Leo Muzivoreva on THE ART OF GETTING BY …..continued

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………… Natali broke the news to me. We were two months pregnant! I was elated, stoked, overwhelmed you name it, I was just a happy man. I was having a baby. My mum would be even happier I’m sure. But wait a minute, I only had a few hundred pounds in my account. Having a baby would surely strain my pocket. I will probably teeter into big debt. Shit just got real. How will I manage? Natalie will probably have to quit her job at the local fast food outlet. Her parents who somehow got wind of the fact that I was with her just so I could secure myself citizenship did not like me at all and would probably chase her away
from home. I would have to shift my apartment into a more spacious one and that would mean more money to be paid to Mrs MacMaster. Amongst the crowd’s cheers of a Monton
Amateur Football Club goal, I scrambled through my pockets for my phone so I could text my mum with the good news as she stayed in Hertfordshire, quite a distance from here. I realised I had forgotten it on the charger in the car. I had to wait until the end of the match to get it.
Meanwhile, I had to show some tender love and care to my woman. With a few congratulatory comments from the people sitting close to us in the stands, I sipped slowly on my beer and went to the stall and ordered a milkshake for Natalie. The match drew to an end and people started trickling out of the stadium. I asked Natalie, who had noticed that a lot was on my mind if we should go as well. To which she responded by standing up and grabbing her corduroy jacket ready to leave. “Yeah sure, let’s go” we slowly manoeuvred our way out of the stadium and held hands as we walked to the car. I was silent, deep in thought. As soon as we got to the car I reached for my phone only to notice I had seven missed calls from my mum’s home number. “Have you spoken to my mum today?” I quizzed Natalie. “I have not spoken to her in a few days, a week actually. Why?” she replied. I showed her my call log then tapped the dial icon to call her back. It rang and rang but no one picked. I decided to try her mobile number but it went straight to voicemail. Then I tried her friend’s number. “Makadii ko Amai Muchena? Ndiri kutsvagawo Amai vangu phone yavo haisi kubatika”. Mrs Muchena did not waste time in telling me how my mother had suddenly taken ill and had been hospitalised at the Hertfordshire hospital. What was wrong? The call dropped before I could get a response. I had reached my monthly credit limit. Natalie took to the driver’s seat and as we drove to Hertfordshire I used her phone to reach the hospital and confirmed my mother’s admission into the hospital’s female adult ward and was scheduled for diagnosis with the doctor in a few minutes. What was happening in my life? Nothing seemed to be in order. Mind in turmoil. The ride to Hertfordshire was really long as the Saturday night traffic was hectic. Eventually, we got there and the nurse at the reception took me to where she was
only in time to see her being wheeled out of the diagnosis room. The doctor said she had had a mild heart attack and she was to be placed on a special treatment and diet and reiterated that we had to be strong and careful with her as the attacks might be recurrent but he was hopeful the drugs would help prevent that. This meant more bills for these special drugs as well as more money channelled towards hiring help to cater for her daily needs as well as preparing
her special meals. Suddenly, I could not tell her about Natalie’s pregnancy. When it rains it pours.
Stroke of luck…
I had to talk to someone otherwise I would go bonkers. I scrolled down Natalie’s call log and called DJ Spillz, “Wadii?! Jah Mann, ma1 aya azondiwandira! Uri kupi ndikupe 411 yese?”
So I met up with him after dropping mum, Natalie and Mrs Muchena over at my mum’s house. Upon giving him an update on how my day had gone. He sympathised with me and he said he will put me up on his Dunstable Leisure Centre gig the next weekend so I could perform and pocket a few pounds. He was indeed my comrade from way back in Zimbabwe, playing street soccer on the dusty streets of Dangamvura. I could not wait for the next Sunday. The next day I spent with my mum and Natali and we eventually told her we were expecting and she loved the news. The week went by very well and I even put in more work at the studio, rehearsing for my show. I even helped with the poster design and promotion of the Dunstable family show. Even handing out posters and flyers on the streets of Manchester, Birmingham, Northampton as well as Leicester. I was excited about performing for a crowd for the first time ever. I even rehearsed in front of my mirror and I was in a jovial mood. My breaks at work were spent mostly performing for Joncas and Brad amongst other workmates. DJ Spillz even got me and Natalie new outfits and when the day came, we went to the hair salon while she got her hair done I was getting my nice Fabolous-inspired fade crew cut.
When we finally got to the venue, everyone was busy with their barbeque and I got on to the makeshift room in which I could change and chill with Natalie before my performance. When I got onto the stage, the crowd was really responsive. Could they be drunk or was I really good at Pablo’s or the flyer was really attractive or could it be God just at work, I wondered. Well, I performed about six songs but still, the crowd wanted more but time was constrained as I was on Spillz’s Deejaying set so I had to leave the stage to make way for the next DJ. I went straight to the table at which Spillz’s girlfriend sat with Natalie and this other guy who was dressed in designer clothing and judging from his clothes and the strong Givenchy fragrance, one could tell he had it all well in his life. Spillz joined us at the table and the waiter brought us a bucket with a bottle of champagne as well as another one of fine Vodka as well as ice. She brought another one of coolers and sodas. I politely requested some blend juice for Natalie, if they had any. DJ Spillz then introduced me to the smart gentleman and I learnt that the guy was actually a business man who had recently bought a state of art
recording studio and was looking to sign up artists in Manchester. The gentleman who had been introduced as Mr Somerset was actually from the United States and had moved to England on business. Mr Somerset proposed that I become his first signing and that I should call him and set up a meeting to discuss the terms and conditions of my contract under his recording label, Somerset Records. I could not believe my ears! Apparently, DJ Spillz had gotten a deal as a DJ/ Producer too. The heavens had opened up. Finally, my music career could kick off. The next day I made sure the proceeds from the Dunstable gig went towards my mum’s health care bills as well as paying up my phone bill and rentals and I managed to save a few hundred pounds again for my baby. I could afford to smile on a Monday morning at work. The guys at the bakery were all beaming with glee as the narrated my performance at the Leisure Centre. I called it a stroke of luck. Surely, God always wins.
Ina few weeks, the bakery promoted me and I was now in charge of daily deliveries and I got keys to a brand new delivery truck. More money at the end of the month and no more train rides as I now would be driven to work by Natalie since we could now afford more fuel and we even shifted apartments and moved in together much to the delight of Mrs Macmaster, my landlady. My mum was responding well to her treatment but still, her medicines were quite pricey and the vegetarian diet she was on was also a tall order. Musically, the money was flowing in but I had to stay humble and keep my job since bookings were not guaranteed and Somerset took the larger percentage of the money of course.
Summer came and Somerset gave everyone at the recording studio vouchers to a fancy local motel. A four-day all expenses weekend in the city. Was the studio music and events business bringing in that much already? Everyone wondered but hey no one dared to confront the boss.
It was at one of the dinners during the weekend getaway that Somerset summoned me to his Didsbury House hotel suite for a meeting. He hinted he had a proposal for me. At this meeting, Somerset brought the finest Cognac to the table and world class dishes were served. Half-dressed beautiful women were flanking him on his white leather couch as he smoked import quality Cuban cigars. The ladies were asked to leave and Somerset gave me his life story. He narrated how he had run away from the United States as he was now on the FBI Watch-list. He dealt with hard drugs and arms. He had a network of deals taking place in the Caribbean and across the United States particularly in Illinois, Texas, Miami and New York. Which explains his extravagant lifestyle. His family was actually in Zimbabwe and his real birth name was actually, Abel Mhondoro and that Evan Somerset was his alias which he had
assumed when he was forging his papers in the States. Abel Mhondoro was actually a legit businessman who had the most popular string of supermarkets in Zimbabwe. He said he grew up in Harare before going to the States on a sports scholarship but he quit and embarked on a small fast food business and eventually got involved in the drug business with his small fast food business as a front. He actually had a family in Zimbabwe whom he went to visit every now and then. He explained that he had taken a liking of me and Spillz because we are his homeboys. He then mentioned how the American authorities had frozen his assets and accounts and he was looking into exploiting the untapped U.K market and was looking for mules to make deliveries. He expressed interest in using me and the bakery truck as a decoy and I would have to make his deliveries to his peddlers across England and just like that my money woes would disappear. As we spoke, he already had a house set up and furnished where I could stay and take in my mum and Natalie and he would pay for everything under the guise of my record deal. He already had many people ready to buy my music on iTunes and royalties would come my way. Of course, these accounts were set up by Somerset’s comrades. The idea was lucrative. I thought of my mum, my unborn child, my friends and cousins in the high-density suburb of Dangamvura, Mutare in Zimbabwe and straight away I agreed without thinking much about what I was getting into.
Business went well for months, the new house was lovely, all my bakery salary was just for groceries at home and everything else was taken care of. My new born child was all set, even had one of those trust funds set up. I was living the Rap artist’s dream. I was smart enough to set up a new account for endorsement deals. VIP treatment was the norm whenever we went out with my friends. Suddenly I was enjoying a bit of fame but I still went to work at the bakery.
Raising eyebrows…
My mum became worried. She began questioning the lifestyle I led and I kept telling her we were leaving off Somerset’s account. She kept reminding me of the Shona idiom, “chinobhururuka chinomhara” I was so stuck up in the moment of glory and I could not stop to reflect on my mum’s words. I was living a double life, that of Trey the bakery delivery guy
and that of Trey, the rapper. An altercation with Brad at work was the Sarajevo incident to my demise. He hired his friend, a private investigator, to tail me and my shady drug deliveries came to light. Brad hated my guts enough to tip off the police. He wanted to see me reduced back to nothing. The police, working with Brad and the investigator guy soon caught
up with me. They interrogated me but luckily for me, when they caught me, I had no drugs on me or in the truck so they had nothing on me. But they kept me on their radar. I went on with my operation and I did not even bother telling Somerset. I called this, occupational hazards.
It was only a matter of time before a small sting operation was carried out to really catch me in action as Brad kept on raising eyebrows. He even went to the extent of limiting the amount of fuel I signed for in the mornings at work and checking the car’s mileage. I told Somerset who hooked me up with his auto-electrician who knew how to slow down the mileage metre. It became a wit- game with Brad.
Soon, the law caught up with me and I was taken in for questioning as a person of interest and this time I was in possession and I could go away “for a long long time” as the investigating officer put it. I was held at the station and Natalie and my mum, her parents all came to the station. Of course, her parents were just there for spite. I could see the anger and fear and pity in Natalie’s eyes. What would she do if I am jailed? Where would she go? Who will take care of my mum? I had no option but to snitch on Somerset and hope for a reduced sentence or something.
The detective took me to the interrogation room and this time he had a camera and a voice recorder. We were joined by a public defender who had an official-looking document with him. Red seal and everything. The detective told me I could have all my charges dropped if I could give them all the information about my drop off points as well as handing Somerset to them. I had to drop off the drugs ten minutes earlier than usual and when the peddlers went to
collect they would be nabbed. I bargained for a deal in which, nothing I had acquired from Somerset would be taken away from me. The house, and the record deal as well as the studio which, I argued, was the main source of my livelihood. And as a rapper, I needed to be left with my somewhat small reputation intact. So I would give them the peddlers and Somerset and they would not disturb my life. The detective was adamant that this would not be good as they would need to investigate Somerset’s accounts and assets. But I told them I was not going to snitch on him for anything. I was fishing and bargaining in the hope that I would end up with a comfortable lifestyle. I had to get something out of this. Eventually, they agreed to my request. Their goal was to make the city drug-free so they had to stop Somerset. Push comes to shove.
The drop-offs were easy and the police took the peddlers one by one. A careful operation like cotton pickers on a cotton plantation. The set up with Somerset was to happen at his Didsbury
House hotel suite in downtown Manchester. However, before we got to the hotel, Somerset got wind of the peddlers’ arrest and escaped.
As we were driving on the dual carriageway, up ahead the scene at Didsbury House Hotel was so serene and no one would actually think a police operation was underway. Business was going on as normal. The police were working with the hotel security and they had Intel on Mr Somerset’s movements within the hotel. The security company contracted to guard the hotel was the one for which Joncas the bakery security guy worked for as well. So he knew of the situation and since I had set him up with Mr Somerset to get bribes and in turn not search the bakery truck whenever I got in and out of the bakery site, he thought he would help himself to a lofty bribe by tipping off Somerset as soon as he heard Brad bragging about how Trey was going down. Somerset then paid off one of the security guards and got himself a pair of security guard uniform and used disguised himself and walked out of the hotel air and square. The police searched frantically but could not find anything in his room. I had given
them all I could but we were too late and they were careless with the information and word got to Somerset who then quickly orchestrated his exit plan.
Somerset’s luck ran out when he used an Automated Teller Machine just outside Didsbury village and suddenly his location was locked on the police tracking system and it only took a few minutes before the police nabbed Somerset as he tried to get onto the Metrolink out of the city. He was not expecting the police to catch up with him that quickly and was very relaxed as he enjoyed a cup of coffee and Blackforest cake at the coffee shop at the train station. The police managed to man all the exits to the train station before Somerset even had the slightest idea of their presence within the train station.
Somerset was denied bail and was facing up to thirty years in jail. He could be repatriated to a Zimbabwean jail. Meanwhile, I went back to my normal life, with Natalie, Trey Jnr and my mum. I was back at the bakery much to Brad’s disgust. He actually quit his job and as if to spite him, I was made his replacement. A job which pays quite well and I must say, I’m enjoying it. I am still working with DJ Spillz at the same studio that Somerset set us up with. Gone are the days when I cleaned floors for studio time.
THE END

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