Chant of the Orient Fall
By Dan Akinlolu (South Africa)
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Upon the face of an inglorious fighter
The ages of humanity are blended in sweat and blood
Those who marked our civilization with chains and spears
Ushered our courage into modern warfare
Matondo received the hard, deadly punch right on his face which threw his head back in a quick motion as he lost his balance and nearly fell to the ground. It was like a light wrapped in devastating blows. The crowd hailed in a thunderous uproar like the ancient Romans watching the condemned gladiators in a blood sport, the roar was heavy and it shook the arena to life. Thick blood of these valiant boxers spattered across the space and smeared the faces of the gyrating spectators. The village aristocrats were seated under a makeshift tent of plastic sheets and figs. They cheered louder and with great excitement at the astonishing impact of such blow while sipping the local brew in a white-wash calabash.
The noise grew louder in Matondo’s head; there was no doubt that his jaw was crushed from the violent hit, his upper lip ripped open to expose a raw gory flesh. His opponent Rambo-10, poised for another punch, his fist was covered in a sheepskin wrapped with flax twines to keep it from slipping. It really wasn’t about the sheepskin; a mere animal skin couldn’t have hit that much, it hurt badly to the extent that he was bleeding profusely. Matondo knew Rambo very well; he must have kept a charm between his fingers. He must have wore the ring that his sorcerer soaked with strange herbs and human blood. He felt it, the blow wasn’t ordinary; there was something sinister and wicked about it.
Matondo realized his defence wasn’t effective anymore. He had his own charm that he kept in his clenched fist. He called it “Chant of the Orient Fall”; he was told that his charm was a fallen star that was burnt into ashes and mixed with a heart of a Rhinoceros. The concoction, according to Baba Malo, brought a light which cast a shadow upon the countenance of humanity and then endowed Matondo with the significant gift of infinity. And as for the Rhinoceros, the animal is full of courage, even the bravest hunter would shudder by merely glancing at its size and strength. So he is expected to be as brave as the Rhinoceros and as bright as the stars. Besides he had some incisions on his knuckles, Baba Malo did the incision for him but it was not working. Any contesting athlete with the desire to win the Dembe tournament knows that it could result to death. It wasn’t just a fist-fight tournament; it was a game beyond training and punching. Doing magic matters which means that an athlete must be sure to have a very good priest to placate the deities on his behalf because the tournament attracts good price, which also include fame and women but for Matondo, all he wants was his wife.
The crowd was silent again, they watched in anticipation as the two contenders circled each other, crouching in a poise that demonstrates their scheming for each others’ weak point. Someone needed to strike again. The fighters extended their free unwrapped hand as far as their opponent could allow, it is to measure the distance and Mantodo studied his opponent as he mutter his chant. His face was wet with blood and salty sweat. Matondo could barely be recognized but in his heart that was beating wildly between his broken ribcage, he believed he would become a star. All he needed was to win this match so that the fixture would allow him in Category B as the Groupings also matter. He could maintain his local championship and retain his honour in that category. Beyond the honour, he wants his wife back. He wants Aminat to come back home. His eyes went blur at the thought, the salty sweat entered his let puffy eye. It hurt. He clenched tightly to the charm in the palm of his hand. On his upper arm was the amulet that was supposed to deflect punches. The local drummers were not helping either; they sang the praises of Rambo-10 who was rumoured to have knocked an opponent dead during a match two seasons ago in Mafuri - Matondo’s village. Rambo-10 is back to the same village as the defending champion, but the local elders made their bets on Matondo. They tipped Rambo-10 to lose the match with a promise of an outstanding bonus that triple his winning not that Matondo was a good fighter but his winning would be relevant to their promoting the Dembe fist-fight tournament and restore the honour that was lost when Rambo 10 knocked their boxer dead. The entire idea of who to win the match spark off local rivalry between Rambo’s camp in Magugu and the elders of Mafuri village. It was obvious that people made more bets on Rambo-10. The crowd expected a good performance; the organizers expected a good profit. The fight between Matondo and Rambo-10 was the most anticipated fight in the tournament it was not a joke and the ticket scalpers had made enormous profit by selling tickets at inflated prices when the fight was suspended twice until that day; it was a sold out match.
The talking-drums grew louder and pumped ferocious energy into the fighters. The arena couldn’t hold it anymore, they quest for action and they needed to see blood splattering all over the place and bones crushing under flurry of devastating blows. Someone’s head must be ripped opened. Matondo’s wife, Aminat, was among the mesmerised crowd in the hot sun; her eyes were filled with tears at the sight of Matondo. She couldn’t hold it anymore while she prayed in the silence of her heart that Matondo should win the match. The idea of borrowing money from Rambo-10 also contributed to the fight. She was used as collateral and the fight was a means of redemption. How she wished she hadn’t pushed Matondo into the mess. She didn’t mean to punish him by living with Rambo-10 but the agreement was the bond. Two hefty men were standing by her sides, they were bare-chested, wearing kembe and reeking of body odour, the men only smiled at her once but their faces were firm and stern with thick beard that bred lice.
They nod their heads to the popular songs from the drummers. The fans sang insulting tunes to instigate each fighter, Rambo-10’s fans sang with maniacal fun,
Matondo the inglorious bastard
His father lost his balls
His mother slept with monkey
Only to give birth to Matondo
The girls swayed their hips in total ecstasy, young women danced in total mockery against Matondo’s supporters. They want Matondo to be foolish and furious so that he would launch his attack against his opponent but the song didn’t get to Matondo. His concentration was on the fight; he wasn’t an amateur in this kind of raw suicidal match. If it were so, he would have rush at his opponent to vex his fury on him. Such stupid move had caused him losses in his early days. His coach Papa Balo, always warn him that the spectators are nothing but mere distraction.
“They are there to do their thing, you do yours.” Papa Balo would shout during his training period.
“It is absolutely a game of the mind. Take your time to calculate and when you strike, you do it with precision. I see no reason why you shouldn’t hit to kill. So if you want to hit, do it once and get it right. Don’t give your opponent the opportunity to get back to his feet; the game doesn’t permit second chance.” Papa Balo would add and smoke his pipe. Those were the words that motivated him to get things right. He had won a handful of matches in knock-out and this wouldn’t be his last fight.
Matondo cast a fortitude glance at his opponent, his shattered jaw had left his face swollen and partly paralysed. They studied each other’s careful move, hopping and crouching with mental exploration for a weak defence in order to lash a deadly blow. The spectators cheered more, they were getting impatient and it was almost ten minute since the last blow was unleashed. Matondo was getting worked up, the brawl had just begun. Then the unexpected happened, it was bizarre and sudden. The hit was very deadly and fast that he couldn’t think of how to deflect it. Rambo’s fist swung very fast in an arch-like position and struck Matondo by his left ear. Matondo’s body yielded to the pressure of the strike, lifting him few meters off the ground. He immediately went blank as his mind dazzle in series of brightness like the flash of a camera. He landed with a heavy thud on his right side with dust floating all over him. His mind twirls in coalition with stars with the distant echo of the cheering crowd. His eyes were shut while blood gush from his nose to the sand. He couldn’t breathe very well; he gasped for breath and was momentarily paralysed. His face was covered in layers of filth and dust. The referee lifted Rambo’s hand in the air. The crowd went wild and rushed into the pitch in total celebration of the winner, lifting Rambo-10 on their shoulders. It was the most dangerous knock-out in the history of Dembe fight in Mafuri village. Matondo was there, sprawled helplessly on the earth. He not only lost to history but also the woman in his life.
Matondo woke up sweating. There was a loud knock on his small door with a tiny ray of light streaming through the crevice. It was morning, full blown morning. He turned on his bed and yawned. The knock came again; Matondo murmured then turned to his side. The impatient visitor banged louder and with certain irritation, by that time Matondo was seated by the edge of his bed and scratching his chin while his body craved for more sleep. Three weeks had passed when he lost the ultimate Dembe match to that crazy itinerant called Rambo-10. It wasn’t a mere defeat; it was a loss of epic proportion that even caused him serious and permanent injury. He wished he had never involved himself in the league but Rambo-10 was a fanatical adulterer ever since he’d set his eyes on Aminat. Even when Matondo wanted to borrow the money from Rambo-10 with his own farm as collateral, Rambo-10 insist it was Aminat or nothing. Since Rambo preferred Aminat then he was left with no choice than to make the deal with her. Now that he couldn’t pay back he had no option than to allow his wife to be forcefully taken to Rambo’s house. The thought of Rambo-10 making love to Aminat was so disturbing and nightmarish that Matondo had to challenge Rambo-10 to stake Aminat for the brawl. All Matondo want was to get Aminat back at all cost.
For two weeks, he couldn’t stop recalling the prestigious fight in his dream. First, it would come like a blundering flash of light and then the mammoth crowd in the open arena followed by the infinite punch that would hit him in flurry of devastating blows. He stare blankly ahead as if the nightmare has taken his voice. The banging again,
“These stupid fatherless boys.” He murmured and dragged his feet to pick up his shirt then he went for the door. It was Abudu his younger brother,
“Zaki wants you.” Abudu spoke with a sense of irritation he immediately turn his back and was about to leave when Matondo replied,
“What do you say?” his eyes were blood red as he yawned lazily.
“Zaki needs you!” Abudu shouted without looking back.
“I can’t hear you.” Matondo replied. Abudu stopped; he was few meters away from Matondo. Abudu stare at him for some minutes as if he wishing that the thunder should strike Matondo dead. He would have love that thunder should indeed strike him dead because he was worth nothing to the family. The only thing Matondo could do was to yawn and scratch his chest that was scarified with mosquito bite and incisions.
“Your deafness is costing you more than your wife.” Abudu retorted.
Matondo still didn’t hear what he said otherwise he would have dealt him a serious blow. Abudu walked closer and put his mouth to his brother’s ear,
“Zaki is calling you. Now!” he shouted
“Oh! Zaki wants me!” Matondo spoke with enthusiasm.
“Tell him I will be there once I have something to eat.”
Abudu shook his head sadly; he really couldn’t believe that his brother’s hearing problem could be this serious. It actually was the product of the last match with Rambo. His left ear was damaged, he needed to tilt his head to a certain angle before he could hear or listen properly and such act provokes his friends by making them repeat themselves louder.
“No, you go there yourself.” Abudu retort as he glanced curiously at Mantodo and wondered whether he would survive his tragedies.
“What do you say?” Matondo asked him.
“Whatever.” he hissed in annoyance, turned his back and walked away through the serpentine alley that link each hut to another. He didn’t want to be bothered anymore; he didn’t want to go back to Zaki since he has delivered the message. It was up to Matondo to sort himself out.
Matondo murmured back into his hut to pick his bucket of water, slung a towel across his neck and strolled to the back of his hut to wash himself. His backyard was a small bush of land that he had converted to bathroom and toilet. Most times, he had to walk carefully in the bush not to step on his own faeces but what he did to be sure of the right place was to walk deeper into the bush whenever he wants to defecate. He marked the distance for his toilet with a certain palm tree. Anything beyond the palm tree allow his freedom of faeces but he was seriously beginning to consider clearing a portion of the land and weave some palm fronds together for his bathroom booth. As soon as he droped the bucket of water, he unhook his trousers, fold it carefully then lay it across a small branch. Matondo stooped and scoop the water with his hand.
Matondo’s mind didn’t stop working, the nightmare was really bothering him, all his goal was to see how he could win Aminat back in the next season of Dembe Tournament. If by the harvest time in September, Kazeem was tipped to win Rambo-10, it really would be easy for him. But he wasn’t sure if the council has agreed; though Abudu told him that Kazeem has been signed. If that was true, then Kazeem would be his problem if only Rambo-10 uses Aminat as winning bait and by that time he would be fighting in division 4 with Abudu’s friends. He was sure no one was ready to put any bet on him even Aminat’s father didn’t want to see him anymore. Now that he has been reduced to nothing his desire was to start all over again. Matondo stretched himself and let the water run through his body, down to his manhood and to his leg. He shook his head and murmured to himself like a mad man. He would have loved to retire and train young boys like Nicodemus if he had won Rambo-10 but it really was a shameful loss for him.
His second best plan was to work with his best friend, Zaki and to seduce Rambo-10 into placing one of his ram into the ram fighting tournament. It is ram fighting season, and it is starting that week. Matondo had negotiated with Zaki that he would love to help train Zaki’s ram – Yellow Pupu for the tournament especially that he felt a certain unexplainable connection between him and the ram. Zaki at first refused though Zaki was an inexperienced ram trainer but he got a good ram for the tournament. Zaki deliberately bought the ram to fight in the tournament and he was sure it was a fighting ram as the ram was noted to get pleasure from crashing its head against the tree and taunting its mate with its horn. The ram seller sold it off to Zaki since it was causing unnecessary trouble but Matondo wished he could transfer his own determination into the ram and experiment with its innate fierceness. Yellow Pupu was a black and white ram with great horns but small legs. There is nothing special about the ram except for the fact that it was painted yellow by its owner. All that Matondo was expected to do is to feed the ram with plenty of elephant grass and mix its water with blended marijuana to help improve its blood.
Matondo smiled at the thought of marijuana and that was when the thing happened to him, it was swift and unprompted. Matondo sprang up from his crouching position; he was certainly bitten at the back the leg. He turned round to catch a glimpse of what actually stung him as he made an attempt to scratch his leg. There are two bleeding dot close to his ankle as he scrambled around the bush then he sees it, a slithering green snake crawling straight into the bush between the small twigs. Matondo stared at it, was he bitten by a snake or insect? Should he kill the snake or it was only a coincidence? He glanced at his leg to discern if it really was a snake bite but decided to finish his bath and find his way to the local healer while wondering whether Rambo had turned to a Snake but snake or no snake he must do something about it.
Matondo packed his bathing kit, wrapped himself up and trod carefully through the bush. He got to his front yard only to find Zaki standing by his door with a long twine in his hand, smiling sheepishly at his presence. His ram was seated on its belly few meters away from Zaki chewing the cud and spraying the yard with droppings.
“Haaa Zaki!” Matondo greets him. Zaki nodded but didn’t say anything, he knew Matondo has a hearing problem.
“I am actually getting ready to come to you. I ask Abudu to tell you I will be on my way after my bath.” He glanced at the ram and smiled, he liked what he saw. Somehow, he could identify himself with the ram. The ram really motivates him though Zaki deliberately painted it yellow.
“Haaa, Yellow Pupu! I swear I will do a good coaching for the ram. I swear to Allah.” Matondo believed with enthusiasm. Zaki didn’t say anything, he only stared at him. Zaki spat across the terrace, his face was tired and sleepy and he had been smoking marijuana with Kareem’s boys at Balaba’s place. He actually wants Kareem to take care of his ram but Kareem refused especially that he had chosen to work with Balaba’s ram. Kareem is an expert in ram antics and very well versed in mixing concoction that can influence rams into fighting many hours with non-stop skills and he wouldn’t want to touch any ram that is less than 150 kg. But when Rambo-10 lured Kareem to his camp and bribed him to coach his ram – Desperate Destroyer, Balaba was angry but Zaki capitalised on that and persuaded Kareem to help him entice Rambo-10 into using Aminat as a bet so that Matondo would be very committed to Yellow Pupu. To Matondo, Zaki was one very good friend he owed much gratitude for the strategy while he prayed that Rambo-10 would fall for it.
“This is our deal…,” Zaki replied.
“This - is - our - deal!” Zaki shouted to spell himself clearly.
“Oh! What is our deal?” Matondo asked smiling and a bit excited.
“The qualifying series is starting this evening and according to the information from Rambo’s boys, he’s likely to make Aminat his bet. You’ll take Yellow Pupu to the fight.” Zaki spoke and spat again as Matondo tilted his head in an awkward position to catch the instruction.
“What’s happening this evening?” he asked Zaki.
“The - qualifying - starts - this - evening, you…take…Yellow Pupu to the tournament.”
Matondo nodded his head vigorously and in excitement,
“Will Yellow Pupu fight Desperate Destroyer?” he asked.
“I don’t know yet, I haven’t registered Yellow Pupu. You will do all that.” He shouted but wasn’t sure if Matondo heard him. He handed the rope to Matondo. Matondo took hold of the rope but suddenly slumped across the terrace. Zaki rushed forward to catch him from falling over the terrace but they both fell flat to the ground.
Matondo lay on the floor, looking dizzy and tired. Almost immediately, sweat was pouring all over his face,
“Matondo, are you sick?” Zaki asked.
“My head… my head is aching.” he murmured to himself. Zaki stood up and stare strangely at him. Matondo couldn’t get up to his feet but rather lean against the wall of the hut and breathe loudly. He held his head in his hand as sweat was pouring all over his face. Thank God he was in his trousers, the steel bucket had fallen off his hand with the towel.
“Are you sick?” Zaki asked again looking worried and troubled. Matondo couldn’t say anything than to hold his head in the palm of his hand and murmuring to himself.
“My head…my head….”
Zaki was not sure about what next to do. He looked around Matondo’s hut in uttermost confusion and thought of running away but then decided to stay and help. Within a minute, Matondo’s temperature was rising with high fever. He became lame and so weak that he couldn’t stand on his own.
“I …am...feeling…co…cold…” Matondo stammered and of course he was shivering with his lips moving at a tremendous speed. Zaki couldn’t believe it, he wondered what kind of sickness could attack a man and reduce him to high fever within a minute. Zaki pulled his ram inside Matondo’s hut and tied it to his bed. He walked out and shut the door tightly.
“You need to see Baba Malo.” Zaki said while he stooped and pulled Matondo’s arm across his own shoulder. Zaki use his shoulder as a lever and lifted him off the ground with heavy grunt coming out of his throat. Matondo was so weak that he couldn’t stand on his feet. His breathing was irregular as he kept murmuring inaudibly to himself.
By the time Zaki walked down the footpath with Matondo on his shoulder, some children had gathered in small crowd at the sight of the dying man. Zaki at first shoo them away but later asked them to go and call the local healer, Baba Malo to meet him half way. None of them responded, they rather were amused at the sight of the loser on Zaki’s shoulder. The last of the children, an eight year old girl ran around in total amusement trying to imitate Matondo’s boxing style. She tripped on a log of wood and fell flat on her face while her peers burst into laughter as Zaki struggled to walk the route with Matondo. By the time Zaki reached Baba Malo’s place, Matondo’s leg had swollen twice its initial size. He had stopped murmuring about his headache and was foaming from his mouth.
“Baba! Matondo is bewitched!” Zaki shouted, Baba Malo emerged from his hut and rushed to help Zaki before he collapsed to the ground with Matondo. Baba Malo didn’t say anything he only asked Zaki to lay Matondo flat on his back while he chew some herbs and murmured incantation endlessly. Zaki was panicked, he’d never seen such a thing before in his life. Baba Malo gave him a cup of water to drink but Zaki couldn’t drink. He was really afraid to be labeled a killer. Baba Malo came closer to the seemingly lifeless body on the ground, part the eyelid open with his fingers then look closer into the eyes. Matondo was still breathing with froth over his lips and his left leg had grown big.
“The black part is going away.” Baba Malo murmured and glanced at Zaki.
“What happen?” he asked.
Zaki began to weep,
“I didn’t do it Baba! Please…I didn’t touch him…” he exclaimed and threw his hand in the air. If there was anything Zaki loathed it was to be arrested by the local securities and charged with murder.
“Calm down,” Baba Malo persuaded him, “It is when I know what happen that I will know what to do. So tell me what happened?”
“He slumped.” That was all Zaki could say. Baba Malo knelt by the body and studied Matondo’s leg carefully then he frowned at a certain discovery.
“Come. Let’s carry him inside before they take his spirit away.”
“They? Who are they?” Zaki asked as he lifted his friend off the ground but Baba Malo didn’t answer his question.
Abudu and some youths came out from the bush and rushed to meet Zaki as he was coming out of Baba Malo’s hut after laying Matondo inside the hut.
“ What did you do to my brother?” he demanded and would have attack Zaki until Baba Malo emerged from the hut and ordered him to calm down.
“He will be fine.” Baba Malo told them. The youths were reeking of alcohol and marijuana. They were a small crowd in front of Baba Malo’s hut.
“Matondo need to rest. I have sucked out the venom.” Baba Malo finalised.
“What happened to my brother?” Abudu insisted.
“Well, he was bitten by a snake.” Baba paused and heaved. Abudu stared emptily into the air and shook his head sadly.
“So what do we do now, the game starts this evening?” Abudu lamented.
Zaki had no choice than to leave Matondo with Baba Malo so that he could concentrate on the competition that evening. Abudu on the other hand was not happy about the situation; he decided to support Zaki in order to win back Aminat. Though he wished the competition should be cancelled. It was a famous league that people had travelled far and near to watch and participate in. Even from across the river that divided the landscape ram sport enthusiasts came in their hundreds. People came to see and know which ram is worthy of respect. They queue to enter the arena. Some slept in the open yard and wait for their turn to receive their registration tag for their rams. Even the Ram fighting Tournament organisers, the local boxers, the sheiks and chiefs and high priests, they all came to honour the event.
Meanwhile in Baba Malo’s hut, Matondo was laid on his back on the bamboo bed. There was a small burning fire that was warming his daily concoction of herbs and antidote. The paraffin lamp was by his side, flickering in various directions. The filthy room was heavy with choking odour of sweat and herbs with creepy shadows of weird masquerade masks. His lips were moving slowly as if he was chatting with the unseen. His eyes were wide open, they stare blankly at the dry grass roof with sweat was all over his naked torso. The fever made his body weak and wouldn’t stop torturing him with hallucination. Matondo had never spoken another word since the last time he was heard murmuring to himself,
“Yellow Pupu…knock out…yellow pupu knock out!” while his imagination was extended to the world he had never been to, a world he had never seen before.
The morning he was admitted to Baba Malo’s place, Matondo kept muttering a name that sounded like Yellow Pupu three times. That evening, Yellow Pupu won its first fight at the ram fight qualifying tournament with a knock out point leaving the spectators mesmerized and amazed. Yellow Pupu stood its ground and wouldn’t stop smashing its forehead against its opponent. He was referred to as the ram with the heart of a Rhino. At a time, Yellow Pupu was reported to have lifted its two front legs in an astonishing stunt and came down heavily and directly on Commando, one of its opponents and after about ten strikes of action Commando turned its back and staggered away in lazy gestures that declare a winning for Yellow Pupu. The referee blew the whistle and the spectators wowed in enthusiasm and sang Yellow Pupu’s praise.
About thirteen rams were registered to fight in the two-day tournament but only six qualified for the second day. Some rams ran away, a number of them slumped and fainted in the middle of their fights, some brought shame and disgrace to their coaches and owners by trying to copulate with each other because they are in their mating season while the spectators laughed and booed them out of the arena. In fact, a particular ram owner was so disappointed in his animal that he was forced to slaughter the innocent ram and distribute the meat. But Yellow Pupu made it to the second round as well as Desperate Destroyer. The spectator’s interest was really on Yellow Pupu for its excellent performance, so the chances are very high that the organisers would manipulate their fixtures to pitch Yellow Pupu against Desperate Destroyer as against the usual method of picking names from the calabash. Zaki was really excited about the new development. Yellow Pupu was definitely going pro after the tournament. He decided he would coach Yellow Pupu but with instruction from Matondo but Matondo wouldn’t say anything except when he was hallucinating.
The following day after Yellow Pupu qualified for the second phase, the Secretary and the game officials from Zone 3 of Ram Sport Union came to visit Zaki at Baba Malo’s place. They were four in number. Baba Malo was seated outside his hut by the threshold blending some herbs in a wooden bowl. Few meters away from him, Yellow Pupu was chewing a bucket full of Elephant grass.
“Hello Baba Malo.” they greeted him, bowing in an unfamiliar manner that denote respect for the healer.
“Haaa, Zkuru!” Baba Malo replied, that was all he could say. The secretary felt a little embarrassed because he wasn’t addressed by his title.
“Where is Zaki?” he asked. Almost immediately, Zaki emerged from the hut. He saw the delegates and then smiled. It was what he had been waiting for. They had a small bag in their hands.
“How is he?” Baba Malo asked, Zaki nodded and walked straight to meet the delegates.
“We won’t stay long Zaki.” The tallest of them spoke.
“As you are aware, your next fight is this afternoon and we have decided to tip you into winning the match as against your opponent.”
“Who is my opponent?” Zaki asked while a bead of sweat stream down his fore head.
“By popular demand and opinion your ram is fighting Desperate Destroyer. We are surprised that the stakeholders deliberately increase their bet than ever before and this time it was against Yellow Pupu. Oh, by the way this is your share from yesterday’s winning.”
They gave him the small bag; Zaki took it with caution and studied it carefully,
“But I thought everyone liked Yellow Pupu?” he asked and looked at them suspiciously.
“The stakeholders’ council has raised the wager to another level. Fortunately we have more interest and bets against Yellow Pupu which is to our own advantage, if your ram wins this afternoon’s match you will be the richest man in this village. If he loses, well, you know what we are capable of doing. In essence we are counting on your good luck for the success of the business. Your first winning was assumed to be a coincidence. However, according to our custom and tradition in Ram Sport Union, you also must make a bet that is worth two times the cost of your ram.”
“What is Rambo-10 betting on?”
“We don’t know yet.” The secretary replied.
“I insist on Aminat and I will stake my father’s house.”
“What is your interest in Aminat? Is there no better woman than that whore? See, here is money with fame and sweet girls would be all over you. Fight for your fame. Aminat is not worth the sacrifice.”
Zaki looked at them in total awe; he couldn’t believe he could become an overnight success. His father’s hut would not be too difficult to let go after all he could afford twice that house if he won. And about Aminat, they could be right, she might be a whore. He would definitely forget about her and sort himself out. In any case he was trying to help Matondo but now that Matondo was incapable, then he would fight for his own interest. The fact remains that his fame had soared across the entire village with the first leg of the qualifying tournament. He never knew that Ram fighting tournament was a serious business but he was sure that the second leg would be very competitive, bringing him to the regional league. Zaki looked at the small bag and smiled,
“Thank you Chief, I want to assure you that if indeed I have more gamblers counting on Yellow Pupu, we shall win. To hell with Aminat.” He said and laughed loud.
“That’s enough good news. The tournament starts in the next four hours. Meet you at the arena.” one of the organisers replied as they turn their back to walk away.
Zaki rushed back into the hut and sat by Matondo.
“Matondo, Matondo….” He called him and almost immediately, Matondo started convulsing. He was in a trance as he muttered some incomprehensible words,
“Yellow Pupu…knock out…Yellow Pupu…” he whispered.
“What?” Zaki put his head closer to Matondo’s lips.
“Yellow Pupu…knock out…Yellow Pupu.” Zaki ran out of the house dancing.
Shortly after the organisers left Abudu came rushing down to Baba Malo’s house and screamed at him for allowing Zaki to capitalise on his brother state of health to make his winnings.
“I know they have bribed you with money where is it?” he demanded he looked mad and serious. His eyes were red and ready to kill if the need be.
“What do you mean?” Baba Malo asked he didn’t like how he was addressed but he took it lightly.
“The organisers left you now or you think I didn’t see them?” he turned to Zaki, walking slowly towards him.
“Where is the money Zaki. I am aware that you two are profiteering from my brother’s illness and you didn’t deem it fit to let me know about it.” Abudu rolled up his trousers for a fight. Zaki stood his ground, he was ready to fight back.
“You don’t have any share in this proceed!” Zaki replied.
“What!” Abudu rushed at him, he threw a heavy punch straight to his face but Zaki ducked though it was rather too late. The punch caught him by the nose. Zaki cupped his nose in pain as a thick stream of blood pour through his fingers and drool down to his lips. Zaki was mad; he dived and grabbed Abudu by the waist as he forced him to fall backward with his shoulder on his belly. The two fighters fell with a heavy thud with Zaki on top as they grappled and struggled to squeeze each other’s throat,
“You two stop it! I say stop it! Zaki do you hear me?” Baba Malo commanded and deliberately pulled Abudu off Zaki.
“What has gotten into the two you?”
“You are corrupt!” Abudu shouted at Baba Malo as he tried to stabilize his breathing. His upper lip was bruised and his mouth was covered in blood and saliva and dust. He spat out a thick blood and wiped his gory lips with his shirt; one of his teeth got broken when Zaki unleashed a deadly head-butt to his jaw and then lacerates his lower lip from the inside. He was seriously bleeding from the mouth.
Abudu was breathing heavily as he stood up, brushed himself with his hand and managed to gather his energy,
“Thieves and liars! That money is blood money.” He shouted again.
Abudu insist he wants his own share of the deal; Zaki refused and claimed that he had his father’s house at stake. He maintained that Abudu had nothing at risk, not even a common experience. Abudu refused the allegation, he swore he would tell the world about it and that he had nothing to do with them anymore as he would deploy to another camp. The feud didn’t bother Zaki or Baba Malo. It wasn’t just about Matondo getting better and winning Aminat back. The ram fight is a serious money spinning deal and if they could play along with the organizers, especially now that the village underworld tycoons are making unbelievable profit from the tournament, their own wealth would be a sure thing. It was true that Zaki capitalized on Matondo’s prediction he had often wondered how Matondo got to know the winning ram but the issue was enshrouded in mystery and it remain a secret that he would never share with anyone except Baba Malo. Though Abudu suspected that Matondo’s hallucination could have brought about winnings on different occasions but there were no evidence. As the two – Baba Malo and Zaki - had been sharing the extra proceeds without him, he became very angry and shifted his interest. He would deal with the two later.
Fans are smart enough to know that the winning team had its disadvantage; it was easier for the stakeholders to put bets on the winning ram than otherwise. Almost every household liked Yellow Pupu and Desperate Destroyer but fans were very sure that Desperate Destroyer would win the finals as against any other ram. Desperate Destroyer was a celebrity ram. The youths sold some of their possessions in order to place bets against Yellow Pupu. Farmers were prepared to dispose their farms, and even young virgins were willing to sleep with any man to prove their devotedness to Desperate Destroyer. Ram fight fanatics were sure that the finals belong to Desperate Destroyer but Kareem was really bothered until Abudu came over to his side and announced his bet and support for his ram - Ultimate Tarzan. Kareem didn’t believe him; he thought he was making a jest of his ram. Abudu swore by his father’s land that he was with him, if only Ultimate Tarzan could win the finals it would be the biggest turnaround for the two. A good gambler knows when to deploy to the losing side and make best use of the opportunity.
“Yellow Pupu has gathered enough confidence from sponsors; it is time we hack a plan to crumble their bets.” He said.
The spectators were not disappointed by Desperate Destroyer’s performance, it was indeed very entertaining and convincing that he was one of the best ram in the tournament. In fact he had more fans than any other because he was fond of knocking out his opponent and with his impeccable scores profile: four matches, three knock out, one win, no draw: it was a sure ram to bet on. Some youths from Ram Sports Association, 5th Zonal Chapter in Magugu showed their full support by wearing T-shirts with the inscription “Hail King Desperate Destroyer” written with paint, they even campaign that the ram be made the president of rams.
Abudu on the other hand made a terrible mistake in the bid to make his ram- Ultimate Tarzan- the choice of the people. During the first round of the finals, he wanted Ultimate Tarzan to fight like a warrior ram and to put other rams to shame so he intentionally pour blended chili pepper down the nostril of his ram. Instead, the ram went berserk and knocked down the referee and game officials. The arena was thrown into chaos with stampeding spectators scampering for their lives in order to get away from the berserk ram until some hunters came and shot Abudu’s ram dead. Kazeem was angry at the hunters, he wanted to fight with them but was stopped by the local security who then arrest him for disrupting the peace of the public. Abudu ran away and was nowhere to be found. The spectators only settled after another referee announced that Ultimate Tarzan has been disqualified and that the match must continue at the final round.
It took a little effort to settle the crowd when Yellow Pupu was ushered into the dusty arena. The spectators went wild; they hailed on top of their voices. The ram marshal ushered a young boy into the arena and ordered him to stand at the other side of the pitch with a ram by his side, a coffee brown ram, strong and sturdy with heavy horns adorning its skull. The ram chewed silently and looked unruffled ever ready to fight. He was a young boy from Mafuri and he was specially announced by the commentator as the boy representing Rambo-10’s interest - Desperate Destroyer. The announcement was comfirmed with a thunderous uproar of cheers from the spectators, they just loved the ram, and it was obvious that Desperate Destroyer was a celebrity ram. Aminat was watching, she covered her mouth and nose with a piece of cloth to protect her from inhaling excessive dust. She sat beside Rambo-10 who was relishing each moment of victory with pride and arrogance.
The cheering was overwhelming. The referee came to the middle of the arena and threw up his hand to command for silence, the spectators didn’t budge; all they wanted was to see the rams fight it out. He tried hushing the crowd but no one listened.
Zaki stood in the centre of the arena with a small rope to the neck of Yellow Pupu in his hand, he was really nervous. His palm was sweaty and his heart was beating faster than usual. His mind whirled around in a pool of questions,
“Will Yellow Pupu win the match? Will he knock out Desperate Destroyer? What about Aminat, how will she react if he never claims her as promised by Matondo? Did Matondo know his intention, did he predict that Yellow Pupu will knock out his opponent or that yellow pupu would be knocked out? It can’t be, yellow pupu will win, and he will cash in on the fame and prize and forget about Aminat.” he thought. He was confident that Baba Malo was at the hut with Matondo, placating for his winning.
The referee announced the two contenders, the spectators wowed in great excitement. Zaki heaved, referee threw a red flag in the air and the flag gyrated slowly in a dizzying effect. The horrible smell of sweat, heat, dust, body odour and animal dung fill the atmosphere. Then the flag fell on the dusty filthy ground and the spectators roared in a thunderous response, the rams were unleashed but neither of them made the first move. Rather, they bleat and chew the cud. Desperate Desperado sniffed the air and turned its lips inside out as if sneering at its opponent. The spectators laughed at the prank. Yellow Pupu didn’t make any move either, like he was guided by an unseen hand the ram suddenly sat on his belly in a very relaxed manner chewing the cud and bleating. It was unusual. Zaki was troubled; the spectators sneered and booed at Yellow Pupu.
“It appears Yellow Pupu is not interested in the fight...” the commentator reported as the spectators laughed at the comment.
Desperate Desperado sneezed and dug into the earth with its hoof. The ram appeared hungry for a fight but Zaki rushed into the arena, grabbed Yellow Pupu by the tail and twisted it vigorously. It was a prank that was intended to instill courage into the ram. He smacked the ram very hard and cruelly pushed the animal forward. Yellow Pupu bleated. He lifted his front leg and also dug into the earth with his left hoof. It looked like he was ready. It was the moment the spectators were waiting for. Yellow Pupu tilted its head downward and again sat down on his belly
“Oh no he could only bleat!” The commentator modulated his voice while the spectators burst into laughter.
“This is strange. Something is wrong here.” Zaki whispered as he walked through the crowd to the open area to do another prank on his animal. Just then he looked up and saw a sad lonely figure right in front of him. Zaki stopped, he was shocked and mesmerized. He wasn’t expecting him, it was Baba Malo,
“What does he want; he isn’t supposed to be here.” Zaki thought to himself.
At a second glance Zaki realised something has happened, his face said it all.
“Matondo is dead.” The man whispered.
Zaki looked down and burst into tears, almost immediately the crowd went into sudden ecstasy. Desperate Destroyer has been declared the winner of the tournament in a walk away Zero-fight match. Yellow Pupu was there lying flat on his stomach with his mouth buried in the earth. The poor animal didn’t just lie flat but was confirmed to have slept peacefully in the filthy arena and never woke up to see the victory. It was the weirdest fight in the history of the competition.