— Eugen Bacon

TIME IMMEMORIAL, two sides to every coin. Two tellers brush a tale. Broken pieces. A mirage. Here’s mine. Genesis. 

I’m Tex. 

I don’t say much, just enough. But this is not my story. 

YOU KNOW bullshit when you hear it, like for sure, and Wazza is shitting it in bricks. 


The program lead’s unemotive face confirms, yes, he’s serious. 

You’re standing in Warren’s deluxe hole-up. It’s a scene from Deep Space Nine. A shimmer overhead screen shifts cuboids, tetrahedrons, icosahedrons and hexagonal prisms in luminescent colours – that’s the first thing that hits your vision as you enter. The man is a narcissist. The desk is a 3D model, L-shaped in silver and dark robotic hues, and on it is what resembles a joystick alongside a control panel. 

The team outside is in open-space partitions, el cheapo desks quarter-priced in bulk, hand-me-down cathode-ray screens that seem to be working – because yours does, at least. But you don’t know what half the rest of the staff members are doing nine-to-five. A lot of them are clock-watchers, but not you. 

You know they’re listening in to your tete-a-tete with the boss. Wazza doesn’t summon one to his office for bubbles or lamingtons, or to crack tinnies together in an imitation of mateship. And it’s not like the digs are soundproofed, but so what? 

Wazza is wearing his executive mask, the one with solid barriers. ‘A pitiful economy,’ he says. ‘The pandemic.’ Sweeps his hands, palms up, as though he tried, really did. But COVID. ‘Sorry, Ch’anzu.’ 

Beyond him, out the window, Southbank remains aloof, blue-green frosted glass on sleek towers vying for height, the best of them skyscraping today’s dreary cloud. 

You worm a hand through your hair – it’s not as sleek as how white people do it, the way you see it in movies: Brad Pitt licking his lower lip with that beautiful tongue, slick hand clean sweeping a yellow dangle to behave, even knowing that it won’t. 

Your hair is long enough to make a ponytail, damn right. But wound so stubbornly on itself, it springs uncoiled on stretch, spirals back on release. The kind of coil that’d puff a black mamba to hissing envy before it slinks away in disdain at its own self. Yet you insist to wrangle fingers in the brush, tougher curls of new growth pushing against your touch. Finally, you grip a fistful of hair in subconscious self-flagellation. ‘I don’t understand, Warren. First you tell me you’re slashing my contracting rate by forty per cent. With the same breath, you say no contract renewal in three months – now all you can add is the pandemic?’ 

He strokes the fat end of an expensive tie, fine-woven with birds and gravestones embossed on it. ‘Huge deficits right now. We’re in a very tight spot.’ 

There’s a lot you can show him about very tight spots, and he won’t like it. 

He looks a little worried by the brutality with your hair, as though you’re awakening a black rage that will assault his hopefully guilt-ridden self. ‘The estimate of earning was way overblown?’ As if posing the statement as a question makes the saying of it better, or the hearing of it easier. 

‘Really?’ you say. 

He shrugs. ‘No temps, no contractors. We’re in so thick, we can only do permanent staff.’ 

‘Make me a permie.’ 

He weighs his next words with such trim precision, you almost anticipate the Judas kiss before it touches you. ‘I want to, but it’s not as easy as that. You can’t make a chicken salad out of turkey feathers. Perhaps when the market picks up —’ 

‘That’s got mean to it – just nasty. Listen to your shit, are you actually saying it aloud?’ Your contempt comes out bigger than you intend. You can kick, can’t you? Most stupid fucks don’t get too much leeway with you. Still, some like this fockwit of a boss do.  

‘Sub out, will you?’ he says weakly. ‘I know you feel —’ 

‘You don’t know shit about me, let alone how I feel.’ You sense the intensity of eyes across the floor. A wry smile puckers your lips. You shake your head. ‘I’ve spiked progress for Multicorp – a long, hard slog. I’ve stood by as you fucked up. Wazza, I fixed your shit on that turbo-future program, made you a good headline.’ 

‘Don’t you think I know it?’ He doesn’t sound that convinced. 

‘Nights. Weekends, okay? I’ve done loads. More than enough for this shitshow. No one around here knows what they’re fucking doing. Cunts, most of them.’ You sweep a palm at the team outside the room to make a point. ‘See? Half-arsing their jobs. Do you know what the fuck they’re doing?’ 

‘Language, Ch’anzu.’ 

‘My marriage is on the line. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one person. Would you mind language if your marriage was on the line? Boss, just do your job and appreciate the crap I’ve been putting up with. Easy ask, innit? Remember what you get out of me: whopper sales smack on target. And I never once asked for a raise.’ 

‘Yes. Yes.’ As he repeats himself, you know that he’s searching for words, and he appears to find them. ‘You steered us to good profits – we appreciate that. A lot has changed now. It’s a new world we’re staring at. This contract thing is not a measure of your value —’ 

‘My invaluability? Excellent output? Your words, Warren. What happened to that?’ 

‘You’re shouting – you want a conference room?’ 

‘I’m good.’ 

‘Honest – the boardroom’s free. No one uses it.’ 

‘You can turn it into my office. I said I’m good.’ 

‘Ch’anzu, I don’t like it when you’re being difficult like this. Look here now. We need to carefully assess what’s achievable —’ 

‘You didn’t assess too much to make Ritcho a permie. Or Gus. I’m sensing hostility to black people.’ 

‘What? No! I don’t see colour.’ 

‘Aii, pampula. That’s even worse. Boss, see colour.’ 

He reddens. ‘What is it with you folks? Jesus Christ.’ 

‘He, she, they – no one in the Bible has anything to do with your irascible work practices towards us people.’ 

‘People …! It’s just you!’ 

‘See? I knew it. Pampula.’ 

‘What does that word even mean?’ 

‘Who cares what it means? Diversity – you know? It’s my way of saying.’ 

‘No one has ever accused me of being a racist!’ 

‘Yeah, it don’t just happen in South Carolina. I tell you, if you’re black and advancing, you bob at your best, ’cos that’s all you can do – you find out pretty quick how the system’s fucked. People wrong-footing you, too easy, every which way all the time. Mate, that’s bleak. Be not white for a minute, and see. You get a heap of shoulder, nearly get your eyes taken off. Then they shut you down quick like a lynch mob. It’s outta control. Isn’t that you now – shutting me down?’ 


The universe, as if on cue, saves him. Two bleeps, a crackle, and an alarm. A speaker coughs from along the wall behind the screen’s radiance. A voice blasts from the ceiling. 

Fire alarm testing. 


One second, three seconds, five. 


‘You still need me for the conversion software,’ you say. ‘Fine-tuning the new system. None of your permies shell scripts as well as I do.’ 


One, three, five. 

‘And I’m a first aider,’ you say. 

‘Yes, that.’ He considers this point, as if the first aiding gives more weight to your cause than the scripting. ‘Listen, Ch’anzu, I have a proposition for you.’ Wazza, glowing in his pitch. Pause. The alarm blazes off again. ‘Oh, blast that thing.’ 

Then the speaker crackles. 

The fire alarm testing is over. 


The fire alarm testing is now over. 

Wazza spreads his palms: voila, here it comes. ‘We’re training in-house.’ 

You take a beat, let his words sink in. ‘You’re good,’ you say, almost in adulation at what Aunt Maé would call a lack of soni – shame. How some folk just don’t have it. Soni. She wouldn’t gloat about it, rub it in, but she’d say, You never listen, to which you’d answer, That’s right, I have an ear worm. But I have soni. 

‘Seriously, Ch’anzu. You’re a legend —’ 

‘One you’re firing.’ 

You,’ Wazza’s finger pointing at your face, ‘could be in charge.’ 

It sits you down. You hope the look you’re giving is a big Fuck Off. ‘Let’s get this square: I train my replacement?’ 

He kinda nods, the prick. 

‘And who did you have in mind?’ 


‘Not Ritcho?’ 


‘Right. I’m pretty pumped about it.’ 

‘Give the kid a break. He’s a good lad.’ 

‘Yeah. Private school kid too. And his name is all over this nonsense. I’m a bit slow – explain it to me again.’ 

‘It’s an offer. Join the party. Just say yes.’ 

‘For three months. Got it, compelling proposition. How about I don’t take it?’ 

‘Not so definitively. Refusal won’t bring the house down.’ 


‘Chew on it, mate.’ He’s actually begging you to consider the measly offer. 

You leap to your feet, glower at him. ‘A few things I could chomp on right now, and you won’t be liking it.’ 

The look on his face suggests he believes you’re a cannibal about to go at it. Chomp him alive. 

‘I’m from the jungle, I’ve got good strong hands,’ you say, for the fun of it. ‘Teeth firmed on sugarcane too – they bite hard.’ 

Fear twitches his face … 

You don’t care. You’re leaving, hand on the door. ‘I’m a skedaddle.’ 

‘If you walk out now, Ch’anzu —’ 

‘Oh, poke it.’ 

YOU’D LOOKED close enough but had missed the strutting clouds – popping, shifting, beat, beat. Weaving, bouncing, spinning in darkness. Beatbeatbeat. Even as clouds dived, and your ears rang – you didn’t notice them until you fell with them. 

This is what you’re thinking as you storm out of Wazza’s office to your desk. 

Five years at Multicorp, all fog. 

The mood on the floor as you head back is sweet poison. The ones who generally smile at you, like Gus, are the worst. You grab a used cardboard box by the copier, stride purposefully towards your workstation in the corner. It’s no window view like Wazza’s. You plonk the box on top of your keyboard. 

‘Sorry, chum.’ Evasive eyes from the other end of your shared desk. 

Ritcho’s a bit okay. But you can see he doesn’t want to get involved. Still, you see his mind, how he thinks he should say something. 

You might have been friends, but something about him … Nothing to do with the fact that he’s too soft, too skinny, too flappy for your liking. He reminds you of a lost scarecrow. There’s a weakness about him that gives you distance. 

Serengotti can be found here.