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
“Every interaction between adult siblings presents a chance to get more clarity about the past. Hopefully, we’re able to seize at least some of these chances.”
“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.”
“I wanted to portray the pain of trying to reach someone who is inside their own, unreachable pain, and how this often puts untenable pressure on relationships.”
More in this series
“Some stories just flow out of you and you try to keep up as you write them. This story was not like that.”
“I slowly connected the dots that nearly all my friends—no matter what continent we had been on—had experienced some level of sexual violence.”
“The narration style feels very conversational to me. I liked how second-person really tries to make the reader part of the story as well.”