The ballot box has a hole
“Mweshimiwa, Mweshimiwa—listen, listen to me,” said A., “you have not lost! I—”
“Aa-aa, I am sorry to say…” said B., glancing at Mheshimiwa’s face, and looking away straightaway, ‘I am sorry to say, Mheshimiwa—I think you lost.”
It was the night after the election, it was 10 o’clock on B.’s watch, it was 9:55 on A.’s watch; it was raining outside, it was hot in Mheshimiwa’s house—and he had locked himself in his spare room, and his chief agents, mentioned as A. and B., flanked him.
A. stood on the left side of Mheshimiwa, who sank in a sofa, and reposed his head upon his right-hand palm—by the cheek, of which hand he elbowed upon his knee, of the leg which tapped the floor—tap, tap, tap, over and over. He, Mheshimiwa, who’d contested the MCA seat, stared at the table in front of him, and he permitted his head to sway, up and down, with the tapping of his foot, as he wondered, and wondered, and wondered—and his mind flew back into the campaign season…and the funds he had spent—10 million and more…and the loans he owed, 5 million and more—and next his mind flew forth, into the future—the next five years, during which time he’d wither in the cold, and a sound issued from the eye of his heart, and travelled out of his mouth, not to A. who stood on his left, nor B., who sat on the table, on his right—but shrank into inaudibility.
“Mgr-mgr!” said B, clearing his throat. “Mheshimiwa, did…did you say something?”
Mheshimiwa did not answer, but said, more to himself, “A, a, a!”
“Mheshimiwa, you lost this one square. I know. Call Mshindi (the competitor whom the R.O. declared winner, by 20 votes), and congratulate him. It is—”
“You, B., wait—” said A.
“—aa-aa. You listen, A.—”
“No! You worked for Mheshimiwa,” said A to B, “you work for Mheshimiwa, ya? ya—?”
“Of—of course. Of course I do—”
“—then you defend his candidacy! You—”
“—aa-aa. This one we have lost square. Mheshimiwa—Mheshimiwa,” said B., touching Mheshimiwa on the shoulder nearer him, “this one…this one we have lost. Asiye…asiye kubali kushindwa si nini? Eh, si nini—?”
And between their altercation, Mheshimiwa only but said, more to himself, “A, a, a!”
Then at once, reader, A.’s phone rang. Away from the table he stepped, to one corner of this spare room (the political room). Therefrom, he received his call, cupping his right-hand palm about his mouth, and speaking in the lowest voice, as not to agitate Mheshimiwa.
His conversation, went as follows, as his voice rose, by and by:
Yes? Who is this? Yes—yes, I know you. Things have not worked well…
Yes? What, 992? Or 929? Yes? Are you sure? Yes? I know—I know.
I understand. I will. I will not. I will. I will not, I promise…thank you—haya, bye. Haya, bye—thank you. Bye.
When he concluded the call, to Mheshimiwa, back at the couch, he dashed. “Mheshimiwa, Mheshimiwa,” said A., joggling Mheshimiwa’s knee, to rouse him out of his breakdown, “Mheshimiwa, look, we have a problem—you did not lose! Look at me—” and Mheshimiwa raised his head for the first time, and looked into A.’s eyes, his own eyes, teary and dark and deep “—trust me, Sir, something was done—” yet Mheshimiwa did not utter a word, but B., who jerked at A.’s arm, and straightened him up by it, so that they looked at each other full in the face, and next, B. said, in a hiss, “You know Mheshimiwa has ulcers! Why are you trying to mess with his mind—you work for him, right—?”
“I am his chief agent—why wouldn’t I—?” said A. in a loud voice, which disposed B. to pull him away from Mheshimiwa, to the same corner, wherefrom A. received a call earlier. And there B. said, “Look, don’t stress him more—”
And A. said, “Don’t be silly! Truth has nothing to do with ulcers—or—or stress—if—if he won, he won! Period!”
“He did not win!” said B., suppressing his voice under a whisper.
“He did!” from A.
“He did not!”
“He did,” said A., “polling station 12—polling station 12—this, this was under your supervision—what did Meshimiwa get there? How many?”
“Station 12 or 21?” said B.
“I said 12—how many votes?”
“Confirm, confirm, call. Call the person who was there—” said A.
“…it was 900—and twenties, yes. And twenties—”
Thus agent B. pulled his phone from his pocket, and called someone. When he made as if to walk away, so as to speak at the other corner, A. restrained him, by the arm. From his conversation on the phone, B. said the following:
Ya? Can you hear me? Hallo! Yes. What was the number? Yes—yes, 919? 929…919? Ah, yes. Yes. Ok.
And then he deposited the phone into his breast pocket.
“929,” he said.
“Ya!” said A., “there’s the problem! It was not 929—it was 992! Tulicheswo! He did not lose,” he said, pointing away at Mheshimiwa.
“What did you say?” said from Mheshimiwa, leaping from the couch to the two, at the corner.
“Mheshimiwa,” said B., “it is nothing, please go sit—”
“His votes were reduced and you tell him to sit down!” said A., snatching B. by the collar, “were you working for Mshindi—?”
“Leave me! I will hit you—leave me—” said B., liberating himself from A.’s grab. And Mheshimiwa, who now planted himself between them, as to avert a brawl, said to A. again, “what did you say?”
Before A. answered his boss, B., who clicked his tongue and mumbled to himself, rushed out of the room in protest, “People have decided!”
And now A. said to Mheshimiwa, in a whisper, “Sir, tulicheswo. Station 12. In station 12, you had 992—”
“Ah?” said Mheshimiwa, covering his mouth with a palm.
“—but in form 36B—”
“36A, you mean, 36A,” said Mheshimiwa, widening his mouth and eyes.
“—yes, yes. Instead of 992, they wrote 929…my source told me—you defeated him, Sir—”
“—yes?” said Mheshimiwa, clenching his fists, preparing for a reaction.
“You defeated Mshindi!”
“Yes!” said A., hugging Mheshimiwa, who did not embrace back. “We will file a petition, Sir. This win is yours!”
“Is this,” said Mheshimiwa, holding A. from him, so he could observe his face, “is this source reliable?”
“Yes! I trust her, Sir. I will give you the full details tomorrow. But one thing you should know, Sir, mgr-mgr! Agent B., though he is your nephew, Sir…I think he betrayed you. He was working for Mshindi all this time, he was a mole!”