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Childhood and Death in Africa

I think I was nine then, Jenny was

the prettiest girl in class, hair like peeled maize,

cornflower sky eyes.  She never returned from

a tonsillectomy, the teacher said it was

a rare surgical accident.


Mother said we should not go out after dark

because of the tsotsies.  In the township some

tsotsies caught a man just walking home whom

they didn’t like. They bound him with ropes and

placed a burning tire over his head. After he

screamed a little while they left him to die.


My father had a strap. It hung on a nail by

the back door. When I misbehaved he took it down

and lashed my bottom with it. Afterwards I would

look at the purple welts on my skin and wish him dead.


My cousin Bobby married his childhood sweetheart.

On their honeymoon the bus fell down a mountainside

and she was killed. Later Bobby was killed by ‘friendly

fire’ when his army platoon was on a maneuver.


About then, I dreamed about a cannibal who fell

into the soup. All the other cannibals drank the soup

then fell into it themselves. We all drank the soup then

fell into the sea which tasted very salty because it was

full of tears that people didn’t have enough time to shed.

* tsotsie – thug in Sesotho slang

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© Johnmichael Simon



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