Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Marriage of Convenience

A Marriage of Convenience

‘It was,’ I began, ‘the Wedding of the Year at the Great Shed of the Child Jesus. Everybody was there to hear the priest solemnly declare What God has joined together, let no man put asunder!’

‘Mummy always says,’ said Thoko, ‘that it’s always another woman who puts asunder.’

‘And after that,’ I continued, frowning at Thoko, ‘the priest bent his head towards the couple, and whispered You may now kiss!’

‘Aren’t they allowed to kiss before they get married?’ asked Thoko.

‘Of course not,’ said Thoko’s friend Lindiwe, ‘otherwise the bride would get pregnant.’

‘Look,’ I said irritably, ‘whose story is this, yours or mine?’

Thoko turned to Lindiwe. ‘Shut up and listen to Grandpa’s story.’ Then turning to me she said ‘Come on Grandpa, tell us who was getting married. Was it a rich handsome prince and a beautiful girl from the forest who had only one dress and no knickers? All stories should have a happy ending.’

‘That’s right,’ said Lindiwe. ‘We always insist on a happy ending.’

‘This is not a fairy story,’ I said. ‘The people getting married were the Chief of the North, Cycle Mata, and the Chieftainess of the South, Ha Ha.’

‘Ha Ha,’ laughed Thoko, ‘was she called Ha Ha because she was always laughing?’

‘Not at all. Right from birth she had a miserable unsmiling face, with mouth always turned down. But her parents, being of an optimistic nature, named her Ha Ha in the hope that one day she would laugh. But she never did.’

‘So did the happy couple kiss when the priest told them to?’ asked Lindiwe eagerly.

‘They tried but failed,’ I admitted. ‘Afterwards Ha Ha claimed that she refused to kiss Cycle Mata because he had such bad breath. But Cycle Mata said that when he took hold of Ha Ha, intending to plant a kiss on her miserable face, he found that her entire body was as cold and clammy as a dead fish.’

‘And after that, was there a nice wedding reception?’ Thoko suggested hopefully. ‘Where all the big people got drunk, and the children ate all the cake?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘The bride turned and went out through the South Door of the Great Shed, and held a party with her friends. The groom left through the North Door, and had a party with his friends. The cake remained uneaten, because they couldn’t agree on how to divide it.’

‘But despite these little difficulties,’ suggested Lindiwe, ‘The happy couple must have had a lot in common.’

‘Of course they did,’ I replied, ‘otherwise they wouldn’t have got married. You see, both of their chiefdoms were right next to the Kingdom of Mfuwe, a country of wild animals ruled over by Nyamasoyaurus the Dreadful Dinosaur, who would send his hyenas and wild dogs to raid both North and South.’

‘People lived in fear?’

‘These animals had no respect for human life. They stole all the copper from the North and all the trees from the South, and took people into slave labour to work for the Ching Chang. All those who protested were torn apart by the hyenas.’

‘So the people thought that if the North and South joined up they could defeat King Nyamasoyaurus?’

‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘All they had to do was to get Cycle Mata and Ha Ha to marry, then they could be King and Queen of the new Kingdom of Zed, with a big enough army to defeat the Dreaded Dinosaur. So it was a marriage of convenience.’

‘Surely,’ said Lindiwe, ‘all marriages are supposed to be convenient.’

‘But in this case,’ I said, ‘it was politically convenient.’

‘And did they both live happily ever after?’ asked Thoko hopefully.

‘Unfortunately,’ I admitted, ‘each found the other rather inconvenient. Ha Ha refused to sleep in the same bed with Cycle Mata, saying the man was too old and couldn’t do anything. But Cycle Mata claimed that it was he who chased Ha Ha out of the marital bed after she tried to sit on top of him, when her bottom was cold, and she has no previous training in such unusual athletics.’

‘But did they manage to co-operate in running the palace?’

‘Each claimed to be the Head of Household. They finished up with Cycle Mata living upstairs and Ha Ha living downstairs, and the two of them communicating only by written messages carried by their secretaries.’

‘But at least they managed to co-operate in uniting their two peoples to defeat the Dreaded Nyamasoyaurus?’

‘King Cycle Mata ran round and round in circles, saying that when Nyamasoyaurus was defeated, he would become Emperor of Zed, and would make Ha Ha his Minister of Gender. But Queen Ha Ha sat in her office doing endless calculations, trying to work out whether, if she sold all her cattle, she would have enough money to buy the entire area, become the Owner of Zed, and throw Cycle Mata to the hyenas.’

‘Oh dear,’ sighed Lindiwe, ‘It seems that the marriage of convenience became very inconvenient for both of them.’

‘Each wanted to swallow the other,’ I admitted, ‘but each proved inconveniently indigestible to the other. Of course it ended in divorce.’

‘Which was of even greater inconvenience,’ said Lindiwe sadly, shedding a tear, ‘to the good people of North and South, who continued to be eaten by the hyenas.’

‘On the contrary,’ laughed Thoko, ‘both the marriage and the divorce were very convenient. I see this as a very happy ending!’

‘Happy ending?’ I wondered.

‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘For Nyamasoyaurus.’


[Kalaki is grateful to the many contributors to the discussion of the ‘divorce’ in KALAKI’s KORNER on Facebook on 14th March 2011]


  1. now this is as clear as it comes. always a pleasure reading your articles.

  2. Some marriages last not only for love or intimacy but for the sake of the children....parents stay together and grow a family! I wish even in divorce they nurture there dependents.....

  3. hahahah inconvinient marriage indeed

  4. I so this coming those two wer never ment to be i new it would lead into divorce

  5. Exactly... the selfishness of these leaders mean that the people remain suffering at the hands of the hyenas. Also true is the fact that the result of the divorce is cause for celebration for the ruling party. Its really a shame. Your writings are really good and missed them until I found the blog.Keep them coming!!!