I suggested to my ex-wife once that instead of giving each other gifts at Christmas, we should rather exchange bodily fluids.
She seemed to think something more substantial was in order so I gave her a rough, uncut emerald I found in the driveway. She said it was a piece of broken beer bottle and threw it away. How very ungrateful. It was the last time I gave her jewels. That was also the Christmas I gave my loinfruit a beautiful picture of the Maldives which I tore from a magazine in the toilet. He was so overcome with gratitude that he wept for days.
Then there was the Christmas I gave her a very valuable petrified dinosaur tooth. A few days later she was digging a trench at the bottom of the garden – it might have been a shallow grave – when she came across a whole bunch of them. I told her it must be where old Tyrannosaurus Rexes went to die fifty billion years ago. She said it looked very much like a pile of builder’s rubble. I said many archeologists had made the same mistake.
I remember the last time we went to a mall to do our Christmas shopping. At first glance it appeared as if the complex has been designed by Dante Alighieri himself. Cerberus tied up outside. The sign at the entrance, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Inside, nine levels of hell, jam-packed with opportunists, adulterers, gluttons and greedheads, hypocrites, thieves and sodomites, the sullen, the slothful and the suicidal. It sounds a lot more fun than it was.
“Let’s split up,” she said.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I replied. “I’ll have my stuff out by the weekend.”
She gave me the lazy eye. “I meant split up and shop separately.” Then she was gone, swept away in a raging torrent of hoarders and wasters, deceivers, flatterers and sowers of discord.
I had some sort of asthma attack in a shop that reeked overpoweringly of the stuff women put in their underwear drawer to repel their husbands. It seemed to be some sort of biological agent. Nerve gas, probably.
I sought refuge in a shop called Dad’s Toys. It was either that or CUM Books, a shady outfit that looked like it might sell Christian porn to happily married couples. The shop wasn’t, as one might think, filled with model aircraft and puzzles to stave off Alzheimer’s.
I walked out with a crossbow, a knuckleduster, two throwing knives, a pair of nunchucks, a bulletproof vest and a riot shield. Ready for the white genocide.
There seemed to be some kind of drama unfolding in Game. They had run out of trolleys and frantic appeals were being made over the public address system for shoppers to remain calm. People were rampaging up and down the aisles grabbing armloads of stuff as if preparing for Armageddon rather than Christ’s birthday.
Ripping through the mayhem like a circular saw through the occipital bone came the most dreadful sound of all. If Christmas is such a happy time for children, why the fuck were they all crying? Why were they lying on the floor thrashing about like epileptics?
The subsonic scream of a thousand ill-tempered babies rose to a deafening crescendo. Right in front of me a toddler plummeted from his mother’s arms as she reached for her fourth box of Christmas crackers. A wild-eyed woman with a face covered in nervous tics ran into me and began making high-pitched gibbering sounds that were straight out of the shower scene in Psycho.
Right there and then I decided to buy toys for everyone. It seemed easier. The first toy shop I walked into, I was bitterly disappointed to see how few guns were being sold. When this generation grows up, how are they going to know what to do to protect themselves?
“Wake up, there’s someone in the house!”
“Relax, honey. I have my Delta Squad Megazord Power Ranger right here.”
Instead of guns, China is flooding the world with remote controlled Apache helicopter gunships, M1 tanks and amphibious assault vehicles that come with flashing lights and fabulous sound effects including machine gun fire, explosions and wounded civilians screaming in Arabic.
I stopped off at the girl’s toys aisle because some wives never had mothers who taught them to clean and cook and I believe it’s never too late for them to learn the basics. It was a relief to see that the men over at Hello Kitty were still doing their bit to ensure a steady supply of girls who will grow up unafraid of vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters, kettles and similar domestic accoutrements so vital to a happy marriage.
I thought my ex-wife would appreciate the “My Little Home” range. It had everything from a plastic washing machine to a trolley fitted with a mop, broom and bucket. Next year, I’d like see a “My Little Broken Home” range where nothing works except a miniature crystal meth lab. Accessories would include paramedics and a social worker.
I didn’t get her the electronic kitchen set after discovering that it makes realistic sounds. The last thing I need is a toy that shrieks: “You’re not having another beer, are you?” and “You can also cook sometimes!’
Dolls were big. Bigger than ever. Much like real women. And they seemed to be getting smarter. Again, like the real thing. I prodded one in the belly and it said, “Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat.”
It is no longer politically correct to have dolls that say “Mama” and “Dada” because of the increasing number of Dadas who say they’re just nipping out to the shop and are never seen again.
I took a shine to Mia Bambina. She promised a lot. “I sneeze. I babble. My heart beat. I drink. I cry. I snore.” I related immediately.
Barbie was back, but, sadly, still no Junkie Barbie with her own cookin’ up kit or Greedy Barbie with advocate’s robes or Corrupt Barbie with her own seat in parliament. I came across a raunchy rock ‘n roll Barbie and took her out of her box for a quick inspection. A sales lady caught me looking up Barbie’s skirt and threatened to call security. I explained that I was in Thailand not long ago and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Anyway, for the price of a Barbie I could pay a woman in the parking lot to hoik up her dress and allow me a squizz at her frilly bits. Not that I would. I’m just saying.
I stared grimly at a Ken doll and cursed his stupid plastic hair and clean-shaven chest and mocked his “small parts” that apparently constitute a “choking hazard”. The warning is for the benefit of that synthetic slut, Barbie, I presume. I cannot imagine who else would be inclined to put Ken’s small parts in their mouth.
I was going to get my nephew an M-16 with pull-back breach action and realistic auto sound but I ended up buying him a kitchen play set and plastic vacuum cleaner instead. He needs to be equipped with survival skills because by the time he is of marriageable age, all the women will be riding Harleys and staging cock fights in the Kirstenbosch amphitheater.
I overheard an assistant say to a man with a troubled face, “I’m sorry, but Spiderman has sold out.” That was very disturbing news. Had our hero been bought off by the Green Goblin? Had Peter Parker finally discovered that it would be far more lucrative to become an estate agent and then use his superpowers to spin a web of lies and deceit instead?
I was distracted by row upon row of babies stacked up like prematurely born infants in cheap plastic incubators. There was Butterfly Doll with eight functions – five more than a real baby – and Kissing Baby, a favourite among visiting Belgian paedophiles.
Sippin’ Sue is a cute little thing “who lets you know when she wants more”. Yeah, she’s cute now. Wait until she grows up and starts demanding vodka and holidays on the French Riviera.
Then I spotted New Born Baby. “Look after me,” the synthetic sprog demanded. “I can drink and use my potty.” So can I, but you don’t see me lolling about in a cardboard box expecting people to pay R300 to see me do a wee, do you? Not that I wouldn’t.
There was also some kind of contraption that could accommodate seven babies. Of course. Why have one when you can have seven? It’s a valuable lesson for any girl to learn in a country starved of people.
Steffi seemed to have higher standards than Barbie but apparently liked nothing more than a nice bath (bath supplied). I stood there for a while, imagining Steffi in her little pink tub. It’s not what it sounds like. She’s six inches tall, for heaven’s sake. What kind of monster do you take me for?
There was another doll that promised “27 lovable phrases. Press my tummy!” Nothing happened. I felt cheated. It didn’t say a word, not even when I put it on the ground and repeatedly stood on its tummy. Things have come to a pretty pass when shop assistants order paying customers to step away from the baby or face expulsion from the store.
I think that’s what he said. I couldn’t be sure because the public address system was cranked up to supersonic levels. In Durban, you might expect to hear in-store announcements in an Indian or English accent. In Pretoria, it might be Afrikaans or Darkie. But in Cape Town, there’s only one accent. Look, some of my best friends are coloured, but when it’s deep Cape Flats pumped through a treble-heavy PA system, it’s like having a rusty blade hacking through your brain.
It’s hard to believe that toy shops are still selling microscopes and chemistry sets. This country needs more pole dancers, not scientists, goddammit. In the old days, this type of toy was sold because the state wanted to encourage an early interest in the noble arts of biological and chemical warfare. I bet Papa Basson bought little Wouter a lovely set for his fifth birthday.
The shelves were full of lies. Call it aspirational if you will, but I call it setting your kid up for a lifetime of feelings of inadequacy and failure. Here’s what I found in the toy car section: an Audi S7, a Range Rover Vogue and a Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet. I want to open a toy shop that stocks faded red Hyundais up on play-play bricks with small plastic hobos passed out in the back and dented Vauxhall station wagons with missing hubcaps and doors rusted off their hinges.
The same goes for My Happy Family, a lurid atrocity of a doll house. It comes with a double-storey home, a vintage convertible and better furniture than mine. There’s mom, dad and a little girl, all glowing with health and happiness. In my toy shop, I would sell My Horrid Family featuring a crack house covered in gang graffiti, a tattooed dad wearing a wine-stained vest and mom sporting a black eye. The kid, being an only child, would be weeping into a bowl of gruel. There would be no furniture, what with it having been repossessed and all.
I even found a battery-operated ATM machine. All it needed was a battery-operated skabenga in a balaclava blowing it up with some plastic plastic explosives. The sound effects would be awesome. First the blast, then the police sirens, then the bad guy in court being acquitted on a technicality, then the sound of him laughing all the way to the next bank.
Although I still hadn’t bought anyone anything, I knew it was time to flee when the PA exploded into life and the announcer screeched, “Mr Hartzenberg please eat your wife in front of the store!”
On my way out, I passed a fat bearded man in a tight red suit trimmed with white fur. He was sitting in a chair waving at small children. That didn’t seem right so I went over and asked if he was an employee of the Catholic Church. He said he was a Father, but not that kind of Father, so I offered him a hit on my hip flask and all was well with the world.