Things were starting to settle down nicely, Baba thought. The new job was working out well. It was nice to not have to do everything himself; to be able to show the men what to do and know that it would get done. They were a good team and they made his work easy.
In the two weeks since he started, he’d already achieved a lot: the electrical problem in the shopping centre was fixed, the toilets were flushing properly, and the tiling he was monitoring was all being done expertly and fast. To say he was enjoying his new job was an understatement!
Baba sighed with satisfaction. It was close to pay day and he was sitting in the kitchen working on his budget, like Lerato had showed him. He was getting paid half his monthly pay since he had started mid-month. But Baba wanted to be on top of his money – not the other way around.
On Baba’s list of expenses Ma Ruby’s name was at the top, with the amount he was going to pay her back every month. He was eternally grateful that she had helped him pay Bra Terror back. She wasn’t even getting any interest from him. He was also grateful that she had introduced him to her stokvel.
He enjoyed their meetings. It helped take his mind off how lonely he felt without Grace, plus he was saving money. He knew Grace would approve. In a few months’ time he would have enough to pay for her tombstone – with a little help from Themba.
“Hawu Baba, why are you so serious?” Samke asked, putting a cup of tea in front of him. He hadn’t even heard her walking around the kitchen making it.
“Oh mntanami, ngiyabonga,” he said, looking up and thanking her for the tea.
“What are you working on?” Samke asked.
“My budget. It’s not as hard as I thought,” he admitted.
“That’s great Baba. I’m glad you’re working again. You seem very happy these days.”
“I am. And wena, how is business?”
“Tough Baba. I had to make a tough decision but I think in the long run it will help me,” Samke admitted.
“Can I help you with anything?” Baba asked, taking a sip of his tea. “Mmm,” he hummed in appreciation.
“Cha Baba, you already have helped me more than you know.”
“The man from your stokvel was here, Ngobese. He wants me to let him take over the lease of the shop I rented.”
“And? Are you?”
“I’ve thought about it. Even though I will lose the deposit I put down, I think it’s best I let it go.”
“Ngobese is going to help me. He knows a barber who has a chair to rent in his space. It will be much cheaper than renting out a whole container that I might not even use that much. I can then start to save towards my own space one day.”
“That’s very good, Samke. You are all grown up my girl; a real business woman. I’m proud of you.”
Samke beamed at the praise from her father.
“I wish your Ma was here to see how far we’ve come. She’d be so proud of all of you.”
They sat quietly for a little while, listening to Khwezi’s baby talk.
“I have to go out soon Baba. I must meet with Josiah – the man from the barber shop.”
“Go ahead, I’ll watch Khwezi, woza mzukulu. (I’ll keep an eye on him).” Baba picked Khwezi up and sat him on his lap. “And don’t stay out too long. Samke, I want us to choose a tombstone for your mother. All of us, nje ngomndeni – together as a family.”
Samke left to meet Josiah at the barber shop. On the way her heart was heavy. She felt like every time she took steps forward, something always seemed to knock her back. But she wasn’t going to stop. She was going to keep trying until her business was successful.
As she approached the barber shop she could hear laughter from inside. The place was buzzing with energy. Josiah was busy cutting a man’s hair while a group of men – his client’s friends – sat and chatted. Three of them were playing cards while they waited for a cut and shave. Josiah’s was a busy place and people just loved him. Samke could see that. He gave his customers special treatment and they kept coming back for more.
“Hi Josiah, I’m Samke. Ngobese sent me about the chair to rent,” she said.
“Oh yes, I was expecting you. How are you?”
“I’m good thank you. I can come back another time so we can talk. I can see you’re busy,” Samke said, looking around.
“Nonsense, we can talk now. Besides, this place is never quiet, so get used to it.”
They started talking and Samke was liking the deal and the terms for rental of the chair. And then two women walked in.
“Josiah, I need you to cut my hair,” one of them said, taking off her doek to reveal short, natural hair.
“You have to join the line, sister. We’re also waiting,” one of the men playing cards said.
“But how long will that take?” the woman asked. Josiah shrugged.
“Why do you want to cut your hair anyway? I thought you were growing it?” he asked.
“I’m tired of it. It’s hard to manage.”
“Maybe Samke could do something with it. Samke, is there something you can do for our customer?” Josiah turned to her.
Samke couldn’t believe Josiah was putting her on the spot like that. But she remembered Ma Ruby telling her that she should try to never turn customers away or they might never come back.
“Sure. I can twist it for you. That way you don’t worry about combing daily.”
“Can you do that?” The woman was happy. “Okay then, let’s do it.”
“The wash basin is over there with the towels and shampoo.” Josiah motioned to the corner of the room. “And your chair is the purple one.”
Samke smiled and mouthed a ‘thank you’.
When she got home, Baba and Baby Khwezi were fast asleep. Lerato and Themba were talking about cars. By the sounds of it, it seemed like they were agreeing for once on which car to buy. Samke was shocked that Themba was giving up his dream of driving a Mercedes Benz and agreeing to getting a smaller car.
“With my Fixed Deposit 32 Day Notice Account, I can save up the deposit and have money left over for two instalments,” Themba said.
“In no time at all we’ll have wheels. Imagine that!” Lerato said excitedly.
“Yes, and I will take you out for a night on the town,” Themba said, giving her a hug.
“Mmm, where will you take me?” Lerato asked.
“We’ll drive to Maboneng and do what young people do,” Themba said as he started to dance around the kitchen. “And then we’ll drive to the Kruger National Park for a weekend away.”
“I like the sound of that,” Lerato said.
“And then you can take us out to Sun City,” Samke chipped in.
“You’ll have to pay; petrol is not cheap,” Themba said, laughing.
“You’ll have to take the car home first for izibusiso. You need to have it blessed,” Baba said, coming in with Khwezi in his arms. Samke walked to him and took Baby Khwezi, planting a big kiss on his chubby little cheek.
“Is Busi back yet?” Baba asked.
“Yes, she’s in her room,” Lerato said, “I’ll go get her.”
Busi joined the rest of the family in the lounge, sitting at Baba’s feet. She took the catalogue from the coffee table and started paging through it, looking at some of the tombstones.
“Haibo, wait! I need to get Khwezi’s bottle first,” Samke said, going to fetch the bottle from the kitchen.
Now that they were all together, it was time for the Majolas to choose a tombstone. After much talk, suggestions and debate, they decided to get something beautiful and simple – something inexpensive. The Majolas were going to save money and still give Grace the dignified unveiling she deserved.