Death of a beer buyer killsÂ Â beggars and storytellers twice. Nobody laments this more than Chimutu, who took Chimimba and me to Sibweni’s burial recently.
In the departed truck driver, the storyteller has lost a prominent newsmaker who always paid in cash and booze to silence tales of his scandalous ‘sexscapades’.
For starters, Sibweni, who died in a car accident while smuggling a hooker from one pub to another, was buried with no military honours, but wreaths from buyers of all kinds of brewers and cigarettes.
Â Instead of a 21-gun salute, people of the bottle contributed K10 000, prepared his grave and were pallbearers just to thank his parents for birthing such a selfless bottlemate.
Â “When a good man dies, even the most meat-starved villagers will shoulder their tools and head to the graveyard without scorning basins of beans,” observed Chimutu as we entered the overgrown cemetery, where he mesmerised talkative gravediggers with his tales.
Â “When gravediggers down their tools and start crying for meat, you might think they are allergic to beans, but they often swallow worse things, including the bitter brews and dirty distils that torch their lips,” chorused his ‘sexcellency’ potbellied Chimimba in a hushed voice.
As I nursed my gnawing hangover, the biggie made a startling confession, saying:Â “Here will lie nyama yonyenga-nyenga [a promiscuous being] who always spent nights where I feared to tread with a condom.”
Such were our Nkhani za M’maboma as we took turns digging the grave, allowing our alcoholic sweat to wet the soil where the fallen soul would sprout anew.
Equally touched were his sober friends. Their hymns and wailing said it all: Sibweni had reconciled with God and the world before meeting his expiry date.
But Chimutu and company had tales to the contrary.
“So far, the bereaved family have ejected 10 women and warned five to stop mourning Sibweni as their husband or father of their children,” reported one gravedigger.
“Is that so? Don’t they know that their son had women and children wherever his truck went?” asked Chimutu, reminding them that our in-lawâ€”the sex worker who survived the drink-and-drive accidentâ€” was still battling for life at the hospital.
“Whether his ‘sexploits’ stretch from Cape to Cairo, these uncultured short-time creatures have no place at this religious funeral,” retorted another gravedigger, stressing that even heaven knew that Sibweni had only one wife.
Quite churchy, isn’t it? But doÂ the concubines have the right to bury the men who make them mothers? Do the children choose to be born toÂ skirt-chasers who married other women other than their mums? How long shall children born out of wedlock be orphaned and treated like bastards or ana amtchire? Don’t they have the right to know their parents?
Well, it’s uncultured to despise the dead unless they were dictators in this donor-fearing country. But the deceased was no dictator, even the preacher knew.
Â “Here lies a man of his God and his people,” he preached.
As we wondered why death feasts on the good ones while the bad prosper, we heard a womanish cry: “My husband! Why my husband!”
The crowd was distracted by the arrival of a wailing woman so gorgeous in her grief that his sexcellency Chimimba’s bloodshot eyes stalked her all the way.Â She had a boy who resembled the late Sibweni so strikingly that holy family did not know whether to chase them away or not.
Meanwhile, Sibweni’s wife, who had been rolling and falling with grief, sprung up and charged at the new arrivals angrily. Her people and in-laws pulled her down to avoid an embarrassing confrontation. The hymns faded.
‘Sextinguishing’ scenes of chaos displaced the cathedral solemnity at the funeral place and I retreated into the wilderness.
Was this the type of burial our Sibweni wanted to get at the end of his double-edged life? Was this the send-off he prepared for his wife of 20 years? What about the children and women who claimed to be truly his?
Maybe he wouldn’t have gone drinking and driving with a hooker before ironing out his disputable extramarital sexual links -for the decisions we make in our lives not only determine our death and burial but also the future of the beloved we leave behind.