Childhood Shorts – Chapter 5: Fried Chicken Fridays
Childhood Shorts – Chapter 5: Fried Chicken Fridays
August 05, 2019

(Photo by Léo Roza on Unsplash)

Daytime in Zambia was carefree and charming. It was filled with games and gladness and all the wonderful things that make childhood delightful. Nighttime, however, was the exact opposite. In many respects, the dark was disturbing. On occasion, it produced the kind of menacing mayhem that typically makes for exceptional nightmares. There were literally things that went bump in the night, others that caused you to scream out of fright. Or marshalled your instincts to flee or to fight. Or left you, eyes open, wishing hard for daylight. Oh, those nights in Lusaka, they just were not right.

Daytime brimmed with brightness. It had a lightness. It basically invited you to come out, soak up the sun, and be blessed by the gifting of the freshness of air. But nighttime? Nighttime had a shadowy, shifty shade that made even the bravest among us afraid. It had a gloominess. There was a moodiness. It gave you the apprehension that you ought to beware. For good reason. Wicked agendas would form in the night, and the malintent of malcontents was often then laid bare.

It would have been far too much for us to take, the scaredy-cat chills and the lying awake. Yet, somehow daddy managed to paint a tapestry of humor right over the creepy cracks in the nighttime narrative of our childhood. He kept us sane, when by all accounts we ought to have gone crazy. He brought jokes to a setting where despair would have been the more natural response. Daddy made commotion feel like comedy. He caused us to rationalize Olympia Park after dark in much the same way as we might digest an episode of Tom and Jerry (1940 to 1976). An experience full of exaggerated sound and fury, which in the end is best responded to by a good laugh. Daddy helped us hold out throughout those long Lusaka nights, despite how outrightly furious and fretful and frightening they evidently were.

Tom and Jerry is that long-running animated short-film series created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Tom is a mischievous house cat and Jerry, a playfully cunning city mouse who lives behind the skirting boards of the house that Tom protects. The rapport between the two is highly schizophrenic. Jerry is at the same time Tom’s arch enemy and also his best friend. They often are at loggerheads with each other, and when they fight, they fight. Frequently, they resort to incredible acts of violence, though in the most uproariously funny and surprisingly memorable ways.

Still, Tom and Jerry are also very endearing in the way they band together. Whenever so compelled by the plot, their conflict becomes comradery and the two adversaries transform into most loyal compatriots. They help each other out, respond to common threats, and even collaborate to solve neighborhood mysteries.

This blend of anxious antagonism and amicable affection is the hallmark of their cat-and-mouse relationship. It is also the secret sauce of the series’ enduring status as a runaway hit for several decades. Hanna and Barbera were successful because they so ingeniously understood the human condition. In a world rampant with inequality, the two creators appreciated that scarcity is king. Creatures occupying the same terra firma territory are very much prone, just as Tom and Jerry so wonderfully portray, to fight each other tooth and nail for a limited set of resources and assets. It is scarcity that makes human beings, and even cats and mice, behave in ways most peculiar, and do the strangest of things.

In Olympia Park, these strange things took the form of radical robberies. Post-colonial Zambia suffered inequalities in resources and opportunity that made the environment challenging for everyone, both the haves and have-nots.

“Hey, did you hear?”

“No. Hear what?”

“The family at the corner got burgled again.”

“Again? When?”

“Friday. “

“Didn’t they just get robbed last weekend too?”

“Yes, last Friday.”

“Do they always get broken into on Fridays?”

“No. Only on the Fridays when they have fried chicken for dinner.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes.”

“Wow!”

“Sure.”

“Only chicken?

“Fried chicken.”

“Not beef, nor lamb, nor fish?”

“Just chicken.”

“I wonder what it is it about fried chicken?”

“I would venture nobody knows.”

“You’d think they would stop eating fried chicken.”

“Yes, you would. You would, now, wouldn’t you?”

“Incredible. Anyway, how’s the misses? And, tell me, what are you having for dinner this Friday?”

“Ha! Vegetarian, just to be safe. And you?”

When adults in Olympia Park had conversations about theft, they were fairly nonchalant. It was not the done thing to make a great public hoopla of being burgled, even when you were the victim of the crime. Perhaps this was because households got hit so frequently. Indeed, in our neighborhood, burglary became quite a matter-of-fact occurrence, and a sort of inescapable eventuality. Curbside culture dictated that theft was something you quietly took in your stride. Behind the scenes, however, it was common knowledge that the actual experience of being robbed itself was hurtful and harrowing.

It was stories like the fried-chicken-fiasco that made homeowners suspicious. Many believed that the burglaries in Olympia Park were the product of insider information. They were distrustful of their domestic workers, whom they believed were in cahoots with clandestine criminal cohorts. Perhaps of their own volition, or due to external pressure, homeowners could not say. But they were convinced their domestic workers were making a way for the thieves. How else, they would argue, would the robbers know what they knew? Like what each household had of value, and where homeowners hid the good stuff. Or which of the homes might be easy to burgle, and which of them might be too tough. Or when to strike and when to lay low. Or what time of night was a go or no-go. Only an insider could make all of this known. Perhaps disgruntled domestic workers were throwing beady burglars a bone? Without proof, the homeowners were not positively sure. But this was a prevailing theory that the neighborhood could not ignore.

In defense of their own dignity, domestic workers protested that homeowners were overly paranoid. Lusaka, after all, was rampant with crime, and the criminals were indiscriminate. Moreover, anyone could tell where the valuables were. It was not rocket science. They were somewhere behind the Durawalls that surrounded the houses of the middle and upper classes. Obviously. Burglars did not need any surreptitious messages from domestic workers to figure that out. The fact that homeowners hid themselves behind steel gates and high walls essentially gave it away.

Who is to say? Whether aided or not, the criminals that canvassed Olympia Park treated it like a shopping mall. A perfect place to pick up almost anything on the proverbial “honey-get” list. Clearly, robbers are different from regular mallgoers. Mallgoers by definition actually go to real malls. They do not pilfer property from other people’s homes. Mallgoers, for the most part, see fit to pay for whatever they purchase, because shopping is a transactional exchange. Not like thievery. The burglars of Olympia Park were hardly inclined to recompense anyone for the possessions they took. They basically broke in, broke out, and after that they booked. In between their ins and outs, they left their victims spooked.

I should know. I was there. Though to be clear, I was not your typical eyewitness. I confess, I did not see any of the crimes go down. What I did do was hear them. I am not talking about the third-party accounts that were aswirl around the neighborhood. What I mean is that I actually heard robberies in real-time, right as the rogues were wreaking havoc remorselessly throughout our residence. In that regard, I suppose I was more of an earwitness than an eye.

Related Posts

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 38: Greater Glory

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 38: Greater Glory

Aside from the title, any writing assignment we did at St. George’s College required inclusion of the date and the initialism A.M.D.G. (abbreviation for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam). The latter was a reminder for us boys. A prompt to help us put into practice a foundational principle of our school community.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 37: Man in the Window

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 37: Man in the Window

Mommy was nowhere to be seen. But a group of orderlies rushed out to the parking lot. They took hold of the man and ushered him into the building, back to the solitary confinement of his ward. Our chests were still heaving when mommy finally returned.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 36: Latchcar Kids

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 36: Latchcar Kids

I spent a good portion of my early childhood in the car. Babysitting options were rather limited back then and we were too young to stay home alone. Mommy therefore took us everywhere. On visits to see friends, to appointments, and on her various tours of chores.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 35: The Beast

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 35: The Beast

I continued to prioritize basketball even after I completed high school. Zimbabwe had a budding men’s league that boasted competitive teams. I first joined Hellenics Basketball Club where Sludge and a few other St. George’s College graduates were playing.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 34: Gone to the Dogs

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 34: Gone to the Dogs

Ross once told me it was possible to die from breathing in a single strand of a dog’s fur. I believed him. Not because it was necessarily true, but because Ross was the one who had said it. When he wanted to, the kid could be awfully convincing.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 33: Puppy Love

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 33: Puppy Love

How could I not fall for her? She was gorgeous. I loved her from the first moment I set eyes on her. She was shy and a little timid in her surroundings. But I think she noticed I was smiling and that helped her settle.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 32: School Police

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 32: School Police

Jets was not alone in the execution of discipline. He had help from prefects. Prefects were deputized agents of the school’s system of control. They were a small body of boys from the sixth-form (twelfth-grade) called out to preside as watchmen over the broader student body.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 31: Hartmann Hill Sheriff

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 31: Hartmann Hill Sheriff

Among the films daddy brought home during the 1980s, Cahill: U.S. Marshall (1973) was probably the first in the cowboy genre we ever watched on VCR. Just for that reason, we played it repeatedly. John Wayne’s character, J.D. Cahill, is a lawman of incorruptible integrity and saddlebags of style.

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 30: The Real Fall Guys

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 30: The Real Fall Guys

(Photo by Noom Peerapong on Unsplash) There is a chorus of crickets and frogs, and other creatures as well. Its sounds pierce the silence of night just as the light of the new day begins to perforate the darkness. The calls are joined by the noises of birds, and of...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 29: The Good Old Days

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 29: The Good Old Days

Our starting point guard was Clive Rugara, a wizard with the ball in his hands. For a guy who shuffled his feet, Clive was super-fast on the dribble. He had a Magic Johnson type of game. It came with full-court vision that spanned 365 degrees. Clive could see...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 28: Ting, Ting. Round One

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 28: Ting, Ting. Round One

Two separate walls of cheering students flanked the basketball court where the final game would be played. On one side, an army of red blazers. On the other, a battalion of purple blazers. Between them, air that was thick with tension, excitement, and anticipation....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 27: Rise of the Wolf Pack

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 27: Rise of the Wolf Pack

The shift from “Saints Basketball” to “Saints Wolves” was subtle. But for us schoolboys, it was a micro-reflection of the sentiment that had captured the nation in 1980 when the country's name changed from “Rhodesia” to “Zimbabwe.” In 1991, we broke the seal on our...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 26: A Bullish Makeover

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 26: A Bullish Makeover

If you were a basketball fan from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, you either loved or you hated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The NBA third draft pick behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie, Jordan joined the league from North Carolina in 1984. His entry into...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 25: One Basket, All Eggs

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 25: One Basket, All Eggs

(Photo by Autumn Mott Rodeheaver on Unsplash) At St. John’s Prep., I was a relatively big fish in a small pond. When I arrived at St. George’s College, I realized that I was a rather minute tadpole in a significantly larger body of water. The pool of talent was...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 24: Hustle and Grow

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 24: Hustle and Grow

(Photo by TJ Dragotta on Unsplash) “Again.” Salty streams of sticky sweat slipped and swept along my brow. Dripped and dropped their drenching dew, down my eyelids and through my lashes. They irritated with their splashes the saline surface of my corneas. “Again.”...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 23: Unfinished Business

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 23: Unfinished Business

Although only sixteen years old in 1986, Sludge emerged as the top scorer on the first team. He amassed a total of 214 points by the last whistle of the final game. He brought a different level of skill, flair, confidence, and style to the play of Saints basketball....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 22: Finding Nemesis

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 22: Finding Nemesis

(Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash) Vernon Williams pulled up at the three point line, to the right of the top of the key. He pump-faked. But the defender was too experienced to take the bait. The guy stayed planted, doing exactly what his coach had instructed....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 21: Homies R Bad.d

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 21: Homies R Bad.d

(Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash) “Ask me what I’m doing!” “What?” “I said, ask me what I’m doing.” “Ok, Jerry. What you doing?” “Me? Just minding my business.” “Great.” “Now, ask me what my business is.” “Come on, man. I’ve got better things to do.” “No. Ask me...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 20: Fly Guys, Fly Girls

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 20: Fly Guys, Fly Girls

(Photo by Melody Jacob on Unsplash) Post-colonial colorism also made dating complicated. At the top of the girlfriend wishlist of every teenage schoolboy was a musikana mutsvuku (light-skinned girl). Even among us bantu-black sub-Saharan Africans, melanin, or too much...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 19: Wannabees and MaNose

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 19: Wannabees and MaNose

(Photo by Calvin Lupiya on Unsplash) The 1980s were difficult if you had no rhythm, but brutal if you had no style. If you fell into the unfortunate category where both were true, then staying asleep would probably have been the safest way to get through the decade...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 18: How Many Left Feet?

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 18: How Many Left Feet?

(Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash) Before the end of my first year at St. George’s College, I was grafted into a small, gritty, and eclectic posse of boys. Tavona Chihambakwe, Garikai Maphosa, Nelesh Gulab, and Vusimusi Nondo. We were bonded together by our compatible...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 17: Chop and Hop

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 17: Chop and Hop

(Photo by Ben Wiens on Unsplash)If it was at all within your power, you would do well not to miss late night television on Fridays. Particularly those final two hours of programming before the midnight shutdown. The timeslot drew a large, faithful, and near-cultish...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 16: Boogie with a Disco Queen

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 16: Boogie with a Disco Queen

Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash The Bees Knees became my go-to move. Much so for the next ten years. I pulled it out every opportunity I had to dance. I went from novice, to expert, to one-trick pony with this singular aspect of the Charleston. It worked for...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 15: The Bees Knees

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 15: The Bees Knees

No matter where we lived, whether in Zambia before independence or in Zimbabwe afterwards, our lives were invariably filled with music. Daddy was always listening to something or other from his collection of long-play vinyl records. And mommy, our songbird, could...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 14: Red Blazer Nation

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 14: Red Blazer Nation

I believe I cried on the first day of school at St. George’s. Possibly the second day too. I was overwhelmed and rather intimidated. The college is a sprawling empire of a campus, with fields that stretch out like interlocking plantations. It has courts, and pools,...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 13: More than Blazer Thin

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 13: More than Blazer Thin

St. John’s Prep. was not just a school. It was and still is an admired institution across Harare and Zimbabwe. The school first opened in 1956 with 13 students. Its initial mission was to provide a “sound system of education in an atmosphere conducive to the growth...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 12: A Race for Relevance

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 12: A Race for Relevance

Let go of Superman? Not a Cadbury bar’s chance at a chocoholic’s convention. Giving him up would essentially be abandoning comics. Losing Superman meant forsaking Clark Kent. Which I was not at all prepared to do. In my mind, it was Clark who made Superman super....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 11: It’s Not About the Cape

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 11: It’s Not About the Cape

(Photo by Zbysiu Rodak on Unsplash)If we were not reading Asterix or The Adventures of Tintin, we were huddled by the television watching a variety of new shows and reruns courtesy of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s TV1 channel. The station brought joy to...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 10: Ice Cream and Skin

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 10: Ice Cream and Skin

(Photo by Mark Cruz on Unsplash)Asterix was by far my favorite hero. A shrewd, crafty, defiant, and plucky little warrior, living in about 50BC. In the stories, Gaul, his homeland, is occupied by the Romans, except for one small village where he lives. Asterix’ best...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 9: Blame the British

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 9: Blame the British

Our first twenty-four months in Zimbabwe were like one prolonged episode of the reality documentary This is Your Life (1952 to 1961). Except a better title for our experience would have been something like “This is Your Parent’s Country.” Almost every day was a...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 8: The Grasshopper Instinct

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 8: The Grasshopper Instinct

(Photo by Bradley Feller on Unsplash)During those early years in Zambia, I generally paid attention only to those things that directly affected my little life. After all, there was plenty to keep me busy in our dynamic, unpredictable, and oftentimes perplexing...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 7: The Life of Bugs

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 7: The Life of Bugs

(Photo by Manlake Gabriel on Unsplash) Nothing unnerves me quite like snakes but bugs I do not like. If I am being honest, I have never really appreciated them. I find them to be totally creepy, crawly, and vexatious. Having said that, I do not abhor them all equally....

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 6: Snakes and Robbers

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 6: Snakes and Robbers

(Photo by David Clode on Unsplash) “Mubuso. Wake up. Go to our room. Be quick and hurry up.” Our household, like many others in Olympia Park, had a burglary-preparedness protocol. If a home was ever invaded, children were to scurry into the safest room in the house...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 4: All Things Nice

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 4: All Things Nice

Despite them taking advantage of me in vexing ways, I could never stay angry at my two sisters. My blood should have boiled, watching them roll over each other on the floor laughing, tickled by the success of their mischief. But their cheeky chuckling was deeply...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 3: Super Nudge

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 3: Super Nudge

Quarreling is certainly one way to demonstrate to the world the depth of your foolishness. Another quite effective method is to show yourself to be impressionable. Granted, I had the excuse of childish naivety in my early years, but I must admit that I was as gullible...

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 2: Hot Ross Summer

Childhood Shorts – Chapter 2: Hot Ross Summer

We were a sorry pair, but by golly, what good times. My brother and I were regularly rendered into two convulsing, spluttering, blubbering, blue-faced, and half-conscious heaps of wide-eyed crazy. We experienced many such episodes during our childhood. They were...