Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

17 December 2013

2013 WIN Short Story Writing Competition: Junior Category Winner

‘The Shy Woman’ by Panashe Mushambi scooped First Prize in the Junior Category of the WIN 2013 Short Story Competition, scoring 75 marks out of 100. Judge’s Comment: “An enticing story.... However, it will need close proof-reading.”

The Shy Woman

By Panashe Mushambi (above)

Three years of terrible drought in the land. No rain fell. Crops did not grow, birds flew away, cattle grew thin, and then died.
There was no water in the rivers and no food in the village. The people in the village were afraid to starve to death.
A man in the village lost his child so he was afraid to lose the last child. One day he was talking to his wife about how he could find food to save his last child.
“My wife this has been a terrible drought ever. This very same drought killed Martha; I won’t let Marry die too, never. We have to do something,” said Mr. Thompson.
“It hurts me too and I think we or shall I say you should go to another village to look for food,” said Mrs. Thompson.
“Hey, What? Are you out of your mind! Me go to another village and die on my way, never! Susan, Susan, think before you even say a word,” shouted Mr. Thompson.
“I’m sorry but what have I done to be called with my name in front of our daughter. Anyway, I have another idea. I think we have to go and work for people with food so that we get some,” said Mrs. Thompson.
“Now you are talking. Since it is early in the morning, we can start now,” said Mr. Thompson.
“Fine, I will approach Mrs. James for work and you will approach Mr. Jones as well,” said Mrs. Thompson.
They both took their friends and searched for work but they were not very luck. The next day they searched but they could not find even a piece of work. They searched every place where people with food lived. They were very disappointed.
Mr. Thompson was very angry with his wife because her plan did not work. He shouted at his wife and scolded her. They spent two more days of hunger and Mr. Thompson had a plan.
“My wife I have a plan. We should play dead and one of us gets into a coffin. Then people will come with food. I will start to pretend,” said Mr. Thompson.
“It’s fine if you’re starting. You can play dead tomorrow,” agreed Mrs. Thompson doubtfully.
The next day Mrs. Thompson and Mary pretended to cry.
“My husband, my husband why, why did you have to die? Please don’t leave me. Who shall take care of Mary, oh my God?” cried Mrs. Thompson.
“Papa, papa wake up! Please don’t leave me,” cried Mary.
People heard the news; some came with food, others with water and others with wine. There was plenty of food. Mrs. Thompson asked to be left alone with her dead husband.
“My husband the food is here,” whispered Mrs. Thompson
“Okay, we will talk later. I will knock the coffin at the grave. For me to know that we are there, you say, ‘my husband, don’t leave me’ understood,” said Mr. Thompson.
“I’ll do just that,” said Mrs. Thompson.
In the tradition of the village if someone dies that person will be buried after an hour. That means the food was not yet eaten.
People went to the graves and when they arrived, they were shocked. Mr. Thompson started knocking and shouting inside the coffin. People started running, leaving the food and Mr. Thompson in the coffin. Mrs. Thompson opened the coffin for her husband to come out. They had food to feed them for months.
The food got finished, now it was Mrs. Thompson’s turn.
“I can’t do this,” said Mrs. Thompson, afraid.
“You’re going to do it today. Do you want Mary to die with hunger? Do it for Mary!” shouted Mr. Thompson.
“Fine,” said Mrs. Thompson sadly.
Mr. Thompson played their part of crying. People came with food, water and wine. People from the other village came with more food. Mr. Thompson asked to be left alone for a moment with his dead wife.
“How will I have to cry when we get there?” asked Mr. Thompson.
“You’ll have to say, ‘I want to go in with her. That’s all,” said Mrs. Thompson.
Mr. Thompson did what he was told to do but Mrs. Thompson did not come out. She did not come out because she was making confusions in her mind.
She thought, “If I come out what will the villagers say” or “Let me come out, but…”
When she was making the right decision, she was putting a ‘but’. Yet time was running out. She was buried alive.
Mr. Thompson and Mary ate their last meal at the funeral. The drought continued for other three years. Sadly, Mr. Thompson lost his last child and he was no more.  

(Copyright: Panashe Mushambi)
(Fourteen year old Panashe Mushambi has just completed her Form One and will be in Form Two next year at Morgan High School in Harare.)

 WIN-ZIMBABWE wishes you all


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