Mind in lockdown, senses in quarantine, words at a distance, out of reach.
This column, barely six months old has already gone several mutations. In the beginning its focus was writing: writing tips, the writing craft, an odd book review– but that became a little tedious.
A few pieces of creative non-fiction, flash fiction followed. Then came a few weeks of a novella in flash: short stories (very short stories) set in a fictional village that could be read in a single sitting that carried on the next week. Welcome to Tsalanang in 2020 introduced the fictional village of Tsalanang.
It led in a few characters—the kind of people one encounters in everyday life. People going about the business of living. There were characters such as old man RreMoeng, the octogenarian who was finally eating life in his home village following his retirement, the owner of A&A General Dealer and Takeaway and the firefire pastor.
Then the idea came to introduce a little intrigue, so the column went the route of a whodunit. There was a murder of a young man—unsolved. Thuso met his demise in a way that was not clearly explained.
The ending left the mystery unresolved. Not all murders are solved, after all. It seemed that Thuso’s killer got away with a dastardly deed. There was mention of a certain farmer called Snyman. Pictures of him in a compromising position were found, but nothing came of that. It was, in the language of writing, a red herring.
He appeared to be a villain in the making –a totally unsavoury character. He was surely the killer…. But, that would have been too predictable, so the story ended. Unsolved. An unsatisfied reader demanded to know who killed Thuso. Not every ending has to be neat and tidy, after all.
And then there was Thuso’s expectant girlfriend, or maybe she wasn’t really a girlfriend? Thuso’s sexual orientation came in to question—briefly. Whatever the case, her family came to tell Thuso’s mother of the imminent birth of a baby. This was comforting news to Mma Thuso. She would have a grandchild to remind her of her beloved son. *
It was on or around this time that the sceptre of the disease called Corona was whispered. Still a whisper, flying in from a place no one in Tsalanang had ever heard of: Wuhan, China. Far away. Far, far away.
The plan for one of the residents of Tsalanang to open a store that sold goods sourced from China was put on hold. Maybe this wasn’t a good time for his kind of storyline…
The whisper became a reality.
Soon, the proprietor of A&A General Dealer and Takeaway complained loudly to anyone who cared to listen about how disastrous a lockdown would be on his business.
And after much complaining, he somehow managed to get his shop listed as one that supplied essentials.
He was pleased when his stock of soap ran out. He quickly restarted his little factory that once produced household disinfectant.
In no time he was supplying the nearest town with hand sanitiser. He got away with adding a little stone to the usual price. It was, he justified this heartlessness, a case of supply and demand. He was thrilled when his nine-year old stock of whips was bought.
The owner of the local security company marched into the shop one evening, just before closing and bought the 12 that he had on the shelves, as well as the 100 he had in the storeroom.
They had been ordered them in 2011 when it seemed like the strike that was going on in the capital city would threaten the peace and tranquility of Tsalanang village.
So, the story of the uncle who spent most of his days at One More Bar will have to wait. All bars are closed. He is home, struggling with a condition that some call dioris. Not sure what its English equivalent it.
The month end gatherings of the characters, Rre Moeng and friends, who would usually be sat on the stoep of A&As General Dealer and TakeAway are on hold. On the door handle of the store hangs a sign that reads CLOSED until further notice.
The only people who are safe are Thuso’s newborn and his mother. They are being kept indoors by the new grandmother who brooks no nonsense.
Even MmaThuso has not been allowed to see her new grandson. They are under lockdown—the traditional one that has kept newborns safe since time immemorial.
And the rest of Tsalanang patiently waits out the 28 day lockdown. Braces. Prays—that it will only be 28 days.