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In the remotest impenetrable jungle of South Africa, there is a small country ruled by a monarch. There are plenty of villages in the country, and one of them lies in the breast of a hill surrounded by vast forests as if the creator wanted to hide it from everyone. The local community has a revered tradition called Reed Dance. It is an annual carnival during which the King chooses another wife. Every year, he picks the most beautiful lass from a great number of women who throng around his palace, hoping that it will be their lucky day to steal the King’s heart. In their desperate efforts to outperform each other, they provocatively swing their hips, shake their breasts vigorously, and charm the King with smiles so charming and seductive that they can make the priest renounce celibacy.
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However, this year’s carnival was different from the previous ones, mainly because Fr. Renata, the new priest of the local parish had gone to the court in order to define whether this ritual legal or not. In response, the King’s henchmen led by Chief Mongo had gone to the same court to confirm the ritual by law and to attend all the maiden girls. Many suspected that Chief Mongo had been nursing a grudge against Fr. Renata since he took Zuhura, the girl he (Chief Mongo) was planning to take as his fifth wife to a missionary school. This was a good opportunity for revenge.
As expected, the henchmen won, and the carnival was proclaimed legal in all the King’s enemies’ despite. Father Renata called a prayer meeting and cursed the ritual as an evil and barbaric act that violated the rights of girls while Chief Mongo called several sorcerers to bless the Reed Dance and counter Fr. Renata’s curses. In addition, he hired a caravan of vehicles to go around the village and tell its citizens to come out in hordes to celebrate the important day. Meanwhile, church members, preachers, teachers, and human rights groups who were afraid of the King’s brutality got inspired by Fr. Renata’s courage again. They behaved defiantly and denounced the Reed Dance on every platform they could get: in pulpits, funeral gatherings, schools, and on the radio. The King’s men responded accordingly, violently disrupting church gatherings, bullying Fr. Renata whenever he attended public meetings, and arresting human rights activists with reference to their “intention to disrupt public peace.” The fateful day was getting on, and the villagers waited anxiously as they were eager to witness the new drama.
Finally, this day came. It was a chilly morning, and the hills were covered with an ominous dense dark-grey fog. The village drum-beaters banged their drums as if they were messengers of death in mourning. Chief Mongo, clad in his flamboyant traditional dress made of leopard skin and waving his flying whisk like a traditional, illiterate chief he was, arrived at the dance pavilion leading a band of singers, who burst their lungs singing praises to the country’s “one and only king, emperor and lord over all mortals.” A moment later, Fr. Renata and his entourage arrived and camped at a safe distance from the chief and his crowd. Then the King arrived, displaying his sagging potbelly and hairy thighs as if they were the most important of all kingly qualities. He had a point, though: the King ought to prove his virility to guarantee continuity of the royal bloodline, but his critics were obviously blind to this heavy responsibility that the King bore. Father Renata encouraged his followers to sing religious songs and prayers, fervently urging the kindly God to intervene and save His children from this barbaric practice. The hopeful girls rehearsed their smiles and dancing moves as they waited for the dance to begin. Fr. Renata and his followers sang louder while the King’s drummers beat the drums harder. Beyond the hills, the fog was replaced by dense, dark clouds, hanging low and pregnant with rain.
The dramatic change was so sudden that even the drummers lost their rhythm. The dance had began, and the girls, full of youthful vibrancy, hit the stage with such a vigor that the King found himself squirming in his seat, evidently gingered by the sight of tantalizing female thighs. Then, a maddening cry of singing and praying came from Fr. Renata’s group. It was so loud that is seemed to swallow the sound of the drums. Fr. Renata was on his knees, hands spread to the heavens, calling for the angels to come down and punish the pagans. Chief Mongo, who all along had been waiting for such an opportunity, stood up and rushed towards the singing crowd, followed by his henchmen. He had briefed them on what to do, and they brought out their machetes and clubs, ready for a battle. The singers scattered, leaving Fr. Renata kneeling alone, and defenseless, like a lamb surrounded by blood-thirsty hyenas. The first henchman raised his club, ready to bring it down on Fr. Renata’s head. He swung it high, and gritted his teeth murderously.
Everything came to a standstill, everyone held their breath, Chief Mongo grinned triumphantly, and Fr. Renata stared at the heavens helplessly. Then suddenly, the heavens thundered, and a blinding lightening lighted up the hills in a flash of red brightness. A hurricane of whirling winds swept violently from the north, and sheets of heavy rain came down in torrents. The drummers abandoned their gear, and the King scampered to the safety of his palace. The henchmen deserted their chief, shaken to their bones. Finally, it was Chief Mongo alone facing Fr. Renata, his grin replaced by horror, shock, and disbelief. He trembled as the Father rose from the ground and came near, fearful that he might pronounce an incurable curse upon him. He opened his lips to speak, but the Father patted him on the back softly, and said lovingly: “I do not harbor any ill feelings, your sins are forgiven.” Unbelievingly, Chief Mongo recovered his fallen hat, not bothering about the whisk. He went home with his head low, and the following day sent a delegation of elders with ten goats to the parish. Since then, Chief Mongo has become a fervent supporter of the Father and a vicious critic of the Reed Dance. He is among the early Sunday risers, those who sit in the front pews in church, supposedly closer the good Father’s blessings. It is rumored that the villagers, after learning about the chief’s conversion, finish their greetings by muttering “blessings to our chief.”
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