It’s Saturday morning and Jonasi is lying on his bed, bored. His mom is at a provincial stokvel in Malamulele and his dad left early to deliver bonsai trees to a nursery in Musina. It’s so quiet in the house. He had promised his dad he would water the plants but it’s too late now – the midday sun will burn the wet leaves.
His phone rings. It’s Bethuel.
“I am with Rudzani and Pretty here,” Bethuel says. “We’re at Shoeb’s. Pretty brought R35 and we need at least R150 to have a serious smoke.”
“But I don’t have the money. I also don’t have a plan to get any.”
“Make one,” Bethu insists. “It’s been too long. You haven’t had money since that first hit of nyaope.”
“You’re giving me a headache,” says Jonasi, beating his forehead with his palm.
“We’ll be waiting for you. The dealer will get here in an hour. He’s Top Man, you know. I’ve booked a half box already. He doesn’t accept credit, remember – or didn’t I tell you?”
“Okay. See you soon.” He drops the call.
Jonasi pulls on his jeans and a shirt. He tries the door to his parents’ bedroom; it’s locked. They don’t trust him, he thinks. His father’s study is also locked.
He leans against the wall in the sitting room and looks around. Relief floods him when his eyes light on the DVD player. In a few seconds he has unplugged it and slipped it into a plastic shopping bag.
He sends a WhatsApp voice note to Bethuel: “Hey buddy, I didn’t find any money in the house but I got a DVD player.”
When Rudzani, Pretty and Bethuel see Jonasi walk around the back of the supermarket, their faces beam with excitement. Bethuel snatches the plastic bag from Jonasi and peers inside. “You’re our messiah! This thing costs an arm and a leg. Top Man got a bargain. This for two half boxes.”
“I thought we needed to sell it first and then pay for the stuff.”
“It doesn’t work like that. Top Man accepts valuable items in exchange for nyaope. We swap, you see?”
“It’s all fine if that’s what you say,” Jonasi agrees.
“Let me go meet the Top Man,” Bethuel says.
“I am coming with you,” says Pretty.
“He only meets with me,” Bethuel warns. “I’ll be up there near the bushes outside the clinic.”
In the twenty minutes that Bethuel is away, Jonasi, Rudzani and Pretty sit against the shop wall and chat.
“What did your mother do when she discovered that your sister’s laptop was missing, Rudzani?” asks Jonasi.
He chews his upper lip before he answers: “She wasn’t happy of course. My sister is finding it hard to cope with her studies without her laptop. I don’t know guys. Maybe we …” his voice drifts off.
“I am sorry to hear that,” Jonasi nods. “And, I mean, didn’t they suspect?”
“My sister shouted and swore at me. She said I stole it for my nyaope addiction.” He laughs and shakes his head. “I cried and told my mother to tell her daughter to stop accusing me of something I didn’t do. In the end, my mother believed that I was innocent.”
“Why all the questions?” Pretty asks.
“I need to find a way to shield myself from my father’s anger,” Jonasi says. “When they find that the DVD player is missing …”
“You tell them you know nothing about it,” Rudzani says.
“Will they believe me?”
“They should,” Pretty answers. “When we sold my mother’s microwave, she believed some thieves stole it. She cried and I consoled her with sweet words of hope that God would provide another microwave.”
Bethuel gets back.
“It all worked out,” he announces. “He gave us two half boxes. He says he needs a smart phone. He’ll give R350 for it, if it’s in good condition. That’s an assignment for all of us.”
They all agree.
“Now let’s forget about everything else and enjoy ourselves,” Jonasi smiles. “This is great stuff. It always gives me a good kick in the brain.”
Tell us: This chapter shows how addiction can make people both addicts and thieves. What other crimes do addicts commit to get drugs?