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August Debut

Issue 2; October/November


Lauri Kubuitsile


Lauri Kubuitsile

Lauri Kubuitsile is a writer living in the beautiful Tswapong Hills in
Botswana. Her short stories have appeared in New Contrasts, AuthorAfrica
2007 and Mslexia, among others. She has one published novella entitled
The Fatal Payout (Macmillan 2005). Besides writing fiction, she is a
freelancer for Botswana's only daily private newspaper, Mmegi, and
writes educational material including radio lessons and is currently
working on a series of textbooks. She is married with two teenage

Eddie Fisher Won’t Be Comin’ In Today

Viva McVee arrived that day at the tail end of a dust storm, and as the empty Simba chip packets settled back in the branches of the leafless hedge at the school gate, out of the grey dust appeared a woman. I sat on the lid of the dustbin outside of the airless staff room smoking a cigarette and as she emerged I felt my heart jump and knew, from the look of her, that we were in for something.

“I’m looking for the headmaster,” she said in her odd way, holding each word a fraction of a second too long in her mouth, caressing it with her tongue before letting it loose into the air to be gobbled up by my waiting ears. My eyes rested on her lips- full and red, her eyes- almond and swirlingly deep and luscious, her body- thin waist, broad come-hither hips; I was lost in her physical aura and just as I drifted away into Viva McVee fantasyland, a place I was to spend an inordinate amount of time during the coming weeks, I was pulled back into reality by the cigarette burning my fingers. Throwing it to the ground, I said, “He’s inside. Should I take you?”

The words she spoke that day were rare gems but I didn’t know that just yet. Viva McVee, we were to come to realise, was not big on conversation. It wasn’t that she was a snob, she just had no interest in speaking to anyone or hearing anything anyone had to say to her. Viva McVee seemed perfectly happy in her own mind. Her presence, though, caused a lot of noise as the huge, fat opaque block of lust-filled dreams of a school full of male teachers and puberty entrapped boys needed space, and it squeezed into the dust-covered little patch of matchbox teachers’ houses causing loud squeaks and groans and complaints of “move over”, bending things that in the end I realised should never have been bent.

Viva McVee hardly spoke, that is, until she met Eddie Fisher. Of all of the men she could have chosen, why Eddie Fisher, no one could figure out. Garamond stood up in the staff room full of indignation when it was realised he would not be the one, “Look at me for God’s sake.” Heads bobbed in agreement, without a doubt he was the best looking among us, we all knew it. Viva McVee seemed to have overlooked that fact.

“And at least I have money,” Lubamba lamented from the corner, the only one at the school with a working car.

But she chose Eddie Fisher. Eddie Fisher with the blue-checked shirts for Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the red for Tuesday and Thursday. Eddie Fisher who was as tall as most form one boys and so thin most of the same could lift him over their heads if they were forced to. We all had to admit that he did have two perfectly sculpted ears and a lovely little smile, though few had seen much of it before Viva McVee showed up. Smiling had not been a big part of Eddie Fisher’s life up until then and that was primarily because of Thelma.

The unseen Thelma was little more than a voice echoing nightly through the nooks and crannies of the teachers’ quarters, sending shivers down people’s backs and planting seeds for horrific nightmares. “What you doin’ now Eddie Fisher?” It would question in a tone set aside for ghouls and goblins.

“I’ve seen her,” Lubamba would tell people. “She’s as wide and as tall as the door frame. Her massive breasts nearly touch the floor. That day I saw her, she pulled Eddie Fisher, gasping for air, out from under one of ‘em.”

Though the men in the staff room listened with all seriousness, they knew Lubamba’s story couldn’t be trusted, nobody’s Thelma stories could. And there were many stories at that school at the edge of the desert. Rumour had it that a whole day was set aside out at the lonely boys’ hostels just to tally up the latest story about Eddie Fisher’s wife. Sometimes she was tiny with her flesh like biltong holding tightly to her cranky bones or round and short with angry eyebrows sharp as knives. Sometimes she was a sex-starved nymphomaniac that had been known to snatch up a boy who’d let his mind and steps wander and drifted too close to the house’s front door. Other times she was a cold fish who tossed poor Eddie Fisher to the ground if he spied her out of the corner of his lust-filled eye. Though the stories moved up and down and left and right, without sense or reason, based on little fact and a whole lot of speculation, everybody agreed on one thing — Thelma was scary and Eddie Fisher had a seriously hard-luck life. At least until Viva McVee arrived.


Viva spotted Eddie after a week and from then on they were always together except when he disappeared into Thelma’s house followed by a “Where ya been Eddie Fisher?” ringing through the school. The staff kept an eye on Viva and Eddie as they snuck away to sit under the big camel thorn tree near the science laboratory. Once there Viva McVee talked and laughed, throwing her head back and her long shapely legs forward with abandon. Eddie Fisher would giggle into his hand and smile and smile at Viva.

“What could they even be talking about?” Garamond asked peering from the corner of the staff room window.

“I know Eddie likes reading, maybe they’re talking about books,” I tried, knowing by the look of the two, that books were not the topic of conversation.

Viva reached her hand forward and with her long finger she slowly traced the edge of Eddie’s shapely ear. The staff room let out a painful sigh. It was too much for Lubamba. “Damn that Eddie Fisher! Damn him to hell!” And he pulled the curtains shut and, with a look of his eye, dared anyone to open them.

I wasn’t jealous of Eddie Fisher. I’d heard Thelma's bellows and had spent two years watching Eddie creep around the school trying his best to stay unnoticed. I’d found him there when I arrived. Stories at the time had it that he’d been posted at the school when it started five years previously. A clerk at TSM in Gaborone, 800 odd kilometres away, had thrown his blue file deep at the back of a cabinet, never to be found again, when Thelma bellowed into her face that she was not going to move out to the desert. Thanks to Thelma, Eddie was now permanent and pensionable at that forgotten, windswept, corner of Botswana. No, I couldn’t slight Eddie Fisher, he hadn’t brought Viva McVee to him, she came of her own volition. A drop of good luck after a deluge of bad.


Three weeks after Viva’s arrival Eddie went missing. I was sitting in my usual place on the dustbin lid, trying to find a breath of fresh air in the stagnant heat that engulfed us, when Viva rushed up.

“Where’s Eddie Fisher?”

I shrugged my shoulders. I was among the unhappy ones, the not chosen, and now I had the opportunity to let her know my view, if by actions only.

“He’s not come to school today. I think she’s keeping him in.” Her lovely smooth skin was flushed and in her frantic state, she forgot to close her lips completely when she was done speaking and my mind drifted away on the sight of them. “Someone must go and ask Thelma.”

I was yanked back rudely. “Ask Thelma?” The sun had addled her, I concluded. In frustration at my refusal to help her she left, running for the staff room. She managed to wrangle up Lubamba, a youngster named Jakes and the always willing Garamond. I trailed along behind hoping I might get a peep at the illusive Thelma but not willing to be at the front in case her eyes threw radioactivity or she chose to direct her piercing voice in my direction causing permanent damage to my hearing.

The small parade headed down the dusty drive, under the baking noonday sun, along the back of the teachers’ houses to the tin roofed one occupied by Eddie and Thelma Fisher. Lubamba, at the front, gave a quick look back at us trying to show he had no fear and then knocked without much conviction on the metal door. When it opened, he jumped back. From the darkness, a voice bellowed,” Eddie Fisher won’t be comin’ in today.” The door slammed shut and we backed away, not sure of what we saw or didn’t see. We moved away quickly despite the worried pleas of Viva McVee.

Thelma was right. Eddie Fisher didn’t come in that day and then the next and the next and finally didn’t come at all. Discussion was rampant as to what had happened.

“She killed him, I know it,” Garamond insisted.

“Maybe, but then what?” I asked. “What’d she do with the body?”

“Who knows with Thelma?” Lubamba asked shrugging his shoulders. “Maybe she ate him.” He threw a card down from the tattered stack in his hand and, though he didn’t seem to be playing any card game in particular, he became annoyed at what the card revealed and picked them all up in resignation and began shuffling the deck again. “Thelma had enough of Eddie and Viva and put an end to it the only way she could.”

The disappearance took its toll on Viva McVee. As time passed, she began to talk to the absent Eddie, and walk around the school grounds with him even though he was nothing but a painful patch of air next to her. Like most things at that school in the desert, we got used to it. Like the ghoulish shouts of the enigmatic Thelma, and the missing Eddie Fisher, the beautiful, mad Viva McVee became a part of our lives, living side by side with the dust storms and the relentless desert heat as the days passed and Eddie Fisher became more and more absent.

Time passed and one day a moving truck pulled up to Eddie Fisher’s house. Crowding at the staff room window, we watched the men move up and down between the truck and the house carrying surprisingly ordinary things: sofas, tables, a bed. I saw Viva McVee standing at the edge of the teachers’ quarters, her hands hanging at her sides, waiting to see what would come out of that house. If Eddie would be part of the household contents.

When the moving men were finished Thelma emerged from the house and everyone became silent. The time had come. We were finally going to know the truth about Eddie Fisher’s wife and possible killer. I held my breath and I was not alone I think because the air in the staff room became still with the lack of respiring activities.

And suddenly there she was. She was not big or small; she was not old or very young, nor ugly or beautiful. She wore a non-descript dress and a doek on her head. She had neither fangs nor claws.
”Well that is anti climatic,“ Garamond said a fraction of a second too soon because then Thelma saw Viva McVee standing waiting for her Eddie Fisher to finally re-emerge from the house where he’d last been seen.

“What you want there girl?” Thelma screeched and I covered my ears involuntarily wondering how Viva, who was much closer to the horrible sound, stood exactly as she had, arms hanging at her side, her ears without protection.

“I want to say good-bye to Eddie Fisher,” Viva said and the staff room oohed at her bravery.

Thelma took a few steps toward Viva and we shivered in fear thinking Thelma was planning to snap Viva in two, but then she stopped. She looked at Viva with eyes black as ebony and then threw her head back and laughed. She laughed and laughed, a laugh so devoid of happiness or joy it made the lone camel thorn tree shrink back a few inches and the people listening suddenly think about the graves of loved ones, puppies smashed flat under car tyres and babies falling off tables. It was the worst of life disguised inside a bright yellow balloon- terrible trickery. The laugh hung in the hot, dust laden air as Thelma went back to the truck, pulled herself inside and they drove away.

As soon as the moving truck was out the school gate, Viva ran straight for Eddie Fisher’s house. “Eddie!” she shouted into the open door. “Eddie!” she shouted into the corners of the empty sitting room. “Eddie!” she shouted at the crushed Coke tin laying in the dirty corner where the marks on the tiles showed a refrigerator had stood.

I followed in behind her, hoping to capitalise on her final despair. “He’s not here. He’s gone, Viva. Eddie Fisher is gone.” I held out my arms and she ran straight passed them without a word, out the door and towards the desert. I turned and ran after her but stopped at the edge of the school compound. In 50C heat, beautiful Viva McVee or not, I was not stepping out into that. She’d come back and I’d be waiting. But she didn’t.

Days passed. Students were grouped into search parties led by a teacher, sent out into the desert once the sun lowered a bit. Contingents went out each day and returned, but Viva McVee was no where to be found. Her tracks crissed and crossed like a drunk staggering home after a binge but they led no where. After five days, we accepted the inevitable. Viva McVee was dead. Where we didn’t know, but dead nonetheless.

“It wasn’t meant to last,” Garamond said philosophically.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Lubamba asked inexplicably annoyed.

“I mean Viva. You can’t bring something like that out here without something giving.”

I looked at Garamond and considered what he said. Maybe he was right. Still I couldn’t shake the mystery of it. Where did Eddie Fisher go? Where was Viva? And what did Thelma know?


I was lucky, because just before I’d fallen into the suspended animation of the despair of the forgotten, I was transferred back to the world of the living. I was lucky to get a place in the north in the city of Francistown, full of plenty of women so that a Viva McVee or two caused no disturbances or dangers. Life was back to normal and I’d nearly forgotten all about Eddie Fisher and Viva McVee and their mysterious disappearances. I had new things to occupy my time. I was in love. I was in love with the pretty Lorato. I’d learned my lesson from a distance; passionate, wild, reckless love was dangerous. I would settle for the calm, breeze of love, lightly touching me here and there, harming no one as offered by Lorato.

We were walking home from the cinema one cool winter evening and she talked about a new woman who’d come to work with her at the council office where she was employed as a social worker.

“She’s beautiful but there’s something about her,” Lorato said.

I was only listening with half my mind, the other half was wondering how I could convince Lorato that despite having to get up for work the next morning, that she should spend the night at my small flat. “What’s wrong with her?” I asked absentmindedly.

“You know Willie Rebone, that tall, thin awkward one who runs the computer system?” she asked.
I brought my mind back to the conversation. “Yeah I know him.”

“So this woman suddenly is attracted to him. Him of all people. She’s beautiful, with these amazing eyes and curving hips, and she speaks in this slow odd way. I just don’t get it.” Lorato shook her head at the strangeness of it. “Anyway, Viva’s also a bit strange, hardly says a word to anyone but Willie. A bit stuck on herself maybe.”

I stopped walking and grabbed Lorato by the sides of her face yanking her head towards me. “What did you say her name was?”

“Ouch! You’re hurting me. What is wrong with you?” Lorato pulled away and stood at some distance from me. “She’s Viva, Viva McVee.”

“You’re lying. Why are you saying that?”

“What do you mean I’m lying? That’s her name. Why would I lie? What is wrong with you?” She started walking away angrily.

I ran after her. “I’m sorry. It’s just I knew a Viva, a Viva McVee. I thought she was dead.”


The next day I skipped work and lingered around Lorato’s office waiting for Viva to emerge. It was past the lunch hour rush and I still hadn’t seen Viva. I dodged Lorato coming back from lunch with a group of her officemates only by ducking into a nearby Chinese shop, hiding behind a rack of clothes smelling of mothballs, ignoring the shouts of “What you want here?” from the tiny fierce old Chinese lady.

Just as the last late comers entered the building, I saw Viva sitting on a big stone with Willie from Lorato’s office. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was her. She had survived the desert and the loss of Eddie Fisher and now she was happily in love again. I wanted to go up to her, but something stopped me. I watched her kiss Willie and then run her fingers along his neck and my stomach jumped at the sensuousness of it. I thought again about ruining her happiness with my unhappy Eddie Fisher baggage. Though I was curious about how she had survived and where she had made off to that day, I couldn’t interrupt her happiness with my curiosity. I took one last look at her and walked away.


I never mentioned Viva again and Lorato never brought her up. I got the impression she thought Viva had been one of my old girlfriends and I sort of liked that she thought that, so we all kept quiet, keeping our Viva thoughts to ourselves.

It was an October day sparkling and bright after an early morning shower. Lorato and I were walking to the nearby park to eat our takeaway lunch of fried chicken. I was thinking about how when we sat down on a park bench, I would talk to Lorato about serious things; about marriage and children. I had decided it was time to get things moving in that direction. Today was the day, this shiny day would be the day my life took a new turn.

We found a bench in the shade and I bent down to wipe the stray raindrops off with one of the serviettes. “You won’t believe what has happened,” Lorato said sitting down and unpacking the chicken and chips inside the bag, placing them carefully on the bench between us. “Willie has gone missing.”

My heart stopped and I asked a bit too sharply, “Missing? What about Viva?”

Lorato took a bite of chicken and chewed and swallowed it as I waited the agonizingly long seconds for her answer. “She’s beside herself with worry. He hasn’t been to work all week. Disappeared into thin air it seems.”

I sat back on the bench and forgot all about my plans of marriage and children. I forgot about chicken. I forgot about everything. As Lorato’s voice asked from far away in the distance, “Are you okay?” all I could see in front of me was the beautiful, sexy Viva appearing out of the dust that day so long ago at the school at the edge of the desert, appearing out of the dust like a ghostly apparition, looking for the headmaster but, I began to realise now, in search of something altogether different.

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