“You’ve got to hand it to them. These people who came up with instant lighting charcoal. It’s genius.” Nhlanhla gulped whisky from a slender, sweaty glass. “Just one strike with a match and it takes. The dread of making the fire is no more. Everyone is an instant master fire- starter.”
Laughter around the braai stand – half a drum with mesh made to fit. Six rapid instant – lighting, fire-catching, charcoal brown bags placed in the bottom and set ablaze.
We watched the fire. Next to the flames, fresh rump steak strips stacked too many on a large wooden tray. Just slaughtered meat – fresh, fleshy, a dark shade of red – waited for the ambers of charcoal to even out.
It was a Friday night and Nhlanhla was already there when I arrived. We were at a mutual friend’s place. He was slaughtering a cow as part of a ceremony to beautify his mother’s final resting place. It was the unveiling of a stone on her grave, in remembrance.
In the short time it took for the charcoal in the fire to even out to glowing orange, Nhlanhla had me holding my own slender sweaty glass of his poison.
It was during the first sip that I thought of how, at times in her life, our friend’s mom had displayed the resilience of a rock. She squared up to hardships like rocks do to wicked weather in the wild. She was a strong woman widowed for a third of our friend’s life before she passed on.
A pack of slower burning charcoal was added to the fire to make it last longer. It toned down the blazing raging runaway flames of their instant-lighting cousins.
“This much charcoal means only one thing. Meat and plenty of it,” Nhlanhla said.
“And it’s exactly what I need. I starved myself all afternoon for it,” I said.
“And you know that you can’t get it any fresher than this.”
Nhlanhla was short and chubby. With 40 on the horizon, the back of his cranium – at the exact point where it meets the neck – became a destination of choice for the fat that had seemed to run out of places to deposit there. It did the damage and set in folds. The ripples of fat stayed folded even when he was not looking up at the sky.
“It’s been a while, Nhlanhla. What has it been? Close to a decade since I last saw you? How are you?” I asked about kids, if he was married, the usual.
“I’ve been good. No wife but two kids, a boy and a girl. Life is good. I’m finally in the money.”
I had heard he was doing well. And when I saw the garb he was wearing that night, I knew he was killing dough. He just looked moneyed, dressed in clothes without tags, high-end, understated elegance. I heard he made the move to the mansions of Zimbali. Mingling with old money had become a big part of his everyday life.
Fine tall girl on his arm, she dropped her head down to him. He whispered to her and she ignited a glowing smile.
Tell us what you think: How did Nhlanhla become so wealthy? And who is the girl on his arm?