the prompt: a story for children age 8-11 yrs
Thandeka and the Tokoloshe
990 words ©Piper E McDermot 2014
My granny is a Sangoma – that’s a sort of doctor. I call her Gogo, which is just our way of saying Granny, and sometimes I wish she was just an ordinary one. She doesn’t knit, she chases stray cats away with her broom even if I beg to keep them, and sometimes people come knocking on our door very late at night pleading for Gogo to help them.
She does help me bake cupcakes for Entrepreneurs’ Day at school, though – but the other kids never buy them. They whisper behind my back that maybe Gogo put something in them.
She doesn’t put anything in except what the recipe says – flour, butter, eggs, sugar. Okay… she does add a pinch of her own special salt. Gogo calls it her “Extra-Nice Anti-Tokoloshe Ingredient” and then laughs so hard her belly jiggles about like a jelly pudding.
It makes me laugh, too. If you take the first letter of each word, it spells ENATI – the exact name of a medicine the shops sell for people with upset tummies. It’s supposed to make the bad things in your tummy jump out so you will feel better, but it tastes horrible and makes you want to vomit.
Gogo’s ENATI tastes like normal salt. It is supposed to make the Tokoloshe hiding inside you jump out.
What is a Tokoloshe, you ask?
Gogo says they are small, hard to see, and very naughty. People blame them for doing all sorts of terrible things. If you peeped in bedroom windows, you would see most of the beds standing on piles of bricks, so the Tokoloshe can’t get you while you are sleeping. My bed is up on bricks, too – Gogo did that.
My teacher, Miss Jones, always buys my plate of cakes just before the school bell rings for the end of Entrepreneurs’ Day. Maybe she really likes them, but I think she doesn’t want me to feel bad about the other kids ignoring me. No Tokoloshe stands a chance of hiding inside Miss Jones, if she eats all those cupcakes herself. I told her about Gogo’s ENATI ingredient, but she just laughed and said the only thing that jumped out of her was when her skirt button popped out of its buttonhole.
I don’t care if I don’t have friends at school, because I have a secret friend not even Gogo knows about. I met him when Miss Jones started buying my cakes so that I wouldn’t have to eat them all myself anymore.
That day, I stopped on the walk home from school and sat under the Upside-down tree. It’s a bibibub…no, a babobib…a baobab? Never mind. I always stop to rest at the Upside-down Tree because it is half-way home, and because I like her.
The Upside-down Tree said I could call her Mama Bab. She has lovely smooth skin and a huge trunk that makes a thick stripe of shade to sit in on hot afternoons. Her branches remind me of the snaky braids on Gogo’s Sangoma wig. Mama Bab whispers stories to me. My favourite one is about the Rain Queen, but I won’t tell you that story now – it’s much too long.
Anyway, the day Miss Jones first bought all my cupcakes, I was sitting in Mama Bab’s shade, watching Leguaan hopping about on her trunk. He’s a lizard, but it looked like he was doing a little dance.
Suddenly I heard a wet sort of “pop” sound, right behind me. It gave me quite a fright.
“Hello, Thandeka,” said a strange little man. He was shorter than me, even though I was sitting down, and had a beard so long he had to throw it over his shoulder or it would drag in the dirt. He was skipping about from foot to foot.
“Hello…” I replied. I felt a bit nervous, but not afraid. He had a big smile, and bright eyes full of mischief. “Where did you come from?”
“Oh, I’ve been here all the time. Dancing with Leguaan.”
“Then why didn’t I see you?”
“Magic!” He opened one hand, revealing a shiny black pebble. He popped the pebble into his mouth – and poof! He disappeared again, but I could still hear him singing.
“Now you see me,
Now you don’t,
Dear Thandeka be my friend,
Or will you say ‘I won’t’?”
Another wet pop. He reappeared, spitting the black pebble into his hand.
We’ve been best friends ever since that day. His name is Gili and he doesn’t like Gogo, so he only comes out when she’s not around. Sometimes he calls her stupid, which makes me angry, so he doesn’t say it often.
Most of the time we just have fun – moving the packets of herbs around on Gogo’s shelf so it takes her ages to find the right one, or hiding one sock from each pair hanging on the neighbours’ washing lines.
The last trick we played made me wonder if Gili is such a good friend to have.
We slipped a huge spoon of ENATI, the nasty kind you buy at the shops, into the medicine Gogo made for Sipho. He’s one of the boys in my class. Gogo’s medicine was supposed to make his rash go away, and eventually it did – but Sipho spent half the next day at school throwing up in the bathroom.
I’d wanted to play a trick on Miss Jones – maybe hide her chalk so we wouldn’t have to write sums on the board, but Gili said he can’t play tricks on Miss Jones. He was quite cross about it. I thought that was strange because Gili plays tricks on everyone. Maybe after school I should go ask Mama Bab about him.
Gili is much too fun to be a scary Tokoloshe… don’t you think?
Today is Entrepreneurs’ Day again. Today, I think I’m going to eat one of Gogo’s cupcakes with their special anti-Tokoloshe ENATI, before Miss Jones buys the rest.