Excerpt of The Madams by Zukiswa Wanner

I love Mondays, I really do, because they hold the promise of a fresh start. However, this was not the case today.
On arrival at the office my useless deputy had bungled the budget I am supposed to submit to the DG by tomorrow for our annual financial report. I was stuck with doing all the facts and figures, in addition to rushing to Ubuntu Kraal at lunchtime to ensure that the logistics for the four-day conference starting the next day would run smoothly and guarantee us more American conferences in future. At the end of the day, I carried my work home on a laptop so I could complete and email the budget before I went to bed.
As if that were not bad enough, my bloody maid showed that she is total trailer trash and unused to cleaning floor tiles. Despite my having Cobra One-Step in the cleaning cabinet, she had mopped the floors with water and soap, leaving streaks all over. To add salt to the wound, she took it upon herself to be ‘helpful’ by making supper. The supper comprised boiled ribs (who the hell boils ribs?) swimming in water and oil, with tomatoes, onions and green pepper for company. The starch component was half-cooked rice. Did this woman think my family was gonna eat this?
I take my food very seriously (my bum did not get this big from nothing). I get extra-annoyed when a meal is badly prepared, which accounts for why I don’t often eat at other people’s houses.
I knew she meant well but, having already had a sucky day, I could not find it in me to be diplomatic and went to bang on her door. She opened the door still wearing the pink two-piece work uniform that I had bought her. I started on a polite note, asking her how her day was. ‘Oh, very nice,’ she gushed. ‘I met MaRosie next door and she said she will take me to see Pertunia and we can go for tea over there.’
Ja ja ja. I didn’t want a blow-by-blow account of her day.  I just wanted her not to mess up my house. So I thanked her for making dinner, told her that was not one of her duties since Mandla and I preferred to cook for ourselves, and that anyway I had brought Chinese home. ‘I have left the food for you, why don’t you come by and get it so you won’t need to cook tomorrow?’ I added, thinking to myself that my maid almost made Siz seem like a good cook. Almost,  but not quite. Why couldn’t she be more like Pertunia, who was as gourmet a chef as a maid can ever be?
When she came into the house to get her boiled ribs and half-cooked rice, I gave her blow-by-blow instructions on how to mop the floor. Can you believe having to teach a thirty-five-year-old woman such a fundamental? Damn, and I thought madamhood was going to be easy. Men never seem to straighten maids out in any home situation, and this always makes madams look like queen bitches. It makes me wonder, are maids a male conspiracy to destroy female camaraderie?
I was trying to adjust to madamhood, but there were still a few kinks to be sorted. Sure, the house was spotless. But she had messed up my walk-in closet with her colour-coded tidying; my orderly mess was nowhere to be seen and I could not find my favourite jeans because, with her colour system, I would have to hunt them down among my blue suits. Mandla had adjusted better than me, although she had put a crease in his jeans. With his characteristic good humour he had just smiled, called her over and demonstrated on the ironing board how he liked his jeans ironed.
Even the first meeting between my white maid and Lauren was an anticlimax. On Thursday, I took Marita over to introduce her, bearing a gift of shepherd’s pie for the pseudo-Brits. Lauren had a jaw-on-the-floor moment, but quickly collected herself. Maybe all that careful studying of royal decorum and rules of protocol had actually paid off?
By Friday morning, I was seriously considering whether having a maid was worth it. I had made my point to Lauren. Now I was thinking that maybe it was time to let go of the experiment. I was considering finding somewhere else for her to go when I got to the office and realised that I had left my laptop at home. Making my way home again to pick up my laptop, I kept weighing up different options. Marita was really good with Hintsa, but she was also really intruding in my personal space. Hintsa was five, I had done without a maid since he was born, although, I had to admit, not without some stress to myself.
It turns out Marita’s relocation from my house wasn’t to be.
She must not have heard my car in the driveway because as I walked in, one of my James Brown albums was blasting from the stereo and Marita was holding the mop like a mike, dancing as only a white girl who’s been around black people in prison can, and singing loudly: ‘Say it LOUD: I am BLACK and I am PROUD!’
You are WHAT?
It was such a comic moment I could not control my laughter. When she heard me, she whirled around
with a guilty look, ‘Sorry Madam, I was just mopping the floor …’
She quickly switched off the stereo.
‘Not to worry, I’m just here to pick up my laptop,’ I answered, there and then deciding there was no way I could fire a white Afrikaans girl who sang ‘I’m black and I’m proud’.
Marita would stay.
If only for comic relief.


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