Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In the Dark

In the Dark
Yesterday afternoon I was at the Downtown Shopping Mall with Kupela, who was looking for a car at Japan.Salaula.Com. ‘I’ll find you back here,’ I said, ‘I need a drink.’
Going down the corridor, I came to a row of windows all painted over in gothic letters saying In the Dark. I pushed on an elaborate chromium handle, and in I went. Sure enough, I was completely in the dark.
I stood there, waiting for my eyes to adjust, I finally made out the shape of a chair, and sat down. I could just see that I was sitting at a black table in a large black room. A row of white teeth suddenly appeared in front of me.
He put out his hand to shake mine, and then spoke authoritatively into the darkness, ‘Bring a double brandy for Spectator Kalaki!’
‘You know my name?’ I asked, more than a little surprised.
‘You may be in the dark,’ he laughed gruffly. ‘But I’m not.’
Suddenly the darkness was pierced by a few pencil beams of green laser light, just enough to reveal a thin bony man with black suit and black shirt and black tie. He had a thin face, shaped like a hatchet.
‘I seem to recognize the face,’ I said.
‘Whiplash Bandit,’ he replied, ‘I’m the Protector General.’
‘Sounds interesting,’ I said hopefully. ‘What do you protect?’
‘I thought you knew these things, Kalaki. I protect the rich from the poor, the powerful from the weak, and leaders from the led.’
‘Ah ha,’ I said, ‘Now I recognize you. You work for the MMD!’
‘Not the Movement for Marketing Dictatorship,’ he replied. ‘The Militia for Modifying Dissidents.’
Just then the drinks arrived, as if from nowhere, and an invisible voice announced ‘A lemon juice for Mr Bandit and a double brandy for Mr Kalaki.’ Then a swinging laser beams briefly illuminated the owner of the voice, an angel carved out of pure black ebony with black hair and wearing a black apron. ‘Thanks,’ I said, then watched transfixed as her beautiful blackness swayed rhythmically away into the blackness.
‘As far as I can make out,’ I said, as I gulped down the entire brandy, ‘she’s not wearing anything except that little black velvet apron.’
‘She’s one of the Nude Nubile Nubians from Nubia,’ he smiled, revealing a gold tooth. ‘They fetch a good price down in Hillbrow. Here in Lusaka, we’re on the main trade route.’
‘What about human rights?’
‘Exactly,’ he snarled. ‘We don’t want human rights interfering with good business. That’s why we must vote for the MMD.’
‘Half a minute,’ I said, ‘I thought you said your MMD is not anything to do with the MMD?’
‘Quite right,’ he said. ‘The Militia for Modifying Dissidents is a business organization, set up by the Godfather of the Nation, to protect big business from any unnecessary change in the political system.’
‘So you are working for the Movement for Marketing Dictatorship!’
‘Big business is non-political,’ explained Bandit. ‘We’re not interested in one party or the other. We work at modifying dissidents because we want stability. We’re naturally conservative. Big business just doesn’t like change.’
‘Why not?’
‘Take the present system of corruption. If the government changes, how shall a businessman know which one to bribe? How much to pay? He could easily get arrested for bribing the wrong person! His business could collapse!’
‘Better not to bribe!’
‘Bribery is only part of it. We have a system for avoiding tax. Half the copper on the black market. All the emeralds under the radar. Pay ten percent and you can do anything. That’s why the economy is developing, because we business people are accumulating capital rapidly!’
‘And it could all change?’
‘Exactly. We could get some nutter voted in by promising to collect all the surplus money as taxes and using it to pay the poor and starving! Or putting up wages so we can’t employ anybody! Or wasting money on the dying! The whole nation could be destitute within ninety days!’
‘You have to save the nation!’
‘Exactly. These dissidents are obviously trying to use this election to undermine the government! Treason! They even admit that they oppose the legitimate government of the day! We must stop them!’
‘Kill them?’
‘Oh no, we’re opposed to violence. We just buy their voters cards, give them sugar and mealie-meal. Bicycles and chitenges. Beer and roast beef! We’re a benevolent organization, just like the Rotary Club.’
‘No violence at all?’
‘Never. Not unless they insult our Godfather, then we shall come down on them heavily. If they talk too much, we shall cut out their tongues. And of course if they raise their fists in the air, we shall have no option but to shoot!’
‘Protect the government from being overthrown!’
‘Exactly! Protect the nation! Instill discipline! Maintain the rule of law! The police will help us! They’re on our side!’
‘Thanks for the chat,’ I said, as I made for the door. ‘I’ve got enough for this week’s article!’
‘Feel free,’ he sneered. ‘Nobody believes a word you say!’
I walked out from the dark, into the bright light of day, to find Kupela laughing with her friend Lorraine. ‘Everything may seem happy and marvelous to you!’ I exclaimed, ‘but I just found something very dark and dangerous!’
‘Poor old bally,’ laughed Kupela. ‘It’s all in your mind!’

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