“This story comes from a grandmother – a gogo. She told it to my daughter when we waited together for the bus. But the bus was not coming.”
“How old is your daughter?” Simi asks.
“Twelve. She’s our first born. Precious.” Tonderai smiles, eyes gentle and faraway, then he clears his throat and begins. “In this story there is a young girl. Like Precious. She is too clever. And there is a grandpa – an old man, a sodja – but he is not like these men. ” Tonderai gestures towards Fred and Bernard, each cocooned in their blankets like silkworms. “This Grandpa is not like Mr Fred, who is a kind man. This Grandpa is a frightening man. A BIG man. A man of power who can kill with one snap. The gogo calls him Grandpa. So do I.”
Tonderai turns to face Jacobus by the broken door, his voice deliberate with detail.
“This Grandpa has arms like a baobab, and fists the size of gomos. He lives with his people in a House of Stone. In this house there is a Table, a very high, big Table. Every day Grandpa sits at the head of the Table and he feasts. Below the Table, are Women who run to and fro to bring him food. There are others too, others who huddle at Grandpa’s feet, beside his big, shiny, expensive shoes. These others are the People, and amongst them are the old and the frail. All the People have is hope. Every day they hope they will not get stood on. Every day they hope for food. They hope for water. They hope for light. Sometimes, now and then, if they have not been squashed, these People get a little of what they hope for, but they only get enough to remember what it should feel like to be alive. This is what they get, and no more. And this is on the good days.”
Tonderai’s eyes sweep the room, taking Rudd’s with them. In the dark, on the far side of the table, are the damp, young friends of the bride and groom. Closer to the fire are the aged outlines of Fred and Bernard, and beside them Simi and Marybelle, listening intently, with the shadows of Jambee and Father Norman just visible, on the edge of the dark beyond.
“Amongst the People are many, many Youth … too many,” Tonderai says, his voice rolling into each corner of the room with a new urgency. “Every day these Youth try to climb the legs of the Table to see how those at the top are feasting? To see why they have so many fast cars? Why so many gold bars? Why so much shopping in London and Dubai? The youths try to climb but most cannot reach. Every day, every minute, every second, there are those who try to climb. Perhaps one may be lucky, but mostly they are not, and soon they get tired of their climbing and their falling, and they stand back exhausted. They do not want to live in the dust. But what can they do?” asks Tonderai.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023