John Edmunds could still taste her juices as he turned to glance over his shoulder. It was 7.30 in the morning and the alarm on his strapless Casio watch had just begun bleeping madly.
Last night had been a cruel evening he thought, as he swept away his duvet, all ruffled and tangled. The radio was on again about the previous day’s murders, rapes and rugby results and this thing “black economic empowerment”, which human resources at L&A Accountants, had just adopted. After dressing he picked up his black leather briefcase and stepped out of his one-room flat.
Outside, like always, was the Francophone car guard, loitering in the road. He was decked-out in a luminous “Airport Company South Africa” bib and was wildly throwing Edmunds a thumbs-up sign, gesturing to his Twin Cam BMW 6 series where it lay parked in his dedicated parking bay.
Happy-go lucky, they’re all happy-go lucky, thought Edmunds as he hurried along, his head still pounding in time with his rapid steps. He needed to get to the office early if he was going to talk to Jack and Gino. They’d called him to Palmers last night to discuss some important “job-threatening” changes that were taking place at work, before the bastards stood him up. What was this all about? Were they about to retrench more employees again?
On the corner stood the white hunchback beggar, reeking of urine. He was inspecting a stream of rubbish – chip bags, old weekend newspapers and what looked like used toilet paper, which all trailed from a broken city bin. And at the traffic intersection above his flat, a sad-looking man stood begging, holding a refuse bag, while drivers in idling cars, arms extended, offered up leftovers of the day’s consumption – chocolate wrappers, Vodacom talktime vouchers and Red Bull energy drink cans – to his black face. The world outside his home, it seemed, was slowly turning into a human garbage dump.
In all this debris stood his BMW six series twin-cam, as if waiting expectantly for thieves to come and snatch it away, while the Francophone car guard glanced the other way. Or, as Edmunds flicked the keys to switch on the ignition, for hijackers to seize it from him at gunpoint. Nothing was safe any more. His BMW six series could be taken from him at any time, he thought, as he thumbed the security demobilizer, before climbing in.
Inside the six series you were totally cut off from the world outside. Airtight windows reduced the passing scenery of shanty towns and street kids to a silent movie. Even a swerving minibus taxi felt miles away. Like this, it was easy for one’s mind to begin to wander and as he sat in the morning traffic Edmund’s thoughts drifted to last night.
He’d gone to meet Jack and Gino from L&A Accountants. They said they had something important to talk to him about this black economic empowerment thing and that he better meet them down at Palmers. If it had been any other day he would have politely declined, but this sounded too important to turn them down. So there he was at Palmers, just a block away from his Rondebosch flat.
Thursday evening was a busy night and the place was stacked full with bodies. To order a drink Edmunds had to fight his way to the bar. He waited around for Jack and Gino. Time was passing. He ordered another drink, another whiskey on the rocks, a double. Still no sign of Jack and Gino. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellphone. Just his luck. The battery had died. Now there was no way to know for sure if they’d actually tried to call him or if they’d just decided to leave him to look like some mid-week alcie out drinking alone. What the heck, he though as he threw back the whiskey and promptly ordered another. That’s when he noticed the pair of dark eyes staring intently at him. Still looking straight ahead at the ice distilling in his whiskey tumbler, he instinctively smiled back, like something out of Gucci ad he’d seen on tv.
A few drinks later and the next thing he knew he was back at
his place, inside his room with this girl, Lindy-something-or-other. She was
lying flat on his bed naked with her Levis jeans and a Gucci designer top crumpled
up next to her. In his alcoholic haze he began to devour her. A black beauty
of money and style he thought as they slid on beads of sweat and saliva, rolling
freely to and fro. Then he remembered.
“Hold on,” he gasped. Bundling himself out of her latches he strutted over to his clothes cupboard and pulled open a drawer. Out came a condom. “Of course,” she sighed as she gently slid the lubricated rubber onto his erect member.
Aids is everywhere these days. It wasn’t just a black people’s disease any longer, thought Edmunds. But all the same you had to take precautions even if she was a rich yuppie, even though he hadn’t climbed out of bed that last time to make for his condom stash. But then again, that time, the girl had been white.
After some hours of love-making it had become all too much for this girl Lindy who had become moody and unsure. She turned on the light and began pulling on her clothes, yelling emotionally in her half-sober state that she wanted to go home and attacking him repeatedly with calls of “what do you want from me?”
Edmunds begged her to come back to bed with him. But she wasn’t interested. So there they were driving to her house, him nervous because he half-expected her to direct him out to the Langa or Gugulethu townships. Maybe it was because all the blacks he’d ever known – his parent’s gardener, his maid and the church collectors who regularly came knocking at his flat looking for donations, had lived in townships. But no, there it was, a mansion out in Constantia.
She told him to drop her off in front of the 3m-high garden wall. He watched as she entered through the security gates and disappeared up the driveway into a blinding bolt of light cast by the garage spotlight.
He was still thinking of her through his whiskey-infused headache as he drew his BMW six series into the company six-floor parkade, bay number five, where it read, “L&A Accountants”. On the way to his desk, weaving between cubicles and work spaces, he spotted Gino and Jack locked in some kind of conversation with one another. But when he’d looked again he saw them both dart off in separate directions. He’d have to catch them later he thought.
Amidst all this stood his cubicle. Seated at his desk he stared blankly at his screen, waiting for his emails to download, waiting for one from Gino or Jack. There it came. Sender: “Du Plessis, Jack”. He double-clicked. Hopefully not another work schedule for some overdue audit on the Le Grange estate, he thought
John, we have to talk, lunch time in the pool room.
Gino de Jager
L & L Accountants
083 332 4004
Edmunds stood up and surveyed the network of cubicles, looking for Gino. But there right behind him was Sithole. “Hey John, how are you today,” boomed Sithole, sounding more like his GP than a suite. Mr Sithole was his new boss. He had taken over from Rod Sanders, just two months ago, as explained to them at the regular L&A monthly staff share and strategy seminar. Joe Sithole as well as about four or five other black accountants – managers, board members and the like, were to form part of the company’s new step towards embracing the government’s recent black economic empowerment policy.
Suddenly overnight, colleagues and managers, all white, began disappearing. “Relocation” Edmunds and his colleagues were told, to L&A’s London or Singapore branches. But no worries, this black empowerment thing, they said, was going to benefit everyone. In return for recruiting black graduates and workers, the company could expect a healthy cut in government contracts. But Edmunds wasn’t so sure. It was becoming embarrassing working for L&A.
Why? Because Sithole was a gimp. All he did was lip synch requests from management. Apparently the rumour from Jack was that Sithole hadn’t even attended university. Somehow he learnt English and a bit of accountancy here and there, maybe at night courses or in that position he’d held in the former Vendan government as an accountant clerk, which he always like to tell everybody around here about.
Sanders, well he was probably in some two-room London flat, 15 000km away from his wife and kids, kicking himself because the company strong-armed him out of his SA job with promises of pounds and a London patio on the Thames. Because for a white accountant in his late forties like Sanders, it was either take the move, or take the chop and become redundant.
Word from Jack, who with his position as account manager often had to deal with clients directly, was that things weren’t good. A couple of clients had complained that books sent off by Sithole were coming back to them late, incomplete or with information in wrong columns, or in some cases finding themselves with the embarrassing situation of having receiving another business’s entire yearly income statement. In most cases Jack had to clean up for Sithole.
From then on until lunchtime it was work as usual at L&A: Compiling income statements of small companies and trying to balance the books. But the sordid details of liquidations, which had once occupied lunch time conversation, had all but disappeared. Instead the latest talk seemed to be of the string of sudden company name changes that were on the go. Take for instance this one business. One year it’s “Escape Tours” a company owned by Johan Ferreira and Jacobus van der Westhuizen and next it’s “Vulindlela Tours”. But look closely at the footer and there they are, the same two directors as before not a letter added or taken away.
At lunchtime Edmunds caught up Gino in the billiards room where
he standing alone. Gino looked a bit agitated, tapping an unlit cigarette on
the wooden rim of the pool table.
“John, you know about last night, well how can I say this, we did actually see you. I can’t believe you actually hung around there in Palmers. What were you doing there? We saw you with some black chick, she looked quite into you, were you wasted or what?”
But before Edmunds could get a word in, the room filled with
a group of staff who’d taken up the billiard sticks for a game of pool.
Gino motioned to Edmunds and he trailed behind his ungainly tall stature as
they strode out the office, down the lift and out into the parkade.
They marched off to the safety of Gino’s Audi on the 6th floor parking lot. There they were met by Jack, who mumbled something to effect that the coast was clear.
“Okay John, about last night,” said Gino.
“Something really major is happening to this company, if you haven’t already noticed,” came Jack from the back of Gino’s Audi.
“Things are changing. They’re forcing people out of the company and bringing these darkies in to replace them. You, me, Jack, we could all be next.”
“Come off it. This black empowerment thing is going to be carried out gradually – over a couple of years,”
“Bru, you have to watch your back. Your time here is over. You’re a young white oke, just the type this government is trying to chuck out.”
“Ja, Jack’s right John, that Sithole, he’s a fuck-up and there’s only going to be more like him coming.”
“Rumour is that a black guy is about to take majority shares in the company.”
“We’ll be a black-owned company,” said Edmunds, chipping in.
“Exactly and you know what that means?” said Gino, grimacing. “They’re going to cleanse this company, throw out all the white accountants like you, me and Jack.”
“Give it a year or so and you’ll be out there on the road begging like those white homeless okes you see at robots. Then they’ll bring a few dumb darkies in, who barely passed matric and throw them into your position. This whole company is going down John. I’m telling you”
Jack flung forward from the back seat.
“Do you have a foreign passport?”
Edmunds shook his head
“You don’t,” came Gino, “I was going to say, if you have a passport, get out, you’re wasting your time here. This country is going to be the next Zimbabwe. Some people may say it won’t, but it’s going to happen, I’m telling you.”
“Just look at the murder rate, and the hijacks and those farm murders that the cops don’t want to expose. That Thabo, he’s a clever black, but he’s just waiting for Mandela to die and then he’ll drive us all out of here,” came Jack.
“It’ll be like genocide, they’ll wipe us all out,” said Gino, “What’s happening in this company is only the start. Now look here. That girl we saw you with last night, I know it’s like none of our business, but do you know who she is?”
Edmunds shuffled nervously, “Fuck off. It was just some girl.”
“Ja, well that girl you were with, doing whatever you were doing, that girl is Jake Mdazi’s fucking daughter,”
“Who,” said Edmunds, the door half open and his foot straddling in mid-air between the car and the concrete floor of the parkade.
“Jake Mdazi,” said Gino, “You don’t know who Jake Mdazi is?”
“He’s the guy that’s going to takeover this company, the black oke looking at buying up majority shares,” bellowed Jack.
“And how do you even know this,” came Edmunds.
“Because he was at the office last month and this black chick was with him, he introduced to her everyone as his daughter.”
“Check here John, we were going to try and help you out, you know, now that the blacks are coming to take our jobs. But maybe you don’t actually give a shit, or maybe you’re too busy scoring with their chicks, to notice? Actually you know something John, you’re probably going to enjoy black empowerment. I mean it’ll mean more fucking darkies for you to get stuck in on, won’t it, hey? Now that’s real empowerment, hey John?”
“Fuck you guys, that’s not how it is,” called Edmunds as he climbed out.
“Oh John,” shouted Jack, “Just make sure you go for an Aids test, cos the way you’re going on, you probably picked up all their kak already.”
Edmunds slammed the door of the Audi and strode away. Who the hell did Gino and Jack think they were? He didn’t even like black girls. It was only one night. One night.
Just then, while he was mulling over all this, he looked up
to see Sithole standing out in the entranceway.
“Hi John, how’s it going my man,” he said, beaming. “Hey, what do you think of London, mm?” he said chuckling casually, his big frame bobbing from side to side. “I heard they have great shops there, everything you can imagine to buy. Man, why don’t you come into my office I’ve got some good news for you and you can meet Mr Mdazi, you know, the new boss.”