NARRATOR: Raymond has been working hard at his part-time job at Mr Salim’s butchery all week. At the end of the week, when he is paid, he makes a plan to appear wealthier than he is to win Portia’s affection. He provides for his mother, but he also keeps a small amount of money aside, whatever he can.
In class Raymond, Loyisa and Ashraf are sitting at their desks, catching up on the weekend’s activities. Around them the students are chatting and joking around, throwing things at each other. They are animated and talkative. Portia sits with her group of friends at the opposite side of the classroom.
RAYMOND: OK, guys, I did something this weekend.
LOYISA: What, prayed to the Lord and Saviour for a new face? Because that one looks like a punishment for whatever your parents did wrong.
ASHRAF: Sins of the father, you know.
RAYMOND: Listen! I bought her something. To show I have money. Look, I know what I look like – torn clothes, borrowed books, whatever. But if I can afford to buy her something nice, then she might not think I’m so poor, right?
ASHRAF: (shaking his head thoughtfully) I don’t know, does it really cancel it out? Mustn’t you also look good, because girls care about that stuff. More, even, than the stuff you buy them. I think you wasted your money, brother; you should’ve spent it on new pants. That one looks like it belonged to your oupa’s oupa. Did it? Is that where you got it?
LOYISA: Huh-uh, I think it belonged to his oupa’s ouma – look how much space there is in the hips. Those are some big-boned lady pants. Come here, what does it look like without the belt?
RAYMOND: (ignoring them both) It’s too late, I already bought her something. Now I must just find a time to give it to her. I don’t want everyone else around in case she’s embarrassed, you know? Not everybody likes to get presents in front of other people. Especially if they don’t like what they get, then they have to act like they’re happy and whatnot. I must find my moment, boys.
Loyisa turns to face Raymond and puts his hands on Raymond’s shoulders, looking him squarely in the eyes.
LOYISA: Listen here. I’m telling you straight. NOTHING you give that girl is going to make her like you. It’s about your swagger, boy. It’s about your image. You can give her a new car but if you go around looking like a beggar, she’s not looking back at you for a second. Mark my words.
Ashraf nods vigorously, agreeing with Loyisa.
ASHRAF: Now what did you get her anyway? What’s this mystery prize poor Portia wins in the Raymond Lotto? I’m gonna guess it’s only worth three numbers, ne?
Raymond leans over his bag and opens it, showing them the contents. Ashraf and Loyisa immediately burst out laughing, unable to contain their mirth. At that moment the teacher enters the classroom and calls out to them.
TEACHER: Ashraf, Loyisa, Raymond! What are you doing over there? Come show me what you’ve got!
Raymond groans, and reluctantly steps forward with his bag, opening it carefully without the rest of the class seeing, and showing the teacher the contents. The teacher reaches in defiantly and pulls out a soft teddy bear holding a heart and looks at it.
TEACHER: What’s so funny about this?
RAYMOND: Nothing, sir. They’re just being stupid.
TEACHER: Get back to your seat. No, leave the bear here!
The teacher puts the bear on his desk where the entire class can see it, and it is left there for the rest of the period. Raymond, mortified, puts his head on his desk in shame and anguish. Ashraf and Loyisa, still giggling, pat Raymond on the back in an attempt to soothe him.
RAYMOND: (muffled) Well, I can’t give it to her now.
ASHRAF: You couldn’t give it to her in the first place. That Chinatown bear was never going to do whatever you thought it was gonna do. Hopeless, I tell you. You’re hopeless, man. Sir saved you some embarrassment, man. Take your winnings and get out.
Raymond sits up, turning to his friends.
RAYMOND: OK, so tell me your idea then. What must I do?
LOYISA:Like I said, you must convince her you got money, man. You’re the poorest in the school – nobody will want you for a boyfriend. So now you mustn’t jump in, you have to take time. Get a reputation now, new clothes, the works. Maybe by the end of the year you can try your shot. If I don’t try first, that is.
Raymond punches Loyisa lightly on the shoulder at this last statement and thinks about what he’s said.
RAYMOND: OK, I can do it. I must do it. Portia will have to wait.
ASHRAF: Yes, she’s sitting in her room every night just waiting for you to phone.
Raymond also punches Ashraf lightly on the shoulder.
Tell us: What gift would you give someone you liked?