OUT in the hinterland, Lazzo was heading home at last and was hitch-hiking on the highway en route to Lusaka.
Barely 10 minutes standing on the wayside a lorry laden with chunks of beef being driven to the city showed up and he was in a situation that called for desperate measures.
He had to get to the city before dusk as it was getting late in the afternoon as he had to rush and get back to the hustle and bustle of city life. He had had enough of the countryside for the moment.
The truck stopped and Lazzo went to the side window and spoke to the lorry-mate who said if he did not mind he could jump on top of the meat on which a tent was spread over.
He could see three other people seated on the mound of meat chopped in large chunks. Lazzo briskly stepped on the rear wheel as he climbed the truck and soon perched himself atop.
The truck sped off into the bush and as the truck headed towards a t-junction, the truck suddenly stopped. Lazzo was bewildered when he saw the driver and lorry-mate jump out and run for their lives!
Three other passengers, including Lazzo did not know what to do as they sat idly while a group of people disembarked from another truck which had parked at the t-junction.
They were made to get down from the truck and were subjects of indiscriminate whipping and slapping.
The farmer who had waylaid the truck at the t-junction had apparently discovered that cattle rustlers from Lusaka had made off with two of his animals which were slaughtered.
This was an overnight operation and the farmer had figured out that to catch the culprits, he had to block them at the t-junction en route to Lusaka. It soon dawned on Lazzo that he had been offered a lift by cattle rustlers.
Meanwhile, a group of trackers hired by the farmer pursued the truck driver and his lorry-mate into the bush but were eluded and their pursuit was in vain. They later returned to pour their wrath on the passengers.
The farmer’s son suggested that the four passengers sit on the road so that he could run over their legs with a view to breaking them but was restrained by an elderly man who cautioned against the intended lawless act!
It was only when the law-enforcement officers discovered that Lazzo and the others were mere passengers that they were spared as the culprits had fled!
Lazzo took another swig at the opaque brew which had fermented overnight to above-average potency with mirth.
He narrated his plight to interested patrons some of whom marveled at his luck of weaving out of a lion’s den!
Another man seated at the far-end of the table explained to an awe-inspired audience that had been jailed for more than 22 years after he hit a man to death. After that he swore he would never lift a finger to fight anyone even under severe provocation!
“It is not nice to be there and imagine at the average age of most of the people here going there for 20 years, I would rather run away like that man in the Coward of the County song!,” the narrator trailed off.
It was Christmas Eve and most patrons did not realise it was past midnight as fireworks blasted off one after the other in the neighbourhood. It was not without mischief though.
One man put a firecracker in a bottle of beer and when the bottle exploded right under his nose it sent blades of broken glass and the projectiles made small wounds up to his neck although his face was intact!
Many around wondered what was going on in his weird mind to think of such a dangerous act. Another scallywag character lit a firecracker and threw it near a group of patrons most of whom protested at the irresponsible act.
After a few heckles from enraged patrons he was ejected from the premises before hell broke loose!
The firecrackers were commonplace and lit the skies into a colourful and noisy commotion. Someone commented that those firecrackers cost a fortune and poverty-stricken people had bought them starving their children in the process.
A trend had been upheld in the hood that at Christmas people must wear new clothes and eat rice, including meat and chicken. This menu was regarded as an exclusive cuisine.
“But I eat this kind of food everyday and why should I think that this food is meant for Christmas only?” asked another man who evidently sneered at such a festivities notion.
The love of meat soon made Lazzo recall his escape from the meat scandal and observed that the world was increasingly becoming full of crooked people. The exit from the meat scandal was a pointer to a permissive society.
Another storyteller disclosed how a Lusaka man travelled to the countryside with a drum of opaque brew to make some peasant farmers very drunk and then he would herd away one or two animals.
But sooner or later, someone noticed his gimmick and he was given a good hiding before he fled back to Lusaka with an empty van!
There were many tales from the men of the hood that kept flowing from imbibers who were reliving extraordinary episodes in which they were principal actors.
Staying awake in the night meant that Lazzo had to spend the day sleeping like the celebrated Maria fraternity who sleep by the day and become all-night revelers.
A connotation had been coined about them that at dusk, they always head towards the bright lights of a night club in the hood and that is their lifestyle trademark.
Life must ramble on for the discreet lot who when not sleeping during the day play cards and win cash in some hideout in the hood. Sometimes they bait household goods, including clothes!
Growing up and growing old as generations come and go, they soon become grandmothers!