فصل 03

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فصل 03

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Chapter three

The Orphan Farm

Mr JLB Matekoni looked out of the window of his office at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. The window looked into the garage, where his assistants were working on a car. They were doing it the wrong way, he noticed, although he had shown them the correct way many times. One of the assistants had already had an accident while he was working on an engine. He had almost lost a finger. But they still worked in an unsafe way. ‘Young men think they will never die. But they will find out later,’ thought Mr JLB Matekoni. ‘They will discover that they are just like the rest of us.’

The assistants always had their lunch under a tree by the road. They sat and ate and watched the girls walk past. Mr JLB Matekoni had heard what they said to the girls.

‘You’re a pretty girl! Have you got a car? I could fix your car. I could make you go much faster!’

‘You’re too thin! You’re not eating enough meat! A girl like you needs more meat so she can have lots of children!’

Mr JLB Matekoni was shocked. He had never behaved like that when he was young. But this was the way that young men behaved now. You could not stop them. He had tried talking to them about it. He said that if they behaved badly, people would think badly of the garage. They had stared at him, not understanding. They thought people could do whatever they wanted. That was the modern way of thinking.

Mr JLB Matekoni looked at his diary. It was the day he always went to the orphan farm. If he left immediately, he could be back in time to check his young assistants’ work. They were only doing simple work on two cars, but sometimes they liked to make the car engines run too fast.

‘We are not supposed to make fast cars,’ he had told his assistants. ‘Our customers are not speedy types like you.’

‘Then why are we called Speedy Motors?’ asked one assistant.

‘Because our work is speedy’, he answered. ‘Our customers do not have to wait a long time.’

He drove to the orphan farm. He enjoyed going there because he liked to see the children, and he usually brought sweets for them. But he also enjoyed seeing Mma Potokwane, the woman who ran the orphan farm. She was an old family friend, and he always fixed things at the farm for her. He was not paid for this, of course. Everybody helped the orphan farm if they could.

He arrived and parked under a tree. Several children had already appeared, and walked beside him on the way to the farm’s office.

‘Have you children been good?’ asked Mr JLB Matekoni.

‘We have been very good,’ said the oldest child. ‘We are tired now from all the good things we have been doing.’

Mr JLB Matekoni laughed and gave them some sweets. Inside the office he found Mma Potokwane. She told him there was a problem with the water pump. Then there was a short silence.

‘I hear that you have some news,’ she said. ‘I hear that you are getting married.’

Mr JLB Matekoni looked down at his shoes. How did she know? It was the maid, he thought. She had told another maid and now everybody knew.

‘I am marrying Mma Ramotswe,’ he began. ‘She…’

‘She’s the detective lady, isn’t she?’ said Mma Potokwane. ‘I have heard about her. Your life will be exciting. You will be hiding and watching people all the time.’

‘I am not going to be a detective,’ said Mr JLB Matekoni. ‘That is Mma Ramotswe’s business.’

After tea, Mr JLB Matekoni went to fix the water pump. It was in a pump-house by some trees. He put down his tool box and opened the pump-house door carefully. Snakes liked machines, and he had often found them in places like this.

Inside the pump-house, he inspected the engine that drove the pump. The problem was that it was very old. He could change some of the parts, but one day Mma Potokwane would have to buy a new one.

There was a noise behind him that surprised him. It sounded like the sound of a wheel that needed oil. Then he saw it, coming out of the bush: a wheelchair, in which a girl was sitting and pushing herself.

She greeted him politely, saying, ‘I hope you are well, Rra.’

They shook hands in the correct way. ‘I hope my hands are not too oily,’ said Mr JLB Matekoni. ‘I have been working on the pump.’

The girl smiled. ‘I have brought you some water, Rra. Mma Potokwane said you might be thirsty.’

Mr JLB Matekoni took the water gratefully and watched the girl as he drank. She was very young, about eleven or twelve, and she had a pleasant, open face.

‘Do you live on the farm?’ he asked.

‘I have been here about one year,’ she answered. ‘I am here with my young brother. He is only five.’

‘Where did you come from?’

She looked down. ‘We came from near Francistown. My mother died five years ago, when I was seven.’

Mr JLB Matekoni said nothing. Mma Potokwane had told him the stories of some of the orphans, and each time he felt a pain in his heart.

In the old times there were no unwanted children; everybody was cared for by somebody. But things were changing. Now there were orphans, especially because of the disease that was spreading through Africa. Is this what had happened to the girl? And why was she in a wheelchair?

‘Your chair is making a noise,’ he said. ‘Does it always do that?’

The girl shook her head. ‘It started a few weeks ago. I think there is something wrong with it.’

Mr JLB Matekoni looked carefully at the wheels. It was clear that they needed oil.

‘I will lift you out,’ he said. ‘You can sit under the tree while I fix your chair.’

He put the girl gently on the ground. Then he turned the chair upside down and put oil on the wheels. He turned the chair over and pushed it to where the girl was sitting.

‘You have been very kind, Rra,’ she said. ‘I must go back now, or the house mother will be worried.’

She left, and Mr JLB Matekoni continued his work on the pump. In an hour it was ready, but he knew the repair would not last long. How would the farm get water if the pump stopped working?

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