Malenga pictures Tomas go, sprinting down the slope from thevillage, down the burning yellow track which leads to the river,where Doctor Leon Garcia has gone – today of all days – to treat asick worker on the bridge project.She’s tugged off her shirt: red to red; places it over the leg,the stump. ‘Stretcher – we must get her to the centre. Dédo, listen.I’m doing what I can. You’ll be fine.’ Salu brings the medical case Garcia has been putting togetherfor Malenga, of worn black leather, wide-based with a tough steelclasp.Under the leg, fragments of mine. She scrapes them away.Treat for shock. In the past few weeks she’s watched over Garcia’sshoulder. ‘Your turn will come, Malenga.’ ‘I’m not ready.’ ‘You’ve the gift.’ But do I have the nerve? Dédo fights to sit up. Her face isstretched, swollen. Her scream is aimed at Malenga’s heart. ‘Keepher flat.’ From the medical case she takes a roll of cloth, strongerthan a bandage. Old Maria has hobbled up from the village. Thevery breath of her is a comfort. ‘See, Maria’s arrived. That’s goodnews.’
As she has been taught to do by Dr. Garcia, Malenga applies a tourniquet.
Water has been brought. It is offered to Dédo, calm now,fading. ‘No drink. Doctor’s orders.’ Malenga works at the explodedleg, at the arteries. No to drink, no to antiseptic too. Not in a deepwound.…The tourniquet will have to be removed shortly. She is tyingoff. The stretcher has arrived. In the corner of her eye, a metallicglint. Salu is holding the leftovers of the mine.Malenga is up, stiff, swaying, steadied by Old Maria. For amoment in the turn of the light, the rectangle of steel held by Saluresembles one of those old catechisms hand-stitched and placedabove the bed. Salu traces the lettering with his fingers. He has justbegun to read.His catechism for the day shines clear and bronze in thefalling sun. In English, it says – FRONT TOWARD THE ENEMY.
In the story that follows, Malenga is taken captive by a squad of South African militia assisting Unita the rebel army of Angola. She meetsHamish, another captive, a young South African national serviceman, adeserter. Theirs becomes a journey of survival, friendship and love.