D Siders

Pain Like Fire

A terrified Teko got circumcised.

Teko sat in his initiation hut, in pain and agony.

He was bare, with only goatskin strapped around him, covering his groin. What had he gotten himself into? he kept wondering.

The experience was made worse by his cousin, Thando. He’d built a small fire inside the little initiation hut.

His reasoning was that it drove away evil spirits.

“Witches are on a hunt for your soul, when you become a man. They don’t really care when you’re a boy,” Thando had declared, pouring a bit of paraffin on the burning logs. “Never mind the smoke, my lightie. You’ll be fine.”


Teko’s groin area was literally on fire. It felt like something was wrong.

A young boy named Banele was also in attendance. He’d been selected by Thando.

He would be Teko’s ‘boy’ during the initiation.

The lad had already started his duties. He’d brought dry samp and mielies from the main house.   

That was his job – morning, noon and night. He had to grab food from the ladies in the kitchen, walk a kilometer and hand it over to the initiate.

He was also to do anything else Teko needed.

“Bra Thando, I need Xaba here, bro,” Teko complained, wanting attention. “Why hasn’t he come to examine me today? It’s way past lunch time.”

Thando had a cigarette in his hand, blowing out smoke. “Just relax, he’ll come. I hope you don’t think he’s gonna come to check on you, everyday? That’s not how this works.”

“Hell yes! Of course I think that!” Teko hissed, uncomfortable, sitting a different way.

“Get that out of your mind. He’ll probably come tomorrow or Wednesday. You’re being a girl. Calm down, relax.”

“Bra Tando, if I lose my penis because …”

“Ey, ey, you won’t lose anything man! Stop being such a sissy.”

“A SISSY?!” Teko yelled, rolling a fist. “This is my life, damn it!”

“I can’t handle your winging. You sound like my bloody wife. No, in fact you sound like a teenage girl, seriously. Get it together. It’s only been two days. What did you expect?”  

Teko changed position again. It was impossible to sit.

“Do you wanna call your chick again? I think I have R8 airtime left. Maybe it’ll take your mind away from your little complaints.”


“No what?”

“No I don’t want to call Fatima, Bra Thando. Didn’t you hear Xaba? I’m not allowed to.”

“Are you teaching me the ritual now, young blood? You know everything.”

“I’m not saying that.”

A hurting Teko turned to Banele. “Boy, I need you to go to Xaba’s house. Go tell him I need him, now. Make it sound like an emergency. Don’t take no for an answer.”

Thando objected. “You know what’s the problem with that?”

“There’s no bloody problem. Let the boy go, please.”

“It’s fine, he can go. But when there is a real problem, down there, Xaba might not be willing to come again. That’s my concern.”

 Screw you and Xaba. He’d better get here, NOW! Teko thought, looking down at his wound.  

“Go Banele, go,” Teko insisted, growing angry now.

“Okay, but I warned you.”

“Bra Thando, my thing’s burning. I can hardly breathe it’s so sore.”

Young Banele collected the empty bowls, and crawled out the smoky hut.

“Call your little bird, Fati. She’ll make you feel better, with her romantic English words.”

“No can't do that, bra. I plan to do this the right cultural way.”

“Good boy, oops …I mean, good man. That’s what I want to hear.” Thando complimented, blowing on the smoke for a bigger fire.

“Is that really necessary?” Teko pleaded, annoyed.

“Yes it is, shut up.”



Blessing kept the card that came with the flowers.

It pleased her to have a note from an admirer – she felt flattered.

As she was preparing for bed that night, she brought it out once more and laid it on the dresser.

It was branded with the name of the florist – BLOSSOM. The letters were large, curly, and elegant.

Who could it be?

It was possible that someone had just walked into the shop, bought flowers, then had them delivered.

But this person, whoever they were, had not done that – that would have meant that a delivery person would have called at the laundry, and there had been none.

Whoever it was had placed the pot of beautiful winter flowers right on her doorstep.

It was romantic!

And also mysterious.

She turned the note over in her hands thoughtfully.

The metallic gloss on the lettering blinked in the lamp light.

The next morning, Blessing told herself that she needed bleach from the superette.

She chose Shorty’s, a small spaza at the top of the street, giving her the chance to walk past the florist.

She purchased a bottle of bleach, noted it had gone up in price by 24 cents, then put it in her handbag, thanked the cashier, and left the cramped little spot.

She slowed down as she came to pass the window at BLOSSOM.

She stopped on the pavement, then retrieved her phone from her bag.

She made a fake call to her voicemail, all the time peering inside the window to see who worked there.

She saw a middle aged woman with braids at the till, peering through glasses at a slip.

At a counter behind her, holding sprays of flowers, she saw an older gentleman, with a kind face and lightly greying hair. He had the air of an older Sidney Poitier, rather distinguished looking. The woman was saying something and he looked up and smiled at her warmly, revealing a lovely, charming smile.

Then, without warning, he looked up and looked directly at her.

Her heart froze.

He was waving.

How embarrassing!

Then, to her relief, she understood he was waving at someone else, a young boy entering the store with a bicycle with a basket in front.

The lad waved in return as he parked his bike outside and pushed the glass door open.

That was close.

A second later, the boy was coming out again.

As he was undoing the chain on the bike, Blessing addressed him.

“Hello, is that your boss?”

The boy looked at her casually. “Yep,” he said. “Mr. Mda.”

“I see. And this is his florist?”

“Yes ma’am.”

Blessing was impressed with the boy’s manners. They seemed to come from an early time in history. Even his bike was old-fashioned.

“Is he your father?”

The boy chuckled. “Mr. Mda? No, ma’am. He’s my uncle. He’s been looking after me ever since my parents passed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t worry ma’am, he takes very good care of me. He’s an awesome old man.”

“Not everyone over the age of 20 is old, my dear.”

The boy looked surprised, then chuckled again. “I guess you’re right ma’am. Come buy some flowers some time – we have fresh flowers every day, and incredibly good prices.”

“I might just do that,” said Blessing, smiling to herself, and walking again in the direction of her laundry, a slight spring in her step.

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Coming Soon
Is Xaba a dependable initiator?