I was sitting on the veranda having a quiet brandy, when round the corner came my old friend Amock. ‘Come and sit down!’ I exclaimed. ‘Have a drink!’
‘I’ve given up,’ he said.
‘Since when?’ I laughed.
‘Since this morning,’ he said seriously.
‘Ha!’ I scoffed. ‘I’m told there’s no booze in Heaven, so I’m taking my share now while it’s still available. But have it your way, you can have a glass of water! Tell me, what’s the latest?’
‘Have you seen today’s Post?’ he asked.
‘No, what’s happened?’
‘Nothing much,’ he laughed. ‘I was just amused by Nyamasoya telling us that Lusaka’s horrific traffic jams are the result of the government’s enormous success in promoting economic development.’
‘So instead of moaning, we should be grateful!’
‘That’s the obvious implication,’ Amock agreed.
‘Then perhaps we shouldn’t complain that Nyamasoya is flying to so many countries,’ I suggested. ‘Instead we should be proud that he is showing off Zed as a rich country, and distributing our tourist brochures all over the world.’
‘Very good!’ laughed Amock. ‘And we shouldn’t complain about the police or the Chinese shooting us, because Nyamasoya is building so many new hospitals to treat our wounds.’
‘And we shouldn’t complain,’ I said, ‘about the floods. Instead we should take advantage of the tourist potential by building waterfront lodges and fishing safaris.’
‘And people complain about the violent MMD cadres,’ said Amock, ‘not realizing that they are practicing for the world boxing championships.’
‘Ho ho,’ I laughed. ‘We could go on for ever! But what did Jennifer say about the government’s infuriating pride in gridlock traffic jams?’
‘I left early this morning, before she had woken up,’ he explained. ‘But her theory is that the government is deliberately trying to provoke everybody.’
‘Really? But why should they want to do that?’
‘You know old Nyamasoya is a leftover remnant from the one-party state. He wants to unite the whole country into one party!’
‘Unite behind the MMD?’
‘Of course not. He’s been sent there to destroy it!’
‘Then how's he going to unite the country?’
‘Well, obviously it’s a clever strategy,’ explained Amock. ‘Everybody will become so infuriated that all the parties will unite against MMD. It will be just like independence, a united struggle against the despised enemy. UNIP will rise from the grave and organize the Cha Cha Cha!’
‘Half a minute,’ I said. ‘Haven’t you over extrapolated a bit too much from this little example of praising traffic jams? What else is the ruling party doing to annoy the people?’
‘What else?’ laughed Amock. ‘Well may you ask! The evidence of the policy is everywhere. They have taken MMD’s original policy on privatizing parastatals, and are now privatizing everything!’
‘Poof!’ I scoffed. ‘They've only privatised ZAMTEL!’
‘Don’t you see what’s going on?’ he asked, rather seriously. ‘By legalizing corruption they have privatised the Treasury, and can now use our money as they please. They’ve privatised the Judiciary, so the government cannot be prosecuted for their crimes, and they can lock up their political enemies as they please. They’ve privatised the Police Force, to wage war on all those who protest. Next education is to be privatised, and government schools will be up for sale. Obviously this is a well orchestrated plot to infuriate everybody, provoke the revolution and destroy the MMD!’
So saying, he stood up, as if to leave. ‘Amock,’ I said, ‘you’ve only just got here, where are you going?’
But he was walking away from me, and into the house. ‘I haven’t got much time,’ he said. ‘I have to go upstairs.’
‘What are you talking about?’ I said, ‘this house hasn’t got an upstairs!’
Then I heard a voice saying ‘Dead! Dead!’
I woke up with a start. There was Sara standing at the bedroom door, in black skirt and scarf.
I sat up straight in the bed. ‘Dead!’ I shouted. ‘I’m not dead! I just overslept’
‘Not you!’ Sara sobbed. ‘Amock! He died suddenly. Early this morning.’
‘Nonsense!’ I cried angrily. ‘I was talking to him only two minutes ago. Then he went upstairs.’
‘We haven’t got an upstairs,’ said Sara.
Two days later I was standing in church as the congregation sang Amock’s favourite hymn. But I was singing it differently…
What a friend we had in Amock
All his food and drink to share!
What a privilege to send him
All the way to God up there!
Have we trials and tribulations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
Just climb up the stairs to heaven
You’ll find Amock waiting there!
Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Go upstairs and talk to Amock,
You will find him waiting there!
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Go to Amock up the stairs!
In his arms he’ll take and shield you,
You will find him waiting there!
[Kalaki acknowledges some input from Facebook friends Mweembe Hampande, Alexander Mwalula and Chola Bwalya. Amock Israel Phiri, who died last week, was the inspiration for the character Amock in many of Kalaki’s stories]