by Paul du Pré
Africa, in an alternate world.
A 9+1-part series.
At the club, and Bulumko and Saleem are knocking back a homebrew each at the gas and candle lit bar. Bulumko is wearing a short-sleeved cotton shirt in midnight blue, spangled with tiny white stars, along with his usual blue jeans, and Nike rip-offs, while Saleem is peacocking in a midnight Spandex du-rag, silk African shirt open to the navel, black leather pants and calf-boots. And bountiful bling. It’s their first break of the evening – two more 50-minute sets to go – and the second band for the night is steam-up and rolling with 2023’s latest blend of rap and soul retro.
On the podium, lead singer, Giant Wolfman James, stomps and hoots like a runaway locomotive, relying on the wooden pulpit canopy behind him to project his already monstrous voice (ornate carpentry, salvaged from a church refurbishment). While it’s true that upmarket clubs in Sea Point and Strand are experimenting with electronic amplification – at the bleeding edge of tech – they can afford teams of Ordained Electricians to soothe and cajole the systems when they get petulant, and the back-ups for when they blow up. But in lower-income Grassy Park there’s not that much scope for electricity, and Wolfman makes do – he’s got a megaphone now, and shunts among the dancers, dropping rough and risky off-the-cuff rhymes and (mostly) making people laugh.
“So…what’s with the girl?” asks Saleem.
“Bra, she’s a princess.”
“Yebo. She’s got the look. But, what you doing?”
“No, bra. For real. Her father was a king.”
“Yebo. King of the Makolo…something, on the Zambezi River.”
“And her mom’s some kind of Indian heiress. From Durban, I think. Well, Shikara just came from Durban.”
Saleem purses his lips. Decides to go along with it: “Out of your league, bra.”
But thinks, princess or not – a girl is still a girl, is still a girl. “So, what you doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Introduced her to Thandi and Jennifer yet?”
“Charise, Alisha and Smangele?”
“…I don’t know.”
“Bra,” Saleem gives him a knowing look. “You in trouble.” Then he turns his head, scans the dance floor, dim and heaving. “Where is she anyway?”
Earlier, stepping down from the podium after the first set, Bulumko had introduced Shikara to Saleem. Then – while Shikara said, “Pleased to meet you,” and presented her hand (which Saleem ostentatiously kissed) – Bulumko had used his bulk and performer’s status to mount an incursion on the bar. Reaching his objective, he established a bridgehead, which he then summoned them to reinforce. Saleem had been willing, but Shikara refused a drink, and before long, excused herself. “I’ve got to, you know… ‘powder my nose’.”
That was fifteen minutes ago.
Saleem cranes his neck, examines the wall-flowers and their shady beaux edging the floor, drinks in hand; inspects the packed, shadowy tables and bar. “We shouldn’t have…”
“She’s new. One of us should have gone with her – someone who knows this place.”
Saleem, wiry and always intense, pushes up and away from the bar, acting out concern, while Bulumko’s eyes widen and his jaw drops. (Immediately, someone tries to take Saleem’s place. but Bulumko interdicts the insurgent with a beefy arm. It’s reflexive. “My friend’s coming back,” he says.)
But they are both worried now, escalating towards DEFCON ‘CONTRITE’. Certainly, a classy girl, from out of town, wearing jewellery, shouldn’t be left to mix, unsupervised, with gangsters pushing crack and weed. And pimps, muggers, rapists. Murderers! The whole toilet-bowl. And, if they’re honest about their place of employment, this particular toilet – The PlayPark Tavern (Where Friends and Family Meet) – is particularly filthy!
“Shit!” curses Bulumko.
“Yeah,” agrees Saleem.
Contrition escalates further, towards DEFCON ‘ACTIVE CONCERN’, and Bulumko is thinking about surrendering his hard-won seat, going with Saleem, when suddenly…
“Hi guys.” Shikara materialises besides them, twinkling upraised fingers in greeting. (Bulumko re-invests his position, grinding his bum back into his seat – it’s reflexive.)
“Where you been?” they chorus.
“‘Powdering my nose’. I told you… Honestly!” She arches an elegantly pencilled eyebrow.
Her hair is wet. Absently, she gathers a lock in her hand and wrings it. Water runs down her wrist, into the sleeve of her kurti where the cuff gathers just above her elbow. And vanishes – there’s no sign of it seeping through the bright, coloured cotton. No sign at all.
Woman underwater – Free-Photos on Pixabay
Disclaimer, Copyright and Permissions
Shikara is a work of fiction by Paul du Preez, writing as Paul du Pré. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved, including without limitation, the right to reproduce Shikara and the original art or music associated with it, or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of Paul du Preez. Copyrighted 2020 by Paul du Preez.