Saved by the VCR

“You should fit somewhere, yes you have the look for the part.” Shaking ashes from her cigarette she ran down the list. I knew she was trying to divert me from asking for my money but there was no way I was going to walk out without it. Month end and there are bills to pay. I hardly had enough for my rent, what about the water bill, electricity and bus fare. My landlady will skin me alive this time. “Yes, this one. Sandra! You’re a real Sandra just read the profile.” “I am a writer Spiwe.” Spiwe, a fading artist who had made a one time hit back in the days was trying to make a come back. Back then she had been cast in a movie and it was her sweetness that had won her the part. Now with all the drinking, smoking and the rotten mouth, there was nothing sweet about her anymore. She was however a clever gambler, she had to stay in the arts and the only way was to be an agent. She was doing fine I should say, with this kind of soliciting who could escape. “Yeh but who said you can not be an all rounder. You have the head for it, write, direct and perform.” Yes why not. I had never thought of it at all. You see I am no looker. Hardly the face to put on TV but this was a sitcom and not so properly structured faces have always managed to bring a few laughs where there was no joke. “So what do I do?” I asked, my roving eye scanning for figures but there was none. “I am in charge of this one. You register with me and you’re in.” But I am here to collect my money, you cow! “I have already done the casting, you’re Sandra.” “You’re serious.” “Of course I am. We’re buddies aren’t we?” I needed to verify that. Friendship with this pompous and greedy woman was only as long as you had something to offer. “All you have to do is have your name in here.” She said already writing out a receipt. I had no choice but to peel off a few bills from my sacred rent pile. As I descended the steps I was asking myself the wisdom of what I had just done. But since when has reason ever persevered over greediness? A few slim carrots in your face and you are already salivating. With an estimated figure per episode multiplied by an estimated number of episodes I arrived at how much I would make. I went even further to look at other jobs that would follow. I needed it to console myself over what I had just done. Of course there is solution to every mistake. A well-crafted lie would be probably buy me a day or so and in the mean time I would get my first cheque from the sitcom. What do they call it by the way? Commitment fee or something close to that . . . there must be some duff before anyone can screen my face. Of course the landlady did not take it lying down. She frothed and called me names but what can you say. I hanged my artist’s head and pretended to listen. Soon it was over and I was allowed to go to my room. I had promised I would get the rest of the money come morning. The following morning I woke up a little late. Half the night I had spent practicing a few tricks for the audition in front of my chipped mirror. Close to daybreak nature decided to take over and I only woke up a few minutes before seven. I had been slotted for eight so I had to rush. I knew Spiwe would blame it on me if I lost the Sandra character to somebody else. So when I found a bucket of hot water sitting in the bathroom I didn’t even think twice before shoving it out. In no time I heard the landlord’s daughter screaming outside. When I got out I mumbled my apology as I rushed past her. I was sure she was going to reach out and teach me a few lessons. Surprisingly she didn’t say a word. I had no idea I had more issues to answer to. When I stepped out of my room the landlady was waiting. I had cleaning duties to do. “I think I will do it when I come back.” I said skirting her and rushing towards the two posts that stood stubbornly where the gate should have been. I knew that was really ridiculous. It was never done that way and here rules were supposed to be followed religiously. “Are you crazy . . .” The rest was lost in the noise of a passing vehicle. I was already turning at the end of the street before she threw another missile. I knew she would continue to froth for the benefit of the other tenants. Yes they needed scaring as well. They had to know in advance that you don’t monkey around with the landlady. I got the part alright but not the money. Yes there was some money to be paid but not there and then. There was a list of things to be attended to, names to be submitted somewhere, contracts to be drafted, studied, agreed on and then signed. After all this nonsense there were signatories to be dealt with. I was in a fix there was no doubt about that. I wish I could move house but the unregistered, the never to be registered landlords’ league would not give me that chance. This is the most efficient league I have ever known but has no papers, no offices. Its activities are run on the streets. Shabbily dressed women seemingly exchanging meaningless gossip trade information and agreements are sealed. All tenants have to abide by the rules set by this dubious group. As I unlocked my door, two female tenants got out. One of them approached just before my difficult key gave in. “You should be thinking of where you will lay your silly head next.” It had to be somewhere close. Just carry my things on the head and I am there. “You know mama is waiting for you.” The other said. I dropped my things on my unmade bed and dragged my feet as I braced myself for the slaughterhouse. I knocked on the main door and nobody answered but there was a lot of excitement inside I knocked again and still there was no answer. I decided to escape but when I turned my two fellow tenants were just two steps behind, glaring at me. I was forced to push the door and get in. Even then nobody looked my way. The entire sitting room was in total chaos. They had just acquired a new VCR. The old man was there and crouching on all fours crawling on what seemed to be a very big map. The son was holding some electrical codes and a remote control. The madam was sitting on the sofa with videotape in her hand. In one corner was their daughter with her son on her hip both watching the proceedings with a lot of interest but surely not part of it. A high school dropout and a mother at sixteen, there was no question nobody expected her to make some intelligent contribution to the whole drama. I don’t think anyone saw me, if they did it didn’t register in their minds. The landlady just glanced at me and l To be continued next week

May 2006
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