The Black Trousers
by Temba Magorimbo
It was displayed in the shop. Pockets by the side. It had a back pocket and a slit pocket near the loop line for coins. What an irony to have a purse for coins when coins had stopped existing the last time the opposition said the election rigging machine had worked. However, he still liked it. It was mauve in colour. This could do well with a gray long sleeve shirt with gold cuffs. He imagined himself striding across the courtyard. The next one of his choice was grey with an elastic waist halfway. This he thought he would wear with a white short sleeve t-shirt or a white long sleeve shirt with the correct tie on.
“Your sense of dress is crooked,” the secretary at the office always liked to say. “You dress like a cherry tree in blossom, mixing colours like a rainbow.”
“Too many platitudes,” he had replied one day leafing through the official mail. “Say exactly what you want to say.”
“That trousers and shirt don’t match,” she had replied. “You should have worn a black shirt.”
“I am not in mourning,” he had said.
“Men, you have no sense of dress,” she had be mourned as he had proceeded towards his shared office. “However the belt and buckle are what makes a gentleman out of you. They take you out of the ghetto.”
“It doesn’t take the ghetto out of me sister,” he had replied.
“Ritchie?” she shouted.
“Yap,” he had replied.
“The Finance Director said he wants the accounts in first thing tomorrow morning,” she shouted.
“Thanks Mitchell for letting the whole office know I am late with that,” he had replied sarcastically slamming the door behind him. Now he gazed at arrays of trousers, shirts and other men’s apparel in Edgar’s Stores. He had an account alright. An account gave him thirty days to pay for his credit without interest attachments. Credit stores like Edgar are where twice to three times more expensive than cash stores but their quality was twice to three times better. The durability was outstanding. Richard remembered wearing an Edgar’s shirt five years later even though a cash one he had bought two years earlier had since lost its collar.
Would Susan understand? She was always bitching him about how he took credit for his own clothes forgetting her. But face it man, he thought he was working in a public office where he was expected to be smart when addressing members of the public with accounts queries. She was a housewife. He did not begrudge that she was not working. Susan was a beautiful woman with whom he was very proud.
He thought of Sasha. Maybe he would rope in a pair of trousers and shirt for his two year old toddler and a dress for Susan. He could see her mouth forming into a rebuke. “A dress, you seen me as being rural eh. A shapeless and formless dress?”
“Hi,” he was accosted. The young man who did that was smartly dressed in trainers, denim blue jean shorts cut slightly below the knee and white t-shirt. He had a red cape on his head.
“Hi to you too,” he replied.
“Nice clothes,” he suggested.
“I can see.”
“Top of the range,” he had replied.
“You work here?” asked Richard.
“Sort of,” was the reply.
“What do you mean, sort of?” he asked. “Since when do stores like Edgar’s, Truworths, CW Fashions and Barbour’s to name a few have outside salespeople?”
“I deliver at less than the marked price,” the young man replied.
“Is it?” he asked. “I was thinking of an account purchase.”
“For the black trousers, the grey one too and that blue one I could offer you half the cash price,” he suggested.
“You are talking,” Richard was interested.
“Talk to you later. I never like the security,” he said moving on. Richard checked the price tag as a security officer walked past with both hands behind him. Richard exited the shop.
Later in the evening he broached the subject with Susan as they lay counting the number of grooves in the asbestos sheets above them.
“He offered me three top of the range trousers at half the price,” he suggested.
“That is a thief.”
“Do I care? I want to be smart. The director has been haranguing me about my clothing mismatch,” he had replied. That was a white lie. It helped him get dressed.
“Why don’t you respect me so that Sasha can too?” he asked.
“I take you to bed and I don’t take Sasha the same way even though he is male,” she had replied. “Stop thinking of that crook. You could get arrested.”
“Not me, him,”he replied.
“The last time it failed to happen was when curiosity killed the cat,” Susan replied turning against him pulling up the sheets and bedspread. He wanted to say what about another go. He knew she had closed shop except if he wanted a verbal reprimand.
“Sue,” he said. He picked up his bag ready for work checking that everything was in.
“Hmm,” she replied.
“Could you pick shirts and trousers for me? The secretary says I dress like a Christmas tree,” he replied.
“You dress fine,” she hugged him. “You tell her to tell that to her husband. A dress for me if you can get it on account with flowers honey, hems below the knees at least.”
“Your size?” he asked.
She raised her hands in the air and swayed in front of him showing her height at a metre and seventy. Her weight was about seventy kilogram’s.
“I will try,” he had replied. “Where is Sasha?”
“At the door to see you out,” she replied. “It means loose change.”
“No sweets chum,” he moved out taking his son’s hand. “Are you seeing me out?”
“Yap,” was the reply from a metre and some centimeters below him.
“As far as the gate?”
He bought Sasha a packet of potato crisps before he walked towards the bus stop hailing passing vehicles. The throng of passengers was tight. Buses were passing by fully loaded. Vehicles that stopped where pick up trucks. That wouldn’t do. He would arrive with his hair ruffled and his chocolate brown face looking ashen as if he had been through a funeral wake.
He waited for the 25-seater mini-buses which overloaded to 30 passengers with 5 standing. It was better than being packed 35 standing in a 25-standing bus. He was standing there when a Peugeot 504 sedan cruised to a stop near him. Three ladies who had flagged it were running. Their heavily built bottoms were heavy. They reduced their speed. One had a mini dress so short he could tell the size and colour of her buttocks.
“City brother?” he asked leaning.
The driver opened the passenger door. “Thanks mate.”
He picked up the 3 running ladies. He went into the city in comfort paying before he walked the two and a half kilometers to his work place. It kept his body in shape. At lunch he headed for Edgar’s Store and cruised past before making a u-turn. What was on his mind?
“Hi,” It was that youth again.
“What is it this time?” he asked. “You seem to remember faces well.”
“Three trousers at half price?” asked the youth.
“I will be waiting across the one way street with cash for that,” he replied. “Is that a deal?”
“Fine bro,” the other disappeared into Edgar’s Store. He went across the street and bout a dress for Susan, two sets of trousers, short sleeve shirts and a sleep shirt for Sasha on account at Barons’. He could afford the half cost after all. He walked towards the meeting place tapping the half cost he had in his pocket.
He waited looking around. The guy was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he had been late. He looked 360 degrees.
He was uneasy when he saw a police constable walking across the road as if headed towards him. Relax, he told himself. The constable stopped by the kerb next to him whistling a jazz tune.
Maybe he should have waited here first before going into Baron’s Fashion. He looked again and there was the youth walking with his hands behind him. Someone else was holding a parcel. The policeman made to cross.
He came back. Richard looked again. Two men where holding the youth he had talked to. “Sorry to bother you but we made a citizen’s arrest on this con man.”
“Um-huh. What was his crime?” asked the officer.
“He sold a dress to the woman following only that the shoulders were pieces of cloths. He also had three cloths that look like trousers wrapped in paper. What he does is he shows his intended victim what looks like a set of trousers when there are three sets of cut cloths only like he did with the dress. There is the collar, the sleeves and nothing else.”
The officer peered at the youth as he went for his handcuffs. Richard crossed the road on wobbly knees.
The black trousers!