Mathato and Thato are seated in Mathato’s kitchen as she serves sorghum porridge out of a big pot for breakfast. Masontaha is washing her hands at the sink.

MATHATO: (placing a steaming bowl in front of her first born) Thato, I’ve made it just like you like it!

THATO: Kea leboha Mme. Looks delicious! (He licks his lips.)

Koketso walks in. 

MATHATO: (yelling at him)  Yeyi! Go wash your hands before you join us for breakfast! 

Kokestso goes to wash his hands and Masontaha sits down. 

KOKETSO: Yes, Drill Sergeant Sir! (He sniggers and goes to wash at the sink.)

MATHATO: Oh! You think you’re Trevor Noah because your big brother is here?

They all laugh heartily as Koketso comes to sit. 

MATHATO: I can also tell jokes, except I’ll be the only one laughing. 

They all laugh again. 

MASONTAHA: Ma, I don’t know which “big brother” you’re referring to. (She uses her fingers to make quotation marks.) This one here? (She gestures with her thumb towards Thato.) He was chasing skirts last night.

Koketso stops eating to stare at his big brother.

THATO: Masontaha! One day your big mouth is going to get you arrested.

MASONTAHA: Are you calling me a liar?

THATO: You know you are. Besides, Mama saw me leave with Tsietsti, maobane.

MASONTAHA: (wagging her finger at Thato) First of all, that doesn’t prove anything, and secondly, you still haven’t told any of us where you two disappeared to.

THATO: Well, if you must know… (now beaming) I was with my beste vriend van toeka af, Papi!


She drops her spoonful of porridge, gasps, and covers her mouth with her hand and stares at her son.

THATO: (excitedly) Can you believe it! We had a couple of drinks at Ska Bhora Moreki and talked about all the crazy things we did during our childhood: swimming butt naked in the river; stealing the neighbour’s apricots; getting into trouble at school; the whippings Ma gave us for lying about our school reports … Man it was so good to see him again! I didn’t realise just how much I’ve missed him. We even danced to “Thriller”. (looking at Masontaha) We were so good people couldn’t help but join in!

MASONTAHA: (visibly shocked) Mama…

Mathato stares at Thato and then at Masontaha and back to Thato again.

MATHATO: My son… you must be mistaken. Papi? (Her voice trembles as tears well up in her eyes.)

THATO: Yes Ma! Papi! Wait … why is Ma crying? Masontaha, why are you looking at me like that?

Koketso says nothing, just drops his head.

THATO: (hands raised in a gesture of confusion) Did I say something wrong? 

KOKETSO: (getting up and starting to walk away.) Broer… Abuti Papi… 

MATHATO: (interrupting Koketso) Hei! (She glares at Kokestso.) Mind your own business wena! 

She turns to pour a cup of hot water. She adds sugar and places it in front of Thato.

THATO: (looking anxious) Ma, you’re scaring me… What’s going on? 

MATHATO: My boy… I don’t know how to tell you this, but… Eh…

THATO: (voice rising) But what, Ma? What? 

MATHATO: (wringing a dish cloth tightly in her hands.) My boy, Papi died about six months ago. 

Thato’s mouth hangs wide open as he just stares at his mother.

MASONTAHA: (with tears in her eyes) It was a freak accident. He was drunk, joking with some friends and he fell and hit his head. They called an ambulance, but by the time they got to him … (Her voice trails off.)

THATO: But… That can’t be! I… I was with him just last night! There must be some kind of mistake. (He looks up at his mother, voice trembling.) We had drinks and … He told me about Ouma… We… we laughed and danced most of the night before… He can’t be… Ma? (His voice trails off.) 

MATHATO: I’m sorry my son, but… (choking up with tears) I don’t know who or what you were with yesterday, but Papi passed away months ago.

THATO: No… (tears in his eyes, hands shaking) How can that be? I was just with him … There must be some kind of mistake.

Kokesto returns with Papi’s funeral programme in his hand and and gives it to Thato.

MATHATO: Oh Koketso! (She shakes her head disapprovingly.)

THATO: This can’t be … (He stares at the folded A4 page in his trembling hands.)

Mathato pulls up a chair besides him and rubs his back with one hand while holding up the cup of warm sugar water to his mouth with the other as she speaks.

MATHATO: I’m so sorry, my son. We wanted to tell you, but we knew that you were away working on some big project and you wouldn’t have … We couldn’t just message you either; not with this kind of news. We helped with funeral arrangements and attended on your behalf, but…

THATO: (looking suddenly determined) Where? 

MASONTAHA: (confused) What? 

THATO: Which cemetery is Papi … (struggles to finish the sentence)

MATHATO: (trying to compose herself while squeezing her son’s hand) We’ll take you. 

Tell us: What is your first thought about what was going on last night, when you hear that Papi died?