The Four Stories
Harry: HARRY'S GAME
was 14 but he looked more like a 9 year old" More...
Steve: NOT AGAIN
looked, but couldn't find my key anywhere" More...
Issa: PAIN, BUT NO GAIN
is (or was) Caro-Anne's night-watchman" More...
Steve #2: (S.F.W.?)
I'm overdrawn! So I owe money for the sale of my house"
This month's newsletter is about a
weekend I spent at Cape Maclear (Mangochi) with Caro-Anneeand
It's about the intimidation (and ugliness) of the strong and
the self-destruction (and ugliness) of the weak (gosh!). All
encapsulated in 4 stories...
Harry's Story: HARRY'S GAME
HARRY WAS fourteen, but
he looked more like a nine year old. He was three feet nothing high,
and had none of the tell-tale signs of puberty in his face: I just
remember a big pair of eyes, and an even bigger forehead. He did
speak good English, though. And as we arrived at Cape Maclear he
immediately began to practice it on us:
"...So, how about
a beach barbecue tonight: Campango [large fish] and never-ending
rice. Tomorrow, I can organise a boat trip to the island: boat-trip,
food, and good snorkelling - all in. Good price for both."
He followed us, smiled with us; befriended us.
After fifteen minutes
of discussion on price and the virtues of a beach barbecue, we decided
to be un-decided. We told Harry to meet us in an hour. Harry's smile
faltered: "Let's do the deal now. K150... You're giving me
the brush-off, I know. K130... You're going to buy the barbecue
from someone else! Okay, K120... K100, then!"
As we stood firm on our
decision of indecision, Harry's price got lower and lower. His mood
became more and more surly; he became irritable. He really was behaving
like a 9 year old.
An hour later, we agreed
to a barbecue the next day, for K110 - six Campango. We also had
an (adult) word with Harry about his poor attitude to his customers.
But the deal was done, and he didn't care: he just took his half-payment
(K55) and left.
The game continued. Next
morning he told us there were no Campango, so we would be eating
the smaller Chambo instead. Our illusion of a feast was slowly fading.
The game moved on. Barbecue
time, underneath the stars, and the fraudulent feast was found out.
Six fish had been prepared for us, with paltry rice and sauce, but
the fish were not Chambo. Harry called them 'Son of Chambo,' which
you know means smaller. We complained to Harry. He was taking our
money and giving us nothing in return. But Harry didn't care - the
fish was the fish; the meal was ready; eat!
We ate. The game got
better. We hatched a cunning plan to pay less: K20 less. So we ate,
but the fish bones stuck in our throats; and Harry's greedy game
spoilt our appetites.
We gave Harry K30, and
the game got good, real good. Harry became angry. He threw the money
back: "I'm not taking this! You're joking if you think you
can cheat me. You think I'm a fool!"
He wasn't friendly, any
more. Again, we gave him the money; our adult voices protesting
the justice of it. But Harry became aggressive, this time forcing
the money down Caro-Anne's top. He started to talk about his brothers
who would meet us - maybe in an hour, or maybe in twelve. They would
find us, and would not be pleased that we had cheated Harry. Harry's
game-plan was revealed. Hostile threats, if you please.
Our choice was simple:
principle against expediency. And a three-foot nothing boy was giving
us this choice; was playing out his game. We were outsiders; it
was no choice. We paid the full Kwacha, and we lived to tell the
Harry's Game can not
be played forever, though. Someone will call his bluff; they will
not flinch at returning his verbal attack with a physical one. He
won't always look like a harmless 9 year old.
Steve's Story: NOT AGAIN
I LOOKED and looked and
looked, but couldn't find my key anywhere. (I'm talking about my
room key at the rest house, with no spare.) And this, after a frantic
five minutes rummaging inside my rucksack - looking for my wallet.
Maybe someone at the bar had my key (maybe that someone had already
emptied my room!). Maybe I was beginning to get worried.
I told the staff at the
rest house; they were not impressed. Could I check the bar again,
did my friends have the key? And would I pay for the damage if they
broke the door down for me? I told them that I'd checked the bar,
and my friends didn't have the key, and yes I'd pay the K100 to
fix the door.
Minutes later, I found
the key - or Caro-Anneefound it (in the top of my rucksack). It
was a small key, attached to a huge you-can't-lose-me-if-you-try
wooden key-fob. The staff were still not impressed; they joked that
I had taken too much Chamba. But I hadn't smoked any funny cigarettes;
this sort of thing happens to me all the time (just ask Rachel).
Issa's story: PAIN, BUT NO GAIN
ISSA IS (or was) Caro-Anne's
night-watchman. His tardiness, and a tendency to go to sleep the
same time as Caro-Anne, meant that she was finally going to sack
him. She gave Issa (eye-sa) one week's notice.
That weekend we had our
fun and games at Cape Maclear. Issa too, had had an eventful time.
Apparently, he had been caught stealing cabbages in the local market,
and had been severely beaten by his captors, before being arrested.
So he didn't guard the house that weekend (though thankfully Lydia,
Caro-Anne's worker, quick-wittedly arranged a substitute).
The next time we saw
Issa was Tuesday; face puffed and bruised. He wanted the night off,
as he was sick: his ribs pained him (he still hadn't been to hospital).
Of course Caro-Anneeagreed, and of course she still paid him for
his last week's work, even though she didn't want to.
Now Issa is (or was)
a thief. And tardiness is still not desirable, but you don't get
sacked from this job - eventually, you just get killed.
Steve's story #2: (S.F.W.?)
SO I'M overdrawn! So
I owe Pete money for the sale of 95 Oak Road. So I owe money to
my company, Cafe Computers Ltd., to balance the books. So I owe
Rachel more than all these debts added together. So!
I am well educated, and
have marketable professional skills (and I think my family and friends
still care); I'll cope, I'm sure. I don't need to leave Malawi early,
or even panic buy National lottery tickets, by proxy. Either, I
get a good job in Malawi after finishing VSO, or I get a better
job back in Britain. Simple; and the debts will pay themselves.
When I'm still on the
dole however, this time next year, then - that's when I rue my spendthrift
ways; that's when my hair turns completely grey; that's when I become
persona non grata. (You have been warned!) But then again, maybe
being a debtor millionaire by the time I'm forty, isn't such a bad
Back to top