Pule arrives at his home and thinks of the unbelievable day he’s had. He thinks of the camera he won earlier in the day, he thinks of the attention he got from almost everyone in the school, but what rings deep is the offer he received from Thabs to join the popular boys crew, the New Yorkers.
Such days only come once in a lifetime, maybe I should just say yes…
But could he have only asked me because now I have a camera?
My friends Thabo, Molemo, Dylan and Thomas left me when I needed them the most, so maybe they are not my true friends, my true friends are the New Yorkers?
Pule thinks deeply about the day’s events and wonders if it might just be better to talk to someone older, who may give him advice. So Pule waits for his mother to come back from work, he will show her the camera and then talk to her about the issue.
Pule’s mom soon gets back home from work and showers her son with many ululations as Pule shows her the camera, she is so elated that she takes her son and the camera into the street where neighbours join in the ululations and celebrate the rarity that is a camera in the community. When they return into the house Pule’s mom soon notices that Pule is somewhat bothered and agitated, she asks him,
“What is the problem Pule, are you not happy that you got a new camera straight from the box?”
“I am mama, it’s just that, most of the children at school want to be my friends and I don’t know if it’s because of the camera,” Pule responds.
“Don’t you already have friends Pule? Molemo, Dylan and the other ones, where are they?”
“Oho they are not my friends anymore because I needed them the other day but they didn’t care about me, so new people want to be my friends.”
“Pule if you want new friends you may not know them as well as your old friends. These new ones may be worse, if you ask me, better the devil you know than the one you don’t, but it’s up to you Pule, ” mom concludes.
Pule begins to think of the benefits of joining the New Yorkers, no one will ever bully him again, everyone will soon forget about his camera but if he joins the crew his popularity will last much longer, and more than that he would be the youngest learner to join the New Yorkers.
Tomorrow I will take my camera to school and join the New Yorkers, I will be the most famous in the whole school again and Thabo, Molemo, Dylan and Thomas will ask again to be my friends and I will say no.
The next morning Pule wakes up very early, he brushes his teeth, takes a bath and puts on his school uniform. He cleans his camera and lens and packs it neatly into his school bag and leaves for school.
At school the New Yorkers have gathered right before the school gate. Pule arrives and Thabs calls him over to talk,
“So camera boy, what’s it going to be? Are you joining us or not?” Thabs asks,
“Hello New Yorkers” Pule responds, “Yes! I will be joining you.”
“Good, good, we as the New Yorkers half accept you, but by the way where’s your camera?”
“Why do you half accept me? My camera is in my bag“
“Well, fellow New Yorker, if you want to be fully accepted by us, you have to give up something that is important to you. For example, you see Muso here, he joined us beginning of the year but before he was fully accepted he had to give up his bicycle. For me I had to give up my new school bag, for a long time I carried my books in a shoprite checkers, so tell me, what are you going to give up?”
“Do I have a choice what to give up?”
“Well what we do is we make it a very fair process, the New Yorkers simply pick three things from you that seem important and then we take a vote to choose one. So New Yorkers let the choosing begin!”
Pule watches on as the three selections are made, his pencil, rubber and the camera. He watches on as they take a vote and choose the camera. Thabs stretches over his hand to Pule as if to encourage him to hand over the camera and Pule excitedly reaches into his schoolbag and takes out his camera and gives it to Thabs,
“Welcome to the New Yorkers, you are fully accepted now” Thabs says to him, as the morning school bell rings.
I have just become a New Yorker, I have just become a New Yorker, I can’t believe it! Wait till everyone finds out about this they will soon surround me again and this time sing my name out loud.
At break time the New Yorkers spread word that Pule has now joined them, they announce that he was able to join them because he handed over something that was really important.
“You too, whoever you are, can join us, just like Pule here, you can chill with us and walk with us and tell everybody that you are with us, only and only if you can give up something that is very important, not small things, we are talking cellphones, Ipods, studio earphones and things like that. If you are serious in joining, see us at the gate.”
After school, half of the school is there, scores of children hoisting all sorts of gadgets in the air hoping to be seen and picked. Thabs puts them in a line, as everyone there gets picked. Pule sees his friends Thabo, Dylan, Molemo and Thomas in line as well, they too are picked and join the New Yorkers, the line gets longer and longer as more children run home to collect gadgets and come back to give away to join the crew.
Pule sees all this happen and regret slowly begins to seep in, he wanted to be different from everyone else but now he’s the same as everyone else, he wanted his former friends to see him with a new bunch of friends but now they are part of his friends again, he wanted to be the most famous again at the school but almost everyone is now a New Yorker. As if things were not getting worse, Pule overhears a conversation between two members of the New Yorkers about the amount of money they will make selling all the gadgets. He immediately remembers his camera.
These guys are crooked, they are just trying to make money from our things, I must get my camera back before it’s too late.
Pule talks to Thabs asking for his camera back, he adds that he needs it back even if it will result in him being kicked out the New Yorkers, but that offends Thabs and he responds with a threat,
“There is a punishment members receive if they want to leave, you cannot join us and decide to leave again, if you want to leave with your camera, than you are going to fight the whole crew to prove that you don’t need us anymore…what will it be Pule?”
“Had I known you were like this, I wouldn’t have joined, you tricked me, the same way you are tricking everyone else here, I want my camera back and I want it now!” Pule responds,
“Okay cool, you asked for it, fellow New Yorkers we have a foolish one here who wants to leave us, anyone who leaves the New Yorkers must fight his way out, so seeing that you are all New Yorkers now, I want you to attack Pule as he will try to prove that he doesn’t need us anymore.”
Pule pulls up his fists to the chest and faces the hundreds of New Yorkers beefing up to attack him, Thabs screams attack as they run towards Pule, he fights of the first three who reach him first but tens, hundreds more overpower him, his kicked to the ground and assaulted, Thabs and the original New Yorkers flee the scene with schoolbags full of cellphones and toys, Thabo, Molemo, Dylan and Thomas come to Pule’s defense, they throw their bodies on top of his and build a circular wall, the onslaught continues till a police van stops by. Two shots are fired into the air and everybody disperses except Pule and his friends.
The Policemen help them up and take them into their van to the hospital. They are all treated with minor injuries, the serious of which is Pule’s broken arm and nose. Pule discloses everything to the Police about his former crew. He tells them about the gadgets they are selling and their manipulation, they promise to go after them and return everything to everyone.
Pule reconciles with his friends and they discuss the events of the past days,
”It all began with a camera” Dylan says,
“This just all feels like a movie” Thabo comments.
“Maybe one day we make a movie about this Pule,” suggests Molemo.
“Yeah maybe we do that, we’ll see I just want my camera back for now to bring people together again, like they do in pictures” Pule concludes.
Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo