Letters

Mrs. Tembo’s burial abandoned as soon as her ghost appears

By David Muchai

Either I’m a glass-half-empty kind of guy, always expecting the worst and seeing it happen, or the poop always hits the proverbial fan around me.

I mean, I graduate from the police academy, get posted the rurals. A desperate woman shows up at my door, I can’t talk her into staying. Sgt Sophia, the prettiest police officer ever, works next to me every day and I can’t woo her to end my years-long dry spell. My boss, Inspector Tembo, once summed up my life thus: “You were bewitched.”

Of course, he was wrong. Maybe Mwenda, our village crazy man, was bewitched, but surely not Sgt Makini. But when a ghost shows up at Mrs Tembo’s funeral, I begin to think the boss was right.

My assigned duty at the ceremony is to oversee parking and guard guests’ cars, but Sophia hauls me away for support on a personal matter involving her mother. We walk into the compound to find the presiding pastor praying for the family. We close our eyes.

“We rebuke the spirits of the dead! Mungu baba, we pray that you give Mrs Tembo peace so she does not come back to haunt the family she left behind.”

I wonder what the pastor would do if the “spirit” taps him on the shoulder right then and says, “Eti umesema nini?”

The clergyman continues, “We pray that the departed finds a place among your angels and that…”

Then, all hell breaks loose. Screams and pandemonium erupt as people bolt from the tents, scuttle in all directions. Chairs are toppled, drinks spilled, the weak trampled. I open my eyes to see an octogenarian running so fast she leaves healthier youth in the dust.

“What’s happening?” Sophia asks.

“I don’t know, but whatever it is, these folks want nothing to do with it.”

I turn and see what “it” is. Mrs Tembo is standing less than ten feet from the casket, a eulogy in one hand, a newspaper in the other, and looking very undead.

I elbow Sophia, point in the direction of the apparition. “I’ve never seen a ghost before, have you?”

I’m terrified, shaking so much if I touch a mango tree fruits would rain down. Every part of me is saying, “Makini, you need to vamoose.” Why don’t I, you ask? As a policeman, I don’t have the luxury of fear. I have to…

Naah, I’m lying through my teeth. I have to save face, that’s why. I’m yet to meet a police officer tougher than Sophia. What sort of a man would I be taking to the hills, leaving my paramour at the mercy of a ghost?

“What do we do?” I ask, eyes glued on the unflinching ghost.

Sophia does the strangest and most unexpected thing: she faints.

The mourners, most of them police officers, are gone. The pastor has taken off, leaving his Bible behind. The bereaved family is nowhere in sight. Now, it’s just me and Mrs Tembo’s ghost.

What am I still doing here? I wonder. Sophia has fainted. She can’t see me!

I’m about to run when I hear a voice: “Who the hell are you?”

It’s Inspector Tembo, standing by the casket, uncharacteristically brave.

The ghost raises the newspaper and eulogy. “My name is Sheniqua Brown. I just flew in from Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve always known I was adopted from Zimbabwe, but I thought I had no African family left. When I saw Mrs Tembo’s picture in the paper, I knew she had to be my twin sister.”

  • Adapted from an article by David Muchai

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