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Khanyile J Mlotshwa

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The Smell of Mangoes, Peaches, Guavas and The Mourning of Mating Dogs
By Khanyile J Mlotshwa
Tuesday, June 03, 2008

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(Excerpt of a longer short story)

IN the township, they never talk about abortions openly, but whisper in hushed voices as if it is the only spell they have.
When mama told me that I had to break my exile from church and attend Siphiwe’s funeral wake and burial, I was shocked.
“Dead! When did this happen?”
“I got the message this afternoon. She will be buried the morning after tomorrow. You’ll have to attend,” she said without looking at me.
She was busy putting in order tomatoes, onions, cabbages, potatoes, mangoes, peaches, guavas, and all that had remained of her day’s stock.
“It’s shocking. She was just too young to die. She hadn’t completed her schooling,” I said.
“As if death cares about that! Isn’t it the young who are dying like flies?” she said.

Siphiwe Nkabinde was 16 years old. She was to sit for her O Levels in November.

“What happened?”
Mama looked at me as if to tell me that she was not her family’s bone thrower.
“They say it’s a backyard abortion that went bad,” she said in a quiet voice.

I knew it had taken her great courage to say it. People in the township never talk openly about abortions. One can imagine that it is a secret they treasure so much.

“People will hate you all your life if you fail to make it to the funeral,” mama said. “It will not escape their attention and you’ll wear the mark of your absence all your life.”
“I’ll attend the funeral. At least MaDlodlo can forgive me and allow me in church just for the funeral,” I reminded her of what drove me to that exile in the first place.
“You bother yourself too much about people. In any case people are too busy preparing for the ordination that’s coming on Saturday to think about old squabbles.”
As much as it did not make sense that they will not notice me if I attended the funeral yet notice me in absence, I was shocked about this talk about an ordination. A few things made sense in the township.
“So you don’t know that Bhekumuzi is taking his final vows together with three others from parishes in Bulawayo?” she said.

Siphiwe’s death had shocked me but it was Bhekumuzi Ndlovu’s impending ordination to Catholic priesthood – and all the vows – that caught my attention.

“I really want to attend the ordination,” I could not hide my interest.
Mama held her waist firmly and looked at me, surprised. She wanted to say something but like someone caught between a question and a statement she groped for words.
“Then you will have to attend the funeral,” she finally said.

I agreed that I will buy the ticket to Bhekumuzi’s ordination with Siphiwe’s death.

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