The cold wind blew in from the sea. Toto pulled his thin jacket closer and he huddled next to his dog, Killer. Tonight the wind off the ocean was blowing hard and Toto was too cold, even with the shelter provided by the bridge he and Killer slept under.

He accepted he’d have to wait until the morning once the sun was up and the world was a bit warmer to get any sleep.  He moved out from under the bridge and into the light from the streetlamp. He pulled out his bag of shells and his wires and worked on another wall hanging, stringing the seashells on the wire and then shaping the wire into a heart. Sometimes, if he could get colourful ribbons, he tied one on the top. He sold the hearts to the tourists for R20. They liked the ones with the red silky ribbons best.

But he didn’t have any red ribbon, and besides it was getting colder now and fewer tourists came to Lambert’s Bay in the winter. He hadn’t sold a seashell heart for two days. Yesterday he and Killer hadn’t eaten at all. But still he made his hearts. He wanted to be ready for when the tourists came back.

Toto looked out at the wild sea as he picked through his shells looking for the right ones to use in his hearts. He loved watching the sea. He liked to think of all the different sorts of fish and other animals that lived there. He wondered what they were doing deep down under the water. Sometimes he wished he had gills like the fish so that he could live under the water too, so he could see all of the mysteries down there. He loved to watch the waves and the patterns they made. He liked when the whales came and he could watched them breech at the surface of the water, sometimes with their babies. They lived their whale life as if he wasn’t even there, he liked that. He never tired of looking at sea. Time passed and he didn’t notice his friend Leon coming up next to him.

“Hey Littleman,” he said, that’s what Leon called him. Toto nodded his head and smiled. Leon was a good guy. He didn’t trouble Toto about the fact that he couldn’t talk. And he didn’t treat him as if he was stupid either, like many people did.  Leon was older than him, maybe seventeen or so, and had been living on the streets for some time. He kept an eye out for Toto to make sure no one troubled him.

They both sat on the rocks and watched Killer run down the beach clearing it of gulls. Killer thought that was part of his job. The sun wasn’t up yet completely, but the sky was lighter.

“Let’s go check out the bakery; maybe they have some day-old. I’m hungry,” Leon said.

Toto packed up his shells and wires, putting them in his backpack, and followed Leon. At the bakery, they waited near the back door. Once the fresh bread was ready, the baker threw out any leftovers from the day before. That was what they waited for.

The door opened and a big man in a white apron came out.

“What do you want?” he said angrily. He knew them and knew what they wanted. It was just his way to act mean, he wasn’t really. He was a good guy underneath the mean face. He handed them the bread.  “Here, now get out of here.”

There were four loaves and some buns. As they walked away Toto started to eat a bun, sharing bits with Killer.

“No, wait,” Leon said.  “I’ve got some polony under the bridge from yesterday. We’re going to have a feast!”

Leon collected the polony and they climbed up on the rocks that jutted out into the harbour. The sun was up proper now and finally Toto was starting to feel warm; the food helped too.  He felt better already.

“It was cold last night, did you get any sleep?” Leon asked.

Toto shook his head.

“Winter’s coming. It’s only going to get worse. I saw an empty house far out of town. I’m thinking of getting in there tonight. You want to come?”

Toto shook his head. He didn’t believe in breaking into houses. He might be living on the street, but one day he might have a house and he wouldn’t like it if people broke into it.

“You can bring Killer, I don’t care. I like dogs,” Leon said.

Toto smiled and shook his head.

Leon shrugged his shoulders. “It’s your life. If you like freezing, that’s your business. I gotta go.”


Tell us: What do you think the fact that Toto makes and sells hearts made out of seashells shows about him?