Two big sharks in the poor water

Little did I ever think, either, that I would have to encounter “sharks”. I had only read about them, and seen them on TV. I had never thought amongst us, would be sharks masquerading as fellow human beings, disguised as helpers of the poor. You know how those who have plenty, in the midst of those who have nothing, should mirror a better society where they spread the butter. But these sharks will spread it, to claim it back ‘ even claiming much more than they gave.

Now these are real sharks ‘ eating the small fish and all. They always have ready cash ‘ no matter the amount ‘ and are willing to “loan” you what you want on two conditions: you pay it back with something of a 50 percent interest rate, and you can leave at their disposal, something ‘ preferably household electrical appliances easy to sell ‘ which they would be “compelled” to sell to recover their money in case you cannot, for reasons foreseen, unforeseen or otherwise, repay the “loan” promptly on the agreed date.

These guys are there. In our neighbourhood, we call them sharks, because once they are in a “deal” with you, they never lose. People have lost their television sets, radio sets, DVDs, VCRs and all to these people. Even my very own, stiff-nosed and seemingly stiff-necked-to-other-people’s-suffering landlord once found himself frightfully staring at the jaws of these sharks.

That was the beginning of my experience.

He owed them money. He failed to pay after the 15-day reprieve. So they were going to sell his “fairly new” VCR. It was a scenario for us small fish, watching the game of our lives, as the sharks came home to fight, as it were. But I was to learn ‘ to my misery ‘ that the sharks’ fight is no better for the water as the elephants’ one is to the grass. My deranged landlord passed the buck of his debt to my-suffering-self ‘ insisting that I pay my rent three weeks in advance or find alternative lodgings. Of course, the issue of accommodation in my neighbourhood is one of great pain and agony to any home seeker. I decided I would cough up than walk out. But where to get the money now?

I visited the sharks. So there was a scenario. Check this: I was going to get the money off the sharks to pay off my landlord who wanted to pay off his debt to the same sharks which would leave me with a debt to those very sharks. In other words, three weeks to go to my rent date and I am being asked to pay in advance; I don’t have the money so I “borrow” from the sharks who want it back in 15 days (plus 50 percent punishment); I surrender my black and white TV as surety and can begin to forget about it; time flies and before I know it, it will be time to pay rent again. In a nutshell, a cycle of hell had been started for me. And thus it was.

I will tell you something about the sharks; they seem to be very understanding people. When you approach them, they want to do things your way, at your pace. YOU state the amount YOU want. YOU set the date YOU will be able to repay the loan. Although they have a “standard understanding” with their clients that no money of theirs can be “out there” for over 15 days ‘ still they let YOU decide if YOU are able to repay earlier or are comfortable with the “deadline”. They can be nice okay.

So the days went by as I contemplated what to do. All I could do was lie on my bed, facing upwards staring at the next best thing after my dearly departed black and white TV ‘ the ceiling. Many thoughts crossed my mind. They were just thoughts of a poor artist who is trying to see the light through tightly fastened blindfolds.

The 15 days were fast approaching. There was nothing on my writing side. No promises from publishers, or any other people out there willing to help out a poor writer.

A few more days to go. I felt like an unfortunate hunter being hunted. Imagine going into the bush to hunt for meat, only to end up being the hunted meat yourself. As that lion pursues you hungrily, you are able to throw it off your heels by making sharp turns here and there only to catch your breath and start the chase ‘ or in this case the run ‘ all over again.

I would have visions of some fat individual gleefully paying a pittance for my TV and taking it to some sleazy booking room of his brothel for his dirty clients to watch ‘ or ignore totally. I would wake up with a start in the middle of the night sweating.

And the knocks at my door began. First I would give excuses, and be told I am lucky “the stupid” TV hasn’t gotten any buyers as of yet. Meantime, the deadline was drawing nearer by the day. And the visits from the sharks were getting much more frequent and a little noisy. At one point I was told my miserable TV had actually gotten buyer. The price they were selling it for was ridiculous. Although I couldn’t do much, I freaked out and started a scene. My landlord, whom I hoped would never find out of my dealings with the sharks, found out. Since he had had a rather nasty experience with the sharks and had earned himself a rather embarrassing reputation from the whole episode in the eyes of the neighbourhood, he immediately ordered me out of his place. He said he didn’t want hooligans at his place.

And thus it was. I found myself out on the streets in the blistering cold. Faced with nowhere to go, but still worried about losing my dear TV, I tried to sob myself to sleep under a bridge. Impossible. I went to the local shopping centre and tried an old trick I always use when I am in an alien city and have nowhere to sleep ‘ patronise a nightclub, and try dancing my worries into the next morning. I fell short right at the door as “Mid-Week Party” was free entry only to those who bought two drinks at the door. I tried the bond fire started by a group of homeless people around the building. It then sank into my brain: I was homeless.

Then I will never forget the incident that occurred next. An incident that brought back my TV and my home. Two young men, obviously up to no good, rushed by from nowhere and took refuge amongst us. Before we, the homeless, could ask what was going on, two police officers appeared breathlessly in pursuit of the young fellows.

They stopped by our lot and looked at us suspiciously. Then one of them asked if we had seen any two young chaps dashing by. They told us the said chaps had been caught in the middle of a disturbance in the neighbourhood and had managed to bolt off. Now I was looking directly into the face of one of these chaps, and the chap had on me a look that had me totally failing to open my mouth. After a little dissatisfied interrogation session with the cops, they decided if we were not going to talk, then we would have to be locked up ‘ the whole lot of us.

That for me did it. Homeless as I was, I could not imagine myself sleeping in cells. I pointed out the two chaps and blurted out that they were not a part of “us”. To my shock, one of the chaps claimed I was a part of their gang, and even called me by some name to prove his claim.

It was only at the police station that I was able to argue my case with any meaningful headway. It was after giving my address that one of the arresting officers recognised the house number I had given and claimed he knew my landlord. They were drinking partners. I was led to the house and, indeed, my landlord positively identified me as one of his lodgers. Then the long tale of how I had found myself in this predicament began. I spared no words.

As I went to sleep the reminder of that night, in the warmth of my bed, I left my recovered black and white TV glaring on into the next morning. I had wonderful dreams, of my landlord complaining bitterly to the cops that he didn’t want any trouble makers in his homestead; of the sharks being raided by the gallant police, and me proudly positively identifying my TV amongst a horde of other people’s; seeing the sharks being led to the police cells, arrested for running an illegal money-laundering business.

For the first time in many mornings, I woke up with a smile on my face the following day.

August 2006
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