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I got my things and left. The sun was coming up. I couldn’t think where to go. I wandered towards the beer-hall but stopped at the bottle-store where I bought a beer. There were people scattered along the store’s wide verandah, drinking. I sat beneath the tall msasa tree whose branches scrape the corrugated iron roofs. I was trying not to think about where I was going. I didn’t feel bitter. I was glad things had happened the way they had; I couldn’t have stayed on in that House of Hunger where every morsel of sanity was snatched from you the way some kinds of bird snatch food from the very mouths of babes. And the eyes of that House of Hunger lingered upon you as though some indefinable beast was about to pounce upon you. Of course there was the matter of the girl. But what else could I have done, when Peter flogged her like that day and night? Besides, my intervention had not been as disinterested as I would have liked.
Yes, the sun came up so fast it hit you between the eyes before you knew it had risen above the mountains.
I took off my coat and folded it between my thighs. The way everything had happened no one could in future blame their soul-hunger on anybody else. Mine was already hot and dusty in the morning sun and I didn’t know what, if anything, I could do to appease it. But my head was clear; and when the black policemen paraded and saluted beneath the flag and the black clerk of the township sauntered casually towards the Lager trucks and a group of schoolchildren in khaki and green ran like hell towards the grey school as the bell rung I felt I was reviewing all the details of the foul turd which my life had been and was even at that moment.
The policemen were dismissed. Their sergeant was a cocky six-footer, lean and hungry and sly like a chameleon stalking a fly. The House of Hunger had not as yet had much to worry about this particular chameleon. There had been unpleasantnesses though. The old man who died in that nasty train accident, he once got into trouble for begging and loitering. And then Peter got jailed for accepting a bribe from a police spy.
When he came out of jail Peter could not settle down. He kept talking about the bloody whites; that phrase ‘bloody whites’ seemed to be roasting his mind and he got into fights which terrified everyone so much that no one in their right mind dared cross him. And Peter walked about raging and spoiling for a fight which just was not there. And because he hungered for the fight everyone saw it in his eyes and liked him for it. That made it worse for him until his woman got pregnant and the schools inspector said she couldn’t teach in that state, and Peter threatened to crunch the sky into nothing and refused to marry her because he wanted to be ‘free’.
Born Charles William Dambudzo Marechera on June 4, 1952 in Rusape, Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia), The House of Hunger was Marechera’s first book written in 1978 and won the Guardian’s fiction prize in 1979.
Marechera passed away in Harare, Zimbabwe, on August 18, 1987.