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Coming of Age
They Call Me Nothing: There's a hidden hero lurking in the least of us.
by Jenny Young

A homeless housebreaker consults a counselor from another culture in a quest to uncover the hero he longs to be. "Sounds interesting!"

Chapter 1

Coming to the church was probably a mistake. What if they know? What if they call the Police? I listen intently, ready to run. No gunshots, no running feet, only the uneven pounding of my heart. I feel exposed. For seven years I have been invisible, a nothing. Nobody sees me. Nobody knows me. Am I really willing to give up my only protection? It seems to me now, in the light of day, that my decision of last night was only a dream. A foolish, childish dream.

I picture in my mind what might happen…...

Chapter 2

Chapter 2. Kay

I am totally out of my depth. I didn’t expect to counsel a child. I have spent most of my life avoiding children. Now here sits this boy, expecting me to help him. I saw him on the CCTV when he buzzed. I assumed he was the son of one of the cleaners. My initial shock when he walked into the counselling room was masked by habit. I introduced myself and asked him to sit down.
Now what? He is supposed to give me his name and tell me why he came. He sits silently, tense like a s...

Chapter 3.

When I hear the police sirens, I feel like I have jumped off a high building and am waiting to crash. My body takes over from my mind. Before I know it, I am out of the door and slinking quickly away from the front entrance. The book is still in my hand and the taste of chocolate is in my mouth. The passage turns. I pass a small kitchen then thankfully there is a back door. Is it locked? I try it and it opens quite easily.
I am in a courtyard. I begin to get my bearings. I have been in this place befor...

Chapter 4

I dream about Peter again. I feel his warmth in my arms. He looks so tiny. I smell his sweet milky breath and the baby shampoo on his face. He makes gurgling sleepy sounds. It almost sounds like he’s purring.
A big black octopus oozes through the door. He’s so big that his whole body and tentacles can’t fit through the door at once. He seems to be made of slime. I want to run away, to take Peter away from him but my arms and legs won’t move. I hear his schlurpy movem...

Chapter 5

Chapter 4

I lie shivering on the hard concrete. The towel has fallen off. I grab it and wrap it around my body again. I am afraid to go back to sleep because I don’t want that dream again. Is it nearly morning? It is dark. I listen carefully. There are no bird sounds, only the chirrrp chirrping of a noisy cricket. I slowly allow another memory to come to me, chasing away the impact of the dream.

I was now the man of the house. That’s what the Pastor said when he came to visit M...

Chapter 6

           I take the back routes to Alex. The small printing business on the corner has an open car gate and I slip in. The sun warms my skin as I make my way around the building to a gap in the fence leading to the paint factory. Two workers are warming themselves at a fire on the hard ground next to the building. “Sanibonani,” I greet them in Zulu. These men are familiar. I often take this short cut from the church.


Chapter 7

Friday starts badly. I wake to the sound of Marshmallow getting sick on my bed. “Off the bed!” I kick her off and she promptly gets sick on the carpet. "Stupid Cat!" I stomp out of bed and jerk my gown over my arms. "Can't you wait to get outside before getting sick?" Fudge, the other Persian cat, jumps off the bed and races to the door. Marshmallow follows once she's finished getting sick. I grump to the bathroom to get toilet paper to pick up the more solid bits of mess.

Of course, I ...

Chapter 8

         I don’t know why I agreed. Maybe it was because the police won’t think of looking in a respectable white lady’s house for a thief. Maybe it was because I told her I am a thief and she didn’t turn away from me, like Stella did. Maybe it was because she asked for my help.

         But now I am not so sure it was a good idea. I am trapped. I can’t get out. What if the Police...

Chapter 9

I thought Jasper might show aggression to the boy. Usually he barks more at black people. However, he seems to view this visitor as a friend. I inwardly heave a sigh of relief. Dogs are very good judges of character and he would have shown if he thought the boy was untrustworthy.

Dora seems to have overcome her sickness and is vacuuming the lounge when we get home.

I am worried about Marshmallow. I the past she has thrown up every now and then but it’s not usually a continuous process.<...

Chapter 10

          I never thought I would see Lucky again. He looks terrible. I can see he is on Nyaope. His eyes look like they are made of glass and there is a big black empty hole in the middle of each one. I don’t notice him until he calls my name.

         “Hey, Nothing,” he says, “Nothing can sleep on the floor.” He laughs like a mad hyena. “You’re not my brother. M...

Chapter 11

Chapter 11. Kaye

          Dora bustles in to the lounge. “I told that boy to play with Jasper,” she says. I think he’s smiling.”

I follow her to the kitchen and look out the window. Jasper is sitting about one meter in front of Lutho with a tennis ball in his mouth. As the boy reaches for the ball, the dog bounds away, makes a circle and lies about one metre further away.

“Come on, give it to me,&rdq...

Chapter 12

I pull the blanket right over my head. It smells clean and dry. I take a few deep breaths of the freshness. As I relax I see Lucky’s eyes in front of me again. Did he mean what he said or was he just trying to boast about his brother? Did Sipho really find my stuff? If he didn’t, how did Lucky know about my CD player and my book? I suppose it must be true. He plans to kill me if he can find me and now Lucky has seen me with Gogo Kaye in Sandton.

I don’t stand a chance against him ...

Chapter 13

Chapter 13


         Lutho looks taller this morning somehow, less insubstantial. I can’t put my finger on it. He can’t have grown noticeably overnight.

         I feel such a strong bond with him when he tells me how his father died. His sobs remind me of times I grieved for Peter. The pain never goes away.


Chapter 14

Chapter 14



         I have lots to think about. Gogo Kaye said it was stealing when I told her how I get my clothes. I have never thought about it as stealing before but now I begin to wonder. What would Baba have said? I try to think of a story which might help me decide.

         Suppose a customer brought in a red Opel Cadet for him to fix. While it was in the y...

Chapter 15



         The sun is getting low by the time I get near Stella’s yard. I find a place where I can see the stoep of her Gogo’s house. I don’t want to visit when Stella is around. I have hidden my extra clothes and the things I bought in my tree. All except the chicken pieces which are in a plastic bag in my hand.

         After about half an hour I see Ste...

Chapter 16

Sunday is Dora’s day off. Jasper wakes me and I get up to let him out. I get back into bed and continue reading my book for about an hour before I get up, bath and dress. I notice that Dora has washed my new top and I decide to wear it with my jeans.

Once I’ve fed the animals I make myself a boiled egg for breakfast. There are still no messages on my phone. I suppose a lot of people sleep in on a Sunday or possibly they go to church. Perhaps they don’t even listen to voice message...

Chapter 17


I get up before the sun rises. I fold the blanket Gogo lent me and place it neatly on a chair. I don’t want to wake Stella or her grandmother so I sneak out quietly without washing my face and hands. The door locks itself when I close it as softly as I can. The early morning air is still chilly and I wrap my arms around myself to try to keep warm. I should have worn my new jacket last night.

I run the rest of the way to my tree and the exercise warms me. The tree’s bar...

Chapter 18


I wake before my alarm goes off and lie in bed enjoying the warmth. My mind goes back to the conversation I had with the Major. He is happy to meet Lutho and help him find a way forward. He is even prepared to come to the counselling centre for the meeting. I smile to myself. He told me the worst that will happen to Lutho is he’ll be sent to a reform school and not go to jail as we both feared. “Stoutskool,” he said, an Afrikaans word for “Naughty School...

Chapter 19

Chapter 19



Catching a taxi to Soweto is much easier in the early morning. I ask to be dropped off at the Jabavu library. I hope it is still there.

When the taxi stops I sigh with relief. There it is looking like the head of a crocodile. The sloping roof above the red brick looks like the top of the open mouth and the extension towards the back makes the bottom jaw. The white painted plaster wall looks like the crocodile is wearing a scarf over hi...

Chapter 20

I can’t believe it’s been over a week since I last saw Lutho. Each day last week I expected him to buzz at the gate or even just appear at the door. Robert says I’ve become like a neurotic mother waiting for her son to come home after he moved to another province for his first job. I have to let him go.

It’s been very quiet at the counselling centre so far but Mondays are seldom busy. I suspect that the members of the church who come to Sunday services get enough of a spirit...

Chapter 21

I don’t expect the car that arrives and I don’t expect the man who drives it. The car is a gold Subaru; I think four-wheel drive. I notice the man because he is white and there are few white faces in Soweto, especially during the late afternoon. It is only later that I see Gogo Kaye and melt out of the shadows and go to her door.

The man gets out. He is tall and muscular and walks as if he is afraid of nothing. His hair is cut short like a soldier’s but grey. He walks around the c...

Chapter 22

Robert seems to have taken over. I watch him. Even though he is in a comfortable chair sipping cappuccino, he seems constantly alert and aware. It’s as if an invisible energy radiates from him.

Lutho looks terrified yet determined. He stands up straight and meets Robert’s eyes.

Robert is tough on the boy. Too tough, in my opinion. I’m not sure if I should intervene but decide not to. When he asks who Lutho really is, the boy looks stunned then terribly sad and finally, ...

Chapter 23

I lie in a clean bed, smelling the newness of the sheets. I am used to sleeping on the hard ground under a blanket or newspaper. This bed feels different. It is soft under me. On top of me is something like a giant pillow case around a light blanket made of pillow stuff.

Although I am very happy to be staying with Gogo Kaye, everything is very strange. I don’t deserve to be in such a nice place. It is a different world to me.

I turn over onto my side. A heavy weight is next to my feet....

Chapter 24

It was probably childish to organise a lunch date today of all days, but I was miffed at Robert for excluding me. After all, Edwin phoned me when he was stuck in Soweto. It is true that having Robert come with me made it a lot easier and less scary, but I expected to continue to be part of the rescuing process.

I smile at myself and the direction my thoughts are moving. I used to be Kaye, the Rebel, then I became Kaye, the Perfect Wife and I finally ended up as Kaye, the woman who never go...

Chapter 25

I open my eyes after the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. My bed is free of cats and I hear the sound of a vacuum cleaner from downstairs. Dora must be here already. I jump up and open the curtains. Sun streams into the room. I make my bed and wash myself quickly, then pad downstairs wrapped in a towel. I manage to retrieve my clothes from the laundry without Dora noticing. Luckily Jasper is outside, having a loud conversation with another dog who must be walking past. I would never be able ...

Chapter 26

I still remember that day six months ago when Edwin walked into the counselling office. His face was solemn but his eyes were bright. He was wearing his old brown t-shirt which was getting much too small for him. He held his back straight and walked with confidence.

“Good afternoon,” he said. “My name is Edwin Mabaso and I am a hero.” His face split in a rare grin. “The sign outside said you help people. Well, my friend and I need help…”

Robert came into...

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