Behind Enemy Lines is free today

Okay, so if you’ve been under a rock, you’ve missed that I published a book on Amazon

Behind Enemy Lines and Other Stories is a free giveaway today on Amazon’s Kindle store. That means the electronic is yours for zero dollars, if you want it!

TITLE: Behind Enemy Lines and Other Stories
AUTHOR: Joe Ruzvidzo
PUBLICATION DATE:  February 12, 2017
SOLD BY: Amazon Digital Services LLC
RETAIL PRICE: $4.99 ebook, $8.99 paperback
ISBN-10: 1520591853 | ISBN-13: 978-1520591858
ASIN: B06W2K3Q57
PAGE COUNT: 136 pages (paperback) | PRINT LENGTH: 96 pages (ebook)
GENRES: Fiction, Short story collection

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Behind Enemy Lines is a collection of stories about ordinary people and anti-heroes dragged into a search for meaning in their lives – whether it is a simple search for identity and love, or a bigger struggle for Africa’s political freedom.

The canvas of their actions, motivations and circumstances is a Zimbabwe of the past, present and future. Humorous, acerbic, funny and tragic, the stories cover the whole gamut of emotions.

A soldier navigates his way across hostile territory to a distant safe house; a freedom fighter searches the debris of a ruined city for evidence of a horrific crime; an ordinary boy is caught up in a bank robbery; and an activist journeys home for her ex-boyfriend’s funeral.

Ruzvidzo interweaves the past, present and future with a confidence often missing in a debutante, offering a uniquely compelling angle to the Zimbabwean experience.

Well, for one day only, it’s FREE. Yes, free. Well, the electronic version, that is.

So if you want a free Kindle book, go here and get it.

Or, you know … buy the paperback.

I Published a Book of Some Sort

I have published a book! My tiny collection of short stories up on Amazon. Go and buy it, if you feel so inclined.

Behind Enemy Lines is a collection of stories about ordinary people and anti-heroes dragged into a search for meaning in their lives – whether it is a simple search for identity and love or a bigger struggle for political freedom. The canvas of their actions, motivations and circumstances is a Zimbabwe of the past, present and future.

 

Humorous, acerbic, funny and tragic, the stories cover the whole gamut of emotions. Joe Ruzvidzo has arrived on the scene with a deceptively simple and lucid storytelling style that pleases and surprises.

 

A soldier navigates his way across hostile territory to a distant safe house; a freedom fighter searches the debris of a ruined city for evidence of a horrific crime; an ordinary boy is caught up in a bank robbery; and an activist journeys home for her ex-boyfriend’s funeral. Ruzvidzo interweaves the past, present and future with a confidence often missing in a debutante, offering a uniquely compelling angle to the Zimbabwean experience.”

The paperback is here: Behind Enemy Lines and Other Stories – paperback

The eBook is here: Behind Enemy Lines and Other Stories – eBook

The Day The Music (Almost) Died

There was a loud bang, and the bus veered off the Harare-Bulawayo highway. It swerved into the roadside ditch and crashed on its side, plunging the interior into darkness as the windows disappeared and the only light was suddenly at roof level.

There was a moment of silence – I remember that. The inside of the bus was at peace for a single, eery moment. The passengers were strewn around like so many sardines in a shaken can, and I think we were in shock for just that one second.

Then the screaming began.

Even as a smaller-than-average fifteen-year-old, my passion for sport was unmatched. I loved, and played, rugby, cricket and tennis. I ran, I jumped both high and long, and gave the best of my effort all of the time.

When it came time for the annual schools’ rugby festival at Prince Edward School in Harare, I hatched a cunning plan. There was no need to catch the school bus on each festival day, waking up early in Chegutu to hop the Harare-bound school bus from Jameson High in Kadoma.

I had family in Harare, so I would spend the entire week there. Hang with my cousins. Play in town after playing rugby. That way I’d have a few more interesting stories to tell in hostel when schools opened the following week, hey? Why the fuck not?

I remember that Sunday morning very well. We left my uncle’s Cranborne house pretty early for church, me in a crisp white number-twos shirt (multi-purpose) and jeans, black-and-red travel bag hitched over my shoulder.

New Life was not today’s behemoth with services at Sheraton and all the hullabaloo and prosperity and overseas trips and Mercedes Benzes and blahblah.

It was a tiny community affair, based on that Eastlea intersection where two churches squat across the road from each other, one almost daring the other to flinch in the contest of who was Holier, the Cross or the Trinity?

After the (completely forgettable) service, we drove down Samora with my brother and his mate, where I hopped onto the first available Chegutu-bound bus at the Showgrounds bus-stop. I suppose it was an ordinary chicken-bus, nothing special or frightening about it.

I sat in the right-hand aisle, about four seats from the back. I shoved my bag under my seat, settled in for the hour-long trip home and went to work on my freezit.

The bus burst a front tyre at the 66-kilometer peg outside Harare.

When the wailing began, I still could not understand what had happened. All I know was that I was in a position I shouldn’t have been, sitting in the broken remnants of a window.

I looked up and wondered why I could see the sky, I looked around and wondered why I could see no-one else, I listened and wondered why everyone seemed to be screaming all at once.

When the bus crashed, I had been thrown against the roof, which now formed an outer wall. I rested there with my back against it, docile as fuck, more confounded by the noise than the situation.

My young eyes, adjusting to the darkness, came to rest on my bag, tossed within arm’s reach. I grabbed the handle and looked towards the back of the bus, where a door had suddenly appeared and I could see light and grass and people.

Hitching by bag over my shoulder, I stumbled through what used to be the rear window and was helped across the road, where many small vehicles had gathered.

The rest is a blur, as panicked, screaming human beings fought to escape the crash, which was now catching fire. Some climbed up and out the side windows on to the roof, like rats out of a sewer. Some stumbled out of the back window.

They all scrambled and screamed and fled, but not all made it out.

Many of my fellow survivors and I were hustled aboard another Chegutu-bound bus and dropped off at the hospital, where one of the nurses recognised me and took me for an exam.

Only then did I look down and realise the front of my shirt, my beautiful white shirt, my number-two uniform shirt, was covered in human blood.

And none of it was mine.

My only injury was a tiny scar on my left knee, but it could have been so much worse. Three people died in that bus crash, many more were injured. They bear the physical scars, but can the psychological ones ever be healed?

I recall going home with my very dazed mom, where one of my brothers hugged me for the first time ever. But to this day, I have issues with highway travel.

I turn my headphones to the highest volume and grip the seat (or the mouse’s hand) so tight I leave a mark. I feel every bump, every hump, every single dip in the road and I’m back at that 66-km peg, in the dark, screaming with the rest of them.

Everyone I have ridden a car with will testify that I have asked them to slow down, to be careful, we’re not in a hurry, there is no rush.

This is Zimbabwe – we don’t do therapy. Wo don’t talk about our problems, we drink them. We do not analyze our issues, we drown them in alcohol.

Me, I have a keyboard and a basic notion of how to use it. I can type my thoughts and feelings out, and I use writing as my therapy.

What do others do? How many people are struggling to hold down a job, hold on to a life, be a good wife or husband, take care of their kids, stay in school or church? How many of my fellow survivors of that bus accident twenty-one years ago quietly bear the scars of their ordeal?

Simply because we don’t “do” therapy here, and even if we sit down with our friends we’d rather discuss English soccer than things which actually matter?

I do not have any answers. Hell, I have many problems of my own. But at some point, we have to start examining ourselves and releasing what’s inside, because so many times the simple solution is letting it out.

Back to the story at hand, I survived the bus crash with nary a scratch, and I lived to tell the tale (only when I’m drunk). I just hadn’t told the whole story, until now.

I have so many more.

The prologue to a story

PROLOGUE

The television droned a low, incomprehensible monologue. It provided a soundtrack to the ceaseless imagery of devastation and destruction flickering across my screen.

There was nothing new, or surprising, in watching high definition film of my home town reduced to a wasteland of ash and rubble.

The volume was almost muted, as I could not bear the juvenile rantings of whichever idiot was currently at the electronic bully pulpit called live news. It didn’t make the images themselves any less compelling.

Once-wide streets were graveyards for the rusted, skeletal remains of long-dead motorcars, giving a visual tally of long-dead motorists. Each burnt-out hulk was a death marker for at least one poor soul who met their end being flash-boiled in a metal shell.

Once-proud buildings were no more than jagged, arthritic middle fingers, raised in accusation towards aloof, or more likely non-existent, gods.

The once-blue sky was now darkened by regular, almost-mournful columns of smoke. They rose to the heavens like grimy pillars in some once-proud, long-abandoned hall of the ancients, making the sky a dusky mishmash of grey smoke and black smog.

From every camera angle, Harare was burning, although I could not bring myself to care. Where I say burning, some would say burnt, abandoned and forgotten, but I alone held a solitary hope that anything could be salvaged from the detritus.

There was something of immense value here, and I was not leaving until I found it. The solution to my current predicament lay somewhere in the ruins of this stinky, smog-covered hell.

Not that I knew just what that solution was. I had neither clue nor inkling what it is I was looking for, or even where to begin the search. All I had was this memory disk, a parting gift from my father delivered ten years after his demise.

When it finally came to me, it revealed a trove of valuable information – knowledge we thought irretrievably lost. Including a sometimes dull, sometimes engaging history lesson disguised as the intimate personal journal of a complicated man.

Perhaps I should explain, because I’m sure that last bit has you feeling a touch curious. Allow me to introduce myself.

I am your father, and if you are reading this it means I am finally, irrevocably, convincingly, conclusively, belatedly, inexorably, decisively, inescapably dead.