He came off the road long after sunset. The dark began to seem impassable and it was straining his eyes. Light fanned out from his headlamps and scoured the ceaseless black. When at last he picked out a pocket of grey hewn from the bush, a lay-by, he pulled in and the pickup juddered to a halt. Dust plumed up from the wheels, furling in sheets over the windscreen. He stared long amid the confusion of it. He was tired.
My cell phone illuminates the time, beeps at me. 4:45 am. I get up in the dark – the power is off again – and fumble my way to the car, scooping up Jasper, my Jack Russell as I go. He’s comfort, a slab of warmth across my lap as I’ll wait, wait. There are rumours of petrol at some shack of a garage out on the fringes of the industrial sites, owned by some crony with ties to the army. I ought to have a conscience: I don’t.
Nothing has changed. Agnes is standing in a corner of the kitchen, her head lowered, her hands clenched in a ball.
‘I’m sorry boss,’ she says quietly.
‘Why did you let them in?’ I demand.
‘They just come,’ she protests, scrunching her shoulders. ‘They say there is big fine if I do not allow them inside.’
I sigh. Something in me plummets, a low despondency takes hold, but it’s nothing that I’m not used to by now. It eases and I look down quite passively at the small piece of paper with ZESA (the Electricity Authority’s) dreaded legend printed across the top in stark black. Beneath that it says, “Notice of Outstanding Payment Due.”
Old Mrs Webster sits in a bath of brisk morning sunlight, soothing her varicose veins in the soft winter light. Slats of warmth slant in from the gaps between the blinds in her lounge window. Dust dances about her legs as she reclines in her maroon armchair, crisply grubby at this time of day, dully presentable later in the dusk dimness. Rolled in a ball at her feet, Jilly the Jack Russell snoozes away her own stolen snatch of sunshine. Things are quiet, peaceful, tranquil in this small retirement village in Harare’s leafy northern suburbs.