But the next day on the train home, no one goes Topside. It is raining too hard.

“Hey bro, I train-surf to feel more alive, not to end up a corpse! Let me tell you, that roof gets slippery in the rain. Big time. No one could survive two minutes!” says Lebo.

“Lebo, my friend, it’s time I try this train-surfing too.”

Lebo looks keen. “Sharp! You and me together, riding the wind. We will have to give you an aka too. How about Simba?”


“Yeah, like Simba chips. You know, for the lion. Then everyone will know you have courage like a lion. Ndaba aka Simba the Lion!”

That sounds good to me. Masego will like that. She will be proud to be the girlfriend of Simba!

I look at the train window. It is closed. Rain is streaking down in fast lines. Will I be brave enough to climb out that window? Will I be strong enough to pull myself up onto the roof? What about the cables with their three thousand vaults? What about the cement bridges?

I feel the panic starting.

“Listen, the first time Topside, you must just lie flat. You need a lot more experience before you can stand. Or dance. Or surf backwards.” says Lebo. “And no one Bottomside will know, will they? They can’t see.” Lebo goes on. “They will still think you are a hero! Tomorrow, right? If it’s not raining! You and me, my friend!”

I nod. “Tomorrow,” I agree. I start to feel brave. Excited. I can do this, I tell myself. No problem. From the coach behind us comes the sounds of the ZCC people. They are having a church meeting. The beautiful harmony of their hymns rises above the sound of rain on the train roof.

On the way to collect Brightness I tell Masego, “Sorry I was rude yesterday. I was having a bad day.” She looks at me like I need to do more than say sorry.

“Tell me Ndaba, what were you and Lebo talking about on the train? You looked so serious.”

“It’s a surprise. Especially for you.” I tell her.

“Tell me,” she begs.

“You’ll have to wait and see.”

At Fourth Avenue she leaves me to walk down the street to her fancy house. Her dad and her elder brother earn lots of money as electricians. Her brother even owns a car. Masego turns once to wave at me.

Back at the shack, I make supper for Kabo and Shalani. We listen to the sound of rain falling softly on the tin roof. Brightness is already asleep.

Please, let it be raining tomorrow, I think. Please let it rain tomorrow even harder than today.


Tell us what you think: Why does Ndaba want it to rain?