OOH MY GOODNESS!
By Suwilanji Simukanga.
Pius had never thought that one day Jenny would finally say yes. It had been a long struggle. There were times when she even refused to talk to him. It had seemed especially hopeless when, in a frightening fit of anger, she chased him away from her home. All he had wanted was a stroll with her in the moonlit streets of their neighborhood. But through all this he managed to persevere, courtesy of her back stair encouragement. The spoken no, an unspoken yes. So today he held her hand, this was a deserved victory. He was speechless and Jenny sensed his inexperience. Although she did not act like it, she did this type of thing all the time. She felt a hint of joy at the prospect of observing him carefully and knowing what guys are all about.
"Lets get some drinks," he said to her. They strolled leisurely into a cafe` and sat down at a table. At a table next to them, a group of guys in their early twenties were enjoying an afternoon out. "So how's your job-searching going?" She asked. Pius grew tense. He wondered at how ironic it was that every time he got involved in something, it started appearing everywhere, as if to remind him of its presence. Now suddenly, jobs and work were words that seemed to stalk him. He answered with a shrug. "Well, I know you'll get one soon." HOPE, HOPE, HOPE! ......., isn't hope what precedes disappointment? Hope is a disease, a waste of time. Pius felt his anger building up, he had a dangerous streak in him since he was a boy. Just a week ago he punched a man in the face. Pius had been irritated by his naivety and mawkishness. Again here, he lost it! Throwing his chair to the ground, he stormed out. Onlookers stopped to observe the scene curiously, wondering what was happening.
Outside, he paused to look at his reflection in a shop window. He turned the corner into the road that led to his home. He felt so good; these outbursts of anger were
the 'oomph' in his day. He noticed four people by the side of the road talking loudly at the same time, two girls and two guys. "Pius"! Someone called out. He looked and saw Leonard, a childhood friend of his. "Hi", he said, before clearing his throat. He didn't like the way Leonard lived his life; he was always hanging out, no school, and no study. Maybe he was blinded by his father's wealth? So Pius walked more quickly to avoid him.
As he walked he made a sound of disapproval that caught Leonard's and everyone else's attention. Leonard's pride came in the way. He looked at Pius with angry, water-filled eyes. The girls he was with quit talking and watched in anticipation. Without hesitating, Leonard grabbed a rock and let it fly with all force. It was destined for the back of Pius' head. At that exact moment, Pius noticed a loose shoelace. He bent down to tie it just as the rock whizzed past. A few moments later, he heard a loud shriek that followed a heavy thud. He looked up and saw a woman clutching her bleeding face, blood running quickly through her fingers. She staggered. She took a few steps back, lost consciousness and collapsed. Everything was happening so fast, it was confusing.
Next, her husband appeared from inside the house, alerted by the commotion. He ran to his wife, shook her a few times and looked up toward Pius. To him it looked like Pius did it, he came for him! Pius, who had been crouched all this time, stood up. He looked behind him to where Leonard was, just as he disappeared round the corner. He turned the other way and ran! When he reached a slum, he stopped, thinking it was safe.
He caught his breath. He decided to go back to the neighborhood at night so that no one could see him. He stopped for a cigarette at a stall; he had a hint of a smile on his face. He took a drag and blew the smoke into the air, the night was so cool, and it was perfect for a stroll. Nearby, a radio was blaring loudly in a small shop. The song was cut short for an important news broadcast, the newscaster read...... "A man is on the run after killing a woman by stoning. He has been identified only as Pius. The motive of the killing is unknown.......". Pius felt all his blood drain to his legs, his heart skipped beat after beat. Ooh no! "But it wasn't me," he thought. He felt as if things had gone into overdrive, he couldn't think. He realized that the only witnesses of the murder were Leonard's friends; it was now his word against theirs.
After a few minutes of thought, he made a decision.... run
'So it was official, I was now a fugitive. A murder suspect. An enemy of the law. I realized that the only way my escape would be successful, was if I found my way to the forest. I figured out a plan that included my traveling only at night, to evade capture. Seeing that it was night, I decided to start immediately. My mouth was dry from fear.
I could barely see as I reached the outskirts of the city, but it was clear I was in the beginning of the forest. The shrubs were getting bigger, the grass denser, and I could hear footsteps in the distance. I hid behind a huge shrub. "Go round the back! Check everything! He can't get away." Five policemen walked passed, I was so afraid, I wasn't. Just as they were about to disappear and go towards the city, a small animal ran through the bushes close to where I was. "Stop!..... Go back!" One policeman came back, looking around just a few meters from me. The animal ran across the road, and the cops burst out laughing. After fifteen minutes, I was off again, this time walking not in the road, but parallel to it, in the bush. The forest was vast, I felt so small beneath those large trees.
It was only after I was well out of the city, that I began to walk freely, I was now safely in-charge of my emotions. In a moment of terror, I noticed someone huddled up behind a tree, talking to himself in soft whispers. "He could be anyone," I thought. I decided to move silently around him. As I was walking, I stepped on a dried little branch. It made a loud crackling sound. The person looked around frantically and started running with a heavy limp, I was running in the opposite direction. Five long strides later, behind a tree. "Must be a vagabond," I said to myself, then memories came flooding back....., it was Leonard! What was he doing here? For a moment, I ignored the idea. Maybe it wasn't him after all.
But then, he walked straight up to me, "it's all your fault I'm in this mess." Leonard explained that after he ran round the corner, a man stopped him and explained that he was an undercover cop. "He said he had seen everything. I had to hit him! Five cops where on me, but I lost them, they want me for manslaughter."'
This twist in the tale made for good food for thought, but Pius was happier with the fact that he wasn't alone. What was most important now was to keep moving.
'After five hours of vigorous traversing, dawn was close. We could see a column of smoke from a possible settlement in the forest. We went for it. To our horror, when we reached the place we found nothing, nobody.
The column of smoke had apparently drifted east of its source, we changed course.
When we arrived, we were welcomed by a number of young men, about our age. We could communicate, but the dialect was slightly different. This of course was good news. The further we were from our home, the safer we obviously were. The first few weeks at the settlement were utter bliss. This was heaven on earth! The view, the cool weather. The soft rustling of the leaves in the huge trees that surrounded us. The fresh air. The word, relax, gained a new and deeper meaning. No one would find us here,..... no one.
The people in the settlement were very self-assured and confident, we became friends easily. But then the thing that was to set us free from all this began to show itself, although we did not realize it at the time.
Moses was a member of a religious group in the settlement, and he was eager to convert both of us to Christianity. Leonard and I were quite defiant at first, but we began to slowly appreciate as our behavior began to change. We began speaking at the various gatherings of worship. We eventually decided to dedicate our whole life to the worship of the Holy Father. But we soon realized that our past had left a lot of issues in the balance. How could we claim without guilt to be converted if we were fugitives who had run away from the law? No! We had to face these things face to face.
So, two months down the line, we decided to embark on a spiritual journey back home! The purpose was to turn back and redeem ourselves with the law. When the idea first presented itself, we thought it rather too far-fetched, but it was something we just had to do.
Two weeks later, we arrived in the city; we could still see posters of ransom offers for anyone with information of our whereabouts. Of course although I was innocent of all crimes apart from evading the law, I was ready to be punished for murder. I knew deep down that were it not for my actions, Leonard would not have been in this situation in the first place.
Now we expected to be apprehended sooner rather than later, but all the police officers only seemed to give us stares of recognition and nothing more. Then we went straight for the police station. When we entered the station, the officer-in-charge laughed out so hard that tears started streaming down his face. He ran into the next room and called his colleague, still laughing. What was the joke all about?
The next thing we know, the other cop comes out and also starts laughing, I began to suspect that maybe we were in the wrong city. The joke was certainly on us!
After an endless and unbelievable bout of lung-bursting laughter, the officer in-charge grabbed my shoulder and said, "young man,..... Where on earth have you been?" I sheepishly looked around blankly, feeling like the biggest fool in the world. "We......", Leonard began. "We have come to hand ourselves in." But this statement only restarted the laughing, this time two octaves higher!
Then a woman, who had been sweeping the floors all along, nudged me and said, "you are no longer wanted criminals, don't you know that?" We later learned that a few days after the unfortunate incident, both of the people who had appeared to have passed away, were in fact comatose. Both of them woke up eventually. This meant that we were free! Leonard looked at me and made the sign of the cross, we had survived!
As we walked out of the police station, we noticed a huge number of media people that wanted to interview. One of them asked, "So, how do you feel?" I smiled and after a pause I said..... "Great!"