“While there may not be a book in every one of us, there is so often a damned good short story” Jeffry Archer .
Sehonghong Health Care Centre was not close, but it was also the best health facility they had near to her home. Winter was coming and she wanted to get there earlier this year to get vitamins and cough syrup for her children. As well as her own medication. She woke up at three and lighted her candle. It had been a good month, she had been able to save up more money than usual. The woman she worked for in her town at the tourist centre had given her a raise. She had not expected it and had been surprised at the generosity. Now she had more maloti this month to get the medication she needed.
Her sister lived in Cape Town and she had been generous this month as well. She had sent her a thousand Rands to help cloth the kids for the winter. God was truly great! As she went to wash her face and wake the children, she smiled. Sometimes things worked out for the best. Today she would shop. She had not shopped for anything other than food for months. The children slept soundly in the corner of their two-roomed house. She did not want to wake them up. They looked so peaceful.
She shook them gently and whispered good morning. Her youngest daughter, always with a smile woke and looked up at her. She was a gentle child and always did as she was told. Thabe shook her eldest, she grumbled and complained as she woke up. She was leaving them with her neighbour today as she wanted to have the day to herself. The girls would only grumble at how far they would have to walk. It was ten kilometers to the town, sometimes one got a lift if you left early but more likely not.
The girls ate their breakfast silently and sleepily. Thabe could have left them alone at home but they were too young. Her eldest was only eight and her youngest three. A full day alone would be too much for them to handle. The ques at the health centre could be atrocious and sometimes take half a day, even when you arrived early. Doctors were not always available and nurses where in bad moods. The amount of people they had to cater for did not help their mood.
Thabe walked the children to Ma Abagail’s. She welcomed the children with a smile and told Thabe to take her time. Thabe took the list of things Ma Abagail wanted from town. She would use her own money to buy them, as a thank you. She started down the road and started coughing. The coughing racked her lungs and she had to stop and gather her breath for a while. She had TB. The drugs they had given her did not seem to be working and she wondered why. Her anti-retrovirals were also not working. Three months ago, when she had gone to the health centre, they had told her that she needed a second line treatment.
She had tried to understand what the doctor had said to her, but she had never been past grade seven to understand some of the terminologies. The drugs were not working that was all she knew. She had to go to Paray to get the new drugs that she needed. She did not know how she would do this. It was far away and she was lucky enough to get a day off today. She depended on Ma Abagail too much with the children. She was an old woman and sick herself. As she walked down the dusty road, she pulled her jersey closer to her. There were so many things that she had to think about. She was scared for her children; no father and their relatives had shunned them. Living with this disease did not make it any easier. She had contracted it from her husband, but she had no ill feelings towards him. He was a man and he strayed, it happened to so many women. She was just a face among millions.
She heard a truck coming along the dirt road. She moved back out of the way and held up her hand. “Mama sorry. I have no space for you today.”
“I can sit with goat’s baba I don’t mind. It is better than walking.”
“Are you sure? It is smelly back there and it looks like you are going to town?”
“Eh yes, but I don’t mind.”
“Ok come in then. But we are turning off a few kilometres from town.”
“At least it is something. I don’t mind.”
She climbed into the back of the truck. There were five goats packed in at the back and there was already excrement on the floors. It did not smell well. She took of her jersey and sat right in the corner. She should have brought her winter jacket. It was cold.
The truck racked on and moved slowly ahead, and she coughed as they hit some bumps. She really hoped they could help her with some medication this month. Her children had been spared the disease and if nothing else, that was a kind blessing. She was grateful for it. She thought about her sister. Apart from the money she had been sending, she had told her that she had a new man in her life and had a home and security she had always wanted. Thabe had been relieved and had told her about her status. Her sister had not been to Lesotho in years, so she would not have known what had happened. Maybe through relatives but those people gossiped about rubbish.
“Thabe! So that is how your husband had died? Why did you not tell me?”
“Well you know people had been saying that he was bewitched. You heard how it was in the end. He went a bit insane. At some point he ran stark naked in the village. People were not impressed.”
“Yes, I know sis, but you should have told me.”
“But how could I begin. It is not something you tell everyone.”
“I am your only sister. And you know nana all our brothers died of it.”
“Yes and look how the community treated them. Anyway, I did not want to add to your troubles. I know you work very hard there.”
“Always the modest one eh. Are you on treatment?”
“Not yet sis. The healthcare is far away and my job.”
“Your job will understand. You have to get treatment. People live a long time with this disease now and you can see your girls grow up.”
That was a year ago, she had taken her sisters advice and began treatment. But sometimes Thabe thought that it was too late. She was always sick. She was happy that her sister was settled. If things got worse they could always go to her. The truck stopped and she climbed out.
“Ok mama. Have fun in town.”
She gave them a weak smile. But yes, today she would have fun. Be carefree and not think about her problems. She put her jersey on and started up the dirt path.
Abigail opened the front door and stood in her doorway. The house was dark, and she turned to her left to switch on the passage light. Light flooded the passage, but it was not welcoming, instead she could see the dust that had covered the table where she put her keys and the small bookshelf. The house was dusty everywhere. She had not cleaned or moved anything in the house for weeks. She walked to the table and put her keys in the bowl. She closed the front door and double locked it. She walked to the door that lead into the lounge. It was pitch dark in there and she again turned to her left and put the lights on there. Her eyes went straight to the chair. It sat in the corner of the room at an angle, so you could see the television from there.
The chair seemed to take up all the space. It was not a big chair and it was really nothing to look at, it had floral patterns on it and the cushion was squashed in a manner that suggested that someone had been sitting in it for a long time. She hated the way it sat there invitingly waiting for someone to sit on it. she hated that like herself, it was waiting for her husband to come back home. He had loved the chair and had had it since he had been a young man. He had sat in it while watching television, while eating sometimes and all those long nights patting the children’s back as he put them to sleep. He would sit with their children on that chair and read them stories at night. He would sit in while watching sports or while he had a something serious to say. Of course, the children were gone now and all she thought she had left was that chair and the memories it kept.
Abigail walked to the chair and sat down in it. She had not done this in a long time, sit on that chair. Whenever her husband was not around she would curl up and read in the chair, always with her feet tucked under her and a cup of tea sitting close by to the chairs handmaiden, the little table on the right. She sat down and sank deep in the chair. She tucked her feet underneath her and her toes found the spot, it was a small rip on the inside of the chair. She closed her eyes and clenched her jaw. Tears started forming in her eyes and all she wanted to do was cry. But she knew if she did that she would never stop. So, she swallowed her hurt but her jaw remained clenched.
With her eyes closed, she thought back to that day. The day she had started hating the chair. She had been out shopping and she came home and found her husband as usual, sitting in the chair. What day was that? Oh yes, a Saturday. She always shopped early on a Saturday. As she had passed the living room door to head to the kitchen at the back of the house, she had greeted him, and he had looked up from his paper and smiled at her. She blew him a kiss and continued to the kitchen. She had put the kettle on to boil and she was going to make some bacon and eggs. She had prepared a tray with their breakfast and coffee. They would sit and eat breakfast in the lounge as they did most Saturdays. She had sang as she worked setting up the breakfast. She looked forward to the day and later they would go for a long walk. Saturdays in their home, was a time of rest and general lying around. Ever since their children had left, they never bothered so much with the dinning room, unless they had visitors.
She had gotten their tray and smiling, she walked to the lounge. “breakfast is early today my love”, she had said. she had been balancing the tray on one hand so that she could be able to put it down on the table as she moved a few books. He was quiet. She looked towards the chair. Slowly, she lay the tray on the table and she had had a shiver. The room had turned ice cold and her heart was pounding and she felt as though she could not breathe. He looked so peaceful sitting there on the chair. His eyes were closed, and his face did not show any signs of pain. The only tell-tale sign was the way his hands slumped to his sides and the newspaper lay scattered on the floor. She knew then that he had died.
The shock of it sent her to the floor and she kneeled on the carpet looking up at him, her heart felt ripped out and her strength had all but left her. Why hadn’t he made a noise, why hadn’t he called out to her. It seemed like he had just slipped away. He had slipped away from her as she had made breakfast. Of all the things.
Later when they came to take him away, they said it had been a heart attack and he most likely had not suffered much.
She opened her eyes and looked at the table in front of her. She put her head down and smelt his him, sometimes, she thought he haunted this house. She felt as though he stull sat there day and night. She thought this because she could still smell him.
She lay her head on the arm rest. They say people could never really die of a broken heart. But as she sat there she knew it was not true. People could die of a broken heart all right and hers was dying. He had been everything to her and they had done everything together and now all she had was this chair. She closed her eyes and went to sleep.
when her daughter found her two days later because she had not been answering the phone, she was still in that same position. Legs tucked in, head on the arm rest and she looked like she had just fallen asleep.
The children sold the house and as they were going through the furniture in the house, Abigail’s daughter said of the chair “its old and it smells, I don’t know why mum and dad kept it all these years. And to have them both die in it. Well that’s just plain creepy. We should just burn it.” The children burned the chair.
We have a new tenant in our servant’s quarters, the Chansa’s. They have two children, a boy and a girl twins. The servant’s quarters has not been lived in since we arrived at this house two years ago. So the day before they moved in we had to do some serious cleaning. The servant’s quarters has two rooms. One used as a bedroom and another as a dining room/kitchen/sitting room. The shower and the toilets are outside. The toilet is not really a toilet but it is rather a hole in the ground and you have to be careful when you are showering not to fall into the hole. My father had tried to fix the shower head but the pipes are jammed and no water comes out. They use a bucket to bathe now.
The Chansa’s are nice, but they do not let their children play with us. Their father, when he is at home spends his time in their little yard by the house reading bible stories to his children. Even though they live at the servant’s quarters, they are always clean and we look like street children next to them. We are not allowed by my father to play near their house and he says to leave them in peace.
My father met the Chansa’s at the new church we now go to.my father and mother leave before us too. I walk there with a few kids from my neighbourhood. It is not a church built from bricks but it is tent. It is across the great north road in a shanty about a fifteen minute walk from our house. The Chansa’s are deacons in the church and always at church most evenings and they leave early every morning on Sundays to get there before the congregation arrives. So we never go with them and their children.
The church tent is very hot and humid. Even early on Sunday mornings. We usually arrive a bit late, but I don’t mind. The singing starts early and last for more than an hour and people scream and shout and praise God. Everyone wants to be seen there and some people are so zealous they walk around the pews touching other people speaking in tongues and gesturing wildly. I usually sing along, obviously but I have never felt the spirit like the others and I have never spoken in tongues. I have always been a sceptical child. When people hear a favourite hymn, some dance around and dust gathers in the tent and it goes in your eyes.
After the singing and shouting, we all sit down to hear the word. There are a few pastors there and for everyone’s benefit, they preach in English. This is so that they do not have to translate the sermon into several languages. The preaching usually lasts up to two hours. It gets hotter and hotter as the morning goes by. Sometimes I listen to the sermon and sometimes I just watch people’s faces and their reactions to the message. There are always some who stand up and shout “halleluiah, yes Jesus!”.
After the sermon we usually have to stand and all the people who are sick, lame or have demons are ordered to go to the front. We sit and the preaching resumes as people are prayed for and demons cast out. Usually at this time the children are allowed to go outside and play and wait for their parents. My parents never stay too long after this and leave after the sermon. They insist we stay. I don’t know why, because we could just then walk with them. We get very hungry. That is the one thing I cannot stand, it’s the dust, the heat and hunger.
One particular Sunday, we were walking home from the tent church, when the Chansa’s children joined us. They never joined us. And they told us that their parents were on an important mission that Sunday and they should go home with us. We started walking home. Now the walk home is alright because we know that there will be ubwali and chicken waiting for us. With our stomachs grumbling, it is a great treat. But before we have to cross the great north road to get to our side of the neighbourhood, we have to pass this one house. They have two of the most vicious dogs you have ever seen. Usually the dogs just bark from the gate and don not chase us. But we saw that this time, the owner must have forgotten to close the gate. We could not hear any barks and we crept by slowly trying not to wake the dogs in case they were sleeping. We managed to pass by the gate. But as soon as we reached the corner we heard barks. “run!” someone shouted. And we did. It’s a good few hundred meters to the main road from there and we ran with everything we had. But the road was coming up and we would have to stop. Luckily we heard a whistle and the dogs retreated. We were getting tired of running, and vowed to find another route to get home. We were five kids in total.
As we crossed the big road safely, the Chansa’s girl said, “me and my brother can show you how to pray so that those dogs never chase you again. You guys probably have demons in you and they smell it.”
I laughed and looked around at the others. They were not laughing.
“Really?” Dala said.
“Sure why don’t you guys come to our house now and we can pray. Our father and mother are prayer warriors and they have shown us how to do it.”
It seemed that some of my friends had forgotten how hungry we were and all readily agreed to go to the Chansa’s and engage in this prayer. I was sceptical and worried that a bunch of kids were going to cast out demons. I followed everyone anyway.
We got through to our back yard and my mother and aunt were busy plucking some chickens. They saw us and just waved. We walked waved and walked through to the Chansa’s place and the girl showed us in.
In their main room, there were two chairs and in the corner of the room there was a table. It had the cross on it with Jesus and there were candles all wound it. Those candles looked very used. The only light in the room was the naked lightbulb hanging close above our heads. There was no window in this room and it gave it an eerie sort of feel.
“Ok everyone we will hold hands and stand in a circle. If you feel the spirit compels you, you can speak in tongues.” The girl said.
So we started praying. Each saying their own things. I kept my eyes opened and I saw that everyone was really into it. A few kids had started speaking in tongues and soon everyone was. I tried to but all that came out was gibberish. I grew more sceptical. Suddenly I caught the eye of the girl, she was staring at me. She smiled and walked towards me and she shouted,
“Come out demon, come out!”
She lay her hands on my head. Her hands were clammy and hot.
“she has the demon!” she said
All the kids came up to me and some were shaking and going on. I don’t know if it was the heat combined with the hunger, but I started swaying and my feet felt light as though they were just touching the ground. I fell to the ground and I must have blacked out.
“Are you ok?” it was Dala. He had his face right down next to mine and was checking if I was breathing.
“I am fine. what happened?”
“The demon you had in you has left you. You are free now.” the girl said. Everyone clapped and cheered and they got me up. I was confused and I could not tell you to this day if they had been right or not. The girl placed a hand on my chest and said something under her breath. She opened her eyes and smiled at me. She had a wild look about her and I moved her hand away.
“Our parents will be back soon. You have to leave now.” she said.
We left, each kid went to their own house. I walked towards my mother and aunt who were now frying the chicken at the mbaula’s.
She woke up just as the alarm went off. As she opened her eyes she reached out to get her phone and switch the alarm off. She always battelled to get up. She looked at the time and let out a huge sigh.
It is not that Rosalinda was unhappy with her life. But it was with much contention that she realised that the time had come when she was past the time in her life when she could be something new. Get a new career or study to be a veterinarian like she always wanted.
Ever since she was a child growing up in the Free State, she had loved animals. Her father had raised cattle and farmed. Rosalinda was able to see first hand how cattle bore their young and she was there when animals died. None of it had bothered her, life and death meant the same thing. It was a time to celebrate as some things begin and some end. As Rosalinda grew older her father had seen her potential to care for animals and he had let her deal with ailments and general care around the farm. It had been a great time for her. However, Rosalinda was not a gifted child or even average in class. She did badly at every subject. It was not until much later that they discovered that she was dyslexic amongst other things. She had managed to go through school on the bare minimal. When she matriculated, her marks were not good enough for her to go and study further.
Her father did not agree with the school system at all, he thought his only child had been cheated. He had raised her himself, her mother had died shortly after child birth. He thought Rosalinda to be bright and intuitive child. She was able to identify plant species anywhere in the bush when he would let her go hunting or fishing with him. Although he was angry that Rosalinda would not be able to be a Veterinarian like she wanted, if he was being honest with himself, he knew that she had never been able to read well, spell or do maths. He had never been discouraged by this when she was a child but as she grew older he was content that she managed to pass a grade. He had told her all of this when he had been on his death bed, lung cancer and he had never smoked a day in his life.
She turned over in her bed and stared at the empty space besides her. Her husband was already up. She would start the day with a hearty breakfast and she would call her husband to join her. She was a woman with a huge appetite, especially in the mornings. She always had to have a good fried eggs, fried potatoes nests and bacon sausages. Maybe she would eat a fruit every now and then. She was not worried about her figure anymore. She thought herself lucky that she was able to at least stay the same size for over ten years. If it aint broke why fix it, she would tell herself.
She went into the kitchen and got pans out on the ready. As she made the breakfast, she stared out of the window every now and then, she noticed just how isolated she was and she wished they would get better security. Not only was it not safe but their animals could get out of their enclosures and cause them serious harm. They had been at this farm now for ten years. They raised and rescued cheetahs. So she was able to work with animals like she always wanted. Except her husband never really let her do much work with the animals. He thought she was not smart enough to handle as he put it ‘complicated stuff’. He had always treated her with contempt and had once told her that he had only married her for her father’s farm. That was when they had lived at her father’s farm.
She had met him at a braai a few months before they had gotten married. She had been swept away with the attention he had given her. He had brought her to meet his friends after their third date and he had gushed about how he had found the best boer woman in the Free State. She had been impressed at the kind of attention he got from everyone and had agreed to marry him straight away.
The marriage, a disaster, and yet he had never divorced her. Even after they lost the farm. They had settled into a quiet rhythm and somehow managed never to be in the same room at the same time except when she cooked. He seemed to enjoy her cooking.
When she had set the table, she called him in. He washed his hands and sat down to eat. They ate in silence. When he was done he looked up at her.
“Don’t forget. A few people are coming for the cheetah tour today. You are doing the presentation. Do not mess it up. It is a big group and we are getting a lot of money for it.” And he left.
She looked down at her food and scratched her varicose veined legs. She continued eating and thought about how she was going to survive this day.
My weave has turned into a beehive and I know Alude is not going to be happy with me. I have been putting off going for a retouch for days. I am excited as I drive to the hair salon, I need my scalp to breathe again. I pat my hair in several places, weaves get so itchy. I have been using a knitting needle to get to my scalp and scratch.
The salon I go to is your typical black hair salon. It has the smell of burnt hair, which you wonder if it will survive being cremated like that. It has the little girls who’s hair is being pulled so tight and she looks as if she would cry any minute. It has your Nigerian guy who cuts hair fall day long. This guy will usually play the most outrageous tunes you have heard of, and usually only he understands the lyrics. There is also the one hair dresser who sits and gossips but never seems to have any clients. And then there is the nail lady, applying so much nail glue your need pliars to pry them apart.
I usually do not do weaves, but I was somehow talked in to it by my hair dresser Alude. “It will look nice and you won’t have to worry about combing and blow-drying”, I agreed and we settled on a style that would suite me. Alude is young and judging by the accent and language I would say she is from Zimbabwe. She has a great touch and is at times overly friendly. One would not mind this so much, she is nice. But I have awkward moments when I have to speak with people. But she seems to understand this, and she does my hair in silence so I do not feel I have to engage.
I walk into the salon and I am greeted with a waft of hair products. The television is off today. Sometimes it is on and they will usually put on MTV base, today there is only the sound of Nigerian music coming from the barbers corner.
All the women greet me in unison and I walk straight to Alude. She is eating Russian sausage. She wipes her hands and gets up to greet me. I wonder if she will wash them before getting to work on my hair.
“Long time. come and sit down.” It has only been two weeks since I last came. But I am used to it, the women always say that to everyone, “long time” ,whenever you come back. Even if it has only been a few days.
I sit down in the swivel chair and explain what I want done. I look at myself in the mirrors ahead of me. The whole salon is adorned with mirrors all across the room. Its hard to run away from your reflection here. Last time I was here. I looked like a real mess. No foundation and my hair was uncombed. The reflection I got from them was not pretty.
“I am going to wash your hair and then put you under the dryer ok” she puts a towel around my shoulders. I notice she did not wash her hands after eating. And I also wonder about the towel. I always wonder about the towel, how many shoulders does it drape before being washed. I put the thought from my mind and concentrate on my reflection. My weave is a mess and Alude holds it up from the back for me to see.
“You have not combed the back in a while have you? Its ok most people have clumps at the back. Come on lets go and wash.”
We walk over to the washing station. It is at the back of the room and there are two sinks. I sit down and try and make myself comfortable. It is always tricky because the chairs are way too low and you have to sort of cock your head backwards in a weird angle. This is important or else the water goes down your back and you get wet. I find a position and enjoy having my hair washed.
“It is very tangled. But don’t worry I will have it looking smooth again”, I smile and hope so. This hair cost me a pretty penny and I have not exactly been taking care of it well. We finish up and I am directed to the hair dryer. The hair dryer is by the hair washing station. So close in fact I will be able to watch people coming through to wash their hair.
The dryer goes on and I settle into a comfortable position. To dry this hair, it will take a while. I look around the salon. There are only two hair dressers who are busy. One lady is dressed in jeans and really high heels. Red heels. I have not seen her before, she must be new. Her shirt is tight over her midriff and I am not really sure how she got those pants on. She is busy curling someone’s weave. Every now and then she does a dance to the music. She is quite impressive actually. She starts speaking to the hair dresser next to her.
“Eh, you know I do not feel so great today. I had Amarula last night.” She does not look like a person who is hangover. But then again, she has a thick layer of foundation on, her eyebrows looked tattooed on and are massive. She has red lipstick and blush. She does another foot step dance and laughs, her red heels clicking. The others laugh with her and all offer an opinion on the dangers of drinking amarula.
It is still early so most of the hairdressers have no clients. Every time someone paces by the salon, one of them shouts out, “come! come in! we will make you beautiful.” They all say it just like that, as if it’s the slogan they were taught by the owner to use. No one steps at present steps in, they just stare and walk by. Two hairdressers start conversing.
“You, you said you would do my hair. I do your hair always and you won’t do mine. That is not fare.”
“I told you I had a client and I could not leave them to help you.”
“That’s what you always say. You and your clients. You must do the favour back. I did your hair. Look at my hair now. I have nothing in it. It is dry and breaking.”
“I can’t do your hair now. maybe another time. I have a client..”
“Again about clients.” She turns to red heels and utters something to her I cannot hear. She looks very angry. She looks like the kind of woman you would not dare to cross. But the other woman just takes out her phone and takes a call. She walks out of the salon. The scary woman clicks her tongue several times and puts up her feet. She remains quiet looking sullen and patting her hair.
By this time a few people have walked in. I listen and notice they each wanted different things. Phones were taken out to show the hairdressers what they wanted. The woman closest to me wants braids and have them placed on top of her head in a swirl like manner. Her hairdressers walks to another to ask how this can be done. Most of the other women seem to want weaves. There is a flurry of activity and the women get to work. It is almost lunch time though. A few of the women get up to go and buy lunch, including red heels. She walks out dancing again. Heels clicking again.
I have been in the dryer for a while now and I am beginning to get impatient.
Red heels returns with a few other women with their food. Without even considering hair flying around, some of them settle down to eat. Through the mirrors I can see some exasperated faces. You always just want your hairdresser to get on with it and not stop. It already takes too long. The smell of fish, chips and chicken overtakes the salon.
I am starting to get a cramp in my neck from holding my head up to the dryer. I shift around. Alude comes to check on my hair and declares it still wet. A few more minutes she says. I return to staring at people. The lunch smells are making me hungry. Lunch is eaten quickly and boxes thrown out. Conversation and work begins again. Some of the women are conversing so quietly I cannot really follow what they are saying, some converse in Chichewa and Shona. I close my eyes for a bit. It would be so nice to have a nap. But I might slide out of the dryer. I continue watching.
The Nigerian barbers are the busiest, they just cut hair one after the other. They have also changed the music. They are now playing UB40, and I hear one of them signing along to Kingston Town. I love that song. The mood is light and everyone is busy.
Finally I am done and we walk to Alude’s station and she begins her untangling mission. She blow dry’s my hair and stiches back any loose hair. I close my eyes and enjoy the music.
“There your hair can breathe now. You are done my dear.” She says dear as though she was speaking to a little girl. She combs it and I look. It is great she always does a great job. I pay her. Look around the salon and wave at the ladies. Until the next time.
It is not as bad as everyone says it is really. I rehearsed that phrase for at least ten times. That was what I was going to say to my family this afternoon when they came to visit me. I lit my fourth cigarette. It is so weird that when certain things are taken away from you and all you have is smoking, you do it a lot. And I mean a lot. Smoking is the only thing that keeps the time moving, a welcome distraction. It also helps with the nerves of being in this place. I do not know when was the last time that I was calm enough to breathe properly. With smoking, it slows you down a bit and you breathe normally for a while. That’s my reason anyway and I guess I am sticking to it.
I am not alone in the courtyard. No one is ever alone here. There is a girl in the corner and she seems to be reading something. I have never introduced myself to her so I do not know her name. She is so thin I can see her ribs sticking out from the heavy coat that she is wearing. Well she is always wearing that thing. She must be cold all the time. She is the worst to watch when we eat. I sat down opposite her once and I could not help watching how she ate. She sliced the egg into such a tiny piece I thought it was a mistake. But she put it in her mouth anyways. But the way she put it in her mouth was strange. She seemed to lay it on her tongue and tried not to have it touch her lips. She then closed her eyes and began to chew. Her eyelids were moving as if she was really trying to concentrate. She could have been counting. I tried to eat but she kept doing the same thing. By the time I was done, she had managed to eat a mouthful for a normal person. She had then left the table. I have never sat down next to her again, it is frustrating. I am sure she has her reasons but I do not need to watch her do that.
“Hey, can I have a skafe?”
“Hey man. Who calls it a skafe anymore.”
I turned to look at skip. Skip has been here longer than I have. He is tall and always wears the same sweatshirt. I always wonder if it ever goes in the wash. He was just wearing it this morning when we were doing exercises. I do not know why they call him skip. I have never asked and he has never volunteered to tell me. Skip is one of the few people here that I can have a smoke with, without losing my mind. Most of the time when they put him on new medication, he seems to bounce off the walls. But It usually only lasts for a few days. And then he is back to his normal state of stooping and skulking when he walks. This has happened a few times that I have been here. His mood swings. I heard some girls gossiping about him in the Television room. Apparently he is a special case, he does not respond to medication for too long. It works for a while and then the shrinks are back on the drawing board. I would not have believed the gossip, but I have seen him change, it is very sad to watch sometimes.
Skip is a good guy though and he has an amazing ability to pick up on people’s moods. When I do not feel like talking, he does not talk either. When I am chatty, he responds.
“Ah well you know me.”
“yeah. Born too late.”
I handed him a cigarette. And I had one question to ask him.
“skip. How long have you been here?”
“what? Are you serious?”
I looked at him for a moment and he looked back at me and just shrugged.
“That is a long time skip. Don’t you want to go home?”
“Sure I do. But I have to stay here until they can sort me out.”
“Like a suicide watch?”
“Something like that.”
“That’s heavy man. I had no idea.”
He looked down at his shoes as he smoked. I was leaving in a few months and that was hard enough, but two years was a long time. He must have been through a few groups of nut cases in this place. He must have seen it all.
The cigarette I was smoking suddenly made me feel weak and nauseous. I had to go and get ready for my families visit.
“Have to go skip. See you later? I might be getting more smokes later.”
I walked away laughing.
To get to our rooms from the smoker’s yard, one must go through the dining area. I walked past the table for tea and grabbed an apple. That’s the other thing. When I am not smoking, I am eating a lot. I am sure I have gained shit loads. Anyways that’s the least of my worries. I walked through the dining area and started climbing the stairs to get to the third floor. There was a lift but I am very sceptical of them. I always imagine being trapped in there. Suffocating! Stairs where ok, the exercise was good. I rounded up to the second floor when I met Mildred. Mildred lives on the second floor. The second floor is reserved for manics. Mildred is not just manic, she is all sorts of things in my opinion. I have seen her walking the hall ways naked. She talks a lot too. All night long sometimes you can hear her muttering and pacing the walls, until one of the nurses gets fed up probably and gives her a shot. She always screams and then you hear silence. The walls are very thin in this place.
“I saw him today.” She grabbed my hand. She had a tight grip.
“Finally, you saw him. Good for you Mildred. I am sure he was happy to see you”
“Yes very. Look you must come tonight. He will be back.” She looked around.
Sarcasm was completely lost on this girl. I yanked my hand away and she grabbed it again.
“They don’t want me to see him you know.”
“Mildred!” One of the nurses was coming down the flight of stairs. Mildred looked up at her and ran away.
“Are you ok dear?”
“I am fine she didn’t hurt me. Excuse me.”
I walked around her and bounded up the last flight of stairs. I walked past the television room and headed for the nurse’s station. I was hoping they could give me something to calm my nerves. My family was coming and I was getting nervous.
“Hi sis Doreen. It is almost my medication time and you know my family is coming right? Can I have it early today?”
Once you have been here for a while, you start appreciating medication time. They dose us up pretty good in here. The afternoon medication is the best. You can just sit in the television room and be a bit mindless for a few.
“Sweetie, it is your lucky day. Since this is your first family visit. I will help you out my lovey.”
“ooooh thank you.”
She went to the back room to get my medication. This visit was not going to be so bad after all. I took the pills and swallowed gratefully. I went to my room and put the shower on. As it steamed up. I undressed. As I lifted my shirt I was shocked to find I had no hair. I looked in the mirror. Yep I was bold, freshly shaved this morning. The medication works quickly. I smiled and thought yeah! It is not that bad here.
It is the school holidays. I have just written my entrance exams to go to grade eight. It takes months for the papers to be marked and allocations made for a new secondary school. The exam had not been that hard and I knew I was going to do well. But knowing that you had done well was not the same thing as getting the marks you wanted. so, I was as nervous as every other kid waiting for these results.
I had imagined that I would spend the next few months at home. Playing rounders, learning to ride that bike from next door and going for excursions in the National Resources Development College, which we called the NRDC. The NRDC, had a huge field and it bordered our back yard. On weekends, we spend a lot of time exploring the vast bush, sometimes if you are lucky you can find a nice cool stream that has not dried up yet. That’s how I planned on spending my holidays. Playing and exploring.
However, my father told me last night that he must go away for business and that means I must go away too. He is sending me to go and live with Brenda. Brenda is dad’s new girlfriend, she has visited us several times, but I have never been to her house. I wondered why I could not go and stay with my mother instead. But my father insists on Brenda. Well I do not mind so much; a change of scenery would not be so bad. She seems nice Brenda.
I packed my bags last night and I am now waiting for my father to take me to Brenda’s. She lives in a block of flats in the outskirts of town. In the car, we do not speak much. But he does remind me to mind Brenda and do what she tells me. When we arrive at the complex, Brenda is waiting for us at her door. She is all smiles and gives me a welcome hug.
Brenda is a beautiful woman. She is light skinned and has long black braids. She is slender and petite. we are the same height. She is wearing a yellow dress and has bright red lipstick on today. She looks very beautiful. She is very glamourous and I cannot wait to check out her wardrobe and maybe she would lend me some clothes we are the same size I would imagine.
My father talks to her in the living room. She has three single seaters and they have blue chair clothes. The curtains are also blue. The living room is much smaller than ours but it is adorned better. Brenda shows me the room I will be sleeping in. it’s a small room and there are two mattresses on the floor. There is a single cupboard in the corner and the walls are bare. I wondered whom I would be spending my nights with. I wish there was a bed, but I suppose I could not ask for that.
I put my bag down on the floor and sit on the mattress. I look around the room and I suddenly feel very home sick. I wish I could go and stay with my mother at least. I try to hold back tears and not cry. I sit there for what seems like an hour until my father calls me in the living room to say goodbye.
“Mind Brenda. You will stay here for a month and I will call you some time to see how you are getting on.”
He does not hug me or anything. We do not hug. He just taps me on the shoulder and gives it a squeeze. He smiles at me and Brenda and then leaves. I stand there waiting and all I want to do is run to him and say, “come back, I do not want to stay here.” I say nothing and hold back tears.
“Come on princess. You are not going to cry, are you?” she laughs loudly and I can see some rotten teeth at the back of her mouth.
“We are going to have a great time Ka? You can help me with the restaurant and getting ready. Speaking of getting ready, we must start preparing the dishes for tonight’s meal. Ifimbombo.”
“Yes Ba Brenda. What do you want me to do?”
“I am glad you asked. Now every morning I need you to wash the dishes and clean the house. I also need you to bring me plates you have washed to the restaurant. Marjorie will show you what to do. It is not far just a few minutes from here, oh! and you have to pick up my daughter from school. I will show you the way this afternoon and then you can do it on your own.” As she said all this, she led me into the kitchen and I was shocked.
There were plates to wash all right. But it was not just a few supper dishes. It was piles and piles of dirty dishes all over the kitchen floor and huge pots with congealed fat and oil in them.
“Yes, I know it looks like a lot but you are a strong girl and you will have the whole morning to do this. Take your time. My sister Marjorie cannot help you because she is needed at the restaurant. But she will come with you to bring all these dishes through to me in the late afternoon.”
I had no idea Brenda had a sister or a daughter for that matter. I had never met any of them. But that was not the worry on my mind, it was this pile of dishes. I could not believe that I would be spending my mornings scrubbing and washing. I thought about all my friends at home and how much fun they would be having. This time tears really started falling.
“Hey! look you cannot start crying on me. Your father said you will be a great help and I need an extra pair of hands. I am a busy woman and I do not have time to babysit you. Do you understand me? Look at me and wipe those tears. For heaven’s sake, you would think that this was prison or something. Get to work, I do not have all day.”
I wiped my tears and felt a huge lump in my throat.
“let me go and change so I can get to work.”
I went into the dingy bedroom and changed into a chitenge and loose t-shirt. I was upset and sad but I realised that there was nothing I could do. There was a knock on the door, I came out of the bedroom and went to answer the door. Brenda was rushing to open up.
“Where are you going? Look at you? I do not want my visitors seeing you like that. Go to the kitchen and start.”
I walked in the kitchen and I could not imagine where I was going to start. The pile seemed bigger every time I looked at it. I started on pots first.
Later that evening, Brenda’s daughter Kembo, had gone to the restaurant and I was waiting for her sister Marjorie to arrive so that we could transport the dishes. She arrived all bubbly and welcoming.
“Hi” I said.
“Hi. Welcome. You must be the one Brenda calls princess. Good to have you here, I mean that. Are you done? We need to get going. Brenda is in a bad mood and we need to get these plates there in time.”
“Yes I am done.”
“Ok grab whatever you can, we have a car waiting outside.”
We loaded all the dishes in the Toyota corolla which was being driven by a man who had blood shot eyes and smelled of beer.
“Did it take you long to wash everything? It always takes me long.”
“Yes all morning, do you have to do this every day?”
“Yes we do. You should see the dishes on Sunday morning. You can cry. But with your dad and Brenda, maybe she will give it up when they are married”
“Why does she not have servants to do this for her at the restaurant.”
“She does not have money to waste she says.” She laughed “and dear it is not a restaurant, it is a shebeen. We just sell ifimbobo to the drinking customers.”
The car arrived at a house. It had a big yard front yard filled with tables. There were men sitting down drinking. Some tables had women, and they all looked like Brenda, dressed to the nines and wearing bright lipstick. There was a lot of talking and laughing going on. Loud music came from somewhere inside the house. Margorie touched my shoulder and said loudly in my ear, “you will get used to this. You have never been to a shabeen have you princess?”
“No” was all I could say. I closed my mouth and we made our way inside. It was dingy and dark and it took me a while to adjust to the light. There were more men inside drinking and smoking. A cloud of smoke seemed to hoover just above the ceiling. It was louder inside and I just wanted to get out of there. In a corner, was a radio playing rumba. A few people were dancing. I spotted Brenda in the far corner. She was seated on a man’s lap and was laughing. She bent down and whispered something to the man’s ears as she looked up at me. She gave me a strange smile, got up and walked towards us.
“Good you are here. What took you so long? People are starving and we need to set up. Margorie how did you let this girl come here looking like this? People will talk. Get the plates in, find my daughter and go home.”
I was relieved that I did not have to stay. The smoke made my eyes water as we walked to and from the kitchen. When I had got everything in Marjorie said, “You are lucky that you do not have to stay here all night believe me. You are too young and things can get rowdy in here.” She gave me a smile. I believed her.
“You did good. Now find kembo and take her home. You know how to get back don’t you? Otherwise kembo will show you. Go and get some rest. You will need it.”
I walked out into the yard and looked for kembo. Brenda was gliding around outside speaking to her customers. I found kembo playing with a doll close to the fence in the yard.
“kembo let us go. Your aunt says you need to go home.”
“Oh, but it is so lively here. Please let’s stay for a little while”
“Kembo. Go home. Now!” Brenda shouted from behind her.
We set off home and Kembo had to show me the way. I was tired and wanted to just pass out. This was going to be a long month for me. I wondered if my father had known how I would be spending my holiday. But I instinctively knew that to survive here, I would have to keep my mouth shut and do what I was told. At least Marjorie was nice.
Isaac looked at his brother. He did not believe that they should be doing this. If it came down to it, Isaac did not want to fight, the shop was not worth it. He did not think so. He thought about how they had come to this point and he wondered why things had gone so wrong. He closed his eyes for a moment and he thought about home.
Their village stood in the north, it was green and fertile. There was stream close by were people fetched their water sometimes, when the village water pump was not working. They had swam there and spent weekends talking to the girls and catching fish. Their grandmother had raised them. She had been a strict woman and had taught them the value of hard work. Isaac had enjoyed his life in the village. He had the job of looking after the goats after school. School was important to their grandmother. She had been so happy and proud when they were accepted to go to secondary school. Isaac had enjoyed looking after the goats and doing his homework in the fields.
It was just the three of them, his brother David and their young sister Precious. Precious was still in primary school and she seemed content with the life that they had. She helped her grandmother in the kitchen after school and sometimes in the late afternoons she would join Isaac in the fields and they would talk about their day. Isaac had been happy and content with the village life.
David, was a restless person. He was not content with their life and he was always dreaming about leaving the village and going to start a business in town if they could. He wanted money and he wanted to be successful. One day after school, David had come up to Isaac to discuss his new plan.
“Man, we can go to South Africa and start a business. Do you remember that man who came by the village last week?”
“Yes, I remember. What about him David?” He wondered where this was going.
“Well he lives in South Africa and he said he has a shop there and he does very well. He has a house now and he even owns two cars. Can you believe it man. We could go over there and start something. Think about it, we could get really wealthy and bring Precious over.”
“We cannot leave grandma and go to a whole different country David. You are talking crazy.”
“It is not crazy talk. I had a real conversation with him and he told me all about it. South Africa has opportunities we want. We cannot live in this village forever man. There is nothing to do here Isaac. He told me how we can do it. We can start working on getting there. We could even go to university there once we have made enough money. It’s a good plan.”
“We don’t know anyone in South Africa David.”
“Yes we do. remember cousin Francis, from mother’s side? She lives in Mpondwe. Grandmother told me about her. I am going into town tomorrow and I am going to call her and find out what we can do to get there. Man I am telling you this is our ticket out of this place.”
“I like this place. I like the village David. You know that. And I do not want to leave grandma here all alone. She has been taking care of us for years.”
“You want to stay here? There is a whole world out there. Things to see and money to be made. Come on Isaac what can we do here? What do you want to do? farm?” he laughed. “Man, you need to start thinking ahead.”
Isaac had been quiet after that. He had looked over the fields and hills and he could not imagine leaving this life behind to go to some big city. It might not be much here, but it was where he wanted to be.
Two years later, David, who had been working odd jobs in town, finally made enough for them to leave and go to Mpondwe. It had been hard for Isaac to say goodbye to the village. Their grandmother, always thinking about what David wanted, had finally consented for them to go. She believed David had great ideas and she thought he was smart and could make a fortune for them. Even though Isaac had protested, David had finally convinced him to join him in Mpondwe. Their cousin Francis had agreed to let them stay with her until they could find their feet. As they had left the village, Isaac had tried not to cry at the sight of his sister and grandmother waving at them from the bus station.
Mpondwe had been different. It was a much bigger place than the village. There was television and radio and you could buy any type of food that you wanted at any time.
They had settled in and David had immediately set them up to do odd jobs and they started saving up money. Isaac followed him wherever he went and tried to be as excited as he was about their new life. All Isaac wanted to do was sit in the fields with his goats and read. But he had to trust David and he knew that this was the right thing to do. Secretly he dreamed of making enough money to go back and start a farm of his own. He would have livestock and farm vegetables. He would build a house, a brick one and have television and electricity.
Eventually they could buy a store and start selling groceries. The store was everything they had and most of their savings were tied up in the store. Talk of university had evaporated, they could not afford it and Isaac was not sorry. He still dreamed of his village life. They made money and were able to start sending some back home for their sister’s education. She was now in secondary school and she was doing well. David wanted to save enough for her to come and join them, with their grandmother. But their grandmother had told them that she was born in that village and she would die there. She had no intention of moving.
Things had been going well until recently. Conflict between foreigners and locals had become heated. A young girl was found dead in a foreigner’s store and it was believed that she had been murdered by the shop owner. He had protested but it had sparked tension that were already there. Foreign owned shops were looted and set alight. The townships became a dangerous place for foreigners. Locals believed that foreigners were taking over their job enterprises and that they were all drug dealers. Tensions escalated. For a week, all that the news had on was the violence spreading to other townships. People were leaving their homes and abandoning their businesses. People were displaced and some had to seek refuge in churches and charity organisations. It was a dangerous and stressful week.
David and Isaac followed the news and prayed that the violence would not reach their town. One evening they were at home watching the news in their flat, when David got a call. It was their aunt and she was calling to inform them that shops were being looted in Mpondwe. The unrest had reached their town.
“Come on Isaac we are going to the shop.” Isaac was afraid.
“What, now? do you not understand how dangerous it is out there? The shop is the last place we should go David.”
“Man, you cannot be serious. We have everything tied up in that shop. We cannot just let a group of vagrants steal everything we have worked hard for. We have not done anything wrong Isaac.”
“I know that. But it is dangerous. You saw how they set that man on fire. On live television. We should just stay here and pray and hope for the best.”
“Man you’re crazy if you think I am going to do that. Come on Isaac. We have to fight.”
Isaac was not so sure. Their store was loved. They gave discounts and offered some products on credit. Everyone in the community knew them and respected them. But with this wave of violence and what he had seen on the news so far, Isaac was not convinced that their neighbours would spare them and their shop.
Isaac became despondent, he did not want to do this, it just did not seem worth it to die for money. They could go back home and start again there. They had some money in the bank.
“David, we should go back home. We cannot stay in this country anymore. You see how they treat us sometimes and how unsafe it is at the moment.”
“No. listen to me. We must go. Come on.”
In the end, Isaac always did what David wanted. He did not want to go, but what choice did he have. His brother was likely to go alone if it came to that. He might as well join him and try and protect him. They had a nob-kerry and pangas at the shop.
When they got into town, they could hear crowds moving through shops, people were looting everything. People were crying and some grown men stood at their shops weeping. It was a horrible sight. Isaac just wanted to go home.
They reached their shop and thankfully it was still standing. David opened the door and they entered. They looked behind them. They took their weapons and stood ready to defend. David was restless and he paced up and down the shop. From inside the shop, they could hear a crowd coming towards them.
“Get ready Isaac.”
They crouched on the floor and waited. There was banning on the door and they could hear people shouting. A rock flew through one of the windows.
“David, brother, let us go out of the back door. We cannot take on everyone. They sound really angry.”
The banging got louder. Isaac looked over at David. For the first time that night, he noticed the look of fear in his brother’s eyes. He was stubborn and he would stay and fight. It dawned on Isaac that it would have to be him who got them out of there. There was sweat pouring down David’s face and he had a wild look about him. He must be as scared as I am, thought Isaac.
“David. Come on. We cannot die for this. Think about our sister. Who will take care of her.”
David looked at Isaac, he just stayed there crouching on the floor. Isaac got up. The door banged louder, more windows were broken, someone threw a petrol bomb. That’s it thought Isaac. He grabbed David’s arm and pushed him up. David looked at the fire. Tears were streaming down his face now. Isaac pushed him forward. And they went out the back door. Luckily no one knew about it. As they ran, Isaac looked back at the store. All he could see was smoke and people rushing out of the shop with groceries in their hands. David did not look back, but Isaac could feel his shoulders hunched and he sobbed as they left. They would have to go back home now, Isaac thought, there was no way that they could live here any longer. They were not wanted. Isaac put his hand over David’s shoulder and led him away.
My cousin Piet’s farm was set on a windy dirt road that later turns to the main road that heads into town. I visited my cousin Piet on his farm a lot and I would stay with them over the summer holidays in December, before we went down to the coast for Christmas with my parents and other cousins. Of all my cousins, I loved to be around Piet and my uncle. We used to have the best fun there. Their farm had a ravine and bush that went on for miles. When we were younger we would go and explore the farm taking with us pillow cases tied to a stick full of food which we need on our explorations. We would explore for hours and only come back to the house in the early evenings. We never tired of this game. Sometimes Piet’s father let us sleep outside on the stoep on hot days.
When we got older, I learned to drive with my uncles bakkie up and down that dirt road for hours. On weekends, my uncle would allow us to have a few mates over for a party. Bonfires were always a must on Saturday evenings just outside the confines of the grassy patch that surrounded the house. The grass surrounding the house was beautiful lush green and Piet’s mother’s bushes and flowers around the house just made it look like an oasis. Huge blue gum trees dotted the front and back yard giving us shelter on hot days. There we would lounge on some afternoons in the hammocks in the back yard sipping cold lemonade.
Piet lives with us now. We live in the town and close to school and since I had been closest to Piet, my parents had taken him in. My aunt and uncle had been driving back home one evening from town. Their bakkie had slid of the road and overturned into a steep bush below. They had died on impact. Piet, before the accident, used to be fun and lively boy. Now it was hard just to get a few words out of him. I see him sometimes wondering around the house looking very lost and sad. He does not talk about his parents, even though my mother thinks it is a good idea for him to talk about it. I guess it just hurts too much for him. He was very close to his father.
His father had been a good man, he had taught me and Piet everything we know about hunting and fishing. He was good tempered and he loved to play with us and he laughed a lot. He was however a prankster. He loved playing tricks on people and animals for that matter. Once when we had been about twelve, Piet’s father had bought home a fox terrier. He trained the dog to be a leg-hound. I do not know how, but this dog would just hump on your leg whenever Piet father was not around. Sometimes it was funny other times I would get irritated with it. I am sure you can imagine the amount of trouble that the dog got my uncle into. Once when I was at their farm after school on a Friday, a dominie came to visit Piet’s mother. He came around and parked his car in the front by the stoep and when he got out, the terrier was in wait to hump his leg. It was a sight and me and Piet where hiding behind some bushes to view this spectacle. His mother had come outside ready to welcome the dominie. The dog started humping his leg and at first, he tried to push it very gently away.
“Nee, nee, kom. Foetsek.”
The dog was very determined to hump the hell out of his leg. And it just kept humping. Piet’s mother watched in shock and horror at this spectacle and she started coming down the stars to assist. At this point the dominies face was turning a bright red and he was now shouting and waving his foot around. The dog held on and waved about in the air. Piet mother tried in vain to remove the terrier, but she could not. We were just killing ourselves laughing. We heard Piet father come up from behind us. We looked back and he was laughing so hard tears were coming out of his eyes. He did not like the church very much and this must have been his pay back. After a while he walked over to the commotion and called the dog to him. Piet’s mother and the dominie were very frazzled and seemed hot and bothered. Piet’s mother straightened out her skirt and top, she gave Piet’s father a severe look and took the dominies arm and led him into the house. When they had gone we laughed so hard I almost peed myself. That had been one of his best pranks yet. He had obviously known the dominie was coming and had left the dog out front. Piet’s mother had been very angry at us once the dominie left, but even in her anger she could see the funny side of it. So, we got away with that one.
I had loved Piet’s farm and it was a pity they had had to sell it when my uncle and aunt died. Along with everything that was sold, was Piet’s pet baboon. Piet had loved that baboon. He called it cousin. Cousin came with us wherever we went. When we took the car to town, we would put cousin in the back seat and put glasses on him. He would sit back in the seat and have an elbow sticking out of the window. He was the real thing, cousin, and he loved going into to town with us. My parents did not care for cousin and they could not understand why anyone would have a wild animal as a pet. They believed that cousin would come to a sticky end. Cousin did not, he was very tame and relaxed animal.
Cousin had been a gentle baboon and we knew he could not even hurt a fly. We treated him like a friend. But the one thing we really laughed about was the fact that cousin was petrified of snakes. And I mean the poor thing just ran whenever he felt a snake was around. Cousin used to run with his hands and feet, he was quick and it looked like he was busy pulling grass from under him when he run. But most of the times he walked on his hind legs.
Now as I told you Piet father loved his pranks. One afternoon Piet and his father concocted a plan to play a trick on poor cousin. And you can guess it. It involved a snake. My uncles friend Herman, had come from town that morning and he had bought a very live looking toy snake. It was colourful and it was soft and rubbery. If you did not know it was a toy, you would surely think it was real. So, they decided to scare cousin with it.
Cousin was mad about grapes. He would steal them if he had to. Piet and his father tied the rubber snake to the grapes with a string. They had called cousin and I suppose he had seen the grapes from afar and he came bounding towards us in that strange manner of his, grass flying everywhere. He had seemed so excited. We could see it on his face. At first I felt sorry for him but Piet had told me about cousin’s reaction to snakes, so I was also interested to see what he would do. Cousin got up on his hind legs and walked towards the grapes. As he listed the grapes up, it pulled the string and the snake popped up. Cousin saw this and for a second I thought he would run away. Instead he went completely limp, standing up and he just fell like a log to the ground. It was very funny to watch, an animal faint. Now when cousin fell, the toy snake had landed on his arm. Piet’s father told us not to move and keep watching. So we crouched a bit further away and watched. A few seconds later, cousin came to. He looked at his arm and there the snake was. Slowly very slowly as he lay there, cousin started to move his hand from under the snake. And once he was free, that baboon took to his feet and got the hell out of there very fast, grass flying everywhere. I felt sorry for cousin, but it had been a good prank. We had laughed about it at school with our friends at school a few days later.
It was sad to know that we could never be that carefree again. At my house, everything is proper and my parents like children to be quiet and obedient, we’re not a very lively bunch. My father reads his books and my mother sews and has tea parties. I wonder were cousin is now, and I am sure Piet, as he wanders around, wonders too.