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from They Call Me Nothing by Jenny Young

Copyright © 2018–2021 Jenny Young

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 yard, somebody else came with another red Opel Cadet that was a bit older and exchanged the two. Would Baba notice? Of course. Would he be angry? O yes, like a mother elephant when somebody threatened her calf!

         A pair of school trousers is not nearly like a car. Maybe I should think of something else. How about a five-rand coin. I take somebody’s five-rand coin and leave them mine. Is it stealing? No, of course not.

         So somewhere between a five-rand coin and a car, taking one and putting a different one in it’s place turns to stealing.

         Of course, I shouldn’t worry about it. After all, wriggling into somebody’s house and opening up to let Duke and Shorty in so they can take their things is definitely stealing. But then, Duke explained how the insurance works. The people can get new things using the insurance money. I am getting myself confused and I am no nearer a solution when we arrive at the church. Gogo Kay gives me a hundred rand. That is more money than I have ever had before. I will have to think how to use it carefully. I thank her and head for the Spaza shop and my tree.


         It is Saturday morning and Alex is buzzing with activity. In nineteenth street a big blue and white tent has been set up, blocking access on both sides. There must be a wedding or a funeral taking place tomorrow or maybe later today. I take a different route to the shop.

         I climb into my tree feeling like I have come home to a friend. I enjoy the smell of the new leaves which are shimmering in the sun. I feel the rough texture of the bark as I clamber to the higher areas and find the well-worn seat at the junction of two thick branches. I feel like I have climbed out of life. Below me, people are chattering and bustling, some leaving the shop and meeting up with friends who are just coming. I see a big man with a red shirt talking to two friends. I hear the sound of their laughter. I have learned to ignore the busy noise and concentrate on my own thoughts.

         I am very happy to see the yellow shopping packet. It is hanging on a branch just to the right of and above my head. At least the police didn’t take my school books! I reach the packet down and take out the upside-down packet which holds my school books and stationary. I find my pencil bag and an exercise book. I open the back page and start writing. I write two headings, “Things I need” on the left and “things to do” on the right and underline them neatly with my half-sized ruler. Then I draw a vertical line to make two columns.

         I start on the left and write, “somewhere to stay, clothes, food.” Then I think a bit and add “job.” I try to think what I can do. I really enjoyed walking Jasper. Maybe there are people in the suburb near the church who would like somebody to walk their dogs if they are too busy to do it themselves. But who would even let a small black boy into their houses to talk to them? Of course, my small size makes me less of a threat but I will at least need a letter of reference.

         I turn to the other column. It is more diff...

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