Liesl Jobson

One snowy December we move from Connecticut to Gaborone. Mom’s stomach is round as a pumpkin. She puts my hands on her belly, letting me feel the baby kick. Botswana is the hottest sandiest dump you ever saw. We rent a house in Broadhurst while our new place is being built in Phakalane, the golf estate. Dad says we’ve found paradise. Property here is dirt cheap. But Mom starts talking to strangers, lingering in the street without a hat. She tells an old woman passing by, “You’re voting with fire.”

In the hardware shop she fills her basket with nails and pliers and says to the cashier, “It’s a baptism by forklift.” Dad reckons the dust is addling her brain. She needs help. He hires Regomoditswe to clean the house, but nobody can pronounce her name so we call her Reggie. She teaches me the Tswana greetings: “Dumela Ma” when she arrives and “Tsamaya sintle” when she leaves. She makes chotlo, chopping the meat fine, removing the bones. She says, “In our culture, this dish is a treat for the toothless.”

Mom lies on the cool kitchen floor stroking the concrete. She says over and over, “Redemption comes in small packages.” Dad finds her there when he returns from work. He helps her up, brushing the dust from her cheek. She tells him, “Birth in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

First appeared in New Coin

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