Easter Monday. Three months later…
Amahle is alone at her sister’s house in W Section in Umlazi for the Easter weekend while the rest of her family is away visiting relatives in Johannesburg. She is lying on the couch, the TV volume on low. The weather has been dreadful the whole weekend; cold with steady drizzle.
The solitude has given her time to think about her life. She has been hunting for a job for three months to no avail. Her stunt with Ray Mthalane didn’t help her one bit – she has become persona non grata in the mainstream journalism industry. She has been surviving by writing profiles and running social media accounts for a few Durban gqom artists.
Amahle is adjusting to life as a freelance journalist. She is still stressed about not getting paid a set salary on a particular day every month. She’s had to be economical with the truth a couple of times, telling her landlord she was ‘away’ working on a story outside the country. In fact, she had been at her sister’s house in Umlazi, waiting to get paid so she could then pay rent.
Her cellphone vibrates on the coffee table. It is Nolwandle from Kwazulu-Natal Emergency Services.
“Hi, Nolwandle. Long time!”
“Hi, Amahle. Long time indeed.”
“So what’s up? You know I’m no longer at Umlazi Herald, right?”
“Yes, they told me. Listen, I saw the profile you wrote about the singer Sandiso on Facebook. That is beautiful writing. It is lovely and really in-depth.”
“Thanks. Thanks a lot.”
Amahle stands up and paces around the lounge.
“Listen,” says Nolwandle. “I want you to do a profile kind of thing for us. Something about us as we are working, out in the field.”
“Yes, I can do that. When do you want me to tag along with you guys?”
“Today, if you are free. Sorry that it is such short notice, but weather services told us just now that heavy rains and blistering winds are expected all over Durban later today. We have a bit of a budget to pay you: 10 grand.”
“Yes, I’m in!” Amahle lets out a laugh, unable to contain her joy. She moves the curtain and sees clearing skies. “Are you sure about this bad weather? It looks like the worst of the rain is over. I can see sunlight peering through the clouds.”
“I’m also not sure,” says Nolwandle. “But the directive has been issued. We will pick you up at Kwamnyandu Mall in two hours.”
Amahle showers, gets into jeans, sneakers, T-shirt and windbreaker. Standing in front of the mirror, combing her fade haircut, she smiles as her heartbeat picks up speed. She last felt this much adrenaline when chasing a breaking hard news story at the Umlazi Herald.
She grabs her umbrella and heads to the taxi rank. People are out and about on the streets again. There is a hint of sunlight peeking through the clouds and it is getting warm. Children run with the abandon of people suddenly freed from captivity. Amahle takes off her windbreaker.
She finds the emergency services truck as soon as she arrives at Kwamnyandu Mall. Nolwandle is sitting at the front with the driver. She smiles, offering her hand to pull Amahle up into the truck. Amahle finds a seat on the two benches behind the front seat with other emergency service personnel.
A gust of wind with a peculiar smell enters through the windows. It smells like sea water.
“Can you smell that?” shouts the driver, the smile he had while greeting Amahle evaporating quickly.
“Yes,” says Nolwandle. “It smells like the ocean.”
“It means the storm is coming from the sea, and it will dump heavy rains. I don’t like this one bit. I don’t think we are prepared enough for this one,” he says, pumping the accelerator pedal of the truck.
Tell us: Would you like to do adrenaline-pumping work? If so, what sort of work?