I don’t do this often, Mbazo thinks to himself. He forces another sip of beer knowing that enough of it will numb his restlessness. The sound of the music is too loud. Is it because I think I’m better than these guys? he wonders.

He sits there and begins to study his brother, Boss, and his two friends in the backseat, Fuze and Sphe. They are always together, Mbazo is always alone.

Boss had his nickname before his physical appearance made it seem true. He’s big bellied, tall, broad shouldered and he walks like he owns every inch of land he sets his foot on. You wouldn’t guess him as just a 25-year-old general worker at a small chemical plant.

They’re happier than I’ll ever be. Mbazo thinks.

Boss juggles his beer from one hand to another to switch gears, operate the stereo and steer his black GTI. Mbazo takes another sip.

Boss, Fuze and Sphe have been friends since high school. They were once hip hop dancers, they were good, until they started drinking too much. Mbazo wonders how the beer tastes in Boss’s mouth compared to how it tastes in his. Maybe it’s like apple juice, he thinks, and his taste buds remember the taste of cold apple juice. Nah, apple juice is too nice.

Fuze is in the seat behind Mbazo’s. He’s very fat, short, light-skinned and always has a smile on his face, always. He’s the clown of the crew and people like him except for Mbazo, he’s afraid of him. Boss once jokingly told him that Fuze kills people for less than R20 000 and he took him seriously.

The music is loud.

Mbazo glances at the stereo, his eardrums feel like overly inflated balloons. And then he takes another sip. Sphe, in the seat behind Boss’s, taps Boss on the shoulder and hands him a cell phone. Mbazo stares in amazement. Am I too cautious? Look at Boss, he has a phone in one hand, beer in the other, and the dashboard reads 130kmph. Boss is a savage, Mbazo thinks. He decides to take another long sip, hoping that with enough alcohol in his system he will be stupid and happy like they are. All he wants is to be happy on this day.

Boss reads the text and then raises his bottle to the sky, impressed. Sphe told Boss and Fuze that he’s gonna win that Christian girl from unit six a week ago, they doubted him, not anymore.

Sphe is dark skinned, lean and serious. He does gardens for rich white men. He likes expensive cologne and he smells cleaner than he is sometimes.

They are simple minded, maybe that’s the secret to happiness, Mbazo thinks. One last sip and Mbazo’s bottle is empty. He grabs another from between his feet. Boss turns the volume down.

“Sphe, how much he owe you?” Boss asks.

“Little money, but we’ll spend it all, Mbazo’s gonna have a killer 21st, don’t worry,”

Mbazo read somewhere that loud music will cause permanent hearing damages in the long run. Boss returns the volume to 30, Mbazo turns it down to 20, Boss smiles, Mbazo takes a sip.

If I had a good job, or a girlfriend, or both, would I be happy with my life? He wonders. He knows he wouldn’t, his depression is clinical and only he knows that, everyone else thinks he’s a softy.

The car stops. Boss turns the music off. They’re at the suburbs. Mbazo imagines what it’s like to live in the suburbs, he gets a warm fluffy feeling inside his chest, it’s nice, and then takes another sip. Sphe hops out and walks towards a gate, it’s locked. He returns to the car.

“It’s locked,” Sphe says.

“Aren’t they always?” Fuze asks.

“Not Mr McGregor’s, you got airtime?”

“That dog, does it know you?”

“Fuze!” Boss warns.

“I’m just asking,” Fuze smiles.

Mbazo hops out of the car to take a piss, he’s woozy. I’m drunk now, nice, he thinks.

“I know an old man who’d pay us two for that dog,” Fuze says.

“Hundreds or thousands?” Boss asks.

Mbazo takes his time outside, he’s in love with the suburban atmosphere. It feels like the beach here, he thinks.

“Thousands,” Fuze says.

Mbazo gets back inside the car.

“The back gate is open? OK boss, and thanks for the dog, yeah, thanks,” Sphe says, phone held to the ear. Fuze almost laughs but controls himself and maintains his smile.

Boss starts the car and parks it a distance from Mr McGregor’s house, Sphe and Fuze get out and walk back.

“So they’re stealing that dog?” Mbazo asks.

“Nah, Sphe’s boss gave it to him, we’re here to collect it,”

“OK,” Mbazo says with a straight face. There’s complete silence for a second, then Mbazo bursts into laughter, and Boss joins.

“I’m not that drunk man, remember when you used to steal mom’s money? You’ve always been a criminal, I know you guys are stealing that dog,” Mbazo says.

Boss’s laugh quickly dies.

“I never stole mom’s money, and I’m no criminal,”

“You have a gun, I saw it, what do you do with a gun?”

Boss checks his rear mirror then returns to Mbazo.

“You’re gonna have to watch your mouth, Sphe and Fuze aren’t me, if you say something stupid they’ll really hurt you.”

Hurt me? I don’t care if they kill me, they’d be doing me a huge favour, he thinks. Mbazo says nothing.

Boss checks his rear mirror again and then continues.

“Listen, if it wasn’t for me, you’d be at home watching TV or at church,” Boss says. “I did this for you, it’s your birthday, you’re turning 21, I want you to have fun, real fun, don’t ruin it, OK?”

I’m messing this up, don’t mess this up, have fun, he thinks.

“Sorry man, I’m drunk,” Mbazo says and takes another sip.

Boss checks his rear mirror and sees Sphe and Fuze sprinting towards the car. Sphe is carrying an angry bulldog under his arm, the dogs behind faces forward and its face faces Fuze who fails to keep up with Sphe. Boss begins to laugh but wastes no time, he starts the car and opens both backseat doors from inside as if it’s rehearsed.

Who’s chasing them? The neighbours are seeing this, we’re in trouble, we’re going to jail, Mbazo thinks.

Mbazo is frightened for a moment until he takes a long sip and then looks at the situation again. This time he sees a fat guy, Fuze, running as fast as he can, which is very slow. His friend Sphe is in front of him carrying a bulldog that sees the fat guy as lunch, but the fat guy is laughing his fat ass out.

Mbazo laughs.

Sphe gets inside the car with the dog, he’s the only one not laughing. When Fuze tries to enter, the dog jumps at him and almost gets a mouthful of his big belly but Sphe pulls it back and hugs it.

“I got it, I got it, get in,” Sphe says.

Fuze enters, and in a few seconds the car is doing around 160kmph on the freeway.

“Calm down Rex, it’s OK boy,” Sphe softly rubs the dog’s back.

Boss checks his mirror, Fuze smiles and Mbazo takes a sip, he’s the only one still drinking.

This feels like a dream, a good dream, but I’m not happy. I just can’t feel my depression but I know you’re in there you devil, I’ll see you tomorrow, he thinks.

Fuze notices how drunk Mbazo is.

“Ey Boss, your boy is a shoe now, he’s out,” Fuze laughs.

“Guys, Mr McGregor is a good man, we should take Rex back, we don’t need this money,” Sphe says.

“We don’t do that,” Boss says.

“Yeah, I know, but come on,”

Boss checks his rear mirror, Mbazo falls asleep, and Fuze frowns.

“So we go back to the heat?” Fuze asks.

“Nah, Boss will take the next turn-off and drop me at the gas station then y’all go, I’ll buy airtime and call McGregor, I’m drunk, he’ll understand,”

“Boss, we’re going home,” Fuze commands.

Boss checks his rear mirror and sees two police vans approaching, lights flashing.

“Seatbelts,” Boss says calmly.

Sphe and Fuze know what he means but they both look back to check how bad the situation is.

“Too simple Boss, too simple, make it quick,” Fuze says as he drags his seatbelt and clicks it.

“Mbazo! Fasten your seatbelt!” Boss smacks Mbazo on the arm.

What’s happening?” Mbazo thinks as he wakes up.

Sphe loses his grip of Rex as he tries to fasten his seatbelt and Rex sinks his teeth on Fuze’s juicy arm. Fuze’s scream makes Mbazo scream, and the combination of their screams makes Sphe scream. Sphe crazily elbows Rex on the back until Rex turns and bites Sphe’s lower lip and chin off.

The screams grow louder.

Mbazo is now horizontal with his back against the windscreen and his feet balanced straight on his seat. His fists are clenched. Boss is hugging the steering wheel, his main priority is to keep the car on the road.

Sphe and Fuze push Rex away from them. Mbazo screams louder. Rex bites Boss on the back. The car swerves and flips.

I don’t do this often, Mbazo thinks.


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