The Best Revenge is None
By Lawrence Kadzitche
The prison was exactly what it was meant to be: a place of despair. The buildings looked like some abandoned badly built ancient fortress. Although it was late in the morning, the day was as murky as dusk. The maximum-security prison structures, with high walls topped with razor wire, looked ominous like crumbling houses during a foggy dawn. Now and then, flashes of lightning that traversed the sky pregnant with dark rain clouds, bathed the dreary brick structures in blinding light. The rain, which had been holding off since daybreak, made the atmosphere sweltering hot.
The jail, which already suffered from permanent poor lighting like the inside of a cave, was gloomy as the guard ushered Gaza into the warden’s office. The sad state of the prison was reflected on its commandant. A tall man, he had nothing on him except skin and bones. His badly tailored worn out uniform fitted him as if it was draped on a tailor’s wire dummy. The most remarkable thing about his skull-like face were his big eyes which protruded as if he was being choked.
The room was not spared from the steaming heat boiling outside. The air seeping in through the small open window where the commandant was standing did nothing to douse the inferno. Mosquitoes flew about like flies in a rubbish dump. But the commandant seemed immune to desolation. No sweat oozed from his emaciated body and the mosquitoes avoided him like he had a highly contagious disease.
Upon entry of the two men, the prison chief shuffled from the window to his dilapidated flat topped wooden desk which was devoid of anything apart from a metal ash tray and a pack of cheap cigarettes. With deliberate slowness, he took out a cigarette from the packet, sniffed it, put it in the middle of his mouth then lit it with a lighter. He pulled at it and then blew the smoke into Gaza’s face. Still puffing contentedly at the cigarette, he opened his drawer and took out a folder which he placed on the table.
Gaza’s reaction was to take in the smoke with satisfaction. He was a total contrast to the warden. He was very short and very fat. His white prison issue clothing fitted him perfectly and was wet from the sweat oozing from his body. With his handsome boyish face, he looked years much younger than his fifty years. Although he looked older, the commandant was about the same age or even a bit younger than convict.
“Prisoner 666, you’ve served your time,” the commandant said authoritatively showing his small decaying teeth. He opened the folder and took out a khaki envelope. “Here is your discharge certificate.”
Gaza received the envelope, opened it, and took out the certificate. An evil smile spread on his face as he looked at the piece of paper granting him his freedom.
“What a befitting name that I was given,” he chuckled, waving the proof of discharge at the warden. “666, the mark of the beast. Do you know what I’m going to do once out of here?”
The question surprised the commandant. Gaza was known to be a man of a very few words. He hadn’t expected him to say anything. The guard at the door jerked up his rifle, his eyes alert.
“And what would that be, Mr. Gaza?” he asked, pulling his chair, and lowering his thin frame into it. The cigarette dangled in a corner of his razor thin mouth.
Gaza did not answer immediately. He looked about the small room, everything looked decaying-the walls, the furniture and even the warden himself. To him the room looked the same as the cell that he had just vacated. In here, the commandant was no different from the other prisoners in the solitary cells. A jailer jailed by the nature of his work.
As if intent on listening to Gaza’s response, the thunder outside fell silent. Even the rain clouds dispersed like people fleeing from a riot. “The first thing I will do is to murder three people using juju- the policeman who arrested me, the judge who sentenced me, and -,” Gaza said with relish. He paused, suddenly leaned across the table, and pointed at the commandant with a fat dirty finger, “-you.”
The commandant took a deep pull at his cigarette to calm his nerves. He would have preferred to be rid of the good-looking criminal as quickly as possible. He wasn’t a stranger to such threats from prisoners but something in the tone of the convict made a chill run down his spine.
“Why should you do that? You were here because you raped an old woman during a housebreak and tried to kill her. If she’d died, you’d have got the death sentence. It was all your fault,” the commandant tried to reason with Gaza while also pleading with him at the same time. “Thinking about revenge will get you nowhere.”
Gaza shrugged. “Twenty years is a long time, I’ve had twenty long years planning of what I’ll do once I get out of here,” he paused and chuckled wetly. “Oh boy, as they say, revenge is a dish served best cold. So, you’ve been warned, chief. The first person I’ll use my juju on will be you.”
“Here in prison, you learned how to make clay toys,” the commandant said running his claw-like hand through his prematurely greying close-cropped hair. “I would advise you to use that skill to start a business which can help you make a decent living.”
Gaza laughed. “Your advice has been duly noted. After my revenge, I’ll definitely go into the business of making toys.”
When Gaza stepped outside the prison gate, the sky had cleared, and the sun beat on him mercilessly. The clothes his elder sister Hellena had brought were a size or two small and clung to his body like stockings. Drenched in sweat he cursed all policemen, magistrates, and prison wardens until he reached his sister’s car that waiting for him outside.
Once in the car, he did not waste time. “Sister, I need some money,” he told Hellena. “While in prison I learned how to make clay toys. I want to start a small business. I’ll also need some money for rent and other things while I’m settling down.”
Gaza and his sister could pass for twins. Hellena was equally fat and short with a ball-round face. She was ecstatic. “You know what, Gaza? That’s the best news that has come out of your mouth since you were born. It’s time you settled down. I’ll give you the money. But promise me one thing; you’ll give me the first doll you make.”
Gaza rented a small tin house in Phwetekere Location. Then he went to Ntchisi to see a renowned witchdoctor called Nthiwatiwa. He operated from a small forest at the edge of his village.
“What do you do for a living?” the witchdoctor asked after Gaza had explained why he was there.
The ex-convict thought for a moment. “Nothing really. But in prison I learned how to make clay toys. I think I’ll start making toys and sell them.”
“Great. Follow me,” said the witchdoctor getting to his feet.
Gaza followed the witchdoctor to a small kiln with a wooden door. The witchdoctor opened the door and pushed him in. Gaza found himself inside a furnace blazing red with fire. He expected to be burnt to ashes. But there was no heat-it was as cold as in a refrigerator.
“You’re a toy maker,” a voice he recognized as the witchdoctor’s said. “Use the toys to kill your enemies.”
Gaza stared at him. He was alone. Yet the voice came from within the kiln.
“All you must do is make a toy of the person you want to punish. Whatever you do to the toy will happen to the person.”
The door of the kiln suddenly opened. The witchdoctor’s hand pulled him into the hot air outside.
“That’s all, my son,” the witchdoctor said when he had received his fee. “You’re now armed with the most powerful juju in the world.”
The next day Gaza made a toy of the prison commandant. After he had finished making it, he smashed its head.
At the prison, the commandant rushed out of his office. There was an attempted prison break. As he and the warders tried to contain the situation, a group of prisoners descended on him. He fell on the ground. A big prisoner lifted a concrete manhole cover and dropped it squarely on the screaming officer’s head. The commandant’s head was smashed beyond recognition.
Gaza heard of the incident on the small radio he had bought.
“Next it’s you, Mr. Policeman,” he said to himself with a chuckle.
He made a toy of the police officer and pierced it through the heart with a pin. At that moment, police officer Sigele was knifed to death as he tried to arrest a dangerous criminal in Mtandile.
Gaza heard of the policeman’s death from his neighbours.
“Finally, you, Mister Magistrate,” he said making a toy of the magistrate.
He took a rope and hanged the toy by the neck. At that time, the magistrate was in a tree behind his house. It had been discovered that he had received a bribe from one of the people whose case he had been trying. Any time the police would come to arrest him. Rather than face the unpleasant prospect of going to prison he committed suicide.
Gaza read the story in a local newspaper. “Magistrate hangs himself,” screamed the title of the article.
“Now to the toy making business,” Gaza told Hellena with satisfaction. “Sister, you wanted the first toy I made. Ok, I’ll make a toy of myself. You’ll be surprised what a good artist your brother is.”
Two days later, he made a toy that resembled him perfectly. Gaza had to agree it was his best work ever. When it had dried, he decided to take it to his sister.
It was raining outside. He put the toy in a plastic bag to protect it from the rain. He had just started to move away from his house when a rope was suddenly flung around his neck and pulled so tight that his scream of fear was cut off in his throat.
“Well, we meet again Gaza,” a man said harshly behind him. “Been waiting all these years for you to get out of the cooler.”
With sickening fear, Gaza realised who the man behind him was. Moshe. A dangerous criminal he had double-crossed sometime back.
“Man, I never thought you had it in you, making away with all that cash we swindled that Indian and disappearing,” hissed Moshe. “By the time I traced you, you were in police custody. Well, today its payback day and your worthless life is due for collection, Gaza.”
Gaza fought madly, trying to get rid of the rope that was strangling him, but it was all in vain. His struggles began to weaken as the rope choked life from him.
Just before Gaza died, it hit him. The toy in the plastic bag. He had just suffocated himself. As life ebbed out of him, he remembered what his grandmother had often told him: the best revenge is none but if you are adamant about seeking revenge, dig two graves, one for yourself and the other for the enemy. The prison warden had been right. He should have moved on. And so, regretting he died.