- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Naidoo, with the acknowledged help of a corps of contemporary observers, effectively captures the mixed feelings with which South Africans are viewing the changes rapidly taking place in their country, but the story lacks the fire that made Journey to Jo'burg (1985) so compelling.
And then he ran. Keeping his head down, he weaved his way through the patchwork of shacks in the smoky half-light, hoping against hope that no one would call his name. Thin chinks of yellow light and the smell of kerosene lamps behind the sheets of iron and wooden planks showed that people were beginning to rise. Ma and "him" would have been getting up by now if they had had work to go to. Sipho's heart was thumping against his chest. It had been screwed up for the last few days, like the rest of his insides, as tight as a fist. But now it was going wild like the tall of a puppy just let out of a cage. He would have to get it under control before he got to the taxi rank.
Comingout from the shacks, he sprinted past the shop boarded up overnight. He could be seen more easily here. The quickest way would be to cut across by the men's hostel. But that was dangerous. Bullets whistling between the great grim building and the houses nearby had brought death to many people. No one knew when the fighting would start again, and Ma had forbidden him to go near the place.
"That bullet won't stop to ask who you are," Ma had said. But why should he listen to what Ma said anymore? Still, it was safer to go the long way around, past his school.
Squares of misty light from houses on each side lit the way, and high above him, electric strips shone dully through the smoke. There were other people on the road already, most walking in the same direction. Sipho slowed down to a half-jog, half-walk. He might draw too much attention to himself if he ran. Passing the crisscross wire fencing around the school, he shifted to the other side of the road. Even though the gate was locked, he could imagine the head teacher suddenly appearing from the low redbrick building and wanting to know where be was going.
The taxi rank was already humming with theearly-morning crowd milling alongside a line of minibuses. Pavement sellers had already set up their stalls. Some people in the lines carried bags and boxes, perhaps of things to sell in town themselves. With so many taxis, he had to make sure he got in the right one. Glancing briefly at a row of faces, he noticed a woman looking at him. She had a baby on her back and seemed about Ma's age. No, he wouldn't ask her. Instead he moved away and asked a young man which was the right line for Hillbrow.
"Take any one for Jo'burg city center. It's that side." The man pointed to where the crowd was thicker.
Slipping behind a line of people, Sipho was pleased he had managed to ask the question so smoothly. If only everyone would move along quickly so he could get inside the taxi. He kept his eyes trained in the direction of the school. What if Ma had waked up? She wouldn't feel up to coming after him, but she would wake his stepfather. If Ma sent him out looking for Sipho, be would be raging mad -- even without a drink. Sipho could just imagine him storming through the crowd, shouting Sipho's name, demanding to know if anyone had seen a small boy age twelve . . . a boy with big ears, the kind you can get hold of.
Sipho shivered, pulled his woolen cap down lower and clasped his arms around him. It was cold. He should have put on two sweaters. But he hadn't really been thinking clearly for the last few days. Ever since the last beating. He didn't know whether to forgive Ma or not, If she didn't want him nearly killed, why did she complain so much about him to his stepfather? She knew his terrible temper. And all because Sipho had come in late. He had explained it was an accident. When his friend Gordon had met him outside the shop and asked if he wanted to watch TV, he had been happy. He had only intended to go for a short while. Gordon's mother was out working late, and no one reminded him about the time. One movie had led to another. Sipho had quite forgotten Ma waiting for him. Ma lying on the bed on her own in the shack because his stepfather stayed out drinking. Ma crying often. Yes, Ma had definitely become more tense since she had been forced to give up her job because of the baby. And Ma changing, changed everything.
The line moved in fits and starts. He willed it to hurry up. Shesha! Shesha! Shifting his gaze between the taxis and the road by the school, Sipho watched anxiously as each one filled up and veered off.
Posted February 4, 2011
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Posted October 31, 2011
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