Today, 178 years ago, the Voortrekkers defeated a Zulu army at the Battle of Blood River. And today, the Boers and the Zulus will join forces to defeat me at the Battle of Gateway shopping centre.
The Zulus will stream in through strategic entrances to isolate me in a pincer movement that would have made King Shaka proud. And the Boers will use their traditional tactics of walking eight abreast, scoffing ice-creams and knocking people out of the way with their meaty hips and big asses. I don’t stand a chance.
William Butler Yeats wrote, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Except he got it wrong. They’re slouching out of Bethlehem (there by the Free State) and into Durban. Quite frankly, they scare me. If I had the space, I would explain how one can tell the difference between trolls, homunculi and troglodytes.
I did a recce earlier in the week to check out the exits and locate the shops that sell weapons. If it was going to turn ugly, I wasn’t going down without a fight. To hell with reconciliation. At this time of year, it’s every man for himself.
Orphans are big this year. I saw several shops offering to donate a percentage of purchases over R100 to those who are lucky enough not to have parents. They never say how much goes to the orphans, though. It could be 0000.1% of each purchase. This means that by the end of the holidays, three orphans in a village north of the Tugela will each get a tin of soup. Next year, if they are really lucky, they’ll get a tin opener.
As I made my way through the mall, hugging the walls and keeping to the shadows, retracing my steps to confuse the sniffer dogs and darting from doorway to doorway to prevent the snipers from drawing a bead on me, I saw a brawl break out in Dis-Chem. My money was on a geriatric with purple hair and no teeth. She looked as if she knew her way around a Zimmer frame but security intervened before any bets could be placed.
The war for drugs escalates at this time of year. Too many family reunions, dinners and parties mean that old and young alike are desperate for their meds. If you’re new at this, I recommend something from the benzodiazepine family. Xanax, Ativan and Librium will do nicely if all you need to do is get through Christmas lunch without cutting a sibling’s throat. However, if you’re trying to avoid exposing Uncle Pervy for the paedophile that he is, you might need one of the neuroleptics. Thorazine works well, but get your timing right. You don’t want to be slack-jawed and drooling into the turkey with your paper hat over one eye while everyone else is pulling crackers.
I saw a sign saying, “Add more sparkle to your festive season – shop with American Express!” Yeah, sure. It’s all fun and sparkles now, but what happens next year? It’s bad enough what the local banks will to do to you, but you fuck with the Americans at your peril. I’ve heard that Guantanamo Bay isn’t a prison for political detainees at all. It’s for people – Muslims, mainly – who have maxed out their American Express cards and are late with their payments.
I saw another sign. “Gateway recycles 248 378 litres of fuel – enough to send a single car 87 times around the circumference of the Earth.” Hang on. Wouldn’t the carbon footprint of this car be worse for the environment than if the fuel hadn’t been recycled? More importantly – can this car turn into a boat? No wonder our children suck at geography.
And a box saying, “Magic fish – real living fish! Watch them hatch and grow before your very eyes!” We are expected to believe a lot of made-up stuff at this time of year, but I draw the line at magic fish. Or do I? Ah, what the hell. Give me one.
I saw television sets so big you would have to sell your house, buy a piece of land and build a new house around the telly. Where will it end, this race for the biggest television? Will new homes eventually offer plasma screens instead of walls? I hope so. I already spend hours staring at the wall. I may as well be watching something.
Lava lamps are still being sold even though weed remains illegal. It makes no sense. You genuinely have to be on drugs to fully appreciate a lava lamp. I’m surprised that each purchase doesn’t come with a bankie of Durban Poison and to hell with the consequences.
I spent some time in the toy section because it reminds me of my childhood, none of which I can recall, although I must have had one. There’s a doll that speaks six lines. Or does six lines. I can’t remember. Cocaine Barbie, perhaps.
For the boys, there are millions of heavily armed action figures that don’t look as macho as they do gay. This is a good thing. If you want your son to grow up believing he can kill with impunity, rather he does it wearing nothing but short hair, a moustache and a pair of tight red shorts.
I found a paramedic’s kit but it lacked a plastic handgun for when the ambulance has to go into the township on a Friday night.
Then I came across a whole series of things you can do in the tub. “Shaving in the tub” was one. This is a filthy habit, whether you’re a girl or a boy, and you should only get this for your child if you have someone other than yourself who cleans the bath. Also, if your child is shaving, there might be something wrong with it. Everything on the box is in French, which makes sense when you consider what these people regard as acceptable behaviour. What’s next? Wine in the Jacuzzi? Pissing in the pool?
I felt my masculinity listing badly and headed to a shop selling goodies capable of blinding, crippling or killing your enemy, many of whom were jostling me and pushing their trolleys into my ankles. They had a matte black rifle mounted on a stand at the entrance. Gamo Big Cats, it was called. I rather fancy myself as a big game hunter so I bought it. Knowing my luck, I’ll discover that it’s barely powerful enough to take out the feral tabbies of Umdloti just as the last white lion of the Kalahari lunges for my throat.
Too weak to make it back to my car, I bought a bag of tartrazine-flavoured carbohydrates and found a table outside next to a family built like bakkies who barked at each other in a harsh guttural tongue, wolfed a tray of burgers then lit up cigarettes and blew smoke over the baby in the pram. As it was, the creature barely looked human. Darwin was wrong. It’s the survival of the fattest. If not the dumbest.