First I wanted to punch Kevin Pietersen, then I wanted to comfort him, and finally I wanted to run away from him, because he’s gone mad. Or I’ve gone mad, or maybe we both have. He’s the captain of South Africa (but not the South Africa I thought I knew) but he still managed to mess up the World Cup semi-final.
If it were me playing (which it should be, but I’m trying to fix that) then I would have gone through to the finals. I mean, I will go through to the finals as soon as I find a way back to a world that makes sense.
That is not my immediate problem. Standing in the doorway of Kevin’s rank hotel room is his long-lost father, who is also my manager (and Steve Hofmeyr’s). He’s somehow behind Kevin’s captaincy. And I’m really surprised to see him alive.
“What are you doing in Australia, Hansie?” Steve is still holding his hand in front of Kevin’s chest, waving it in small, vague circles. Like he’s warding Kevin off, or maybe trying to magnetise him.
“Had to come watch my boy play in the semis, didn’t I.” Hansie drops his stetson onto the bed. “Kevin, it’s not AB’s fault that you lost. I thought that I’d worked it all out this time, but I’ve been outplayed again.”
Hansie shows us his teeth in a broad smile. “You think you would have done better, AB?”
“I should have had the chance to try.” I lunge for him, wanting to donate two fists to a face that’s just begging for a punch. Kevin rushes at me and Steve sends him reeling with a left hook. Kevin hits the bed, bounces off it, hits the floor. Does not bounce.
Steve pulls me off Hansie, who is no longer smiling. I pant. Steve growls. Kevin whimpers.
“Here we are, Hansie. Your three lapdogs. Tell me a story, make it good and make it quick.”
Hansie rolls his tongue around in his mouth, checking his teeth. “OK. In terms that you can understand.”
“Yeah, in small words for my monkey brain. Or we can go back to me punching you in the face and communicating in the universal language of violence.” I look at Hansie until he stops looking at me. He starts.
“So, imagine a small group of people who don’t quite control the world, but they collectively affect its destiny. They fight each other for the upper hand. They buy and sell history and geography from each other.”
“Imagine that the four of us – me, Kevin, you two – are like pawns in their game of chess. Only we’re better than pawns, we’re like bishops or, what’s the other one that can jump over the other pieces?”
“The knight” says Steve.
“Yes. Right. So we are their special pieces and we play a starring role in the stories. Sometimes we are good and sometimes we are a bit morally ambiguous. But something has gone wrong with you, AB. You’re not supposed to be here, not like this.”
I ask Hansie “How come you know all of this stuff?”
“That’s a much longer story. I’m an even more powerful piece in the game, like the one that moves in straight lines-”
“The castle” says Steve.
“Yes, thanks Steve. I have a direct line to our overlords, and it’s possible for me to petition them for you, AB. But why should I?”
“Ooh, I don’t know why you should ask your cosmic nerd superiors to give me back my old life, Hansie. I can’t threaten a powerful piece like you. But I quit the band as of right now.”
“Me too, Hansie.” Steve has put a pillow under Kevin’s head and is holding an icepack to his right eye. “I want to pursue a solo career in ethnic European music, really go back to the source.”
I get down on my haunches and look at Hansie. “There is no more band. Kevin is out of the World Cup. How is the game looking for you?”
Hansie glares at me but I put on my sunglasses and he is blinded by his own reflection. “Fine, I’ll ask. But I won’t have an answer until after the World Cup final. Stick around for a couple of days, boys. Be nice to Kevin. Buy him a beer. I’ll see you at the cricket.”
TO BE CONCLUDED