Situations trigger old memories

I think in many ways I am blessed. I live a spitting distance from where I was born and raised, so once every while I bump into someone or situation that rekindles my childhood memories.

I think in many ways I am blessed. I live a spitting distance from where I was born and raised, so once every while I bump into someone or situation that rekindles my childhood memories.

I get to see boys and girls I grew up with mature into beautiful adulthood, and some fritter badly from substance abuse and sometimes pure bad luck.

One of these, who shall remain nameless, was once a highly respected and feared tsotsi and taverner who drove a fleet of big, fast and smart cars those days when the few folks who owned a car were regarded as "high society".

He was reputed to be a mean gunman, and commanded a queer respect from the community, a la Al Capone.

Today he is falling apart. He moves around the township mending fences, digging pit toilets, pushing wheelbarrows for shebeen queens and doing anything that will earn him a plate of food.

The story - from a superstitious relative of mine - is that Gunman's troubles started after a vicious attack on a man he was fighting.

His opponent is said to have locked himself inside a shack, but the incensed Gunman got on top of the house, removed part of the roof and jumped inside. He then literally cut off his victim's head.

"That incident changed him ... he started eating papers," my relative says.

That is one wasted life.

On the flipside of life's tapestry there is Moipone (not her real name), a tiny, skinny woman who earned her childhood reputation as a real-life fighter.

Without any facilities (even electricity), we had to manufacture our own entertainment. One of the these was "fighting". If you saw a group of people gathered at a spot and shouting, chances were there was "fighting".

Moipone, tiny as she was, was the "fighting" champion. She lived next to our school, and one day teaching was interrupted as the pupils poured out of the school yard to witness her single-handedly beat the hell out of an entire family.

She started with the girl of the house, gave her a few knocks with her tiny head, then the mother who tried to intervene. Mother was left lying in an undignified weeping lump on the ground and covering her bleeding mouth with her hand.

Big brother, a hulk of a boy, much older than Moipone, stepped in to defend the family honour. She flew at him, clung to his body like a monkey to a tree and gave him a few lightning-fast headbutts.

He turned around, staggered a bit and fell next to his mother. We cheered wildly, and from that day we called her She after a comic book character.

Today Moipone is a dignified granny. When I meet her she is wearing a Manyano uniform, clutching a Bible in one hand and holding the hand of a tiny tot in the other.

"God is good. Look at my grandchild ... I have four," she says softly, beaming a heavenly smile.

The devil in me does not see the uniform, Bible and peaceful smile. All I see in my mind is her clobbering that poor family ...

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