Lesedi grabbed Tshiamo by the arm and rushed to the door, shouting for the others to follow. He threw it open and flung himself and Tshiamo out. They landed on a patch of devil thorns with the others on top of them. The snake, in the meantime, somewhat dazed after its crash onto the floor, felt the fresh air from the open door and glided out and into the bush with no further ado. The noise, however, had awoken Lesedi’s father, Loeto, who came running out of his hut thinking something terrible had happened.
“What on earth is going on here?” he demanded of the heap of entangled bodies in the sand. Lesedi tried to extricate himself from his rather frightened and noisy siblings, who were all yelling at the tops of their voices.
“Quiet!” shouted Loeto, and the noise came to an abrupt halt. Children were still used to listening to their elders in the village; the modern world hadn’t made itself felt yet.
“Lesedi! Tell me, what is going on here?” Loeto was starting to sound irritable. This first child of his was becoming tiresome. He spent all his time with his grandfather and had strange notions about animals and reptiles, especially reptiles. Loeto was sure he had heard him talking to a gecko, and there was always some commotion going on around him. Loeto felt slightly uncomfortable around Lesedi. He wasn’t too sure why. He wished his mother were here to sort him out. Loeto’s second wife, Lydia, didn’t seem to want to deal with him either. Lesedi was standing in front of him with his hands behind his back trying to pull thorns out of his bottom and look brave at the same time. He knew as the eldest he should be the one to take care of the others.
“There was a snake,” he said, pointing to the evacuated hut. “It was lying on the mattress with the children.” Lesedi did not regard himself as a child.
Loeto looked around. “Snake?” he said nervously. He did not like snakes and had never understood his father’s interest in the creatures. If he had his way they would all be dead. He walked carefully over to the hut, shining his torch inside. Lesedi thought he looked rather funny peering around the side of the door at an awkward angle ready for flight at the slightest sign of the snake. He didn’t tell him that he could see the snake spoor leaving the hut so he knew it was not there anymore.
“I don’t see anything in here,” he said, flashing the torch around the room but not daring to go inside. “If this is another one of your jokes!”
Lesedi was wondering why his father would think that he would go to the extreme of jumping into a thorn patch with his siblings just to play a joke when Loeto suddenly leapt into the air with a wild shriek and ran behind the children. As he did this the owl flew out and did a circle over everyone, dropping a big white blob on Loeto’s nose before it disappeared.
“What the…” exclaimed Loeto in horror, slapping at his nose. “That dreadful bird just defecated on me!”
Lesedi couldn’t contain himself any longer. He burst out laughing. “Defecated? You mean pooped!” He ducked as Loeto took a swipe in his direction.
“You be careful talking to me like that, I’ll lock you up in the hut without any food for the day. Knock a few more manners into you. Your grandfather certainly isn’t doing a good job. I don’t know why I agreed to let him handle your education. He seems to think there is some sort of destiny mapped out for you, I think you need to go to school in the city and get some sense drummed into you. Well, Aunt Matilda is coming tomorrow and we shall see what she has to say. Now go back to bed all of you and don’t wake me up again.” With that he stomped off to his hut and slammed the door.
As the door slammed behind Loeto, everyone broke out in a fit of the giggles. That white blob on Loeto’s nose was very funny but they hadn’t dared laugh while he was there. Then the realization that there might still be a snake in their room dawned on them and they quieted down and looked nervously at Lesedi. Lesedi took the candle from the hut and showed them the spoor where the snake had gone into the bush. Grace, who was eight and somewhat bossy, shoed the others in, but Lesedi hung back. He wanted to see Ledimo again and ask him some questions. He felt excited and a little scared; this was the first time he had helped him out of a tricky situation. How did he know Lesedi had a problem and would he always know when he did have?
“Lesedi!” It was Grace. “Come to bed, Aunt Matilda is coming tomorrow.”
“Can’t wait,” said Lesedi sarcastically under his breath. Reluctantly he went into the hut and shut the door behind him. Aunt Matilda. That was another story.
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