“You are in the valley now, Modetse, but one day you’ll come out on the mountain,” is what Mama Zuma tells him, but having been brainwashed by the horror of the Lord’s Resistance Army what chance can Modetse ever have of truly finding himself again, or rescuing his little sister Thandi?
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Julia North writes about gritty reality and the human experience. She presently works as a Deputy Head. She has taught various subjects, been an actress, travelled and done a myriad of other strange jobs.
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The Story of an Invisible Child
By Julia North
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2015 Julia North
All rights reserved.
My mind leaves the world of dreams with heaviness inside. It is many moons since I have dreamed of Thandi and that time. She was standing on the rubbish like a meerkat calling, "Modestse, my brother, where are you? Where are you?"
I shake the sadness from my head and try to open my eyes in the darkness. Aiee, what is this? Why can't I open them? I rush my hands up to my face. It feels fat and there is a wide bandage across my eyes. I try to pull it with my fingers but it's stuck fast. My heart beats hard against my ears and my breath comes quickly in and out. What has happened to me? I must see. I must. I tear at the bandage with both hands but it stays stuck. A sharp smell hits my nostrils and catches in my throat. I know that smell. It is the antiseptic we use to clean the wounds. I grunt and try to sit up but a strong pain burns like fire through my back. Who has done this? I shake my head and try to remember but my mind is mud.
"Mobuto ... David ..." I shout.
The air stays silent. What's happened to them? Why are they not here? My heart jumps. I have to find them. If Mobuto and David can't come I must escape by myself. They must be held prisoner somewhere else.
There are voices ... footsteps. People are running. They shout something. They are coming to get me. I cry with pain as I roll to the side. I touch cold metal. Hands grip my shoulders. They push me back down. I scream and hit out with my fists but the hands are too strong. They hold me tight. I can't get away.
"It's okay; it's okay, son. Calm down," says a man's voice.
"Who's this?" I scream. "Where am I? What's happened?"
Cloud pictures rise in my mind. The government pigs attacked us. There were helicopters, too many helicopters. I see again the gunships with their dark bug eyes ... they were shooting, killing; burning us with their flames. I groan. My ears fill again with their noise. My throat closes with the iron smell of blood. There was too much blood. Blood like a river flowing ...
"Steady, son. It's okay," says the man's voice, "it's okay. Don't scream."
His voice pulls my mind away from these pain pictures. I feel his hand tight around my arm and then I feel a sharp prick. I try to pull my arm away but it grows heavy. My head begins to spin. My spirit is falling far away into blackness ...CHAPTER 2
I remember the bitter taste of the glue the first time Umama pushed it by my face. Aiee, I did not like it. I pulled back my head and screamed as its fumes ate at my throat and nostrils, but Umama she laughed and said, "There's no food, Modetse. You must sniff the glue." She knew that soon I would relax and let the glue fill my empty belly with its tricks. Thandi was still like a little frog on Umama's back and drank her milk for food and did not yet need the glue. Then Umama was no more. The glue had eaten her up and she joined the stars of the black African sky.
I opened my eyes as the pink rays of the morning sun peeped into our sewer pipe house. I pushed myself up and put my hands to my head. A big hide drum was beating inside. I needed my glue. I found the yellow glue bottle by the blanket and pushed it hard against my mouth and nose. I breathed deep. The glue did its trick quick and the drumming grew better. I tried to lick my lips but my tongue was dry like the stone.
I looked around for the water bucket and crawled past Thandi's sleeping cat body to fetch it. She snored softly with Enoch next to her and her little arm stretched over him. Enoch gave a snort and made a sucking noise with his lips. I smiled. He must be dreaming of the glue
I picked up the water bucket from the far end of the pipe and crawled back past them to the opening. I took big breaths of the cool air and sighed. The smell was okay and the rubbish trucks had not yet come. The dump was sleeping except for the roosters who crowed their many "Good mornings" to the dawn.
I pulled the bucket behind as I kicked through the rubbish to the big green water container that the Council brought every week. I kept my eyes alive in case any big boys or men were around. Some women stood near the container with their buckets on their heads. They chattered loud like chickens.
I waited until they left with their big backsides and then ran to the container. I put my fat tongue under the tap and drank from the cool water like a dog until my mouth was better. I put the bucket under the tap and waited while the singing water went plop, plop into it.
"Hey, you! Leave the water!"
I turned with big eyes and saw a man running at me from the side of the rubbish. He was waving a stick, which squealed through the air. "That is not for you, shithead," he shouted. "The Council only gives one tank. You leave it or I'll kill you."
I leaped up and pulled the bucket with its full water fast back up the rubbish away from the man. Many strong voices shouted now across the dump. Their glued throats were awake and crying for water and they did not want to share with boys. I clenched my jaw. I should have come before the sun had woken. I ran faster and faster through the squelching rubbish. The water splashed out with my big steps and I cursed myself for being a stupid.
"Give me that water, shithead!" shouted the man. "Give it now!"
My heart was hurting my ears; my chest was tight. Why would the man not leave me? His feet crunched through the rubbish behind me. I clenched my teeth and ran harder, closing my ears to his shouting. My heart was happy when I saw our cement pipe house. I held the bucket in front with both arms and ran fast with big steps down into its mouth. I dropped the bucket on the cold floor. My chest was too sore and I had to take the big breaths of air like a fish.
"Modetse," said Thandi, sitting up and wiping her eyes. "What's matter?"
She looked at me with big eyes while I waited for my breath to slow.
"Shh, have water," I said. "Your head will be crying for it."
Thandi frowned. I put the bucket by her and she put her head deep inside to lap at the water like a cat. She drank lots and then looked up and wiped her mouth with her little hand. I smiled down at her.
"Where you been?"
"To get the water for you, silly. Lie back down; the sun is just waking.
"Why you breathing fast?"
"Because a man was chasing me.
Thandi looked at me with worried eyes. "Did he beat you?"
I shook my head. "No, it's okay. Rest. When the sun is full up we'll go into the city."
"No dance," said Thandi pushing out her bottom lip, "my feet, they are still sore."
I pulled a sad face at her. "I know, Thandi, but we need the money for food and glue. I will beg too from the cars. We can do that first then maybe you just dance a bit. Okay."
Thandi kept her bottom lip pushed out but said nothing. She bent over to take some more water and then lay back down on the cardboard next to Enoch and pulled the grey blanket with its red cross over them. She looked at me with slit eyes and then closed them and pretended to be asleep quick. I smiled at her stubbornness. I got the drum and strings of red and yellow beads and seedpods ready in the supermarket packet and then lay down by her.
When we woke the sun was strong in the sky like the big copper coin. It beat hard on our hot heads as we climbed through the rubbish.
"Here, Enoch, you carry the packet," I said as I took Thandi's hand. "Hold your noses, the rubbish is strong now."
They pulled their noses up and pinched them with their fingers.
"Can I stay tonight again," said Enoch as we went with big steps through the stinking rubbish. He made his eyes like stars at me. "I want you to tell more story for me."
I laughed. "Okay; you try beg some money and then I'll make sure I get glue for us."
"I will beg too good," said Enoch.
The rubbish was hot now and squelched in our toes like dirty mud. I looked at it with hawk eyes in case there was glass to cut us, or people's shit to hurt us with its germs. The sun made the smell very bad and my stomach jumped. I climbed faster, pulling Thandi with me. Loud rap music boom, boomed over the whole dump.
"Enoch, watch for the big boys. They could be drunk already," I said as my eyes walked fast across the rubbish.
"Ndiyo, Modetse," said Enoch. He made his eyes slits to hide the sun and looked from side to side across the dump as we climbed.
"Hey, Modetse, this side."
We stopped. My body went tight. I turned my head to see who was calling. A thin body with a front head like the blunt horn of the rhino was standing far from me. The tight left my body. Sipho, only one boy on the dump had a head like that.
"Hey, you going begging?" he said as he ran up to us. "Can I come?"
I nodded. "Ndiyo, come. You can help Enoch."
Enoch smiled at Sipho and gave him a high five.
"Where you sleep?" I said as Sipho walked along next to me.
"In the rubbish; I sniff too much glue," said Sipho, lifting his eyebrows and pulling a face.
I gave him a hard look and shook my head. "You are lucky the big boys didn't stab you. Why didn't you come sniff by our house? Enoch stayed by us."
He looked down and shrugged his shoulders.
"You were the stupid," I said.
He nodded but kept his eyes down. "Najua. There was fighting so I hid in the bush and then the glue made the sleep come fast."
"You must stay by us."
Sipho looked up at me. "Thank you, my brother. That will make me Mr. Happy."
"Ndiyo, no more bush sleep."
Sipho showed me his gap teeth and we walked fast to the main road by the shops. Two big boys were already by the cars.
"Hey," they shouted as we got close. "You kids, fuck off. These are our lights. You come here and we'll beat you."
"Okay," I said. "We can go to the far lights."
We turned and ran towards the next big road down. There were some boys, maybe seven years old, by the lights. They looked at us with big eyes but said nothing. We came close and they moved away down the side of the wide road. Sipho lifted his eyebrows at me and smiled. They were too scared of us. There were many cars and white minibus taxis huffing and puffing like the angry bulls at the lights. I looked around.
"Okay," I said. "It's safe to beg. There's no police to beat us. You go that side, Sipho, and take Enoch. Thandi and me will stay here. Enoch, give me."
Enoch gave me my packet. Sipho took his arm and they ran towards the stopped cars on the other side.
"Please, sah, I'm hungry," I heard him shout. "Please, God bless you, sah. Please help us."
The driver looked sideways at him and then made down the window a small bit. He dropped some copper coins into Sipho's hands.
"Thank you, sah. God bless you," said Sipho, showing his gap teeth.
Enoch gave a big smile and then they ran to the next car.
I saw the silver BMW at the lights and ran to the driver. "Please, madam, can you help us?" I begged. "My sister she is so small and I must feed her. We have no food. Please, madam, help us."
I made my eyes big and sad and poked Thandi so that she made small crying noises. She looked up at the lady with honey eyes but the rich lady inside just stared hard front through her big brown sunglasses like there was no one there. I tapped on the window and saw her lips grow fat. When the light turned green she shot away from us like the bullet.
"Bitch," I shouted after her, showing my fist.
"Horrible bitch lady," shouted Thandi, pulling a face after her.
"Okay, we'll try another, my sister," I said, taking her small hand and waiting for the next car.
The light was red and a big white Chevrolet with a man and woman in it stopped next to us.
"Please, sah, we're too hungry," I said, cupping my hands together like a prayer. "We've no mother to help and no food. Please, sah, help us."
The man looked at Thandi who made her eyes big and her bottom lip shiver. He opened the window small and dropped the two silver shillings into my open hands. I smiled down at the silver and bowed my head to the man.
"Thank you, sah. Thank you, madam. God bless you."
The man and woman nodded but shot off with a 'vroom' as soon the light went green.
"Come, we must work quick and try some more cars, Thandi," I said. "Soon the police will come."
I pulled her up to a white taxi filled with many Africans and loud rap music that beat through my heart. The driver put his head from the window and shouted, "Move, you kids, before I beat you. We're sick of you begging by the lights."
Thandi made a cross face at the man and went to kick the tire with her foot. I pulled her back before the man could hit her and we ran to the Ford F20 behind.
"Careful." I frowned at her. "You can't fight the big men."
"Horrible bitch man," said Thandi.
I shook my head at her and smiled. "Ay, you are too naughty."
"Please, sah, can you help us," I said to the African man driving the Ford F20. He made like he was deaf and put his window up by our faces. We went to three cars behind the F20 but all the people made like they could not see us.
"We will make more if you dance," I said to Thandi after five more cars also made like we were the ghosts.
Thandi pulled a face and stamped the ground with her foot. I looked down. Her feet were still red from yesterday.
"I said no more dance," she said, and pulled a cross face.
My stomach felt bad. "I know, but we can go to the soft sand by the river, Thandi. That will be better for your feet."
Thandi kept her cross face but said nothing. I took her hand and went over the road.
"Hey, Sipho, Enoch," I called, "we're going riverside. See you later by the dump."
"Okay, go safe," shouted Sipho.
Enoch gave us a thumbs up sign as him and Sipho ran towards another car.
I put the red and yellow beads around Thandi's neck and tied the dried seedpods with their green and brown beads around her ankles. They made a good jingle, jingle as we walked towards the big lake of the city. Soon the water smell came to our noses and I saw the brown waves of the big water lake.
"It'll be better by the water, Thandi."
"I'm tired. Carry me," she said with a cross pout.
"You're five years now, Thandi. I can't always carry you anymore. Come, take my hand. We'll run and be there quick."
She stuck out her bottom lip but gave me her hand. I closed mine around hers and soon our feet touched the good wet sand by the fishing boats. The air was full with the fish and salt and it made my stomach hungry. The water made the small, slap, slap waves on the sand. I smiled at the nice sound. The fishermen looked at us with hard eyes and held tight to their nets. We kept away from the boats and walked with slow steps on the wet sand.
"See that feels better. The soft sand won't hurt your feet."
"I only dance a bit," said Thandi looking up at me with a firm face.
"Ndiyo," I said. Thandi pushed her feet in the soft sand. The pieces of sand stuck to them and made many diamonds in the sun. She gave a small giggle and I looked down at her and smiled.
"You stand here. I will beat the drum on this side," I said, patting her head, as soon as we found a good place near where the people walked. Lots of tourists were around today and many held big white ice-cream cones. They caught the falling ice cream with long, pink tongues. I walked my eyes across the crowd. There were some white faces and two well-dressed African women that were coming for us.
"There are rich ones coming," I said to Thandi. I began to beat the drum loud. Thandi moved forward with her hands on her hips and her head high.
"Good girl, Thandi. Dance your magic for the rich mothers."
The two African mothers walked towards us with their big pink and white tongues. They had on the smart blue and red dresses and the bright yellow and green headdresses. The talked loudly like hens. I pushed Thandi forward some more so that she was in their way and beat the drum harder and harder while her little feet danced fast to the rhythm, and the seedpods made the jangle, jangle song. Thandi looked up at them with big brown eyes like the honey and smiled. The red and yellow beads swung around her neck in time to the beats.
"Please, mothers, help us to buy the food," she said, holding out her hands.
One of the mothers stopped and gave her a sad look. She gave her ice cream to her friend to hold and pulled out a red leather purse from her black bag.
Excerpted from Lieutenant Hotshot by Julia North. Copyright © 2015 Julia North. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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