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Vol.3. No. 2. January 2010





Andrew Campbell-Kearsey
Claire Godden-Rowland
Dike Okoro
Dominic James
Emmanuel Sigauke
Mandy Pannett
Noel Williams
N Quentin Woolf
Olu Oguibe
Paul Jeffcutt
Sharma Taylor
Susanna Roxman
W Jack Savage


Night in a Drum

A Short Story by

Emmanuel Sigauke


Entering the compound, I was supposed to walk with the confidence of someone returning home, but there was no telling what would happen when Mukoma saw me. He sat in the sunlight behind his bedroom hut, carving his wooden stools, so I was going to try to sneak to the kitchen hut before he saw me. Too late: he was already looking at me as if he had seen me walk all the way from Mai Ranga’s home. The stare was calm, as if he did not care about what I was planning to do. But as soon as I reached the chicken coup, he sat up and coughed.  I turned and walked toward him like a surrendering soldier. 

“Where were you last night?” he asked, licking his lips.

“In a drum,” I said. “Mai Ranga hid me.”  

His eyes opened wider, but narrowed as if he had just remembered something.

“You are lucky she did,” he said; then he raised his big hand and sent it flying towards my face.

 When I tried to dodge the blow, I stumbled and fell face down. Mukoma began to laugh. That’s when I knew he was not angry with me anymore. I got up, wiped dust off my face, and started laughing too. That’s what he had taught me—to laugh whenever he laughed. When he stopped laughing I stopped too and looked at him with a smile.  

He leaned forward and said, “You know I can kill you if I want to, right?”

“Yes,” I said, following his gaze, which was now directed towards Mai Ranga’s home. “I will always listen to you.”  Then I drew closer to him to show that that I understood that he was not angry anymore.

“Now go let the goats out. Remember to guide them to Runde.” 

I left immediately for fear that he might change his mind and call me back, but I was happy that he had forgiven me.  But the thought of Shami in a far away village tugged at my heart, and for this reason I forgave  Mukoma too, but telling him so would make him beat me.

People called him the bull of Mototi, one of the few strong men still remaining in the village after most went to war.  Mukoma said he had been lucky because when village men his age joined the war, he was in South Africa. Now no one could force him to join the struggle since he said he knew how to argue. He once told me that one did not have to join the comrades to be part of the struggle. He was already fighting a great war by raising me, he told people. He also kept healthy goats and chickens, which the comrades demanded for food each time they camped in our village. Since Mukoma was not away at war, Mai, his mother, whom I also called mother because my real mother had died a few months after giving birth to me, always told me the village bored him, so he entertained himself with fights.

But I liked to watch Mukoma fight.  His massive fists knew how to discipline other men, and most of them feared him. Nearly every grown man who came to our home always called Mukoma “brother”, even those who were older than him. Some would even tell me that if I really listened to Mukoma I might grow up to be a great fighter too.  And I wanted to grow up to a fighter, but I didn’t like when he used his fists on me, telling me I needed to know how real men’s fists felt. When he was serious about beating me, a beating that would last for a very long time, with breaks in between, he would send me to fetch a strong Mupani whip for myself. I was an expert in fetching good whips.

But on the day I ended in Mai Ranga’s  grain barrel, I had done a bad job of fetching a whip. Mukoma was working on his baboon stools, carving them with an adze. He was an expert in baboon stools, regular wood stools with a baboon carved in the middle of the two flat ends on which people sat. Sitting on the stool was like sitting on the back of a baboon, and people liked doing that; so bought all the stools Mukoma made. His stools could be found in all the nineteen villages of Mazvihwa.


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Emmanuel Sigauke grew up in Zimbabwe, where he studied English and Linguistics at the University of Zimbabwe.

He helped found the Zimbabwe Budding Writers Association, for which he served as National Secretary from 1992 to 1995.

He moved to California in 1996 and studied English at Sacramento State University. He teaches composition and writing at Cosumnes River College and is one of the editors of Cosumnes River Journal.

His poetry has appeared in various journals in Zimbabwe, Finland, United States and Ireland, and he is the editor of Munyori Poetry Journal. He is also a member of the Sacramento Poetry Board and a book reviewer for Poetry Now, a publication of the Sacramento Poetry Center.



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