I don’t know how long I sit there, frozen on the window ledge, while the train screeches round sharp bends. Lebo is getting angry.

“Come on, Ndaba. Be a man!” Lebo hauls himself up Topside, his takkies dangling in my face.

Inside, the other learners are laughing at me. They start to flap their arms and squawk like chickens. They start to chant:

“Chicken-Licken! Chicken-Licken!”

Yeah, that is me! Not Ndaba aka Simba the Lion, but Ndaba aka Chicken-Licken the Coward! I am glad Masego isn’t on the train to hear this. But what will she do when she does? She is sure to dump me. Who wants a loser boyfriend too scared to train-surf? The story will be all over our Secondary School by tomorrow, first break.

“Chicken Licken. Chicken Licken!”

I can’t even look after my own family properly. Even though I promised my mother before she died last year. I will tell Mma Moepi to keep Brightness, she has a new cot. She can look after him better than I can. And Kabo. Maybe the man from Child Welfare was right too. Maybe Kabo should go to live at the Sunlands Home. At least there is proper food for him there. At least they have more than one half-packet of White Star to last till pay-day. And maybe Shalani must go to live with our aunt on the farm where she works.

“Chicken Licken, Chicken Licken,” the chant is getting louder. The noise in the train is deafening.

I am full of shame.

And then there is a scream. It’s coming from on top of the train. Then a Doef…and then silence…

I look up and Lebo’s head is hanging over the edge of the train roof. Blood runs down his face, down onto me. And he is sliding… sliding with the jarring of the coach.

“Dan!” I scream. “Lebo needs help. Now!”

But Dan is far from the window even though he is pushing his way towards me through the shocked and silent pupils. In that instant I know: I am Lebo’s only hope.

It is now or never.

But the train is speeding. The giant steel pylons whizz past me. So close.


Tell us what you think: Will Ndaba be able to rescue Lebo?