Excerpt for The Sins of Parents by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Sins



The Sins



Thabo Mooke

Copyright © 2017 Thabo Mooke

Published by Thabo Mooke Publishing at Smashwords

First edition 2017

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without permission from the copyright holder.

The Author has made every effort to trace and acknowledge sources/resources/individuals. In the event that any images/information have been incorrectly attributed or credited, the Author will be pleased to rectify these omissions at the earliest opportunity.

Published by the Author using Reach Publishers’ services,

P O Box 1384, Wandsbeck, South Africa, 3631

Edited by Frankie Kartun for Reach Publishers

Cover designed by Reach Publishers



To my dashing daughter, Keabetswe


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 1

At half-time, both sides were dead-locked at a 1-all draw. His team was waiting for the players of the rival team to come onto the field. He rubbed one barefoot over the other, standing in the shade of the sack material enclosing the makeshift dusty stadium.

He bit on the tapering nail of his middle finger, disconnected from his teammates, then stood up and kicked the ball to the keeper standing between the rickety goal posts.

He gazed at the red earth, with a recurring, nagging question in his mind. He wondered why the hell his surname had no links to his paternal origin. Just like all people in this world, the blood coursing through his veins was his, but his surname was that of his maternal grandfather.

How could he be proud and boast of his own origin when it was all so false? When it was all a farce? Could it be the reason his name suggested someone without a pedigree? Otswakae – ‘Where does he come from?’

A plump usher was standing at the small opening of the sacks. He had a knife-inflicted scar running down his cheek, and his thick, red lips were caressing a thick zol of dagga as he collected the R1 entrance fee. Fans were blowing Vuvuzelas and were still streaming into the stadium, long after the match had already started.

Otswakae and his teammates gathered next to the goalposts and the coach, Bra Chipa, clapped his hands, giving his charges a dressing-down.

“Go, boys, go get goals. We need more goals.” His charges galloped back to the playing field. Chipa’s hand rested on Otswakae’s shoulder, thus delaying him from dashing along to the field with his teammates.

Lately, Otswakae’s form had deteriorated and Bra Chipa was getting concerned with what could be troubling his player. Nonetheless, the coach thought that this was not the right time to find out. Otswakae was his trump card and it was crucial for the team to win this match.

Otswakae was tall, with broad shoulders and his legs were bowed. He was a dark in colour, with the white teeth of a non-smoker, but had piercing eyes that cowered many opponents. His lips were thick, a stark contrast to his mother’s thin ones. He was handsome and girls tripped over him. He was also a skilled ball-juggler, a menace with his dribbling antics, and opposition players had nicknamed him Pele, after the famous Brazilian football star.

“Come on, Pele,” said Chipa, “You’re losing concentration, man. We could have scored more goals.”

The coach shook Otswakae’s shoulder in encouragement. “Don’t disappoint me my man, go, and show them who you are.”

With hasty consideration, Otswakae replied, “Sure, coach,” before trotting onto the field of play, before the resumption of the second-half. Five minutes into play, the barefooted Otswakae received a low ball with his head, which he flicked into the air, at the same time turning and kicking it over the head of an advancing defender with his left heel. The defender looked up the sky, confused, as the ball hit the ground behind him. Otswakae drew whistling and ululations from the crowd. He then dashed past the confused defender and trapped the ball as he came face-to-face with the opposition goalkeeper, and the recurring thought returned at that moment. The thought of his real identity suddenly overwhelmed him, as he kicked the ball way above the goal posts.

Some of the fans held their heads. ‘Oooh…!’

Bra Chipa almost rushed onto the playing-field, but stopped at the edge of the coal-ash drawn white line, lest he be cautioned for interfering with play. He walked back, with his hands clasped round his head, as he shook it in frustration.

“I bet, whatever is troubling that boy is a lot more serious than I think,” he whispered to an uninterested spectator who was standing next to him.

The thoughts of his identity always came at crucial moments. Just a week ago, during a history lesson in class, his class teacher noticed that Otswakae was gazing through the classroom window. His emotions were clawing at his insides, like a hungry bird of prey.

“Otswakae,” the teacher called to him with eyes that were raging, even though his tone displayed calmness. “You are not paying attention.”

Otswakae reassembled his mind. “I’m sorry, Sir.”

Otswakae Rampedi’s side won the match with 3-1 and, thereafter, the players set out on their different paths. There was an overwrought quietness between Otswakae and his friend, Tshepo Lehoane, as they walked home.

The red ball of the winter sun was completing its journey, leaving behind a dusk of unpleasant coldness. A dark, grey sheet of smoke twirled from chimneys of variably-branded coal stoves that were used for cooking and heating. The smog hung over Mamelodi, as if it would suffocate this Pretoria Township with its toxic substances. Residents who perceived electricity to be an expensive commodity, used coal stoves, others lit all sizes of braziers for cooking, as well as to wade off the bitter cold. These sources of energy contributed towards the exacerbation of the pollution on the horizon.

Otswakae and Tshepo stopped at a street-corner vending-stall to buy roasted ground nuts from an elderly woman, who had become a familiar feature at the stall over the years. Seated on a bench near her stall, roofed with a black, industrial, sheet of plastic, and wearing her faded size XXX maroon jersey, the elderly vendor stared at Otswakae, her eyes dancing with curiosity.

“What’s with him? You lose today?”

No, Gogo, (Granny)” said Tshepo, “We won 3-1.”

Nobody cared enough to know Gogo’s real name. Her stocky posture upright like a Buddha, she permitted a sardonic smile to cross her face, showing her two remaining and stained teeth that stood out like a devil’s fork, even when she was not smiling. She struggled to rise from the bench with her arthritic knees.

This is mahala, for free.” Gogo put a transparent plastic packet of roasted peanuts into Tshepo’s hand and dangled another one. “This one is for him; he must cheer up. Now, go home, go.”

Thank you, Gogo.” Tshepo handed the nuts to his friend.

Gogo operated a one-stop stall, which sold vegetables, fruit and roasted or cooked cornmeal. Without having to use a scale, she would pick up a chunk of ox tripe with an old kitchen fork and wrap it in a piece of newspaper for her customers.

Otswakae and Tshepo walked in silence.

Both Otswakae and Tshepo were born in 1976 and were now sixteen years old. Otswakae had a long, dark face and a coy smile that most people thought added to his charming looks. He was born barely four months before Tshepo.

Though they lived on the same street, they had only become friends when, by fate, they were enrolled at the same lower primary school and allocated the same classroom, but once they’d become friends, they were inseparable. It was only in high school that Otswakae and Tshepo went to different classes. Their schoolmates were always perplexed by Otswakae and Tshepo’s friendship. They regarded it as awkward. Tshepo’s father was a taxi owner and his mother a senior nursing sister at Kalafong Hospital, west of Pretoria.

Tshepo dressed for school in white, button-down, Arrow shirts and grey wash-and-wear slacks. He was obsessed with Nike running shoes, which he wore even when he played soccer. His school marks were below average, and he always struggled to move up to the next class, although his teachers thought he was a hardworking student. Otswakae, who was very studious, always encouraged his friend to work hard and helped him with his homework.

Their gazes locked when they stopped outside the gate of Tshepo’s home. It was a face-brick house, with a green-tiled roof, and had three bedrooms, a kitchen, lounge and dining-room.

Bona mpinchi yaka. Look, my friend, cheer up,” said Tshepo. “Even big stars sometimes miss goals.”

Sure. I’ll see you in the morning, my outie, my friend. Otswakae’s voice was hoarse and he thought to himself, Tshepo was right, even big stars sometimes miss goals. But, still, he could not find it in himself to discard the incessant nagging thought of his identity.

Otswakae walked home, his hands tucked into the pockets of his faded brown corduroy trousers to protect them against the nipping cold, kicking at the loose stones that lay before him. The street lights of the uniform four-roomed houses shone brightly. Under a lamppost, Otswakae noticed a number of boys squatting on their haunches, with one knee drawn up. The one with the pair of dice hissed “Eh. Pop!” as he rolled the set of dice onto the ground. The street gambler, with his long bony hands, gathered the banknotes and coins from the ground, in swift movements, with the others stealing envious glances at him. There was imminent trouble written all over their begrudging faces.

As he walked further down the street, Otswakae’s face contorted with pain at the sight of girls about his own age, some even younger, parading in pairs or in threesomes up and down the dusty street. They were chattering and giggling girlishly and Otswakae guessed that they were obviously bragging about their young lovers and their sexual exploits.

Light beamed on the windows of the houses that lined the street and commercial jingles from black-and-white TV sets were audible on the street.

He entered his grandparents’ yard. Walking towards the house, he noticed the family’s black German Shepherd lying on the stoep of the kitchen but, as Otswakae came nearer, the dog scampered to the back of the house. Otswakae was astounded. Usually the dog would rush towards him when he arrived home in order to welcome him. He breathed in, in exasperation, but then realised that dogs can be very sensitive to their master’s negative energy.

The grey, potholed kitchen floor smelt of candle and paraffin wax. For once, there were no dirty dishes or dirty water in the steel bowl left on the table. Pap, in a large, silver pot, on the size eight, Welcome Dover coal-stove, hissed and oozed an appetising smell. Otswakae paused in the middle of the kitchen, relishing the delectable smell of meat, potatoes, onion, and tomato gravy that had been shifted to the far side of the stove to keep it warm.

Otswakae moved to the dining-room. Moipone Rampedi looked at her son and smiled, as he stood next to her at the table.

“Look, I brought you and your grandfather some clothes from my work.”

Moipone was 37, tall and stout. Her thin lips, on her round, dark face, parted with a genuine smile and love for her son. Moipone’s parents, Ananias and Thokozile Rampedi sat at the table. Torn and sewn clothes, made up of a mix of shirts, trousers, T-shirt, and jerseys, and smelling of washing soap, were strewn all over the table.

Moipone held up a fawn jersey and gazed at Otswakae. “This one is nice, ? Try it on; it will look good on you, because you are the same size as the kleinbaas, the little master.”

Otswakae avoided looking at his mother, because the dulling pain of not knowing the whereabouts of his father and his ancestry had not waned and was twisting his face. It gnawed deep into his heart. He took the jersey and went to the bedroom, leaving his mother to select the rest of the clothes she thought her son would need.

Moipone had dropped out of school in Standard Two. She was a domestic worker and appreciated the old clothes given to her by her employer, Mariè Snymaan, which she was always delighted to bring home for Otswakae and her own father. Moipone noticed that Otswakae was offish and had not shown even the slightest appreciation when she’d handed him the jersey. She could not understand her son’s aloofness and coldness.

When Ananias Rampedi and his wife had retired to bed, Otswakae and Moipone sat on a bench in front of the warm coal stove in the kitchen. Both of them could hear the loud footsteps of people in the street, the sounds of shouting, the hysterical screams of women and the whistles of the nonchalant rascals who lurked in the streets at night.

Moipone stole a sideways gaze at her son. “You were very quiet all evening, something bothering you, my boy?”

Otswakae stood up, walked to the table, scooped water from a bucket with a plastic mug and gulped it down, then sat next to his mother, without looking at her and said, “Mama.” He cleared his throat, his chest tight with pain. “I want to know who my father is.”

Moipone feigned shock at this and remained silent, pondering her next words carefully. She could not fathom why her son wanted to know who his father was. Where had this come from, all of a sudden? Her face contorted with anger.

“Why do you say that?” she asked. “Especially now of all times?”

“Most boys my age know who their fathers are.” His voice choked. “They know who they are and where they come from.”

“Why does it worry you as to who your father is?” And now her voice was raised and trembling. “I’m working hard to take care of you so that you can appreciate my efforts and not worry about your father.”

“I know that, Mama, but don’t you think that it is important for me to know my identity?” Tears began to well in his eyes.

The padding footsteps in the street, the shouting, and the whistles, became louder in the silence of the room that was now engulfed in a heavy tension.

You know what, Otswakae?” She stood up. “I don’t have time for your silly nonsense questions, man.”

“But, Mama, I just want to know...”

“Just shut up, you hear me?” Moipone wagged a threatening finger at Otswakae and stormed out.

His head bowed, Otswakae remained seated in front of the stove, thinking about his next move. He thought that in all probabilities, his mother must have had sex with someone and he was unintentionally conceived, and that now his father was out there somewhere, perhaps even having more children.

Had his mother had a scandalous sexual liaison? The enquiring thought ran in his mind. Could it have been with a married man, perhaps? Was she, in some way, forced to conceal his identity to avoid embarrassing his family? Anyway, why would his mother be so shaken up about it and unwilling to tell him who his father was? Did a sex maniac perhaps rape her? Was he a product of rape, or had his mother conceived him as a result of secret and nefarious sexual encounter with a close relative of theirs? Otswakae rubbed his eyes, and wondered if he was not possibly a product of incest? These questions ran through the boy’s mind like an Olympic relay race.

He switched off the dining-room light and lay on the sponge on the floor. He could not understand why his mother would prefer to keep the identity of his father secret. Did she loathe the man so much that she abhorred even talking about him? Otswakae contemplated finding someone his mother possibly could have confided in about the identity of his father. Was there a possibility, he thought to himself, that his mother could have shared with someone the secret of the man who had impregnated her?’ He wondered if his grandparents knew who his father was, and if they did, would they be prepared to tell him? He also wondered if his mother’s elder or younger sister knew who his father was, and if they would tell Otswakae who the heck he was? Did his uncle perhaps know his father was?

It was late into the night already when his head finally lolled on the pillow.

Chapter 2

Barely two months after the birth of her son, Moipone had left him in the care of his stay-at-home aunt. Otswakae’s grandmother, Thokozile Joyce Mtshwene, had given birth to four children, three girls and a boy. Thokozile had given birth to her first daughter, Mooinooie, at the age of sixteen on a farm in Bethal, in the Eastern Transvaal.

Mooinooie was born outside wedlock. Her grandmother, Selina Mtshwene, named her Mooinooie, an Afrikaans pet name denoting a beautiful maiden. But soon after they came to live in Mamelodi, Mooinooie’s name became the butt of the of the township folk, so she preferred rather to be called Mooie. She was pretty indeed, with a lighter-than-usual complexion, eyes that seemed to smile even when she was not in a good mood, thick, kissable lips that made her wide mouth more African, and a sharp pointy nose. She had a pair of long, beautiful, well-shaped legs that made her glide when she walked and a curvaceous body that made many girls use the notorious figure-belt just to emulate it. She was never too shy to flaunt her beauty at any given moment. And this trait magnetised lust from the boys her age, as well as envy and jealousy from other girls and even from her younger sisters, who could not attract comparable suitors.

Both married and single, as well as fashionable men vied for her attention, and they were always prepared to spend money to help her to maintain her impeccable style of dress. Mooie’s beauty attracted suitors who did not mind getting into brawls, sometimes even into violent fights over her. She steadfastly dismissed her peers’ subjective insults that she was barren because, at the age of 32, Mooie still had no children, and had never married. She rather preferred the ‘vat and sit’ arrangement, cohabiting with men who had deep pockets.

Thokozile’s efforts to put her daughter on the straight and narrow were futile, often resulting in heated arguments. Over time, Thokozile would craft venomous insults which she hurled at her daughter and labelled her ‘lo nondindwa’ – an insult often reserved for someone considered an incorrigible whore. In earlier years, as he was growing up, Otswakae always had been astounded at this and could not understand why his grandmother regarded his aunt as an unrepentant slut.

One morning, while Thokozile was clearing the mess of the previous night’s leftovers and dirty dishes in the kitchen, Mooie walked in carrying a plastic shopping-bag with beers in it, and gazed at her mother with an ‘I-don’t-care-what-you-think’ look.

Morning, magrizen, old lady,” said the man who accompanied her. He grinned and followed Mooie into the house.

Thokozile scolded the man, and looked at her daughter with blazing eyes of derision. She picked up the large, steel bowl stacked with dirty dishes and walked out. She placed it on an upturned, disused petroleum drum outside the kitchen and started washing the dishes.

Otswakae was still at primary school that day and, when he had run home during a lunch break, he had found his grandmother washing the dishes. He could see that his grandmother’s face was dour as she glanced at him where he stood, fiddling with his fingers.

“Go and tell Mooie in the house to give you bread and tea.”

Otswakae strode into the house, but his aunt was not in the kitchen. He stopped at the dining-room door, where his Uncle Sam sat at the table, his face partly covered in a cloud of cigarette smoke. There were several beer bottles on the table, some of them unopened. There was a full glass of beer in front of his uncle and two empty glasses next to it.

Uncle Sam possessed a sadistic temper that made it easy for him to wield a knife at the slightest provocation. His sisters, and several other people, loathed him and secretly called him ‘Scarecrow’ because of his slight build, which wasn’t a disadvantage to him, as fearlessness and agility were his monumental assets.

Holla Uncle, where is Aunt Mooie?”

Scarecrow remained rigid and seemed to be in a trance, as he puffed away on his cigarette. Otswakae’s heart pounded as he fiddled with his fingers, scared that he would be late getting back to school, and he did not want to be late. He flipped the torn, dirty and faded floral curtain that hung in front of the door and barged into the bedroom.

Privacy was not a virtue in his grandmother’s household, and therefore knocking before entering any of the two bedrooms had never been instilled in any of his grandmother’s children.

He stopped dead in the middle of the door, his eyes wide and bewildered, at the appalling sight that greeted him. Mooie’s shiny, yellow buttocks were exposed, and she was thrusting them up and down on top of a man trapped under her voluptuous body. Mooie was breathing heavily and, without looking up but now thrusting with more vigour, her breathing ragged, she glanced sideway at Otswakae.

Voetsek, ke a tla, man. (Just piss off, I’m coming.)”

Otswakae staggered out. Thokozile looked up at her grandson, where he stood with his knees knocking against each other, his face ashen, and his eyes welling with tears.

“And now, what is she doing?” asked Thokozile.

Otswakae, his facial muscles frozen, cast his gaze on the ground, drawing weird objects on the ground with the tip of his black school shoes.

Thokozile flew into a rage. “Blerry good for nothing nondindwa.”

She wiped her hands on her pink overall that was faded on the chest and exposed a large, shrivelled breast. She walked into the house and found Scarecrow still seated at the table.

“Where is she?”

Scare threw his mother a nonchalant gaze, rose, gulped his beer, and walked out past his mother.

Thokozile gazed towards the bedroom, hissing, her face contorted in disgust.

“All she knows is how to sleep with anything on earth that has a meat between its legs.”

Thokozile felt the kettle with her palm, poured the warm water into a cup and gave it to her grandson.

Otswakae sat at the kitchen table, gasping for breath, the cup of tea clasped in his palms. He was perplexed by how his aunt could indulge in such dreadful behaviour. Had she completely lost every fibre of decency and respect? He also could not comprehend how Scarecrow could have been so passive regarding his elder sister’s depravities. It was disgusting, he thought, that his uncle could just sit there like a statue, as if he was keeping guard to ward off any intruder from disturbing his sister’s overtly sexual desires

Otswakae, a slice of bread in his hand, gulped down the watery, black tea and then handed the dirty cup to his grandmother. He bit a chunk of bread and, with his mouth full, said, “Thank you, Grandma,” before sprinting out of the yard.

Chapter 3

It was in his second or third year at high school that Otswakae really became distressed by his dysfunctional, maternal family’s life. Moipone had been born three years after Mooie and Sara had followed her. Scarecrow, who was born two years later, had so many similarities to his older sister, Sara, who was temperamental and, when she was under the spell of dagga, or in a drunken stupor, became violent.

Otswakae had gone to Tshepo’s home, where they had spent the afternoon studying. The tumultuous situation at his grandparents’ home was not conducive for Otswakae to study at home, especially on weekends.

More often than not, Scarecrow and his friends or his aunts, Mooie and Sara, would be at home with friends, drinking. Often these beer binges would turn into bitter bickering between Sara and Scarecrow, and then become violent.

“Where is Grandpa, has he gone to bed already?” Otswakae asked his grandmother.

“No, he has gone to a night vigil and won’t be back until tomorrow.”

“And Uncle and Aunt Sara, where are they?”

Thokozile looked at her grandson and her eyes shone with relief. “Wherever the hell they are, I hope they don’t come back home tonight; it’s always so peaceful when they aren’t here.” Otswakae looked at his grandmother, amused, and reckoned she was right. He went to the dining-room, put away his books, switched on the TV, and sat on the couch. It was not long before Otswakae heard his aunt, Sara, walking into the kitchen and shouting at someone. She then walked into the dining-room, with two beer bottles tucked under her armpits, followed by a man, his popping, red eyes signifying equal drunkenness.

You will shit big time, if you think you can take me for a ride.” Sara banged the bottles on the table.

She was furious at her companion; she had found him with another woman, inside the toilet of the shebeen (local bar), where they had been drinking. She accused her companion of giving money to this other woman because when Sara asked him for money, he told her that he no longer had money and that is what had set off the bitter argument.

“Listen.” His speech was slurred and his head bobbing. “It is not what you think; I was not flirting with that woman.”

“What were you doing with her inside the toilet?” She pushed him hard with her open hand.

The man burst out in mocking laughter, balancing his hands on the table. “I was too pissed and I got into the toilet with her. So, what’s your problem?”

“Motherfucker!” Her voice was quivering. “Get out of here, get out.”

“Fine, give me back the money I bought you the beers with.” The man flapped his unsteady hand at Sara’s face. “Give back my fucking money.”

Otswakae looked at his aunt; the muscles of her face were twitching and her eyes were burning with rage. He was convinced that there was going to be pandemonium, so he walked out of the house and went to stand at the gate.

“Go and get it from your mother,” said Sara.

As the man was preparing to hurl a similar insult at her, Sara flew into an uncontrollable rage and smashed a beer bottle. With its contents pooling on the floor, she stabbed the man several times in the stomach. Blood splattered onto the walls from the man’s gaping wounds. The drunken man groaned excruciatingly, and slumped on the floor; his intestines spewing out and snaking across the floor.

Thokozile Rampedi rushed into the dining-room. Her eyes wide open with shock and fright.

“Sara, are you crazy? Oh my God!” She rushed out and saw Otswakae standing at the gate. Her voice was shaking with desperation and terror.

“Otswakae, go and call the ambulance, quickly.”

He turned and looked at his grandmother, wide-eyed. He was dismayed that she would even suggest that he risk his own life at that time of the night.

“No, Grandma, I can’t go there alone at this time of the night.”

Blerry rubbish.” Thokozile disappeared back into the house. “Sara, what are we going to do, we must get him help.”

Sara did now show a hint of shock or remorse at what had just happened; her bloodshot eyes remained blank, as if she had just witnessed a cow-dung beetle being run over by a coal truck. She opened one of the beer bottles on the table with her teeth and took a long swig, put the bottle on the table, wiped her mouth and burped.

“I’ll go and call the ambulance.”

Sara had a daughter, Zinhle, who had gone to live with her father after Sara previously had been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for stabbing another woman with a knife at a shebeen. There had been no money to bail her out and, months later, following several Court appearances, she was found guilty of Attempted Murder and Grievous Bodily Harm for the fatal stabbing of the man with a beer bottle, and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

Chapter 4

The thought of his identity was becoming unbearable to Otswakae and he was determined to find his father and discover his ancestral lineage. He had once dared to approach his grandmother about this, and Thokozile had rebuffed him.

Bantu be Nkosi! For God’s sake. Why don’t you ask your mother these things?” Thokozile had replied.

Magogo (Grandma), she doesn’t want to tell me who my father is,” Otswakae had countered.

Awuyeke ukungi hlanyela mina (Don’t bother me with all that crazy stuff). She is the only one who can tell you who your father is,” Thokozile had stated, emphatically.

Walking home from a soccer practice that afternoon, Otswakae saw his mother’s friend, Esther Semela, standing at the gate of her four-roomed house. She gazed sideways, like she was expecting a visitor. Otswakae brightened up and his heart raced with anticipation.

Esther Semela lived in the same street as Moipone’s parents. Moipone and Esther went to the same church and, from what Otswakae gathered, they spent most of their time talking about church matters and other insignificant religious issues.

Esther was a well-known rumour-monger in the neighbourhood, who was capable of disseminating a rumour long before it could be verified. It did not surprise the neighbourhood, and others who knew her, when this trait earned her the nickname ‘Gogo 702’, after a popular, independent, talk-radio station.

Otswakae had no doubt that, by means of her cunning ways, Esther must have dipped her curiosity into his mother’s past and private life.

Esther was 39, a slightly-built woman, who wore her hair short, had a dark, round face, and a gravelly voice. She lived alone, and had never married nor had any children. Nobody in the neighbourhood knew any of Esther’s family members or relatives.

“Hey, Otswakae, I need some bread and eggs from the shops. Can you go and get them for me?” she asked.

Otswakae was thrilled. He yearned for the opportunity to talk to Esther and prod her to tell him if she possibly knew his father.

He came back from the shop and put the bread and eggs that Esther had sent him to buy, on the table. She was wiping dust off the grocery cabinet.

“Here’s your change, Mama Esther.” He took the change out of his pocket and placed it on the table.

“Thank you very much. Can’t send these boys from this street to the shops, you know?” she added.

“Why is that so, Mama Esther?”

She moved to the table, her eyes forlorn, and her voice trembled. “They expect me to give them money each time I send them to the shops. It is not a pleasant thing not to have children. Can I get you something to drink?”

“Please.” Otswakae pulled a chair from the table and sat down.

Esther put a family size Coca-Cola bottle on the table, took out two glasses from the cabinet, wiped them off, and sat down. Otswakae poured the drinks.

She yawned without shielding her mouth, revealing her false dentures. Otswakae noticed the flabby bags under her grey eyes and realised she was tired.

“I arrived home this morning at 2 a.m.” She sipped her drink. “Do you know Tshidi, the girl who stays on the second street from ours?”

Otswakae nodded his head, although he only vaguely knew who Tshidi was.

“She had asked me to accompany her to Welkom.”

“Where is Welkom, Mama Esther?”

Esther was amused by the youngster’s ignorance and burst into laughter.

Aga wena man, gee… in the Free State. Her boyfriend is paying out lobola for her and she wanted to inform her father to get involved in the process of the negotiations.”

“Doesn’t her father stay with her?” asked Otswakae.

She shook her head in fervent movements and softened her voice in confidence, her false dentures showing.

“The man married to her mother is her stepfather. Poor girl, she didn’t know that the man was her stepfather, until I told her in secret.” She smiled, her face glowing with satisfaction.

Otswakae sipped at his drink, looking at Esther over his glass, delighted that now this train of revelations had been set in motion. Esther and Tshidi’s mother had been friends since their student days.

“She got impregnated by Tshidi’s biological father,” said Esther. “I think that they had both been nineteen years old at the time. The bastard denied that he had impregnated Tshidi’s mother, and claimed they had been playing.”

Esther put her glass on the table, wiped her lips with her index finger, as a sardonic smile moved across her face.

“That was the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard,” she broke in. “Who said sex was a game? How can you have sex with someone and say you were playing?”

She told Otswakae that Tshidi’s mother and her stepfather had gotten married when the girl was already five years old. Esther stressed, however, that Tshidi’s stepfather loved her like she was his own daughter.

When Tshidi’s mother sent for me,” Esther’s eyebrows lifted, her stare mordant, “I asked Tshidi if her mother had informed her biological father that her boyfriend was paying lobola for her.”

She paused and toyed with the glass before her. “Poor girl, you should have seen her. She was in complete shock, as all along she had thought that her stepfather was her biological father.”

Otswakae’s jaw dropped. He knew that Esther was a blabbermouth, but he didn’t expect her to be so tactless and to heedlessly reveal such a sensitive and perhaps well-guarded secret to a friend’s daughter.

“Do you think it was the right thing to do, Mama Esther?”

Esther was unruffled. “Of course. You know children – every child has the right to know who his or her biological father is; that is very important.”

“How did you know that Tshidi’s father lived in Welkom?”

“His parents used to live here in Mamelodi. After his father passed away, he took his mother to live with him in Welkom, where he worked on the mines. I met him when we went to a Church Conference there.”

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