Herbert Chitepo, a forty three year old, who lived at the high residential area in Gure called Wanda stood infront of his wife with a broad smile painted on his hard beardless face. His wife Alice a young beautiful woman, in her early thirties, was fixing him for work, she was tying her husband's tie in a knot the way Herbert likes it. Her eyes radiated pride as she gazed at her husband with close intent. I married the right man after all, that's what she would think.
Herbert works a regular job with a regular salary, that's all he could afford to get since he is a regular person. The country had been on an economical crisis that has been astronomically rising for the past five years. The only favor you can do for yourself and your family as a regular person is to hang on to your job, no matter how much rotten peanuts they pay you, because once you quit your job you won't find another one. That is what Herbert has been doing for the past thirteen years. Unlike other kids in Wanda Herbet's kids go to school, although he struggles to pay for their kids, he works day and night shift to afford to pay their fees. He fears if he don't put his kids to school they will end up being regular persons just like him and his wife, or his parents who couldn't afford to put him in school too. Tenda his older daughter is doing standard 8, the final year, she is smart, she obviously got her genes from her mother. John is a year younger than Tenda doing standard 7, he is way smarter than Tenda but wants to drop out of school, so that, he immigrate illegally to another country in order to help pay bills and fees for his other four younger siblings.
But yesterday Herbert told his family he's going to get a promotion and that was going to change everything.
Alice cooked great breakfast for her husband that day. Bread, eggs, bacon, fried chips and tea with milk and a bunch of other miscellaneous incredibly delicious foods they cannot afford.
“Honey I always knew one day they are finally going to recognize you” started Alice who sat across her husband, her face still glowing with pride. Herbert only nodded, he couldn't simultaneously respond his wife and chew on his delicious breakfast, he would bite the insides of his mouth. “Tell me how you received the news you couldn't tell me yesterday with all that. You know what I mean” she said with a leery smile on her face and As Herbert's memories of last night materialized in his mind, he flushed. He smiled back ingratiatingly and swallowed his sandwich.
“You have been in that company for years more than anyone there, how long did it take for them to see that.” she prattled inexorably, she was happy for her husband. The thought that he won't have to work day and night made her blood to flow with exhilaration. Her friends won't make fun of her, although she had never had them do, but who doesn't talk about anyone. Gossip is the fastest way to get fresh news.
“Tell me already hon” she dabbed him on the shoulder. So Herbert told her.
The company was in triumph yesterday after making their highest profit since - no one remembers when. There had been a notice on the board about atleast five workers where going to be promoted to be supervisors of branches with a hundred percent salary raise. Herbet's branch had made a lot of profit more than the others. During this small office party, Mr Mpandla the manager called him at the side.
“Mr Chitepo this is a miracle, really, this company was bound to close by next year.” said Mr Mpandla a fat or stout man, with a hair line that starts at the back of his head, yellow teeth and a mouth that reeks of alcohol and his suit looks like its hung carelessly on the wardrobe door. Clumsy and irresponsible for a manager, Herbert would observe.
“I would say its hard work sir” Herbert said to his boss, who seemed distracted but shook his head and patted him on the shoulder.
“Yes and that Mr Chitepo” said Mr Mpandla who now looked at Herbert with a stern and sober face. “And that reminds me. I wanted to talk to you Mr Chitepo”
“Is everything alright Sir?”
“Everything is okay Mr Chitepo. I will talk to you tomorrow, today we celebrate this success, the rest will do tomorrow” Mr Mpandla was starring at Herbert in an undecipherable manner maybe it's because he's a drunk. “Congratulations Mr Chitepo. We made it!” he said with great verve as he staggered his way around people. Herbert watched him leave as he tried to make sense of what the man was saying but to him it sounded like rambles and babbles of gibberish. It's hard to take a drunk person seriously.
Toni a tall man with a slender figure is Herbet's colleague, he came staggering to him.
“Heeeey! Aech” close people called him H.
“You drunk already Toni?” Herbert said and chuckled under his teeth.
“No.No Naaay! I'm not drunk Aeeech!” his words all coming out in slurs as he draped his arm on Herbert's shoulder. “See all these ladies Aech, today they are all yours!”
“Yes it's a celebration man, and you know what happens on these occasions. Ladies love to party man” Toni stumbled over obstacles and jostled into people as they moved awkwardly with Herbert.
“You know I'm a married man. Toni” smiled Herbert as he carefully nudged Toni away from him, who was intensely leaning on him. “haha. I know you man. I know.” said Toni waging a lousy finger at Herbert and a frivolous smirk on his drunk face. Herbert was now frustrated.
“What do you know?”
“What! Ugh nevermind me man. I'm just drunk” Toni said as he staggered he's way to a group of women. “By the way congratulations man”. Herbert just shook his head in disdain, it's hard to talk to talk to people when they are drunk.
“Ain't you getting promoted” Toni laughed.
“Man you are crazy” said Toni as he hugged a gorgeous woman in a red dress, immediately forgetting and ignoring Herbert's existence. “Hello ladies!”
Left alone Herbert was approached by more than a dozen people who congratulated him. I'm getting a promotion after all, he thought. He summarized it all to his wife, the best way he can, which is easy for him since he is laconic by nature.
Going to work. Herbert buys a newspaper and boards a public bus, he can't afford to buy his own car, not when he pays his kids fees. As he reads the paper, he comes across an article about companies releasing it's workers because they can't afford to pay them. Shame on them, he thought. He thanks the heavens for bringing the company back up and not closing and giving him the promotion he so deserves.
Back at home Alice has shared the promotion of her husband to her relatives and friends or anyone whom she got a chance to talk to. To her this was going completely change their life.
“My husband is getting promoted at his work. His going to be the manager.” or maybe
“Did you know that Herbert is now a manager at his work”, sometimes
“Thank god Herbert is a manager now!” she would just blurt it anywhere and anytime.
At night Herbert came home earlier and the smell of alcohol accumulated in the house as he plonked on the sofa. Alice recognized it, the kids also recognize it. But a couple of alcohol for a celebration won't hurt, Alice and the kids thought.
“Good evening honey” said Alice as she knelt down to remove her husbands shoes.
“Don't do that” said Herbert as he shuffled his feet. Alice continued to untie his shoes, she does this everyday.
“I said stop”.
But Alice persistently tried to untie his shoes. He's drunk, that manager probably gave him some whiskey, she thought. The idea of Herbert becoming like Mr Mpandla since he is now a boss too, made her cringe.
“I said stop!” shouted Herbert now with a roaring voice, that made Alice instantly stop, the kids stopped what they were doing and starred at their father like he was a stranger in their home. He had never acted like this, at least not of what the kids know of. He now sounded more like the father of next door who comes home late at night and ends up fighting with his wife and children.
“I said stop! Can't you hear a single word” he continued
“I said I don't want my shoes to be taken off” he said now calm but affirmative.
“But honey I always.........” Alice stammered before being instantly halted by Herbert.
“Bu... bu..bu hon. Shut up!” Herbet's eyes were red like fire and his expression was emotionless. The kids were now hanging on their mothers feet, petrified by the figure that stood before them.
“What's wrong honey”, Alice was now mortified by Herbet's actions infront of the kids. Tenda was hiding in the kitchen shunning all these arguments. John was not around, he comes home late despite his father telling him to come home before sundown.
“Everything” he said as he looked around the house, “Everything” he continued, now gesticulating vigorously.
“look at these kids they all have boogers, look at this house its dirty! It smells bad in here. What do you always do in this house.”
Alice looked at the kids, they were all clean, they had just finished bathing. She glanced around the house, it was clean she had just finished sweeping the floor. The only thing she could smell was the special dinner that Tenda is preparing in the kitchen, and the stench of alcohol that came from her husband.
Alice tears inexorably rained down her cheeks, she just broke down infront her kids, which is bad but she couldn't stand all these false imprecations.
“Wherever one steps there are bits of paper under one's feet, crumbs, husks. The rooms are never swept! One is simply forced to go out. Damnation take my soul entirely! I shall go and hang myself on the first aspen tree!” He flew the doors and John emerged standing still like a statue, he was probably listening through the door. Herbert looked at him for a while and pushed him aside and he found himself down.
Herbert left in the middle of the night, he left to his 'small house', a term here which means another family a man has but not known to his first family. Or the 'night shift' as his family knows it.
*Inspired by The Lottery Ticket*
Author Notes: I read anything just like I write anything.