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A Thousand Stories from the Scrapyard


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A Thousand Stories from the Scrapyard

Childhood exuberance would often lead us into some of the oddest places in our search for hidden thrills that were tucked somewhere within the community’s corners. From the mischievous and daring act of swimming in dirty deep waters that meandered nearby, to stealing mangoes, berries, and guavas from neighboring orchards to incite rage from both the property owners and their guard dogs. On those few days when we were momentary good boys and girls, after a series of parental rebukes, we would always find ourselves gravitating towards the scrapyard. From there we would scrounge for wires, pieces of metal bars, and bottle tops to make wire cars and other improvised toys.

One day a friend had ‘a good find’ from one of the piles of rubbish. It was an old television set with a wooden exterior that we could use as a prop in a game called Mahumbwe (A Shona word meaning-playing house). Without paying attention to detail, we carried the heavy load home. Upon arrival, we started to feed our curiosity about this discovery. Some suggested that it could be used as a prop resembling a table, some thought it wiser to have it as a stool, playfully pushing each other and taking turns to sit on top of it. Finally, we all agreed that the broken-down gadget was to remain as a television prop in our game. We then gathered bricks and carefully arranged them one on top of the other. Later we placed our television set on an elevated platform we had created. Quietly in our humble dozen, we sat down facing the broken screen, shepherding our minds into our little imaginary worlds. Suddenly an air of fear and panic gripped us all. Pandemonium unexpectedly took over as we scattered from the scene like morning mist that had been pierced by sunrise’s first rays. We ran with great speeds befitting an Olympic contest. What dreadful thing happened on the day? We shall come to that in a moment, for now, let’s go back to the scrapyard. In all our escapades to this place as young adventurers, it was always evident that the place exuded a profound statement that I could not properly decipher back then. Reflecting years later, it dawned that the scrapyard might just be an allegory of different human experiences in the face of trauma, rejection, and pain.

Some were useful pieces of machinery that lightened the day’s labor in the artisans’ hands. With only a few scratches, unoiled components, lost bolts, and screws, one was not patient enough to look into the details of their malfunctions, and a hasty decision was passed that saw them being unjustly qualified as candidates for the scrapyard. Among the choking fumes of burning rubber, disused metal sheets, and yesteryear shells of dumped apparatus, they are now buried, distanced from either sight or rescue. With each passing day, their lamentations pour over the years they gifted in unflinching faithfulness to duty which was rewarded with betrayal and neglect.

Some are parked cars in the scrapyard, whose owners towed them there, with the promise of an imminent return that never saw the light of day. In the bruising heat of summer, through the chilling bite of winter and the unforgiving lashes of the rain, they have waited in vain, facing the expectantly. Memories of days gone past prick through their hearts as they reminisce how they were once the jewels of adoration, cutting through the city’s highways in spirited races. Parked in silence, they yield to the uncut grass blanketing their fading exteriors. Reduced to a habitation of rodents and cats. Sometimes hope is re-awakened by the sound of approaching footsteps, but these are just opportunistic preying hands, descending to dismantle their remaining parts for the market.

Some in the scrapyard are effective tools without taint or blight, that were valued in their former posts. As a result of proximity to the factory’s metal waste, they were accidentally bundled together with the unwanted matter and a place for them among rusty rejects was found. They wish to find their way home, longing for another chance to be in the affectionate warm hands of their handlers, where they were once cleaned, polished, and retired to a safe toolbox, but home is now a thousand miles away. The void of loss once felt by the ones who loved them has already been filled by another.

Some in the scrapyard are old picture frames and broken chairs. Through countless years they have been crowns of different abodes, harboring memories and rocking dreamers into attaining their cherished desires. The walk of experience saw them amassing wisdom. Guided they have to safety, the swaying vessels of history. Generations have gone, eras have crumbled and their continual presence was a reminder of the treasured moments shared. Now neglected and dumped, they gaze at the starry skies, as if in meditation, while covered in soot and dust.

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As we traverse the corridors of time towards the future of Africa and its people may all those broken by the ills of life find rejuvenation. May all those troubled by the trauma of betrayal and unfulfilled promises find repose. For those whose quest for reconciliation is seemingly hitting a brick wall, may light guide their paths into spaces where they will find new purpose and meaning. The realization that we are part of a broader family must stir us into making sure we all help each other to find restfulness from the traumas of this world.

Hopefully, you still recollect that story where my childhood colleagues and I gazed upon that broken television set we had picked from the scrapyard. Well, matters didn’t unfold as expected. When we looked through the broken screen we realized in great shock that there was a live snake coiled inside the television set, hissing, seemingly ready to strike. From that day we also learned that nothing found at the scrapyard must be brought home without properly checking. Food for thought.

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