Maggy's Choice

Filed Under: Short Stories

Date Created:27 Nov 2014

Last Modified:27 Nov 2014

Number of Views: 362

Written By: Enock Simbaya

Maggy didn’t want to get up from her sleeping mat. Morning was maturing
but she clang on to the fleeting thoughts about the wonderful dream she had
had. She wanted to be on her mat and in her blanket all day. They were
beginning to feel heavenly, like she had never really known how wonderful they
could be. The soft pillow that used to be a sofa cushion, which her young
brother Ben had picked from a bin, gave her lots of comfort this morning. She
kissed it and prayed she could be with it forever.

“Maggy! Ah!” Her mother’s cry made her jerk up. “Iwe Maggy. By now you should have done half. Get up you girl.”

Maggy got up from the mat. She looked at her mother, and she felt the
deepest love for her. This was the woman who had raised Maggy and her three
brothers in the toughest of situations, when her father had been imprisoned for
robbery. She had also survived a sickness that left her limping, and sometimes
her leg would swell. With no money to pay for medical bills, some people said
she’d die. But it’d been nine years now. Maggy was realizing how strong this
woman was, and she admired all the sacrifices she’d given for Maggy and her
brothers. She was a stern and hard woman, and could whip the hell out of you, but
now that she thought of it, Maggy decided it was a good thing, for it had made
her a survivor. Maggy suddenly had a deep regret for all the bad things she had
wished on her mother.

“Are you sick, Maggy?” Mother’s face turned concerned.

“No, mayo, I am well.”

“Then why are you behaving like this? Tell me.”

“No… I…” She couldn’t explain the feeling, the desire to be home with
mother, to talk and laugh with her all day, maybe hug her some. Mother wouldn’t
understand that, neither would she hug anyboby. Maggy wished she had agreed
that she was sick. But that should have been a really bad sickness, and it
would have meant going to the clinic where she would have to wait in a long
queue just to be given painkillers. She decided to tell the truth: “I don’t
want to go.”

Mother slapped her hard across the cheek. “You are being a bad girl
today.” She threatened another slap, Maggy jumped out of the way. “Go, now! Your
brothers have already carried their buckets. Look at the time. Do you want to
miss Valerie? We can’t afford to lose a good customer like her. Go now, chi Maggy.”

Maggy quickly folded her blanket, rolled the mat, dusted her
cushion-pillow and set them to one side of the room, where three other mats
lay. She sidled around her angry mother, dashing out of the door before she could
get another beating. She picked up a basin outside the kitchen, poured water
into it from one of the four yellow containers filled with water. She washed
her face and her hair, and scooped some and washed her armpits. She washed her
feet too after a moment of deciding.

When she entered the house, she met with her mother’s stern face. “This
child, this child,” mother was muttering as Maggy quickly dried herself and
brushed her hair. Not that it made much of a difference with her difficult hair,
but she brushed anyway. She applied mother’s lotion to keep her skin from

In the kitchen, she picked up a transparent bucket containing samosas,
and walked out of the house, escorted by mother’s mutterings about indiscipline
and losing customers and if you come back without the right amount of money,
you will see.

Usually, Maggy and mother fried samosas in the night, enough to fill
three buckets that she and Andrew and Ben had to go around the town selling.
The eldest brother Conrad was a garden boy at a nice house in one of the places
they called kumayadi, well-organized
and wealthy neighborhoods, and that’s where he went daily. In the mornings, Mother
would go to the market to sell vegetables, and Maggy and her two brothers would
go separate ways.

“So, you wanted to be clever today eh?” Mother said. “If I hadn’t come
back to collect my purse, you would have been sleeping all day. I don’t like
this behavior, Maggy.”

Maggy carried her bucket and went. When she reached some distance, she
couldn’t help but look back at the little house they lived in: the dark red
bricks that were the walls, the square holes that posed for windows, some
covered by carton boards; the steel roof held on by large stones, and how the
rains would drum on it and the winds would rattle it. It was a crappy place,
but it was home.

The appearance of her mother at the door made her hurry away. She met a
number of people along the way who stopped her to buy samosas, and she sold each
at One Kwacha. It was mostly tired hard-working men who bought, men who did
jobs like digging, bricklaying or gardening. Hardly anyone in the good-looking
sections of the town bought any. Except for Valerie.

Valerie was a beautiful, slender and light woman, very rich and drove a
big nice car that Maggy came to know as a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The first time
Maggy met Valerie was at the corner of a road leading to a large shopping mall.
Maggy approached the Jeep that was parked there, and she saw that the woman
inside had her head against the steering wheel. Maggy knocked on the window,
the woman raised her head and gave her a sharp bitter look. “What is it?” the
woman said.

Ba Mummy, help a daughter by
buying some samosas,” Maggy replied, raising the bucket.

“I’m not your mother,” the woman said. “Go away, I don’t want any

“Please buy, it hasn’t being a good sales day and I need your help.”

“Those things don’t even taste nice,” the woman said impatiently.

“Ah, they do. My mother is the best cook. Just buy one you taste for yourself.”

“Okay, how much?”

Maggy saw that the woman was only trying to get rid of her. She wasn’t in
a good mood. But a sale was a sale. “One Kwacha.” Maggy put the bucket down,
opened the lid, and pronged one of the biggest samosas with a wire that lived
in the bucket. She put the samosa into a small clear plastic bag and gave it to
the woman as the woman gave her a Five Kwacha. Maggy reached into her pocket
for change, and counted out four One Kwacha coins. When she raised them to the
woman and saw that the woman had already finished the samosa.

“Give me another one,” the woman said, to Maggy’s delight and surprise.
She did and the woman wolfed it down, as if she had never eaten before. “Give
me more, from the rest of the money.”

“I have never seen anyone like them as much as you,” Maggie said, because
the woman was already halfway on the third one.

“It’s not that I like them. I just want to eat my frustrations away.”

“Why?” Maggy found herself asking.

The woman looked surprised that she let herself say that. The look
changed to corn towards Maggy. “What do you know about real life problems,

“Well, I live in a shanty compound with my mother and three brothers. We
sell samosas for a living, and we can’t go to school. So I have no future
better than this, and I might end up a prostitute, like my brother Con says.”

The woman’s mouth went agape, and Maggy knew she was talking too much.
“You are an honest girl. “But you give yourself a dim future. I bet you are a
smart girl.”

“Better than my brothers.”

The woman smiled. It was a nice heart-warming smile, and Maggy was happy
to see the change in the woman from the frustration to amusement.

“Okay, let’s see. How many samosas do you carry in there?”

“About thirty.”

“And if you sell each at One Kwacha, how much would that be?”

“Thirty Kwacha.”

“That was easy, wasn’t it? Okay, so if you make Thirty Kwacha a day, and
there are thirty days in a month… Wait, let’s say you don’t sell on Sundays,
which leaves how many days?”

“There are four or five Sundays in a month, and so that leaves twenty
six, twenty seven, or twenty five days, depending whether the month has thirty
or thirty one days, or in February it can be…”

“Okay, okay, I get it. You are pretty smart for someone who doesn’t go to
school. But let’s say you sell for twenty six days a month. So Thirty Kwacha in
twenty six days is…?”

It took Maggy a small moment. “Seven Eighty Kwacha.” It surprised her. It
sounded a large amount.

“Seven hundred and eighty. That’s a lot of money, girl. If you manage
your money properly, you can see that you and your family don’t have to suffer
like this, you can even build a house in a few months. I’m an accountant, I
know these things.”

“But I don’t sell everything in a day, sometimes I have to sell even the
next day. Sometimes they begin to go bad and we have to throw as many as ten.
Some of the money made is used to buy the flour, the potatoes, the cooking oil
and the charcoal to make more samosas. And we have to buy food to eat on a
certain day. And we do sell on Sundays too, if there’s something to sell. On
some days, we have nothing until we find enough money to buy flour and potatoes
to start all over again. Con pays for the rent money from his salary, at least.
But he has a girlfriend who takes some of it. There’s never enough left to do
anything else.”

“I didn’t think of all that. I see. But you are intelligent and nothing
goes past you. You are very good with math and logic. I like that. Come
tomorrow at the building you see there. Come at ten. I will buy more of your

Valerie, as the woman introduced herself the next day, bought four
samosas when Maggy went there. Valerie was having her midmorning break from her
work, and she sat alone at a small table sheltered by a large umbrella. As she
ate the samosas, she asked Maggy questions and was impressed by her answers.

Every day from then, Valerie bought four samosas, sometimes five. Maggy
knew Valerie didn’t have to buy them. She could afford, and often bought,
expensive and classy foods like Chicken and Chips, shawarmas, and burgers. Valerie
enjoyed Maggy’s company, and those twenty minutes of her break were
opportunities to talk to her. Valerie ate the samosas like they were the best
things in the world, and she laughed a lot and listened intently to Maggy tell
her of the goings-on in her family.

Once, Valerie took Maggy to a mall, and they ate so much good food that Maggy
thought the world had ended. She felt out of place with her unbrushable hair
and drab clothes, among all the nicely dressed people. But Valerie didn’t care,
she held her hand and flaunted her to people she knew. She scolded those who
said bad things about Maggy, even those who gave them disapproving looks.

Valerie gave Maggy a Fifty Kwacha as her own on her way back home. Maggy
didn’t know what to do with the money, it was too much for her. On her way
home, she bought herself a pink panty. At least it wouldn’t be visible to Mother.
She also bought a fizzy drink and drank on her way home. But there was still so
much money. She decided to throw away some of the samosas when no one was
looking, and included the equivalent money among that to give to her mother.
She hid the rest of her money in her panty, and spent it on foods and fizzy
drinks the next few days.

Mother only got to know that a lady named Valerie bought four samosas
daily and she praised her as a good customer, even though she never met her.
She would say almost daily, “Greet Valerie for me. Give her the biggest samosas

Maggy began to understand that Valerie was a lonely woman. She could have
no children, and her husband had run away to another woman who could bear
children. She had few friends, and even those few gave her no comfort. She
hated them, she told Maggy, as she opened up more to the girl. She hated her
work and workmates, because they were “big pretenders”. There was hardly anyone
Valerie liked, except for Maggy. She soon began calling her “My daughter” and seemed
the happiest woman in those few moments they spent together. Valerie was never
concerned about who saw them together. Maggy never understood that, but she
appreciated Valerie’s buying of samosas and her kindness towards her.

Today, Maggy found Valerie in her Jeep at a filling station. The back of
the vehicle was filled with bulging suitcases and bags. When Valerie saw Maggy,
she said, “You took long, daughter.” She opened the passenger door and motioned
for Maggy to enter.

Maggy hesitated.

“Come on, get in.”

But she just stood there, unsure. “I don’t want to go,” she finally said.

Valerie became stern and gave a hard look. “Margaret, put that thing down
and enter the car.”

Maggy put her samosa bucket on the ground and entered the vehicle, closed
the door.

Valerie smiled. “Good girl.” She started the car and drove away. “I
understand how hard it is. Leaving your mother and brothers. But you will send them
lots of money from there.”

Maggy just watched buildings and trees as they drove away.

Valerie spoke after a moment of silence. “You should really want this, my
daughter. I am giving you a better life. The job I’ve found is much better, and
it’s in a nice quiet town. You will go to school, excel and become all you have
ever dreamed, you will lack for nothing. And I will love you, and keep you well
and be the best parent to you.”

Maggy was silent.

Valerie slapped her palm onto the steering wheel. “I’m talking to you, Margaret!
You must respect me by answering.”

“Yes, Mummy.”

Valerie calmed down and smiled. “Good girl.”

And out of town the car sped.

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