The JRB presents a new short story by Sandile Ngidi.
The Golden Egg
I am sad today.
I am sad because I know by the end of the day, someone else will be sad. It will surely not be me. When Toffolux rings the bell today, my friend Wakil Abdul will cry with the bell. He will cry and be sad at the same time. No. He will be in shit when all is over. He will be angry and mad. He will feel stupid, dirty and defeated. He will cry like a baby.
I want Waki to be sad today. I have never wanted him to be sad before. Today making Waki sad would be like having Christmas Day. My friends do not believe I am the one who wants Waki to be sad today. At first I also did not believe that I wanted Waki to cry and be sad. The entire school knows that I am the one who eats and plays with him since he joined our school last month. I am the one who lent him a ruler when his was eaten by a dog. Waki ran away, he is afraid of dogs, even puppies. One boy called him a sissy after that. I told that silly boy to stop calling my friend a sissy. Mommy always tells us we must never call other children names because God will punish us. I am afraid of God. One day he brought lightning to our village and a man who used to beat his wife died instantly. Mommy said God punished him for being an evil man who used to beat his wife when she told him she could not cook because he had finished all his money drinking mankayinga brew. I did not like it as well to see mama Dokwe running and crying through the village.
Since Waki Abdul came to our school, I am the only one who does not laugh when Toffolux calls him a mastiff. I ask Toffolux to leave my friend alone when he calls him a mastiff. I do not know what a mastiff is. I am thinking maybe a mastiff is the beautiful language that I hear Waki speak with his mother when I visit him to play pantyhose cricket. I am thinking Toffolux is dumb. He cannot say kwere so now he calls my friend mastiff instead. Waki has made me enjoy playing cricket. He says everyone in Madaganga plays cricket. We run a lot when playing cricket. I do not know why. But I run and enjoy it. Cricket is great fun. Waki tells me we can play cricket even it is just the two of us. Our broomsticks are our bats and we have made cricket balls from old pantyhose socks Waki got from his mother. I am good with running and Waki says I can be a good cricketer. How does he know all this? But today I do not care about all of that. I do not even care about cricket. Today I really feel sad that I have to make Waki sad.
I like Waki’s silky hair. It is like that of the Indian man who comes to our village every Saturday on a bicycle to sell cabbages and tomatoes.
Toffolux is happy. He is egging me on. Go show the mastiff that you are of warrior stock. When I tell him I do not like him calling my friend a mastiff, he says I am a coward. He says I am the only one who cannot see that Waki has an ugly face. He says Waki’s face has a lot of muscles hanging all over. Toffolux even says Waki’s mouth is always drooling with water and that he is always rolling his ugly eyes like a dog. Yuck! Toffolux you are evil.
Toffolux is happy that at last I am behaving like a true Zulu boy. He is happy that I want to make Waki Abdul cry. Toffolux is always like that. He wants other children to cry. I have never seen Toffolux cry. One day our teacher caned him ten times, but he did not cry. Toffolux is older than everyone in our class. We all found him in this class. Maybe that is why he is the one who always rings the bell for class and shows us his big eyes and a fist when we make noise. Toffolux is not my friend. He is too old. Waki and I are the same age. Today I do not care about that. Neither do I care about his fish sandwiches that he usually shares with me. I like the way Waki’s mother makes sandwiches with fish and mayonnaise. My mother does not make sandwiches like that. She puts butter and peanut butter only. I do not mind. I like peanut butter. But fish sandwiches are nicer. Today I do not care about that. I want to make Waki sad. I want to make him cry. I want him to regret why he left Madaganga.
Mandela is not for them. He is for us.
Why are people like him here after all? Some of them stink and steal. My aunt says people like Waki’s parents are drug dealers. They even ask to sleep with little girls and give them money for them to buy ‘nice things’. She calls them sinful women. I do not ask what their sins are. I also do not like to be sinful. Mommy tells me God punishes sinners. Today I do not care about that. I want to make Waki sad. Please God forgive me. I am sad that I will make Waki sad. But he has been bad to me.
Today when Toffolux rings the bell and we leave the gate, I will let Waki play golden egg. Older boys let me play golden egg when I was learning to look after cattle after my uncle died. All new herd boys are made to play this game. I was just about to return one of the cows for milking when the eldest boy, Smuhluza, called me to dig a hole at a spot he had just covered with soil. He and the older boys told me to dig the hole with my hand for there was a treasure hidden underneath.
The more I dug, the more my hands felt funny and smelly. Only after I had soiled my hand with Smuhluza’s shit did I realise the silliness of this dirty game. Although I was angry and feeling dirty, I was too small to do anything to Smuhluza. I also could not tell my mother. The rule was never to tell anyone at home about the games and mischief of boys in the cattle posts. Boys who reported what happened at the cattle posts at home were laughed at and were called ugly names.
Today I want Waki Abdul to dig the hole and discover his hidden smelly treasure. Toffolux will lead the tomfoolery and I want the other boys to watch because I am tired of being called a coward. Toffolux farts a lot in class. He is good for today’s stinking job.
How could Waki get all the answers right in class and embarrass me like that! I can forgive many things but not this. Everyone knows that I am the one who tops the class since I started school four years ago. He thinks he is clever. No Waki. You are mistaken. You come all the way from Madaganga to play with me. Don’t ganga kamina. This is not cricket Waki. Today you will cry. Today you will be sad. You will cry like a baby and run to your fish-sandwich mother, Waki. Ah, Toffolux is ringing the bell. Waki is about to be sad. Waki is about to cry. He is about to be sad. But I am still sad, just as I am about to make Waki Abdul sad today. Today you will cry Waki.
- Sandile Ngidi is a poet, playwright, newspaper columnist and literary critic. In 2008 he translated Sibusiso Nyembezi’s classic Zulu novel Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu into English. Follow him on Twitter.