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oshakati, vamboland

"Oooooshakaaaati, Oooooshakaaaati, Ooshakati, Vamboland. Dis die plek van terroriste, Ooshakati, Vamboland."

Mike, Jerry and PT shorts are sitting at the 30-something year old bar. "Josef! Gee my nog 'n dop. Sommer op rekening," his bloodshot eyes ask. (Josef, Get me another drink. On account.)

In this place, everyone is Josef's best friend. He is the token black in a world of narrow minds. Minds so narrow that they don't even need a token black. There is only one rule in Josef's bar: buy on account today, as long as it's paid for before your first drink tomorrow.

Josef is an achiever. There is no doubting that, the glint in his eyes gives it away.He did not open another kuka-shop (Ovamboland's version of shebeens) like everyone else with half a buck in their pockets. Instead, he bought the Oshirumbu's (the white man's) drinking hole.

"'n Vambo gaan hierdie plek koop. Het julle gehoor?" they had said before he arrived. (Did you hear? A vambo is buying this place.)

"Ja wat pellie. Ons kan maar net sowel vir hierdie plek g'bye se. As jy weer kyk gaan daar net swartes wees" (Yes my friend. We might as well say goodbye to this place. When you look again there will only be blacks.)

But Josef is clever. He does not invite his friends and all their cronies. He keeps his distance, serves the drinks and never complains out loud. The money is good and his family living in Ongwediva need the support. His mother is aging. Her frail hands shake as she carries bucket after bucket to her traditional stick house. She holds the plastic handle with all her strength as the droplets dance to the rhythm of her hips' pendulum.

Forty years ago, this town, village, bustle of moving masses, was the home to over six thousand South African Defence Force troops and their families. It was the climax of the border wars and the greatest fear of all conscripted men.

Curfew at six. "Don't play in the veld. You never know where the landmines are hidden. I'm serious Lesley, just don't go wandering off. Do you remember that boy without the leg? Remember? Well that's what happens when people don't listen to their mommies." Almost twenty years later, the patrol posts still stand. God is still watching us from the towers.

"Ouens, kom ons speel 'n bietjie dice." (Guys, let's play a bit of dice). The three stooges place themselves at the bar. PT shorts looks like he is boiling over on that stool. Frosted Windhoeks flow as if their throats have been expanded to make way for it all.

"Gaan kak man! Ek cheat nie. Jy's maar net dronk" (Go shit yourself man. I'm not cheating. You're just drunk) It's only a game but to this crowd it's a contest of worth. Mike brings the die to his lips. "Come on baby, come on," he grins while revealing the Nike tick he has engraved on his left front tooth.

"Josef, gooi vir ons 'n paar shorts. Sommer Jagermeister." (Josef, pour us a few tots. Make it Jagermeister.) Abba's Fernando is blaring from the single-speaker hi-fi. Tonight we'll shoot the stars. "We're the kings of the world", their laughter is saying as the toxin pierces their insides. We don't need to be afraid of anything because we own this town. We built it ourselves. Some of us just carry guns around because we know that the only authority we have is in our heads.

Josef pours another drink for Jerry. He is thinking about tomorrow morning when all these drunk Oshirumbus will be gone. He will have rich mahangu pap tomorrow, as he has for almost 30 years.

Elmarie walks in, all dolled up and nowhere to go. "Howzit, howzit? How goes dit met julle? Josef, bier asseblief." (How are you guys? Josef, a beer please.)

The competition has reached another level. Elmarie is here now, and single girls are not easy to come by round here. They know that they will all sleep with her at least once. The fact that there are only a handful of single young people in this town guarantees that. Plus the fact that there is nothing to do - no book clubs to join, no soccer teams to form. But, the question is, who will it be tonight? The need for a woman's touch is getting too much. Surely it shows?

She smiles at the guys, teeth grinding against chewing gum. More and more of the manne are coming in. But they're all sif and married, always looking you up and down as if they can see straight through your clothes. While their wives sit at home looking after the children.

The bar is hot. The air is laced with sweat and the stench of whiskey. It looks like it is going to rain, perhaps even storm. It's good for the mahangu, but not so great if your one-roomed house is made of sticks and mud.

"Here, Jesus, moet dit al weer reen? Ek het net vandag my bakkie gewas en gepolish." (Jesus, does it have to rain again? I just washed and polished my bakkie today.) Jerry's car is his temple. You have to be able to get out of this place somehow.

Elmarie is inhaling Vogues with all her attention. She looks bored, uninterested, frustrated. The smoke travels down her throat and into her heavy lungs. "How did this happen?" she's thinking. "How did I end up here contemplating whether or not to go home with a Nike-ticked toothed, rose tattooed man who thinks that a gun is a fashion accessory?"

Groot Willie struts in. "Hoesit ouens?" (Howzit guys?) Anything but this. Elmarie is running. Even a Nike tick is better than Willie's arrogance - he thinks she is after him. Naturally. She moves closer to PT shorts. Save me.

"Kom ons gaan drink by die dam, ouens. Hierdie plek is sommer kak" (Let's go drink at the dam, guys. This place is shit.) Willie knows that out there, there is something exciting in the air - he too is getting desperate for some relief.

"Wag nou Willie. Ons speel nou eers. Jy wil anyway net gaan naai." (Wait now, Willie. We're playing first. You just want to go shag anyway.)

He is angry. His ears are red. Embarrassed. The obvious is obvious, but out loud just so much worse. Elmarie is embarrassed too.

"Wel, ten minste naai ek nie meit nie" (Well, at least I don't shag maids.)

The beast has been unleashed. Josef is anxious - he knows what this means.

"Wat het jy gesê?" (What did you say?) Jerry's lips are so close to Groot Willie's that they look like they are about to kiss passionately.

The air is stagnant for a while. They stare at one another. Elmarie and Mike are shouting in the background. "Chill ouens, chill" (Chill guys, chill), but they can't hear. Pride is pumping through their veins. Du-doef, du-doef.

Their eyes are focused on nothing but each other. Sweat pours down their foreheads. They are the only two contenders in the world.

Jerry's lips are moving; slowly and deliberately. "Ek weet vir 'n feit dat jy die een is wat meit naai. So fok off!" (I know for a fact that you're the one shagging your maid, so fuck off!)

Jerry is on the floor. Should have seen that one coming. He gets up quickly. Can't let his dignity slip by too many notches. Blood is trickling down his face. Oh well, someone had to hit someone. How else could this evening end?