Tag Archive | writing

Life lessons from a missed deadline

So I missed a writing contest deadline by 30mins and it has left me feeling meh. All the same, I am gonna put the story out here just so I know I did it. I will self-comfort and look at it as if I was one of those who did not win the contest. After all, only one person was gonna win it anyway and there were 720 people who had indicated their intentions to enter this 24 hour writing contest. I think my take home here is this:

“Better to have run and finished the race than to have started it and given up along the way on realising that winning was out of reach.”

Here is the story and I would appreciate your feedback:

PS: the words in bold are the words we had to use to start and end the story and they came from A wonderful Zimbabwean writer, Tendai Huchu. Do look him up and read his work. I enjoyed The Hairdresser of Harare and am looking forward to reading his other works.

PPS: the story has no title….and the images are meant to make the story blog-friendly….


They laid the train tracks back to front and this caused a great deal of confusion – you’d think you were on the train to New York and arrived in Kinshasa, or to Shanghai and found yourself lost in Istanbul. Yet he knew that he had to refrain from asking any questions. He bowed his head and carried on digging and shoving as much of the mud out of the tunnel as quickly as possible. He was a nobody, nameless, identity-less and it would do him no good to draw any attention to himself by asking questions.

(image from http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1282458/thumbs/o-SALTY-SWEAT-570.jpg?1)

(image from huffpost.com)

Sweat ran down his arms, back and face as if he had had a bucket of water poured over him. He kept working- one shovelful of dirt over the other. He worked silently and barely stopped to rest as the other labourers did from time to time. He could not afford to have anyone look at him or engage him in any conversation. He kept to himself during breaks and walked to the compound on his own. His days were numbered and he did not want anyone to be able to remember him.

whilst others enjoyed the breaks, he kept to himself (image from hotpaknews.com)

whilst others enjoyed the breaks, he kept to himself
(image from hotpaknews.com)

He wore dark clothes that did not stand out. He always had on a hat right down to his dark eyes. He never laughed at any of the jokes that were shared- he could not afford to have anyone recall his neither his voice nor his laugh. His life was one of silence. He was a silent figure, acquaintanced with the darkness.

his company was the darkness  (image from www.wattpad.com)

his company was the darkness
(image from http://www.wattpad.com)

He had come to Durban a few weeks earlier on a personal mission. He knew no one and did not want to be known. The site was presently in turmoil as people rushed back and forth between the foreman and the supervisor. The railway line was already running a few months behind schedule and this latest incident would cost the whole project a few more months as well as half a million more Rand to correct.

The weather was partly to blame. It had been raining on and off for two months now and no one could predict the weather accurately anymore. The rains had come later than usual. Many of the local young who could have been employed by the project had set out in search of greener pastures. However, in all fairness, the supervisor, Greit du Pleissis, was the major reason for the delay as well as the ever-ballooning budget. He had no idea what he was doing half the time and was constantly seeking approval from head office and this caused unnecessary delays.

The rains pounded down ferociously  (image from www.sowetanlive.co.za)

The rains pounded down ferociously
(image from http://www.sowetanlive.co.za)

Today, the entire Durban population had come to the site and it was chaotic. So much confusion as everybody suddenly wanted to find out how the project was progressing. The MEC for Health was in town and would make a stop at the site. The labourers were in panic and the supervisor was steadily drinking himself into a state. Kids were thrilled to be out in the mud and were making a nuisance of themselves.

there was mud all over (image courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk)

there was mud all over (image courtesy of http://www.dailymail.co.uk)

Brightly coloured clothes were soon mud stained and mothers were screaming in frustration from the old platform with the makeshift roof. The fathers walked around the site as if they knew what the hell was going on. One man had got his hand severed by one of the machines he had tried to operate and the ambulance was nowhere in sight. He was in shock and losing a lot of blood. Someone was screaming for some whisky. A child had fallen into one of the ditches and the police were struggling to restrain the excitable crowd.

Through all this madness, he kept his head bowed down and kept shovelling, he had a mission to accomplish. It began to rain earnestly again. Even in the rain, he could feel his own sweat washing his body. One more shovelful of mud and he was ready to stop. It was time.

man digging a hole in the ground with shovel and spade

man digging a hole in the ground with shovel and spade

He stepped out of the ditch, went to a corner and lit a cigarette but he did not smoke it. He watched the mayhem and looked at his watch. In a few minutes, he went to clock out but he did not leave the site. He went across the old platform and joined the Durbanites in waiting for the big boss lady. Any minute now, she would arrive ushered by a host of police patrol cars and fawning government officials.

he held the smoke in his hand  (image from www.shutterstock.com)

he held the smoke in his hand
(image from http://www.shutterstock.com)

Even headquarters had sent a welcoming party. If only they knew. From nowhere, a blast of lightning struck through the encroaching darkness scaring half the women and children at the platform. It was ominously silent after its wake and this silence greeted the MEC as she stepped out of her government vehicle and onto the new platform.



She knew where her bread was buttered, alright but she did not know that sensible shoes were necessary if she was to tour a railway laying site. As she stepped to the podium that looked awkwardly out of place with its ribbons and laces, she slipped. A collective gasp came from the waiting crowd. She recovered quickly and made it to the podium. She was opening her mouth when it happened.

(image from pixshark.com)

(image from pixshark.com)

The entire platform began to move. Confusion animated her face and she stood for a second staring at the podium. No one understood what was happening despite watching it unfold. The platform literally sank out of sight right in front of their eyes, along with the MEC and the officials who were with her leaving just the tracks. A bolt of lightning struck again, as if on cue and ripped the roof off the old platform and the heavens bursts their flood gates.

image from (www.maniacworld.com)

image from (www.maniacworld.com)

One bolt of lightning followed the sunken platform and smoke came out like a pleasing sacrifice to the gods. The newly formed hole soon filled up with dirty, flowing water. No one could move. Even if they wanted to, they could not because the rain dripping from the rusty gutters made a curtain between the platform and the tracks.
(© R Tendo Tapiwa, 2015)


“Confronting my demons”: In progress

Glad to be writing again. The fear of trying to write well has finally been cast from me. Started writing this one a little while ago but left it when I felt that I was speaking too much in the story. For ages now the story of this young woman has been lying in the back of my mind and I have been too afraid to write it. I have been so scared of judging her, of having people judge her! I wanted hers to be a perfect story but who has that? This is life and the best way to live it is to get on with it. Same thing with with writing. She is a mixture and an offshoot of several people whom I know or have encountered, some of them men and that is what makes me embrace her. She is her! It is as if she is telling me to allow her to live, to be and so I have finally begun to do just that.

“I have written and re-written her story enough times trying to change her yet she is still there, wanting to live. So, in honour of her determination and her life, here goes a snippet from her story, tentatively entitled:

“Confronting my demons” (all copyrights reserved).

I sit in my small room and wonder why nothing is going right. I have gone to school and have acquired the necessary education but I feel more schooled than educated because I honestly have no idea how to navigate this treacherous jungle called life. No one taught me how life ought to be lived and I am extremely frustrated, disillusioned and downright angry. I have spent more than half my life thus far in some form of educational facility but there is nothing to show for my pains and efforts. I say pain because it WAS painful sitting through class and forcing my mind to take in all that the various teachers were spewing out of their mouths and scribbling across blackboards as well as dictating through whatever classes I had to attend. It was pain aiming to get the highest grades just so I could make my father proud…ok, I knew, just as I know now, that nothing I can do will ever make him prouder than were I male. So, my sex was the next frustration nature bestowed on me after it gave me to the parents that I had. I must say that I am glad that my mother is no more. She finally got some rest from- no, this is not about my mother but about me.


It was in my second month of pregnancy that Lightman came back from work one day, in unusually high spirits…well, the spirits in him were partly responsible. He kissed me and massaged my feet. I ought to have been alerted by that very act itself: what black Shona man massages the feet of his pregnant girlfriend without there being a catch? He ran me a bath and scrubbed my back and he went on to make me tea, chamomile tea, to be exact. It was “to help you relax, my sweet.” I had never heard of that tea before but who was I to reveal that? I happily drank my cup and allowed myself to be caressed, licked and sucked in all manner thinkable and soon enough…oh well, you know it.

I woke up retching so suddenly and spent the next few minutes seated on the toilet floor with Mr Man offering me mint tea, “to help with the nausea.” I should have been more alert, I repeat, I ought to have been more alert. He was not worried about my ‘illness’ but more about getting me to drink as much tea as possible. After throwing up what must have been the day before yesterday’s breakfast, I finally passed out. I woke up with heat around my lower back. It steadily became intense but my partner was there to give me hot compress with a towel. I realised that I was in trouble when I felt the stickiness on my bum. A quick hand behind me and it came back red! I was confused before I became alarmed but my babie was on hand to ease my worries.

(Let us leave it here for now)