At about six, little Ida started to complain that she was hungry. Auntie Jax began to look through the fridge and the cupboards.

“Well, I’ll be damned. What on earth is this stuff – is it food? I mean,” and she held up a sack of pap, “I know about grits back home, but this … And what’s this?”

“Um,” Jacobus said, “polony.”

“What? Like baloney? Oh no, we ain’t eating that. Listen, how ’bout we go get us some pizza, and order enough for tomorrow’s lunch? I’ll sashay my fine rear end to the store tomorrow, okay?”

The children looked doubtfully at Auntie Jax. Her dress looked like one of their mother’s shiny nighties, which were stored in their own special drawer. But Auntie Jax didn’t change her outfit to go out.

She piled everyone into the extended cab bakkie, which Auntie Jax didn’t seem to have any trouble driving, in spite of her pointy shoes. The only embarrassing part of the journey was that every time they passed somebody, she’d stick her arm out of the window and shout, “Hey there!”

The entire restaurant fell into a hush when Jacqueline strode in with her niece and nephews. They were seated quickly, at a table tucked away in the back. Jacqueline scanned the menu, asking a question or two, and glancing around.

The children sat in the booth waiting, not expressing a single opinion on what they would be fed. Their little shoulders stiffened as the whispers began, and more than a few heads turned to stare. Jacqueline noticed people noticing, and leaned over, earrings swinging.

“Are they whispering about us?”

The boys nodded.

“Wanna tell me what they’re saying?” Auntie Jax asked.

Piet’s face turned pink. Jacobus shook his head.

“That’s okay, darlings,” said Auntie Jax. She stood up and faced the restaurant. “Hi, ya’ll. Just wanted to introduce myself to any who don’t remember. I’m Jacqueline, Madeline’s little sister. I’m going to be here for a few weeks while Maddy sorts out that little issue that I’m sure ya’ll know all about. In the meantime, don’t feel you have to stay a stranger. Just come on over and introduce yourselves in your own time.”

Everybody turned right back around and became suddenly fascinated by the wood oven that had baked their pizzas, week in and week out, for the past seven years.

When the waitress came over, Auntie Jax ordered three large pizzas, three cooldrinks and a large glass of white wine. Nobody had to drink tap water. Nobody had to split a child’s pizza. More amazingly, Auntie Jax had even asked if three were going to be enough: “Think we’ll need four?” Ida’s eyes had widened so much they practically took over her face.

But when the pizza arrived, Auntie Jax took only a single slice.

“Don’t you want more?” Piet had asked.

“Oh sugar, you’re sweet. But no, I’m fine. Thanks for asking. At my age you don’t need to eat so much.”

All the children looked at their Auntie, then back at their plates, and simultaneously began to stuff their mouths. They were still chewing away when Auntie Jax asked for the bill. All three watched warily as the black folder was set on the table. As soon as Auntie Jax opened it, they stopped chewing.

“Okay my little pups, what have we here … m’brain can’t hardly do arithmetic these days … So, one rand equals … and … oh he– … never mind. Here.” The children’s jaws fell open as she laid down two leopards. “Keep the change, honey.”

The children closed their mouths and went back to eating.


Tell us: Why do you think people can be so nosy? Would you stare at Aunty Jax and her niece and nephews?