The smoke and fumes of paraffin fill the air as people prepare dinner. Young boys roam around the streets. Some boys giggle, playing the game of “touch and go”, running past Vus’umuzi as he limps home. He stinks of dry sweat. As he gets to the house, he hears a faint voice calling him.
“Vusi!” It’s Catherine. She stands behind her iron fence. He wants to ignore her, but she’s old and he’s well-mannered. He walks towards her.
“Yebo, Ma,” says Vus’umuzi, tersely, once he’s reached her.
Catherine extends her wrinkled hand over the fence to shake Vus’umuzi’s.
“Eh, you know I’m your ma and that your son is my grandson,” begins Catherine.
“Yebo, Ma,” says Vus’umuzi, averting his face. He looks over the horizon which now has a few orange and dark cirrus clouds.
“Eh, I will never allow bad things to happen, if I see them, I will report them to you.” Catherine fixes her bright orange doek that matches her pinafore. “What I saw today…” Catherine dusts her hands in the air, “was a disgrace,” she completes her sentence with a sneer.
Vus’umuzi remains silent.
“Let me tell you. I saw your son kissing Mkhize’s son, who lives down by my house.”
Vus’umuzi’s heart feels a pang of pain.
“No, not my son,” says Vus’umuzi, shaking his head.
“Ey, I may be old, but these eyes can spot a needle on a floor, I know what I saw!”
Disappointment grows on Vus’umuzi’s face. There’s a feeling of disgust and hate in his mind.
“Mmh,” says Vus’umuzi, nodding to the old woman. He turns his back on her and starts to walk away.
“Vusi, what are you going to do to that child?!” shouts the old woman. But Vus’umuzi is already far away.
Vus’umuzi storms into his house. “Where is he?” he asks Zandile, who’s lying on a couch. She can sense the tension in his voice.
“He’s in his room. What’s wrong?”
Vus’umuzi goes to Zethembe’s room. He finds Zethembe already crouching in the corner, like a timid puppy. Vus’umuzi draws his belt like a sword, “You’re kissing boys now?” He holds it up in the air. Suddenly shame grows on his face, and tears flow down his face, “But why son? Why?!”
The boy has already winced, anticipating the whip. “Why what? You want to beat me, right?” the boy weeps as Vus’umuzi walks closer to him.
“First it was the pictures, now the kissing!” shouts Vus’umuzi, “Tell me why!”
Zethembe speaks in a low tone, “I did not kiss anyone.”
Vus’umuzi looks at his son. He wants to beat him, but something holds him back. “You will stay here until all is alright with you!!” says Vus’umuzi, quickly turning and shutting the door of Zethembe’s room and locking it.
Zethembe runs to the door and screams, “Ma!!”
Zandile sits up straight on the couch. She wants to go and save her son, but she’s not powerful enough. She grips the edge of the sofa tightly as warm tears flow down her cheeks.
“Vusi, please!” she cries, “Please Vusi.”
The neighbours hear the screams of the little boy. Some come up to the fence of Zethembe’s house to listen. Other commuters pass by, pausing to listen before walking on.
Suddenly the screams stop and people carry on with their lives. Some go back to their houses while others carry on walking.
Catherine watches from her house a few steps away. She squints her eyes through her round spectacles when she sees a manly figure strutting outside. It’s Vus’umuzi. He paces up and down, then goes back inside, shutting the door.
Tell us: Why do you think of Vus’umuzi’s behaviour? How would you do things differently as a parent?