This week couldn’t have been shittier even if Satan had designed it with the sole intention of torturing me. First my mother, now KG, just when I was trying to do everything by the book. I’m really good at reading things, or so I’d like to think. If I were asked to say what I was, I would say I was a reader. I read situations, I read auras, I read people, I read the Tarot (although I must confess I’m not too good at this, but still I do it), I read numbers, all numbers, and this I am pretty good at, even if I have to say so myself. And sometimes, just sometimes when the sprit moves me I read the bones, although by right I shouldn’t, because I’m not yet done with ukuthwasa, and I know when I do this I’m traipsing into terrain I should not be tramping on, not just yet any in any event.
At least my mother’s passing was not too much of a surprise, she had been ill, on and off for a while now. Still I thought we were going through the off phase and that we would be for a while to come. In all earnest, even though it did not surprise me much I still did not see it coming. KG’s arrest on the other hand was the kind of tosh I couldn’t have read even if all my senses were on full alert. She was out of my life now and not within the radius of people my antenna was adapted to pick up, unless they were paying of course. We had been broken up for three months — her decision not mine, and I was still coming to terms with accepting that whole debacle. When she had developed a temperament like that I couldn’t tell you. When we were still together tiny, scrawny, geeky KG, with a predisposition that rendered her incapable of hurting so much as a fly, how she managed to get herself arrested for beating up a man twice her size, in the process splitting his lip and breaking all the fingers on his right hand is something that still baffles me.
The charge sheet as it was read in court said the standard, ASSAULT WITH INTENT TO CAUSE GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM. What she told me was different though. She told me, “I had to let that guy know just how it felt to be humiliated in public like he was doing to that woman.” “What woman, what guy?” I asked. She was scant on the details. Secretly I was proud of her. That was my ex for you, ever involving herself in things that did not necessarily have anything to do with her, ever the Good Samaritan, ever the voice of the unheard. The fist for the fist-less though, that I did not think she had in her.
Now I needed money. Lots of it too, and very quickly, if I was going to be able to give my mom a decent send off, and get KG out of jail in time for her to help organise the whole thing. I needed to get my hands on a tidy sum. Of the two of us KG was more expert at these kinds of things — logistics and getting things into action, me not as much. If truth be told KG was the only person who was like family to me. I needed her now perhaps more than I’d ever needed her ever.
With my mom’s passing I would have no more family. It would be just me in the world. And with KG and I broken up I would really have no one. As messed up as this whole thing was it presented a win-win for everyone, fact is I needed her as much as she needed me because like me she too had no one, at least no one vested enough in her wellbeing. And trust me with her in jail there was not going to be a legion trooping for her release. Right now I was the only ‘masses’ she could count on to advocate for her freedom. I was the closest thing to the toy-toying, slogan chanting public she could be assured would be at the police station demanding her release. Only toy-toying wouldn’t do it this time, money would; bail money to be precise. So I had to find a gig. Not just any gig a mega gig and I had to find it really quickly.
The time I had spent entwasweni with Gogo Shezi, my gobela, had taken me out of circulation, so much so that I was at loss about where to begin. She had insisted that because I was so close to ukuphothula I stop with these other ways of divination I had been toying with and take time off work to prepare for umgidi wokugeza idlozi. So I had taken two months unpaid leave at work with the condition that I could go in when they needed me, and get paid for just the days I worked, which they hadn’t, which meant that I had not been paid for two months and I was dead broke.
There was really one of two ways I could get my hands on some quick cash; one I could call Lwazi and see if he did not have a client he could let me help him with to do their books. He had let me help him in the past, but only if he was involved with the entire process. I’d just prepare the books and he would review and sign them off, and all was done. Or I could call Karen and see if she could not get me in contact with one of her gullible friends who wanted their tealeaves read or their aura cleansed or chakras aligned or something. She had also let me have some of her clients when she had more than she could handle or when she just was not up to consulting a particular one, for whatever reason. As easy as the second option would be it would get me in untold trouble with Gogo Shezi because of the promise I had made her.
If I called Lwazi I am afraid he would not stop going on about how I wasting my life. To him my calling was one of my many excuses to not finish what I started. Besides Lwazi coming at me about the state of my life I wondered if he would still be prepared to let someone with half an accounting degree they had promised to finish years ago, peer into the books of his clients. He had said in no uncertain terms that he would only let me have some clients only if I came back to him after I had finished my studies. I suspected he was not going to do me any favours.
You see I was in the middle of completing my degree when I got the calling. On consideration I wish that it was not really me the ancestors were meaning to call. But it was. So heed the call I did, dropping everything I was becoming good at in the process. Serves me right that I got the calling, because before I did I had been dabbling with a number of new age divination practices under Karen’s guidance. Karen, as she said, had learned from her mother, who herself had been trained in the ways of the clairvoyants who followed the ways of Gaia.
Once Karen had aligned my chakras, balanced my energies and cleansed my aura, she had told me in ways that others before her had told me that I had psychic abilities. But still I did not believe her. It was not until the tell tale signs of me having the calling started manifesting that I started taking notice and started thinking that maybe there was some truth to what people had been telling me all along. There was a time when for so young and for the amount of money I was earning I could not keep on top of my finances. Within the space of a year I had lost everything I had. I had lost my car, had been kicked out of my flat, to top it off had failed every module I took that year, this in spite of me having been dead certain that I had done well in the exams. I had near damn lost my mind. Then there were the vivid dreams and the many instances of déjà vu, and then the constant dreams of the ocean, which many swore was the definitive sign. Still I wasn’t convinced. Nevertheless to stop Karen talking I opened myself up to letting her teach me everything she knew about divination. I was open to this so long as it meant I wouldn’t have to thwasa. Karen took me under her wing and taught me all the basics in Tarot reading, numerology — by far my favourite. To see numbers transform to give meaning where there was just chaos was something I could never stop marvelling at. She also taught me palm-reading, aura-reading and teomancy. Textbook stuff really. Things I practised only with my friends as party tricks to break the ice at the same-same dinner parties I found myself invited when the night got to the point where it demanded entertainment. On one or two occasions I really got into it and felt as if something real had happened. For example there was this woman whose tealeaves I had read, who then started crying and told me just how spot on I had been.
So maybe if I called Karen she could get me in touch with one of her Melville artist friends, who to me seemed to have more money than sense and were prepared to try just about any bat-shit idea so long as it made them come across as spiritual rather than the consuming beasts they really were.
Grief is strange because it will have you doing things you never thought yourself capable of. Beyond its energy sapping nature that leaves you with just enough drive to steady yourself against the blizzard of pain and bitterness to survive each day as it comes, it leaves you with little resolve. And when the storm begins to take a shape you are familiar with, one you can predict even, you turn and face the wind and do what needs to be done.
I think I’ll call Karen. Today this fits in the realm of the doable.
I scroll down my phone and find her number. For a moment I hesitate to press the call button. I have not spoken to Karen in such a long time. I hate to be one of those friends who only call when they need something. But Karen and I have this kind of friendship that even if we don’t speak for months, when we do it’s as if no time has passed. I take a deep breath and press the call button.
“Well Nkads to what do I owe the pleasure of this call,” she says in her ever-chipper voice. “Well hey, its been a long time I know,” I say trying to suppress my embarrassment. “Damn right it has been, what’s up?” she says trying to avoid the awkwardness. “I need a favour man. No scratch that, I need a mother of a favour,” I say. “Name it, and we’ll see what we can do.” Karen always refers to herself in the plural. “I need money, so I need a gig. My mom’s died and I don’t have money to bury her. What’s more KG has managed to fucking get herself arrested, so I need to bail her out too. I need a client, a reading or two to make enough so I can pay for these things,” I say almost hyperventilating. “Shoo Nkads I’m really sorry about your mom. Uuuuhmm didn’t you say you and KG were over, why it on you to bail her out??”
“It’s complicated,” I say.
“It always is with you isn’t. Shoo sounds like you need big money then. Let’s see what we can do and get back to you in a week or so. Tell you what lets have drinks…”
“Karen I don’t have a week,” I interrupt her. “I need this money as in yesterday. Besides you know I don’t drink anymore with my training,” I say.
“ Sorry honey we forgot about that. Give us a day, two at the most, and we’ll see what we come up with, yes?” she says.
“Thanks honey you are life saver,” I say and hang up the phone.
Day one goes by and Karen does not call. I will be in the real dwang if she does not call. Day two goes by and I have just about bitten off all the nails on all my fingers. Please God let her call. At 4:30 p.m. as I am about to give up all hoping, Karen calls. She had better come through. Universe and all my ancestors in the ether and in the sea she had better come through.
The devil is a liar because Karen comes through. Like a knight on Pegasus she comes through and lands me the mega gig of my prayers. This particular client is not the regular artsy type or the bored housewife; they are a business. A business looking to have their aura cleansed. How bizarre I think, but how fucking lucky can I get. I get to ply both my trades! Need their aura cleansed is what they say, need sound financial advice is what I hear, but who am I to say what people need when they are determined they know what they need. If I can’t read their Tarot I’ll just have to settle for reading their balance sheet and see if that does not score me a bigger cheque in the end.
Karen tells me I am to meet the two women Thabiso and Thandeka, who together go by the name Lesiba Communications. We are to meet at 12:30 pm at their offices in Parkhurst on Wednesday. God getting to Parkhurst is such a mission, but thank heavens for my moped I’ll zip myself in and out to be back in time to attend to the weekend’s preparations. How I am going to get out of the house requires the weaving of a watertight story or else I am going to get into some deep shit with Gogo Shezi. If she finds out that I am abandoning the week-end’s preparations to hustle in ways she had specifically asked me not to, there will be some hell to pay. But maybe if I play my cards well I can get away with it. I’ll tell her I’m needed at work. She said she would let me go if I was ever needed. My going to work pays the bills; even a gobela appreciates that. Also she must understand if I need a little time out, these are fraught times. My mom has just died and my ex is in jail. My world as I know it has come to an end.
The story about Thabiso, the Chief Operations Officer, and Thandeka, the General Manager Marketing, as Karen tells me, is that ten years ago, fresh out University, after getting their post graduate degrees, they set up this advertising agency. The two of them ran it for seven years with considerable success, until three years ago when they appointed Tom as their accountant. Tom, who as people say they did not know from a bar of soap, was the sole custodian of their finances while they focused on growing the business. In addition to running the business they were both yogis who, as part of the perks they provided their staff were free yoga and Reiki sessions, all in the name of ‘overall wellness’.
Lesiba Communications, which had done things exactly the same way as it had for seven years, was now for reasons they could not put their finger on starting to perform badly. So badly in fact that they even needed to lay off some of their staff. Above a bad set of books the thing that concerned Thabiso the most was, ‘The possibility of earning bad karma by bringing suffering to the lives of people we had willed to come and work for us,’ as she put it when I met them.
“Damn this kind of shit can’t happen now! Not today of all days. Not when I need to be in top form. This is not the day for things not to work,” I say as I kick start my moped for the fifth time. God I am so not in the mood for taxis, I would have to take three to get to Parkhurst from Phomolong.
I am not in the mood to smell some umageza empompini who took a bath under a tap outside some ramshackle house. I am not in the mood to have my shoulder dug into by some woman’s long nails in her bid to get the fare from the back seat to the driver. I am certainly not in the mood to sit so close to anyone and feel as if they were about to share some deep secret about how to overthrow the government or some such. I am just not in the mood for any of it. Today I have to be in top form, my life depends on it. People are strange; they are never sold unless there are theatrics and paraphernalia involved so I had best be on my best form today. I need to carry all my charms to come across as the real thing. I can’t psyche myself up in a taxi.
A couple more kick-starts and it comes alive my jalopy. I am saved from the curse that is our public transport system. I zip my way around town and make it to the meeting twenty minutes early; this is a first for me I am usually unforgivably late. When I get there I realise I do not know what floor I must go. I sit on the steps leading to the office block and finish a game of Sudoku I have been playing since night before, another thing Gogo Shezi wouldn’t be too chuffed about. ‘You and that numbers game of yours,” she always complained.
I don’t know what I imagined these two would look like when I met them, however in between all the things that have led up to this moment I guess I have had very little time to imagine anything. Thabiso is an out and out hipster. A hippy even — torn skinny jeans, oversized shirt, bangles on both arms, vintage suede jacket, and dreadlocks to her shoulders, swathed in the smell of patchouli, all of this framed by a plus sized model’s figure. Thandeka is Thabiso’s stylistic inverse — Brazilian weave, manicured nails, chic wardrobe, expensive perfume you can smell from ten kilometres, impeccable make up, svelte, tall as a giraffe, and a slight twang that suggests she might have spent some time, but not too much in the USA.
I instantly take a liking to Thabiso, because I think she has something of a sense of humour, albeit a dry one. I picked this up when we were in the kitchen of their office after we had been introduced. We were making herbal tea and I realised I had emptied the last of the boiling water into my cup and I said, “Sorry for finishing all your water.” “No worries” she said, “its communal water, at least we can count ourselves lucky for having some. Things could be different.” How very hippy, I thought. Thandeka did not straightaway warm up to me. This had me thinking that this whole thing must have been Thabiso’s idea. No matter I was here now, and impress I had to. There was so much at stake.
We sit down in their boardroom. I put on my cape with the cross on the back. I sprinkle some snuff on the surface of the table and some on the floor and light two candles — one for each of them. I burn some sage, never imphepho. I burn imphepho only at Gogo Shezi’s, it always leaves me feeling out of sorts. I tell them a little about myself, and what I think I can do for them. I ask them to tell me about themselves and the company. I leave out the fact that Karen has already filled me in a little on that. I also leave out the fact that I am an accountant in training. I tell them about some of the readings I have done for others. I tell them about my intwaso, they seem intrigued. I think to them this makes me seem diverse enough to do a reading thorough enough to cover a range of bases to restore balance to their imbalanced business.
I’ve already decided that I’ll go through my regular routine. I’ll ask them to ask the question they want answered, in addition I’ll ask them to give me something associated with the reading they want done so I can read that item and determine what intervention to provide. They ask the question. ‘Why is the business suddenly not doing as well as it was in the past?” A broad question, but fair enough. They let me have a copy of their latest financial statements. I place my hand on it and close my eyes to pick up its energy — theatrics really. I ask if I can take a look at the financials. They agree. I steal a quick glance at the major numbers. In other words I do a quick horizontal analysis in my head. I’m good at this. You can place any set of financial statements in front of me and I will be able to immediately see what the inconsistencies are. It’s just a gift I have. One I am happier to live with unlike the one I had to accept, which in truth I want nothing to do with.
Year on year I see immediately their debtors have increased, a good or bad thing depending. I see their payroll costs have increased too. I also see their entertainment expenses have sky rocketed. This could either mean they must be entertaining more clients or someone is using this budget line as their own personal kitty. Their income on the other hand has remained pretty much the same, this does not add up. I ask if they had more clients in the current year or employed more staff. They say no. I ask if they have any clients who have not been paying, as they should. They tell me overall and as far as they know they’ve been collecting all their bills on time, with the exception of maybe one or two small clients. I ask how many staff members have an entertainment allowance and how this is handled. They tell me just the two of them and Tom use the company’s credit cards. I ask if they have been entertaining more clients than they have been securing business. They tell me not any more than usual. I feel a tug I can’t explain. Perhaps I have entered a zone I should not be entering. I ask if I can see copies of the financial statements from when the business was doing well. They bring me these as well. Out of deference to them I ask again if I can take a look. I hope they read this as me reading the aura of when things were good, when what I am really doing is doing a broader analysis. The numbers start to do a dance. I tell them about the tug I feel and let them know that I might need to do a little more reaching and ask if I can take the financials home for a further ‘ancestral and numerological reading.’ They don’t hesitate and let me have copies. My gut tells me I’m looking at a classic case of embezzlement. Precisely who and how, it will take a little more digging to establish. All the credit card statement would be where I would start looking, if only they would grant me that kind of access. Later perhaps I can point them in that direction.
I ask how often they review the books, not just the financials but also the source documents. Their response tells me they are the definitive targets for embezzlement and creative accounting, “Hardly ever since Tom came along,” Thandeka says. I tell them I’m picking up that they need to be more hands on with their finances; this is where the spirits are telling me it is all going wrong. “You have left the gates to your kraal too wide open and now the vultures are starting to circle in,” I tell them. I tell them as soon as this evening they should do a review of their books and see what they find. Thandeka gives me a quizzical look. I suggest that we then meet in the morning to review their findings and for me to give them my detailed reading and then perform an office cleanse with all the staff present. As many interventions as I can offer I figure, as much money I stand to make. Thabiso agrees with no hesitation. Thandeka asks why we have to include the entire staff. I explain, “It is no good just cleansing the head because the entire body has to be cleansed too.” It takes a bit of convincing on my part and a bit of bidding from Thabiso’s side, but we finally manage to win Thandeka over.
When I get to Gogo Shezi’s I find I have to come up with a pretty good reason why I must turn my laptop on. As much as she is fine with letting me go to work when I need to, she does not like me doing work at her house. I tell her I am working to a deadline for a meeting that is happening the following day, for which they need the numbers. It takes a bit of pleading but she finally relents and allows me to work. I spend the whole night going over Lesiba’s books.
I conduct as thorough a financial analysis as I can. A pattern begins to emerge; consistency for the first seven years, with the three years since Tom joined the company marking the change. This could mean anything really. I need to have a look at the source documents now more than ever. I make do with what I have and I hope that with my prompting they will be able to uncover more. I am certain however from what I find that something has shifted the balance in their books.
In the morning I call Thabiso to confirm the meeting. I am running out of time. If this weekend must work I need to bail KG out by Thursday afternoon, pay the undertaker by Friday afternoon, because they have already committed to doing the funeral provided they get paid by then, so I have to be paid as soon as possible. Gogo Shezi has already been receiving the mourners on my behalf, and has already selected the cow and coffin, and bought the vegetables. KG has already drafted the programme and obituary on toilet paper, the only paper she has access to, all it needs is to be typed and printed. Everything is in place, all that is needed is the money to set the dominos in motion.
On Thursday midday, sleep deprived, I meet up with Thabiso. Thandeka is a no show. I tell her what the numbers have told me. Thabiso too tells me what she too has found. She tells me Thandeka’s card had irregular transactions and that when she looked at their billing invoices she realised that the bank account details on them had been altered to a number that looked eerily like Thandeka’s personal account, which she suspected is the account their debtors have been paying into. We both agree Thandeka is the thorn that must be weeded out to restore balance.
We also agree I should continue to do a cleansing of the company. Again I burn sage and using a straw broom I sprinkle salt water around the office. When I am done I assure her that things should start looking up from her in on. She seems convinced, that’s all I ask for.
I hand her my invoice and ask that she settle it as soon possible. She tells me that with the way things are the soonest she can pay is Monday. This is exactly the kind of bosh I was hoping wouldn’t happen. Now I have to ask Gogo Shezi to loan me the funeral money. Knowing her she is not going to loan me any bail money, and that is exactly what happens, she loans me just enough for the funeral, not a cent more. She also promises to do the eulogy in KG’s absence. My mother’s passing can only serve Gogo Shezi, because now we have to do amagobongo, which means I might have to stay a little longer with her, which in turn means she gets to make more money off me.
It all comes together in the end I guess. The week from hell has a silver lining. I learn I am not as alone in the world as I thought. What’s more I have found a niche market for myself. As soon as I graduate I am branding myself as Corporate Spiritual Advisor.
It will have to be another weekend in jail for KG, but at least I can give my mother a proper send off.