Mama and I rushed back to the storm drain where I’d found the whimpering bundle. She was amazing. The first thing she said was, “It’s not a baby,” and I felt really relieved. But whatever was in the bag was obviously scared and maybe hurt. We had to get it out of there. She sent me back home to get a broom, but when we tried to pry the bars open with it, it just snapped in two.

My mom swore I’ve never heard her swear before and said, “This is what happens when you buy cheap stuff.”
“We could try and find a crowbar somewhere? Or a tyre iron?”
“No, just let me think,” mama said. Then she told me to wait there and watch the bag, make sure nothing happened to it.

She came back with the weirdest thing: a soaking wet dishtowel. I couldn’t figure it out. She tied it around two of the bars of the storm drain’s grille, then looped the other half around the broken broomstick and started twisting it clockwise until the cloth pulled tight.

“Ndicede, Song,” mama said. “Help me. I can’t do this on my own.” So I helped her turn the handle so that it twisted the cloth and slowly pulled the bars together. After three turns, one of the bars snapped!

“Yoh!” I was super impressed. “Did they teach you that at university?”

My mama laughed. “In a political science degree? No, I saw it on TV, baby.” When she called me baby, I knew she’d forgiven me.

We yanked up the bars and my mom reached into the storm drain and hauled out the sack, holding it a little bit away from her in case it was a rat that decided to bite.

She gently opened the bag and this tiny pathetic little puppy came crawling out on her belly, whimpering and wagging her tail and ducking her head like she expected us to hit her. She was really mangy and scrawny with bits of fur missing and what looked like a cigarette burn on her tummy when she rolled over for us to scratch it.

“Poor thing! We have to take her home, mama. Please can we take her home?”

“I’m worried that you’ve got too many responsibilities already, Song,” Mama said. And I knew she wasn’t just talking about my job and school and stuff.

“It’ll be okay if we do it together, mama.”

We took the puppy back home and gave her some beans out of a can, which she wolfed down. She wouldn’t stop eating until her belly was so big that she looked like she’d swallowed a soccer ball, and then she went to sleep on the mat by the door.

“We’ll have to get her some real dog food,” mama said.

“I’m sorry-” I started to say, but she interrupted me.

“You don’t have to go to university if you don’t want to. But you might want to go to film school later. Maybe being a jogger-“

“It’s called a ‘runner’, mama.” I rolled my eyes, but I didn’t mean it.

“Maybe being a runner on set is enough for now, but what if you want to be a…”

“An editor or a director or do visual effects?”

“Whatever those things are… You could always go to film school or that new animation college in Khayelitsha. Or maybe you decide you don’t want a career in film after all.”

“You’re saying I should finish matric.”

“I’m saying you should keep your options open. Finishing school will give you more opportunities in the world.”

“Thanks, mama,” I said and she gave me a hug.

“Now, this dog… It’s going to be hard work. You ready for that?”

“Yes, mama,” I said.

“Have you decided what you’re going to call her?”


(For my readers who don’t speak Xhosa, that means “opportunity”. 😉 )