Shell-shocked, I trail through the house kicking aside empty beer bottles and accumulating a thick layer of animal hair on the soles of my feet. By the time I find the bad yellow-eyed woman, I look like a hobbit with a drinking problem.
The house is beyond dirty. Encrusted dishes and semi-sucked marrowbones are strewn everywhere. The windows are impervious to light and the pot plants wilt like shot giraffes. The cat is having a nervous breakdown and the dog is projectile vomiting. The blood from New Year’s Eve stains the lounge walls. The toilets are in an unspeakable state and I fear a cholera outbreak is imminent. Is al-Qaeda behind this?
I trip over a tangle of wet towels and fall down a staircase slippery with grime. I would be dead if a pile of unwashed clothes hadn’t broken my fall. Covering my mouth with a damp cloth, I swivel my eyes at the bad yellow-eyed woman and make the international gesture for “what the hell happened here?”
Like one of those dangerous mimes you see in shopping malls, she goes through a range of expressions that suggest surprise. Why she doesn’t just speak, I don’t know. I start replying in the spirit of the game, but, quicker than a striking cobra, she catches my middle finger and bends it so far backwards that I cry out in pain.
“Kwaai Lappies,” she says, “is still on leave.”
Panic rises in my sunken chest. “Dear God! What are we meant to do now?”
She sinks to her haunches, a look of utter hopelessness on her face. It is a pathetic sight. I try to encourage her to stand up and get stuck in.
“Come on!” I shout, dragging her by the hair. “You can beat this thing! Don’t give up now.” Her eyes glaze over and she slumps sideways. “I can’t,” she says weakly. “Go on without me.”
Does this mean she won’t do the housework or, worse, can’t? Is it possible that she has forgotten how? Aren’t all women genetically hard-wired to clean? Or is this an elaborate ruse to get me to do it? There’s no way to be sure. The woman is as trustworthy as a juvenile puff adder.
I call Kwaai Lappies in the Transkei and beg her to return without delay. No dice. She says she’s going to Lusikisiki with the kids and might be back some time around the 20th. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The 20th? She’s been gone for what feels like months. When did domestic workers start getting the same amount of leave as hard-working white men? This is what democracy has done to our country.
Faced with the harrowing realisation that we are doomed to wallow in our own filth for another week, I tell the bad yellow-eyed woman that we are going to have to start rotating rooms. Like farmers rotate their fields. I only hope the en suite will be able to recover after lying fallow for so long. The last thing I need is the health department cordoning off the street and declaring the house a biohazard.
Right now, in suburbs across this fine land, madams – big and small – are sobbing helplessly. Unable to operate the Hoover or find the broom. No idea how to use the steam iron or stack the dishwasher. Can’t tell their spin cycle from their menstrual cycle.
Beauty from next door is also still on leave. I know this because I can hear little Chardonnay screaming her hateful lungs out. She is screaming because a strange white woman keeps trying to pick her up.
God help us all.