She watched as he used his finger tips to mould the nshima into a small ball, scooped some vegetables, then it went into his mouth. He ate some stewed goat meat and reached for another hand of nshima. How is work, she asked. Things are good at work. I am going to Solwezi next week, he said with a mouthful of nshima.
I see, she said with disgust. Solwezi meant he was going to visit his mistress. He didn’t notice the dangerous look in her eyes. He was too engrossed with the goat meat stew before him. How long will you be there, she asked. He took his time to swallow some nshima and drank some water. She knew he was cooking up a lie. She expected nothing less from him. I will be gone for a few days, he managed to say, with eyes averted, conveniently buried in the bowl of goat meat stew.
She had considered various ways to clip his wings and keep him at home as a loving husband. She had tried the church which she attended for ten months praying that God would make her husband faithful to her. But the more she prayed the more wayward he became. She scratched out the church from her list of options. It seemed like God was conspiring with her husband to make her life miserable so she stopped attending the Catholic Church of The Risen Christ in Lusaka West.
Lucy, her childhood friend, invited her to visit a prophet whom she claimed possessed special powers that could rein in a wayward husband. It never crossed her mind to ask why the prophet hadn’t helped her get a husband because at thirty two Lucy was still single and there was no man hovering around her talk less of making a commitment . Changu visited the prophet for prayers and bought some bottles of anointed water from him at K70 per bottle. She felt the price was a little steep for packaged water but Lucy swore on her grand mother’s grey hair that the anointed water possessed unfathomable spiritual potency that will solve her friend’s problems. The prophet was confident that the anointed water would work on her husband. When you sprinkle this water on your bed, your husband would be padlocked to you for life, the prophet promised. That night she sprinkled the anointed water on the bed discretely and used the standing fan to blow it dry. Her husband came back home late, slightly drunk and passed out beside her. For the next five days he came back home early and played with their daughter. He even sat down next to her and they watched Indian movies together.
Changu was happy that the anointed water was working. It never occurred to her that her husband was broke and was waiting for the 26th day of the month to be paid his salary. On the 27th day of the month he came back home at midnight, smelling of alcohol. Changu was broken hearted. She brought out the five remaining bottles of anointed water she had hidden on the top shelf of her wardrobe and emptied them in the toilet. Then she called her friend. Lucy, don’t ever take me to that false prophet’s place again. Before Lucy could reply she ended the call.
She regarded her husband as he bit into the last piece of stewed goat meat. What he didn’t know was that the meat he was eating had been dipped in blood, her blood. Blood which flowed from between her thighs after she made an incision in the wet tissue that lay between her thighs with a blade given to her by a witch doctor from Ndola.
After he tastes the blood flowing from you he will never eat from another woman’s pot, the witchdoctor swore by the graves of his ancestors which surrounded his hut. She felt the sting of the cut burning inside her thighs as she crouched like a wounded cat over a bowl watching the blood drip slowly into it. After she cleaned up, she brought out the meat and lay the pieces on the table beside the plate. She then began to dip the meat into her blood. Suddenly she ran into the bathroom, knelt down before the toilet like a muslim making his evening prayers and threw up everything she ate that afternoon. Ten minutes later she returned to the kitchen. She added some spices to the meat and dropped the pieces into the frying pan on the electric cooker. She was careful to throw away the bowl, the frying pan and the oil she used to fry the meat. She wouldn’t want any of this meat to touch her mouth.
The muti has failed again, she bemoaned to her friend Amanda. I have tried everything on this man but he is like a stubborn goat who refuses to listen to calls from its owner. I won’t allow my home to be destroyed by these wayward girls. Amanda waited for her friend to stop complaining before she spoke. She looked around the room to make sure there was no one within earshot, lowered her voice in a conspiratorial tone and leaned forward. Have you tried the broom, she asked.
Changu regarded her friend in disbelief. You mean you want me to use the broom on my husband, Changu asked and her friend nodded in the affirmative with a wicked smirk on her face. You must be insane, Changu said. I want a man who will love me and help me raise our children together. I don’t want a slave, she protested vehemently.
Amanda looked at her friend in the eye. What options do you have, she asked. Unless you do something soon, you may become the first among his other wives and concubines. God forbid, Changu swore. I will never allow another woman into my home, she said. Amanda placed a hand on her shoulder. If you want to be his only wife, you must go to the witch doctor and let him prepare you the broom, she advised her friend.
A thick smoke of burning herbs welcomed her at the door of the shrine. She bent down, looked behind her, shifted the black cloth that covered the door and entered the shrine. The room was lit by three local lamps. In the middle sat a dark figure. Sit down, the witch doctor pointed at a low stool before him. Changu sat down observing the skins and skulls of various animals hanging on the wall. The ng’anga sat on the skin of a lion. The skull that sat before him looked suspiciously like a human skull. As she looked at the skull fear crept up her legs slowly like a snake. She tried to stand up and make a run for it but her body disobeyed her brain. She sat there staring at the skull, like a hypnotised rabbit before a king cobra.
Why are you here, the witchdoctor broke into her thoughts like a debt collector knocking on the door of a chronic debtor before sunrise. Changu narrated her ordeal with her husband since they got married. I want him to be mine, mine alone, she concluded. I see, the man said. He rose up from the floor and entered a door covered with a red cloth. Moments later he returned holding a small broom held together with a string of cowries. He began making incantations over the broom shaking it over his head. Changu looked on. He sprinkled some portions on the broom then sat down. Stand over there, he pointed to a spot to his right. Changu stood there waiting for his next instruction. Take off your clothes and face the window, the witch doctor ordered. Changu hesitated then began taking off her clothes slowly like a virgin bride undressing before her husband on her honeymoon. The garments fell to the floor and gathered around her feet. The ng’anga barely looked up from his incantations. Take off everything or else the muti will not work, he said. Changu took off the pieces of clothing protecting the vestiges of her dignity. The ng’anga stood up making incantations as he rubbed the broom over her quivering flesh. The witch doctor muttered under his breath then spoke up for her to hear. This broom is tied to your body. When you use the broom as instructed your husband will be tied to you for as long as he lives. The day this broom is exposed, your nakedness will be exposed. Protect this broom with your life, the witch doctor warned her. Put on your clothes, ignoring her he busied himself with more incantations on the broom.
Changu wore her clothes quickly and sat before the ng’anga. The man stretched the broom towards her. She reached out to collect it from him. Don’t hold it by the handle unless you want to use it to sweep your room, the ng’anga warned her in a scathing tone. Changu shivered slightly as her hands touched the jagged tips of the broom, collected it and wrapped it in a green plastic bag. He waited for her to finish wrapping the broom before he spoke. Your husband must never see this broom. The day he sees it the spell will be broken and there would be repercussions, he warned. What repercussions, she asked with trembling in her voice. The bloodshot eyes of the priest stared back at her like the eyes of a wild cat at night. I don’t know, he said. The spirits are ambivalent. They do as they wish. Sometimes their choice of punishment for exposing the broom could be very costly, he concluded. Changu grabbed the plastic bag tightly and looked back at the witch doctor, I will be careful she promised, lifted the curtain and left the room.
She swept the house, put the broom in a red shoe box and hid the box in the top shelf of her wardrobe, behind boxes of shoes. She looked at the clock on the wall. It was 1:45pm. She looked around the house to make sure everything was in order. She hoped this muti would work. She was running out of options. She got back to her shop and got engrossed in her work. When she got back home at 18:30pm. she found her husband’s car parked in the yard. Her heart leaped in anticipation of what would happen. She observed him and was shocked when he returned to his den to watch television after dinner. He never watched television on friday. It was his night out where he hung out with his drinking buddies. Two hours after she had settled her daughter in bed she returned to find him still sitting in his favourite chair. She sat beside him, moved close to him and put one hand on his thigh. He put his left arm around her shoulder and pulled her into his embrace. Changu smiled. That night he made love to her for the first time in eight months. He was possessed by a savage lust, his desire insatiable. He wanted her like he had never wanted her before. When he was done her body was sore but she had her husband back. That was all that mattered to her.
Her mom and the new maid sat in the living room waiting. Changu walked in with difficulty, her dress bulged with a pregnancy. She sat down slowly beside her mother. This is the girl who will help you. She is the daughter of a distant relative. The girl knelt down before Changu and greeted her. Bwino, Changu said and the girl stood up. Go do some work in the kitchen, her mother told the girl. How is your husband, she asked. He is fine, Changu answered. She looked at the clock on the wall, he would soon return from work. She called the maid. Boil some rice for the children. When I am done here I will come and make some chicken soup and vegetables. The maid went back into the kitchen. Your uncle wants you to make some contributions towards building a house on the family plot in the village, her mother said. Seeing your condition I don’t think you will be able to come to the village at this time. But he insists that the project must start as soon as possible. Changu nodded. She understood. Some money would make things go smoothly. She stood up and entered her room. When she returned some minutes later she gave her mother a thick envelope. That is enough money to start raising the walls. Her mother collected the envelope and stuffed it in her bag. Her nose caught a stray scent of cooking. She opened the door to the kitchen and was hit by the smell of freshly made chicken soup. The maid was turning nshima on the electric cooker. On the other side was an open pot of chicken soup bubbling. I told you to wait for me to come and make the soup, Changu said. The maid was silent. She is a hard worker, her mother said as she entered the kitchen. She will cook, clean and take care of the children. You never have to worry about anything, her mother promised.
There was a sound of opening gates. Moments later Mulenga was in the house looking tired. He greeted his mother in-law, kissed his wife on her lips lingering for a few seconds. The older woman watched with fascination. She waited until he entered the bedroom before she turned to her daughter. When did Mulenga start coming home early, she asked. Doesn’t he drink with his friends anymore, the older woman asked.
That is a thing of the past, Changu said. God touched his heart and made him a different man. Yes, he certainly looks different, said the older woman with concern on her face.
I give God all the glory, Changu said with hands raised and her face lifted. The older woman was silent for a moment. This reminds me of something that happened in Chombwe some years ago. A woman did a muti on her husband with salt. The love portion was potent. As soon as the woman put the salt in his meal as instructed by the witch doctor, her husband who had been a rabid womaniser became docile and spent his time at home with his wife.
Changu shifted uncomfortably in her chair. Let me go prepare some food for my husband she tried to rise up but her mother held her hand. Let me finish my story, she said. Changu sat back in her chair. Her mother continued her story. But one day the woman became complacent and forgot to use the special salt the ng’anga gave her. She used ordinary salt to prepare his meal. The man woke up the next morning, turned to his wife lying beside him and stood up with fear on his face. Who are you, he demanded from his wife. Before she could answer him, he ran out of the house. He never returned to the woman. Some people say they saw him in Lusaka years later and he had another family. The older woman stood up. It is better to put your trust in the Lord than to resort to charms. Those things have a way of backfiring when the users least expect it. When the devil gives you something with one hand, he takes it back with both hands and takes far more than what he gave you. Thank God for what he has done for you and your husband. Let me help in the kitchen. A cold chill settled on the pregnant woman. She looked in the direction of the bedroom with fear in her eyes. Questions swam in her head like a school of barracuda hunting for prey. She lifted her right hand and wiped two beads of sweat rolling down the corner of her face. Mulenga came out of the room and sat beside her. Are you okay, he asked. I am fine, just a little tired, she lied.
It has been seven months since the baby arrived. Changu and Lucy watched the baby crawl across the living room with the maid following him closely. Take him to his room to play, Changu said. You are a lucky woman, Lucy started. You have a boy for your husband. You must be the happiest woman on earth, she said with some envy in her voice. Changu smiled. But she didn’t see the jealousy that flashed in Lucy’s eyes. She didn’t notice the slight frown on her face when Lucy looked at her carrying her baby boy. She was too happy to notice the sadness in Lucy’s eyes when she talked about the plans she made with her husband to travel to Spain for summer.
Where are the Italian shoes you wanted to show me, she asked. Craig is taking me out tomorrow night. I want to look good for him. Who knows where this could lead, she said. Changu gave her friend a look. Isn’t that the guy who broke off your engagement two years ago and broke your heart when he said he was in love with some waitress, she asked. Things didn’t work out between him and the waitress. He begged and I took him back, Lucy said. Changu shook her head in disbelief. The shoes are over there, she waived her hand in the direction of the bedroom without thinking. You will find the boxes on the top shelf of my wardrobe, she said. How many boxes can I have, Lucy shouted from the room. Changu thought for a moment. She and her husband were going for summer in Spain. This was a good time for a change of wardrobe. You can have whatever you want, she said. She looked at her watch and called the maid who came in with the baby strapped to her back. Changu carried her bag and stood up. I am going to get some groceries. Take care of the house while I’m gone. Lucy, see you later, she shouted as she left the house.
Where is my friend, Changu asked as the maid took the bags of groceries from her tired hands. The maid dropped the bags on the kitchen table and turned to Changu. Your friend left in a hurry like she had an urgent task to attend to, she said. Changu entered the kitchen and started preparing lunch. She felt restless. She tried to shake off the feeling but it wouldn’t leave her.
Two hours later her husband sat facing her at the dining table. He looked exhausted, like a man carrying a heavy burden. How was your day, she asked him. He did not answer. He ate his meal in silence. Do you like the food I prepared, she asked again trying to engage him in a conversation. He said nothing. His eyes were distant, looking right through her.
She stood up and sat beside him. Darling is everything okay, she asked again. This time he turned away from her and said nothing. She stood up from the table, rushed into the bedroom, opened her side of the wardrobe and reached for the red box in which she kept the broom. She threw out all the boxes of shoes she could reach, the boxes opened and shoes were strewn all around the room. She stood on a chair, reached to the back of the wardrobe and checked all the boxes until there was no box left. She got down from the stool and searched the floor of the wardrobe. Sweat dripped down her face like an athlete running a race. She moved the stool over to her husband’s side of the wardrobe and searched but she couldn’t find the red box. She climbed down, got on her knees and looked under the bed, but it wasn’t there. Like dark clouds portending a heavy rainfall, it dawned on her that the broom was gone.
With sweat dripping down her face, Changu knelt down before the wardrobe like an idol worshipper making supplications to a wooden deity. With trembling hands folded on her head like a bereaved mother, she stared at the wardrobe waiting for answers that would never come. The words of the evil looking ng’anga floated around in her head like a ghoul in a haunted house. She blinked a couple of times trying to stem the tears that flowed down her face. Then she started weeping.
To be continued….