Thabi shut the front door of her new house and sank onto the front step. How was she ever going to get this mess sorted out? The house was filled from floor to ceiling with old newspapers, cardboard boxes and pieces of junk that Mr Katz must have picked up on the side of the road. She couldn’t see much furniture, apart from the old couch in the front room. He must have slept here with just some smelly old blankets to keep him warm in the cold Cape Town winter. She’d been too scared to go into the bathroom – she could smell the blocked toilet from the front door.

She screamed as a rat ran past her, into the house. Who knew what else was living in there? It was like a rubbish dump.

She dialled Motso’s number. “I’ll never get this clean, Mots,” she grumbled. “It’s so disgusting I can hardly go inside.”

“Can’t you hire someone to do it for you?”

“I haven’t got any money yet. Mr Pritchard says it will be a month or two before the first amount gets released. What am I going to do, Mots? I’ve got nowhere to stay – I can’t live here – I’ll get sick. And I’ve got no money for food. I can’t go and ask Mrs Ram for my job back. I may be a rich lady on paper, but in real life I’m poorer than I ever was.”

“We’ll make a plan, I promise you. I finish work at five o’clock. I’ll come and find you, OK? I have to go now. There’s a customer waiting.”

“You’re a good friend,” Thabi said.

How do you even start cleaning a place like this? she wondered, as she put her phone back in her pocket. If only I could get one of the skips like they have in the loading zones at the mall. They hold tons of rubbish. But they must cost a lot. Without any money I can’t do much.

A head popped over the wall. “Morning my lady. It’s me, Trevor. Any broken appliances?” a man asked.

“No…” she said dully. Then she thought of something: “Do you want old newspapers?” She went to the gate. A bergie stood there with his shopping trolley. He grinned at her.

“Yes milady. Newspapers, bottles, cardboard – anything you want me to take away. Trevor’s your man.”

“I’ve got a lot.”

“No matter, milady.”

Thabi opened the gate and the bergie came inside wheeling his trolley up the path. His jaw dropped as Thabi opened the front door.

“Wait milady,” he called, running to the gate and whistling. A few minutes later three other bergies arrived with trolleys.

“Where do you take the papers?” Thabi asked. “You mustn’t just dump them at the end of the road or I’ll get into trouble.”

“No milady, the recycling is right round the corner. They pay us for every kilo. We won’t dump them.”

“Right,” said Thabi. “Let’s get started.” She picked up a pile of newspapers from the stacks that filled the passage, and passed them to Trevor and his friends.

It took them a couple of hours to empty out the passage. She could see there were three good-sized bedrooms. One even had a fireplace. There was a lounge, a kitchen big enough to eat in, and a bathroom. They were all filthy dirty, but at last she could see beyond the mess to what they could be one day – her home.

“Thank you, Tata,” she whispered.


Tell us what you think: Will Thabi get to keep her house?