“Kirstenbosch” by Zurina Saban
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Zurina Saban becomes desperate for survival.
by Zurina Saban
Cape Town, South Africa
He was painfully aware of his sweat. It oozed out of his pores and swam down his temples and cheeks without bothering to bead. His T-shirt cleaved to the flat mounds of his breasts. He pulled the neckline away from his body, put his face into the gap, and blew a steady stream of air onto his chest. Warm air escaped from his mouth. The rank, rotten smell reminded him of his purpose. He was hungry. He had been hungry for hours. Actually, he had been hungry for days and had decided to do something about it today.
“Please, Anty, I just needah ten rands for da texi,” he told his neighbor.
“Naai, Markie, you always need someting. You never give my money beck,” she replied, shaking her head. “You put your family in da eyes, begging like dis.”
“But I haf’ a job today, Anty. I just need to get dere.”
Aunty Sheila knew him. She had seen him the day he was born and every day of his life. She attended all his special occasions—birthdays, his wedding, the christening of his four children. She had helped nurse him when he cut off his fingers with the electric saw at work. Aunty Sheila was always there, butting into his life in an annoying, yet comforting way. Since he lost his job in the butchery, she spoiled his kids with sweets and chocolates when she collected her pension.
“Please, please, please Anty,” he pleaded as he carried out her trash. “I will give it beck tonight. I just need to get to a piece job in town.”
He knew she had a soft spot for him, and soon found himself in a kombi taxi, on the way to town. The taxi was full—twelve silent passengers squashed like sardines in a can, wind blasting onto their faces through the open windows.
He got out near Kirstenbosch Gardens and walked. He avoided the main gate. He didn’t have the entrance fee, and had no use for the main section of the gardens anyway. He looped around the side, then headed up the mountain, sweating from heat, effort and anticipation. He walked for an hour and was grateful to find a densely treed area to execute his plan. He drank water from the nearby stream, sat in the trees’ shade, and waited. He waited for hours. It was Wednesday. He cursed himself for doing this midweek in February. There were not many hikers on the mountain. “I can’t do anything right,” he thought.
He spent the time planning; mentally spending the money he would soon have. Tonight he would not be hungry. Tonight he would be a man again. He would bring food home for his family. He would watch his family eat. Against the backdrop of the stream gurgling, he practiced: “I won’t hurt you. Just give your money.” He repeated the words again and again and was well-rehearsed when he heard voices.
He hid behind a tree. He could see them clearly, the couple coming down the mountain—a man and a woman. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he practiced in a breathy whisper. This time with the knife in his hand. He could hear the woman’s light laughter as she drew closer. She sounded young and free, unscathed by life. He jumped out from behind the tree. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said. The other words were never spoken. They were interrupted by the sound of a bang; a loud, clean, unexpected bang that echoed in his ears before his legs lost life and he sank to the ground.
ZURINA SABAN, born in Cape Town, holds a law degree from the University of Cape Town. She has also lived in London, Washington DC, Cairo, and Istanbul, practicing as a lawyer focused on projects in emerging markets. She writes poetry, short stories, and children’s books. Her writing is inspired by her experiences growing up on the Cape Flats during the Apartheid regime, her passion for survival and growth and her love of Africa. She currently lives with her family in Johannesburg.
Posted: Nov 23, 2015
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