Zora’s village got started a few years ago when the man in her life died. He was not a young man any more, but no one thought he was going to cash in his chips just yet. She was left wondering how she was going to pay her fairly limited bills when a Zimbabwean by the name of Charles appeared on her doorstep.
“Ma’am, I’ve got nowhere to stay,” Charles told her, “and you’ve got so much space.”
“You want to move into my house?” Zora was aghast.
“No, ma’am, nothing like that. I would never ask that.” He was looking at the twenty acres or so that surrounded Zora’s house. “If you can give me a little bit of space I’ll build my own house from poles and zinc. And I’ll pay rent.”
“And your eh-eh, what about that. Where will you go to the toilet?”
Charles had the answers. “I’ll dig a long drop.”
“How much rent?” Zora raised one eyebrow, a habitual reaction of hers. The idea was starting to interest her.
“Maybe five hundred?”
“Ma’am has got a bore hole.”
Zora contemplated the matter for some time, maybe a full half minute. The five hundred would be useful, no question about that. “You got any friends who also need accommodation?” she asked.
The first month Charles moved in. The second month Meshack, Abel, Jonas and their families arrived. They had their poles and corrugated iron and their first month’s rent with them. The third month saw Lazarus, Luke and Saul get to work on their dwellings. They told Zora as soon as they had a place to stay their families would come.
At five hundred a time, Zora’s new source of income was approaching that of her late partner. At this point, to make the situation understandable it has to be pointed out that the earth on Zora’s small holding consists of the dust of weathered rock. Trying to grow anything in it is a waste of time.
As her village grew, so the number of long drops multiplied, until last month a delegation of her fellow small-holders came to see her. “Your tenants are polluting the ground water,” they said.
“You’re just a bunch of racists,” Zora snarled. “If my tenants were white people you wouldn’t mind. Let me tell you white shit and black shit is all the same.”
And that’s where the matter stands. The growth of Zora’s village shows no sign of slowing, no one knows for sure if the bore hole water is being polluted and, if so, how seriously. So far, no one has died. Oom Willem’s gout is getting worse, but that might not be caused by Zora’s village. It could be the cheap sweet red wine he is always drinking.
As for Miriam and me, we’re so glad we live on the hillside way out of reach of Zora’s villagers and their long drops.