Summer has the most incredible days in Inanda. Even if it was sunny the day before, it might be stormy at any given moment the next day. Tall dark cumulonimbus clouds form and collect on the horizon.
Zethembe watches out the window as the harbingers, tiny birds, spiral under the dark sky. Soon after, heavy raindrops fall and the metal roof wails.
“Zethembe, move away from that window!” demands Vus’umuzi, after flashes of lightning crack the sky. Vus’umuzi sits on the sofa with his legs crossed, reading a newspaper. The boy crawls next to the sofa.
“Dad, how long do you think it will rain like this? I want to go out,” says Zethembe.
“I don’t know, watch the TV!” says Vus’umuzi, not looking up from the paper.
“Mama said we should not turn on the TV when there’s lightning.” Zethembe picks his nose. “Why shouldn’t we switch the TV on when there’s lightning?”
“Ask your ma. She’s the one who said that. Read your books or something. I’m busy.” Vus’umuzi licks his thumbs and turns the page.
Zethembe gets up and walks to his bedroom.
Zethembe’s father gets up and peers through the gap between the curtains. It’s still pouring madly outside. He folds the newspaper and puts it on the table before heading for the bedroom. He stops outside Zethembe’s bedroom. The door is open and he decides to go check on his son. Zethembe is fast asleep, with his phone on the pillow by his head. Vus’umuzi picks up the phone and studies it before pressing the power button so that the screen comes on. It appears Zethembe was on the gallery app, looking at pictures. Vus’umuzi’s face becomes uneasy when he sees the type of pictures Zethembe has been looking at.
“My God, Za! Do you know what’s on your son’s phone?”
“Phone?” says Zandile, woozily.
Vus’umuzi pulls the covers over and says, “Yes! His phone, you want him to be gay?”
Zandile stares and rolls over in the bed, “Gay? What’s wrong with being gay? Besides, I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
“I can’t have that in my family, we, the Tembe people, don’t have faggots,” says Vus’umuzi, clicking his tongue. “Zethembe has pictures of half-naked men on his phone. Not one picture, lots of them!”
Zandile is shocked, but she keeps silent.
The next day, the sun is up, blessing the bustling streets of Inanda. Vus’umuzi goes to work, and Zethembe goes to school, leaving Zandile behind.
The day passes and in the afternoon, when the sun reaches its peak, Zethembe walks with Thato from school. They pass people throwing water over their heads and covering their faces to be safe from the heat.
“I think dad is cheating on Ma,” starts Zethembe, after a long walk of silence.
Thato, a small slim boy with a mild dark complexion, turns to Zethembe.
“What makes you say that?”
Zethembe wipes off the sweat from his brow. “I overheard him yesterday talking to another woman on the phone. He’s not been sweet to Ma recently; he treats her badly…I think he’s going to leave Ma.” Zethembe’s eyes become teary.
“He’s not going to leave your ma, relax. My father and ma fight all the time, but I know it’s going to pass,” says Thato, tapping Zethembe’s shoulder.
Near Zethembe’s house they stop to rest by a grove of huge mango trees.
Thato takes a sip from the bottle. He looks at his friend and realises that he is crying.
“What’s wrong now?”
Zethembe says nothing.
Thato pulls him up. “Come on, your dad won’t leave your ma.” Thato gives Zethembe a hug, rubbing his back.
Catherine, one of the old women in the neighbourhood, passes by, and scolds the boys, “Awu, Hhayi!”
Thato swiftly and almost without care shoves Zethembe backwards to the ground.
“What are you boys doing?” asks the old, gaunt Catherine, “You! Your father is an honest hardworking man. How can you do this to his name?” she points at Zethembe.
Zethembe gets up and runs. Tears roll down his face, his heart bangs his chest.
Tell us: What do you think is going on?