There was a knock on the door and Ma Ruby came rushing in, carrying Baba’s suit. Baba and Busi were practising interviewing at the kitchen table. Lerato and Samke were looking at pictures of cars in a magazine.
“Mr Majola, tell me about a time or a situation at work when you had to deal with a worker who wasn’t performing. How did you handle it?” Busi said, lowering her voice and sounding gruff. Everybody couldn’t help but laugh.
Baba thought for a moment and then a smile crept up on his face.
“This young man, Zweli, was always drunk on Mondays. He would show up at work smelling of alcohol – if he came to work at all. He was a good worker with skills. But he just was like the youth of today – lazy, and with no ambition or care for the future.”
“Okay, so this Zweli. What had he done?” Busi cleared her throat and tried to look stern.
“He came in to work on Monday, drunk. I was foreman so I was in charge. When I told him to leave he started cursing me. He shouted at me about how I was old and jealous of his talent. He said he was the most qualified person there. He told me he had gone to school and should be foreman. Me and Majola – another Majola, funny man – we were escorting him off the site when he punched me.”
“Yho, he did? And what did you do Mr Majola? How did you resolve that conflict?” Busi sounded shocked, but she tried to stifle a laugh. Interviews were a serious business.
“What do you think I did? I had to teach him a lesson. I couldn’t let him do that in front of other employees. What if they disrespected me too? So, I took a piece of pipe ngamngena ngayo …”
“Angizwa, I’m sorry? You hit him?”
“Hayi! I didn’t need to! The boy got such a fright he ran away.”
“Well Baba, at least you didn’t hit him. But don’t tell that story!” Lerato jumped in.
“Hawu, angithi. You asked me what I did and I’m telling you.”
“Yes Baba, but …” Busi was laughing. She couldn’t get the picture out of her mind.
“Bona, it resolved the issue. The boy came back the next day sober and was never drunk at work again. Problem solved. He respects me now and we’re good friends.”
Ma Ruby handed Baba his suit. He went to the bedroom to try it on, leaving everyone in stitches.
When he emerged wearing the suit everyone admired him. Lerato took out her phone and started taking pictures of him.
“You look handsome, Baba,” Busi said.
“At least if they don’t like your answers, they’ll hire you because you look good in a suit,” Ma Ruby said, chuckling.
“Come everyone, get in the picture with Baba,” Lerato ordered.
“Cha, I’m not good for a photo right now. Look at my apron,” Ma Ruby protested.
“Take it off Ma. You made this happen. Go next to Baba. Isn’t he handsome?”
Lerato had her way and the family took photos with Baba. Just then, Bra Mike walked in, without even knocking.
“Oh, you do Insta-time without me?” he said. He went to stand next to Ma Ruby.
“Hai maan!” Ma Ruby swatted off his hand, which had found its way around her waist.
“I’m going to change,” Baba said and left them posing for a photo.
“Where did you get the money for a new suit?” Ma Ruby asked Bra Mike.
“I told you Sweet Chicken. Stick with me and I’ll show you the world. Are you ready for our date?”
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me where you got the money from.”
“Hawu, Ruby. You don’t need to know everything. Back in the day a woman wouldn’t ask how a man got his money,” he said.
Ma Ruby gave him the deadliest look and turned to pick up her apron. Baba came back in his casual clothes.
“Makhi, good luck kusasa.” She bid Baba farewell and headed for the door, stopping to give Khwezi a lollipop on her way out.
“Yima, okay ke,” Bra Mike called after Ma Ruby. “I played a horse. It won. I did it for you, so I can treat you nice-nice after the bioskop tonight,” Bra Mike said, following Ma Ruby out, leaving the girls laughing that he still called the cinema a ‘bioskop’.
Baba had to wait two whole days after the interview before the call came saying he had got the job. The employers wanted him to come in, sign the contract, and start immediately. Lerato advised him to wait and first meet her in the centre, so she could go through the contract with him before he signed it.
Baba was grateful because half the language in there he didn’t understand. She explained it over coffee. She read through all the points in the contract with him, explaining anything he didn’t understand.
The next morning Baba, dressed in workman pants, a formal shirt and work boots, set off to the centre. Samke had helped him pack his lunch as his cast was still a hinderance. He couldn’t wait to have it off as the itching was becoming unbearable.
“Good luck Baba,” Samke gave him a hug, something she hadn’t done since she was a little girl. She was proud of him. They all were.
“Wena, what are you doing today?” Baba asked.
“Sorting out my orders and checking out my stock,” she said, walking to fetch her appointment book from the lounge table. “I’ve got more bookings for hair.”
“Kulungile, sala kahle,” Baba said his goodbyes and left.
Just a minute or two after he left there was a knock on the door. Samke opened it with a smile, thinking it was Baba back. But there was a man she didn’t know. He wasn’t smiling at all.
“Sawubona, Samke,” he greeted her, as though he knew her.
“Sawubona,” Samke greeted. She thought he might be one of Baba’s friends.
“I’m a friend of your father. My name is Ngobese,” the man said.
“Baba just left for work. Can I take a message for him?”
“Cha, I came to see you. Can I come in?”
Samke stepped aside, but left the door open. She showed him to the couch and offered tea. The man refused, saying he wasn’t staying.
“I met uBaba wakho at Ma Ruby’s stokvel,” he explained. “I heard from him that you are renting the new container on Main Road for your hair salon – the blue one.”
Samke felt her stomach sink. Why had she told uBaba about the shop? She had promised herself she wouldn’t tell any of them until she was ready. But she had wanted him to be proud of her, so she had told him before he left for stokvel. She should have kept her mouth shut.
“I’m an event manager and stylist,” she said, trying to sound confident.
“Your Baba told me you’re a business woman. I admire that in a young person.” The man wasn’t smiling, but his demeanour was warm. “Lalela Samke, I would like you to give me that space for my business.”
“But I just told you Baba. I am going to use it for my business.”
“Have you ever owned a business? Do you know how to run one? It’s not as easy as it looks,” the man warned.
“I know, but mine will work.”
“How will you pay for the space?”
“The business will pay. I have clients.” Samke was starting to get annoyed.
“And what happens when clients dry up, even temporarily, and there’s no money to float the business? What will you do then?”
“I’ll manage. Thank you for your concern.”
“It’s not just my concern. It’s Majola’s too, for you, for your little one.” He smiled for the first time at Khwezi.
This man was just trying to scare her. Samke was not going to give him her space.
“Bona, I’m not trying to discourage you. I’m just letting you know that it’s difficult. How will you pay for the next month’s rent? The business will drain money from you at least for the first year or so. Can you handle that?”
Her phone beeped and she looked at it quickly. It was a client, cancelling their appointment for tomorrow. This was not good.
“Mnumzane, Mr, I can’t give you the space. I need it for the business.”
“I know a friend who can help you with a space. He’s a barber and has a cute little spot down Main Road. It’s not far from the rank. His name is Josiah.”
“I know his shop,” Samke said.
“I can talk to him and he can rent you out a chair. It’ll be cheaper than what you’ll pay to rent the container.”
Samke was quiet. Josiah was well-known, and if she had a chair in his shop that would mean regular customers. And when she wasn’t doing hair, she would be doing her events.
“Think about it, but don’t take too long. I need to sort out things myself. But think about it.”
The man got up and tickled Khwezi under his chin to make him laugh. Then he left.
Samke needed to make some tough decisions. What the man said was sensible. She had heard this from every business person she had talked to – even Ma Ruby. But how could she just give up her shop when she was just getting started? No, she had to fight. She had to try, for Khwezi.