فصل 08

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فصل 08

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  • زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
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Chapter eight

A Trip into Town

On the morning that Mma Makutsi followed Mr Letsenyane Badule’s wife to the house of another man, Mr JLB Matekoni decided to take his new children shopping.

The children’s arrival at his home had upset him deeply. He had gone out to fix a water pump and had come back with two children. Now he had to take care of them until they were adults - actually, in the case of the girl in the wheelchair, for the rest of her life. How had Mma Potokwane made him do it?

But the children had arrived and now it was too late to change that. As he sat in the office of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, he made a decision. He would stop worrying about how the children had arrived, and think only about how to take good care of them. They were fine children and their lives had suddenly become better. Yesterday they had been two of one hundred and fifty children at the orphan farm. Today they were living in a house with their own room, and with a father - he was a father now - who owned his own business. There was enough money, so why not spend some on the children? They could go to a private school and learn everything they needed to get good jobs.

Perhaps the boy… No, he could not really hope for this, but it was an attractive thought. Perhaps the boy would be interested in mechanical things and could run Tlokweng Speedy Motors. For a few moments, Mr JLB Matekoni imagined his son, his son, standing in front of the garage, cleaning his hands on a piece of oily cloth after fixing a complicated engine. And in the background, sitting in the office, he and Mma Ramotswe, much older now, with grey hair, drinking bush tea.

That would be far in the future. There was much to do before that. First, he would take them into town and buy them new clothes. The children had probably never had new clothes before. Then he would take them to the chemist’s shop. The girl could buy creams and sweet-smelling soap and other things that girls like. There was only carbolic soap at home, and she deserved better than that.

Mr JLB Matekoni took the old green pick-up truck from the garage. It had plenty of room in the back for the wheelchair. The children were sitting in front of his house. The boy was playing with a stick and the girl was making a cover for a milk bottle. ‘She is a clever girl,’ he thought. ‘She will be able to do anything if she is given a chance.’

They greeted him politely, and said the maid had given them breakfast. He had asked the maid to come in early to take care of the children and she had agreed. But he heard loud noises from the kitchen, and he knew the maid was in a bad mood.

They rode into town. The girl asked questions about the old pick-up, which surprised him.

‘I have heard that old engines need more oil,’ she said, ‘Is this true, Rra?’

He explained about old engine parts and she listened carefully, but the boy did not seem interested.

When they arrived in town, he parked the pick-up next to a big white Range Rover outside the British Embassy.

‘Do you see that car? That is a very important car,’ he said. ‘The owner always takes it to my garage.’

The boy said nothing, but the girl said, ‘It is a beautiful white car. It is like a cloud on wheels.’

Mr JLB Matekoni turned round and looked at her.

‘That is a very good way of talking about that car,’ he said. ‘I shall remember that.’

The shop assistants were very kind. They helped the girl try on the dresses she had chosen. They were the cheapest dresses, but she said they were the ones she wanted.

The boy seemed more interested. He chose the brightest shirts he could find. He wanted a pair of white shoes, but his sister disagreed.

‘We cannot let him have those shoes, Rra,’ she said to Mr JLB Matekoni. ‘They will get dirty very quickly and then he will throw them away.’

‘I see,’ said Mr JLB Matekoni. The boy was polite and well-behaved, but he began to think his son would never stand with an oily cloth outside Tlokweng Speedy Motors. He had another thought of the boy, in a stylish white shirt and a suit.

They finished shopping and were walking past the post office when the photographer stopped them.

‘I can take a photograph for you, right here,’ he said. ‘You stand under this tree and I can take your photograph. You can have it immediately. A handsome family group.’

‘Would you like that?’ asked Mr JLB Matekoni. ‘A photograph to remind us of our shopping trip?’

The children smiled. ‘Yes, please,’ said the girl. ‘I have never had a photograph.’

This girl, thought Mr JLB Matekoni, was twelve years old but she had never had a photograph of herself. There was no photograph of her childhood. Nobody had ever taken her picture. She had not been special enough.

He had a sudden strong feeling of pity for these children, pity mixed with love. He would give them these things. They would have everything that other children had.

He pushed the girl’s wheelchair in front of the tree. The photographer waved his hand to get her attention. Then he pushed a button on the camera. There was a noise and then, as if he was performing a magic trick, the photographer pulled out the photograph and gave it to the girl.

She took it and smiled. Then the photographer did the same performance with the boy.

‘Now you can put those photographs in your rooms,’ said Mr JLB Matekoni. ‘And one day we will have more photographs.’

He turned round to push the wheelchair, but he stopped and his arms fell to his sides, useless.

There was Mma Ramotswe, standing in front of him, carrying a basket of letters. She had been on her way to the post office when she saw him. What was happening? What was Mr JLB Matekoni doing, and who were those children?

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