As Precious turned, I immediately thought of the local cafe. Damn! I was so late by now. I ran hurriedly past a few shops outside the mall and crossed a road to get to the cafe.
Mr Blanc looked at me sharply and firmly said that he’s going to reduce my income for the day from five rand to two rand.
“Those shelves aren’t gonna unpack themselves. Pack them in the store room, after that you should go and clean the toilet,” he said.
I packed the stock on the shelves and then went off to clean the toilet. There was an intense smell as I opened the door to the toilet. I quickly flushed the toilet in the hope that the smell would disappear – but no such luck.
I tried removing the stains on the toilet bowl but these wouldn’t budge. I continued scrubbing with more determination and purpose – but the stains remained, clear as daylight.
Frustration and anger grew inside me and I started to scrub even more forcefully. If someone had seen me in that moment, they would have through that I was struggling to pull out an object that had fallen inside the toilet. It felt as if this stain was spiting me, laughing at me, telling me that it ain’t going nowhere. I lost my temper and kicked the front of the toilet bowl.
“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” I exclaimed in pain.
This was truly the end to an already terrible day.
Agh, who cares about this little stain, I though to myself. I poured the whole bottle of dishwasher liquid into the toilet and gave it a flush – just to try to get rid of the bad smell.
Ah, much better, I thought to myself.
I went back to Mr Blanc to find that the shop was closing. He told his daughter Pam to give me my salary. She, feeling pity for me, I guess, put five rands on the counter. I hesitated to take it though, which is when her dad noticed and said: No, Pam. Benard, most unusually, came very late today – so his day’s wage is just two rand.
Pam opened the cash carrier again but once her father was out of sight she quickly placed the five rand coin on the counter.
“Take it,” she whispered. “You need it more than we do.”
I quickly grabbed the coin and put it in my pocked, just before Mr Blanc returned. I looked at Pam and she winked at me. “See you tomorrow,” she called.
I saw the round clock behind her and my face dropped. It was now five past six in the evening I had to get to my mother quickly or would face an even longer walk home. I waved goodbye to Pam and hurried through the sliding door of the cafe where Mr Blanc was setting up his new LCD screen TV. “Don’t be late tomorrow, kid. If you are, I’ll only pay you fifty cents.”
I nodded as Mr Blanc closed the car boot and went back to his cafe.
I tried walking fast, heading off to Mr Jacobs’ house, where my mother was working. I limped along slowly – my foot was still sore from having kicking the toilet bowl. I eventually did arrive but with an aching foot. Thankfully Mr Jacob’s car was still there. The engine was running. My mother must have pleaded with him to wait a couple of minutes for me, I guessed.
My mom and I greeted each other. I also greeted Mr Jacobs. He just lifted his head up with a nod.
As his house was at the highest point of New Block Stallian, it had the most beautiful view of the area. The streetlights bloomed in the area, making it really shine.
I must have fallen asleep in the car and woke as we arrived on the dusty side of Stallian. Well, to tell the truth, we were in the middle part of Stallian. It was called middle-class Stallian, but known to us residents just as ‘Block Stallian’.
It fell between the wealth of New Block and the poverty of Old Block. The houses were not too bad there but there wasn’t a tar road in the area. Still, the houses were well built – so it was a developing area, I guess.
I must have fallen asleep again as suddenly I found myself opening my eyes and we were in Old Block Stallian – our home.
Mr Jacobs parked his car at the small front gate of my home.
“Go inside, boy, I want to have a word with your mother,” he said.
I looked at my mom and she said quietly: “It’s OK, Benard. Go inside.”
I got out the car and went indoors. I went straight to the fridge to look for some ice to put on my swollen foot. Only when I opened the fridge did I remember that it was broken – it had stopped working last week, just days before school reopened.
I closed the fridge door with a sharp push and a bang. I went to the sitting room and turned on the TV, but there was nothing interesting to watch. So I switched it off again and just sat for a while in the dark thinking of all the events that had transpired during the day.
I must have fallen asleep. When I awoke the house was quiet – it was in the early hours of the morning. I had been woken by a weird dream:
It was as if I could see myself and the future. The dream was full of darkness. People were plotting against me – but I couldn’t see their faces. Suddenly, everyone was shouting my name – admiring me. I could hear the crowd chanting for me. But still, I couldn’t see who they were. I found myself walking onto a stage and heard a voice saying: “Shoot him.” Then there was a loud gunshot, the sound cascading through my body. The bullet hit me but passed through. The crowd wasn’t chanting any longer, but screaming instead. I was falling, falling. Then I felt a cold hand touching my hand. I tried to turn towards it but couldn’t move. I felt my spirit rising above my body, looking down at my body lying on the stage, looking down as I clutched my stomach. I saw myself smiling. Why? Why was I smiling? I wondered. Then, the hand clutching me became warmer. I heard the person whispering softly in my ear: “It’s going to be all right.”
The nightmare lifted and so I woke up. But still, I could have sworn that the voice I had heard in my dream was familiar, the voice of someone I knew.
Oh well, a dream is just a dream, I didn’t want to read too much into it. Did it?
I tried to stand up but still felt tired – my back aching. I thought: that’s what you get from sleeping on an old couch. I tried to stretch my back to make it more flexible but the pain didn’t go away, so eventually I gave up.
I went through to the kitchen – my stomach was crying out to be filled up with food. On our old small stove with two hot plates I saw a pot. At least there is something to eat, I thought. I had only eaten a few snacks at school the day before and hadn’t had time to eat at the cafe. But, I was shocked to see that the pot was empty. I lifted the lid again, closing and reopening my eyes to make sure they weren’t deceiving me. But, still the results were the same: the pot was empty and spotless.
I hurried to my mother’s room to ask her for some pocket money so that I could buy lunch at school. An extra two rands would be enough to add to the money that I’d saved for school snacks from my work in the cafe.
As I was about to knock on the door, I heard voices. I could hear my mother and the other voice was familiar too but I couldn’t hear it properly. Then there were footsteps coming straight to the door. I ran back to the couch and laid down, closing my eyes quickly. I heard the door squeak open and felt the soft thud of the footsteps coming to the sitting room where I pretended to sleep on the rough old couch. I slightly opened my eyes to see who was there and to my horror glimpsed Mr Jacobs.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I shouted out.
“Watch your tongue, boy!” he said in response.
My mother walked into the room, wearing a towel. “Mr Jacobs was … er… uhm… Well, he was… he was staying here for the night. It was late.”
Mr Jacobs nodded.
“He was staying here for the night when he arrived at just 18h30 in the evening?” I asked fuming.
“Agh, shut up, boy. You’re not grown up enough to ask or even to talk to your mother like that.” Mr Jacobs said with a confident laugh.
“Are you gonna let this man talk to me like that?” I shouted at my mother in anger.
“Well, he does have a point,” mother grinned.
As angry as I was, I decided to keep quiet. I took the basin that I was going to use to wash myself and went off to the river to fetch some water as there wasn’t any in the tap. The water generally came back on at 09h00 but by then I’d be at school.
I walked on the gravel road and passed through a few bushes. At the river, I laid the basin in the flowing water, until it was moderately full.
As I passed back through the bush, I saw two cars on the gravel road. These looked like a Porsche and a bakkie. But it was still dark and I couldn’t see clearly. It seemed as if the two cars had come to a stop. A person, wearing a hat and dark glasses, climbed out of the Porsche. The person in the bakkie looked familiar to me. He had a scar on his cheek. Before I could think, I saw the two men exchange their briefcases.
“Is it all there?” the man with the cap asked.
“Yes, it’s all there,” the man with the scar responded.
The man with the cap opened his briefcase and touched some small plastic packets of white powder. He opened a packet and tasted the white powder.
“Classic, where did you get this stuff?” he asked.
“Straight from the lands of Jamaica,” ‘scarface’ replied.
“Great, just what I need to convert these headless chickens into mules,” the man with the cap said.
“Ha, ha. I sure wouldn’t like to be a resident of Old Block Stallian right now,” the scarred man said. “So, where are you going to start?”
The man wearing the cap said: “At my school there are a bunch of losers who’d like to lose themselves with this stuff.”
I had quietly moved closer, to listen to their conversation more clearly. But, at that moment, I sneezed.
“What was that?” the scarred man asked.
“It sounded like someone sneezing,” the man with the cap repllied.
He pulled something from his back pocket. I couldn’t see what it was as it was still dark but saw a glint of hard steel. “Bang! Bang! Bang!”
I fell to the ground, losing my grip on the basin. It made a splashy sound as the water fell.
“Whoever you are, get away right now, before you become a corpse. I’m gonna count to ten and if you aren’t out, then you’re a goner,” the man with the gun shouted.
“Ten! Nine!” the man counts. I heard the sound of a gun, more like “Ching chung” the sound of a shot gun. “Eight! Seven!” My heart started pounding even faster.
I was trapped. If I moved, they would see the long grass moving and would know where I was hiding.
I noticed that the counter’s voice had changed. My body started to shake. I looked up to see that there was only one man – the man with the scar on his cheek – counting. Just then I heard a footstep behind me. I turned without thinking.
“You, it’s you.”
I felt a hard smack on the back of my head. My vision became blurry. I couldn’t see properly any longer. I glanced up at the dude. I knew him. Just then he kicked me straight on the left side of the head. The world went black as I fell.
Tell us what you think: What’s going to happen to Benard now?