Pule and the Camera – Lereko Mfono

“Just put your finger on this button over here and look into this circle over here, when you see exactly what you want to see, then just press the button, okay Pule?”

Little Pule holds a camera for the first time in his life. He has won it as part of a school raffle for Grade 1’s. He cannot believe it neither can he contain himself, for the first time in his life he stops thinking about sweets, Take 5 ice juice or even his favourite show Soul Buddyz. He is happy, overwhelmed and shaking,

“Pule what seems to be the problem, why are you shaking this much, are you hungry?” Asks his register teacher Ms Louw

“No ma’am”, Pule replies “I am just excitement!”

“You mean excited Pule, not excitement, excited my darling” Ms Louw corrects.

Pule knows what he means though, he has officially reached a state of excitement, he has become excitement and cannot wait to get home and show his mom and dad and brother and sister and uncle and neighbour and dog and and and…..
Pule takes his camera everywhere that day in the school and takes pictures of everything. He takes a picture with his teacher Ms Louw in the class, and asks Ms Louw to take a picture of him seated at the centre of the whole class. During break he goes to the principal’s office and takes a picture with him. He also takes pictures of all his friends, Thomas, Thabo, Molemo and Dylan who are all playing at the school sandpit.

Soon word spreads out about the camera and scores of children ask to take a picture with Pule, and he does, the camera clicks away at the school fields as Pule becomes an over-morning sensation. Word soon spreads out to the infamous Grade 7 boys who have formed a crew called the New Yorkers. The New Yorkers are feared by everyone in the school including some teachers. They even have the record of breaking a total of 8 school windows.

Thabs, the most popular New Yorker has been observing the events of the day from the morning and does not like what’s been happening. He makes a chilling statement in the second break whilst Pule and his camera gains more popularity, “We see there’s a somebody who thinks he’s better than all of us here at the school, after school we shall teach him a lesson with that camera of his!”
Pule soon hears of Thabs’ statement and wonders what shall befall him after school. Worry turns into fear, he has never had any encounter with a Grade 7 boy, more so a ‘New Yorker’. Could he hurt me? Will he smash my camera into the ground? Will he strangle me in front of the whole school and demand that someone take a picture of it? Pule travels ahead with his imagination as every minute passing by draws the after school event closer and closer.
The bell rings and its after school. Thabs is waiting just outside the school gate with a packed crowd anticipating the confrontation, Pule is in class alone, scared and anxious. He wonders where his friends are, Thabo, Molemo, Dylan and Thomas, he peeps through the window and sees them laughing with the Thabs crowd at the schoolgate. “I guess I’m alone in this” Pule thinks out loud.
He tries to formulate a plan to exit through the teachers car entrance on the other side of the school but the grounds man has guarded the gate closely.
Thabs begins to call Pule out, “I am giving the boy with the camera 10 seconds to come out!” he says. Pule hears this and begins to panic as the seconds go all the way down to zero, so he walks out and finally heads to the place where Thabs and everybody is, the camera hanging on his neck.
“Why did it take you so long to come out heh?” Thabs asks
“I’m sorry I was just, uhmm, preparing myself for this beatdown” Pule responds,
“Beatdown? Who said I’m going to beat you down?”

“But, I thought, you said you would teach me a lesson after school”
“Yeah forget about what I said, a New Yorker changes his mind all the time, on that note I’ve called you to join us, The New Yorkers”
“Me? A grade 1 join the New Yorkers?”
“Yeah you and your camera have pulled a miracle, you are trending here at school more than us, so join us”

Pule gets an offer he did not expect, to join the schools popular boys club. Pule asks Thabs if he can think about it and come back with an answer tomorrow and Thabs agrees. Thabs breaks the crowd but it doesn’t break instead everyone goes to Pule excitedly and surround him, all of them begging of they could his friend. Thomas, Thabo, Molemo and Dylan near him and wrap their arms around his shoulders but Pule is having none of that, he asks them where they were when he needed them the most.
Pule walks home surrounded by many children but he ignores them all, he thinks about the offer of being a New Yorker but wonders what will happen if something happens to his camera, if it breaks or he sells it, will they still be his friends, will they still treat him like this. Tomorrow he will have made his decision but till then he has learnt some invaluable lessons about life, friends and a camera that has captured it all.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo

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