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from They Call Me Nothing by Jenny Young

Copyright © 2018–2021 Jenny Young

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.

         I made a bit of an effort with my make-up this morning. I can’t think why. I am only going to the vet and the hairdresser. Maybe it’s for the hairdresser. It can be quite intimidating sitting in the chair with a huge mirror close enough to show every wrinkle and spot. Perhaps I subconsciously prepared for that ordeal.

         Outside the sky is overcast and the morning light is subdued. I wonder if we are going to have our first spring rain.

 We arrive at the vet just as it opens. It smells clean and newly scrubbed. The chrome work glistens. The glass panes sparkle. The young receptionist smiles, lifting her head and tossing her shiny blonde hair.

         “Mrs Thomas, I see you have been missing your cat. Can’t wait to get her back. I’ll just go and see whether she’s ready to go.” She bustles down the passage, her high heels making sharp staccato noises on the white tiled floor. Lutho passes her the cat carrier as she walks by.

         “Won’t be five minutes. Mpho is just giving her a good brush.” She returns to her place behind the counter and moves an A4 hard-covered book closer. “Would you like to settle up so long?”

         Lutho wanders off to look at the posters decorating the walls. There are a number of coloured photos of different breeds of cats, possibly from an old calendar. There are also similar sets of dog and horse pictures but Lutho is focussing on the cats.

         A young girl who can’t be more than eighteen, brings the cat-carrier with a complaining Marshmallow. Lutho takes the container from her and sits down with the container on his lap. He sticks his fingers through one of the holes and rubs the cat’s face. “Its OK. We are taking you home now. It won’t be long. Be a brave little kitty, wont’ you?” Whether it’s the touch or the soft voice I’m not sure, but Marshmallow responds and stops meowing.

         Once we are in the car Lutho opens the container and strokes the cat. “Maybe we should take her home before you take me to Alex,” he says. “I promised her it wouldn’t be long.”

         I can’t help smiling. I certainly didn’t intend to drive a temperamental cat any further than absolutely necessary. “Certainly, we’ll take her home first.”

         A white Combi Taxi suddenly veers into the lane right in front of me. I apply the brakes sharply. The cat carrier slides onto the floor. Marshmallow sets up a wailing that pierces my eardrums like a ragged saw. “Typical taxi!” I mutter in annoyance. Taxis in Johannesburg are as unpredictable as the weather. They are a law unto themselves and the bane of motorists’ lives. I wonder suddenly how Lutho perceives them. For a boy like him, a taxi is necessary and affordable transport. What I see as a nuisance, clogging up the roads and threatening my peace of mind is, for many people, a lifeline to work, to shopping, to socialising and entertainment.

         Lutho has taken the cat onto his lap and the wailing ceases. “Lutho, what is your opinion of taxi drivers?” I ask.

         “Some of them are nice and some of them just want to make money,” he says. “They drive like a buffalo that has just smelled a lion.”

         “That’s a good way of describing it,” I say. “I’ll remember that picture.” I glance back in my mirror. “Is Marshmallow all right now?”

         “She just got a fright when her bed moved. She’s fine now.

         We get home without any further incident. I open the back door and Marshmallow bounds out and disappears around the corner. Obviously, she is feeling fine.

         After a very quick tea and biscuits, we are back in the car again. Lutho sits silently, a slight wrinkle on his forehead. It is obvious he is thinking deeply or possibly making plans. I remember I offered to pay him for his time. I try to settle in my mind a suitable amount. I don’t want to be over-generous and make it a handout, but it occurs to me that with his gang members in jail, he has no source of support.

         I settle on R50 because that is what he tells me he got paid for a job. Then I decide that actually it was two days that he was involved so I change my mind and draw R100 from the Autobank.

         There is a jumble sale going on in the church hall. A big banner is stretched over the side fence. “Jumble Sale. Last Saturday of every month. 10am to 2pm.”

The church grounds are much busier than usual and the parking area is alive with groups of women, standing or even sitting in small groups.  

I feel a bit awkward as the car stops. Lutho gets out and comes around to my window. “Thank you, Gogo Kaye,” he says. He brushes some fluff off his tracksuit pants.

 I smile. &ld...

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