Back in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, it is in the blood of our species to cheat in marriage, examination, business or wherever and whenever an opportunity arises. There, the village soothsayer, the ageless autochthon of wisdom and knowledge and elders with cotton tuft hair say if you are lucky to live long enough, you experience the pain of being cheated at some point and lick the bleeding wound for a long period.
But when cheated, it needs real mastery of mind to forgive and, let alone forget. In the village, many people were converting to Christianity, abandoning their tradition and churches mushroomed all over.
There was a sudden increase in Pentecostal pastors, who created their denominations away from the conventional churches — the Catholic, Methodist, the Dutch and Anglicans.
Pastor Menemene was one of the pastors, who created the Christ’s Greatest Ministry (CGM) and young ladies and men flocked there.
He was a charismatic fellow, very eloquent, smart and powerful.
He rented school premises for his Sunday gatherings. Within months, his denomination had grown in leaps and bounds. It was the church of the moment.
The pastor was accessible to all and sundry. When he preached the congregants felt the presence of God. Others cried.
Others simply froze.
There was singing and dancing, the traditional church would consider indecent and ungodly.
But do things not change?
These were changing times.
CGM defined religion and religiosity, the belief and the art of belief.
Among those who cried at almost every Sunday was Chandi, a paragon of beauty who apparently never missed church service.
She had just come to stay in the growth point after she was widowed in Harare.
Now a single mother, she had retreated to the growth point to re-launch her life.
No one had really seen her child.
She claimed to have left the child behind in town, with some relative.
Chandi was onion shaped and had smooth velvety black skin that attracted good comment.
Her hair had no streak of grey.
Her eyes were sharp.
Between her eyes was a hint of a frown.
Chandi rejected all courtship offers by men in the church with a gentle smile, which more often than not, acted as a balm to wounded hearts.
That made her more popular with young boys who followed her every step.
Reciprocally, Chandi had an over exaggerated respect for other congregants.
Pastor Menemene was an enigma.
Each time a member of the church phoned him with a problem, it was solved.
Others phoned with problems and he would pray for them over the phone.
If you had a skull-splitting headache, and you phoned him, he would instruct you to touch your head and pray along with him over the phone and you were healed.
Powerful man of God!
Tithing had its special time.
The classy paid more, the poor a little but it was the classy who dominated.
Unlike the elderly villagers who brought cucumbers, green mealies and other basic goodies plus a coin to the Catholic priest, CGM attracted the youths and the working class, especially from the growth point, who paid their tithes in cash well.
In fact, they would outdo each other in paying more and dressing well too. A growth point being a growth point, there was a mixed bag of congregants.
Pastor Menemene retreated to Nyanga on a Monday afternoon. After Rusape, the tarred road serpentined as he drove past rolling moorlands, picturesque mountains, hair-pin curves, balancing rocks and interlocking valleys, until he pulled to a rattling halt at the hotel.
Once in a while Pastor Menemene stopped to answer calls from a troubled congregant.
He prayed for the troubled soul over the phone, then took off.
It was about sunset, the horizon gave the valleys and mountains surrounding the hotel an uncharacteristic hue.
The hotel was splendid with manicured loans, juxtaposing with the architecture for eternal blending. After the booking formalities the pastor went into his room.
Chandi followed behind, indignantly and with a hesitant step.
It No one in the church knew.
She had left Guruve by bus and they hooked up in Harare, as per cellphone, SMS.
There, they were the two of them, in a room and for the first time in their lives.
Pastor Menemene had caught up glimpses of her throughout the travel and had been dazzled — no, in fact stupefied by her beauty.
He remembered feeling the same, while on the pulpit, the other day. Today, she looked slimmer and neat in her black coat and a small black hat.
She looked younger than he had seen from the pulpit glances. On the windows, lace curtains held limp.
They looked expectant. Chandi went to bath.
In the bathroom there was a tall mirror and she caught sight of herself in it.
The image was so extraordinary, she could not help but stare. The mirror seemed to exaggerate.
She bathed. Back from the bathroom Pastor Menemene saw her looking fresh and wrapped in a towel.
The pastor was praying for someone over the phone. Chandi gathered the person on the other end of the line had stomach problem.
“Touch your tummy and pray along with me . . . ”
After the prayer the good pastor went to bath.
But he said something in a muffled voice.
Chandi opened the briefcase and it was full of the scarce dollar.
Being the daughter of Christ, she thought, she must never steal. She closed it and sat watching television.
By the time the pastor finished bathing, it was time for dinner.
They had asked for room service and the hotel manager was under instruction to provide all meals for the next three days, by room service.
The pastor did not want to see the sun for those days, only Chandi. Chandi… Chandi… Chandi and Chandi.
Do village elders not say no woman can make a wise man out of a fool, but every woman can change a wise man into a fool?
Soon after dinner it was adult time.
The pastor never prayed, like he did with food.
They had a noisy consultation with nature’s exhaustless generosity.
They slept for a few hours and again nature’s exhaustless generosity beckoned.
In the process, a congregant phoned for assistance and in the pastoral world, every sheep must be shepherded.
There is no excuse.
Naked and panting, the pastor fumbled for the phone.
For a moment he could not find it.
Eventually he discovered the phone under the pile of clothes and sheets that had fallen off the bed, under the dictates of nature’s benevolence.
Controlling his breathing the pastor once again prayed with the patient, in his nude.
“Hold your forehead. Let us go together … Almighty God, I pray before you that .…” The patient on the other end of the line felt the pastor’s voice quiver.
So did Chandi. While the patient thought it was the power of the prayer, Chandi knew why.
It was dramatic irony.
After the hushed prayer, nature took its course.
In such times, pleasure is a benevolent mistress but it takes away the all the energy. In the stealth of the night, all energy gone Pastor Menemene slept like a baby.
He never cared about anything.
He was in Heaven, far away from the madding congregants. But an artful fellow is a devil in doublet.
Chandi knew it was her time for the best prayer of her life. She prayed silently.
She looked at the pastor but he was in Heaven, devil’s heaven. Up she went dressed up and tiptoed to the toilet. She came back.
The pastor never moved.
She opened the brief case and took US$5 000.
She never counted but she knew it was a big swoop.
She left some.
Chandi watched his breathing face for some seconds in the dim light and felt pity but she had to go.
She had learnt to be hard in her days as a hooker in the avenues in Harare and the pastor had mistaken her for a good Christian, albeit being fallible.
The pastor heard her open the door and creaking down stairs but he thought he was dreaming.
He was in deep slumber.
She joined a few people moving out of the Casino and blended with them. She took a cab and off she went to Harare Road and boarded the night buses.
In the morning Pastor Menemene woke up to sheets and nothing.
She was gone.
Where would he report?
How? Beautiful woman, beautiful trouble!
Is it fair and just to cheat the cheater?