It was a day just like any other. You know, the same old stuff, just minding my business. Earlier that day, I woke up with a bad feeling. It did not feel normal.
I had woken up very early, just like I always do. My sister was still sleeping like a log in the hut. I bet she wouldn’t have woken up even if she had been carried by the village’s strongest man and put on the empty field in the cold.
“Thuli, khawuleza kaloku uyokwalusa Montana, your father will get angry if he sees that his sheep have not yet been taken to the grazing land,” whispered my mom. I don’t know why she always calls me by my older sister’s name. I mean, have the easiest name in the house, Jabu. Every time when I try to correct her she would tell me that it does not matter because we are siblings.
I quickly dressed. Once I was finished gobbling up my sour porridge, I went on the road with my forever companion Spoti who always shouted at the sheep if they were acting crazy. My late father used to be my partner when Spoti was only a puppy. He showed me all the footpaths in the forest and taught me how to make snares for small animals like rabbits and rats.
On the road, as usual, Spoti would chase after the sheep to make sure they are on track. I followed after them, sheepishly. I felt like I fitted in with the herd.
As we passed the Umhlangabezwa Cliff, Spoti barked. The sheep would not go a foot further. I tried to take a peek and see what was going on. I stood like a curious meerkat. I saw nothing. “I wonder yinton’ ngoku?” I whispered to myself.
The sheep suddenly moved. We passed the cliff and I had this chill down my spine as if someone was watching me. When I looked back, I only saw the magnificent eagle looking for prey. We arrived at the grazing land and I threw myself on the fresh green grass. I looked to the skies.
“I wonder where do the dead go?” That was a question I always had seeked an answer to but in vain. The only answer I would get from my mother were tears. My sister?…She would just stare at me like I’m crazy and laugh her lungs out.
I felt angry with my father for leaving us alone. Were we a burden to him that he would leave us clueless and broke? Had he had enough? But that does not justify anything. I am tired even I but I don’t think of dying. I never thought of killing myself.
I got up and sat on my buttocks. I observed the sheep quietly as they ate without worry. The sheep started moving to one side of the land as if they are being chased by someone.
I stood up like a lion ready to attack. I inspected around the field and to my surprise… Nothing was there!
I heard footsteps behind me and turned when I saw a young man just as he went behind a bush. I crept after him like a cat hunting a mouse. Behind that bush I saw sandals like those ones sumo wrestlers wear. I picked them up and inspected them.
I looked at their sole and even their wooden surface. Finally, there between the sole and the bottom of the sandal I saw an etching written, ubutyebi bulapha. Where? Where was the wealth? I inspected the bush from top to bottom and vice versa until I saw some sap from the bush and bent to eat it. The sap was so hard I almost broke my teeth. Hayibo! There was no sap as hard as that one. I knocked on it just like my father used to knock on trees when we searched for honey.
The stem was definitely hollow. “But njani? Such a small bush but it’s already with a hollow stem?” I questioned myself as puzzled as I was. I took a sharp rock between those pebbles which had been used only to ward off boredom. I scratched at the stem continuosly. It finally broke and behind the sap was the sticky substance that honey is kept in by bees. I dug it out of the small hole I had made in the stem.
There in the corner of the hollow stem a bright light beamed in my face. I put my hand in and reached for it. It was small and round. I got it out and I was surprised and in awe all this time. I opened my huge eyes and stared at the enormous golden ring with five diamonds on it which was placed on my hand. I did not believe it! Was I dreaming?
I held my head up and looked at my silent friends grazing in the field. There in the distance, under a yellowwood tree, a tall young man stood under it. He nodded at me and I instantly understood. I got up and rushed home with Spoti fast on my heels. I clinged to my fortune very firmly.
Mama was waiting at the door to see what was I up to this time. “Mama, mama guess what? No more pap and cabbage for us. no more going to MaKhumalo to make ends meet and definitely no more sleeping on the floor EVER!!”
Mama looked at me with a disgusted and disappointed look. I was confused. Mama snatched my fortune and said “Uyabona mntanam there are no shortcuts in life. You must eat the product of your sweat.” I stared at her in confusion. Like what?…I mean nabu ubutyebi in our hands. Mama went out of the door and with all her might she threw away my fortune. MY FORTUNE! That’s it just like that! Gone ubutyebi!