The Zombie and the Newspaper Delivery Guy

It’s 11pm on a Sunday night and all is quiet. I wake up suddenly caught in the aftermath of a recurring dream of terror.

Husband: “Are you alright?”
Me: “How do you kill a zombie?”
Husband: “What?”
Me: “Werewolves are silver bullets and vampires are stakes, what about zombies?”
Husband: “Is this a dream thing?”
Me: “Yes.”
Husband: “Hang on I’ll Google it.”

I think that is the most romantic and sweetest thing he has ever done for me. In the middle of the night he Googled how to kill zombies so that I could go back to sleep armed with the knowledge.

It turns out that to kill a zombie you have to kill its brain. So a simple decapitation won’t work. You have to chop off its cranium. Apparently grenade launchers, blunt objects like a baseball bat and fire are also zombie killers. I went back into REM and nuked the childlike little zombie monsters with lighter fluid and Lion matches. Thank God for Google. Although I wished I had had a Bic. I couldn’t get the stupid matches to light. The thing is you can only do so much preparation for a nightmare and obviously my subconscious didn’t think to provide a suitably powerful incendiary device. Perhaps my subconscious is powered by Eskom?

Now there’s a quandary, Eskom. Everybody must have access to electricity. Great. The thing is when you price it so high that the potential to receive power is offset by the reality of a shrinking budget, no-one gets any. If I am struggling then so is the mother living in a shack in Alex.

Once more I am struck with the latent ennui of suburban living. In the locations the communities get together, they form a committee, they write a petition and then they march. Marching involves burning tyres and then setting fire to the elected councilors’ homes. While I don’t advocate this form of vigilantism, the fact this they made on to the front page of the newspaper and now everyone knows how pissed off they are and the power they have to make things happen.

In the suburbs, it doesn’t work like that. In the suburbs we huff and puff about it and say things: “Hah! Somebody should do something.” We might write an email to our local councilor assuming we even know who they are and that’s about it. Bugger all happens, the prices go up and the service goes down and we hire private companies to do what the municipal ones should be doing but don’t. So, we accept it. Perhaps we should burn some tyres? Except that in suburbia its every man for himself and there is no sense of community responsibility.

Why does this all piss me off? It pisses me off because in the last year my electricity bill has gone from R300 a month to over R1 200 despite the geyser on a time switch meaning you can only bath in a 30 minute window at 5am, teeny tiny little lightbulbs, turning plugs off everywhere so I have to reset the alarm clock every night and so on. It’s daylight bloody robbery.

It’s all very well going on about alternative power sources, but I can’t stick up a windmill at the cost of R30 000 in my neighbourhood. There are municipal by laws about this kind of thing. The solar geyser despite the rebate is twice the price of the electric one and still needs power anyway. Our borehole is attached to the Juksei river, that is so polluted it practically glows with radioactivity. There is no online gas and the city ran out of gas canisters about a month ago. Thank heavens we cut down some trees or we’d be freezing our butts off. Sorry global warming, but I’m using the only sustainable fuel source I have right now. Perhaps I can rig up a large hamster wheel and make my children run on it for 2 hours a day to recharge the batteries. That would probably count as child labour.

Child labour always seems a little odd to me. Of course I don’t want little 5 year olds working in factories and so on, but as a kid I had a driving urge to earn some money. After all I needed a Barbie doll and the only way I was going to get one was by earning some cash. I washed cars, picked up dog poo and other unsavoury tasks and was paid substantially less than minimum wage for it, but lapped up those shiny silver 50c pieces like a pirate would a Spanish doubloon. My first real job was at 13 and I worked in the local library every Saturday morning for about R3.50 an hour putting away books. I loved it.

My husband started delivering papers on his bicycle at the age of 9. He took himself off to Europe and bought a motorcycle with his earnings in the end. These experiences were key in shaping our personalities, our ambition and our understanding that you have to work for the things you want in life, they don’t just get delivered in the beaks of storks.

My children don’t get pocket money. They clean my car and I pay them the R35 I pay the car wash. They have a pretty good understanding of value and their sales and negotiation skills are second only to Walmart. Still, I have to very careful about this, if the powers that be found out, they’d cart me off in chains for abusing my children. Considering I just got fleeced R25 for a front tooth, I think that’s pretty rich. At least I pay my lot for doing chores, I don’t expect them to do it for gratis.

I realised this weekend that each day I learn something new and it is inevitably from small children. I think I shall be keeping track of these little gems of insight. I had a chat last night with a 7 year old boy who informed me that school is the worst possible torture. He can read and write already and deeply resents being talked to and treated like a 3 year old by his teacher. He is remarkably bright and finds school unutterably boring. He loves playing music and enjoys sport, but as the only child in his class who can tell the time and tie his shoelaces, spends most of his day watching the clock like a grown up office drone.

I tried to placate him with same pearl of wisdom that other mothers keep giving me, “You just have to suffer through it.” Except, why should he? Why should he be bored to tears? Why should he have to suffer through something that should be inspiring and fun? At age 7 he is having the excitement of learning crushed out of him and forced down to the mediocre standard of national education. It is shocking.

Our conversation continued on to what he would like for Christmas and his birthday.
Small boy aged 7: “It’s very strange, but during the year I think of things I want, but when it comes to my birthday I realise I have everything I really want.”
Me: “Well, what about something you really want to do?”
Small boy aged 7: “Well, I’ve kind of done everything I want right now.”
We concluded with an agreement that he would get his friends to bring a bag of dog food instead of a present so he could take it to the SPCA on his birthday and they could all play with the puppies.

How sweet is that?


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