Two-Teeth The Intrepid Builder

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In the New Year I returned to Limberlost and Karen was enrolled at the Convent of Mercy Parktown West to start her formal education. As Karen’s school was on the same route as our father’s, it was his duty to drop her at school if he was in the country, if not Granny passed by our house on those occasions and did the honours as it was impossible for my mother to do both as Limberlost was in the other direction.

That second year of school was not nearly as enjoyable as the first. I had lost my angel of a teacher and the new one was the school Headmistress and far colder and a lot stricter. I still had the occasional afternoon with my angel when mother was running late; thank the Lord for small mercies. Besides the fact that I had lost my grade one teacher, nothing of any note was really different at Limberlost, the only event that stands out in my memory was the distribution of a fake gold coin that was distributed by the government to commemorate five years as a Republic, whatever that meant, the reason it stands out is that the convent to which Karen attended was not on the list of recipient schools so she was very jealous that I had received one and she had not. 

The arrival of “Two Teeth” into our lives was a revelation to say the least. Two Teeth’s real name was Julius, and he was the native builder that my father employed to renovate our house. Julius received his nickname because he was missing his two front teeth, ironic in a way. Julius and Hubby were not what anyone could call the best of friends even though they were both black. My parents put it down to tribalism, I think it was more the fact that Hubby was clean, sophisticated, well-educated and most of all a snob. Julius on the other hand was dirty, smelly, prone to lying, illiterate, uneducated and an alcoholic. Julius was to spend the next five years building onto the house and surrounding buildings as well as demolishing his numerous mistakes. 

It was impossible for us children not to like Julius, he was always laughing and there was nothing he would not do for his young “master and miss’s”. Two Teeth’s first job was to remove the front hedge that bordered on the road and build a six foot wall as a replacement. We were the first family on Westmeath road to have a wall on the road frontage of our house, in years to come South African families were to surround there properties with high walls topped with electric fences turning their homes not into castles but into prisons that they could escape to instead of from, for protection. 

The wall that my father had built was not of that variety as he never continued the wall up the sides of the property, leaving the hedges in place to demarcate the boundaries of the property, so as a security measure it was totally inadequate. I think he had the wall built to make the house look more imposing from the street and to let the neighbours know that he was somehow better than them. 

The wall went up surprisingly quickly for Two Teeth, with the minimum of demolition for mistakes taking place. The front gate was an imposing iron structure with a cattle grid placed under the gate. What purpose the cattle grid served was never explained, but it was responsible for almost crushing my foot. 

The cattle grid was only about thirty centimetres wide, with bars fairly wide apart, so it was patently useless except for decoration. The only thing that it stopped from leaving the property was tennis sized balls. Not long after the grid had been installed, Karen dropped her favourite doll into the cavity below the grid, and as Two Teeth had already left for the day she begged me to get her doll out, as the doll would get sick if left out in the night air. 

Only a girl will understand this logic as dolls are objects, not living things, but she was crying and the one thing that I could not tolerate as a child was my sister crying. So as her strong big brother, also her knight in shining armour, I lifted the one end of the grate. It was very heavy for a seven year old and then I made the fatal mistake, instead of allowing Karen to retrieve her doll, I persuaded her to hold the grid while I rescued her doll. Big mistake!  

As soon as I transferred the weight to her, she dropped it, right onto my foot. I was reduced to serious tears, but we did retrieve the doll as I had to lift the grate off my foot and she did what I should have allowed in the first place. I was sent to my room for one day without food as punishment for damaging my foot, but it was worth it seeing the gratefulness in Karen’s face

Lots of Hugs and more

Peggy-Sven

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