A-fiftieth at Fifty by Linda Lilian (Winner of Femrite @50 Writing Competition)

“It was exciting reading fiction and nonfiction from the different writers about Uganda’s independence after fifty years. I saw Uganda in different perspective, culture and love for Uganda. The judging process gave me insight to huge talent we have in Uganda. The future is bright for Ugandan writers and we need opportunities to showcases our hidden talents. I am glad that many people took this seriously and came up with beautiful writing.” – Beatrice Lamwaka,  judge.

A-fiftieth at Fifty

A short story written by Linda Lilian, the winner of Femrite @50 writing competition 2012.

The gold of it all had been refined through the heat of it all. “Yes we are celebrating fifty,” her wrinkled face etched a smile that stretched the gloom to bloom. Perhaps a reminder of the grooming that gave her a groom on the eve her masters deemed her ripe for marriage. Her reward for being their help was a famous give away ceremony in which her groom made promises that even the moon and sun could not contend with in their day and night rotation of love and light.

“I was pure – virgin and ready…eager to behold a man’s strength, be a mother.” She reminisced. Her cloudy hair knitted in white cotton like crawlers. “My youthful spontaneity matched his young heart that thumped in drums of victory…and my lips sung along to the beat – freedom! freedom!”

As she spoke, the wither in her frame seemed to illuminate strength with an outburst of enthusiasm only a young lass would know.

“You have no idea,” she marveled,

“I was embossed with hope, endorsed with pride and my dreams where as vivid as the lunar eclipse. He was perfect in the sighting and I was perfect in the rhythm – it was independence my child. Our imagination of what it would be like far from our masters beckoning was now real as we walked the pathway, through a grand procession to the altar of liberty. In my womb a nation had awaited to be born. My body elated fertility. His body elated productivity. We were ready to reproduce. What a joy in a day of jubilant strides walking away from bondage to abound.”

Her speeches span the mind to think, “What grandeur – such love…but where was he.”

“Aaah – my child … he is on his way back from his usual…” she quipped, serving a mind-reading gaze to suit her mood.

The usual was all about the renowned sense of a man leaving single but married. He beheld his wife with a respectful title ‘mama’ but in the neighborhood he dared not hide the fact that he was who he was. A man of great resource and yet little source.

Together they had span 50 years of gold. Indeed the kind of gold that was pure – tried and tested by the burning furnace to be proven true and pure. The black smith had a testimony of this gold. He had been the sculptor of their destinies – before they approached the altar of liberty… it was he who had curved out their relationship and when he felt the time was ripe – it was he who freed the maiden to her betrothed and as the master, wedded them. “I know their quest – I know their fate.” His actions murmured.

Suddenly a glimpse of him appeared – her beloved. First came the shadow hovering before him praising the illusion of time, then the procession of his lanky frame.

“Don’t look that way – you have no idea how hunky that lanky frame was. Towering over me pointing me to a freedom I had not fathomed to have from the master. He gave me an appreciation of me just that once – and then things took their turn…as marriage can be. He learnt the swag long before his great-great-grandchildren could swag it. He felt confident spending lavishly and he never once stopped thinking I had a lot to offer than met the eye. So quietly he plundered me and even called back the masters offspring’s to be entertained by me. Time went by my child – and there he is….but I remain the crown jewel that he could never rust even when he did put me to task.”

“What does she speak – that love bird of mine?” He mutters sitting himself next to her. “Its 50 years now and she loves to love still. I thought I would give up…but here I am almost falling in love again… she charms me with experience and has tethered me with patience. My child you have no idea.” He huffed.

“She was a glory I took – made her my spoil…but then she spoiled me. I thrived in her love and beamed in her struggle as she bore forth child after child. I was a father taking my place from the master. What had I to offer? …. Ummmm – let me think?”

“He had the greed for power,” she teased nudging playfully at his hand. Passing his hand over he held her hand too and chuckled “that my dear – I have always had for a vice…oh you know me so well.”

“Sure I do,” she chided. “Your sons have inherited it too – they know no limits to power and continue to plunder my possessions…..but you know darling – I am resourceful.”

“Child – I will bear witness to her words but you must not think ill of me… I love her so much…that is why we celebrate this October festival to remember that beautiful ninth day when she accepted me and I danced for joy. Did she tell you about the thumping of my heart… did she describe how excited we were – oh we could not wait to breed and build.”

“Look I have a smile for you – Mama….I appreciate 50 golden years … tested and perfected.” His words applauded then in a swaggering daydream he got up to dance – it was a jubilee dance. “Mama won’t you dance with me – it’s 50 years…”

Shaking his long-limbed body like a rooster strutting its best dance theme he called out again and again “come now Mama….let us celebrate and you too child.”

Pulling her colonial body to the spot he jigged she too made her boogie singing “though we had hard times – let’s enjoy the moment…. Though it thunders we never shudder.” And he too joined in adding a strong booming tone “let’s enjoy the moment.”

Indeed it was 50 years and the two had survived it all. But it felt like a-fiftieth of the fifty. And though it glimmered it reminded me of the saying “not all that glitters is gold.”

Ugandan writer Linda Lilian.

Linda Lilian is a Ugandan writer with a passion for poetry and short story writing. She is a member of FEMRITE Uganda and bears a zeal for creativity as well as activism.

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Startjournal.org has earlier reviewed these Femrite short story collections:

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