I was on time. My formal lace-ups had an impressive shoe shine. The colour of my cardigan was perfectly matched with my black tie. With the other four male and five female interns, we walked hurriedly behind Mike Magaba; gruff, authoritative and philosophical. He was head of the Youth Development Division.

Mike made it known that he was the one in charge.

“Trash the textbook stuff and be an empty vessel,” he said as he pushed open the double doors that led down to a hallway lined with office numbers all the way down to the far wall. “You have just stepped into the real world.” He continued. “Become a member of the working class. This place will be the home in which you will be taught to be responsible men and women. Monday to Friday, we will nurture your talents and help you find yourself. There will be good days and bad days. Work hard to impress us and leave the competition in the dust. Only five of you will get jobs here. The rest will have to take the experience and move on.”

I heard the guy on my right swallow hard. He was nervous. Mike kept up the fast pace and flipped the first page of his file and started reading out the names.

“Mimi Sibuyi, Mishack Mbele and Mlungisi Shai. You will be working with our staff in office eleven. Aron Khune, Amos Thibane and Amanda Nosenga. Office sixteen. Move it! Now! Lenard Greyling, Jabulile Kamane, Thando Mathebula. Office nineteen. And finally. Tiro Mokgele. You’re in office twenty-nine. Alright, spread out and make every second count, boys and girls. Good luck.”

And that was my workstation. Office 29. Five doors ahead, on my right. 23… 25…28…and when I raised my hand to knock, the door flew open. I was now looking directly into eyes that I never imagined seeing again. These eyes belonged to a familiar face. The shock sent a strong charge to my heart. I instinctively jumped back.

“Oh sorry,” she apologized, putting her hand on my shoulder. “I didn’t mean to startle you. Are you alright?”

I quickly fought to regain some inner mental balance, and kept a composed exterior before I replied.

“Fine, thank you. Nothing is broken here.”

“Good,” she said, right before she shot out a hand which crossed the distance between us and grabbed my arm. Pulling me into the office. “Maybe you can help.”

The room had a fresh smell of a freshly cleaned carpet and well-polished furniture. This anxious-looking woman had me sit behind a desk. In front of a computer. Pointing at a blank icon.

“There’s the problem here. I wanted to rename this excel document and only ended up corrupting it. I tried all that I know to fix this but nothing is working. Think you can help me?”

The think-tank got clogged. Words couldn’t come out of my voice box. I felt like a large lump had suddenly formed in my throat. I was burning with discomfort. I could only give her a nod.

“Good. Now I’ll go get one of the nerds that work here. Just in case it gives you more problems.”

And with that, she went out in a hurry. Right after she gave me a mild pat on the shoulder for some confidence in my yet-unknown skills. I put my fingers to work on the keyboard with my thoughts teetering on the brink of angry frustration with one question on my mind… why her? Why her!

I fixed the file with moments to spare until she could come back. The time which I dedicated to dialling that old goat’s number. And his almost instantaneous answer was evidence that he had been anticipating this call.

“Hello, son. How are you holding up?”

“Why did you send me here, Lefu?”

He just chuckled. “I take it you’ve met your old girlfriend, Dintle. She still has it going on right?”
I cut in just as he was about to blow a flirtatious whistle.

“You’re making a big mistake…” I said to him. Remembering to take my voice down to a whisper. “You can’t do this to me. This wasn’t part of the deal.”

“Of course I can, my boy,” he responded. “I am the god of death. Besides, it’s my turn to come up with the rules. Now, you didn’t expect me to make it easy, did you? Dintle deserves some sentimental treatment too after you played her poor soul. She gave you her time, but you broke the hour glass and sniffed the sand like coke. What she felt for you was real, but you were only interested in the thrill. Satisfying the male gene that drives your urge to get in every girl’s jeans.”

While my grim grandpa blew his bagpipes, I hung up in his ear when I saw the door swing open. Dintle came in followed by another guy from ICT.

“Howzit going, my friend?” she wanted to know.

“All fixed up.” I told her.

“Really? Let me see.” She double clicked it. The worksheet opened. It was still intact. “Yes!” she exclaimed. Putting a hand under my armpit and pulling me up to my feet. I was about to step aside when she then touched me on the shoulder, gave me a kiss on both cheeks, and embraced me strongly. As we separated, I stepped back. She could see that I was discombobulated by what had just happened.

“Oh sorry,” she apologized. A little embarrassed herself. “I just got a little overexcited when I saw that you fixed it. I had been working on that information for weeks and I thought I had lost all my hard work.”

I just stood there, not sure what to say next. I had to be careful that I wouldn’t end up revealing my true identity. “It’s fine. I’m just glad that I was able to help.”

I remember wishing that the fan in the room would just blow away the awkward air of silence that was suddenly in there with us. But it was the ICT guy who finally did.

“Okay…introductions; my name is Javas Madonsela from ICT.”
Dintle jumped in.

“And my name is Dintle. I work and share office space with your mentor, Bab’Mkhize. He called in sick today. But you’ll meet him tomorrow. A nice old man. You’ll learn a lot from him.”

Javas then gestured that I follow him.

“Come on. Let me show you around.”


Tell us: Do you think Tiro aka Thulani will be able to keep his cool and not reveal who he was?