Stir with caution

Sometimes you wake up in the morning, and you don’t know the stars have aligned. You don’t know of the cosmic plot that’s about to alter your existence. Sometimes you think you know because your horoscope said so. But, as usual, the soothsayer is almost never quite on the money.

 

You brush your teeth by the sink and you remain blissfully unaware that the universe has carefully laid down paths for you to cross. You go about your daily routine not knowing your luck is about to change. Not knowing the cards are being dealt from the bottom. You towel off your hair and slip into some clean underwear but, unbeknownst to you, life is about to take a different trajectory all together.

 

Last Monday was one such day. Before noon, after the usual morning shenanigans, I set myself down for a nap. I didn’t know I was about to get a phone call, and from the most unlikely source. I wouldn’t be able to sleep again for the next three days.

 

Get this. So the 15th edition of Bikozulu Masterclass ended the previous Friday, right?

 

There was one participant by the name of Catherine, and she has this blog. But she has a busy work schedule. She can’t write on the blog on a regular. So she wanted a writer who could write her stories. “In a casual witty way, she said, “Not too serious.”

 

And who does she go for help? Biko.

 

And Biko says, “Sure. I know someone who can help.”

 

And guess who Biko calls?

 

No, guess.

 

I’ll give you a hint. He was splayed on a couch, with a book lying open on his chest.

 

I stood up at attention when I saw the caller ID. I almost gave a salute as I picked up.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Miiike. How’s it baba?”

 

Geez! I didn’t know what face to make. Was this real? I had gone all blushy-bloshy, to tell you the truth.

 

“Biko. Niko salama. Na wewe?”  Hehe, that’s me trying to sound like Biko calls every day.

 

“I’m good baba. So listen. There’s this lady eh…”

 

“Oh I love ladies.”

 

“Haha, this isn’t that type of lady. Anyway, so there’s this lady. She has a blog. Fashionable Stepmum. And she wants a writer. So she gives you a topic then you just spread it out nicely eh?”

 

“Ehe…”

 

“And she wants it written in that cool laid back style of yours eh?”

 

“Go on.” At this point I’m pacing around the room like a madman.

 

“So you meet her, interview her, then she’ll tell you what to write. Sawa?”

 

I couldn’t contain myself. Catherine called me at 2 o’clock, and we set a meeting the next day, 10am, her office, before my 1pm class.

 

“I’m on Ole Dume,” she said.

 

And that’s how I found myself riding at the back of an X6, munching on crisps from a plastic bowl. I was seated back-left, and it felt like I was in a space ship. If the engine made any kind of noise I didn’t hear it. I was shrouded inside the air-conditioned cabin, tucked away from the earth by tinted windows and rich leather smells.

 

Catherine was driving, and her daughter –Coco- was riding shotgun. The smell of her perfume followed me all the way home that day. Catherine’s son, Josiah, was seated next to me.

 

Coco had the bowl of crisps on her laps. After a while Catherine said, “Mama please pass the crisps behind.”

 

Josiah didn’t want crisps, though. So I gladly took a fistful of the lot and pressed it into my mouth.

 

We had just concluded the first interview. The voice recording had run to 1 hour 10 minutes. I couldn’t imagine transcribing it all. But a contract was laid out and I was feeling rather skittish about the new gig. We set the deadline for Mondays, which means I’ll never again have time for a quick zizz before noon. The stories are also to be written in first person, meaning I’ll have to completely immerse myself in Catherine’s shoes. I’ll need to internalize her emotions and reproduce them on the page. I’ll have to grapple with her fears, and celebrate her victories, and share her laughs.

 

She gave me artistic freedom, and I, in turn, promised not to flirt with Coco without her permission.

 

Needless to say my work load has increased. Today is a week since I clinched the gig and I’ve sent in the first story. So that’s all sorted out.

 

I now have two weekly deadlines. I’ll have to stay on my feet if I’m to keep up. And one way to go about it is by keeping fit. But I can’t think of anything more dreadful.

 

The other solution, of course, is cranking up the coffee. I like mine hot and black. Three sugars.

 

But there’s a slight problem

 

The other day we saw news reports that the country was importing sugar that contained Mercury.  One of the brands named in the scandal is the one we use in our digs, in fact.

 

They say Mercury poisoning could cause cancer and we should all be afraid. But that’s okay because everything can cause cancer these days. Fizzy drinks, bhajia, the smell of paint -they’ll all come back to haunt us when we’re 40.

 

I bet if you went on the internet and looked up various shades of beige you’d be told which one is highly cancerous. And that the only way to live a long fulfilling life is to turn into a herbivore.

 

Thing is, though, ever since I started writing for a living, there’s nothing I seem to do more than drink coffee. I make endless trips to the water kettle. Some days I take up to 6 or 7 cups, depending on how much writing I have to do.

 

That’s quite a bit of sugar. And according to medical experts I should start packing it up for the Reaper.

 

I’ve however done further digging, and it looks like Mercury really is dangerous. It could cause neurological damage, and lower your sperm count, and give you a coronary heart disease. It could lead to paralysis, and damaged motor skills.

 

Some symptoms of mercury poisoning –and this is where it gets interesting– include: nausea, changes in vision and speech, difficulty in walking straight, and a metallic taste in the mouth.

Well, I’m sorry. But those could also be the symptoms of a man who’s been drinking vodka all night. So if a constable arrests you for being drunk and disorderly, you can just say it’s a case of Mercury poisoning.

 

They also say mercury could cause irritability and mood changes. Maybe that explains why I’m suddenly tired of this blog post.

 

There’s only one thing I can think of that’ll bring back the shine to my face. And that’s a steaming cup of coffee.

Last time I said a slingshot would make me extremely happy. I lied. I meant the sound of a water kettle coming to a boil.

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