The Score

“Where the bloody hell have you been? I had to fake some serious period pains to get out of today’s nightmare, and you just decide not to pitch up. Guess it beats having to lie.” Chlöe, flushed and cranky, plonked down on the grass next to her. “And what’s our Sunday afternoon viewing like?”

“‘Sisterhood of the Travelling Skanks’. I was hoping to catch the rerun of the next episode of Jacob’s Cross, but clearly Porno Guy doesn’t appreciate how crazy this power struggle’s getting between Jacob and Bola.” Vee handed her one of the sandwiches.

“Is this how pathetic our professional lives have become? Right now we could be chilling in a proper office, having a proper lunch and working on the real assignments we have. But noooo. Because we have the privilege of being the paper’s misfits of choice, nature is our office.” Chlöe waved her hand to indicate the surrounds, making a face so sour on the word ‘nature’ that Vee had to choke down a laugh. “We get to eat tasteless sandwiches on top of a hill and watch racist porn through someone’s window because we have no other entertainment.” She bit into the sandwich and grimaced. “Thank you so much for bringing me here.”

The embankment overlooked a gorgeous expanse of open road, koppie formations and grassland that lay outside the lodge’s enclosure. Within the grounds though, the vantage point was purely strategic, affording an unobstructed view of a flatscreen TV in one guest’s room. They had never been able to see who the occupant was, but the viewing content had certainly proved illuminating.

“Come on, quit being such a buzzkill,” Vee said. “We both know it’s Nico’s doing that we’re stuck at that pupu-platoon bootcamp; he had to flex his muscle after our palaver last week. So let’s just suck it up lil’ bit longer and we’ll be out.” Vee nudged Chlöe with her shoulder and barely got a smile in return. “And Porno Guy here seems to be the only person who cares about us. He keeps his TV on all day and his window open, and at least his choices are imaginative. He deserves some credit for that.”

“How do you know it’s a ‘he’? Could be a very liberal, oversexed woman.” Chlöe stretched her legs and leaned back, craning her neck at an awkward angle to follow the exertions of the four nude actors on-screen. “On second thought, definitely a man. That’s way too much admin for any woman to find it remotely sexy.”

Vee handed her the Fanta, her favourite, watching in mildly repulsed fascination as she guzzled it, mat of hair thrown back, a trickle of orange sliding down her chin and staining her frowzy T-shirt. “Damn, Bishop. Not even two days and you’ve turned into a creature raised by wolves. Don’t ever turn poor for real ‘cause you’d die on the spot.”

Now you get it? What’s that saying of yours? Black people don’t camp because they have villages. Well, spoilt white people don’t camp because they have hired help.”

“You shame your Afrikaner heritage. Those pioneers trekked across –”

“Fuck that. This place is a dorp and it sucks ass. It’s literally making my skin crawl.” Chlöe scratched her scalp furiously. “I’m counting the hours till we hit the road. Please tell me we’re leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow, because for once I won’t mind.” She squinted down the grassy verge, past the easternmost cluster of chalets nearest the kitchen. An animated group of staff were gathered, talking and pointing. Vee made out Zintle in their midst, looking quietly confused. “What’s up over there?” Chlöe asked.

“I’ll fill you in later. Meanwhile, I just found out there’s some plehjay and merry-making going on tonight, some conference is ending. How you feel about being my date to a gate-crashing?”

Chlöe did a little jig of joy. “Yaaay! At least it’s something to break up the bloody monotony. God, that’s why I hate being in the boonies. Nothing ever happens.”

Vee watched a short man and stately woman, both civvies-clad and reeking of seniority, break from the uniformed gaggle and stride towards the chalet at the outermost fringe. The head of housekeeping and the general manger, had to be. A cluster of pink-with-grey-trim uniformed maids tiptoed behind them, Zintle in the rear, hem of her uniform pressed over her mouth.

“Stay tuned,” Vee mumbled.

 

Hawa Jande Golakai is the award-nominated crime and speculative fiction author of ‘The Lazarus Effect’ and ‘The Score’. She is an honouree of the Africa39 Initiative to recognise the most promising contemporary talent. Her work has appeared in several African and international publications, including her piece ‘Fugee’, which appears in the 2016 Commonwealth non-fiction anthology. She is also a medical immunologist, and lives in Monrovia, Liberia.

Editor’s note: This excerpt is taken from ‘The Score’, and is republished here with permission from the author.

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