2017-SA-SSCOMP
SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED | WINNERS ANNOUNCED 31 MAY

2013 SA Writers' College Short Story Competition Third Place


'Sleeping Dogs' - by Eleanor Talbot


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So listen to this. I’m standing in a supermarket queue, minding my own business and this guy comes up to me and asks if I’ve been fucking his wife. I’m like, what the hell, boet? I’m just here buying the Car magazine and milk. I don’t even know your wife.

Sheesh, that’s something. I wonder what made him think that?

Dunno. Maybe it’s because I’m one handsome dude. Heh heh. Anyway, point is, you can’t go up to people in shops and ask them crap like that. What if I’d been a nutcase or had my gun on me? The oke could’ve been toast.

Ja, but it’s still weird. I mean, like, an oke wouldn’t go up to just anyone.

Jannie, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m talking about how people behave in public. There’s the right way to do things and the wrong way to do things. He was wrong.

How’re you supposed to behave in public if you think someone’s fucking your wife?

I don’t have a wife.

Ja, but if you did.

But I wouldn’t. Imagine only enjoying one beer in the fridge. Heh heh.

What?

I’m saying; imagine only ever drinking one flavour of milkshake.

I only like vanilla milkshakes, the other flavours taste fake –

Yussus, Jannie, I’m saying imagine only sleeping with one woman for the rest of your life, man.          
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Ok. Ok. Just say it then. Beer and milkshake, boet. How’m I supposed to know what you mean?

You got no imagination.

Ja, but seriously. There’re better ways to say things.

How would you say it?

Um...I would maybe say, “Imagine only swimming in one pool for the rest of your life.”

Heh heh.

What? That’s worse than, “Imagine drinking a milkshake your whole life?”

Ag, you fullashit. That’s not what I said. 

Anyway, so now what?

Now what, what?

So what happened with the guy and his wife?

Oh, ja. So I told him that I was buying milk and everything, and that I didn’t know his wife. And then he pointed a finger at me and said that he knew I was fucking his wife. I pushed him in the chest and told him to get out of my face. Then I whispered in a like, soft voice, ‘cos it was a shop and everything, that I would kill him if he ever came near me again. And then he walked out. Total retard.

Sheesh. Crazy, boet. Crazy.

Ja.

So. Are you fucking his wife?

Yussus, Jannie.

You never answered the question.

I told you that wasn’t the point of the story.

So you are, then.

If you say one more word about his wife, I’m gonna moer you. 

Ok, ok. Don’t be so sensitive. And then what?



Mrs Van Niekerk, let’s start from when your husband arrived at the gate.

So dog had got out and Maart was on the pavement shouting for it to come back. Stupid dog. It’s always escaping and running down the road. “Spike!” he was shouting. He was swearing actually, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear what he said. Sorry, I need to get something to blow my nose.

The more detail we get the better.

He said, “Jou fokkin hond. Ek sal jy in die fokkin veld los, as jy nie huis toe kom nie.” Something like that – that he’d throw the dog out to starve if it didn’t come home. Sorry, I’m first language English, so maybe I haven’t got the exact words right.

I meant more detail about what actually happened.

Oh. Then this car drove up. I was washing dishes and even though the sink is under the window, there’s a curtain that goes halfway up it and then I was looking down to see where I was washing, you know, and it looked blue.

What looked blue?

The car. That drove up.

I see. And did it stop behind your husband’s car? On the road?

Um, I was washing dishes. No, it was in the road, but I could see its bonnet through the gate.

You mean it was behind Mr Van Nierkerk’s car?

I mean, no. It was parked and I could only see the front of it. 

From the kitchen window?

Yes.

We’ll run through that again later. Did you see the make of the car? Was anyone in it?

No. I didn’t pay much attention. I was washing dishes.

Right.

Then I heard this loud bang. A gun shot. Happens a lot around here. I looked up and Maart was leaning against his car, sort of holding his chest, like this. He fell to the ground and Spike came back.

Spike?

The dog. Spike. So I ran to the phone and dialled 101777.

The fire department?

I was panicking; I couldn’t think straight. When we were kids, that number was drummed into our heads.

I see. And did they give you the right number?

Yes, and then I forgot it and had to phone back. My hands were shaking. Eventually I got through to the police. And somehow the ambulance came. Or the fire station called them. I can’t remember who called who.

Did you go out? To help Mr Van Niekerk?

What? No! He’d been hijacked. What if they shot me too? Was that wrong?

No, no. Just asking if you went out to him at all.

Should I have? I don’t know first aid or CRP.

CPR.

What?

It’s CPR. Not CRP.

Oh. What does that stand for?

Hmm. Then what did you do?

I went to get Maart’s gun from under the bed and then I-

Mr Van Niekerk had a gun under the bed? Not in a safe?

We live in a tough neighbourhood here, Sergeant, you can’t be fucking, sorry, I mean messing around with getting into a safe.

Don’t worry about that for now. Continue.

I sat on the couch, with the gun, in case the hijackers came after me. And then the police arrived. 

And no one came to your door and you never went out? You didn’t see anyone at all?

No.

Do you know of any reason why anyone would want to kill your husband, Mrs Van Niekerk?

Maart didn’t have enemies. People liked him. He had the same job for 15 years.

And you?

No, I lost my job. Said I was stealing the stationery. Which is a lie, but I don’t have money for a lawyer.

I meant did you know of anybody who wanted to harm you. An argument, debt, gambling. Perhaps things you didn’t want Mr Van Niekerk to know about?

I loved my husband! This is South Africa Sergeant; people get hijacked all the time. How do you know it wasn’t just some darkie, sorry, I mean person, who came along and tried to take Maart’s car? Or rob him?

There was no evidence of approach or any attempt to relieve Mr Van Nierkerk of his car or personal belongings.

But I didn’t see everything – I was washing the dishes!

However you did notice several other things, like the colour of the car and the dog. It’s unusual that there were no signs of a robbery at all –
But there could have been!

You mean you saw someone approach Mr Van Niekerk?

Yes, no. I dunno!

Mrs Van Niekerk, let’s give it a rest for now. A police officer will escort you to a police station later for further questioning.

I’m under arrest?

We just need to get more information from you.

This is a nightmare. A total nightmare.

I understand, Mrs Van Niekerk and I’m sorry for your loss. These things usually are.

Usually are what?



Retha was telling me about a friend of hers whose been suspected of knocking off her old man. Crazy, boet. Crazy.

Whose Retha?

She’s the new milkshake I’m sipping.

Jannie, you never said you had a new chick.
 
Ja, she’s lekker. She has her own motorbike.

Serious? She like leather? Heh heh. So, what about the friend?

Ja, so this friend’s husband apparently got shot while getting out of his car or something and it wasn’t floppies hijacking him.

How do they know that?

Well white okes don’t hijack, do they?

Ja, but it could have been a robbery – like for his phone or something. 

Apparently there was no attempt to take anything. So it looked like a hit.

A hit?

You know, like an assassination.

I know what a hit is, dummy.

So now all hell is breaking loose because it seems like she was having an affair and she has to get a lawyer and…hey, you ok? You look like something the cat kicked in.

Dragged in, man. Yussus, you’re a stupid poepol.

Hey! What’s this all about? I’m just telling you something.

You can be a total retard. How’d they know she was having an affair?

A few days before he was shot, a cashier in a shop overheard the husband accuse some oke of boning his wife.

Shit.

What?

I mean, poor oke.

Ja. Poor husband too, though. But they don’t have cameras in the shop, so the cashier has to identify the guy.

So she’s the only one who saw him?

Yup, looks like it.

She been working at the shop long? You know her name?

How would I know? I’m just telling you what I was told. 

Huh. She’s probably spreading rumours.

It’s not a rumour. Retha said. Anyway. You going to finish that hamburger?

Have it. I’m not hungry.

Thanks, boet. You feeling ok?

Why’d you ask? You my mother now?

Flip, boet. Have you got PSM or something?

PMS for fuc…Ag, forget it.

Ok. Yussus…Come to think of it, it reminds me of your story the other day. You know, with the oke in the shop that you said needed to be taught the right way to do things. Remember the one where –

Jannie?

Ja?

Eat your burger.

I’m just saying -

And I’m just saying.

Geez. Sorry. Flip.

Sleeping dogs, my man, sleeping fucking dogs.

Huh?

Jesus. Never mind.

Nice burger. Normally the tomato is too like, thick, you know.

Ja.

Good onions, as well.

Ja.

Lettuce isn’t soggy and –

So listen to this: this guy in Ermelo knows a guy who knows a guy, who can get us cheap televisions. Like cheap, cheap. Kev was saying he picked up a 40 inch LED for 500 bucks. Interested?


 
 

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