The Ndundulu Invasion – Chapter 4 – Tea For Two And Two For Tea

mantzariscoverBongi walked through the dusty road leading to the community hall. Some children around five to six years of age were playing hide and seek making a lot of noise. Some others were practicing soccer in the make shift ground, taking passing more seriously than dribbling, something that could have made Gapon accuse them prematurely of been following the dictates of the Eurocentric pattern of the game. For Gapon’s understanding of soccer dynamics, Lionel Messi was more African than Didier Drogba because he could dribble better. Possibly one of his ancestors was African.

These deep thoughts were interrupted when he reached his destination.

He stepped into the shop casually. It was empty. He felt like whistling, but he abstained because he was never sure how the owner would react. The Chinese are the product of a great intellectual inheritance, he could be offended. This was the last thing Bongi wished. He walked towards the cage protecting the cashier-owner in the small opening where the customer could bargain, or pay. The owner looked at Bongi without any interest, his eyes glued behind Bongi’s head, towards the abyss.

“Good morning, Sir, can I ask why the protection?”
“I do not understand, Sir.”
“Why are you in a cage, sir?”
“This is not a cage, Sir, it is a VIP.”
“Very Important Protection, Sir.
“Sounds interesting, so how will you call a toilet?”
“NES, Sir.”
“Non Existing Service, Sir.” “Very interesting, but there are toilets in Ndundulu, I have one.”
“Let us be specific, Sir. There are toilets in Ndundulu, but there is not one in the shop. Secondly, there are toilets in Ndundulu, but there are no real toilets, like you find in Melmoth. This means that there are toilets but fall under the NES. Now, how can I help you?”
“Yes, I’m looking for some toys.”
“There are no toys Sir. People are too poor here, they cannot afford toys.”
“But I see a lot of vuvuzelas here.”
“Vuvu is a necessity, Sir.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Vuvu is a necessity, Sir.”
“How come?”
“Two reasons Sir. In four weeks time, the MISS NDUNDULU COMPETITION ,at the  NDUNDULU CIVIC CENTER, ENTRANCE FEE R4 , ALL WELCOME. Sunday Chiefs versus Pirates, Sir, LADUMA TV1, Free of Charge, vuvu is a necessity, Sir.”
“You have a point there. I’ll get one.”
“Black or yellow, Sir?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Chiefs, yellow, Pirates, black, Sir.”
“Right, give me a black one.”
“OK, a black one for Pirates.”
“Right. Ah, I see you stock Chinese tea here.”
“Yes, sir, R7.50.”
“Why so cheap?”
“People are poor here, Sir, we need to be competitive.”
“But there is no competition here.”
“There is competition in Melmoth, Sir, and in Empangeni.”
“I’ll have two.”

He paid and greeted the owner.
“Thank you, Sir.”
“I thank you, Sir. Go well.”
“Thank you.”
“And good luck for Sunday, Sir.”
“Thank you.”

As he walked out of the shop, he stopped and turned back.
“May I ask you something?”
“Yes Sir.”
“There is no expiry date on the Chinese tea box.”
“There is no expiry date to eternity, Sir.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“There is no expiry date to eternity, Sir.”, the Chinese said softly.
“I never thought it this way, Sir.”, Bongi murmured.

He walked out, his eyes glued on the high steel fence surrounding the small yard, and the huge padlock hanging on the massive gate.
‘I never thought that there will be a gated community in Ndundulu’, he whispered to himself before he took his note book out.
It was time. The game was on. He felt like a spy, not a fictional character, a real one, for the first time in his life.

Next chapter: Chapter 5

©  Evan Mantzaris – The Ndundulu Invasion – Rozenberg Quarterly 2013 – ISBN 978 90 361 0201 8