Diana van den Berg

Veteran Poet - 1,894 Points (4 November 1945 / Durban, South Africa)

That Friday (29 October 2000) - Poem by Diana van den Berg

I didn’t go to work that Friday.
I was tied up.

And gagged
and my fingers were turning blue
and my ankles and wrists and mouth hurt
because the bonds were too tight.
They tightened them when I asked them
to loosen them.
And my throat was dry,
so dry
so very, very dry
- sore too from their hands
around my mouth and throat
when they were smothering my screams.
And my head hurt from when they inadvertently banged it against the wall.

One of the three was actually quite nice.
He said, “Cool” when I asked them
not to break anything,
when one,
probably he,
dropped what may have been a drawer.
He didn’t dropp anything after that,
although minutes later
he had the knife at my throat
saying he was getting tired of me.

They said they would untie me before they left
and they didn’t.
But they didn’t hurt me any more than they needed to.
I have never trained as a burglar
but presumably
they are taught to frighten their victims
in order to get on with their job properly.
They did that very well - the frightening part, I mean.
I duly
was frightened,
very frightened,
terrified, quite frankly.

The other part of their job they couldn’t do very well.
As I kept telling them
there weren’t any possessions of value to do it to.
Previous burglars and my financial situation had seen to that.

People ask me what I thought about.
I remember wishing that they would hurry up
and finish
and go.
I remember thinking that time was dragging.
I remember thinking how dry my throat was.
I remembered wondering what the time was
and how long they had been there
and when they were going.
Couldn’t they see there was nothing to take?
They took my son’s old watch - I kept it in my handbag because the strap was broken.
He lent it to me because I didn’t have a watch.
I remember trying to recall my car registration number
and I did.
I remember replaying several possible scenarios in my head.
I remember wishing that they would go.
I remember thinking how very, very dry my throat was.

When they asked me where my son’s gun was,
I told them the truth - that we both hate guns and don’t have any
and that my son doesn’t live here any more, anyway.
When they asked me which computer worked, I told them the truth,
but said they would benefit more from being taught by me how to use it
than from stealing it.
They answered yet again, “SHUT UP”
and stuck more tape
around my mouth and head,
and yet more tightly every time I spoke,
until what I said was inaudible anyway.

My October visitors eventually departed
with R16.67 each
and a third each of
a torch,
an old cheap watch,
a ripped off printer plug,
the padlock on my front door burglar guard gate - without the key
and two handfuls of worthless old coins
that my son had collected and treasured from childhood
and was keeping for his children
and hadn’t yet taken to his home.

They didn’t announce their departure formally.
How rude that was.
When I thought they had gone
I counted to 1000
(faster than I ever have)
and struggled to my feet.
You would be surprised
how difficult that is
in a confined corner at the end of a passage
with furniture and what appears to be all your household possessions
spilled around you.
I knocked over a broken kettle
they hadn’t taken
and hoped they really had gone and didn’t hear the crash.
I jumped down the passage.
I remember puffing
and struggling
to get my feet off the ground with each jump
and wondering if I would make it.
Old people can’t jump. That is why they can’t run.
I discovered that years ago
(though I can, and I don't know why) .

I remember trying to think clearly.
I jumped first to the back door then the front
and locked them both with difficulty
as only my fingertips stuck out of my bonds.
Then it was puff puff puff - no time to rest - back down the passage
where I set off the alarm
and hid in the passage far from the window.
When the alarm stopped I set it off again.
Then I wondered how my rescuers would know I was there.
So I opened the curtains that my visitors had closed.
I opened them just enough to jump into view of my rescuers.

When the first reached the window,
his name was the same as my son’s
- probably still is, why would he change it just because he has passed my window? -
I jumped into view
and then towards the front door
which again with difficulty I opened.
For the first time, I pulled down part of my gag
and said, “ND 252-655, gold Datsun Pulsar”.
He in turn, repeated my greeting, but not to me.
He said it into his radio,
and added my name,
as though I didn’t know it.

Then another rescuer
said my car was in my garage.
I probably didn’t look any different externally when he said that.
I wonder if they thought I looked different internally.

Cars and a motor bike,
security officers,
policemen and a policewoman
and the public
and did their bit and more
and eventually left.

And so began that Friday.
My October visitors gained little.
I gained a million ridiculous fears that I am teaching to develop into caution,
but the learning curve is slow,
but fortunately I will never be a palm tree, a building nor a racist.

(5 December 2000 - This is the first in a series of 3 poems. The other 2, in order, are 'My October Visitors' and 'Back to Normality'.)

Comments about That Friday (29 October 2000) by Diana van den Berg

  • (2/26/2009 12:17:00 PM)

    Riveting...totally and completely riveting. Into the very mind, heart and soul of the fears we single women, and many married ones as well, face at the thought of home invasions, of home VIOLATIONS, like this. Top Ten Reading for this one! ! (Report)Reply

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, February 26, 2009

Poem Edited: Thursday, February 26, 2009

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