The Irremovable Shadow: Suddenly, an imposing figure appears

Suddenly he realised that he was not alone in his father’s workshop, where he was spending his night

 

By Nhamo Muchagumisa

 

Uncle Takabuda’s words sounded more alive in Kademera’s ears than they had sounded when Uncle Taka was still alive.

Kade had witnessed Uncle Taka’s burial a few hours before. His heart had sunk to the bottom of his belly as he watched the descend of the polished brown coffin, secured by a rope on both ends, slowly responding to the force of gravity, until it touched the floor of the yawning pit.

“You people think I am going, ” Uncle had said repeatedly, “I will be around much longer than you all expect.”

As Kade’s eyes sloped with the heaviness of sleep, Uncle Takabuda’s words awakened him. Suddenly he realised that he was not alone in his father’s workshop, where he was spending his night.

Uncle Takabuda was with him, his presence filling the entire space around and above Kade like an Irremovable shadow. Kade was too frightened to make a verbal response to Uncle’s words.

Kade had never seen Uncle Takabuda in his healthy days. Uncle Taka had been away for twenty years.

He had left home before Kade, who was now 18, was born. Two people had driven him home from Harare and dumped the terminally sick man at his younger brother’s doorstep for home based care. Uncle Takabuda himself had never married.

Bloated with pimples

When Kade had seen his uncle for the first time, he never thought he would see the following sunrise. His face was bloated with pimples. His lips were pink and looked like open ulcers.

There was practically no body under his clothes. He looked like a skeleton that had found its way back to the world of the living from the graves.

Before Kade had come to terms with Uncle Taka’s return from where ever he had been hiding for twenty years, he found himself playing a central role in the family’s efforts to slacken the sick man’s pace towards the waiting grave.

He was the one who served Uncle with food. He was also the one who bathed him and laundered his soiled clothes.

Only Kade had the patience to listen to Uncle Taka’s complaints about the maltreatment he thought he was suffering in the custody of his younger brother.

Uncle Takabuda had promised to defy death until everyone in his brother’s family had learnt how to handle a sick relative. “You people think I am going,” he would say defiantly, revealing his infernal desire to hold on to life: “But I tell you, I will be around longer than you all expect.”

Despite his repeated promise to live beyond the expectations of his relatives, his health remained on the constant decline with every passing day.

Kade wished his uncle dead not because he was tired of bathing him, not even because he was tired of handling his soiled laundry, but because he wanted him to rest.

Each time he heard him coughing convulsively at night or groaning with implacable pain, Kade thought that his uncle would be better off dead as there was not even the slimmest possibility that he would regain his health.

Penalty for loose living

Kade’s father spoke to great length about the deserved penalty for loose living which had wasted his elder brother’s health. “I hope you can read the signs of the times Kade. This is where you will end if you go about brandishing your maleness at every woman who crosses your path.”

These words infuriated Kade, but he found it prudent not to rebuke his father who showed not the slightest concern about his brother’s hellish experience.

Now, six months after his return, Uncle Taka was cold in the belly of the earth, hurriedly taken away to his place of eternal sleep. No body viewing had been done. Kade’s father had ruled it unnecessary.

Uncle’s voice kept Kade awake. He had hoped to have a peaceful night, especially after having done everything in his power to provide home based care to his uncle.

At sunrise the after ceremony, which would only be attended by close relatives and friends as well as the village leadership, would begin.

The thought that the burial was already over and Uncle had not lived up to his promise to be around much longer drew tears from Kade’s eyes.

Uncle Taka’s mysterious presence eventually faded with the approach of dawn.

Bloated with pimples

His voice became fainter and fainter until Kade could hear it no more. His eyes heavy with sleep, he rose from where he lay, ready for the after ceremony which involved the sharing of the deceased’s property amongst his relatives.

There was not much to share except Uncle Taka’s won out clothes. This meant that the after ceremony would be short and Kade would find some time to rest afterwards.

Uncle Taka had been using a one roomed outhouse as his bedroom, which Kade had formerly used as a storehouse for his toys, as he was a toy maker, earning a respectable income from his trade.

He decided, before the beginning of the after ceremony, to transfer all his toys from his father’s workshop back to their original storehouse.

As he opened the door, the odour of rotting flesh greeted him. As his eyes got accustomed to the darkness of the room, he saw the outline of a human body lying horizontal on the floor, wrapped in a won out gray blanket.

He wanted to back off from what he had seen, but he found himself walking towards it.

The blanket covered the corpse only up to the neck, leaving the face exposed.

Uncle Taka’s pursed lips looked like a colossal ulcer. His closed eyes had sunk deeper into their sockets.

Kade heard himself shouting for his father, but the echoes of Uncle Taka’s promise bounced from the walls of the room back to his ears.

 

Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263777460162. Email him at: muchagumisan@gmail.com

 

 

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