Friday, January 20, 2006

Gunshots AGAIN

I guess I slept a little on Tuesday night, in spite of the bird or whatever it was, setting off the alarm sensors by the pool. As I said, we’re all calming down now. But last night, Wednesday night. Yet another story. My God, when will it end? (Actually, let’s hope it DOESN’T end, this stream of stories, because if I stop writing and go quiet, that means.... oh oh. Perhaps I must change my name to Scheherazade. Keep spinning those tales, girl, and you can live on through another night, and see another morning.)

I cooked a preposterously bad dinner last night. The fish I’d bought a week ago Sunday, before the attack, I’d thrown into the freezer on the Tuesday right after, knowing I would hardly be able to eat for the next couple of days. But when I finally defrosted it last night, it had gone bad anyway. Rotten, dreadful. Symbolic, in fact. And lets not even get into the fact that I’m a Pisces. Eish. Dead fishies. Oh oh, a dire train of thought. Let’s don’t go there.

Dinner ended up being salad, corn on the cob, and whatever weird stuff I could find in the fridge. Not my best effort. I retired early, exhausted from tennis, errands, what have you. I seem to be awfully tired lately.

At 1:30 am, the alarm was going off again! AGAIN! I stumbled out of the bedroom and toward it but Mr. D was already there.

“It says, ‘AC loss’. It’s a power failure.”

God. I looked out, and so no lights on, anywhere. Not on our property, nor on what little we could see of the neighbors’ properties. Nothing. Only the brilliant clear white light of an almost full moon, shining everywhere. Thank goodness for natural lighting.

Dogs barking, barking, everywhere. All around.

Picked up the phone to call ADT security. Dead. No dial tone. Ah, great.

I looked out the various windows, fully expecting to see another team of three thugs with guns stealthily sneaking over the walls in the moonlight.

ADT texted Mr. D on his mobile. “Power failure at FOU010.” Guess that’s us.

We stood there, in the dark, for quite a long while. Finally, I said, “I’m going to try resetting the alarm, see if it takes without tripping again.”

I set the alarm. It must have some kind of battery back-up, because it “took”, no problem.
“Huis armed, stay.”

Mr D said, “Well, since the alarm’s working, I guess I’ll go in and try to get some sleep.”

“All right,” I replied, and wandered back to the living room with my two cell phones, to keep watch. Like I was going to be able to DO anything.

A few minutes later, I got a text. “Dearest, where’s the baton and the pepper spray you bought yesterday? Don’t you think it might be useful to have them out and available?”

I wandered back into the bedroom. It was almost 2:30 am now.

“Hey, it’s me. Look, here’s the baton.” I demonstrated how to work it. “But I haven’t read the instructions for the pepper spray yet, so I don’t know.”

“OK.....” Mr D sounded half asleep already. “I’ll take the baton. That’s good, thanks.”

And then, two gunshots rang out. ........KA-BLAMMMM....! ........... .........

“Did you HEAR that? Did you hear it?” I asked Mr D.

“Hear what? I can hear those dogs barking....”

“Oh for the love of Pete! Gunshots! I just heard two gunshots!”

“You what? I didn’t hear anything.”

Oh my poor dear man. We’re taking you to an audiologist as soon as possible.

“Gunshots, gunshots, gunshots!” I hissed.

“All I heard was those dogs barking. ” he whispered.

“Well, of course they’re barking now. They’re barking because they, like me, just heard two big gunshots. Not like handguns, but more like.... “

Gosh, I don’t know. Rifle? Shotgun? AK-47? Maybe instead of listening to Afrikaans phonics CDs, I should be listening to “Gun Shot Sounds 101”. Kind of like bird call tapes, but deadlier. “Now,” intones a posh British voice, “try to identify and distinguish these different reports: AK-47. Thirty aught-six. 44 Magnum. Over ‘n’ under shotgun. Keep repeating this portion of the tape until your identifications are quick and confident.”

I left Mr D there in bed, and he was snoring soon enough. Me, I went back to the family room, where I could look out the window overlooking the lawn. I had my two cell phones, both on “silent”, a torch/flashlight, the directed stream pepper spray, and the baton, extended and ready. I sat there all night, until the sun started just barely lighting up the sky in the east, and the birds started calling. Until about 4:45 am, maybe. I heard cars roaring by every so often. A couple of times the cars stopped, and doors slammed. Once I saw a flashlight beam playing over the trees just outside our walls. Good guys or bad guys? No way to tell.

Do you know how long a night is, when you’re awake for the better part of it, scared witless?

It’s really really really long. Really long. LONG.

And you know, they compare this to a war zone, but this is nothing, NOTHING, compared to what soldiers are experiencing in Iraq right now. Or in any war, for that matter.They’re terrified every single moment. How do you shake that off when you finally get to come home? I have no earthly idea. None.

Already, after four and a half months here, where almost NOTHING has happened to me, in the grand scheme of things. Well, shite man, I can’t imagine. I’m nervous and jumping out of my skin at every noise, and all that happened to me was I got held up, robbed, and locked in a bathroom for a half hour. Just think if it had been worse.

My hair’s going white.

Me and my pepper spray

In the UK, it’s “sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows”, though a little short on sunshine, I guess.

Here in this country, it’s “stunguns, k’rate chops, and crossbows...”
If you know the song, it works; if you don’t. Oh well.

But as my pal Bill Welker would say, “WE’RE ALLLLLLL CALMING DOWN NOW!!!!!!!!” As a shouted command to any and all family members and guests in one’s house, it’s particularly effective at about 110 Db, delivered in a booming baritone. Yes, yes, we’re all calming down now. We really really are.

On Tuesday night a bird flew across the patio at 10:30 pm, setting off the alarms. Jumpy? Yeah. We had our good friends from ADT come by, to check on us. Yeah, yeah, we’re fine, hey? Fine.

So yeah, no more negative stories, right? We’re putting all that behind us. Oscar made me take off all my jewelry, except for some tiny silver earrings, before he let me out the door to go back to the Pilates studio Monday morning. I felt bare. But slightly safer.

And, yes, we are evaluating the scene here, particularly for Miss T. Trying to take positive steps. Whatever those may turn out to be. And we’re upgrading our security (is that possible? Of course. It can always be improved.)

But anyway, on Tuesday during the day I went shopping, at the lunch hour, to Fourways Mall. A little bit of shopping can always calm the nerves. Particularly if it’s shopping at your local “Security World” store, for personal protection items. Cool. Here’s a new project to spend Mr. D’s hard earned Rand on. Just imagine, you’re at the Woodfield Mall in Chicagoland, or the Reading Oracle in Berkshire, and right next to Swiss Colony Cheese shop, or Accessorize, or the local chain bookstore, is a store selling the most amazing stuff.

I walked into the store and told the guy I wanted to buy a cosh or a stick.

“Your best choice is probably this. It’s a retractable steel baton. You must just do this!” He removed the small black thing from its carrying case sheath and, holding the 8 inch black baton, flicked his arm firmly to the side. Suddenly he was holding a black rod almost two feet long. “And there’s 21 inches of solid steel.”

And now I’m in a martial arts movie? Wow. Hope it’s Jean Claude van Damme and not Jackie Chan. I don’t think I have Jackie’s sense of humour anymore, to be honest.

“It comes in 21 or 28 inch models.”

“And the good thing is, you can attach the carrying sheath to your belt.” Oh great. Nice fashion look. Like the 9th grade nerd boys who wore pocket protectors, and attached their calculators to their belts. Somehow I’m thinking I’m going to have a hard time making this accessory look cool.

“Hmmmm.” I pondered the matter. “I don’t know. I’m not sure it would be any use. I was looking for something smaller, for my car, perhaps.”

He brightened. “How about pepper spray? That’s great for close quarters. Here, come this way.” We walked over to a very attractive display of little black and red cylinders.

“Is it legal?” I’m trying to think of different countries I’ve been in, and what’s legal where. I know you can’t take it on a plane, but after that?

“Ah, absolutely legal. Now, you have two different options here. There’s this one, where it’s like a water pistol. The pepper spray shoots out in a directed stream. Good, because you needn’t be particularly close, and if someone were to smash your car window, you can aim this at them and not worry about getting disabled yourself.”

“The second option is for outdoors use only. It makes a mist. You’d use this if you were out on a walk or something.” (Have I been “out on a walk” anytime lately? Noooo.)


“Each of these comes in two sizes, and they have a shelf life of three years. Just make sure you test each of them once, so you know they work. Do it out of doors. And then you just hope that you never have to use them.”

“Right. I think I’ll have two of each of those.”

“And,” he continued, “Here’s a fact sheet about pepper spray. It’s quite nasty, so if you get it on your skin, or you breathe it in, you’ll need to know how to treat yourself.”

Presumably I’ll read this instruction sheet BEFORE I use the stuff and get my eyes all puffed shut from pepper spray!

“Anything else I should think about?” I asked. “I mean, I’m kind of fatalistic about this, since I was just robbed at gunpoint last Monday, and none of this would have helped, but right now it’s more of a mental thing for me. So yeah, any other options?”

“Well, we also sell stunguns.”

“STUNGUNS! You’re JOKING!!! Are THEY legal?”

“Sure. Here. Two options in stock. The first has a pepper spray stream, so you can fend someone off as they approach, and then the stun gun option when they get close enough to zap. Because they have to get fairly close to you before a stun gun will work. This model has an alarm on the hand strap. If the assailant pulls the gun away from you, the hand strap comes off and sets off this alarm.” He detached the carrying loop, and a shrieking siren set off. Even though I was paying attention, and expecting it to go off, I nearly jumped out of my skin.


He reattached the alarm’s hand strap. The siren stopped. “”Of course, when you set off the siren, then the stun gun function no longer works. That’s so they can’t use your own weapon on you.”

Great. That’s the worst of all possible ideas. Your own weapon, used back on you. What a SHOCKING concept. (Ha ha, couldn’t resist, sorry!)

“And then there’s this, our most powerful model. It’s got (he named some massive number that I now can’t remember) volts of power. (For someone whose husband works in the electrical industry, I am still mindbogglingly stupid about all of electricity. The lights have never turned on in that part of my brain, I guess.) And he pressed the button, and the thing started snapping and spitting and sparking and sparkling and buzzing and jumping, like that time machine in “Back to the Future”. Scary. Again, I jumped three feet.

“Hah!” I laughed nervously. “I think I’ll wait on that one, until I’m a bit less traumatized. I don’t think I could handle that kind of excitement right now!”

He smiled sweetly, empathetically.

“Pshaw, I know what you mean.”

I looked around the store one more time. Air guns, pellet guns, knives and nun chucks, maybe Chinese fighting stars in the back room, who knows. And then, in stacked boxes along the floor, MINIATURE CROSSBOWS. Can you believe? So you can reenact the (come on, British readers, name a battle where castle dwellers defended themselves with crossbows, as marauders poured over the outer walls. Or am I just thinking of some part of “Lord of the Rings”?)

O..... My..... Goodness.

I stood at the counter as he bagged my purchases.

“Here’s hoping it’s all an investment that you’ll never need to use. Thanks for your business, ma’am.” He smiled, then looked serious again. “Be sure when you’re in your car that you keep the pepper spray in the door next to you, or better still, in your lap between your legs. That way it’s easy to access.”

Ag, man. Y’know, according to the anti-hijack workshop, I’m already supposed to be keeping my cell phone in my lap, between my legs. Now pepper spray too? It’s getting kind of crowded down there. I will be running out of space shortly. Not to mention that I can think of other things I’d much rather have there. (Though maybe not perhaps in the Mini Cooper, please. It’s way too small, and it’s brand new. Let’s be mindful of the upholstery.)

Holy moses.

No, I was done shopping for the day. I paid up with my debit card (the only meaningful money-related plastic I’ve left in my handbag) and trotted off to pick up Miss T. Success.

But will I sleep easier tonight? Doubtful.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Il faut cultiver son jardin

Monday morning. I spoke to Oscar, and told him about Saturday night.

“Oh, no! Terrible! Pshaw! Bad bad BAD people are out at night.”

“Gosh Oscar, I don’t know what happened at all. The police said, ‘nothing’, but I dont’ believe it.”

"Madam, you know there is a club down there. A drinking club.”

“A WHAT? Like a shebeen? Down in the woods?”

“Yes, a club, but it’s in a house over there, down across the creek. Over there.” And he pointed to where everything had been happening on Saturday night.

Ohhhhhh. A private drinking club; people tell me it’s quite common here in SA. People own a house, have people in, no liquor license, and the guests drink and party till all hours. So of course the house owners would say everything was fine: “just having a party, officers!”

And the woman? What happened to her? The baby?

I don’t know.

Oscar said I must mind my own business. Just pay attention to what’s inside the garden walls. That’s it.


I guess I see.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Maybe you're crazy, Madam

In the morning, I was beside myself. What had happened? Had they found the woman? The baby? Had they caught the men? Where’d the guys go with the automatic weapons?

I drove over to the Sandton Police station, and explained myself to the ruggedly handsome police officer (and yes, even in moments of major stress, I’m still inappropriately flirting, apparently. Ooops. In his late 30’s, he had a blondish crew-cut, pale golden freckles, and those Aryan chiselled features so common in Afrikaner men. And then he had a most intriguing and startling scar going diagonally across his mouth: from lower left to upper right, across and through both lips, upper and lower. THAT knife slashing must have been SOME story. Was it the end result of protecting his own people in his own country? Still, or perhaps even because of that, the most beautiful face, he had. And so, so, EVER so compassionate looking.)

He took me up two floors, and he and a woman looked through all the files from the night before.

“Sorry, Ma’am. What happened?” He was so kind and polite and calming.

“I think there were people arguing, I thought I was seeing a house robbery in progress... and a woman was screaming and crying. I thought she was being raped. It was awful.”

The officer cast his eyes down, “Ag, no.”

“And all these police and ADT came out, so I wanted to find out what happened.”

“Leave us your number, Ma’am, and we’ll call you when we find out. There’s no case written up so far, however.”

I went home. Suddenly realized that there was another police station much closer to our house, in Randburg, so I drove over there. (At least I know now where all the police stations are, hey?)

Walked in. Greeted. And I asked, “Do you know what happened in Bryanston last night?” And gave him the address.

“Nothing. Nothing happened there, Ma’am.”

I stared at him.

“Nothing! What? I don’t believe you. I don’t believe it.”

“Yes, I know the incident you’re talking about. But there was no rape. No woman attacked. No house robbery. ADT called the owners, spoke with them, and they said everything was fine. There was NO problem, in actual fact.”

“But I heard her! So did my husband. You can’t be right. Something happened!!!”

“No report was filed. Nothing happened, Madam.”

“I feel sick,” I said. “I have to sit down.” And I parked myself on a bench off to the side. Just sitting there. Completely gaslighted. What had I seen? Did I imagine all of that? All that I saw? What I heard? What in fact DID I see? Do I even know, now?

I wandered out of the police station, stunned, and drove home.

Mr D looked up as I came in. “Well?”

“Nothing. Nothing happened. No report. No complaint. No woman. Nothing. Am I crazy? Did we actually hear that or did I imagine it? Did you hear it? Did you?”

He replied, “Of course we heard it, we heard her screaming and crying, we saw those guys, holding the baby, rummaging through the garage. No, you didn’t imagine it.”

I went to the bed to lie down. Too much. I fell asleep, midday, exhausted.

Later, I spoke with my neighbor.

“Maybe it was a ‘domestic’. The Africans do tend to be really loud when they quarrel.”

God, who knew? I went to bed again Sunday night, feeling sick and ashamed. I was sure that I was losing my mind, and everything was coming apart in my head after last Monday’s experience at the Pilates studio. Not to mention the huge burden of guilt for making my next door neighbors evacuate their homes for several hours on a Saturday night due to my overactive imagination. Perhaps I should have stayed in the house Saturday night and simply written two chapters of a suspense novel? Plus there was the added crime of using police and ADT resources so extravagantly. Fifteen armed professionals on the case... of “nothing”.


Just like the movies

Living cinematically: I give good movie.

But is it actually “Rear Window” or instead “Gaslight”?
(see for plot summaries if you’re not so sure.)

Well, well, well. It’s been a week. Am I better yet? Not sure. Saw on the AOL front page today that a lawyer’s being held hostage in Georgia somewhere. Poor poor man. He’ll be needing some therapy. I told Oscar that if this thing at the Pilates studio had happened in the States, I would have been front page news myself. Here, well, just another day in the life.

And how was the weekend? It was hellishly “interesting”.

Poor abused Mr. D came home midday on Saturday, ill with a cold, and exhausted after travelling almost 24 hours. Fuel shortages in London (those massive fires at the Hemel Hempstead depots) meant he had to fly from Barcelona to London, then London to Milan to refuel, then Milan to Johannesburg. Ugh. He was just shattered. And the full implications of everything had started to sink in. He was sick, man, just sick about it all.

We talked Saturday afternoon, and then didn’t do much of anything, really. Just tried to collect ourselves. Collect our thoughts. Figure out what exactly this all could or should mean.

I made dinner, and Mr D, Miss T and I sat out on the patio, ate, and talked. My mom rang then, and I chatted with her and my dad. Of course, I’d left them off the email distribution list for these latest emails. I just couldn’t bear it if they knew. They’d worry so much. (Don’t you wish, just a little, that I’d had the same consideration for all you guys?) When I finally rang off, Mr. D and Miss T had cleared off the dishes. Then he and I stood talking on the patio for a moment.

I’d heard some men shouting, earlier, perhaps while I was on the phone with my mum. And now I could hear a woman, screaming and then crying out, again and again.

“What’s that?” I asked.


Poor Mr D. He can’t hear a thing.

“That. Don’t you hear her? It’s a woman crying. There.”

I heard her again, and took off down the lawn, to where the cries were coming from. And they weren’t just cries. They were screams, screams and cries. Shrieks. Sobs. We were at the bottom of the hill, at our wall there.

I came to a smallish tree, and simply ran up it, barefoot, to the first crotch, to look over the wall (there! Pilates DOES make you fitter!) Across a public wooded area that borders our property, was another wall, and then another house, with garage doors both gaping wide open. In the dark, the garage stood brilliantly illuminated. Three men were wandering around in the garage, one holding a toddler, and two of the men as I watched were taking turns, getting in and then out of a car. The woman was still crying, not all the time now, but I couldn’t see where she was. In the car? What are they doing to her? Who is she? Is that her baby he’s holding? What’s going on?

I was suddenly completely enraged.


“STOP! I’m telling you, I’m calling the POLICE! I’m calling them RIGHT NOW!”

The men in the garage took no notice.

I looked down at Mr D, standing there astonished on the ground below, and said, “Stay here, I’m going to call the police!” And raced up to the house. Dialed “10111” -- police number here -- (which happily someone had just told me about the other day.) And I called ADT.

“There’s a woman being attacked next door to me. She’s screaming and screaming. Please send help.” And gave them my address.

The ADT guys showed up in a heartbeat, and we ran down the lawn. One guy climbed the tree to look. Got his boot caught in the tree branch, his partner freed him, and then they took off back up the lawn, running, to try to find out what was going on. Next, the police came. I told them what was happening, showed them. “Look, look! Over there! Listen! Can you hear her!?!?”

They tore off too, automatic weapons and all, shouting to each other in Afrikaans.

Mr D got out binoculars, and stood higher up on the lawn, looking. I climbed back up the tree. I watched too at the scene, sick at heart, listening to this woman sobbing, intermittently now, and seeing these men wandering around the garage with the baby. Where were the police. Why wasn’t anything happening?

We went back up to the house because a second ADT swat team had showed up.

“Are you sure it’s that house, over there?”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure. Please, please hurry.”

Down to the bottom of the lawn again, back up the tree. Now the garage was locked tight and no sound, no sign of the woman, or anyone else, for that matter. Did they kill her? Why couldn’t we hear her any more?

Suddenly, off to my right, through the trees, I saw a shadow. It was a man in silhouette, going over a wall into the wooded area with an automatic weapon. Ag, man! They were making a break for it, and coming this way!

I ran barefoot toward the house, coming upon Mr D halfway up. “RUN! RUN! GO! GO! They’re coming over the wall next to us, and down into the crick!” And we both ran up to the house, slammed the patio doors shut, and set the alarm. I’ve never ever run so fast. Ever.

Miss T looked bewildered, frightened. “What is going ON?”

“Oh... my.... gosh..... there’s something happening.... outside..... Shut the let’s set the alarm.... there.... there.....”

“I’m sleeping with you guys tonight.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure, T, anything. Anything you want!”

We were all utterly freaked out. I’d like to say we slept, but the insomnia’s back for me now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Don't touch me. Don't touch my car.

So I carried on with the week. Did some Pilates Tuesday. Met friends for lunch on Wednesday. The tennis girls for coffee on Thursday, did banking with Oscar on Friday. I thought I was ok. I thought so.

But Tessa and I went out on Friday, up to the Mini dealership, to pick up the new key for the car. I was fairly irritable, yes. I’ve been a bit tetchy, jumpy, all week.

So we came out of the Mini dealership, up to a stoplight. A guy came toward me, walking down the lane-lines, a 2 liter coke bottle in his one hand, a squeegee in the other. I accidentally looked at him, looked him in the eyes. Realized my mistake, shook my head firmly, meaning, “No, NO, I don’t want my windscreen washed.”

I looked away, and then suddenly, a squeegee sponge was moving down my glass.

“NO. NO. NO!!!! NOOOO!!” It was me.

I screamed it, shrieked it, bellowed it.... “NO, NO!”, in the most horrible way. “NO!!!! I WON’T HAVE IT!!!! NO! NO!”

Not an effort to be polite, no apology after. Just a complete, total flip out.

He dried that bit of my window, “Ah, sorree, mommee, pleasee, sorreee, sorreee...”

Miss T was appalled.

“Mom, ALL you had to say was, ‘no’.”

Yeah, that could work. I guess.

And in the end, you can see why everyone, everyone, is angry in this country. Yes, it’s beautiful, yes it’s sunny. But people drive like effin’ maniacs, and now I will too. Don’t step in front of my car, pal. I don’t want to buy your freakin’ sunglasses. Why are you HERE, making me drive around you?” It’s so sick.

People talk to service workers, people at the bank, the dry cleaners, the grocery, irritably, right from the start. They roll their eyes, they grimace. Like, “Right, this isn’t going to go right today, is it?” Language issues, laziness issues, African time issues. Everyone expects the worst of everyone else. And then they dive in headfirst, gonna change lanes, take your place in line, insult you first, give you the two fingers, then see what comes of it all. Nothing very good, hey?

It is so flippin’ disheartening and uncivilized, for a so-called “civilized” country.

Welcome, for the second time, for REAL this time.

This time: Welcome again to South Africa.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


As I spoke with Michelle, the lovely blonde who sold me the car at the dealership, she said, “Ag, man, I feel so bad for you. It’s terrible, isn’t it? I was Christmas shopping on the 23rd, nine at night, and suddenly, next to me in the mall, 7 guys with AK-47s opened fire. Shooting into the air, all around. Then they shot out all the windows in the jewelry store next door, and helped themselves to everything, and then they were gone.”

“Oh my God, was anyone hurt?”

“No, no, no one. We were so, so lucky.”

Yes, everyone says that. She was so lucky. We were so lucky. I was so lucky. I am so fortunate. I am happy. No one was hurt. We all lived. We are SOOOO, so lucky.

I was LUCKY. I was LUCKY?!?!?! I was effin’ LUCKY!?!?!?!?

Yes, you could say that. Lucky? Unlucky?

How do you decide? Unlucky to be there? Lucky to live? Unlucky to lose jewelry, car keys, cash? Lucky to keep my life!? It starts to make you really angry.

Yeah. “LUCKY” starts to sound like a really crazy-ass word. Doesn’t mean much, in the context.

So, anyway, I had the house re-keyed, the car re-keyed. I set the alarm 50 times Monday night, checked the electric fence charge. Ready for the next day, for trauma counseling, back at the Pilates studio.

Drove over there, 8:30 am, for counseling with the rest of the gang. They brewed up some tea, we sat at the kitchen table, settled in. Aubrey, trauma counselor, introduced himself and went into the bit about “stages of adjustment”, “denial, anger, depression, etc., etc.” Yes, yes, we’ve heard this bit before.

And then we went on, to each tell our story, one after the next. The Swiss girl, the receptionist began, and then we followed suit as our stories fitted in.

It was awful, actually. I’d thought a bit, already, about the people who’d been in the bathroom, hostaged, the longest. I’d gotten off pretty lightly, really. Imagine, having the bathroom door open three or four or five more times after you were put in there.

"What’s going to happen now? are they going to kill us? shoot us? what’s going on?"

But we finished all our stories, and then went on to talk about how things could have gone differently, what we might have done.

Cilla, of course, was right there with big plans. “I’m going to take a martial arts class, I just want to take them out, I was so angry. Next time I’ll kick them in the balls and just attack.”

And me, I’m listening, and thinking, “Cilla, my sweet, I know you’re angry, but NOTHING is effective against three GUNS. What are you THINKING, my darling???”

But she was so angry. ”And I realized, this was different than a house robbery, where they have all the time in the world. They weren’t going to come back and gang rape us. They were going to get on their way.”

Gang rape!?!? I had never even considered that. Rape. Sh--. Not on my agenda for a Monday morning.

And then Cilla talked about her house situation. She was worried about security there, too, and was going to have more panic buttons installed, because this was the third time this had happened to her.

Oh, God.


Do I have to think about being raped? In my home? It happens, yeah. Should I be worried, or not? I am not SO worried about me, but Miss T, that would be awful if something happened to her. What do you do with that kind of input? Hey, what? What decisions do you make? Is this random bad luck? Is it a deal-killer? Should we go? Stay? Move again? My God, move AGAIN??? I can’t take it.

I could sense that Cilla’s house and my house are much the same -- security, cameras, panic buttons. She’s scared sh-tless, should I be too? How do you evaluate the decisions you’ve already taken, to move here, to invest the time, energy, to get here, weighed against this new “personal safety” information?

Ai yi yi.

Not so easy.

We disbanded, and felt maybe a little better. Maybe. At least now we knew what had mostly happened, we knew what we might think about, in terms of improving security at the club, and we wandered out into the reception area to get on with the week.

I moved over to chat with the Swiss receptionist girl, then looked toward the door.

Bloody f---in' hell. The security gate was hanging wide open.

“Sweets! Darling! Look!”

She looked where I was looking, and her eyes widened and she laughed.

“Oh no! No!”

“Oh yes. It’s open! We just did this! We just went through this! Yesterday! We can’t have it! Come on!”

We both were laughing at the horribleness of it all. Yesterday, hostage at gunpoint in the bathroom for 35 minutes. Today, 24 hours later, the security gate is open, unlocked, ready for anyone, ANYONE, to come in.

Jeez Louise.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The colour of bitter chocolate

Let’s see. Does it help to talk about the trauma, to re-live it, and then move on?

Or is it better to just say, “Ag, man, it’s over” just forget now, hey?

Who knows? Probably depends on the individual. For me, I was happy to go to trauma counseling the next day, at the Pilates studio, but the ensuing discussion, with all the other new angles and opportunities, and possibilites for evil and so on, I wasn’t expecting. I think I came away more freaked out than before. I must go for some more talk, because I can tell I’m messed up.

We all went our separate ways, all nine of us, for the rest of the day. Most everyone had his or her partner come and pick them up. But me. Hey, Mr D was working (what’s new?) in Barcelona, and he couldn’t come help me out. Just like most of the thousands of parent-teacher meetings at school, and music recitals, and sports afternoons, and every other goddamned thing. He wasn’t there. Why would I be surprised?

I know he works hard, and corporate business life doesn’t work well with family commitments. So. No surprises. Why would he happen to be available in a hostage crisis kind of situation? Not his fault. What can you say? It’s fine. I’m used to it. I finally called him, about noon, to fill him in. His response was: not genius. But then, no one can say what you really want to hear, after something like that, because ‘what you want to hear’, it just doesn’t even exist, man. There’s nothing to be said, that sounds right.

So, yeah, he said, “Wow, that really makes the whole ‘crime in South Africa thing’ seem really REAL, doesn’t it?”

Yes, my dear, you could say that. It was REAL. Seemed “real” to me.

I spent Monday afternoon dealing with keys. The car key, the house key. They took those, you remember, or maybe they tossed them, I don’t know, but the point is, I never did find my keys, and I didn’t know if they could connect those keys with me, my house, or my car. So both keys had to be disabled.

I called the Mini Cooper dealership, and then drove up there straightaway. Because it’s a computerized key, they could cancel it immediately, and order me a new one. Everyone was so kind. “Ag, I’m so sorry....”

Again, the response from South African people here, well it’s like someone in your family has died. Actually, someone HAS died a bit and it was you. Not fully, not fatally. But a part of you is gone. The part that thought well of strangers. The part that was willing to go through a door, down a hallway, without thinking twice. The part that trusted people. The part that didn’t mistrust blacks. I’m sorry. It’s so not me, not ME. But I can’t help it. I realized, even at the time of giving my police statement, that I could never identify any of the three men in a line-up. (Like there would be one, a line-up. ha! not!) There are so many people in Africa, so many blacks. Could you say, for sure, THAT guy’s the one, when you were so much trying to NOT see him, at the time? No way.

A Scottish woman I spoke with yesterday, telling her my story, said, “Ach, well, they all look alike, don’t they?” And even though they don’t, I KNOW THAT, it’s like, you don’t even have the tools for describing. So “PC” goes right out the window. I mean, we ALL know you’re not supposed to say, “They all look alike.” And yet, in the event, they do. Everyone I saw on the street, everyone, this week, looked like one of the three men in my attack. Except for the fat ones. And there aren’t many fat black men in Africa.

One of the policemen, when we were giving statements, asked, “Was he dark, or medium, or light black?” I looked at him, thinking, “Hell, man, what the hell are YOU?” I would have put the policeman as “dark” but everyone else agreed he was “medium” and one woman continued, “You know those Nigerians, they can be really, really dark.” Shite, man, we have to have a flippin’ “colors” chart now, to pull out of the handbag, (BEFORE it’s stolen). All the effin’ shades of brown? Bitter? No way,man, not me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Everyone is NOT good

So, Mel ended up taking me home to get a spare car key. I called Oscar to tell him he’d have to open the house gate for me, but he didn’t totally understand. He opened the gate, we came in, and he was waiting there.

“Where were you, E?”

“Oscar, I was robbed.”

“Robbed? You robbed?”

“Yes, yes, men with guns came to the exercise place and took all our money and jewelry and locked us up.... and.. and... I’m sorry I’m so late, Oscar!” And I burst into tears.

“Oh, oh, oh, no, no! This is not good. They try to kill my Madam! Ag, no! Aw!” He gave me a big hug, patted my shoulder. “Aw, no!”

Aw, man. So much NOT fun, we’re having here.

I stood up straighter then, explained I needed to go back to get the car, make a police statement and so Mel and I went back to the studio.

Mel is just great, wonderful, reassuring. As I ride back to the club, I look down, and see a billyclub tucked in beside the seat. I need one of those. Yes, I do. Shopping project for tomorrow, yeah?

We come back into the studio, and I sit down in the kitchen to give a statement to the police. Handwritten. I talk too fast for him to write it down. “Stop, please. Your name again?” Confusion about the value of the bracelets that were stolen -- one bought in euros, the other in dollars. I guess the value, then try to convert. Ever do currency exchange rates in your head after being held up at gunpoint? It’s startlingly difficult to think. Could hardly remember my passport number, phone number, or... sh--, man, my name, even. After three pages of writing, we’re done, and I sign my name on the bottom of the papers.

“Call to get your case number, later today.”

Right. I will.

I say my goodbyes, reassuring everyone that, yes, I will come to the trauma counseling session tomorrow morning at 8:30am, and I go out to my Mini convertible, to drive it home. Put the key in the lock and the alarm goes off. Oh great. Now I will drive my car home, and get SHOT BY THE POLICE on the way there because they think I’m stealing my own car. God. What else?

I call Fred, at Mr D's workplace, the man who knows all, arranges all, to get the phone number of the Mini dealer, so I can ask what to do. The afternoon is spent canceling my car’s computerized key, arranging for the house to be re-keyed (the other key on my missing key ring), and stopping by the office, just to reassure Fred that I’m still alive and kicking. Poor thing. That would be bad, to have the country manager’s wife shot dead on a Monday morning. Hard to find a replacement for a country manager, after that kind of thing.

So, next up, tomorrow’s trauma counseling session. But meanwhile, what do we learn?

Two things.

First, about writing. (And thanks to all who wrote to me yesterday and today!)

Cliffhangers are great, but when it’s non-fiction (i.e. reality.), not so good. So I promise, no more cliff hangers. Even tho in a way, the whole experience FOR ME was a cliffhanger. Do I get to finish my own life? But no, I won’t do that again. All you guys are traumatized too, now.

Relax. It’s all fine.

And the second thing.

I texted a friend of mine, saying, “Y’know, in my stupid American way, I was brought up 2 believe evry1 is good, nice.Why is this so wrong?My whole life must be different now. I want my old life back. Devastating to lose yr illusions. 2day was so horrible.”

And the response back said, “Yeah, right... ‘everyone is good’... that’s not even true in fairy tales!”

So, so true. So true. Everyone isn’t good. I better learn quick.

It's probably all my fault

Okay, I think I figured out what the problem was.

You see, I was just thinking about all you guys, my faithful readers. I was thinking, after the holidays. “Now WHAT am I going to write about NEXT? Have I run out of steam? Everything here in South Africa is starting to seem normal, ordinary, familiar. I need to have something HAPPEN! Gosh, I really don’t want to become dull, just nattering on about jacaranda trees and the weather.”

Yes, those were my real thoughts, on about January 4th or 5th. So shall I be superstitious, and think that I brought it on myself? I’m good at taking the blame for random bad sh-- that has nothing to do with me. Always saying “sorry” and such, for things I didn’t do.

Mmmm hmmmm. Now there’s some thinking that could use some re-working, hey? Maybe therapy is in order. We’ll see.

Right. So where were we?

Oh, yeah. In the bathroom at the Pilates studio, along with my eight new best friends. We all just sat or stood as we were. Happily, the bathroom was on the larger side, with a bathtub even, so there was plenty of room. Well, relatively speaking, I guess.

We then just had some time to simply “be”. Locked there in the bathroom. Existing is a nice feeling, compared to the alternative. Breathing. Listening. Breathing. Thinking. We kept still and listened. Listened for steps coming back down the hallway. More hostages, maybe? Or maybe they might come back, just to be... cruel? No noises. None. Nothing. Breathing easier, just a bit.

More waiting. We started whispering amongst ourselves a little. “Are you okay?” “How did they get in?” “Did you see the white bakkie in the car park?” “Do they all have guns?” Whisper, whisper, whisper. We looked through the keyhole. Yup, the key’s still there in the lock. “How are we going to get out of here?” “Do you think they’re still here?” Whisper, whisper. “What did they take of yours? Did you see how many cars are out there in front?”

We began to wonder. Maybe they had gone. It was 15 minutes or so since I’d come in, and we’d heard nothing more. Cilla was getting angrier by the minute. “Where in the world is security? It’s a pity no one has a cell phone.”

One of the two women I didn’t know sort of squeaked, and whispered, “I have one. I hid it in my knickers while he was going through my handbag.”

“You have one! Why didn’t you say something?” asked Cilla.

“I didn’t think we should call so soon. We need to wait.”

Lawrence stepped over and took the phone out of her hand. “I’ll call my partner, and he can call ADT and the police.” So Lawrence dialed, and whispered, “Hi, listen very carefully. We’re locked in a bathroom at the club, we’ve been robbed. Three guys with guns. You must call the police and ADT security. The address is 74 Ballyclere Drive.”

“SEVENTY EIGHT! SEVENTY EIGHT!” we all whispered loudly.

“Seventy eight! OK, call, get us out of here!”

Joan said, “Now we must turn off the phone, it can’t ring while we’re in here. Please. Please! They killed my mother and grandmother, like this, twenty years ago. We can’t upset them. We mustn’t.... we mustn’t....” Tears came then, to Joan’s eyes, and Cilla hugged her.

As the owner turned the phone off, it made that big Nokia good-bye tune, and everyone erupted in fits of coughing to try to cover up the sound. Oh my GAWD. Did they hear?

Meanwhile, I’m closest to the door, and all I can think about, besides my phone, credit cards, car, and so on, is the movie “Three Days of the Condor”. Remember the scene where the whole agency office gets hit, and one guy tries to escape and hides in the bathroom? And then the shooters just shoot right through the bathroom door, and the guy dies? (Duh....) I was so shocked when I saw that movie, years ago, with that scene. Because I had not really realized that bullets can go through wooden doors. I mean, of course they can, but I had just never thought about it. The wood splinters, bap bap bap, it’s pierced through now, blood spurts out now, pulses out of a living being, it’s spilling over the floor now, a person dies... yes, a door isn’t much protection.

So here I am, on the wrong side of a wooden bathroom door, and there are people with guns outside. Yuk. I thought about moving over to get into the bathtub, but decided that it would look so cowardly that I just couldn’t be arsed. Besides, what were the odds, anyway? I’d already had my share of bad luck this morning. Perhaps it wouldn’t get worse. And why make it obvious that you’re a complete wimp, in your last moments on earth? Please. Some balls, please. Be a man. Or something.

Toni opened the window a little. It was getting warmish. Now I was thinking, “Great, we can’t climb OUT the window, because of the burglar bars. We can SEE out, but we can’t GET out. Lovely. I HATE this effin’ crazy effin’ place.”

Cilla said, “My God, the police are certainly taking their time. Probably don’t have a car available, or something.”

Toni said, “O, look there, out the window. It’s an ADT guy.” She softly called out to him, “Hey, hey, over here! We’re all locked in the bathroom at the back! Come! come let us out!”

Another minute or so, and we heard voices, and footsteps, and then the key turned in the lock. The door opened so cautiously, and me hiding directly behind it (hoping perhaps to get my nose smashed in?)There were Mel and Nicolette, two other Pilates class members, and ADT right behind them. Mel was smiling but Nicolette’s eyes were big as saucers. Never so glad to have a door opened in my whole life.

Mel said, “We were just up there, stretching, getting ready for the class. By a quarter after, we started wondering. We thought, ‘Well, Karine’s REALLY taking advantage now! We won’t be getting our money’s worth today, hey?’ And then Nicolette went downstairs to look for Karine, and saw handbags upside down everywhere, and realized what had happened. She came running back up, saying ‘they’ve been hit! get dressed! we must get out of here now!’”

Mel laughed. “You know Nicolette, so dramatic. But I thought, ‘where ARE they? we have to find them!’ so we started looking. And thank God, here you are.....”

Yeah, man, here we are. Thank God.

We file out of the room, and everyone starts wandering about, looking for their stuff. I walk into the next room, and right there is my handbag, lying on the floor. Inside it, my cell phones, glasses, diary, pens, lipstick, hair ties... no cash wallet or credit card wallets though. Oh oh. Credit cards. This will be a disaster. I don’t even know what I carry. (And I had just told Mr D to record everything in his wallet, but did I do it MYSELF? Nooooo...)

I wander more, looking for my keys. No keys. I walk into the kitchen, and there on the kitchen counter is my green Harrod’s credit card wallet, just lying there. Everything’s in it. Can you believe? I can’t. The cash wallet is gone though, and they’ve even cleaned out my coin purse, the rats.

There are credit cards scattered all over the floor in the different physio rooms, and lippy and tampons and papers and receipts and what-have-you. Rather a mess. We can’t decide whether to pick up our stuff and go, or leave it to be fingerprinted. Pick up and go, that would be best, maybe. No one wants to go, yet everyone wants to leave. Really, everyone wants to run the clock back, just an hour, and do the morning differently.

The new receptionist (yes, there actually WAS a new receptionist, but she’s Swiss and female and white and was locked in the bath with the rest of us, not South African and male and black and holding a gun out at the front desk), she made everyone some tea. There’s the old colonial British influence. A nice cup of tea, hey? Makes everything better.

This would be easier if you could speak English

But no, that’s not all.

“These, these.” The guy in the suit is gently, softly, persistently brushing at my sleeves. I can’t think... he wants my jacket? My ladies mid week tennis league fleece from Royal Berkshire Health and Racquets? Why? It won’t fit him. He wants me to roll up my sleeves? What? I don’t get it. Don’t understand. What? I should ... what? what? what? Ach, no. I don’t know what you mean.

Ohhhh....he wants my jewelry. That’s it. The other one, the small nervous one, says, “rings, rings” and shows me his fingers. Obviously he’s got no effin' rings on HIS fingers, it’s just for me to understand him, what he’s saying.

And I’m like, in my head, “Look on my stupid hands, do you see rings here, you ... idiot!” Because you remember, I took them all off a month ago. But no. I don’t say that out loud. Little miss goody two shoes. Instead I say, ‘Yes yes... no rings, no rings, see, see? See? Look! Look, look, just this, these. These bracelets, but they’re silver. Not gold, no gold. You don’t want them, they’re no good, just silver...nothing.... no good.”

Brush brush brush... “These, this”.. brush, brush, brush, flick, flick...

Ok, I start to take off the bracelets. But I can’t. My hands are trembling so much, I can’t even find the clasps. I fumble and twist them around. Where are the flippin’ clasps to get this silver sh-- offa me? Do I want to piss these guys off and die for a silver bracelet? Get them OFF ME! I am freaking out inside, starting to completely panic. I can’t get them OFF. Cilla, beside me, says in her definitive and angry voice, “I can help you with that” to the two men., and I think, “Cilla, please effin disappear right now, right effin NOW! Now!! I DON’T NEED THIS!!!” And they say, “No, here, inside!’” to her, and usher her through a door -- a door I didn’t notice until just now, though we’ve been standing in front of it for at least a minute. And she’s gone. Gone! Thank God. Nice person, but I’ve never been so happy to see someone disappear in my LIFE! Bye, Cilla. See ya soon. I hope.

So we’re still standing there. In the hall, in front of this door, me and these two men. I’m messing about with these frikkin’ bracelets, and finally I say, “Here, you do it, YOU. If you want them, YOU take them off. I can’t do it. I can’t DO it! YOU! YOU DO IT!” And so these two men try to take these bracelets off, each one has a gun in one hand, and is fumbling with a bracelet clasp with the other. It would have been so much easier if SOMEONE had put down their f---in’ gun. But no. Anyway, the whole time I was just thinking, please just don’t blow my freakin' fingers off while you screw with this jewelry. PLEASE. Please.

So two bracelets come off, they start on the third and then I think they just say, “effin’ hell, we quit, this isn’t worth it.”

Didn’t I try to tell them? Men. So stupid.

So they open this same door again, where we’ve been standing, and Mr. Suit gently moves me through the door, and I look down, and surprise, there’s Cilla sitting there!

I was just.... totally surprised. Here we are again, together. And in a bathroom. And Cilla’s here! Weren’t we just talking outside, a minute ago? No, look, it’s all of us now! Nine of us, here now, in this bathroom. Toni, Karine, Cilla, Joan, Mark, Lawrence, and me, and two other people I don’t know at all.

Everyone is totally quiet. So calm. Just breathing. Quiet. Everyone looks up as I come in, and then looks down again. The door closes, and then is locked from the outside. Here we are.

I tremble and lean against the wall. Close my eyes, cover my face. No need to cry. Better stay cool. Everyone else is. Like this happens every day. Lawrence, standing beside me, gives me a huge embrace, and asks if I’m ok. I don’t answer. A human body, a hug, feels so nice sometimes. You cannot believe. Someone else apologizes, on behalf of all of all of South Africa. “Ach, man, you’re just new here, you shouldn’t have to have this happen...”


Don't shoot me. Please.

I said out loud, “Oh, no. oh no. no..." Very quietly, quietly, “ah, no... no...” Thinking about Miss T, at home. What will she do now? How will she know I’m not coming home? What’s next for her now? What? What will happen?

“No... ai no...” Was I whimpering? I hope not. Or just talking to myself? I’m ashamed, already, thinking “I hope I’m not looking too weak”. Is this pathetic or just practical? I’m talking out loud to myself, muttering, I guess, now. OK. That’s ok. Even very intelligent people talk to themselves. I am intelligent. Or I was intelligent. Until I was killed with a gun today... no, no, not that... I’m here. Ok, nothing bad’s happened. Still alive, still ok. It’s fine, fine, fine. Keep cool, you... you. We’re walking along now. Walking.

Turning to go with him down this bad bad nasty dreadful hallway. Thinking, “This was not the way I had planned to die. At least not today. “Hmmm. Ok. Stay calm. It’s a gun. A gun. That IS a gun. It’s at your left ear, behind your head.... don’t look, don’t look now... don’t turn. no. look at the floor. don’t look at them.... don’t look. walk.... walk... walk now. walk forward. keep going.... doesn’t matter that you don’t want to go. You do, you go... walk now....

So. “Come this way."

Walked down the hall, around a corner. Another guy, another gun, joined us. The man in the suit was gently brushing my sleeves... “this, this... these....” I am trying to understand. The other one is saying, “quiet, quiet, don’t be stupid”.

What am I supposed to do? what? We’re walking slowly, he’s brushing my hand. What is it about my hand that’s so fascinating? Ah! I’m holding my CAR KEYS in my hand. This must mean I am supposed to give him my car keys. Ahhhh! But I don’t want to. I don’t want to give them to him. I need my keys. I need them. Brush brush brush. “These, these.....“

Ah... I get it a little more. I look at the other guy, the small guy with the other gun. He’s really nervous, anxious. Cilla is with me, ahead of me in the hallway. She’s angry already. She says to the smaller guy, “Don’t! Just stop!I’ll give you everything, just let me alone and stop touching me.”

I can’t understand what she’s saying. What is she doing? Why is she arguing? Why? What is wrong with her? I just don’t want to think about the guns, I want to figure out what these guys want me to do. What? What? Me, I’m just keeping my head down, walking, trying not to look at the guys... don’t look, don’t LOOK! I don’t want to see their faces... maybe they’ll shoot me if I look at them in the eyes... Why is she being so difficult? I don’t listen to her, I tune her out, she’s making me crazy, already, I hate her at this moment... for maybe making us both dead because she’s being impossible. Shut UP Cilla, shut the effin’ hell up. God, some people. You’re about to be shot, and you’re pissed off at bitchy colleagues. Happens all the time.

“Quiet, quiet. come, come”. Do they only know two words at a time? Maybe, and I guess that’s all I could process right now, two words at a time. Sh--, my mind is closing down.... Too bad. I used to be pretty smart. Ach, well. It’s been fun. Sort of.

Ah yeah. So I’m walking. Down this hallway. What am I supposed to do now? Yes, yeah. I should drop my car keys. Drop them? Ohhhh. that’s it.... Right. I am finally again getting that they want the keys. The car. Yes, that makes sense. They want to have my car. Ah..... yes. Ah well, easy come, easy go I guess. Sort of.

Ach shite man, I suppose they want my handbag too. mmmm. I must drop it. Yes, drop it on the floor now. There. Did that. I’ve dropped everything. Oh, right, this is a robbery.... easier to GIVE them what they want, then you’re done. Drop it, just let it drop from your hand.... ah. So light now... nothing on me..... nothing... I can just walk on...

Pilates is SO good for you

So yeah, we did Xmas with everyone, and then people left by ones and twos, and at last on last Friday it was just me and Miss T, looking forward to a quiet week at home. No one around. Even Mr. D left, along with the boys, on Friday night. He was off to Barcelona for a week of meetings for work.

T and I had a relaxing weekend. And then rolled around Monday morning.

So pleased, I was, to get back into my normal routine. Monday, Pilates, at Riverclub. I took off for the studio in my new Mini Cooper convertible, listening to my new favorite Afrikaans music cd in my car. (Still working on the language here, just for fun, or for my future -- who knows?)

Arrived at the studio, singing away in my car. I wanted to finish the song. So I did, I sang until the end. Sat there in the car park, singing away. Love to sing. It’s my therapy, or it was. I might need something stronger now though. After Monday. Yesterday.

Cilla pulled up in her car, beside me, and went in. I sat in my car, singing. I finallly turned it off and got ready to go in, myself. As I sat there, a guy came out of the building with a blue toolbox. Huh. Must be doing some repairs on the building.

I walked up the walk. The security gate was open. Like usual. Kind of a casual operation really. You have a security gate, but it’s not usually locked. Oh well, so many people going in and out all the time, whatever. Came into the reception area. A very handsome black guy in a beautiful navy blue suit greeted me. A new receptionist? Hey, cool! New staff, new year. 2006. Nice en lekker.

“Good morning!” He smiled a gorgeous, brilliant smile.

I said ‘Good morning’! back at him, and stood there, in another world, still thinking about music, Afrikaans, my confused life, deciding whether to go upstairs now, or wait until other people showed up, should I sit down for a moment? No, go upstairs now. Finally, I turned to go toward the studio upstairs.

The receptionist guy said, “No, no, everyone’s over this way today” and gestured to a hallway I’d never ventured down.

I said, “No. I don’t go over there, to the physio area. I’m doing the Pilates class upstairs today.”

He said, again, ‘No, everyone is this way today. Come. Over here.”

I said, “No, no. I’m going to the class” and turned to go upstairs, but then he suddenly was next to me, close by, gently holding my arm now, gently. And moving his gun up out of his suit jacket to show it to me. Close to me. Close. From his breast pocket, to my chest, twenty centimetres. This gun is close to me. It’s dark, black, heavy, heavy. I wonder if there are bullets in it. Are there? Wow. It’s like a tv show. Is this for real? Uh uh. Can’t be. No.

No. I am astonished and stand completely still. I’m just thinking about it all.

“Come, come. Come now.”

Ah, I see. I think.

Well, man, ja, I guess I will come now. Sure. Ja.