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Compassion

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John slips the vehicle into neutral, pulls up the handbrake, flings open the door and steps out onto the tar. He flicks a burning cigarette across the road and strides to the front of his new Toyota Hilux. He scans the bumper. It’s clean. He walks around to the passenger side. There’s a scratch on the sill behind the left wheel, surrounded by specks of blood and a clump of hair.

“It’s a brand new bakkie!” he cries and runs a hand over his bald head.

Anger rises in his chest and he balls a fist. He looks up to where the old lady is teetering on the sidewalk a few metres behind his vehicle. Her mouth is agape, her eyes locked onto what’s left of the mutt that dirtied his bakkie. He returns his attention to the damage and shakes his head, cursing under his breath.

A middle-aged man strides up to John from across the road and launches into a tirade about driving etiquette, ending his discourse by calling John a pig. The man’s words crawl into John’s head, needling at the bakkie’s damage occupying his mind.

A cold shiver creeps from John’s chest into his head. A smile forms on his face. He lives for moments like these. Conflict is as crucial to his survival as a good workout at the gym.

He turns to the man, his eyes narrowing.

“Shut up,” he spits out, pointing a finger at the man. “It wasn’t my fault. That mongrel didn’t belong in the road.”

The man steps closer, jabs an incriminating index finger towards John and shouts, “YOU don’t belong on the road!”

John slaps the man’s hand out of his face, draws back his left shoulder and slams his fist into the man’s nose, sending him flying to the sidewalk. The man hardly hits ground when John jumps onto him and starts raining down hooks and jabs.

After a few minutes of pounding, John is exhausted and comes to a stop, heaving for air. He rests his hands on the man’s shoulders. Once his breathing normalises, he grips the man’s right hand and slowly bends back the index finger. When he hears a crack, he drops the man’s hand, leans down and whispers into his ear, “don’t interfere in other people’s business.”

John straightens up and turns towards his bakkie. A wave of prickles flushes through his body. He strokes his right arm, relishing the gooseflesh. The smile on his face widens. He closes his eyes and throws his face skyward, drunk on the power of another’s weakness.

After a few minutes he opens his eyes, shakes his head like a wet dog and strolls to the driver’s side of his idling bakkie. He flips the seat forward and reaches for a bag, from which he pulls a white t-shirt. He takes off his shirt, wipes his face with a handkerchief and slips on the fresh white t-shirt.

He climbs into his bakkie, slams the door, punches it into first gear and spins away. He’s tempted to reverse over the old lady’s dog, but decides against it. This town has already wasted too much of his time with its negligence and arrogance. He needs to be back in Johannesburg tonight.

He reaches for his packet of cigarettes, fingers one out of the packet, puts it in his mouth and lights it. Outside of town he pulls in at a petrol stop to have the blood and hair cleaned off the vehicle. He has to yell at the attendant to do a proper job.


The old lady doesn’t notice him exiting his vehicle. She’s preoccupied with what’s left of her dog.

She howls when she hears her dog’s first screech and throws up her arms in shock. Her hands tremble onto her face, trying to stop the flood of tears. Her shrieking turns into a whimpering chant.

A middle aged man is striding across the road. She tries to get his attention, but he’s fixated on the owner of the bakkie.

She shuffles towards what’s left of the animal. He notices her, but there’s no happy little bark pleading for a dog biscuit, only piercing squeals that turn into faint yelps which fade out like the end of a bad pop song. Soon, all that’s left of her award-winning “child” is a mangled mess of blood and hair. One deformed leg gives a final kick, then it’s still.

She bends down and starts to stroke the dog. A purple blotch of makeup drips from her chin onto the corpse. She starts whispering kind words, soothing it.

She chokes back a moan and grabs at her throat. Her breathing comes to a halt. Her eyes bulge as lack of oxygen throws her into panic. She falls to her side, her legs straightening. Convulsions follow. Then she’s still.


A young lady, recently divorced and new in town, stands by her kitchen window, washing vegetables for dinner. Across the road she sees two men arguing, then one punching the other. She draws the curtains, walks to the lounge, switches on the TV and puts up the volume.

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