The sun set subtly over the distant mountains, raining in a sea of a pale shade of orange over the landscape. Two small boys drank in the twilight, not afar a kraal of cows that the foreman was busy tightening shut.
They were dirty, as if they had been immersed in a tub of mud hours ago, and the drying effect now made them appear like art models. Tangeni’s hand rested over his friends’ shoulder, where a little lumpy birthmark was, and Jan reciprocated. A day spent doing nothing but chasing the dogs and cows and running around in mud was a day well spent in Tangeni’s eyes.
“Come along, boys. Daylight concludes,” said Erastus the foreman. “You must be home soon. Your mothers will want you taking baths, and from the looks of you, they will not be quick ones.”
“Just a little while longer, Erasi,” Tangeni shouted over his shoulder.
“Don’t be foolish, boy!” Tangeni said. “You play in the dark and the wolves will come for you!”
“We said a little while longer, Erasi!” Jan shouted. “Now be gone and leave us in peace. There aren’t any wolves in these parts, we’re not stupid.”
“Of course, Meneer Jan,” Erastus conceded. He folded a thick piece of rope and took off towards the workers’ quarters.
As the stars began to twinkle in their wake, in the far off galaxies, Jan began to tell his best friend about everything he had learned about them in school. But their little stint in rebellion would not last long. “You see that group there. Yes that one where the three stars are, it’s called Orion Nebu—”
“JAN SMIT!! GET YOUR LITTLE BUTTOCKS IN THIS HOUSE THIS MINUTE!” a scary bellow came from the entrance of the main house of the farm.
Both boys shot up at once!
“See you tomorrow!” Jan called after Tangeni as he ran home. He knew he would be spared a good hiding if he did not make his mother repeat her command.
Tangeni turned towards the worker’s quarters. He knew he was going to receive a spanking no matter what. He had made peace with it. Playing with Jan was worth it anyway, he thought. He found the mood at home the least conducive for a hiding, however.
His parents were sat solemnly in their modest living room. At the sight of Tangeni, his mother stretched forth her arms and pulled him in for an embrace, dry mud and all. Tangeni’s closed his eyes in the warmth of her chest. His parents had Tangeni quite late in their marriage and were therefore quite advanced in age, which resulted in him getting all of their love. He was their first born and their last born, and they showed it, except when he was behaving like a little brat. Then he got the full wrath of their discipline, but even then he knew it was only because they loved him, even though it didn’t feel it as they carried it out. Tangeni knew his mother enough to know that this spelled something was wrong. “What is wrong, mom?”
“It seems Meneer Smit will be letting us go,” his father said. Right to the point as always. “He wants younger workers, and feels he cannot show the patience he has shown us in old age for these past years. It is very unlikely we will be finding another job at our ages. We don’t know what we’re going to do.”
To be continued