Thabo was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when his phone beeped to signal receipt of a life-changing SMS. He would have ignored it if the phone was not actually in his hand at that specific time. He had developed an attitude about phone calls and messages; unless someone was dead or dying, the incoming phone call or SMS wasn’t worth his time. Somebody had just died, as it turned out. He had just taken a call informing him of the untimely passing of Thabang, his cousin from Rustenburg. He read the SMS thinking it was related to the news he had just received.

The SMS in question was from a number he didn’t care to check. Mostly likely from a bank, but he didn’t worry about that. His focus was more on what it said than who it was from. He had just received THIRTY THOUSAND RAND! He allowed a few seconds to pass before checking his bank balance. It was a few hundred rand short of thirty grand, probably due to bank charges.

He had been on a negative balance before this God-sent windfall. This deduction confirmed that he had indeed received this cash injection. His heartbeat was rapid now and his body was soaking wet with sweat. “God is great!”, he wanted to proclaim aloud, but he decided that he should stay calm.

He thought about calling his girlfriend Tshepiso to give her the good news, but he ran this by his good friend Tshepo who advised against it. Thabo valued Tshepo’s advice because he didn’t buckle under pressure and he wasn’t the excitable type. Tshepo advised that they first confirm that money was physically in the account, before telling any more people about it. “The last thing you want is to excite the whole world about money that may not even be there.” he said.

The twenty minutes that it took to walk to the nearby Jabulani Mall felt like an eternity. During that time, he checked the balance at least five times. He just didn’t trust the slimy bastards at the bank. He wouldn’t put it past them to silently take back the money they had put into his account, without using the fanfare of the notification SMS. The balance had thankfully not changed.

Tshepo advised that, if money had indeed been deposited into Thabo’s account, the bank wouldn’t just take it back without his involvement. Of course Thabo wished he hadn’t heard this useless advice. He was just not keen on helping the bank to take from him what God or Thabang, his brand new ancestor, had given to him.

During that time, he had five missed calls, and about as many Please Call Me messages. All of the calls were from a private number. He neither had the time nor the interest in calls from a private number. It could have been debt collectors calling or, heaven forbid it, the bank itself. He had a leaning towards debt collectors though. He knew how opportunistic they were. He always had suspicions of them having informants in high places.

They always knew to pounce on a person as soon as they stumbled upon good fortune. He probably would pay some of them if their tone was not as hostile as it was. The Please Call Me messages were from Tshepiso, nothing new there. He was going to call her as soon as he had airtime. Besides, he thought, the news he had for her was worth waiting for. He would call her in his own time.

He took a call from his mother just as he was queuing in front of the ATM. This was a call he wanted to take. The good news was just begging to be blurted out but he remembered Tshepo’s wise counsel from earlier. It turned out his mother wanted to tell him about Thabang. She lamented the lousy timing of Thabang’s passing, as her meager pension had been used up. It was imperative that she attend the funeral. Thabang’s mother was the only sibling she had left. Not wanting to give himself up, Thabo just told her that he was going to make a plan.

The moment of truth arrived. He was now standing in front of the ATM, praying silently that the money he so desperately wanted to be there would actually be there. He punched in his pin and looked at the options. He skipped the ‘Check Balance’ option and went straight to ‘Withdrawals’. He opted to withdraw two thousand rand, the most he could possibly withdraw. He sighed deeply and waited.

Someone called while he was waiting and he unceremoniously rejected the call. The caller could wait. He had bigger fish to fry here. The machine spat his card out first and then it made that distinct sound. That unmistakable sound it always makes when there actually is money in the drawer’s account. It went ‘grrrrrrrrrrr’ and there it was.

The twenty one-hundred rand notes were crisp and neatly stacked. He sighed and smiled as his phone beeped to confirm completion of the transaction. He wanted to forget the slip there for the beautiful girl behind him to marvel at his fat bank balance but Tshepo wouldn’t have any of that nonsense. “Now is not the time to draw attention to ourselves.” he advised.

It was gravely important that the distribution of the remainder of the money be done expeditiously, and they did just that. Five thousand rand went to his mom’s account. She would use it to help out at the funeral, as well as to replenish some of her own groceries. A few thousand went into paying off Thabo’s own debts. He didn’t pay ALL of them; he didn’t have money to waste. He paid only the polite ones; the understanding ones that embarrassed him the least. The hostile ones would have to wait.

There was a still lot of money to deal with before whoever put it in Thabo’s hands woke up to their error and started calling the bank. This was reason enough for Thabo to spruce his wardrobe up a bit. He bought a few things that he needed. A pair of sneakers here, a pair of jeans there, clothes for those very rare occasions when he went to church, a flashy cell phone and some high end toiletries. All the important stuff really.

Tshepo was treated to a few items of clothing for his wise counsel and for his loyalty as a friend. Thabo wanted to get Tshepiso a few things but Tshepo advised that he get her a gift voucher instead. This would reduce the risk of buying things she might not like. “She’s a woman after all,” he added.

Thabo’s mother was elated to hear the good news. He bent the truth about how he got the money, though. He said it was money he had invested a long time prior. “God is great,” said his mom. He decided, for the sake of consistency, that he would sell the same story to Tshepiso.

With the day having gone as productively as it had, it was time for the boys to drink themselves stupid in celebration. They jokingly thanked the ‘blesser’ who had ‘blessed’ the wrong account as they drank the finest whiskey, that the pub they were in, could offer.

Tshepiso couldn’t wait for Thabo to sober up and explain himself. She came home to news of an investment of his having matured. An investment she had never heard of. The slips for the items he purchased added up to roughly twenty thousand rand. On top of all that, she had come home to a very jubilant and God-praising mother whose son had given her five thousand rand from an apparent investment that had matured on that day. “This had better not be what I think it is,” she said to herself. It just couldn’t be.

She searched him while he lay comatose from an obvious alcohol overdose. The answer was most likely in his pocket. She rolled him over and found his wallet with just over a thousand rand in his back pocket. He had been lying on his cell phone. She was thankful to find it when she did. The battery had been drained so much that it was going to die any minute. He had ignored all her calls and Please Call Me messages. She rushed to his messages and there it was. The one thing she had feared she would see was there.

She had opted to direct the thirty-thousand rand loan she had taken to his account because she didn’t want it eaten up by her debit orders. It was for a business she had ironically wanted to start for him. It was supposed to be a surprise. If only he had answered his phone, he would have known not to touch the money!


Tell us: What would you do if you suddenly found a large sum of money in your account?