The old man who ran away

The herald

Isdore Guvamombe-Saturday Lounge Reflections

In the scorching heat, a huge tree stood stubbornly at the edge of the Dande River.

The Dande itself was considered the river of life, as it provided water for every chore, throughout the year.

It was not until the end of October that its flow ceased, leaving poodles and huge pools separated by sand erasures and a scullery of stones, polished and smooth by years of crushed by running water.

As young boys, the dry season was our time to play and mess around. It was freelance time.

We spent most of our time hunting birds, hares, digging for mice, and trolling.

We stole mosquito nets and used them as fishing nets.

Each day almost always ended with our swimming getaways. In the village, there were separate alleys where men and women bathed to preserve decency and privacy.

Here, this villager uses the word privacy loosely, because in the village it was group privacy. Women bathed in groups, as did men and boys.

Rarely did women, especially, go to the river alone because of the war and sometimes the rapists. In addition, the riparian vegetation was always too thick and frightening.

Every now and then lions were spotted and almost every day creepy bots were a common sight.

Then there was an old man called Pondo Mbiri (two books). At 75, he was known to stalk women and peek through riparian foliage to watch them bathe. He would later describe women’s bodies accurately when drunk, obviously selling his antics.

A skinhead who laughed in a deep, groggy voice, often accompanied by a scenic smile that exposed his tobacco-stained teeth, we never really understood what Pondo Mbiri was enjoying watching the women bathing. The village was in turmoil with his stories but no one dared, because he was also feared as a wizard.

It was a hell of a rum.

Men loved him and hated him too.

They loved him for his sex enhancing concoctions, but hated him for stalking their wives.

At beer binge, things really never got that exciting until Pondo came in with his pocket and spiced up the sugared almonds. This gave him the advantage of getting better portions of the drink.

Pondo Mbiri disguised his river stalking antics by posing as a fisherman. Each time he took two fishing lines with him, but he did not catch any fish. His wife was old but very caring.

One morning my grandfather sent me to get a bag of snuff and I found his wife, peeling him round nuts while he just ate.


This village boy was very fascinated.

After two handfuls of peeled round nuts, he stood up slowly, cautiously, and hesitantly and grabbed his huge sack, disfigured and discolored from years of use.

During this time, the woman never stopped peeling him round nuts. He nibbled and nibbled, his huge jaws pulling the skin of his chin up and down.

The scars on the side of the chin spoke only of long years of shaving beards. He shaved with a broken glass bottle, not with a razor blade.

Even to shave her head, his wife also used broken bottles. There was a special bottle for Olivine cooking oil.

It was thin and easy to break and also easy to use for shaving. Many people sent their children to her for a close shave.

Inside his house, I looked at him intently and wondered what made an old man like him a voyeur.

After serving me, I brought the purse to Grandpa and graciously handed it to him like a soldier who has just completed a special mission.

‘What did you find him doing?’ Asked Grandpa, sniffing and frowning to push the tobacco into his nostrils.

“He ate round nuts and his wife peeled them for him,” I replied.

” This is typical of him, ” replied grandfather, ” and from there he will go to the river to prey on the women who bathe. Stupid old man! ”

That afternoon the six of us young boys caught up with Pondo as we affectionately called him as he made his way towards the river with his two fishing lines. He was almost walking sideways like a crab and he also stopped slightly.

He had no shoes. His feet were cracked and left peculiar skid marks on the sidewalk that would make tire manufacturers green with envy.

We laughed at his stature, his slumped gait and his skid marks on irritated voices. We laughed at the same time, trying to keep our voices low.

He never seemed to notice our antics and walked unperturbed.

Soon we parted ways as he took the northern river and opted for the south.

The Dande river served the village from several points. The paths that stretched out to its banks like the arms of an octopus were sufficient testimony to this.

We came to the huge wild fruit tree where we competed with the birds.

We had two advantages, we were hunting both fruits and birds, because each boy had a catapult.

On the tree, the fish eagles performed an evocative re-enactment duet, at the top of us almost sending us running for cover.

I looked up and with a glance I saw the distinctive black, white and brown feather patterns of the eagles, shining boldly in the hue of the sunset as they shook their heads. back and forth.

Then they took off, probably disturbed by our presence.

At the foot of the tree was Gwatura, a huge pool that never tried. Its water was a bluish green, its color lit by the shades of the riparian trees.

It was so deep that we never really discovered its true depth.

But there were also its gurgling shallows. Here every boy in the village has learned to swim. When you graduated you were diving from the top of a tree branch and every splash was a wonder.

We took turns, over and over and over and over. Again and again!

At sunset, it was time to go home. We put on our clothes and rushed home to park our cattle and goats.

Late in the evening, the village was in turmoil, with the news that Pondo had not returned home. His wife, a frail old woman knocked on the door afterwards, informing people of her husband’s disappearance.

A search party started but it was dark, too dark for many to see past their noses.

The search was abandoned for early in the morning. Apparently we young boys were the last to see Pondo, but we had very few details about what happened after our separation.

The villagers scoured the banks of the river, turning to each bush and cave, turning to each pond, turning to everything else, searching for each of its particular footprints. There was nothing. For hours, the villagers searched.

The cotton-haired village elders began to formulate theories. As a fisherman he must have been attacked by crocodiles, although there was no known existence in the Dande River except for one or two belonging to witches and wizards. . These were spotted once or twice a year. He could have fallen into the river and drowned. But all these theories were dismissed, because he was a good swimmer, he was brave and sane.

In the village lived a widow, who was called “Return Soldier” as she returned to the village after her divorce. She was in her late sixties and feared for her foul language, liberal thoughts, and carefree demeanor.

During the search, she insisted that he was alive and that he was kicking somewhere. She was sure he just wouldn’t die, that simple.

Eventually, the search was dropped. The villagers have resigned themselves to fate.

But on the third day, something happened in the village. Katonje, a man from another village, who dated the Return Soldier and who always sneaked into his house at night and left in the early morning, said he was denied access to his house. for the first time in a year.

He is aptly named Katonje because he was born prematurely and spent most of his time under a traditional cotton incubator.

Katonje was sure, there had been a man in the house for three days. He was sure he heard a groggy voice speak low. The village search team resumed and went to confront the “Return Soldier”.

Pondo was found alive and well, enjoying the comfort of the Return Soldier. It was a great spectacle. He had run away!

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