There is no Christmas this year Bobby.”
Vicky, his elder sister laments. She explains that she had over-heard Lucy`s mother telling auntie Chipo that she had over-heard her husband talking to Ziyepi the kraal head that the bread delivery van was stuck in the mud across Nyamachesi River.
During the year, the village staple breakfast is sweet potatoes or cassava with tea, porridge and vegetables for dinner.
But Christmas-- is a day for bread and marmalade jam in the morning, fried chicken and rice for dinner. The situation is grave. Worried Joyce enters the kitchen hut to ask Annah their mum. Annah explains that Jehovah`s witnesses do not believe in or celebrate Christmas. “But our teacher said Christmas was named after Jesus Christ mommy!” she interjects. Annah as if to summon divine intervention, kneels down and begins to pray. “Our father in heaven! Hear your servant today. You are the God of Abrahama, Isaaca and Jacobe, you are the Almighty God of Israel, I call upon you to remove all evil spirits from my family….”
Petre her husband staggers in and says, “Talk of the Devil and an evil spirit appears” as he guffaws, raising a calabash of African traditional brew to somewhere between his thick beard, his wellington booths spreading muddy water on the shining floor. “Merry Christmas my daughter!” he says turning to Vicky who feels exalted.
But for old Ziyepi, the Kraal Head, this is a day his people should celebrate in whatever way they choose. But without bread there may be no Christmas. Rain has been pouring for the past fortnight. Wet Christmas inconveniences are common in Rhodesia. Ziyepi would not allow his village to miss the celebrations. A huge axe on his shoulder and a machete in hand he heads for the river. He stands akimbo at the banks for fifteen minutes without saying a word. His gaze is fixed on everything but his eyes see nothing, obstructed by his spinning mind.
He points his fore finger at the white van partially visible across the river. He points again at three trees on the other side of the river. They are about a metre apart. He seems to draw a line across the river to another set of trees next to where he is standing. For the first time he seems to notice the village Methodist priest who is praying for better weather before a crowd that had gathered at the river bank.
Like a soldier on drill he makes an about turn, and disappears into the bush. When he returns he has three thick ropes which he has made from the bark of a mutondo tree. He secures two of the ropes on two of the outer trees. He ties a stone on each, and throws them across the river. He instructs the van driver to secure two of the ropes on the outer trees on his side, then ties the middle one to a pallet loaded with bread in plastic bags. The pallet is ringed to the outer ropes for security and balance against the current. The middle rope is made into a loop to act as a conveyor belt, bridging the river. When the first pallet arrives the priest says “A-Aamen” and the crowd breaks into song.
Christmas is assured.
(c) Misheck 2013