Handsome and the Beast

By Lawrence Kadzitche

If you said all marriages are made in heaven, Dzubwa would have immediately retorted by quoting Clint Eastwood that so is thunder and lightning. Dzubwa did not love his wife. He had never loved her. Their marriage had been a product of a one-night stand at a party.

A day would not pass when he did not rue that fateful night. It all started as a joke at the party. Dzubwa was one of those men that are endowed with looks that women find irresistible. Young, handsome and with a good job, all young ladies in the town were chasing after him. To Dzubwa, women were toys, to be used and discarded. His past was littered with broken hearts of women.

The party was organised by Janice, his close friends girl friend. He was basking in the attention showered on him by the girls when he saw her. She sat alone in some corner sipping a drink.

What attracted his attention was her looks. Dzubwa could have sworn that in his life he had never seen such an ugly looking woman. A large round head with protruding eyes was stuck on an equally huge body that reminded him of a rhinoceros. Her complexion was black like coal. The shapeless dress she wore did not help matters.

“Hey man, bowled over by that beauty at the corner?” a voice said at his shoulder.

He turned. He had been so absorbed studying the girl that he had no seen his friend Jimmy come over.

“Oh man isnt she impossibly ugly?” Dzubwa commented with distaste.

Jimmy had been drinking steadily and his voice was slurred. “Man, you call yourself a lady killer but I bet that monster can give you a cold shoulder.”

Dzubwa himself had drunk a great deal. No woman has ever said no to the handsome Lady Killer Dzubwa.

“Then get ready to be disappointed, playboy,” Jimmy said with needling challenge.

Dzubwa picked up his drink. “Relax, doubting Thomas and see the lady killer operate.”

He drifted across to where the big young woman stood.

“Hey, young lady youre drinking a coke at a party like this?” he asked flashing her his best smile. “Let me get you something to put you in the mood.”

He disappeared and re-appeared with a glass of brandy. “Here, my darling, is the drink for a girl like you at the party.”

The girl hesitated, a sign that she did not drink. Flattered, he knew there was no way she was going to refuse the offer. She took the drink.

Dzubwa sank into the seat beside her. “Im Joel Dzubwa,” he introduced himself. “May I know the name of my beautiful angel?”

The girl was obviously bewildered by the attention he was according her that tears welled in her eyes. It was clear that she rarely received any attention.

“I’m Alice,” she said. Her voice was a deep grating bass.

They chatted as they drank. One glass followed another. Alice began to relax when the brandy began to take effect. She looked at her glass, then held it towards Dzubwa. “Refill, Joel. This time more brandy and less Coke!”

He took her glass, kissed her on the cheek, then left to get her drink. From the corner of his eye he could see her face glow like that of a cat that has caught a mouse.

“Now Im going for the kill,” he told Jimmy.

“She’s just toying with you, man,” Jimmy said, now very drunk. “She cant let you get into her bed.”

Dzubwa, sozzled too, smiled. “Just watch me, doubting Thomas.”

He crossed over to Alice, put the drink on a stool. Then he put his hands around her neck and kissed her on the mouth. She responded eagerly. One thing followed the other and when he woke up the following morning, he didnt know where he was. The moment he saw Alice snoring heavily beside him, the enormity of what he had done hit him with force of a hammer. How could he have slept with such an ugly woman?

He quickly dressed and gave Alice an excuse that he was needed at the office and left the house as if it was on fire.

“When will I see you again handsome?” Alice inquired after him.

Dzubwa pretended not to have heard and simply waved back at her with a smile. He did not see her after that, lying that he was very busy with work. He thought sooner or later Alice would get the message and leave him alone.

Thats where he was mistaken. Early one morning, two months later, she arrived unannounced at his house in the company of a very tall man with a breadth of shoulder as wide as a barn door. The facial resemblance on his ugly brutal face with that of Alice told him he was her relative. These people were close to gorillas than human beings, Dzubwa thought.

Dzubwa, standing in the doorway, proferred his hand and immediately regretted doing so. The big mans grip was like a clamp and he winced with pain. He tried to quickly pull out his hand but the mans clasp was like a vice and all he could do was avoid crying out in pain. After what looked like an eternity, the big man pushed him aside and let himself inside the house with Alice tailing along. Dzubwa followed.

“This is my niece Alice,” the mountainous man said without opening pleasantries. “She is pregnant.”

Dzubwas jaw dropped. “Pregnant?”

“Yes, and youre the one responsible,” Alices uncle went on in a flat tone. “I’ve come to leave her here.”

Dzubwa raised his hand. “Wait a moment. I’I just met her at a party!”

“Are you trying to deny responsibility?”

“I…I Well, this is kind of mighty sudden. I have to think…”

“You seem to be the kind of man who does things kind of a sudden, young man,” Alices uncle said without humour. “You just met her at a party and then dragged her into bed, isnt that kind of sudden?”

Dzubwa was too shocked to answer.

Alices uncle got to his feet. “So, I’m leaving her here. From now I declare you husband and wife.”

Dzubwa realized that he would be saddled with an unwanted wife if he did not take a decisive action there and then.

“Look, mister, whoever you are, he said in a voice full of steel. I’m not marrying your niece. Period.”

The smile on Alices uncle was frightening. “Young man, you messed with the wrong family. I’m Kaponyotola, the enforcer.”

The name sent a shiver down Dzubwas spine. Kaponyotola was a well-known thug who was hired by loan sharks to enforce payments.

“I…I didnt know” Dzubwa stammered.

“Now that you know then you’ll be reasonable. We Kaponyotolas do not take kindly to having our daughters bear children out of wedlock,” he warned and added as an afterthought, “Unless of course the father is dead.”

Although Dzubwa caught the warning, he still tried to wiggle out of the trap. “Can I not…”

Kaponyotola cut him by putting a finger on his lips. His long arms shot out at the speed of the tongue of a chameleon and clamped themselves around Dzubwas throat like a steal band, the sudden constriction of his windpipe snuffing off his shriek of fear in his throat. Dzubwa clawed desperately at his throat, trying to remove the arm. It was all in vain. He began to choke.

Kaponyotola released his hold on Dzubwas neck and supply of air was restored to Dzubwas lungs. He collapsed on the floor sobbing with fear.

“That is a demonstration of what will happen to you if you dare mistreat or divorce my niece,” Kaponyotola warned. “Have a happy family until death doth you apart.”

Dzubwa glanced at Alice, desperately looking for a way out. The big woman glared at him with such undisguised contempt that he felt fear drill into his vitals. It was clear that she did not love him. She was only marrying him so that she could have someone to call a husband. It was not long that he found out that this assessment had been correct.

Alice treated him more or less like her servant. Her word was law in the house. At first he tried to resist. In response she gave him such a beating that he was bedridden for several days. If he did anything she did not like, she would beat him savagely. Sometimes she would start a quarrel just to find a reason to beat him up. Thinking that maybe she was looking for a way out of the marriage, he had one day carefully broached the subject of divorce. Her reaction shocked him. She did not go into a rage or beat him up.

“Would you like to be buried here in the city or your home village?” she asked coldly, rolling up the sleeves of her shirt.

Dzubwa should have known that this was a lull before a storm. However, he was daft enough not to see that. “What kind of question is that?”

She looked at him the way one looks at a croachroach she is about to squat. “You really think that I would accept divorce?”

“Well, you seem not to be happy…”

“Now listen to me, idiot. I’m in this stupid marriage because I wanted to get married and nobody came along but you. If for a moment I believe youre going to leave me, I’ll kill you before you do so. Mark my words!”

Dzubwa always wondered why Alice had married him in the first place unless it was to enjoy the misery she had put him in. His biggest consolation was that Alice had a miscarriage so he did not have the extra complication of having the marriage consolidated by children.

It was these threats, hanging like a rock over his head that kept the marriage going. How can one stay with a woman he doesnt love? This was Dzubwas dilemma.

If he started a secret love affair, Alice would beat the woman up. Soon it became common knowledge that he was a henpecked husband. If he was seen in the company of a woman and Alice had the hint of the tiniest suspicion, that woman would be beaten. In no time women avoided him like a person with a highly contagious disease.

To prevent him from resorting to prostitutes, Alice banned him from visiting drinking places. He had tried to break the rule on a few occasions and she had followed to the bars and gave him thorough beatings in the presence of all and sundry.

He also lost all his friends. If he did something wrong, she would accuse his friends of teaching him bad manners. If they were not beaten, they would have to endure her barrage of vile and obscene curses.

Somehow he managed to find girl friend without Alice knowing. They met in a restaurant and fell deeply in love with each other.

For a year, he successfully kept the love affair from the eyes and ears of Alice. With Grace pregnant that was no longer possible. This was something he could not manage to hide. Sooner or later Alice would hear of it. Once that happened, there was no way she would countenance the fact that she was having a secret affair let alone that he had impregnated a girl. She would rather be a widow than a divorcee. She had said that so many times. Alice was determined enough as to carry it out. In any case, don’t they of each specie the female is deadlier than the male?

He needed to find a solution before Alice got wind of the news otherwise he was sure to find himself six feet under in some grave. No solution came forward. He was sitting alone on the verandah one Saturday afternoon, his head cupped in his hands, wondering how he could extract himself from the mess he had thrown himself in when his garden boy approached him. He had been hired by Alice some nine months ago when she fired the one he had engaged before he married her.

“Bwana, you dont seem happy these days,” he said respectfully. “Maybe I could help.”

Dzubwa was taken aback. Was his misery so apparent?

“Sorry, I cant help observing, went on the garden boy. Its the madam, not so?”

Dzubwa looked expectantly at the garden boy. He was a handsome, well built young man in his early twenties. Maybe it would be a good idea to open up to the boy. If the boy had summoned courage to talk to him on the subject, it could mean he had some sort of an answer to the problem.

“Yes, its the madam, Luka, he whispered as if afraid of being overheard. I have never slept since I married her.”

Luka looked around to make sure no one was overhearing them. “Well, before, I came here I worked for this man who had the similar troubles to yours. It was even worse. The woman even had boyfriends and there was nothing the man could do.”

Dzubwa did not venture any comment.

“I have experience in dealing with such problems,” the garden boy said. “For a small fee, the woman conveniently died of heart problems and the man happily married another woman.”

For the first time in several years, a smile flickered on Dzubwas face. Thats exactly the type of assistance I need. “Can you sort out my problem in the same way?”

“No problem. I can make all the arrangements,” the boy replied confidently.

Dzubwa gave him some money and told him to make the arrangements. The boy left and came back in the evening. He reported that he had collected the necessary poison.

Madam will conveniently die of natural causes, most likely high blood pressure, the garden boy said. You just name the date.

“As soon as she returns from visiting her mother,” Dzubwa replied promptly. “Thats the day after tomorrow.”

“Here is the medicine that will do the trick,” Luka said giving Dzubwa some powder. “The poison works slowly. You say she already suffers from high blood pressure. Her blood pressure will shoot and in a day or two shell be dead. There will be no trace of poison in her body even if it is examined by the most competent doctors. Bulletproof.”

“Thanks, young man,” Dzubwa said. “I will always be indebted to you.”

When Alice returned, Dzubwa put the poison in her glass of juice. She was about to drink it when the garden boy burst in.

“Dont drink it,” he shouted wildly. “I saw him taking poison from a certain witch doctor to poison you.”

Dzubwas heart lurched. “Luka, what is the meaning of this?”

“Shut up!” bellowed Alice. “So you wanted to kill me, you little rat! Youre going down for this. Luka, call the police. We shall have this drink examined.”

Dzubwa was desperate. How could the garden boy do this to him? “Alice, it was Luka’s idea…”

“Yes, I know,” she cut him savagely. “You forgot that all along, you were the garbage. Actually you were overdue for collection!”

Then everything became clear to him. He had been fooled. So Alice knew of Grace and had connived with Luka to set him up. He should have known it was a trap. How would the boy have summoned courage to talk to him about the garbage collector?

The police arrived. Luka repeated his allegations. Dzubwa was arrested on suspicion of attempting to poison his wife. When the juice was examined, it was found to contain a lethal poison.

Dzubwa was tried and found guilty of attempted murder and given a long sentence. It was while he was in prison that he got answers to what had really happened.

“The business is thriving. Your wife married Luka,” a new prisoner said. “How she loves him. You would say she worships the ground he moves on. What entered you to try to murder such a loving wife?”

Dzubwa winced. Alice, a loving wife? Lucky boy! Talk about good chemistry!

The End

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Lawrence Kadzitche

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