It took 15 or 20, but they were finally on the way. Fuck, man. It really was in the wrong direction and because they didn’t have a GPS, managed to take the wrong left. Lost in a maze of streets with what looked to be names of WW1 French battlefields, they turned around and finally got on the right road. The suburb was damned quiet. No dogs barked at their passing, either lights were off in every home or people had put blankets on their windows. There were no signs of looting, though. At least some good news for a change… This time they got to Martin’s ex the right way, and it was fast. The problem was nobody answered the fucking gate. Dan told Martin to jump over while he kept an eye on everything. Under normal circumstances, a 51 year-old man jumping over a wall would’ve looked funny, but Martin was an athlete, so he pulled himself up and over faster than a drug mule on crack. Seconds later, he knocked on the door- no answer. He tried the windows too. Again, no answer. Dan thought this was taking too long, so he said “just kick in the door, dammit!” Martin went one better…

 

This being South Africa, the minimum security accepted by insurance companies is to have burglar bars on the windows that can open. It’s stupid, but you’ll often see a tiny grill covering a small window and next to it, an unprotected window big enough to pull furniture through. So, ole Marty pulled out his Glock 30, held it by the barrel and smashed the lounge window, then kicked off some jagged edges and jumped in… The neighbors did nothing. There wasn’t so much as a friggin’ curtain twitch. About 10 seconds later, he heard a woman’s scream and then her raised voice was cut off abruptly. Shortly afterwards, the electronic gate slid open and Martin emerged through the front door with a tight smile on his face. “Okay, she hates me big time for breaking the window and scaring the fuck out of her, but she’s packing. My son’s here too. They’ve been living off the last of the monthly groceries she’d bought before this shit started, and were about to run out of food. Keep an eye on things. I’m gonna help them pack, then we can go.” Dan replies “just make sure she doesn’t pack her freakin’ Jimmy Choos and Victoria’s Secret- only practical clothes and sturdy shoes. Get them to step on it, we’re running out of time here. I haven’t seen any movement, but you never know if there are any heroic neighbors around. By the way, see if she’s got a shovel or spade. We’ll need it to dig up the caches along the way.”

 

Time seemed to crawl and fly by simultaneously. He paid it no mind, only watched everything around him carefully. Nobody had come out to investigate the broken window and scream of earlier- so much for a sense of community or some racial solidarity… Martin came out first, this time through the front door. Gun in hand, a backpack on his shoulder, his ex-wife and son followed. Daniel could sense the tension from that far out, and knew it was going to get worse. He never thought much of that bird. High-strung, weirdly shy around people, she’d do a 180 if she saw anybody at her ex-husband’s office instead of introducing herself like a normal human being. An annoyingly high-pitched and loud voice, very illogical, mean in a frustratingly petty way and apparently mentally unstable to boot, she had a knack for driving poor Marty up the wall within seconds. To use a South African expression, she was a panic mechanic- and this was a time when they needed to be calm. He stood by the open passenger door, gun in hand, eyes scanning the area. Sarah Vosloo nee Wolmarans saw him and her first reaction was to turn around, but Martin grabbed her arm and dragged her along. They packed the duffel bags and backpack in the trunk, then she tried to get in the front passenger seat. Dan gave her a look and said “I need to sit in front to keep an eye on things and shoot if necessary. Get in the back, please.” Her cheeks reddened and swelled like she’d just stolen a chipmunk’s stash. A flashed look at her ex-husband confirmed how things stood, and she sat in the back without saying a word even though it was clear she had an entire dictionary to say. Dylan, the poor kid, was relieved to see his dad and got in behind him, eager to go. Nice boy. Very calm in spite of his mother, he loved playing sports and was the captain of the rugby team. He wasn’t an academic giant, but neither was he stupid. Besides, he had his dad to help him out every weekend and when it came to English, his “uncle” Dan’s years of experience writing to newspapers came in handy…

 

There was no shovel because she used to insist her gardener bring his own tools. Oh well. That’s women for you. They’d just have to come up with a solution later on. Map out, he told Marty “make a left here, take the second right, follow the road. I’ll guide you further when we get there, because we’re gonna have to take the back ways to avoid any funny business on Cape Road. It took them 25 minutes instead of 15, but they got to their neighborhood in one piece. Now they’d have to go towards Greenacres, then take the suburban roads in case there were still looting at the mall, as well as avoid the SABC office with its surveillance cameras and the Mount Road police station. They turned left on C.J. Langenhoven, took a right behind the church and carried on towards Mount Croix and Daniel’s brother. The suburbs behind the mall had been hit and there was plenty of garbage strewn on the streets. Shit, they even saw the bodies of some whites who looked like they’d put up a fight. Still no sight of the cops. What the fuck was going on? Were they in on it, or not? It got worse the further east they went, and by the time they got to his brother’s house on Bayview Road in Mount Croix, it was looking like a warzone without bomb craters.

 

Every house had been hit. Some broken furniture lay where it had fallen, gates often hanged by a hinge or were laid down next to the entrance, and the stench of death was everywhere. They got to his brother’s house and it looked no different. Even though he knew it in his bones, Daniel nevertheless went out to have a look. He found his brother face-down outside the front door, with what looked like major head trauma from some rocks that were laying around, his face purple from where blood had congealed under the skin, so he had to have been dead at least a day. There was more blood on the ground. Clearly, he’d kicked some ass before they finally overran him. The door creaked in the slight breeze, but there was no point in going in and not a chance to move the body because while alive, his brother had loved food, to be polite. At that point, Daniel realized he had no family left in Africa. He looked straight ahead without seeing for a bit, then went back to the car wooden-faced. “He’s dead. They killed my family, the motherfuckers”, said Daniel while looking ahead. To be continued…

 

Mircea Negres

Port Elizabeth

South Africa