Adopt the brace position

 

This must be a terribly confusing time for the children of dyslexic parents. “If you’re good, Satan might come down the chimney on Christmas Eve!” What a horrible thought. And yet he brings presents for everyone. How bad can he be? This is how Satanists are made.

Meanwhile, across this darkened land, engines are being fired up. I’m talking about car engines, not generators. The savage beasts of the hinterland are preparing for their annual migration to the coast. We sea people, on the other hand, are sharpening our braai forks and readying ourselves to repel the unvarnished hordes.

Unless, of course, you own a restaurant. In which case, you would already have laminated the menus, doubled the prices and halved the portions. Gouge and smile.

I went to a mall a couple of days ago. I was lightly drugged and heavily armed. You’d be a reckless fool to shop any other way at this time of year. The decorations were beyond contempt. Bits of shredded plastic drooped listlessly from the roof. Some fake snow that looked identical to raw cocaine but which, to the detriment of my septum, turned out to be crushed polystyrene. There wasn’t even a Satan Claus to scare the kiddies.

Malls are treacherous places to negotiate at the best of times, but now there are tables set up outside the shops selling stuff that isn’t even related to the stuff in the shops they’re in front of. It’s as if anyone is allowed to walk in off the street with a plastic table and set it up wherever they please, slap a tawdry beaded angel on it and start selling “unique homemade gifts for the whole family”.

Sir, could I interest you in this awesome post-modern sculpture of a giraffe at rest?”

That’s two pieces of driftwood glued together.”

Not at all, sir. It’s a giraffe at rest. I swear on the life of my children.”

There was a sign up in one shop that read, “The best gifts are unexpected.” In that case, none of us should bother getting anyone anything this year. You can’t get more unexpected than that.

I overheard one woman say to another, “I dunno, you know. He’s not a very materialistic person.” I wanted to tap her on the shoulder and say, “What you really mean, madam, is that he has no money. Or he’s a penny-pinching tightwad. Either way, you’re better off without him. Come with me. Let us run away to India and live in a gilded palace surrounded by peacocks and tigers and beautiful eunuchs on leashes pandering to our every whim.”

I hadn’t been in the mall for ten minutes before I felt a pressing need to drink. I would have had better luck finding a bar in a mosque in Saudi Arabia. Had I instead felt a pressing need to buy a pair of water wings, a 700-inch television, a tin of butter beans, a rubber chicken or a can of pepper spray, I would have been sorted.

Men might be less reluctant to go to the mall if they knew there was a place where they could get quietly cut while someone else did the shopping. And by someone else I mean women, but I can’t say that because it’s gender stereotyping and the hairy-legged lentil-eaters would demand nothing less than my scrotum in compensation.

Toyshops always look as if they might sell beer in a room round the back. It makes sense. Toys are fun. Drinking is fun. I can’t imagine a more fun place than a toyshop that sells beer. Children already behave as if they are drunk so they wouldn’t notice a thing.

So I went into a toyshop and walked to the back and began tapping at the wall to see if there was a secret door leading to the bar. One of the sections sounded hollow so I banged on it. Lo, it opened.

One Tafel lager, please,” I said. A woman with a face that would have scared the Gorgon stared me down. “This is the secret portal to the bar, is it not?” Apparently it was the door to the stockroom.

Since I was there, I thought I’d take a look around. Lego seems big this year. When I was a child, the options were limited. You could build a small red house with a green roof and a yellow door. Today, you could build a life-sized replica of Nkandla for a fraction of the cost. In fact, this country wouldn’t have a housing backlog if Lego were in charge of the ministry of human settlements.

Something called a Belch & Barf Power Dragon caught my eye. I liked it. It reminded me of me on a Friday night, except this one came with a Rolling Flame Attack. If I had this fantastic feature, nobody would ever again reprimand me for coming home at an hour ill befitting a man of my age.

I also liked the Airbus A380 with detachable wings. Perhaps for the child who enjoys living dangerously by pretending to fly over a disputed territory within missile range of Russian airspace. There’s nothing like realistic debris to crank up the fun. The box says, “Humane design for children.” And, “The more you play with me, the happier I will be.” I’ve tried that line before. It doesn’t work.

In the weapons section, there’s a die cast metal 8-shot revolver for R139. What a rip-off. I can get a 9mm Parabellum on the Cape Flats for less. Almost new. One careless owner. Slight damage to the serial number.

For the boy (or girl) who dreams of one day going to war, there’s a section devoted to military hardware and personnel. Since it’s all made in China, you’d think the Red Army would feature prominently. Inexplicably, it’s all Navy Seals and Special Forces from America. The soldiers are very lifelike and their intelligence-gathering capabilities are quite likely on a par with the real troops who keep rescuing hostages by getting them killed.

Listen, buddy. Thanks to us, you are no longer being held by Yemeni terrorists.”

Yes, but I’m also dead.”

Oh, I see. You want your freedom and your life. Next time we won’t bother.”

Indeed. There’s no pleasing some people. I suspect that’s why you get parents who bring their children into toyshops two weeks before Christmas. Mom is terrified of being woken on Boxing Day by the little psycho bastard stabbing at her jugular with the sharp end of a Power Ranger because he didn’t get the Ninja Turtle he asked for.

But the kids just don’t get it. Why are you asking me if I want the dune buggy or the radio controlled tarantula? Obviously I want both. What? I must point to just one? Fine. I’ll take the spider. What do mean I can’t have it now? Why the hell not? What’s that you’re writing down? Who do you work for? Fuck this. I want new parents.

Since they’re barely old enough to articulate the need to poo, they register their protest by dropping to the floor and thrashing about and screaming as if a sniper got them in the leg.

I moved to another aisle and found a self-service gas station with a grinning white boy operating the pump. There was also a cash register with a white girl behind it. These are not things you see every day, but when you do, you’ll know the country is going down the tubes. Or headed for greater things. I can’t tell any more.

Disney, Barbie and Dream Dazzlers are going head to head on a range of, well, heads. Styling heads, they’re called. Dolls that have been amputated below the shoulders. Each comes with 14 implements one can use to style the hair on one’s disembodied head. In fifteen years from now, the unemployed will consist largely of women with perfectly coiffured hair standing at the robots waving curling tongs at us in a vaguely threatening manner.

I overheard one not-black kid say to his mother, “But it’s only R399!” Spoilt brat. I once got a peach pip and two chicken feathers for Christmas and I was so grateful that my mother allowed me to invite an imaginary friend over to play with the piece of bark I got for my birthday.

My Friend Cayla is blonde, blue-eyed and costs R999. “The smartest friend you’ll ever have!” says the box. Given our education system, there’s no reason not to believe it.

All the baby dolls except one were white. The black doll was called a Waterbaby. Obviously the instructions weren’t the same as those for white babies. No dummies or bottles for this little imp. “Fill baby with warm water.” Are all black people full of warm water? I think the men might be, judging by the numbers lining the freeways with their willies out. We should call them weeways.

Eventually I was asked to leave the toyshop. Not because I got caught looking up Barbie’s dress to see if she wore underwear. I had simply overstayed my welcome.

The rest of the mall was full of people with unhappy mouths, empty eyes and all the sartorial flair of your average pig farmer. Aware that their shopping experience might include being stabbed or shot, nobody puts in any effort when they go to the mall. Why risk the good clothes? Blood is damnably hard to get out. Let’s all dress like factory workers from Uzbekistan and to hell with it.

The very old seem to be allowed out at this time of year in greater numbers than usual. They have a lot of questions about stuff that doesn’t concern them.

But what does it do?”

It’s a dongle, madam.”

A what?

A DONGLE! It connects you to the Internet.”

Internet?”

At this time of year, it’s quite acceptable to elbow aside the elderly and infirm. Some of them probably still enjoy a bit of the rough stuff.

In the meantime, I’m taking up a defensive position at the bottom of my garden. I’ll be armed with a crossbow and a cooler box full of beer.

Park in my driveway. Go on. I dare you.

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