Isaac looked at his brother. He did not believe that they should be doing this. If it came down to it, Isaac did not want to fight, the shop was not worth it. He did not think so. He thought about how they had come to this point and he wondered why things had gone so wrong. He closed his eyes for a moment and he thought about home.
Their village stood in the north, it was green and fertile. There was stream close by were people fetched their water sometimes, when the village water pump was not working. They had swam there and spent weekends talking to the girls and catching fish. Their grandmother had raised them. She had been a strict woman and had taught them the value of hard work. Isaac had enjoyed his life in the village. He had the job of looking after the goats after school. School was important to their grandmother. She had been so happy and proud when they were accepted to go to secondary school. Isaac had enjoyed looking after the goats and doing his homework in the fields.
It was just the three of them, his brother David and their young sister Precious. Precious was still in primary school and she seemed content with the life that they had. She helped her grandmother in the kitchen after school and sometimes in the late afternoons she would join Isaac in the fields and they would talk about their day. Isaac had been happy and content with the village life.
David, was a restless person. He was not content with their life and he was always dreaming about leaving the village and going to start a business in town if they could. He wanted money and he wanted to be successful. One day after school, David had come up to Isaac to discuss his new plan.
“Man, we can go to South Africa and start a business. Do you remember that man who came by the village last week?”
“Yes, I remember. What about him David?” He wondered where this was going.
“Well he lives in South Africa and he said he has a shop there and he does very well. He has a house now and he even owns two cars. Can you believe it man. We could go over there and start something. Think about it, we could get really wealthy and bring Precious over.”
“We cannot leave grandma and go to a whole different country David. You are talking crazy.”
“It is not crazy talk. I had a real conversation with him and he told me all about it. South Africa has opportunities we want. We cannot live in this village forever man. There is nothing to do here Isaac. He told me how we can do it. We can start working on getting there. We could even go to university there once we have made enough money. It’s a good plan.”
“We don’t know anyone in South Africa David.”
“Yes we do. remember cousin Francis, from mother’s side? She lives in Mpondwe. Grandmother told me about her. I am going into town tomorrow and I am going to call her and find out what we can do to get there. Man I am telling you this is our ticket out of this place.”
“I like this place. I like the village David. You know that. And I do not want to leave grandma here all alone. She has been taking care of us for years.”
“You want to stay here? There is a whole world out there. Things to see and money to be made. Come on Isaac what can we do here? What do you want to do? farm?” he laughed. “Man, you need to start thinking ahead.”
Isaac had been quiet after that. He had looked over the fields and hills and he could not imagine leaving this life behind to go to some big city. It might not be much here, but it was where he wanted to be.
Two years later, David, who had been working odd jobs in town, finally made enough for them to leave and go to Mpondwe. It had been hard for Isaac to say goodbye to the village. Their grandmother, always thinking about what David wanted, had finally consented for them to go. She believed David had great ideas and she thought he was smart and could make a fortune for them. Even though Isaac had protested, David had finally convinced him to join him in Mpondwe. Their cousin Francis had agreed to let them stay with her until they could find their feet. As they had left the village, Isaac had tried not to cry at the sight of his sister and grandmother waving at them from the bus station.
Mpondwe had been different. It was a much bigger place than the village. There was television and radio and you could buy any type of food that you wanted at any time.
They had settled in and David had immediately set them up to do odd jobs and they started saving up money. Isaac followed him wherever he went and tried to be as excited as he was about their new life. All Isaac wanted to do was sit in the fields with his goats and read. But he had to trust David and he knew that this was the right thing to do. Secretly he dreamed of making enough money to go back and start a farm of his own. He would have livestock and farm vegetables. He would build a house, a brick one and have television and electricity.
Eventually they could buy a store and start selling groceries. The store was everything they had and most of their savings were tied up in the store. Talk of university had evaporated, they could not afford it and Isaac was not sorry. He still dreamed of his village life. They made money and were able to start sending some back home for their sister’s education. She was now in secondary school and she was doing well. David wanted to save enough for her to come and join them, with their grandmother. But their grandmother had told them that she was born in that village and she would die there. She had no intention of moving.
Things had been going well until recently. Conflict between foreigners and locals had become heated. A young girl was found dead in a foreigner’s store and it was believed that she had been murdered by the shop owner. He had protested but it had sparked tension that were already there. Foreign owned shops were looted and set alight. The townships became a dangerous place for foreigners. Locals believed that foreigners were taking over their job enterprises and that they were all drug dealers. Tensions escalated. For a week, all that the news had on was the violence spreading to other townships. People were leaving their homes and abandoning their businesses. People were displaced and some had to seek refuge in churches and charity organisations. It was a dangerous and stressful week.
David and Isaac followed the news and prayed that the violence would not reach their town. One evening they were at home watching the news in their flat, when David got a call. It was their aunt and she was calling to inform them that shops were being looted in Mpondwe. The unrest had reached their town.
“Come on Isaac we are going to the shop.” Isaac was afraid.
“What, now? do you not understand how dangerous it is out there? The shop is the last place we should go David.”
“Man, you cannot be serious. We have everything tied up in that shop. We cannot just let a group of vagrants steal everything we have worked hard for. We have not done anything wrong Isaac.”
“I know that. But it is dangerous. You saw how they set that man on fire. On live television. We should just stay here and pray and hope for the best.”
“Man you’re crazy if you think I am going to do that. Come on Isaac. We have to fight.”
Isaac was not so sure. Their store was loved. They gave discounts and offered some products on credit. Everyone in the community knew them and respected them. But with this wave of violence and what he had seen on the news so far, Isaac was not convinced that their neighbours would spare them and their shop.
Isaac became despondent, he did not want to do this, it just did not seem worth it to die for money. They could go back home and start again there. They had some money in the bank.
“David, we should go back home. We cannot stay in this country anymore. You see how they treat us sometimes and how unsafe it is at the moment.”
“No. listen to me. We must go. Come on.”
In the end, Isaac always did what David wanted. He did not want to go, but what choice did he have. His brother was likely to go alone if it came to that. He might as well join him and try and protect him. They had a nob-kerry and pangas at the shop.
When they got into town, they could hear crowds moving through shops, people were looting everything. People were crying and some grown men stood at their shops weeping. It was a horrible sight. Isaac just wanted to go home.
They reached their shop and thankfully it was still standing. David opened the door and they entered. They looked behind them. They took their weapons and stood ready to defend. David was restless and he paced up and down the shop. From inside the shop, they could hear a crowd coming towards them.
“Get ready Isaac.”
They crouched on the floor and waited. There was banning on the door and they could hear people shouting. A rock flew through one of the windows.
“David, brother, let us go out of the back door. We cannot take on everyone. They sound really angry.”
The banging got louder. Isaac looked over at David. For the first time that night, he noticed the look of fear in his brother’s eyes. He was stubborn and he would stay and fight. It dawned on Isaac that it would have to be him who got them out of there. There was sweat pouring down David’s face and he had a wild look about him. He must be as scared as I am, thought Isaac.
“David. Come on. We cannot die for this. Think about our sister. Who will take care of her.”
David looked at Isaac, he just stayed there crouching on the floor. Isaac got up. The door banged louder, more windows were broken, someone threw a petrol bomb. That’s it thought Isaac. He grabbed David’s arm and pushed him up. David looked at the fire. Tears were streaming down his face now. Isaac pushed him forward. And they went out the back door. Luckily no one knew about it. As they ran, Isaac looked back at the store. All he could see was smoke and people rushing out of the shop with groceries in their hands. David did not look back, but Isaac could feel his shoulders hunched and he sobbed as they left. They would have to go back home now, Isaac thought, there was no way that they could live here any longer. They were not wanted. Isaac put his hand over David’s shoulder and led him away.