He sucks his finger to suppress the stinging sensation. The furnace is open while he flicks the once-round burnt bread into brown bags. He stands in the street, in front of a sign saying Bob’s. There, a bin, bulging with debris, stands. He flings the black buns in and looks down the road. There, a pack of them roams.
Their faces Kiwi, their clothes a painter’s canvas gone coo-coo. Their hands, coarse like scourers, pull trolleys burdened with tchotchkes chucked out by ungrateful children and yuppies whose cheques still clear.
They are miners. Except they don’t go digging for gold or diamonds to earn a living. They search the streets for something to salvage then sell. A faulty kettle or a pair of metal hangers thrown out because they are bent. All of this helps them rustle up Randelas.
The Miners approach Bob’s house. He shakes his head and retreats inside. They flick the bin’s lid and see paper packets the shade of sand. The scent is scintillating. A beggar bends to bite one before the baker barks back.
“Che pad, get out of the way,” says the tall one, peeping into the container and meeting with piping hot pastries. Then he asks the other miners: “How much did you make?”
They look at each other. Every one tight-fisted with coins earned from selling found wares and shifts at the robots.
“Vokol, nothing,” someone offers when others fail.
A Volkswagen bakkie has been following them. For a while, it’s fun to make it wait as The Miners dig in dustbins, with their trolleys blocking the road. While deciding whether they should eat the buns or try to sell them, the tall one looks up to find his face square with the flickering lights of the car.
All the Tall One could see was the withering VW on the bakkie’s grill. If he had to guess, he would say it was a ’92 model. But he didn’t have to. There were more pressing matters on his mind. The rest of the Miners huddled around him as one kept watch of the trolleys. They lifted him up, like a shaft ascending from the foot of the earth.
He dug his hand into his thigh and felt his femur as they dragged him onto a trolley. He thought he was floating. Even when the driver of the bakkie waved through the tinted windows, sinister. Even when the wipers on the windscreen mimicked his wave, steadily.
The droplets were small and the sun was still out.
“What day is it,” The Tall One wanted to know. The inside of his lip getting wet with saliva and the outside of his wares wet with rain. When no one answered him, he said, slowly, “It’s a monkey’s wedding.”
Bob was sauntering out of his estate when the bakkie screeched its tyres to flee. It left the smell of smoking rubber and stale rusks. Bob winced when he saw The Miners. He walked closer to them, fingering the oukaapie he kept in his back pocket. Just in case.
The Miner who’d been keeping watch saw Bob and poked the nearest one to him. As if waking him from a slumber. They all turned to look at him. Between them, Bob noticed someone heaped onto a trolley. Almost blending in with his soot-like clothes and the bits-and-bobs they were still to sort out. Bob was taken aback by the welt on this chameleon’s thigh. He looked at The Miners, their eyes vaults. When he stepped closer, to see where else this young man who could not be older than 16 was hurt, he was barred. The Miners stood in front of him. A barricade of buff arms and sweat. Between their boulder shoulders, he saw the injured one again. Leg turning crimson with each droplet it licked. He looked like he was wilting. Like the enchanted rose in Beauty and The Beast.
“What’s wrong with him,” Bob wanted to know.
“Why don’t you –” he reached between The Miners and was met with a balled-up fist to the face.
There was a squabble between The Miners when suddenly, a whistle seared through the wind and caught everyone’s attention.
The bakkie was back. Bob was on the tar road, clutching his jaw. The road ripped his elbows like a razor. He heard the revving but really didn’t grasp its intention until he saw The Miners run. Trolleys were left unguarded. The heap on a heap left unattended. Bob looked behind him and the last thing he saw were the rusted letters, VW.
Bob blacked out. The bakkie’s driver rolled down the window but there wasn’t a face to be found. Not even a body. Just a pair of hands on a steering wheel. They looked charred and were smouldering. They steered the bakkie around the bend, in the road and out of sight.