An entry in The Crocodile Prize
People’s Award for Short Stories
THE crowing of roosters blasted my ears as the house slowly lit up and the sound of children playing alerted me. I opened my eyes and breathed the fresh morning air, brushing off the sleepiness and getting out of the bed.
I peeped into the kitchen to greet mum as usual but there was no sign of her. She must be outside, I thought, and rushed through the door to join the fun. I liked the morning because it was the best time to play with the other village children.
After exhausting all my energy, I felt hungry and walked slowly back to the house.
When I reached it, I realised that the door was wide open. Mum must be back. “Mum! Mum!” I called but there was no reply.
Beside the fire were some roasted kaukau (sweet potato) which I knew mum had left for me. I ate them hungrily. Ones my hunger was fully satisfied, I felt my eyelids closing. Not wanting to give them any trouble, I lay down on the floor and dozed off.
A sharp pain in my back woke me up. To my surprise, the place was getting darker. I must have slept for hours. I called out to mum but got no answer. I went outside calling her name but still no answer.
I waited, but in vain. I concluded she would not return. I begin to scream and cried my lungs out.
The crying brought my aunty to the house. She calmed me down and took me to her place assuring me mum would turn up soon. I agreed with her, tears still trickling down my cheeks.
The following day was freezing cold. I woke up early and went to my house to check if mum had returned. I was greeted by my aunt.
Aunt said it seemed my mum would not return and from now I am to stay with them.
I gave a deaf ear to my aunt and went about my morning games in the secret hope that mum would come back to me anyhow.
I was aware of mum and dad’s situation. Dad had left us and remarried. I trusted mum and knew she could manage us very well despite dad’s absence. She would never leave me. I had faith in her.
As dusk approached, there was still no sign of mum. “It can’t be true,” I kept telling myself. “Mum cannot abandon me just like that. She will still come back for me.” I went to my aunt’s house.
Every day I hoped and yeaned for mum’s return. Every day it was the same disappointment. Finally I began to accept that mum had abandoned me. Both my parents had abandoned me.
And so I lived with my aunt. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months and months into years.
Aunt’s approach towards me changed. At times I would be deprived of evening meals. I was assigned adults tasks and my freedom to play was restricted. Sometimes I was given evening meals only when I got a lot of work done during the day. I begin to feel like a slave in my own village.
The treatment received was too much to bear. One night I collected my few valuables and crept out of the house. I went over to my mum’s house and set it on fire then took to the main road.
I had been farewelled with a big bang on my head. The bang was from my aunt. Caught by surprise and not wanting anything more to do with her, I ran away as fast as my legs could carry me.
The moon seemed to approve, shining on the road and making it clear for me. I spent the night outside with the clouds as my roof and a cold breeze as my wall.
A kick on my butt awoke me. I found myself sleeping on the footpath in the middle of a town. I got up and walked along the street calling for my mum. People laughed and said, “Did your mama leave you, baby boy.”
A car nearly hit me and the driver swore. “You bush kanaka! Look where you’re going,” the passengers echoed.
With no familiar faces, no mother in sight and an empty stomach, I began to feel weak. When people were not watching, I peeped into bins. I wandered into fast food shops, made myself comfortable at a corner and waited to be offered leftovers. So I began my new life in the city, eating from rubbish bins and begging leftovers from fast food shops.
Sometimes I would wander into night clubs just to be warm for a while. I would sit and watch people enjoying themselves and doing the craziest things all in the name of enjoyment.
A baton on my butt from the security guard signalled that my time was up.
One day as usual, I sneaked into the club and got absorbed in the warmth, excitement and craziness. I did not hear the security guard approaching. He tapped me on the shoulder.
As I turned around he slapped me and kicked me with his boot. I fell to the floor and hit my knee. I cried aloud in pain and stumbled out through the exit. That night I crawled under an old Dyna for shelter.
The next day was worse as I could not walk properly. I found a stick and used it as a crutch. A fight broke out and people ran everywhere. I tried to take cover and fell straight into a deep drain.
I cried out in pain but no one noticed. Crawling like a pig, I hauled myself out of the drain. People yelled at me to “go away you filthy smelly animal.”
I took shelter next to a beggar. He had placed a shirt in front of him and passerby threw coins onto his shirt. The next day I did what the beggar had done. I lived on begging. At least I had something for the evening.
One day, I was caught by a police foot patrol. They kicked me like a ball down the main road and shoved me into a police van.
At the station they led me to the car wash area. A sergeant took a big hose and ordered me to remove my clothes. “Stand there!” he said and sprayed me down, throwing a bar soap at me and saying, “Soap that filthy body of yours, rigid animal.”
After my shower, for the very first time in months, I felt good. The sergeant summoned me to the counter, wrote my name and took a photo. With a strict warning of not wanting to see me ever again on the street, he released me.
I thanked him and walked out of the station. As I was about to cross the street, I heard my name called. The woman standing in front of me looked like my mother. She called my name again and I knew it was her.
A mixed emotion crept into me. I did not know whether to be happy or angry. She stood there with tears running down her cheeks and threw her arms around me and said, “Forgive me son.”
I pushed her hand away from me and heard myself saying, “You don’t deserve to be called a mother. I trusted you. I loved you. You were everything I had. I had faith in you despite father’s neglect.
“All I ask is that at least you might have left a note for me,” I said as I walked off.