marklives.com

The Gate Keeper (Chapter 10: In which actions are taken)

Date posted: August 8, 2012

by Andrew Miller TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande is an agency in crisis. Their ‘basket of boutique services’ strategy has bombed. Only a massive new project can keep the doors open – all eyes are now on the corporate tent at Mangaung. Far in the background, an emergency replacement executive PA with decades of experience makes important decisions. Interns rise, board members take unexpected steps and things begin to change…

The hotline to cabinet is activated, hip hop and rural development are joined and Phil starts a poem…

The Gate Keeper (Chapter 10: In which actions are taken)

“Dad, it’s me,” He said to his smart phone, which relayed the message to His father, who returned a semi-audible grunt. “Listen, askies, I know you’re busy but I just wanted to say that we’ve got something pretty powerful lined up from EFT for Mangaung. It’s gonna change the whole economic set up in the rurals. It’s really strong.”

Vati watched His face carefully as He listened to whatever his father was saying. This was, she guessed, a kind of performance art. It was why He held the position He did at TBWSJWBN. There was nothing like a hotline straight to cabinet.

Still, it was surprising how little talk time little Sizwe appeared to be able to gain with His father. He held the phone next to his ear for several seconds, listening helplessly, then said, “Cool, sho baba, I hear you loud and clear. We’ll make sure it’s in line.”

“Sounds good!” He beamed artificially at the gawking strat team, then slowly shifted his aim to Isaac Ndimande. “Hip hop and rural economic development it is!”

“But you didn’t actually tell him what it was?” Isaac Ndimande said suspiciously.

“No,” He shot back, “but more importantly, I listened to what they want. And rural development is it. The rest is a no brainer.”

The table squirmed, then the meeting broke up. Vati was still squirming as they wobbled back over the grass back to the parking lot. In theory, everything was turning out in her favour. In practise, none of it felt right. There had been suspiciously little interaction on her pitch, and yet clearly they were going with it. But at least she had had a pitch. The other three presented, well, they rambled around verbally rather than pitching as such. It was no wonder hers had won out – really it was all they had. Suddenly she was overcome by renewed feelings of abuse. She turned quickly to find Him eye-balling her backside intently while he spoke to Isaac Ndimande. She shivered and pulled her skirt down.

Tim Broadbent slammed his phone onto his home office desk, then picked it up to check he hadn’t cracked the screen, which he hadn’t. Bladdy Isaac was too soft. He should have gone to that strat thing instead. Isaac said he witnessed the call and it sounded 50 / 50 to him. In Tim’s long experience, 50 / 50 really meant 70 / 30. The odds were getting worse. Something needed to be done. He thought about whether it would be him that have to do it. He decided it would.

Back at the commons Phil the graphic designer extracted a joint from the sidelines of his Stuyvesant Blue cigarette box, stood, and announced he was going for Nandos if anyone wanted any. It was the first time he’d looked up in weeks, and he hated what he saw. Rows and rows and rows of little bopping frogs, as transfixed by their screens as he was by his. He grabbed Amanda’s Nandos list and scuttled past the bar, which smelled a little off to him, to his car. This skunk was far too strong. Not only was it making him paranoid, but his eyes were too scratchy and he had a thumping headache. The bar made him think suddenly about his little tongue scuffle with Vati just after she had arrived. The boys all said he was a dirty dog but really he had no idea what had happened, or why, or how. One minute he was staring into the deep green of his Amstel, the next she was locked around him, trying her best to drive him to the floor. In a way he was relieved she’d be moving off to corporate and strat and all that stuff, but in another way he felt a kind of a loss. An absence. Her absence.

Phil turned the ignition, waved awkwardly at security, sparked the blunt and rolled the windows down. He began composing a poem in his head. As usual, the initial spark was graphic rather than literary – this time it was a latent image still dancing on his retina; an unfortunately lumpy thigh on the leg of an otherwise perfect chewing gum model.

I spend so long inside your thigh I run away and hide
It’s just a way I guess to see you less
lest my heart shrinks from the sun…

Phil shook his head and started again. Real creativity was the toughest nut around.

Part 1 -10. Part 11: August 15th.
Author: Andrew Miller Illustrator: Lebohang Goge