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A Conversation With Best Debut Short Stories 2020 Author Mbozi Haimbe
“I decided to subvert readers’ expectations in terms of the narrative of a diaspora visiting their homeland in order to challenge the myth that all those arriving home from the west are endowed with bags of cash.”
Elina, the maid, is doing her thing of standing in a nice shaded spot on the veranda, while I stew in the heat. I carry on sweeping the paved front yard, sweat trickling down my back. The flagstones are patterned with black oil stains from the cars that park here at day’s end. I pass my straw broom over these patches that refuse to be cleaned, even with water and soap. They make me look bad, lazy.
“Hey, Cephas . . . Cephas. Hey, Mr. Nyambe, it’s you I’m talk- ing to. Did you hear what I said? Madam’s sister, the one who lives in the U.K., she’s coming at the end of the week. You better move your lazy bones and clean this yard, yah? Make sure it shines London-style.”
My hand tightens on the broom. One: I’m not lazy. How can I be lazy, me? I’m the gardener. I’m the guard. I’m the car washer. And also the odd-job man for all four households within the gated cluster of detached houses.
Two: Shine London-style. I can’t even begin to interpret Elina’s demand. How can an oily forecourt bordered by a threadbare lawn and dusty shrubs shine like London?
“Did you hear me, Cephas? I said . . .”
“Yes, yes. Okay. London-style,” I say, swapping the broom for the hosepipe.
More by this author
Learn about Mathapelo Mofokeng’s short story “The Strong-Strong Winds,” which was selected for ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021.’
“The most innocent thing you can do is want to create”: Robert J. Dau Prize Winner Isaac Hughes Green
Learn about Isaac Hughes Green’s short story “The First Time I Said It,” which was selected for ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021.’
Learn about Amy Haejung’s short story “Maria,” which was selected for ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021.’
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“I have always been fascinated by the idea of women being monstrous and beastly because it ruptures the dominant Patriarchal ideal of the shy woman.”
“I think so much art—especially cinema—acts as an instruction manual for women.”
“I wrote much of the story listening to jazz, including the title song, for inspiration on how to shift without imposing too much of a structure.”