Saturday, August 22, 2009

Short Story: Final Part

The screams still disturbed James. He didn’t think he would ever get used to them. Who was the unlucky prisoner tonight? They would know tomorrow morning when he came hobbling into the courtyard after a night of paying for his sin of being black at the heels of guards’ boots.

Till today I don’t know who stabbed that man or why he was brought to our door. It may have been a political message whose meaning I still haven’t figured out. But it could also have been that fate cast lots and our door wound up the unlucky one. It was not until he left that we found out how unlucky. Four nights after I had heard the fists on our door, I returned home to find your mother wailing uncontrollably. She hadn’t lit the lamps yet. That was the first thing I noticed. And then I noticed that the man was gone.
-“Pauline, kwenzenjani s'thandwa?”
- “He took him James. Prince is gone!”
When she had calmed down enough she told me how she had left the house to fetch water from the standpipe.
-“Prince was on my back. Of course I didn’t leave him here with that, that... ‘umlungu’!” She answered the question in my eyes. Apparently, that ‘umlungu’, white man, had been working at the knots that confined him to the leg of our bed for days. The knot I had so carefully tied with my trembling hands.
-“When I came back he was waiting for me behind the door.” Your mother choked the words out. Her shoulders wouldn’t stop shaking. “He was holding the knife, the one I use for meat and he put it to my throat.” I looked at the wet patch in front of the door. I imagined Pauline walking into the house with the bucket balanced perfectly on her head. I saw it crashing down from her head as she felt the vice-like grip on her arm and the cold steel on her neck.
-“How long ago did this happen? Where is Prince?”
-“About thirty minutes ago. He took him and ran and I didn’t know what to do James. I was afraid if I shouted or tried to chase him he would hurt my son. He still had…still has the knife.” I rushed to the door.
-“James where are you going? Should we bring the police into this now?”
-“I’m going to find my son Pauline!” I ran out. I didn’t know where I was going. I paused briefly. Where do I start? I couldn’t just sit and wring my hands.

I began with the neighbours. People don’t see things in Jabavu. Especially not things that involve white people. But I knew they would help if I told them my son was in danger. Someone had broken into my house and kidnapped my son. That was the story I gave at each house on whose doors I banged my fists. We searched Jabavu. I pushed the limits of our disorganized township, ran to the edges of our world. Those who didn’t help in the search were willing to volunteer information: no, they hadn’t seen any white man with a small black baby. I couldn’t go home without you. Men sacrificed their lives for the struggle. I sacrificed for you. You were my struggle. I felt like I was dying, even more so than I do now. One by one the neighbours left me. They had families too.

Your mother found me two days later in that place where desperate men go, knowing full well that they will see murky ghosts swimming at the bottom of the very substance in which they are trying to drown. She walked into the shebeen with you in her arms. She hadn’t stopped crying.
-“A woman brought him back James. She left a letter.” She tried to hand me a crumpled beige envelope that must have held a letter at least once before. I took you from her instead.
-“Do you think he looks like me Pauline?” I suppose I’ve never really been good at saying the right thing when fear is digging its clammy hand into my shoulder. I read Pieter’s explanation when we got home. He had taken you as a “security measure.” He was grateful, but he was still white and I was still black. It was the only way he could think of getting out of Jabavu safely.

I left for Angola two weeks later.
Twenty years on Robben Island. Judge Hefer let the newspaper drop from his trembling hands. His hands weren’t trembling because he was old. They were trembling because he was dying. Everything he stood for was dying. The regime was crumbling, their power was waning… the system was being destroyed… from within and from without. The pressure had been too much. His ruling had been overturned and now the man over whose life he had pronounced judgement would live… that thoroughly repulsive and objectionable character whose eyes had burned him. James Mange had led his co-accused in singing songs that proved their guilt even further. How could such a man be pardoned even to the slightest extent? Soon there would be talk of releasing Mandela, the most dangerous rabble-rouser of the lot. He had heard rumours to this effect already. He couldn’t live in this system. This was a final ruling that no one could overturn.

Judge Hefer was found early that evening by his African maid, hanging from his own belt in his bathroom.

The South Africa I want for you is one in which a man can act honourably towards another to whom he owes his life. Apartheid will fall and the blindfolds will come off. And maybe together we can begin to clean up the redness at our door.

Submitted by: Annnette Quarcoopome©

1 comment:

  1. I think that this is a very good way to render justice to our numerous anonymous or famous heroes and sheroes..

    Thanks MADAME Quarcoopome, for your culture and for your talent!!!