فصل 02

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فصل 02

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  • زمان مطالعه 9 دقیقه
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Chapter two

The Boy with an African Heart

On Monday morning, Mma Ramotswe opened the No. Ladies’ Detective Agency. The sign outside the agency said that the opening hours were nine to five, and Mma Ramotswe felt that it was important to keep promises. Actually, clients came only in the late morning or afternoon. Mma Ramotswe was not sure why. Perhaps it took time for people to become brave enough to enter her door and tell her their problems.

So Mma Ramotswe sat with her secretary, Mma Makutsi, and drank the large cup of bush tea that Mma Makutsi made every morning. She did not really need a secretary, but Mma Makutsi, who had received top marks in her secretarial examinations, was friendly and loyal. Most important of all, she could keep a secret. Mma Ramotswe had found this pleasantly surprising, since most people in Botswana like to talk.

They were not busy that morning. Mma Makutsi cleaned her typewriter and Mma Ramotswe wrote a letter to her cousin in Lobatse. By twelve o’clock she was ready to close the agency for lunch when her secretary suddenly put a piece of paper into her typewriter and began typing quickly. This meant that a client had arrived.

A thin white woman stepped out of a large car in front of the agency. Mma Makutsi let her into the office, and Mma Ramotswe stood up to welcome her.

‘I’m sorry, I haven’t got an appointment,’ said the woman.

‘You don’t need one,’ said Mma Ramotswe, reaching out to shake her hand.

The woman took her hand in the correct Botswana way, Mma Ramotswe noted. She had learned something about how to behave.

‘I’m Mrs Andrea Curtin,’ said the woman as she sat down. ‘The American Embassy said you might be able to help me.’

Mma Ramotswe smiled. ‘I am glad they suggested me. What do you need?’

‘I’m trying to find out what happened to my son, ten years ago,’ said Mrs Curtin. ‘I don’t think he is alive but I want to know what happened.’

For a few moments there was a silence. Then Mma Ramotswe said, ‘I am very sorry. I know what it is like to lose a child. I lost my baby. He did not live.’

Mrs Curtin looked down. ‘Then you know,’ she said.

Mma Makutsi brought two cups of bush tea. Mrs Curtin took her cup gratefully.

‘I should tell you about myself,’ she said. ‘If you can help me, I will be very pleased. If not, I will understand.’

‘I cannot help everybody,’ said Mma Ramotswe. ‘I will tell you if I can help.’

Mrs Curtin began her story.

I came to Africa twelve years ago. My husband, Jack, worked for the World Bank and they gave him a job in Africa for two years. We came with our son Michael, who was eighteen. He had planned to go to college, but we decided that he could spend a year with us in Africa first.

The Bank put us in a house with a beautiful garden in Gaborone. Michael was like a child with a new toy. He got up early in the morning and walked around in the bush before breakfast. I went with him once or twice. He knew the names of all the animals we saw. We watched the sun come up on the edge of the Kalahari Desert and felt its warmth.

I had never been happier in my life. We had found a country where the people had a wonderful feeling for others. When I first heard African people calling each other their brother or sister, it sounded odd to me. But I soon knew what they meant. One day somebody called me her sister and I started to cry.

Michael started to study Setswana and he made good progress. His teacher said to me, ‘Your son has got an African heart. I am only teaching that heart to speak.’

After a few months, Michael began to spend time with a group of people who lived on an old farm outside Molepolole. I suppose you could call it a commune. There was a girl from South Africa, a German man named Burkhardt, and some local people. They were all very serious about growing vegetables in dry ground. They sold their vegetables to hotels and hospitals in Gaborone.

One day Michael told me he wanted to live with them. At first I was worried, but I knew it was important for Michael. So I drove him to the farm one Sunday afternoon and left him there.

The farm was only an hour away and they came to Gaborone every day to sell or buy things, so we saw Michael often. He seemed so happy.

When it was time for Michael to return to America for college, he said he did not want to go. He wanted to stay in Botswana for another year. I was upset at first. But Jack and I talked about it and decided to accept what Michael wanted. ‘He’s doing good work,’ Jack said. ‘Most young people are completely selfish, but Michael isn’t.’ I had to agree.

So Michael stayed where he was, and when it was time for us to leave Botswana, he refused to go with us. I was not surprised. The farm was growing. It gave work to twenty families. And Michael was now in love with the South African woman.

Michael wrote to us every week. Then, one week, the letter did not arrive, and a day or two later there was a call from the American Embassy in Botswana. My son was missing. I came back to Botswana immediately and a man from the Embassy met me at the airport. He said that Burkhardt had told the police that Michael had disappeared one evening after supper.

I went to the farm on the day I arrived. Burkhardt said he was sure Michael would appear soon. The South African woman had no idea where Michael was. She did not seem to like me. Neither of them could imagine why Michael would disappear.

I stayed for four weeks. We put a notice in the newspapers and offered a reward for information about my son. A game tracker searched for him for two weeks. We found nothing. Most people decided that Michael had either been killed by robbers or taken by wild animals.

Six months ago Jack died and I decided to try one more time. I know it was ten years ago. I do not think I will find Michael. But I want to know what happened. I would like to be able to say goodbye. Will you help me, Mma Ramotswe? You say that you lost your child. You know how I feel, don’t you? It is a sadness that never goes away.

For a few minutes after Mrs Curtin had finished her story, Mma Ramotswe sat in silence. What could she do for this woman, if the Botswana Police and the American Embassy had failed? But the woman needed help, and if she could not get help from the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, then where could she get it?

‘I will help you,’ she said, and added, ‘my sister.’

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