A CARDBOARD BOX
Doug’s my neighbour, and those that know me, know that there’s some interesting characters living in his place across the road.
I’ve said before, at least twice to the police, and more than likely will again to them at some stage, say that Doug’s not that bad a guy.
Some may think differently, but some like square chocolate and some like the chaos of aero chocolate bubbles. Your business is your business, until it interferes with my business, and then we make a plan.
But those that know me probably know that I’ve helped Doug out a couple of times. He’s got other stuff to worry about, so if I can fix a hole in his fence, or mend his gate.
I’m grateful too because it stops his sow of a dog from getting out onto the street, and making Maus and Nandi go crazy. Like I said, yours is yours, until it interferes with mine, and then we make a plan.
I was doing this because they were catching on the gate when they opened and closed it, and since that was usually happening at night, when the majority of their business took place, the clattering would keep me awake.
Those of us in that part of the street would dump all the rubbish bags and garden waste in an empty plot next to his gate.
Now Doug doesn’t really worry about how the house looks, as the rusty, trampled razor wire bundled across his gate shows.
He and I joke about it, because when he first put it up, he hadn’t factored in the height of Damien’s van. So at about two in the morning, we all woke to the sounds of metal being wrenched off the pillars, wire dragging along the truck and road, people screaming their suggestions on how best to solve this situation, and Doug telling them all again that he had had enough of all this shit, and in the morning every one of them must get their shit together and get the fuck out of his place.
None of them did. In fact, Jamie and his sister moved in soon after that.
But anyway. I was cutting and piling, when I found a cardboard parcel beneath one of the trees, close to the drain. They’d dug out, exposed, pierced, then ignored the drainpipe, and had never filled the trench in again.
The parcel was still taped together, but looked fairly worn, damp and forgotten.
It didn’t have any address or markings on it, but obviously my first thought that it was connected to Doug, but then I thought it might be junk. None of them were around, so I put it to one side and carried on, cutting, chopping, dragging and stacking.
Now those that know me probably know that I’m not the inquisitive type. Me, my business is mine, yours is yours. Everyone be cool, and all will be well.
But things got screwed when the box got caught on a branch and dragged across the tangled razor wire. The damp side split, and bundles of fifties and hundreds fell into the trench.
This was obviously a fuck up, given that I knew the nature of the visitors and inhabitants of Doug’s, and some of them were rather dodgy, and I couldn’t expect help from the cops, because they were also regular visitors.
So, picture the scene, there’s me. Obviously sweaty and dirty, bearing the marks of manual labour, standing up to my knees in a muddy trench, just outside the local drug lord’s house, while in my hands, and around my feet are bundles of obviously dodgy looking notes, almost certainly the proceeds of the various activities that were his business, not mine.
I couldn’t put the notes back. The box was ripped, the notes were muddy, and bundles were split, so they had obviously been handled. I couldn’t go up to Doug, and hand them over, because that would obviously disrupt the “my business / your business” dynamic, with potentially dramatic consequences.
Handing it to the cops either as “lost property”, or “suspicious items” would just end in the same dramatic consequences, so, I really only had one option left.
I decided to keep the cash. What else could I do? The box had obviously been there for a while, judging by the damp sides, I thought it made sense. So as quickly as my obviously inconspicuously conspicuously actions allowed, I gathered the cash, stuffed it under my shirt, and in my pockets, and ran across the road back to my place.
Now. Neither of them are stupid, so it doesn’t take them long to work out that I might know something about this, so minutes later, the two of them tap politely, but clearly, on my gate. Like I said, those that know me know that I’m calm, cool under pressure, etc., so I walk out to the gate, deliberately relaxed, and in Durban’s unique lexicon, tuned what’ sup.
They’re polite, well; Doug’s the only one saying anything. Denzel’s just glaring at me. It starts with how hot the weather’s been, but soon enough he asks me if I know anything about a box that someone dropped off earlier. They complimented me on the job I’d done, especially by the drain, but since the guy had said the box had been put around there, was I certain I hadn’t seen it?
Of course I lied. What do you expect? Invite the kingpin and hard-core enforcer of the local crime syndicate into my house, take them to the bedroom, and point out the pile of cash? I suppose I could have. I could have said that I’d done it to help them, to keep things tidy. But I only thought of that line later, only after I’d said I knew nothing about it. Doug looked sceptical, at the least, Denzel very obviously felt I was lying and itched to beat me.
I did tell them though that some people had come by and had asked for them. Now this happens all the time. Obviously. I mean, it’s a drug den and brothel. Of course I don’t know all the people who came there, so when they asked me to describe them, the generic: “about medium height, little shorter than me. Brown hair, industrial workpants, I think”, description sufficed. I also threw in a couple of possible visits by cars, judging by the sounds I’d heard, and the attention seemed to shift from me. Denzel still looked like he wanted to beat the truth out of me, but he kind of looks like that all the time now.
They went off. I heard them on the phone shouting. Heard a couple of cars pull up during the next couple of hours, heard a couple of people entering through the gate, so I figured investigations were underway.
Me. I’d stashed all the money in an old backpack. I’d wrapped it in several layers of black rubbish bags.
Now. Those that know me probably know what I did with it.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.
Nick Miles is a Durban based writer, with a zany and distinctive writing style.
He lives with his partner Sarah and their two dogs, Nandi, Maus and Ginger cat.