Here, on board the Trans-Shamba Express, in a first-class compartment, we are introduced to an anthropomorphic set of characters.
On one seat we find a neatly dressed rooster with his white feathers tucked into a typical black tailcoat; beside him lies his short and long black cane; and to his fore, on a bijou extendable side table, there lies a half-full cocktail whose aroma has submerged this little compartment under a combination of what I can only guess to be a rum, chocolate, and cinnamon concoction: a rooster’s favourite, which was, strangely enough, always served in a coquetier. To the side of his drink lies one of Mr Stolzerhahn’s compact old-fashioned wooden pipes, and next to that, a pack of tobacco-flavoured cancer. The combination of all of this—that is, his pipe, his strange drink, and Mr Stolzerhahn himself—only works to add to this discord of odours: the result of it being that all-American American smell of a work-place smoke break and a Thanksgiving dinner.
Gawking coquettishly at the front of the compartment, Mr Stolzerhahn redirects our attention to yet another of our characters. There, seated by the window is a dazzling whitetail deer, one who wore absolutely nothing except for the crimson Pradas on her feet. A fun fact about Virginia: she enjoys eating olive and cheese cube skewers and delights in late-night drives.
If we look up from our endearing mistress, we discover a Mister Marshall, a little beetle who is seated on Virginia’s left shoulder. Mister Marshall, I’ll have you know, is not just any beetle but a Rhinoceros beetle, one who immigrated to Colorado just last year. Equipped with cuffed corduroy pants, a blue Oxford shirt, and a miniature briefcase storing two-fifths of a financial document, it was at first clear to me that Mister Marshall had to have been the accountant of this here business meeting. But no, I soon found out that he was actually the auditor: it is a significantly different career choice, despite what some may say.
Then this Mister Marshall, who was taught impatience at auditing school, or wherever he got his degree from, looks up at me—at me, the narrator!—and exclaims: “For fuck’s sake! Get a move on with it, will ya?”
And Mr Stolzerhahn, who never condones the use of foul language nor the more serious crime of fourth wall breaking, lifts his cane of magnificent craftsmanship and smacks him across the head.
Cluck! goes the onomatopoeia.
Then, as he climbs down from his seat, he takes a sip of the rum, chocolate, and cinnamon cocktail and sighs. “Guess I’ll be off then.”
“Okay then,” Virgina says. “See you Monday, yes?”
“Monday,” Mr Stolzerhahn nods in agreement.
Mr Stolzerhahn was the murderer.
Ramtin Mesgari, a self-proclaimed dentist who turned the entirety of his first manuscript into hand-rolled cigarettes during the pandemic of last year, drifted for a time through the small northern cities of Germany where he lived on port wine and the short stories of Nikolai Gogol. But he has since returned to his home in South Africa—both to his and our dismay, and the country’s too—in order to pursue a dead-end job in software. He currently lives in Johannesburg with a rooster, three chickens, and a cat called “Mango”. When he’s not writing, he is eating fruit.