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Ben Trovato

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Targeted by New York’s Department of Homeless Services

I despise telephones, door chimes or any other banging, clanging, ringing sound that indicates someone is trying to get hold of me because all they ever want is money, reassurance, company or, worst of all, a chat.

When I went to Thailand and heard the monks ringing their bells, I flew into a terrible rage. “What in God’s name do they want?” I shouted, clutching my temples.

Brenda said they were calling for alms. “Here,” I said, “give them my 9mm Parabellum.”

Look, I don’t mind giving arms to Buddhists, but only if they have a Chinese soldier in their sights. Neutralise three members of the People’s Liberation Army and win a free Tibet.

But back to the thing that set me off in the first place. My cellphone rang last week. I don’t respond to unidentified calls, but this one went on for two days. I took pills to help me sleep, but all they did was make me sit up all night watching soft porn and chewing the insides of my mouth to a pulp. Bloody affirmative action pharmacists can’t tell their isopropyl amphetamines from their imidazopyridines. Brenda cares nothing for neuropsychopharmacological misunderstandings and threatened to have me committed to Valkenberg if I didn’t answer my phone.

An American was on the line. I could tell because she spoke for 12 minutes before I could get a word in.

“Who are you and what do you want?”

“I’m from the New York Department of Homeless Services. Is this Ben Trovato?”

I kept quiet, which was the wrong thing to do because Americans automatically regard silence as an admission of guilt. Saddam Hussein was unable to answer a single question truthfully after he was hanged. That’s all the proof you need.

“You are aware that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is running a programme whereby homeless people are flown out of New York at the city’s expense?”

“Oh yes,” I said. “In South Africa we make a point of closely following Mayor Bumburger’s policies.”

“Bloomberg,” came the chilly rejoinder. “Mayor Bloomberg is repatriating homeless families and the city is paying their air fares. Miguel Trovato says he is your father and he will be arriving at Cape Town International Airport at 13h45 on August 19.”

I tried arguing but she cut me off because she had been trained from birth to know that Americans are always right. Of course they are. You only have to look at their teeth.

I did a little research. Turns out it costs New York R281000 a year to keep a homeless family in a shelter and they have discovered it’s cheaper to fly them anywhere they want to go.

This Miguel Trovato may very well be my father, but then who is that bearded old curmudgeon in Durban? Is he an impostor?


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