“Sack of veggies,” cursed uncle RoboLeg. I called him that because of his prosthetic leg. He was trying to take it off from the stump that was left of his left leg. “Sack of vegetables,” he said once more, breathing heavily, it was a laborious activity.

“Would you like me to help uncle?” I offered. He shook his head, his face contorted as if in great pain.

“No thank you, I will be fine, Motjhana. Sack of rotten vegetables.”

And finally the leg was off. It would have been a simple task but he was using a disfigured left hand and a stump of the right arm. But still my uncle would not let anybody help him, lest he be a burden. He denied a lot of things which I believed would have made his life easier. He always said he never wanted to feel helpless, to always rely on people for survival.

If it had not been for the severity of his disability and the disability grant he was receiving, I have no doubt that my uncle would be holding a piece job somewhere in town, tending to someone else’s garden.

He lost his leg in a bus accident, his left hand got dysfunctional due to stroke and the stump on the other arm is due to cancer. You would want to feel sorry for him but he detests pity, wholeheartedly; he doesn’t want to be treated like he is helpless.

We were sitting outside, around the fire, the night sky starry and the moon full. Even when we moved to the township my grandmother never did away with the outdoors cooking. As if feeling sorry for me, so did the other neighbouring dwellers. Everything was new here; new tenants of new government RDP houses, new neighbours, new section and still to come, new yard fences, new street lamp posts and new streets. I focused my attention on the crackling fire’s flames licking at the tri-feet black pot cooking supper’s stew, thinking of trifling matters.

“I hear that soon you will be leaving for the university in the big city.” I didn’t know if that was a question or a comment, but then he kept quiet afterward, and I figured out that I was expected to respond.

“Yes, next year in January for registrations and February for good. I mean not for good, I am coming back for March recess of course.” I corrected myself. He chuckled. It was one of those distinct chuckles of his, the sincere chuckle, and he had two more; the prank and merry chuckles. I threw in a shy smile too. My mother appeared from the corner of the house coming to us to tend to the pot. My uncle coughed convulsively. I looked at him and I tried hard to hide the pity on my face.

“Be a good boy in the big city, my sonny. Otherwise come back like me, a living corpse.”

Tjhe, Aubuti (No, brother). Don’t talk like that to this poor child,” reprimanded my mother. My uncle chuckled, merrily, a lively laughter that eclipses the deadly truth. His laughter scaled down to mirth, he set his pregnant eyes on me. I took my time to regard him – fluffy hair, veins sticking out at his temples, hollow eye sockets, protruding cheek bones, he looked hungry, and he looked like he was sucking on a lollipop, only there was no stick sticking out of his mouth.

He snickered, dropped his eyes and shook his head. He took out his pipe and inserted it in his mouth. He took a tobacco pouch and tipped it over to pour its contents into the pipe. Only it was not brown tobacco that came out of it, but something greenish. My mother saw it, smacked her lips and shook her head.

“That belonged to our father and you are disgracing it,”

“What, you mean the garden from which I harvested this crop? He has no use for it. Six feet under. I am the heir of his wealth.” He said with calculated pride.

“I meant the pouch and the pipe,” said my mother emphatically. “If you got arrested for smoking that dagga, do you realise how disgraceful it would be to have those two items as proof. It would be like him, our father, handing you over to the police out of his own accord, an act he couldn’t dream of doing while he was still alive. And now here you are trying him, forcing him, leaving him no choice. Can’t that poor old man get some peace? Can’t you for once let him rest in peace?” my mother pleaded.

“To be frank with you, my dear sister, if I am found, no one would want to arrest me. After they have investigated me thoroughly, they would know that I am already serving my sentence,” Uncle said.

“Don’t worry yourself so much with my conduct. Why does it seem like my poison is affecting you more than I, its bearer? I ask you, please don’t burden yourself any further with me. Whatever happens to me from this point on I don’t care, for I have had my wish granted; to see the day my nephew goes to university and be a man this family has never had.”

Although I didn’t see the joke in what my uncle said, he jeered.

“As for the peace due to our father, I can guarantee you that he is lonely beyond comprehension. With me not being there, did I ever tell you that lately I have encountered occasions reflecting his invitation to me?” he punctuated with a chuckle. “I tell you my dear beloved sister, my days are numbered and soon I will be due.”

“You are being superstitious,” said my mother a little unsettled.

“Mxm! Coming from someone who believes the dead resurrect into inanimate objects.”

My uncle puffed from the pipe and indeed it was weed he was smoking. My mother left us while my uncle was administering another puff. The formerly delicious smell of stew haa a horrid smell now. I looked down at the embers of fire wood and dried cow dung. We were silent and the only sound filling the silence was the sucking and blowing of my uncle’s lips and mouth.


Tell us what you think: Do you believe in life after death? What do you think happens to us when we die?