Today’s Friday, the start of my big money, month-end weekend at the mall. It’s also when the vultures show up – tik-koppe looking for a quick buck for their next fix … and I’m late. I’d lost track of time. The shops open at 9am, and I left the casino around 8:45, so I’m late.

I might have to work the doors today and hope some of my regulars show up. When I get to the mall I can already hear voices of the car guards: “Come, come, come. Turn, turn. Safe my lady,” as they direct shoppers out of the parking bays.

All the spots are taken by the daily car guards at their ‘official’ places; mine by two mean-faced meth monsters who’ll pull a knife on each other for a few cents.

They notice me, Sietchie and Chicken, as they move between the cars. They’re still hyper from their last hit.

“Yaai voetsek!” Sietchie calls out, flinging his arm as though I’m a pavement special brak he’s chasing away.

“Ja,” Chicken chimes in, flicking his knife open. “Djy wieran; you snooze you lose.”

The parking area is already three-quarters full, and I ignore them as I snake through the cars towards the shop entrance, where already there is a line of car guards waiting to help customers with their bags. I try to get a good spot by the door.

“Ollie. Ollie.” The heavy German accent of Mrs Schmidt is music to my ears as she comes out of the shop with her bags.

I feel my face stretch into a smile, more from relief than anything else. I’ve been helping her with her bags since the day I started working here – the day the mall opened – three years ago. Her plastic bag had split, two cans of cat food and apples ending up under the cars. I’d given her another bag and helped her pick up the food.

“Môre, mevrou.”

“Môre ist Saterdag, Ollie,” she says, with a naughty twinkle in her eyes.

She always gets me with that one.

“Let me take that, Mrs Schmidt.” I reach out and take the handle of her wheelie shopping cart.

“Come, come, this way,” she says, leading me to where she has parked.

“You are still writing, Ollie?” she asks as we reach her car.

“Yes, Mrs Schmidt. Thanks again for the notebook.”

She pats my arm. “One day when you are famous, I can say I know you, ja?”

I don’t know about that; I write what I think and feel. It frees up space in my head for other things. “Sure, Mrs Schmidt. Sure, sure.”

Sietchie and Chicken aren’t around, and my shoulders relax as I heave a sigh of relief. They’ll think I’m stealing their territory.

After I stow her bags and the trolley in the boot and help her into her car, she hands me a few coins. “Thank you, Ollie. You’re a good man, just like my Hans was. God bless you.”

I feel myself blush. “Thank you. See you next week; same time, same place.”

She waves as she drives away, and I jiggle the coins in my hand. I’m halfway to securing my bed for the night. It’s a beautiful day.

“Awe …” Chicken’s voice sneers so close to my head, I feel his sour breath against my ear. That’s all I hear before I feel three sharp jabs in my side. Mrs Schmidt’s coins slip through my fingers as pain sear my insides.

***

Tell us: Why do you think Mrs Schmidt likes to give regularly to Ollie?