My cell phone beeped: Nessa - Where you NP? You never said goodbye this morning! Will I see you tomorrow for our anniversary?
I was back home in Skukuza, it was the evening of the same day. I sent my reply: Sorry Sunshine tomorrow will be a problem with work can we do next weekend?
I didn’t get a reply so left it at that.
My mother was stirring the smooth white mieliepap as it plopped thick bubbles in a small pot and I cooked a little wors for us on the fire outside. The coiled sausage spat and sizzled and the flames licked the fat dripping down. Jacob was collecting some sticks for the fire from the woodpile around the back of the hut, carefully lifting and checking for snakes, scorpions and spiders. They had been in church all day and only recently got home. I poked the coals with a long stick and pressed the smouldering end of the stick onto the passing bodies of ants.
‘I see you are busy in that head of yours my boy?’
‘Is it so easy to tell Ma?’
‘I have known you long enough,’ she replied. She rubbed her chest and I watched her. After a little silence she said: ‘Alhulani, you are a strong man, stronger than your father even’.
I didn’t know what she meant so I said nothing.
She continued, ‘You are strong to keep your anger and fear inside of you but he was not like that, he allowed his to spill over and harm us.’
I saw her wipe her eyes with the palms of her hands.
‘You know my boy, it says in the Book: In your anger do not sin’.
‘Yes Ma, I remember you said that to Father once and it made him madder’.
‘That’s true, his heart was hard. But do you know what it says after that?’
I shook my head as I was not a Bible reader like her.
‘It says: Do not give the devil a foothold, and then in the next line it says: Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer.’
I looked up at her suddenly, how did she know?
‘I know what type of friends you have my boy,’ she responded, as if reading my mind, ‘I am praying you will find other ones, good men.’ She reached over and put her hand over mine. The back of hers was lined and ridged like a twisted pile of Marula tree branches. ‘I believe God can use you for doing good things my son. But you have to make that choice for yourself.’
I shook my head slowly, I wasn’t sure. When I looked up at her, kindness was shining out of her eyes and I had to look back at the fire.
The next day the five of us men in the Ranger team gathered in Smit’s office to hear if there was news on the wind about where a raid could be coming from and to discuss our strategy. Smit had the big stomach and long thin legs of a man who was reared on braavleis and beer. He wore a leather broad rimmed bush hat, khaki shirt with contrasting pockets and sleeves, shorts and long socks above leather boots ankle boots. His big blonde moustache was about the only thing you could see beneath that hat. We checked our weapons and ammunition.
‘Boys!’ Smit was calling our attention. Old man Lawrence, my father’s friend was shuffling his feet next to me. He was old enough to be Smit's father but black men would always b...