I was sweating and not because of the weather. The sun was actually hid by the overhanging cumulonimbus clouds. For the past three days, the incessant rains had pounded the corrugated roof sheets to no end.
I had woken up in high spirits. But this was short-lived as I spotted the landlord Mr Tigere approaching the house through a chink in the window. I called him Mr Tiger as he never made a mistake. He was the hound coming after its prey every monthend.
I had immediately retreated to the bedroom all the time frantically making a sign to my wife, Mai Maidei, that I was not there.
By the time Mr Tiger knocked on the door, Mai Maidei was already at the door. There was bad blood between the two of them.
I could hear their voices clearly.
“I have come for my money,” said Mr Tiger.
“He is not here,” replied my wife.
“I am not leaving until he comes back,” said my landlord.
I had not expected to hear this. And how was I going to leave the house? I was under house siege. I had no money. I was totally broke. My brokenness was not about January “disease.” The truth of the matter is I never had any at all for the 12 months of the year.
I could hardly put enough food on the table. I then heard the sound of the kitchen chair as Mai Maidei tried to make the landlord comfortable. And then she came back in the bedroom.
“I told you before that you must save the rent money,” whispered my wife in my ear.
“He said he is not going away until you come back. He is in the garden.”
I had no money and I had exhausted all the sources I could borrow from. The salary had come and gone and I hardly noticed it. Nothing had changed. I was actually poorer.
It was now a cat-and-mouse game with my landlord. It meant I had to stay indoors all day long. The rest now depended on the patience of my landlord.
I had nothing to do. I dug out last week’s edition of a daily newspaper.
The story of Muvhevhi, the ex CIO had made harrowing headlines. He murdered three people in Hwedza. He had callously shot a prophet at a shrine just because he had not liked the prophecy about him. As the police went after him, he shot and killed the officer-in-charge without any remorse at all.
No one would expect this to happen. This incident shook the Hwedza community to the core. It seemed “man born of woman” was becoming more dangerous than the wild animals that roamed in the wilderness.
Another story that caught my eye was the tragic accident that involved a Rimbi bus and a Zebra Kiss bus. Some names are better left alone. For a bus operator, the Zebra “kiss” was stretching it too far. The conductor had apparently filmed his own death up to the time the bus rammed into the back of a trailer. From time to time, I peeped through the window. Mr Tiger was sitting idly under the mango tree in the back yard. From the look of things, he was not going anywhere soon. He was lucky not to have Elvis Muvhevhi as his tenant.
This running away from the landlord always left me mentally exhausted. And only last month, one of my neighbours, John Phiri had been evicted unceremoniously from his lodgings. His belongings had been dumped in the open. The rain had damaged most of the furniture and clothes by the time a good Samaritan had offered some form of shelter away from the rains. I did not want such an ignominious eviction. Like a drowning man, I was just managing to stick my head above the water.
Even the thought that I was not alone in this dilemma did not give me comfort. Many people were out of employment and failing to make ends meet. Those who were employed we are at sixes and sevens. The salaries were not enough.
The result was every end of month, the removal trucks made a good trade transporting lodgers, as many were evicted and others made the first move to affordable lodgings. Raising children in the ghetto was not easy.
I suddenly heard Mai Maidei talking with one of our neighbours and I was thinking that I was safe from the landlord. As I tried to sneak into the kitchen for a glass of water, I suddenly came face-to-face with Mr Tiger. He had become tired of waiting in the backyard and had decided to investigate.
He danced: “Ooh, you are hiding from me! I want my money or else you go right now,” he said.
“Let me explain,” I stammered, all my composure gone.
“I don’t need any explanation. I don’t “eat” explanations,” he thundered.
The landlord was now tired of my explanations. I was facing an embarrassing eviction, the worst thing that could harm a man’s integrity.
Onie Ndoro is a writer, educationist and IELTS tutor. For feedback: [email protected] Twitter: @Onie90396982. Mobile Number: 0773007173