FICTION: Bokani - Part One

By Drum Digital
17 February 2017

BOKANI stood in the bank queue. He had to get change for his sister’s vegetable stall and it was a job he hated

BY PRECIOUS SEBONI

. He dreaded going up to the counter. He dreaded trying to tell the teller what he needed.

But his sister insisted. “I can’t leave the stall, Bokani. Anyway, it will do you good.”

Bokani didn’t see how. As he moved forward closer and closer to the counter, he felt more and more embarrassed and more and more nervous.

And now, even worse, two girls he knew joined the queue behind him. Mnusi and Eva, their names were. He heard what they were saying.

“Oh no!” Mnusi laughed. “Look who’s in front of us! We won’t get out of here before Tuesday next week!”

Eva joined her friend, giggling too. “Y-Y-Y-Yes! B-B-B-Bokani will take forever!”

Bokani felt his face grow hot. But it was his turn at the counter now. At least the bank teller was smiling at him politely.

“P-p-please, can I h-h-have some ch-ch-ch-change?”

He saw that the bank teller had stopped smiling. Behind him, Mnusi and Eva groaned.

All his life, Bokani had stuttered. Words seemed to get stuck behind his teeth and his tongue. The more he tried to push them out, the more tightly they seemed to stick. It took so long for him to say anything. Often people would turn away before he’d finished speaking. Often people thought he was slow or stupid. Sometimes Bokani felt like never trying to speak again.

“P-p-please, I n-n-need sixty t-tw-tw-twenty cent  p-p-pieces and . . . ” But he never got to finish his sentence.

Suddenly, all around Bokani, people were screaming. Two bank robbers had entered. They had balaclavas over their faces and guns in their hands.

“Lie down! And keep quiet if you don’t want to get hurt!”

Bokani lay down on the tiled floor. Mnusi and Eva lay down close to him and he could see that Eva was beginning to cry. The robbers had walked up to the counter now, shouting that they wanted money.

Bokani studied their shoes carefully. He could tell the police what the robbers’ shoes looked like, he thought – well, unless the police grew impatient with his stuttering and turned away from him too.

From outside came the sounds of police-car sirens. The people lying on the floor smiled in relief while the robbers cursed.

“How did they get here so fast? What do we do now?” the robber with the brown shoes shouted.

“Let’s grab these two,” yelled the robber with the white takkies. “We’ll use them as hostages. At least we’ll be able to get out of here.”

Bokani felt himself being tugged roughly to his feet. Something hard pressed into his back and he knew it was the barrel of a gun. The other robber, the one in the takkies, was dragging Mnusi to her feet.

“Right, you kids, start walking. And when we get outside, you walk straight to the blue car. And get into the back seat quick as you can, got it?”

Bokani told himself it would be all right. Soon as they got outside, the police would rescue them. He opened the doors and there in the bright sunlight stood a line of policemen with their guns ready.

But the police sergeant in charge shouted, “Hold your fire, men! They have hostages!”

Helplessly, the police watched as Bokani and Mnusi were nudged along the pavement towards a blue car. A third robber sat at the steering wheel. Mnusi was crying now as she slid behind Bokani into the back seat.

“I-I-it will b-b-be all right,” Bokani struggled to say. But Mnusi turned her back on him as the driver took off with a squeal of tyres. Still, Bokani thought to himself, the police would follow them, find a way to rescue them. He looked out through the back window and already three police cars were driving behind them, sirens blaring.

The blue car sped through the city, weaving through the traffic, turning left and then right with squealing tyres. Inside the car, the bank robbers held their guns ready, swearing through their balaclavas.

There were more sharp turns, this way and that, until Bokani felt his stomach turning too.

“Great!” shouted the robber in the passenger seat. “I reckon you’ve lost them.”

To be continued . . .

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