained in the same position, unlike the way Bornfree, Tatenda’s brother, is always telling him and Tatenda how proper press ups are done especially whenever he has smoked mbanje.

Lungisani heads for the congregation.

Christopher Mlalazi is a Zimbabwean writer currently the 2011 Nordic Africa Institute Guest Writer in Sweden. He has published two award-winning books, Dancing with Life (2008) and Many Rivers (2009). Autumn Leaves is his second novel waiting for publication.

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2 responses to “Autumn Leaves (a novel excerpt)

  1. Great excerpt Chris! I hope to see it in print soon.

  2. A charming and humourous excerpt. I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

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