The day dawns crisp and clear. The morning sun shines softly on the streets of Amaoti, bringing with it a flurry of early morning activity.

By seven, Sphiwe is on his way to school. The street is hectic for a Tuesday morning and he stumbles on a chattering swarm of people. It is a large group spread out across the road. As he walks closer, he sees a police van parked on the side of the road. There is yellow police tape. He peeks beyond the police tape and sees something on the ground covered by a silver material. He knows this material – police use it to cover a dead body.

He is still trying to work out what he is seeing when he hears a familiar voice saying, “Hawu Sphiwe! You are also here?”

It’s Thabo, his classmate.

“Thabo! What happened here?”

“Looks like an early morning robbery gone wrong. Maybe the poor guy resisted so he was stabbed a couple of times and shot. Can you imagine how brutal these people must be?” says Thabo, flinching.

“Oh my God! Do they know who he is?” asks Sphiwe.

Thabo shrugs his shoulders. Sphiwe shakes his head as sorrow forms on his face.

“Anyway, we can’t pass through here because the police have blocked the road. We have to use the footpath,” says Thabo.

“We should get going,” says Sphiwe.

They dash to school, scurrying along the footpath that leads to the main road of Amaoti. They hop over puddles.

“So did you study enough?” Sphiwe asks.

Thabo grunts as he jumps over a big puddle. “I studied just enough to pass. But I know you went the extra mile and studied the whole book!”

They finally reach the end of the footpath and come to a halt on the tar road that runs alongside their high school, Vuka Uzakhe High School.

“Doesn’t it bother you that we have just seen a dead body?” Sphiwe inquires.

“Come on, Sphiwe. This is Amaoti. I’ve seen enough corpses here not to be traumatized anymore.”

Sphiwe clenches his jaw and says, “All those people standing around gawking at that corpse should hang their heads in shame. Don’t they have anything better to do?”

“Anything like what, Sphiwe?”

“I don’t know. Shouldn’t they be going to work or something?”

“People who have jobs are already at work. Those people still in their pyjamas and robes, their eyes full of eye boogers, don’t have jobs,” says Thabo.

“Of course,” Sphiwe sneers. “You know everything about this place, don’t you?”

“No, no, I’m just conscious of everything that happens around me. Speaking of being conscious, I haven’t seen Zinhle in months. She just vanished. What happened to her?”

“How would I know what happened to Zinhle?” asks Sphiwe.

“Hawu, Sphiwe! What do you mean? You two were inseparable. You were a  match made in heaven!”

Sphiwe shrugs and keeps his gaze away from Thabo.

“My hunch is that she isn’t missing because you’d be concerned if she was. And we’d have seen photos of her on social media and around Amaoti,” says Thabo.

“Thabo, you may believe you know everything but you don’t.”

“I guess she finally decided to drop out of school,” says Thabo.

“What, Thabo!? What do you mean by ‘finally’?”

“Well, girls like Zinhle rarely finish school,” says Thabo.

“Girls like Zinhle?”

“Don’t act naïve, Sphiwe. You know that pretty girls drop out of school and find rich men to take care of them.”

“Oh no! Here we go again!” says Sphiwe. “Thabo, you have a deep problem with women. What’s your deal?”

“There’s no deal. I was just calling it as I see it,” says Thabo.

Sphiwe shakes his head. They enter the school gates and go into an unused classroom where they revise before the examination begins at 9:00 am. 

Tell us: Do you think Thabo has a problem with how he sees women, or is he truly ‘just calling it as he sees it’?