By Noel Misanjo
Akweni Pwiyepwiye woke up with a start. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his right hand and made for the window curtain that hang loose to his bedside. He squeezed the curtain aside and peered outside. Light had already settled in the atmosphere. Fearing that he could be late for his workplace, he drew his battery- operated mini radio and switched it on. Time was 5:30 am.
Unlike most of the times when soon after waking up he could rush for the mbaula and make the fire, on this particular Monday morning, he just got off his bed and stood beside it. He did not even utter his daily morning prayer. He felt that if he prayed he would sin against God as he had clandestine plans that morning.
He put his hands on his head. His bare chest displayed a forest of hair. His stomach, just slightly above the funny boxer short he was wearing, was not as stout as it used to be in his secondary school days. Soon after getting employed in the city his life had began to experience tough moments of stress and depression.
He had gone to primary and secondary schools in his home district. He got his MSCE four years ago and at the age of 27 now, he was working as a clerk at a textile company in the city. He was the first-born child in his family. When he began working in the city it was like he had become a saviour of the family. Pwiyepwiye, his father, had retired from his position as Kapitao at the tea estate. Paying of school fees for his seven sisters and brothers and of course some family needs were now under his responsibility.
The salary that he was getting was not all that satisfactory. After working for about a year now he had not bought even a single chair. Whenever he made up a plan and budget to buy something, it could just happen that he could get a message from home that a younger brother or sister or some other relative needed some assistance. It used to pain him that at work he worked so hard only to be rewarded a peanut salary that could not carry him through the month even if he was staying home alone.
Akweni drew a T-shirt from the cloth line and put it on. He put his both hands on the waist and continued in a motionless stand. He was trying to find the way out. And indeed he was determined to get out of this disgrace. He opened his bedside drawer and took from it a piece of paper. It was a letter and it was this letter that had caused him all this confusion.
He remembered that it was on a rainy Saturday morning that he got a chance of reading one of the weekend papers. It was at the work place where he had gone for an overtime session. After flipping through the first five pages, his eyes had caught up with a big headline that read " VACANCY". He just decided to give it a detailed look. After reading the whole advert he did not hesitate. People at the work place saw him running around for paper and pen. His good colleague, Songea, asked him a question that sent him into a sudden realisation that he was behaving strangely: "What's wrong my friend; you're behaving strangely, why copy the advert?"
"No, just saw a "vacancy" and I'm trying to copy it home for one of my brothers." Akweni answered.
" Man, you could just say the truth. You want to change jobs!" Songea teased.
Akweni did not reveal his intention. He knew that the work place was not a place where you could trust any one. People at the work place were usually looking for favour from bosses and therefore breach of confidence was a rampant practice. He therefore did not answer anything.
Meanwhile he took himself out of the recollection and made for his door. He was surprised to see that the sun was just about to fully rise.
"Oh my God, I will be late" he muttered to himself. His worry however was not a question for a warm bath at this point in time. He could just light the fire and make himself a cup of tea.
He had been thinking about how he could convince his boss by not letting him know the contents of the letter. The letter had indicated that the interviews would be conducted on this particular day at 8:30 am. He could not afford to miss them. He really wanted the new job. But how could he tell his boss at the office so that he could get permission to go and attend the interviews without making it known to the boss?
He did not know whether he was to lie to him or whether he should just absent himself from work on this particular day. If he were to feign sickness, definitely he would feel more guilty. He was not used to telling lies. If he were to go to work and ask for permission from the boss, definitely the boss would not give an o.k. He cracked his brains and saw that he was going nowhere in terms of progress. However, he could not allow to miss this chance. It might be a great opportunity opening up in his life. He looked at the letter once again and folded it into one of the pockets of the jacket he was to put on that day.
His poverty had made him crave for the new job. Apart from that, another equally important thing that had created him this craving was his envy for the progress his peers were making in life. He had been to the same secondary school with Davite Bwato who soon after obtaining his MSCE went for a driving course and was now a chief driver at his work place. Diness Chibao also finished with him but yet with an MSCE he had gone for a carpentry and joinery course and he now owned his own furniture workshop and was a well to do man. Esther Sangalalani, again with only an MSCE, had joined a certain non-governmental organization and was now its programmes officer. She was famous and had money. When he considered all this, he saw no reason why he should not jump onto a better paying job. That morning he was determined to do whatever he could in order not to miss the interviews for this new job.
At exactly 7:30 am Akweni Pwiyepwiye found himself in front of his immediate boss. The boss was short and stout. On this particular morning he was wearing a black-stripped suit and glasses. His name was Wisikesi. That morning Akweni was in a pair of black trousers and a sky blue shirt that had been hid by an old grey jacket and a tobacco leaf-like necktie.
Akweni was determined. He did not want to leave any stone unturned on the way to his prosperity. He knew if he were to get this new job, definitely his status would improve a great deal.
" Boss, I'm here this morning with a plea to make to you Sir" Akweni began to present his case. Wisikesi was at ease and beckoned the junior worker to go on.
" Yea... sir, I've just received a message that my mother is critically ill. I've to go and see her."
"Has she been admitted to hospital?" Wisikesi asked.
It could appear the boss was in a good mood that morning. Akweni knew that it could not be difficult to convince him. The boss was known to be very considerate and passionate. Almost every worker at the work place liked him. The only problem with him was that he disliked lies. A good number of workers had been dismissed because of giving false excuses to him. At that point Akweni remembered of Nkulumimba, Mahalawipha and Gambalagambala who had been dismissed for indiscipline for telling lies to the boss.
Nevertheless, Akweni went on, unmoved.
"Yes sir, been admitted yesterday"
"Sorry for that my boy. You are free to go. I wish your mother a speedy recovery. We expect you here tomorrow." Wisikesi finally said. There was a note of love in his voice. At that point he produced a k500 note and gave it to Akweni, " just for banana on the way", Wisikesi said.
Akweni was very happy now that the step he feared most had been overcome and he was successful. Everything had gone according to plan. The k500 note also added joy to his soul. He left the work premises and turned into a street that could finally connect him to the highway where he could board a minibus to the other side of the city. Gauwo Insurance Masters' office was in that part of the city. He was set for the interviews for the new job at that place. He had heard that if he were to be successful in the interviews his salary would be double as much the one he was getting at the textile company where he was working at the moment.
Locating the actual place of the interviews was not a difficult task. He just knew it from the many seemingly well dressed men and women outside a tall building. He just turned there and put his big khaki envelope under his bossom in waiting.
When the interviews clerk called his name, Akweni froze with a chill of fear. He haphazardly buttoned his jacket and rushed to the door of the interview room. He was shivering. He had heard that at this place a big panel of interviewers, some of which could be taken from other corporate organizations, could conduct interviews. For once he felt afraid. However his having convinced Wisikesi with a lie that very morning gave him some confidence that he could as well convince the panel.
He pushed the door and entered. He instantly froze. The short and stout gentleman sitting in the middle of the panel and looking directly at him through glasses was his own boss, Wisikesi. Akweni could not believe it. He felt greatly betrayed. He wished he had become an ant. He wished he were only dreaming. His hands were visibly shaking and his eyes thwarted from place to place.
" Good morning Mr. Pwiyepwiye, would you please introduce yourself?" asked one of the interviewers who had earlier introduced himself as Fumwe Kachule.
"Yea...yea...I'm hard-hard working,...ho-honest.... and..."
" Have you worked any where before?" Wisikesi, now an interviewer, fired the question at the massively confused Akweni.
"No...no ...Sir, ...but...er...er..umnh....'
"Tell us what's the capital city of France?" a female interviewer butted in.
" Sir... it's...it's....er..er..Umnh.... is it not Cairo...?"
The following day when he went to his work place, the first thing to find on his desk was a suspension-without-pay letter, "pending disciplinary action" it partly read. He tried to apologize but the milk had already been spilt. And indeed misfortunes never come singly. It was even a heavier blow when he learnt a week later that he had not been picked for the new job.