Khanyiswa’s decided to write a poem about the late British physicist, Stephen Hawking. She had come across him in physics class and thought he’d been a remarkable man. He had achieved so much, even though he had an ever-worsening nerve disease that severely disabled his body.

In the physics lab library she’d seen a biography of him wedged between his scientific books, A Brief History of Time and The Grand Design. The library could only be accessed from the lab.

Mr Hill must be a huge fan, Khanyiswa thinks as she strolls to the lab. But nearly all the library books are his donations. When the learners asked why he did it, he’d responded, “To expand your minds more than you think is humanly possible.”

He’s a good teacher, explaining the work to the learners with real-life examples, and encouraging their participation. “If you need anything, I’m always in my class during breaks, so pop in and ‘let’s get physical hey’,” he’d said at the start of the school year.

He still uses the ‘let’s get physical’ line, but the learners no longer find it amusing. Some smile kindly while others shake their heads.

“That’s no joke – it’s a choke!” Smiley had said once, loud enough for those around him to hear, and they’d burst out laughing.

“That’s right boys and girls,” Mr Hill had said, smiling. “Physics can be fun.”

Now Khanyiswa knocks on the door and turns the handle – it’s unlocked. Awesome, she thinks. At least I didn’t come all this way for nothing.

Mr Hill isn’t in the room though, but the door to the library is open so she heads towards it. The library is poorly lit by the lamp on the desk at which Mr Hill is seated.

“Excuse me, Sir. I need a book to help me with my English assignment on Stephen Hawking, please,” she says, standing at the door.

“Come in, come in, Khanyiswa. Which book? I’ve rearranged the shelves, but I know exactly where everything is,” Mr Hill says.

Khanyiswa can’t help noticing that he is casting his eyes over her body as he speaks.

“Stephen Hawking’s biography, Sir,” she says, shuffling her feet.

“Behind me, top shelf to the right,” he replies, bending his head to continue his reading.

“Thank you, Sir.”

Standing on the tips of her toes, Khanyiswa stretches to her full height and reaches up for the book, but a cramp in her side makes her lower her heels in defeat.

“Eish!” she whispers. “I almost had it.”

She reaches up again, her fingers nearly clasping the book, when she feels a presence behind her – then up against her.

“A bit too high up for you, I see,” Mr Hill says, extending his long arm, his scrawny frame leaning against Khanyiswa, and grabbing the hardcover.

Did he really just rub up against me? she wonders.

The siren blares, indicating the end of recess, so she spins around, past Mr Hill and bustles from the room without a backward glance, uttering, “I’ll come back for it, Sir. Can’t be late for class.”

She slows down only when she’s outside the lab – her chest heaving.

I’m sure he didn’t mean to touch me like that, she thinks. That book was way up high and he’s a respected teacher. No, it was an accident, she assures herself. He wouldn’t do something like that.


Tell us what you think: Is it likely that pressing against Khanyiswa was ‘an accident’? Why or why not?