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#ENTHUSE FICTION | A Smokeless Fire

Be careful what you wish for...

Mrs Dungwe’s struggle back to consciousness ended with an attempt to open her eyes, but her eyelids were inflated masses of flesh. The smell of medicine rushed into her nostrils, conveying an aching sensation in the network of her brain nerves. The paralysis in her neck was a great contrast with what was obtaining above it and below it. Her chest was a bowl of molten magma.

Surely her return to consciousness had come at a price. She had made a choice and now was the time to bear the consequences. She had chosen death, but she had to suffer the agony of an unplanned return to life. Would she really blame Mrs Maoresa for her problems? Had she not wanted her to think more seriously before buying her services?

Besides the relationship with Tambu, she had learnt that her husband had business premises she did not know. How could he lie to her for seven years that he rented the building that he used as a guest house and night gap for stranded travellers? And when the business crumbled, he collected rent from the new proprietor, stashing the cash in a private bank account.

The collapse of the guest house business made Mrs Dungwe decide to become a cross border trader to supplement the family income. Now, having caught him red-handed with Tambudzai, she saw the pages of Dungwe’s book of secrets opening involuntarily before her.

He had moved out of their house and taken refuge in the guest house. Tambu had moved in with him.

“It is safer to keep the distance and the peace while we settle for an amicable separation,” he had said when Mrs Dungwe had declared that she was filing for divorce.

She had wondered where he would go, and when she eventually learnt two, weeks down the line that he was living at the guest house and Tambu with him, the pangs of jealous ran over her. An attempt to bribe the proprietor into evicting the lovebirds came to nought when the businessman told her he could not evict him from his own property.

Back in her Fairbridge Park mansion and inebriated with fury, she had consumed a very poisonous pesticide and crept into her bed to begin a slow but painful journey to the land of no return. A close friend of hers and cross border partner had been studying her movements, deeply concerned about the new turn her life had taken. It was this friend, whom after phoning her several times to no response, decided to check on her physically. She was lucky to find all doors unlocked and proceeded to Mrs Dungwe’s bedroom.

What she saw broke her nerves, and she immediately called an ambulance.

Now recovering in hospital, Mrs Dungwe did not desire death anymore, and yet the return to life was a torture to her body. Mrs Maoresa had ruined her social life, or was it Dungwe, Tambu or herself who was to blame? Trying to think of the new realities she had to grapple with made her painful recovery more painful.

But was Mrs Maoresa really to blame, when Mrs Dungwe herself had not seriously considered her reservations when she had sought her help?


“Does your husband really need this formula?” Mrs Maoresa had asked her client. “Are there any signs of infidelity in his character?”

“No, I have detected none, but I leave him to himself too often,” Mrs Dungwe had responded. “I think it would be prudent for me to take precautionary measures. At thirty-four, he is still quite young.”

She did not like the stern look in Mrs Maoresa’s face, neither did she see the sense in the grandmotherly concern she displayed. The greenskeeper’s line of business did not require her to lecture her clients on morals, Mrs Dungwe thought to herself. She was a cross border trader and had struck good fortunes in South Africa. She did not just go to down south to buy goods for resale back in Zimbabwe but would do part-time jobs as a hairstylist in the land of gold and the touch of her hand had added character to scores of South African women’s perception of beauty.

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Her appetite for the rand made her desire to stay longer in the land of good fortune, but a clash of interests was inevitable. She was still a family woman, although she had placed the rand at the centre of her life.

With family in mind, she had driven to Sakubva to see Mrs Maoresa, who was an expert in dealing with heavy matters involving husbands and wives. Her herbs would make Dungwe see nothing ravishing in any other woman, no matter how exquisitely composed, except his only wife. Only such herbs would guarantee her marital security despite the distance that compromised conjugal space.

Much to her pellucid drudgery, Maoresa conceded to sell her the recipe she desired for a hundred rand note.

“You add the drug to his favourite meal once a day for three days. When the medicine is finished, you will call me on this number,” Maoresa said, presenting Mrs Dungwe with a business card, “then I will send my daughter to your place with the rest of the medicine.”

“Why can’t I have it all now?” she asked anxiously.

The herbalist gave her a piercing look. “Really, woman! Do you want to kill him?”

“That’s not my intention. You know that too well,” Mrs Dungwe said irritably.

“Then you will have to do as I say. The formula is administered in stages, not in a rush. I don’t want you to give your man an overdose and then come back to blame me.”

“How will I then pay for the remainder of the formula?” she inquired.

“You will bring my daughter some good clothes from Johannesburg,” Maoresa said, searching her client’s face for any clue of objection.

Maoresa’s daughter emerged from her bedroom as if in response to the mention of her name alongside good clothes. She was shabbily dressed, making Mrs Dungwe pity her. She looked twenty-ish, and despite her unfashionable attire, her face had the appeal of a budding ravishing beauty.

“What a time to emerge from sleep, my dear! Is it not past nine now? Off to your duties please, young woman,” the mother commanded her daughter.

End of business, Mrs Dungwe took off, put off not only by the filthiness of Maoresa’s dwelling but by the entire social and environmental pollution of the high-density suburb. She drove past garbage hills and across rivulets of sewerage water. Some of the water from burst sewerage pipes collected into potholes, making the whole suburban area a health hazard. Yet it was to this place she found a formula to keep both her fortunes and family in place. The irony of life!

Back at home, she administered the concoctions according to herbalist’s prescriptions.

A few weeks later, Maoresa’s daughter came to collect her clothes after Mrs Dungwe’s successful tour to South Africa.

“Who is she?” Dungwe had asked after the sullied girl’s departure. “Are you sure she can pay for those clothes?”

“She is a friend’s daughter. Her mother gave me the money upfront.”

The man had no reason to argue.

It overjoyed Mrs Dungwe to see Maoresa’s daughter in her new clothes on her mother’s WhatsApp status. She was proud of having transformed the girl’s outlook. After yet another successful tour of South Africa, she asked the budding beauty to come to her place for hairstyling. If the girl had ever said no to anything, this was her time to forget the spelling or even the sound of the word. Mrs Dungwe committed four hours to the job, Dungwe making intermittent visits to the garage where she and her client were, admiring the magic touch of his wife’s hand.

The girl’s images won Mrs Dungwe a host of new clients on another trip to South Africa. As if to remunerate her, she brought her an assortment of new clothing items.

Mrs Dungwe’s life had taken a new pattern. She would spend three weeks in South Africa, and a week or two at home. Her mother had taken over the custody of her three children and Dungwe and the garden boy became family. Otherwise, Dungwe lived a solitary life.

Something unforeseen happened at Beitbridge border post. A strike by Zimbabwean emigration officers forced Mrs Dungwe to make a u-turn. Robbed of another opportunity to strike gold or double platinum, she drove back home. The prospect of spending an indefinite period at home conveyed a bitter taste in her mouth. Her business was however not in danger as she had made substantial savings in foreign currency accounts.

She arrived back home at around 2000 hrs. She punched the remote control device to open her gate, and the gate complied with the noise of sliding metal. The house looked deserted, but the sitting room lights were on. She did not knock at the main door; rather she impulsively turned the handle, pushing the door and it opened noiselessly.

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The most unseemly sight greeted her eyes. Half-naked, half-drunk figures were sitting side by side, arm in arm on her sofa, the television in front of them. They were not watching TV. The TV was actually watching them. Strewn on the carpet were pieces of one of the outfits she had brought Tambudzai from Johannesburg and Dungwe’s clothes, also bought from South Africa.

For how long had Mrs Maoresa’s daughter burnt a smokeless fire with her husband?

A torrent of emotions overwhelmed her and she leapt at her husband, while the girl scooped her clothes and made good her escape in the needless darkness.

Nhamo Muchagumisa

Nhamo Muchagumisa is a poet and an acclaimed essayist. He has been published in the Parade, Trends, Writers Scroll, The Sunday Mail, The Sunday News, The Manica Post, #enthuse and Digital Sunday Express.

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