“Nandi, don’t go near the road,” I call out, as I hang the laundry.
Nandi, my five-year-old sister, ignores me, but Silwane, her dog, herds her back.
These days all my friends ask me: “How can you stand to sleep with a dog in your room?”
“If you had spent years listening to your little sister screaming on and on every night, and a dog shut her up, you’d sleep with a dog too,” I tell them.
I glance over to see Nandi chasing a butterfly. Silwane is dutifully following. My sister loves anything with wings, even miggies.
I sigh as I hang another shirt. Yoh, I swear, school holidays are the worst. Some kids love the break, especially when you are in high school, like me. But you see, I don’t ever get a real break. When I’m off school, while Mama and Tata are at work, I must to do all the chores and keep an eye on Nandi – while my big brother Melusi runs off with all his friends.
“He watches her every day while you are at school,” Mama says, any time I complain.
Melusi watches Nandi because he hasn’t found a job since he matriculated. If he had a job, we’d be paying a neighbour to watch Nandi. But no, his lazy butt is jobless, and please understand, my big brother doesn’t cook or do laundry while he’s home. Hayi! He still leaves that job for Mama or me.
A yip catches my attention and I look up from the laundry to see Melusi strolling up the street with Blaze, his fellow jobless friend, and they’ve got a short, squatty dog on a rope.
“You keep that dog away from here, neh?” I call out.
Silwane has parked himself directly in front of Nandi, who is now twisting fistfuls of the dog’s fur. Silwane ignores her, keeping his focus on the other dog, that is straining at the rope.
“Molo, Cebisa,” Blaze calls. He gives me a wave, as if I don’t know he is nothing but trouble. I say nothing.
“Greetings, Cebisa,” Melusi scolds. “You don’t need to be rude.”
“Molo,” I reply, with a glare. “Now you keep that other dog away. What are you two even doing with that dog, neh?”
Blaze smiles his slick smile and shrugs. “Your family seems to enjoy having a dog so much I thought maybe I’d like one too.”
I narrow my eyes as Nandi cowers behind Silwane. That child does not do people. She doesn’t even talk, let alone make eye contact. Stepping in front of Silwane, in order to shield Nandi a bit more, I ask, “Blaze, didn’t you walk past here yesterday with a different dog?”
He gives another shrug. “Eh? That dog ran away. Now I have this one.”
I open my mouth to object, but Melusi waves me off. “Leave it, Cebisa. We’re going. We just came by to tell you that I won’t be home for dinner.”
Now I’m suspicious. “What are you really up to, neh?”
But he doesn’t answer. He and his friend just walk off, dragging that other dog with them.
Something’s going on. I just don’t know what.