share


Posman

After a while you memorise the steps. You read the addresses and your calves just know, hey. They just know it’s going to be a long morning.

 

These holiday homes on the steps don’t get a lot of mail. The German okes who buy them park in Frankfurt all year and only fly in when winter hits. Maar dis altyd mooi in die Kaap, né? Who even buys a house they don’t live in? And houses like these, too. Most okes don’t see them, so they don’t even know what they’re like. But let me tell you what: if I had one of these, on the beach, jir’, I wouldn’t leave.

 

But, ja, anyway – most of these places don’t get a lot of mail. Some municipal stuff, some late Christmas cards that’ll sit in their boxes until next December. Sometimes I get these double – sealed envelopes met logos van strange banks al oor geskryf. Most of these okes dodge tax, hey.They have to. No one has that much money.

 

Some of the okes at the depot are jealous of me. They all say, ‘O, Piet, all you have to do is walk around all the laanie houses by the beach all day.’ But most of them don’t know Clifton, hey. They don’t know how many stairs there are. Jirre fok, man, all those stairs. Next time you go to Clifton 3rd, count the number of houses you pass on the stairs down. Ja, and that’s my… that’s my… what’s the word? Ja, jurisdiction. My route. Yoh, they would die in a day if they had my job. And like, none – none of these houses have driveways. No paths. All of these houses are on the steps, going down the cliff. No other way in.

 

No, you have to chain your bike to the rails on the side of Victoria Road – ja, chain it with a combination lock because the skollies will take it quick – quick, even a Post Office bike, hey , they’ve got no skaam – then take the stairs down. Ja, the stairs. Fifty down, fifty up, hundred down, hundred up. Have you ever been to St. James beach? Ja, just like that, but you can’t see it from the road . You wonder how these okes get the shopping in, hey. Maids, probably.

 

And all these steps all have these laanie names, hey. Dove Steps. Heron Steps. Arcadia. But they don’t have signs and they don’t have maps. No bru, go look on Google. They don’t show the names. Rich okes don’t want people to know how to get around their little paradise. So it took me a while to memorise, but no one knows Clifton like I do now.

 

So, like I was saying, every morning I get the mail from the depot and I look at the addresses and I work out the route with the least steps. I don’t need to run up paths I don’t need to, right? So I look at the addresses – you know, I go down here, turn there, whatever – and then I have it worked out and I can get it done blitsvinnig. But I’m not lazy, nee man. You should check these calves, hey. Check, I trialled for Vasco back in the day. Could be in the PSL. Could be making lekker bank, hey. But, you know, weak knees. Need to look after my knees.

 

So most days I ride from Sea Point up to Kloof Road, right at the top, then carry my bike down Arcadia Steps to Victoria Road. Then I chain the bike and go back up Clifton Steps, back up to Kloof, then back down again. Then I ride down Victoria to the car park by Clifton 3rd and I chain the bike and tune the carguard to check it, then down I go. I should count how many roads and steps there are between Clifton 1st and 4th, but I couldn’t tell you now honestly. There are dozens, thousands. There’s all this bush and dead – ends and the steps are so narrow and steep and, jirre, when it rains you’re all slipping down all the broken stones and all the white sand gets clogged under your shoes. It’s worst in the summer, hey: it’s too hot. And there are tourists everywhere lost on the steps trying to find the beach, and you’re dodging them and they’re always looking for directions and I just want to say, you know, ‘The beach is in that direction. It’s down the hill. The road is up the hill. Beach. Road. It’s easy.’ But the worst is there’s no wind and, jir’, it smells. All the kelp and the sout and the piss from the toilets and it’s all just rotting out there in the sun. All these miggies buzzing around , too. So you just sweat, hey. And the Post Office asked us to stop wearing shorts now, hey, so your balls get all sweaty and dit skaaf, hey. Dit skaaf. But that’s work, hey. That’s work. And it’s a paycheck. And sometimes on an easy day you can hide, you know. Take a minute. See how the laanies live, hey. Listen to the ocean and check the rocks and the okes selling lollies down at the beach. Yoh, but those okes, hey. You know how their song goes, hey? A lolly to make a dolly jolly? One oke now’s like, A sucker for a motherfucker! It’s a bit much.

 

But check: there’s been this ou ballie around , and he’s been throwing me out. I’d tell you his name but you never know who knows who, right? Anyway, he’s at the bottom of these steps right near 4th beach, right at the bottom of the promenade by the rocks and the sand, where the moffies pitch up on their yachts and lie out in their Speedos. And, maybe for the past few months, this oke’s been getting mail every day. Every single day. I swear. Jus, and it sucks hey. He’s way out of the way. Like, going down to 4th from 3rd is OK every once in a while, but every day? It’s an extra half hour at least. And that’s if there are no moffie Fransmanne asking me for directions.

 

And this oke – this ballie, alright – now, I don’t judge, but this guy might be a moffie. He’s got this big house – and I mean big. Big, big, big, all out in the open – like, I mean, with a wall around it, sure, but you ca n see it all as you walk down the stairs behind. I didn’t know you could just have just, like, walls of glass . I mean, you see a lot of these things in Clifton and Sea Point, but jus, this oke just has glass everywhere. I don’t know how it survives the storms we have. Must be bulletproof – and he’d need it with all the stuff he keeps in there. Paintings en sculptures and these huge speakers. Like, you couldn’t even fit them in your car boot, so what’s the point.

 

But ja, that’s not why I think he’s a moffie – I mean, ja, it’s easier to be rich without a wife! But no man – like, every day, when I come down the stairs, he’s on his roof and he’s fokken kaal, man. Naked. Sunbathing even when the sun isn’t even out. And he’s a witou, but he is bruin. Skin like an old couch. And his piel. Jus – I’m not a moffie so I don’t stare but you can’t help seeing it – his piel is like a snail. Like a big snail, I swear, all curled up. And you don’t want a burn on your piel, bru. And I know, bru: I once spilled tea on my lap at the depot and I had to wrap toilet paper round my dick for a week. But this ballie just lies there, doesn’t matter the time. Balls must be leather. Ja, I mean, I’d think he’s dead if I didn’t come down some days and his hairy fokken gat wasn’t all out in the open. You’d wish you were blind, man.

 

But here’s the thing . It just happened that he was getting all this mail one day , and all of a sudden that he’s out there . And I’d remember if I ever had to deliver mail to this house before because, shit , I’d know if I saw this fat ou ballie trying to lure in okes with his balls. But he was just getting these dik handfuls of mail every day. And shit from every which country! Nigeria, Germany, sommige small Italian place, San… San Marino, Colombia, Brasilië . And they were these dik padded envelopes, too, all computerised and double-sealed , and all like, you know, CONFIDENTIAL and like DO NOT BEND . Serious shit, but you know, weird kak. But also, like, important. And these okes were just sending it to him, to Cape Town, through the regular regteou Post Office. And we’ve had strikes, man. Strikes all the time. And these important okes are just getting stuff, you know, handled by who knows who, hey. I mean, there’s no security. Anyone could open his mail on the way to him and he wouldn’t know. I mean, ja, I opened one or two – I mean, w ho wouldn’t – and ja, they were just financial statements – I can’t read fokken Duitse – but you know. If it fell into the wrong hands I’m guessing this oke could lose a lot of cash. I mean, ja, this oke had cash. But I mean – cash, bru. Couldn’t count the noughts.

 

So, you know, after a while, I was wondering if he’d notice me , hey. Or if he’d get, like, suspicious. I ripped open one envelope and put it through the little mailbox in his wall one day – I was hoping he’d say something , but he didn’t. So some days I’d whistle and pretend to stop at a neighbours and say, ‘O, dis die posman!’ to see if he’d cover up his vuile ou piel. But he wouldn’t move . He wouldn’t even, you know, budge. No skaam.

 

So I just got on with it. I wouldn’t say I looked forward to seeing this ballie, but anything seems normal when it becomes part of your routine, you know. I even took a pic of him on my phone and sent it to the boys at the depot, because they just thought I was joking hey. But now they think I’m a regte moffie. But, you know. They wouldn’t believe me, so that’s what you get.

 

But here’s the thing I still can’t get my head around. I was sick on Friday, so I just stayed at home and watched the cricket. First shift I missed in a couple years. And I felt naar, man. I didn’t eat for a couple days, then on Sunday I ate three footlong Russians and just dos sed. Jus, and I felt good on Monday, hey. Maybe I just needed rest. Sometimes it’s just what you need. I don’t know. Anyway, so I parked my bike and I go through all the deliveries on 3rd and 2nd side, and it was nice and cool so I almost, ja, I almost jogged over to 4th side. And there were a couple stops on the promenade and I bought a granadilla lolly and ja, took it a bit easy – I figured I deserved it, you know. Checked out all the cherries on the beach and all the boats and everything. And at the end I was expecting to see my ou ballie , but he wasn’t there. His chair was gone and I could see that the windows and doors were all closed. On the way down I was checking all through the glass and I still couldn’t see him. And it was strange, hey. This house I wouldn’t have noticed a few weeks ago , and now I’m all staring into it, checking my hardest for this oke. And I had his post ready in my hand and I was checking through it, seeing if there was any thing strange but there wasn’t – just the same old padded envelopes and kak in Jesus knows how many languages . And so I just got ready to put them all in the mailbox, but when I got to there I saw he hadn’t collected his mail for a few days. It was all sticking out the flap like cigarettes. So I try to fit today’s mail into the box but all these okes have small mailboxes. Then I figure, maybe I could just throw the mail over the wall, but then what happens if it blows into the pool?

 

So I ring the door bell, and wait for someone to answer. I wonder what this oke’s voice will sound like, if he’ll sound like all the other moffies, or if he’ll be like a regte man, you know. But then I realise, you know, shit, if he sees me at the door and I’m sucking on my lolly he might think I’m a moffie too and take me in. So I throw the lolly into the bush and ring the doorbell again. But no one comes. And I just think, you know, shit, I threw away that lolly for nothing.

 

But I think, well, I may as well try make sure this oke’s mail is safe, you know, I want to go the extra mile – you know, Post Office, we deliver whatever it takes, hey – so I take all the envelopes that I can reach out of the mailbox and put them in with the rest of his mail in my bag. I check the path to my left and my right, then I use the mailbox as a, you know, ‘n vastrapplekkie , and I hoist myself up to look over the wall. Some of these okes plant rusty spikes in the ground to stop people from coming in, and I can’t blame them for doing it, but jus it must sting if you land on them. So I check and I see nothing. No dog, no people. There’s a little light above the front door that I figured would flash if the alarm was on, but it wasn’t flashing so I figured, you know, whatever. So I just jumped over the wall – easy, man , couldn’t have been two metres – and went to leave the mail by the door.

 

Maar, jir’, I couldn’t have taken two steps before this fokken alarm went off. But it’s not like any alarm I’ve ever heard. Not like a wee-woo-wee-woo kind of shit, but like ‘n fokken air raid siren, like you think you’re about to get bombed. Fokken hard, man. And so I just sommige drop the mail on the lawn and I can see it already blowing toward the pool but I don’t care, there’s this fokken siren going off, and I run back toward the wall and I put my foot on the mailbox and I jump back up. But I lose my grip and I fall but I fokken fall, man, head – first, and I cut my hand to shreds on the steps. Jirre, dit het gesteek. And it’s just bleeding and I’m just lying on the steps and this siren is going neyerrr-neyerrr so loud that all the moffies have probably stopped kissing each other and I just think, jus, I’m going to look suspicious as all hell out here. So I stand and I brush myself off and it’s just my hands that are cut, so I fokken search in the bush for my lolly, and I find it and it’s all vuil and sandy, but I wipe it off and carry it in my hand so no one will see the blood.

 

And I hard loop. I run, man, shit, up the steps, two at a time, and I just pray I don’t see anyone. And I get to the corner of the ou ballie’s steps and the 4th Beach promenade and I can see people are looking around trying to figure out where this alarm is coming from, and I just walk by, trying to look around, trying to look all casual, you know, a little swag, and – I can’t believe this – but I was just licking this fokken granadilla lolly. It tasted like shit but I just needed to look like I’m just doing my job. And I am just doing my job, I just got, you know, a little sidetracked. So I walk maybe a hundred meters and this siren is still like fokken hard, man , and I see these okes running down the promenade toward me, three of them, white guys, huge, all like dressed in black with like shoulder pads and fokken army armour and everything on them. Like armed response okes, but not like your normal ADT guys. These guys were something else, carrying these huge fokken guns like you’d see some fokken PAGAD gangster carry on the way to sommige kill a drug dealer. And in like a couple seconds they were surrounding me and I just thought, no fuck, that’s me, I’m dead, I’ve lost my job, I’m going to jail , they probably have cameras, he probably had cameras and now they’re going to catch me and I’m dead. And I’m beginning to, you know, prepare myself up to be arrested just so that these okes don’t kill me on Clifton promenade, and they just sommige look at me and say:

 

Hey, sir, have you seen anyone suspicious run by?

 

And I fokken lick my lolly and I say:

 

Nee, meneer, but there’s some alarm going on over back there that you should go check out.

 

And they say, well, thank you, and they run off toward the ou ballie’s house. And I just go, you know, jirre fok, and I put foot all the way back to Victoria Road and I get my bike and go back to the depot and clock out and go buy a couple quarts of Hunter’s. And I just go home and it’s too early to go to bed but that’s all I want to do. So I map these quarts and I watch TV and, ja, just try to think about other things, hey. I went to bed early but I just couldn’t sleep . It was just so fucked up. My heart was beating like… like you know when you put your takkies into a washing machine? Like that. And even though those wit ous left me alone I was just thinking that they probably had cameras in the house and they’d know it was me sooner or later and I’d be called in the next morning first thing and I’d be fired. And , you know what, the next morning I come into the depot and the laanie calls me into his office. And he looks me up and down and smiles all skwif and says:

 

We’re taking you off the Clifton route. And you can give us back your satchel.

 

And I thought, fuck man. All my nightmares. And I’m like, so you’re firing me? And he looks at me all double skwif and laughs. He tunes me: ja, no, we got some word from an armed response company that you directed them toward an alarm and when they got there there was some oke hanging about who had just broken in to some rich oke’s house.

 

And I just, you know, gulped and thought, jirre fok.

 

And the laanie just said, ja, no, they arrested this guy and it turned out he was wanted for break-ins all over the seaboard , so it was a big catch and they were impressed. So the laanie just smiles and hands me a big padded envelope with my name all typed on it and says that I’m being promoted to a desk job – at the depot, nogal. Double salary, good hours. Said I can probably get my own little flat now, but what does he know – I already have one and I’m fucked if I’m moving. But anyway, I was just shaking my head while he was saying his congratulations. I just couldn’t deal. And he said that I could go home for the afternoon and that they’ve already got someone new. I asked who it was and he said it was some new cherry they brought down from Mill Street side. So I just said cheers and thanks and went to the bottle store and bought some more quarts of Hunter’s and sat down on the couch. I tried watching the cricket, but that was done by 2. I didn’t even finish my cider. I just dossed all afternoon. I gave up trying to figure it out. Ja, no, it’ll make sense one day.

 

But that’s a funny thing, hey, the way these things happen. But, you know, I saw the stekkie who’s supposed to be taking the route this morning. She’s a fat old thing, hey. I don’t know much, hey, but I know she’ll get pretty skraal pretty quickly.



ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR


is a British-South African writer and Mandela Rhodes Scholar. He is shortlisted for the 2015 White Review Short Story Prize.

READ NEXT

Poetry

September 2011

Sleepwalking through the Mekong

Art

February 2013

Haitian Art and National Tragedy

Fiction

The White Review Short Story Prize 2013

The Taxidermist