It was the turn of the century before bubble gum filled lollipops had become the obsession of every Zambian child. Cola flavoured lollipops were all the rage back then. I would never quite go as far as saying I would have done anything for one, but I did do something quite shameful once.
It was a hot summer morning in the city of Ndola. My mother had just sent me to the neighbour’s house to give her something. What that something was I can’t remember. What I do remember was the structure of the house. When you grew up in a formerly government-owned community, you know your neighbour’s house probably has the same structure as yours. Yet when you enter, everything you see is unforgettable.
“Follow me this way,” she said guiding from the kitchen into the living room. I remember them having an attractive living display but not having a television. As an avid cartoon watcher, I found the idea of not having a TV ridiculous.
I waited, as she went into her bedroom and brought me something for my mother, can’t remember what that other thing was.
After handing it to me, she asked, “you know the way out right?”
“Yes, I do.”
She disappeared back to her bedroom, and I headed towards the kitchen door. As I stood at the door, I looked back at one of the kitchen cabinets. About ten 500 Kwacha notes (worth about a nickel each) laid there piled on top of each other carelessly.
All I needed was one.
A lollipop cost 100 Kwacha ($0.01), and five lollipops were more than enough. How ironic, a thief with a sense of contentment.
So I quickly snatched the note and headed straight for the tuck shop. I knew not to go home; I spent the spoils of my crime right there in the shop. Once inside, I sat on a tall stool and exchanged small talk with the shopkeeper.
I was like an old mobster at one of the bars he owns.
‘The Lollipop Gangster.’
After enjoying the sweet taste of cola on my tongue, I took my leave. My moment was short lived. The second I walked into our yard, my mother stood by the door waiting for me. Our neighbour stood right next to her.
“I’m sorry," my mother said, "I’ll talk to him.”
Our neighbour walked away with a vividly calm step. It was then that I knew the jig was up, my mother’s fiercely stern look was a sign of what was to come rather than what had happened.
My mother grabbed a short piece of a hose-pipe and whooped me with it.
Wait ... that was the time I gave my young brother a tombstone pile driver. Seriously guys, never try those at home.
If I recall correctly, her choice of disciplinary weapon that particular day was a branch pulled out of the hedges. What followed was a series of worthless blocks and sharp strikes on both arms. Can’t remember if I cried, but I probably did.
Lesson 1: Never steal, the spoils don’t compensate for the consequences.
Lesson 2: Never embarrass an African mother, it won’t end well.