This is an excerpt from a very beautifully told story by Wame.
Look for Wame’s new book ‘Go Tell the Sun‘ on store shelves.
Ipelegeng searched for her grandfather’s spectacles in the kitchen first, and then in the living room where next to the blue chair he used when he watched TV. She would have put off going to her grandfather’s room longer but her grandfather called to her.
“Ipelegeng, where are you with my spectacles?”
Ipelegeng hesitated at the bedroom door before pushing it open. There were too many reminders of how old her grandfather was getting: false teeth soaking in a glass by the side of his bed, a cup of tea, full and forgotten, the nightlight still on. Her eyes flew to the chest of drawers and the picture of her grandmother and grandfather. Her grandmother’s funeral programme was on the side table. Ipelegeng felt tears stinging her eyes.
The room felt like a dark night brewing a thunderstorm. The scent of mothballs hung heavily in the air. There was a hint of benzene that her grandfather used to clean his suit that hung on the doorknob. She tugged on the cord that parted the heavy curtains, then she opened the windows and the scent of morula fruit floated into the room.
“Ipelegeng! What’s keeping you?”
Ipelegeng walked to the bookshelf that was coated in dust. She blew on the cover and dust particles twinkled like stars. “Coming, Ntatemogolo.”
His spectacle case was top of the chest of drawers. She picked it up. As she did she spied the photo album, the one with pictures of Ntatemogolo receiving his presidential award. She took it too and the glass with his teeth and went to sit next to her grandfather.
“Sit down. Remind me again. What day is it today?”
Ipelegeng studied her grandfather. He had been so well these past few months. He didn’t forget her name like he used to, but talking to him today was as tiresome as fetching water with a leaking bucket.
She read the article about the fight between Chinese and Batswana contractors, making sure she smiled and frowned in time to the words, like her grandmother had taught her to do.
And when she came to the end of the story she said, “The end.” She looked up at her grandfather expectantly but he stayed quiet with his eyes closed.
The phone rang just then.
Ipelegeng raced to the house. Her father had said he would call as soon as he arrived in Francistown. She returned with the extension.
“It’s for you.”
“Hello…Ah. yes, it’s been too long…” RraBoipuso covered the mouthpiece with his hand and whispered. “Perhaps you can cut up a mango or pawpaw for me, and another cup of tea. ”
Ipelegeng’s eyes went to the half full cup of tea by her grandfather. “But you didn’t finish the other one,” she said to herself as she walked away. She looked back at her grandfather who was smiling widely.
“Yes,” he was saying, “We’re here with my little one.”
Ipelegeng strained to hear what else her grandfather was saying but she only heard the whistle of the electric kettle.
“She’s been reading for me….only 13,…always underfoot. Yes, of course, making me tea…just like her grandmother. I’ve made up my mind to talk to him about this child. She tells me they do not celebrate Independence Day anymore.”
Ipelegeng stared through the window at her grandfather. Although he was laughing, he looked sad today, scratching his arms, scratching his head, scratching his legs. Maybe she would stay with him a little. She could practise her vocabulary on him and ask him questions till he got fed up and told her to “run along”. She’d feel better leaving him alone because then she could say he’d chased her away.
Most times she enjoyed keeping her grandfather company. He was not like other adults who tended to brush her off like they were swatting away mosquitoes: “Out of the way, Ipelegeng.” “Go and play outside, Ipelegeng.” “Stop making noise, Ipelegeng.” “Turn off the TV, Ipelegeng.” “This child will be the death of me.” They did the same to her grandfather: “Why doesn’t he lie down?” “He repeats himself so.”
But she didn’t like that her grandfather forgot important things. She had read her very best for him and he had not said, “Ao, ngwanyana waaka!” like he always did when he was pleased with her.
When her father left he had promised to call as soon as he arrived in Tonota. At that moment she could not wait any longer. She dialled his number and waited, dialled again and waited. It rang until her father said: “Legae Godiraone.” “Papa. It’s me,” she responded. The recorded voice continued. I can’t take your call right now. Please save your name and number and I will get back to you.”
Ipelegeng pressed the disconnect button.