Gladys Thomas was born in Salt River, Cape Town, in 1935. She has published poems and stories in South Africa and internationally, using them as a way of raising awareness and fighting against Apartheid. In 2007 she was awarded a National Order of Ikhamanga in Bronze for her work.
‘One Last Look at Paradise Road’ tells the story of Miriam, a domestic worker in Cape Town, and her family. The United Democratic Front (UDF) organised a march demanding the release of Nelson Mandela from Pollsmoor prison on the 28th of August, 1985. Despite it being an act of peaceful resistance, the police reacted with full force on the day of the march and for three days afterwards, on the Cape Flats. 28 people were killed.
Thomas explores how this event affected Miriam and her family – Amos, her husband, and her two boys, Steve and Fassie. Miriam’s two sons embody the growing fearlessness of anti-Apartheid struggle during the 1980s. Thomas also shows her readers the strain put on black family life by economic inequality, racism and police oppression. Importantly, this story reveals how hard life was for black women. They had to work and take care of their families, as well as suffer under the racist laws of the Apartheid regime. Despite this, Thomas’ story finds great hope in the bravery of anti-Apartheid protesters and the unity of Miriam’s family.
Author: Gladys Thomas
Miriam, not knowing where to start, looked wearily wearily Tiredly, unenthusiastically. around the house at her duties for the day. Washing lay on the bedroom floor ready for the automatic washing machine. Dishes were piled high in the kitchen sink indicating that a good time was had by all at Madam’s party. After she had served dinner to the guests last night, she had left the kitchen at about nine o’clock. Most nights she would spend with her friend who worked across the road. They would talk about their families, their Madams and everything that affected their lives. Last night, however, Miriam had felt too tired and just fell asleep in her tiny room. This morning she was back in the big house to do the cleaning up!
Today her heart felt heavy in her breast. She was nervous and had dropped things. Already she had broken a porcelain figurine figurine A small pottery sculpture, in the shape of a person or animal. when she was dusting. Tonight she would have to face the consequences. All she could do, as was usual after such a confrontation, was to return to the lonely maid’s room in the back yard, and sulk.
She carried a transistor radio from room to room while doing her chores. She was listening expectantly for news of the worsening unrest unrest Agitation, disturbance or trouble. compelled Forced. unconcerned Not interested, worried, or affected. in the townships. And it was a special day because of the call to march to Pollsmoor Prison to demand the release of Nelson Mandela. Why could she not be with her family and her people at a time like this? Instead she was compelled to spend her time cleaning for the rich and unconcerned.
At eleven-thirty she heard those special bleeps on the radio which preceded preceded Came just before. abrupt Sudden, fast or unexpected. quirts Whips. the news. Anxiously she turned up the sound for the urgent news flash. The police had taken over Athlone and the march on Pollsmoor had been put to an abrupt end! The police had used batons, quirts and teargas. There were many injured and detained.
Miriam stood stunned and shocked because some of the reported incidents had taken place near her home. After a while she decided that it would be best to return to the township where she lived to where she felt that she would be needed by her family and neighbours. She filled the dog’s water bowl, kicked the washing into a corner, locked all the doors, and left the big house in a hurry.
As she locked the gate she remembered that Madam would certainly telephone that afternoon to enquire, as she usually did, about what she would be cooking for supper that night. Now that was the least of her worries – she was on her way home!
ungainly Awkward; not graceful. frenetic Desperate, or wild with excitement, passion, fear, pain, etc. fabled Something celebrated in fables; having no real existence. Fables are short stories which teach a moral lesson.
She walked as quickly as her ungainly, tired body could carry her. She turned into Paradise Road which was lined with tall green oak trees; birds flew about, and squirrels with their frenetic bushy tails jumped along the branches. The avenue, so peaceful with its beautiful spring-green trees stretching almost as far as the eye could see, was just like some fabled Eden.
Almost breathless she arrived at the Claremont bus terminus and was just in time for a departing bus to her township. She had little time to waste as she had to return to her work before the white family arrived home that night. She sat down resolutely resolutely Determined; with purpose. in a vacant vacant Empty. seat at the window. As she stared out she thought about her husband, Amos. Yes, together they had been through hard times bringing up their three children; both working to make ends meet until three months ago when he was brought home in one of the construction company’s trucks. The driver had to carry him inside the house! He had been employed by the company for ten years. Yet the day he injured himself the foreman said that he was too busy to fill in the compensation forms! Until now he had received just two weeks’ pay and a pair of crutches.
These thoughts made her angry and, given the opportunity, she would have walked in the front row of that march! But she could not stay at home as she needed the job so badly. The family depended on the hundred-and-twenty rand a month which she earned as a maid. She thought about her daughter Winnie, the other breadwinner of the family. She worked at Groote Schuur Hospital as a trainee nurse. Every month Winnie would bring home her pay packet unopened. Miriam was very proud of her and loved her very much.
Her two sons were now both at high school. Ah, how she adored them! They never complained and were always satisfied. They wore patched pants and their shoes were often down at heel down at heel The heel of the shoe is worn out; having a poor, shabby appearance. but they never missed school. She really admired them and their dedication to their studies.
Steve was now in his final matriculation year and her baby, Fassie, now sixteen, was in Standard Eight. They were both so bright that she smiled as she thought about them. They would have joined the march that morning as they were supporters of the People’s United Front. She remembered how her boys insisted on taking her to the mass political rally at the skating rink in Athlone. She had never seen such a crowd in her life! All were meeting for the struggle for freedom. The speeches were fiery and pertinent pertinent Relevant. about the oppressive laws of her country. She had felt pleased that her sons had brought her to the rally.
alighted Left the vehicle.
She was so deep in thought that she almost missed her stop. As she alighted, stones came smashing into the bus windows. The driver in great fear jumped out and ran for his life. Everyone scattered as the stones rained down upon the bus. Some of the youths were shouting slogans and angry words; ‘Down with the bus fares!’, ‘We did not ask to be here!’, ‘The government moved us to this ghetto!’ They shouted at the empty bus as if it had ears! Missiles were aimed at the bright smiling face of a girl advertising toothpaste on the side of the bus. The stones smashed into the face with dull thuds. thuds Dull sounds, as of a heavy blow or fall. She saw flames quickly consume the smiling face leaving the side of the bus a blackened mass. Soon the whole bus was burning fiercely, as she hurried home, shocked at what she had witnessed.
The township looked like a battlefield. Clumsy-looking troop-carriers called Casspirs, army trucks filled with troops armed to the teeth and police with guns were to be seen everywhere. A soldier in full battledress and riot gear came towards her. Her heart began to pound fast and in a panic she half ran home. Children and adults were being chased like cornered animals. She turned a street corner; the teargas and burning tyres’ smoke choked her as she stumbled into her home.
‘Amos, Amos!’ she cried and ran into the small dark bedroom. He stood at the window leaning on his crutches. They fell into each other’s arms.
‘I’m glad you’re home, Mother. This all started this morning. It was going to be a peaceful march to Pollsmoor. Then came the batons and the guns. Standing here, and I’m unable to go out and help the injured, is driving me mad.’
‘Where are the children?’ she asked anxiously.
‘They joined the march this morning. I never saw them after that.’
‘Oh God, please bring them home safe. It is terrible out there and all we can do is just sit here while our children are fighting the whole army and all those guns. I feel so helpless, Amos.’
‘I feel exactly the same, Miriam. I wish I had died in that accident!’
‘Oh Amos, my husband. Why do you talk like that? Soon you will be strong and on your feet again. We must not give in now. Our children need our support. Come, let’s see what there is to eat. What you need is a nice cup of tea.’
‘Don’t worry, my wife. You go and look for the boys. I can get something to eat for myself. Besides, I feel like being alone.’
‘Why do you want to be alone? I’ve just come in from work to be with you, and you want to be alone?’
‘I know your heart is out there with the boys. You go and look for them. I’ll be all right.’
‘Are you sure, Amos?’ she asked tenderly.
She went to the kitchen to drink some water as her throat was irritated by the gas. She noticed that the boys had left in a great hurry – plates of half-eaten mealie meal still stood on the table. The large enamelled basin was filled with dirty dishes and the bucket that Fassie used to scrub the floor stood under the old wooden kitchen table. They had never before left for school before cleaning the house, but that morning was obviously an exception. She went back into the bedroom to tell Amos that she was leaving. As she turned away Amos looked sadly at her, thinking, ‘We live in such dangerous times that you don’t know if you’ll see your loved ones again once they leave the house.’
‘Bloody murderers!’Miriam reached the gate and then turned quickly back into the house. She stood in the doorway and shouted, ‘Are you sure you’re all right? Don’t leave the house until I return. Do you hear me, Amos?’
‘Go Wife, go! But take care. These people are out to kill us today.’
barricading Blocking, or stopping. palls Anything that covers over or spreads, especially with darkness.
She rushed out into the street. Stones rained from behind walls and bushes. She had to dodge and run to avoid the missiles. There were tyres burning in the streets, barricading the way of the Casspirs. But the iron monsters moved forward relentlessly. The faces of the men on the Casspirs, she noticed, were red with anger. Thick palls of tearsmoke filled the air and the tyres gave off acrid acrid Bitter or harsh. fumes which inflamed inflamed To agitate or irritate. the eyes and throat. She heard gunshots in the next street and the piercing cries of the children. It was like a nightmare as she made her way to her sister’s home a few streets away. She found herself running with the crowd at times. Perhaps her sons were at their Aunt Susan’s home, hiding?
amiss Wrong. limp Floppy or weak; not stiff.
As she entered Susan’s home she immediately felt that something was amiss. She found her in the kitchen shaking in panic. Holding her ten-month-old baby over the kitchen sink she was blowing air into the child’s mouth. This beautiful child with her large brown eyes, who was always gurgling with delight, now lay limp in her mother’s arms!
‘What happened?’ Miriam asked very alarmed.
‘They threw a teargas canister through the doorway. Little Dolly had just crawled there to sit in the sun,’ answered Susan, tears running down her cheeks. ‘My baby almost choked to death.’
‘Give her to me,’ said Miriam, and she held the child to her body. Slowly she rocked Dolly while her sister wiped the little face with a wet cold face cloth.
‘I’m looking for Steve and Fassie. They didn’t attend school today but joined the march. I thought they may be here with you, Sister.’
‘I didn’t see them today, Miriam. Where can they be? Perhaps they’re hiding someplace.’
‘But I want to find them before I go back to my work this evening.’
‘Are you off today?’
‘I decided to come home when I heard the news of the beatings on the radio.’
‘Why didn’t they allow this peaceful march?’ Susan asked angrily.
‘Yes, they want to shoot all of us,’ answered Miriam. ‘Here, I think she’s sleeping,’ Miriam handed Dolly back to Susan. ‘You must watch her, anything can happen. I must leave now and search for the boys. Keep your door closed,’ she warned as she left.
Back on the streets she followed the crowd. By now her heavy body felt tired and sweaty. She ran along searching the crowd for her sons’ faces amongst them. They were all singing freedom songs but nowhere did she see Steve or Fassie. The faces of the youth shocked her. She detected signs of hope, determination and defiance in them. On the way she met many mothers and stopped to talk to some of them that she knew.
‘I’m looking for my sons,’ she tried to explain. They ignored her in their rush to get away.
‘No time to talk,’ said one of the young men in the crowd.
‘Come on, Mama. If you stand too long in one place they will shoot you,’ said another.
She joined the others, half running and half walking. Passing another woman she asked, ‘Are you also looking for your children?’
‘Yes, yes!’ several of the mothers in the crowd answered in great apprehension. apprehension Nervousness or fear of future evil.
‘Not one of them are at school today.’
‘They say that they are doing what we should have done years ago.’
‘That’s true,’ approved several women.
When she approached her street she said goodbye to them and returned home very disappointed.
‘Miriam, Miriam. Is it you?’ Amos called from the bedroom.
‘Did you find them?’
‘Oh, Amos. You’ll never believe what’s going on out there! It seems that all the high school students joined the march this morning. I tell you Amos, these children don’t care about their lives!’ She was now so overcome that she just sat down on the bed, crying.
‘All right, Mother. Don’t worry! It will turn out all right. I know it,’ he pacified her. pacified Made peaceful, quiet or calm.
‘I will not go back to work until I’ve found my sons,’ she said between her tears.
‘What if you lose your job?’
‘We will manage on Winnie’s money. We’ve been through worse times before. But I’m going to stay here where I belong. Let the rich do their own work for a change. I’m tired of cooking, cleaning and picking up after them. I hate them all! They couldn’t care a damn about us.’
‘My wife, you’ve been running around since this morning,’ said Amos looking at her with great concern. ‘Come let me make that cup of tea we were going to have this morning.’ He shuffled into the kitchen followed by Miriam.
‘You must rest that leg of yours. Let me make the tea instead and I’ll tell you what is going on out there. The children are all over the township. The roads are blocked with old mattresses and oil drums. I saw some of them making petrol bombs behind a wall. I can’t believe it! There is a war going on out there Amos.’
‘And no sign of our sons? I’m sure they will come home soon.’
‘Want some more tea?’ she asked him. They continued to discuss the situation until late into the afternoon.
Suddenly the front door burst open and about six young people stormed inside breathlessly, seeking a place to hide. With them was Steve. When he saw his mother he was visibly surprised.
‘Mama, why are you home from your work?’
‘How can I stay at work with all this happening here?’
All Steve’s friends seemed extremely nervous and fearful and cast anxious looks towards the front door. cast Threw; directed.
‘We must hide in here. Away from the police, Ma! They’re after us and they are going to kill us, Ma!’
‘Kill? Not while I’m around.’
Amos suggested that two should hide behind the toilet in the back yard. They ran outside as fast as they could. Miriam pushed two boys into the bedroom. Steve and the last one jumped into the old fireplace which was covered by an old floral curtain. When they were safely in their hiding places, Miriam poked her head behind the curtain. ‘Where is your brother Fassie?’
‘I don’t know. Shuh! Please go away, Mama. We’ll go and look for him later. Please go, Ma.’ She returned to Amos and they stared at each other as a deathly silence fell over the house.
A loud crash preceded the front door being kicked open and in marched several policemen. They went straight into the kitchen without any invitation. Miriam’s heart beat so fast that she could feel the colour warming her face, her hair soaked in sweat. Amos pretended that he was reading a book. It looked as if a blue-grey cloud of uniforms and hateful brown, black and red faces had invaded Miriam’s kitchen. They confronted her and Amos with their guns at the ready. Miriam said a silent prayer.
‘Where are they?’ demanded the leader. ‘We saw them come in this house,’ he shouted at the two old people. His men backed him in unison. in unison Together. ‘You saw wrong,’ Miriam shouted back in the same tone, surprising even Amos with her courage. ‘There is no one in this house but myself and my husband. How do you know they came here? All these council houses look the same.’
‘Search the whole place! And outside in the yard,’ the big red bull bellowed to his men.
They kicked over the dustbin in the yard. They threw everything around with absolute contempt. contempt Disrespect. The men inside were deliberately knocking over chairs and one officer ripped the curtains from the windows, declaring, ‘This bloody house is as dark as hell!’ Others went kicking open the inside doors of the house, searching everywhere. One even turned over the old zinc bath which the family used for their weekly bath. He flung it to the cement floor so that it made the sound of a bomb going off in the room. They appeared to be pleased with the chaos they were causing. But they did not discover any of the children! One of the policemen returned: ‘There is only that old stink shithouse shithouse Toilet. out there.’
‘Where are they?’ the sergeant shouted at Amos in anger and pulled at his crutch. Amos almost fell and a sharp pain shot up his bad leg. Miriam quickly held on to him.
‘We don’t know. We are alone here, my Baas,’ he whimpered. On hearing the word ‘Baas’ the sergeant looked pleased, thinking that he was in control of the situation. He called his men and ordered them to stop the search. The house was a shambles shambles A place in disorder; a mess. when they marched out. ‘We will be back,’ shouted the sergeant over his shoulder.
As a parting gift one of the policemen threw a teargas canister into the kitchen. Miriam and Amos struggled towards the bedroom to save themselves from choking. After shutting the bedroom door behind them they fell down on to the bed bewildered. bewildered Completely puzzled or confused; shocked. Every room in the house was soon filled with tearsmoke. Miriam had grabbed a wet facecloth from behind the bedroom door and held it over Amos’s face as he had seemed to faint. Quickly she opened the bedroom window. ‘They are pigs. Just smell this house! Are you all right?’ she asked Amos.
‘We must live like this because we are of the wrong colour Mother.’
One by one the boys crept out of their hiding places and thanked Miriam and Amos politely, almost apologetically, for the trouble they had caused. Miriam ordered them to open all the windows and doors to get the smell out of the house. ‘It’s our duty to protect you children,’ said Miriam.
The children discussed the events of the day in the backroom where Steve and Fassie slept. In their bedroom Miriam and Amos sat in silence. Finally she asked, ‘Where is our Fassie?’
‘I hope he is safe,’ answered Amos. She started to weep softly. After a while she knelt down to pray at his side. Amos tenderly laid his hand on her while the young people continued their meeting. Their loud and angry voices filtered through to the bedroom.
‘I saw them baton charge a young girl as she lay on the ground.’
‘That policeman hit her over the body with the strength of an ox!’ said Steve.
spectacles This refers to an incident that really happened. In 1996, Dominee Jan de Waal testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He told the commission that he was beaten so badly by police, during the peaceful protest in 1985, that fragments of his glasses cut his right eye, leaving him partially blind.
‘I saw them whip a priest full in the face, shattering his spectacles. I’m sure he’s lost the sight in that eye. I’ve never seen anything so cruel,’ said another.
‘What about the two old nuns they arrested!’ someone complained angrily.
‘All our leaders have been detained. Tomorrow we will meet at school and decide how to protest against this injustice,’ said Steve.
‘One of you go outside and see if the police vans are still patrolling. We must search for my brother. We must find him!’
As they prepared to leave, their lookout returned to whisper, ‘It’s all clear. They’ve left the area.’
On the way out Steve went into his parents’ room. His father was asleep but his mother was sitting next to him, just staring into space. ‘We are going to look for Fassie, Ma. You rest now. I can see that you are tired.’
‘God go with you, Son.’ She lay down next to her husband, but she was awake for a long time still. In the distance she heard the sound of gunshots, and people running and screaming.
The following morning she awoke with a headache and her body felt stiff all over. Quietly she tiptoed into the next room to see if Steve had returned home the previous night. On seeing the sleeping figure she murmured, ‘Thank God.’ Miriam shook him awake, asking softly, ‘Do you have any news about your brother?’
‘We’ve looked all over, Ma. But he cannot be found.’
Miriam went silently into the kitchen to cook a pot of mealie meal for breakfast. As she stirred the porridge she decided to go to Groote Schuur Hospital to tell Winnie about Fassie’s disappearance.
‘Maybe she can help,’ she said to herself. After they had had their breakfast Steve prepared to leave for school.
‘I’m going to Winnie for help. Maybe Fassie is in hospital,’ Miriam stated.
‘Take care how you walk, Ma. Don’t take chances out there,’ said Steve. ‘I’m off now. ‘Bye Ma and Pa. Take care now,’ he shouted on his way out.
‘I must be off too,’ Miriam said to Amos.
‘Will you be all right or shall I come with you?’
‘Now how can you come with your injured leg? No, you stay here. I won’t be long.’ She pulled a scarf over her head, kissed him and left the house with feelings of anticipation that she would somehow find Fassie.
The streets were scattered with stones and the burnt-out tyres had left imprinted circles on the asphalt roads from the previous day’s unrest. As she passed the high school she saw massive army trucks parked outside the grounds with police and soldiers patrolling inside the fence. Their rifles were hanging down their sides. A helicopter hovered overhead. A Buffel troop carrier appeared from around a corner like an angry buffalo with a cannon for a nose, ready to attack. The township looked like a battlefield and a deathly atmosphere pervaded pervaded Spread through. the scene which seemed to expect more violence. She hurried on and when she arrived at the hospital she climbed the stairs to Ward T2 where Winnie was on duty. They embraced each other.
‘You look terrible, Ma. Are Steve and Fassie okay?’ Winnie asked anxiously.
‘That’s why I’m here. They joined the march to Pollsmoor yesterday. Now Fassie is missing. We are sick with worry.’
‘Wait let me ask Matron for a few minutes off, then we can talk inside. ‘
After a short while Winnie returned and took her mother’s arm. They went through the male wards of the hospital. Winnie searched among the faces of the patients for her brother’s but without success.
‘Come let’s go to the out-patients, Ma,’ suggested Winnie.
They found the corridors crowded with injured people from the townships. Inside the hall the benches were packed, and the doctors were busy attending to some people with gunshot wounds. A young boy howled for his mother. Winnie and Miriam walked amongst the injured people searching for Fassie but he was not to be found there.
Winnie saw her mother out, kissed her and promised to change her shift and come home as soon as possible. Miriam walked to the bus stop as if in a trance. After she had paid her fare, she counted the money in her purse. As there wasn’t enough left for her to go straight home, she decided to collect her wages at the big house. However, to her surprise Steve was waiting for her at the Claremont bus terminus. Her heart started racing as he came towards her.
‘What is it, Son?’ she asked apprehensively.
‘Fassie is on the run, Ma, ‘ he blurted out.
‘Why, what happened?’ she asked. ‘What does it mean?’
‘He threw a petrol bomb at a police van. They saw his face and gave chase. He hid in someone’s house and then jumped the fences. They followed him. If they find him he will go to jail. They know who he is! We will just have to wait for him to return home when the time is right.’
‘I thank the Lord, he is alive. When will this unrest end?’ she cried.
‘No one knows. Looks like it’s only started.’ Steve looked grim-faced. grim Stern; having a sense that things will not get better and may get worse.
‘Look Steve, I have no more money. We need food. I’m going to Madam to explain the situation to her. She will understand and give me my money. I’ll go back to work when Fassie comes home. Now I must go to the big house. Are you coming with me Steve?’
‘No, Ma. I don’t like it amongst those people. You go. I’ll go home to Pa. But please bring some food home, Ma.’
They each went their own way, she back to Paradise Road and Steve back to the township.
As she opened the gate of her employer’s home, the dog ran to meet her. She went around to the back door and in the yard, to her surprise, she met a new maid with a bucket and rags hanging from her arm.
‘Is the Madam home?’
‘Yes. She is drinking her tea on the patio,’ the girl answered shyly.
Miriam walked through the huge house to the poolside. There she saw Madam sunbathing. She went closer, ‘Good afternoon, Madam,’ she said in a shaking voice. She didn’t know how to go on.
Madam looked up and replied casually, ‘Oh, you finally arrived, Miriam.’
In a defiant defiant Brave resistance to authority. mood Miriam replied, ‘I’ve had a lot of trouble, Madam. My son is gone. My Fassie is missing!’
‘I believe there is unrest in all the townships. Why are you people so violent? And where is your son? He is supposed to be at school, not so?’
‘I see someone has already taken my place. Why the hurry?’
‘Well, you let me down badly, Miriam. I had no alternative – if you can run home whenever you hear a gunshot sound in the township! Master and I have decided that it would be best if you stay home. Now let me pay you your month’s wages. I have decided to deduct deduct To take away, as from a sum or amount. from your money the cost of the figurine you smashed. Is that okay, Miriam?’
‘Yes, Madam. And my reference? I will have to look for other work. My husband is sick at home as you know,’ Miriam pleaded softly.
‘I shall post your papers, or you can tell your new employer to phone me.’ Madam went inside and soon returned with Miriam’s wages. ‘Now if you don’t mind Miriam, my tea is getting cold.’
Miriam walked away, her shoulders slumped. ‘Now that is appreciation for all the work I have done here!’ she thought.
She walked through the large kitchen, opened the refrigerator and helped herself to a cooldrink. On the table she saw a tempting cream cake topped with red cherries – Master’s favourite nightcap! She cut a slice, then another and another- she could not stop eating. When she had had her fill she cut another large slice and wrapped it up to take home to Amos. She picked all the cherries off the topping and stuffed them into her mouth. Finally, feeling satisfied, she went out into the back yard.
Suddenly she remembered that Madam had a bad habit of accusing her servants of stealing. She had a pen in her handbag and she went back to the kitchen. She took a piece of writing paper from the kitchen cupboard drawer and wrote a message to Madam. ‘I ate the cake and enjoyed it, Madam.’ She pushed the note into the cream of the leftover cake. On her way out she greeted the new maid. ‘Poor girl,’ she said to herself.
As she walked down the avenue she felt good – even a little happy. ‘How foolish can one get! Why should I feel this way over a piece of cake?’ she thought. The trees looked even greener than the day before. The birdsongs sounded louder and sweeter. She stopped to open her pay-packet to see how much Madam had taken for the figurine. Counting the money, she discovered that her carelessness had cost her ten rand. She swore to herself!
She decided that she must hurry home now, back to the gunshots and all the chaos. The avenue seemed longer today, or was it perhaps her tiredness? She stopped for a short rest, sitting on an old tree stump. A squirrel ran past her with an acorn in its mouth. As she admired the little creature which scrambled up a huge tree to feed its family, she remembered her family had eaten only mealie meal that morning. She would have to go to the shops on her way through Claremont. The loss of the ten rand for the figurine had set her back financially, but they would manage somehow. She must also buy the daily newspapers for Amos as he was an avid avid Showing great enthusiasm or interest in something. reader. And some fruit and a chocolate for each one! ‘But what will I do with Fassie’s bar? I will have to keep it until his return,’ she said to herself and then, without expecting any answer, ‘I wonder where my son is hiding now?’
Suddenly she felt sad as she pictured Amos alone all day, wobbling around on crutches in the small dark council house.
Miriam remembered that he had always bought her fruit and a chocolate bar on his pay-day. She got up from the old tree stump and continued down the road. At the bottom of the hill she turned back and could still see the big house in the distance. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and took one last look at Paradise Road.
- Two key characters in the story, Miriam and Amos, lose their jobs.
- Why do they lose their jobs?
- Do you think they are treated fairly by their employers? Justify your answer.
- What does the way in which Miriam’s employer dismisses her from her job show us about the way some parts of white society related to black struggles?
- Compare Miriam and Amos.
- What is their relationship like? Who is the breadwinner in the family?
- Compare their different responses to the police.
- The purpose of the march to Pollsmoor prison on the 28th of August 1985 was to demand the release of Nelson Mandela.
- Was it a peaceful or violent march? How did the police respond to this march?
- How did their response affect Miriam and her family? In deciding on your answer think about what happens to Fassie, how the police behave in Miriam and Amos’s house, and what happens to Susan’s young child.
- Why did Miriam not join the protest?
- Thomas writes, “the faces of the youths shocked her [Miriam]. She detected signs of hope, determination and defiance in them.”
- Why do you think she is shocked?
- What does this story say about the changing ‘face’ of anti-Apartheid protest during the 1980s? How did protest change, and how did the kinds of people who protested change? Re-read the ‘Context’ at the beginning of this chapter before answering the question.
- The last sentence of the story is, “She wiped the sweat from her forehead and took one last look at Paradise Road.” Do you think this has any deeper meaning?