Power of One

Topics: The Power of One, Boxing Pages: 52 (21386 words) Published: November 29, 2012
Chapter One
On his Granpa's farm in the province of Natal in South Africa, an unnamed blonde infant is suckled by his black Zulu nanny. She sings to him of warriors and women washing at the baboons' water hole. At five, the little boy's mother has a nervous breakdown and he is sent to an Afrikaans boarding school. He is the youngest student by two years, and is hated because he is the only English-speaker in the school, which makes him a "rooinek" (Afrikaans for "redneck," a derogatory term for the British, inherited from the Boer War).Two eleven-year-olds put the little boy to trial - he is made to kneel naked in the shower, where he says a prayer to his Zulu nanny instead of to God. The Judge, along with his "council of war", pee on the boy. The little boy has never seen a shower before - his nanny always washed him in a tin tub. The matron of the hostel, simply called "Mevrou" ("Missus" in Afrikaans), smells the pee on the boy and drags him to the showers. She switches on the cold faucet, but the boy thinks that she too must be peeing on him. The Judge asks the boy why he wets his bed. The boy cannot answer. The Judge pulls down the boy's pants, and the kids all look and laugh at his "hatless snake" - his circumcised penis. They all chant "pisskop" ("pisshead"), which becomes his nickname. The Judge now displays his own large, uncircumcised penis.The little boy manages to whittle the tortures down to one hour a day. His bedwetting still lingers, however, causing him shame and misery. Mevrou examines his bed every morning and sends him to wash the rubber sheet until his hands reek of the carbolic soap. The boy learns that he needs to adopt a camouflage in order to cope. As part of this camouflage, he resolves never to cry. This decision infuriates the Judge. The boy gains some respect from the other kids for holding the school record for the largest number of beatings, yet they continue to ostracize and torment him verbally and physically. At the end of the first term, the boy's district doctor and the flyhalf for the Northern Transvaal rugby team, Dr. Henny Boshoff, picks him up to drive him home to his Granpa, and nanny on the farm. The Judge, impressed by this grand exit from the school, promises the boy better treatment after the holidays. Dr. Henny tells the boy that his mother is recovering from her breakdown, but is not ready to return home yet. It is late summer, and on the farm, the black women spend their days singing as they gather cotton. Nanny prays for Inkosi-Inkosikazi, the great black medicine man, to visit them to solve the little boy's bedwetting problem. Inkosi-Inkosikazi eventually arrives in a black Buick. The women gather gifts of food for him, among them being some "kaffir chickens," not quite dead. One of the chickens reminds the boy of his Granpa. The only difference rests in the eyes: the cock has beady eyes whereas the boy's Granpa has eyes "intended for gazing over soft English landscapes." The boy's Granpa despises Shangaan people (one of the black tribes of South Africa), but he respects the Zulu medicine man, Inkosi-Inkosikazi, who once cured his gallstones. Inkosi-Inkosikazi is considered the last of the sons of the famous Zulu king, Dingaan, who fought off both British and Boers (Afrikaners). The boy's Granpa welcomes him to the farm. Inkosi-Inkosikazi orders the black women to let the chickens loose and catch them a second time. Then he uses "low-grade magic" to put them to sleep. He beckons the boy to sit with him on the "indaba" (meeting) mat - a great honor, since only chiefs are allowed to sit on these mats. Inkosi-Inkosikazi now summons Nanny to tell the boy's bedwetting story in Shangaan. Nanny brings the women to tears with her impressive elocutionary skills. Dee and Dum, the twin kitchen maids, are dazzled by Nanny's story. But Inkosi-Inkosikazi simply scratches his backside and orders "kaffir beer." That night Nanny hugs Peekay, telling him he has brought honor on her...
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