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Twenty Eight Days

Twenty Eight Days

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Published by Arubhani Wevhu

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Published by: Arubhani Wevhu on Aug 06, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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28 Days: The Mind of a young black man
.By Arubhani Wevhu
Mama's brown shoes
Rummaging through cardboard boxes of his varsity trivia, Lameck stumbled across them.Not so pretty now but still recognizable. Dust had coated the laces and covered theinsides. Even a spirited gust of breath would not remove it. Maybe a firm brushing with asoft brush would do the trick; a soft cloth wouldn't be firm enough to coax the dirt off thehaggard leather would it? A soft brush: that was exactly what he'd use, to clean theantique leather spotless, without hurting it, for every nick, every tear, every sew line,every dent in the leather held a story of its own.A faint glimmer came into his eyes. These shoes had been worn to church in the nearbytown every Sunday, to ask God to forgive a deeply loved son for all his transgressions, toplead with the creator to make a concession for the former's wrongdoing. These shoeshad been walked in for miles and miles every other week, protecting love's feet as shewalked tothe grinding mill to get that all-important mealie meal to feed her young. Theseshoes had been baked by the sun and caked over by the mud as the most beautiful soul onearth toiled to raise a man, to mould a forthright countenance out of a willful and wildspirited potential drug addict.These shoes had been left outside Mama ka Lerato's front door every Friday afternoonwhen the weekly women's neighborhood meeting took place. Collective bargaining andgroup savings seemed to be these rural women’s tickets to the big time. Here fountains of love brought their heads together and devised new ways to beat the wolf from the door.These old brown leather shoes had helped to uphold the burden of an immensely heavytin box, the steel trunk of sub saharan boarding school fame, at the close of every schoolholiday, on the way from home to the bursary-sponsored mission school bound bus.These shoes protected love's feet as she patiently waited for his homecoming at the busterminus whenever he went away to the city. These shoes stepped over cruel stone andbroken glass, cold pavement, hot tarmac and carelessly strewn embers, encasingdetermined feet driven by a stoic heart. These shoes left invisible prints all over town,whenever she went there by bus, in search of the fairest bargains, the best discounts, andthe lowest prices. These shoes left an indelible mark on his heart.Mama's brown shoes had been shined and spit polished ready for her visit to his highschool annually on Parent's day. These shoes had warmed her feet by the fireside at heryoung brother's funeral deep in the heart of Phalaborwa communal lands were she hadgrown up. They had taken the rural brunt of thorns and fresh cow dung for her in thatperiod of great trial. These shoes had shuffled backand forth, dancing in delight, at her
2sister's wedding. These shoes had lain next to her husband's, every night for their servicelifetime.The sound of these shoes in that tiled hallway at her workplace had spelled silence forany noisy students. These shoes had been worn by the bedside everytime he fell ill, theseshoes had come running everytime he let out a wail in genuine pain or in the childishlyinsatiable quest for attention. These shoes had won his heart over, over the years, theseshoes; these shoes had never kicked him. They had escorted him to school on the first dayhe went to there. They had shuffled uneasily on the ground as tears of uncertainty rolleddown his infantile cheeks, and then they had walked firmly away, leaving him to face anewera, that of painstakingly slow but permanently life enriching education. They knewwhat was best for him.The worn out brown shoes had walked in front of him on numerous occasions, on trips totheir rural extended family’s home. Every step bringing mother and son closer to theirthatched place of origin. Every step a firm reminder to the son, that later in life, no matterhow rich or poor one might be, wearing one's shoes on the trek back home would makefor a renewal of spirit, a strengthening of resolve.Mama's brown shoes had seen him grow. They had worked the ground under him whilehe was strapped to love's back, a helpless toddler dependent on his mother for everymorsel, every bit of warmth. These shoes had lain beneath the hospital bed while hisyounger sister was born, contemplating perhaps with a mind of their own, the additionalwork they had to now perform to cater for yet another soul's needs. These shoes were hispast, they were every pain, every tear, every joy, every smile that he had ever livedthrough. They had looked out for him and he had looked out for them too. A wry smilecrept across his face as he remembered with a tinge of guilt how he had ranted and ravedand fumed whenever mama asked him to polish them for her.The brown leathershoes marked every important step in his life. They had been therewhen he was taken to the post office to open his first savings account. A testimony to thereverently held faith that he'd grow up to be a man of prudence insofar as money isconcerned. These shoes had come swiftly, determinedly, to snatch him away from thebamboo grove next to the river when he hung around the cannabis-and-cane -spiritcrowd. These shoes had taken him to the dilapidated parish church the next day, to sitwith him in the front pew, lest he missed a single word of Father Mcgiven's dull,lukewarm and barely audible sermon, to tap lightly at his feet and wake him up wheneverhe dozed off, bored by the long drawling monotone.He drew his hand across the now emaciated leather ashe remembered how these shoeshad stamped out spiders and ants that would have hurt a deeply loved baby boy. Heremembered how they had skirted in and out among the cut out rubber tyres with grainand water, pushed to the limit by an amazingly strong African woman raising chickens tofend for all and sundry, to enable her children to go to the best mission schools and readbooks that she had never had the chance to read herself. These shoes had been drawnacross the porch, their familiar sound punctuated by that ever so meaningful maternal
3grunt: ‘ummh-ummh’, to suggest and remind him of the all important virtue of proprietyeverytime that his first girlfriend came home visiting. These shoes had been everywhere;they had seen everything and their print marks were all over his memory, all over his life.They were everything.They had been on hand to smack his backside when really got out of hand, like the timehe dismantled the family’s just-paid-off battery powered fifteen inch black and whitetelevision set to bits in an effort to get to the ever-jubilant cartoon characters of hischildhood afternoons that supposedly resided within it. It didn't help matters that the tellywas a Monarch deluxe in pure mahogany finish that was the pride and joy of his father onevery Sunday afternoon as he cheered the Chiefs on to victory over a frothy cup of coldand effervescent traditional beer. These shoes had provided leverage against the bareconcrete floor, playing their part in the frequently played out drama of hauling a
-inebriated husband to the parental bedroom. These shoes had been there for him always;they had been there for him when it was dark overhead and wet underfoot. These shoeswere his making. They had stepped onto the scene of each and every little trial andtribulation. Line by line, precept by precept they had lived the story that was the makingof the man he had grown to be. The graduation party, the wedding, every occasion, theyhad been there.A soft knock on the door jolted him back to thethen-and there. She stood there with alook of understanding. Was that a hint of a tear in the corner of her eye? Caught unawareshe slowly put down the shoe he was holding against his bosom. ‘Time to eat son', shemuttered uneasily, making clear the deeply emotive strength of the moment. She closedthe door carefully as she left. She was wearing brown shoes.
Nkosi Sikelel' Afrika
Fridays at Gamotshana Junior School were the best days of all, especially Fridaymornings. Friday morning was when we had we had school assembly in the great hall.With the weekend coming, everybody would be excited because that meant spending twowhole days at home. Except for the homework to be done on Friday night, there would beno pens, no rulers and erasers to talk and think about, life would be all fun. For a fewthere'd be just puppies, kittens, bicycles, Voltron™, Candy pops and most of all charminglittle sisters to think of, spoil at every turn and be with all the time. Some would for thenext two days tirelessly play tag and hop scotch in the dusty and potholed streets of thelocal townships. A few others would spend the weekend a bit further out of townalternating between the pursuit of unfettered childhood happiness, the search for wildfruit and fetching waterfrom the commune well. After all, all work and no play wouldmake us dull, wouldn't it?I particularly remember one beautiful Friday morning. We started assembly as usual bysinging the national anthem, Nkosi sikelel' Africa. The pretty brown skinned girls in thefront row with their neatly pressed and bright yolk-yellow frocks always started the song.

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