This is the beginning of a very interesting story by Lauri.
You can read her Caine Prize shortlisted story here. Keep an eye out for much more from her.
Maybe it was the updraft that pushed empty plastic bags high into the sky to dance around in the sunlight with a never before sought for freedom (for plastic bags have few aspirations), or maybe it was the westerly direction of the wind, when everyone knew weather never snuck in from the dry and lonely Kgalagadi. No one knew exactly what had caused it all, but everyone agreed, that from the day the wind shifted, there was no way to go back to the way things had been before, because when the wind changed so did everything it touched.
Nono remembered the day well. She was at the till at Koppies and knew something was up when the number 1 button refused to be punched on the cash register. How could she ring up Mma Kgoroletso’s considerable amount of groceries without the 1 button? Shouts and blood red faces from the manager, Mr. Viljeon, were not going to help things.
When the wind shifted, the single working robot in the village decided to stop on yellow. It would have been much better had it stopped on red or even on green, but yellow was a problem. Yellow, an ambiguous colour, led to bang-ups and the inevitable fights, when each driver insisted that “proceed with caution” meant he should proceed and the other guy should take caution. From that day, the four-way stop became a regular hang-out for the children from Khama Primary School down the road. They’d idle after school, forgetting all about the chores waiting for them at home, some of them were there for the crash-ups, others for the fights. All in all, quite a crowd turned out; so big, in fact, that Mma Moremi set up a table to sell magwinya and the yellow-aproned Quick Charge sellers added the four-way stop to their route around the village, charging people’s cellphones.
That wind, for reasons no one ever did find out, brought all kinds of change and turbulence to the village. Winds can clear away litter or blow up the dust. They might pull up a loose roof so the sun can get a peek inside at the family secrets or knock down a tree and put an end to the family altogether. And sometimes, a stiff wind from the right direction, with the right suspension of pollen grains, dirt particles, and pollutants, can produce a heady mix that gives the brain a corrosive cleaning, waking up cells hidden inside lazy grey matter, cells that ignite thoughts that had been extinguished with the daily grind and boredom of life.
So it was for Tshepo. On that day of the shifted wind, when the ‘1’ button stopped working on the cash register at Koppies and prices had to be rounded up to 2 or down to 0, when the robots stuck on yellow, providing a bit of entertainment for local school kids and a micro-economic boom for hawkers, and plastic bags were given dreams they never knew they had, Tshepo decided it was time to have an affair.
She’d never thought of having an affair before; it wasn’t in her nature. She was a dependable Capricorn; at least that was what Drum Magazine told her. She was steadfast and trustworthy, and other such words that had no connection to anything as exciting as a love affair. She’d married Bruno after university, having known him since primary school. For her, life had always been a bit like knitting. The pattern was set; all you had to do was proceed: knit 1, pearl 1, knit 1, pearl 1. It wasn’t difficult. You knew what came before and what would come after, and there was not a whole lot of thinking involved. In fact, Tshepo thought, just like knitting, once you started thinking too much, once you started veering away from the pattern and improvising, things, almost without exception, went badly.
She and Bruno had been married a respectable twelve years. He was as predictable and dependable as her. A tough, solid, block of a man with clear parameters of behaviour affixed firmly inside his skull making life an easy progression with few moral dilemmas. The two never had vicious arguments of which some couples regularly partook, nor the wild love-making that occurred after such events. They never threw dishes or sped away in cars. They behaved civilly and had few disagreements. They had three equally unexcitable children who went to school, excelling at times or hovering at average on others, but never doing anything to warrant a visit to the school or scrawled, desperate notes from teachers at the end of their tether. It was a simple knit 1, pearl 1 kind of life. Tshepo had always been happy with that.
With the shifting wind, though, Tshepo decided it would be a good idea to stuff the pattern in the drawer in the hall table and do a bit of making it up as she went along. She never thought for a minute about Bruno. Bruno had nothing to do with it. This affair was all about her. It was about expanding herself, about testing the waters away from the safety of the boat, seeing what it was like and if she could handle the waves. She had no intention of leaving Bruno. She loved him in a certain and kind way. She was sure she could develop a similar type of love with someone else, if she spent as much time with him as she had with Bruno, but what would be the point of that? Wastage was something Tshepo couldn’t tolerate; she was all about efficiency. So, leaving Bruno was never going to be part of the plan. All Tshepo wanted was a brief excursion into the unknown, for the simple reason that she wanted to see what was there.