FICTION: The lamp under a clay pot - Part one

By Drum Digital
15 February 2017

The people of Magogwe in Mahikeng have always been generous with pet names, some of these names were belittling, to say the least

By Harry Sekgweleo

The people of Magogwe in Mahikeng have always been generous with pet names. Some of these names were belittling, to say the least. Like “Tonight” for a dark-skinned person and “Gongkgang” for the one with a big nose. The list was endless. Jonas, aka Cassette, was one such victim. His front teeth were missing and they said the space left was big enough to insert a cassette; just like the slot in a music player.

From an early age, the young boy displayed streaks of aggressiveness. When he played soccer with his peers, it always ended up in fisticuffs. It was partly because he was less talented. The FC Mawete players were crafty and given to showboating. Cassette didn’t tolerate that kind of grandstanding where people put the ball between his legs and made a fool of him.

But there was a weak spot to the young man. When Ziphora arrived in Magogwe, he took it upon himself to make the girl comfortable. Her family had relocated from Zeerust to settle in the neighbourhood. Cassette and his cousin, Brutus, always took the walk to Barolong High with the dark beauty. She was an immediate hit with the school community as she was an ardent singer and dancer in the Setswana tradition. The school had a dance group and whenever she stayed behind to rehearse, Cassette would make an excuse to float around the school until the practice was done.

When Ziphora danced on stage at school functions, he made sure to take the front row. Her costume enhanced her true African splendour: waist like a Coca-Cola bottle and toned thighs, which were due to the fitness that came from years of dancing. She always danced a duet with Tiro. The two also belonged to the same community dance group. Amid the rapturous applause of the audience, the pair’s rapport told stories of African pride, love and eternal influence. When they looked into each other's eyes as they smiled and gyrated, they seemed to break all barriers. It was so real. A tinge of jealousy always crawled down Cassette’s spine.

After one such performance, Tiro was walking Zipho home. Cassette and Brutus were following.

Cassette said, “I don’t like that boy.

“I know,” Brutus responded. Cassette was shocked.

“How do you know?”

His cousin shifted the backpack of books from one shoulder to the other. In his characteristic, poised manner he said, “Cassette, I know these things. If you love a girl; and you get butterflies in your stomach every time you see her – you must tell her. And failure to do so, my friend – that is a sausage factory for disaster!”

Brutus was always the expert. People called him “pastor”. He was passionate about the church and there were verses he could readily recite from the heart. Even teachers sometimes trusted him to lead assembly.

“Jonas,” the soft-spoken Brutus was matter-of-fact. “Jonas, love is a lamp. Mathew 5:15 says: ‘Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a clay pot, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house’.”

“Parables.”

“It’s not a parable. Put the light on the lamp stand, Cassette. Not under, on TOP!”

When they caught up with the pair ahead, Cassette sandwiched himself in between them. Tiro resisted. He was the same height as the assailant and certainly not a pushover.

“I think it’s time for you to get lost,” Cassette told him.

Tiro laughed. “I don’t take instructions from you.”

They stood neck to neck, like two bulls squaring up against each other. This was not the first confrontation. Once in the village, Cassette had closed Tiro’s windpipe after the latter had missed him with a fist. The situation could have become worse had Brutus not diffused it.

And now Cassette pointed an ugly finger.

“Sonny, your days are numbered.”

Tiro continued to laugh derisively, “Owaai, Cassette, you're a dreamer.”

“Hey, sonny, you have no right to call me Cassette. My name is Jonas.”

“I don’t care!” said Tiro, and left.

Brutus also gave Jonas and Ziphora space.

As they walked towards her home, he apologised: “Sorry about that.”

But Ziphora had a question. “Why are you so nasty to each other? I mean, the two of you are just my friends. What’s wrong?”

“There’s nothing wrong.”

“Are you sure?” she demanded.

He wished he had the courage to cough out the truth. But all that came out was:

“Yes … No …Yee … Eish …”

“Cassette, come on. What’s happening? You sound like a radio that’s not properly on the station. I can’t hear you.”

He stammered: “The thi- thi- thing is tomorrow I’m going to town. Will you come with me?”

“Sorry. We have a rehearsal around 9 am. Then later we are performing at MmeMotlalepula’s stokvel. So I will take a rain check.”

He was disappointed. “I’ll bring you something nice from town.”

“Thanks.”

Back home, Brutus was not surprised that his cousin had once again fluffed the opportunity.

“You know she even told me that I sound like a radio that’s not on the station.”

“Eish, sorry, brother. The fact that you can’t face her and spell it out probably means that you are not meant to be. Perhaps someone like me must take over.”

“You? Hey, sonny. Don’t cross that line!”

“Just joking!”

To be continued . . .

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