Rodric Anthony is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Creating new stories and seeing where they take him is his passion.
Woza Moya Nqcwele, Xhosa for Come Holy Spirit. In the previous chapter 4, Hiram and Mahogany see each other in a flashback. A kiss from the past helps bring the memory. Hib, his brother across the ocean reflects on the letter Hiram sent using a mobile app. What follows...
Moms always know these types of things. It’s a gift from God, he hopes.
Dim light from the glare of a paraffin lamp casts shadowy figures dancing in the glow around the room as soft thumps of rainfall filter in through the slightly raised window. Elder Smarts quietly meditates in his bed, trying to digest unwelcomed emotions, grieving. Ever since postage arrived from home a few weeks ago from Hiram about that girl at the lake, sometimes pond
“That strange girl,” he thinks. “Why can’t I get her off of my mind? Why do I feel… Sad?”
Elder Nkosi, his missionary companion, stirs from the bed across. It’s 6 a.m. Heavy rains through the night killed the electrical grid in the township leaving the view out of the window a void of darkness, with no sunshine in today’s forecast. Restless. Rainy weather brings overcast feelings, perplexions, quanderings... Grievings? Regrets?
Hiram’s nameless woman inhabits tiny... in the back of the mind thoughts. Ghostly? Ghastly? Unsettling thoughts... peripheral. Front and center thoughts are of his mother, Beverly Smarts. Today, she stays on his heart-- not in a homesick way. Homesickness ended months ago. No, not that. These emotions are a puzzle. Are they sad? He cannot quite figure out what way.
“I wonder if the sun is not shining because of bad news,” he whispers to avoid waking Elder Nkosi, wanting to call home sorely, or even email! In his spirit, he feels troubling news. Regret? Something’s a-brewing.
Sighing, not able to shake these thoughts that woke him early, he curses the restrictions against emailing and phoning the mission president put in place because of use abuse by other missionaries.
Once a month email checks limit him! No, not the fact that in the township he lives there’s barely any phone reception. No, what limits him does not have anything to do with the hardly passable electricity for sustainable periods, no more than four hours during the rainy seasons sometimes. No, the fact that mobile phones and computers serve no need where Elder Nkosi and Elder Smarts live. Those email restrictions… Not decidedly those restrictions, but thinking this way gives him something, a distraction away from the feeling of… grief? Regret?
Computers and phones work in the cities like Umtata and East London, not here. They do not need them, nor can they use them for the work they do. Most of the people in Nqadu Township have no computers and live in shanties or government houses made of cinder blocks. The shanties seem more liveable too.
I miss you, Mom, Elder Smarts imagines, prayerfully aching across the ocean to a biological mom-fi he assumes must exist. Moms always know these types of things. It’s a gift from God, he hopes. Encouraging words, he misses. ...soft touch and kind voice. Hiding his mischievous acts of violence towards Hiram from her, he misses, and getting away with them!
Reading will take his mind in the right direction, the same direction this last year has taken him: to work! As he lifts his analog hardcopy of the Scriptures to read by the dim paraffin lamp, rings from the phone snap him into the moment!
Computers and phones work in the cities like Umtata and East London, not here.
Call From the President
Quickly, he glances over at the clock. “It’s 6:25 am! Who could be calling,” he yawns to Elder Nkosi, who nimbly leaps out of bed to answer the phone from a snoring--gently snoring--sleep.
“Hello, I am Elder Nkosi,” chipper and fresh as if he had not just resurrected from slumber. Elder Smarts loves his missionary companion’s ability to bring sunshine with his voice. Always a smile on his face and a kind word to speak. Elder Nkosi is possibly the most loving person he’d met since leaving home!
Elder Nkosi pauses for a moment, the smile fleeing his face before he responds, “Yes President, he is awake. I will give him the phone.”
Covering the receiver with long thin fingers, an overly expressive face shows the alarm of an invading army, “What did you do? The mission president wants to speak to you, now!”
Sudden trepidation passes through Elder Smarts, answering his missionary companion’s query with a head shake. “Okay,” he manages, asking more as a question than a statement of understanding before taking the phone. “Good morning President Montgomery.”
“Good morning, Elder Smarts. I apologize for calling so early, but I wanted to catch you before you left your boarding.” President Montgomery’s voice sounds like a baritone’s song, one of those people who sings each word with his thick Afrikaaner accent speaking beautiful English. Soothing.
“Not at all, President, what can I do for you,” voices Elder Smarts, fake confidence glowing into the phone receiver as he closes his eyes unsure of what’s coming.
“I need you and Elder Nkosi to fly to East London today. I have some very important news for you from your Bishop and an assignment for the two of you.”
“Is my father okay,” concern thick in his voice, not hiding, contemplating the foreboding feelings vexing his heart this morning--images of his mother smiling at him appearing. Regret? Yes, regret that he woke up feeling this way this morning?
“Bishop Smarts instructed me to address him as your bishop for this call,” avoiding the missionary’s apprehencious question. “He’ll speak to you later today. Where he is now, as you know, it’s a little past midnight. A flight has been scheduled for both you and Elder Nkosi.”
“What,” came his frit reaction, sending Elder Nkosi on the alert! “I mean, uh… now?”
“Pack all of your belongings and report to the Airport in Umtata by 9:30 am,” President Montgomery continues, never acknowledging the hysterics of his listener, soothing voice. Elder Nkosi puts his ear near the phone trying to hear what his companion, the normally even-tone and stoic, worries about. “Inform the elders in your zone that you and Elder Nkosi are leaving.” Elder Smart swallows hard enough he’s sure President Montgomery had to hear it. He had to hear all of this excitability!
“Also,” the president continues, “you and Elder Nkosi choose one of the District Leaders to act with his companion as Zone Leaders until Elders Jarys and Simunye arrive in Umtata to head down to Nqadu in two weeks.
“President,” says Elder Smarts, “I am not a person that questions often, and I don’t mean to sound skeptical of your assignments, but why the sudden change? Is my family well?” Mom images again... Missing her.
“This much I will tell you, Elder,” came the melodious baritone assuring formality of President Montgomery’s voice. “God has made the assignment change. It so happens that Bishop Smarts called around the same time. I will tell you more once you arrive. Trust, Elder. No mistake is being made.”
“Yes, President. You should know that I don’t want to leave, but I won't give you a hard time about it.”
“Good,” comes his swift reply with a caution. “I won’t give you a hard time about the last touch rugby game you attempted to turn into tackle American football either.”
Elder Smarts gives a nervous chuckle ending the call. A few more moments, Elder Nkosi would have stroked with anticipation!
Elder Nkosi pauses for a moment, the smile fleeing his face before he responds...
Nqadu Great Place
“That was so strange,” says Elder Smarts, temporarily shielded from his puzzling, vexing, [foreboding?] morning mood.
“What did he say, Elder,” queries Elder Nkosi as if he’d waited patiently the entire time.
“No, not what he said, but who he spoke to,” sits the elder in the chair next to the telephone table, exhausted emotionally. “He hardly ever talks to me when he calls about missionary work, only to you.” It’s true. Elder Nkosi is the more senior of the two and served in Nqadu the longest, the most familiar with the people of the township, its customs, its language preference of Xhosa, the king.
“What did he say, Elder,” voice slightly elevated and a tad eager walking towards him carrying the paraffin lamp.
“I mean, I’ve been up since five…” he trails off trying to annoy the chipper missionary, a Zulu by ancestry, monarchal blood from the Durban area, unsuccessfully.
“Elder Smarts! What did he say.”
“We are leaving for East London from Mthatha in like, 2 hours.” On buzzes electricity, allowing the yellow glow of the overhanging incandescent light Elder Smarts flipped on earlier checking if power returned. There’re three days of prepaid electricity left on the meter before the deposit starts to get used.
“What,” came the unabashed surprise of Elder Nkosi extinguishing the paraffin lamp! “President Montgomery is surprising. Did he tell you why?”
“No,” surprise radiating and glinting in dismay. “He said he would say more when we got there. He wants us to decide who would be good leaders to hold down the zone until Elder Jarys and Elder Simunye could fly down.”
Seconds of frowning by both elders, It’s never good news when missionaries have to leave an area in a rush. Usually, things like this happen if the missionaries do something stupid or criminals extort, even kidnap missionaries. That hasn’t happened in Nqadu for a while--years. The king of the AmaXhosa people has made sure of it, besides.
Zones, districts, and areas in Nqadu are where missionaries work. The president has the whole area divided up so that the missionaries can work and keep track of who they contact with the Gospel message. In their mission, headquartered in East London, there are a minimum of eight missionaries to a zone, four to a district, and two to an area. Nqadu is one of Elders Smarts and Nkosi’s areas for missionary work.
King Sigcawu gave ceremonious free access to his people thanks to Elder Nkosi. He is not a figure in the government, but to teach the AmaXhosa, formalities, and culture need respect.
"What can you and this church of yours offer my people other churches cannot that I should support you," King Sigcawu asked.
Elder Nkosi, acting as an unofficial emissary for the Zulu Royal family seeking support on behalf of the Church, offered, "We offer more of the same, a people who will thrive if they will listen to our teachings and accept them as their own. If you support our efforts going about the community with no harm coming to us, the teachings we offer make bad men good and good men better."
"Ewe. Abathunywa, I will support your work among my people. Because you are of the Zulu Royal family, I will trust you. So many of my people already attend your church. You are good people, loyal. You respect tradition."