The Punisher

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I just saw a cow eat another cow. I know how that must sound and what you must be thinking, I thought that too but I did a double-take to confirm it and indeed I had seen correctly. One was lying on its side while the other, covered in blood, chewed on intestines lazily as if they were blades of grass. I don’t know who or what came over me, nor what happened next but all I remember was watching that Greyhound to Joburg disappear in a mixture of red and brown dust as it left me stranded. 

How was I going to explain this one to my boss, my wife or even the family I had just left back home? I could already see it now, on the phone with Xoliswa trying to explain to her the reason I wasn’t back at work was because I saw a cannibalistic cow. She would fire me on the spot. Speaking of phones, where was mine? A quick frantic search lowered my blood pressure when I found it in my back pocket but there was no network to make any sort of calls and explain myself, it’s was me, the noise of cars flying past the legal limit and large hectares of farms and now, no cow. 

The wind whooshes past unexpectedly kicking up sand in my direction and all I can do is turn around to avoid a face full of sand as it stung the back of my arms and neck. I trudged forward, my head hovering in search of a cow I cannot find, it had been close to 30 minutes and the only proof I had of its existence was in my head and in my heart.

It’s a long 25km walk back, maybe more back to my Grandfather’s farm. I get there eventually, but I was thirsty and it felt as though my heart was in my calves, distracting me from the sharp pain that went through my body whenever I took a step. The sun had burnt me well enough to leave trails of white salt where my sweat used to be. My sneakers were ruined, gone, Finished.

The shock on my family’s face is identical to the one I gave them when they told me my grandmother had died and the initial reason for my visit. The same visit that forced me to leave my job and forced me to come all the way down to Port Shepstone to watch them throw her body in the backyard and demarcate it with a plywood cross, so it doesn’t get confused with land for the vegetable garden when the inevitable time for expansion comes.

“Haibo! What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be on a bus to Bloemfontein? What’s going on, did you forget something?”

Questions came thick and fast but I ignored them all heading to the kitchen. The closer I got the heavier my body felt and the harder it became to swallow. “Where is he?” I ask once I felt some of my strength return to my body after a glass of water.

“Who?” My aunt’s ask in confusion.

“Mkhulu” (Granddad)

“Outside, why what’s wrong”

 “Mkhulu,” I run unconvincingly outside, barging through the backdoor in with the entourage of elderly women behind me.

“Mmm,” He hums, acknowledging my presence but continues to hide his face behind his newspaper.

“I need your help,”

“How are you?”

This is not the time for pleasantries nor do I have the time or the energy. “I need you to help me find a cow.” I plead through gaps in my breath.

He continues to with his paper and I have to stop myself from tearing it from his hands so that he can give me his attention. “It eats other cows and not grass.” 

Now that I’m here and say that out loud, it doesn’t sound like the words of a rational man, a man with responsibilities, a job and a wife and a child waiting for him at home. Even if he does, what will it change, chances are he’ll think I’m crazy. Chase me out his house, tell me never to come back and mourn his wife in peace and leave me to my madness and what’s worse I risked losing my job to come tell him this rubbish to his face when I could have just texted it to him.

Londa Cele

Edited: 09.04.2020

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