“Faster, faster!” I hung on to the sides of the pram as my friends hurtled round the huts.
“Mandla! Look at the dust. Go and play somewhere else.”
“Sorry Ma.” My friends pushed me away, bumping over stones in the rough track. Behind us, the village was a mass of dusty circles where we’d raced in ever increasing loops.
“Let’s go down to the river.” I suggested. I loved to sit in the warm liquid as it splashed and danced over rough gray boulders.
We were almost there when I felt the pram lurch to one side. Bongani bent down to inspect the damage. “The joint’s broken again.” It wasn’t surprising really. I was almost nine and the pram had been my legs for six of those years. It was a big old-fashioned thing made of green vinyl and rusted metal. The rubber had worn off the wheels and I rode on dented, buckled rims.
“Let’s take it to Preachy.” Thabo carefully turned it round and we wobbled off in the direction of the mission church.
Preachy got his tools out and twisted some wire around the broken joint. “I’ve got good news for you, Mandla. “Some doctors are coming to our area next week, clever doctors from big cities overseas. They’re might be able to help you with some legs.”
“Wow! Will they give me a magic potion to make my legs grow?”
Preachy smiled. “No, child. They make legs from a special metal and fasten them onto you.”
Ma, Preachy and I were at the front of the queue to see these great doctors. We slept outside the clinic and were called in after sunrise. The doctors spent a lot of time looking at my stumps, measuring, prodding and poking. Preachy translated their words for me. “They can make you some legs, Mandla,” he said. “But it will take time. You have to be patient.”
“Three months.” Preachy answered.
“I can’t wait that long.” I said. “My pram is old and broken and I need to walk now.”
Preachy talked as he wheeled me back to the village. “You’ve managed for eight years without legs.” he reminded me. “I’ll keep the pram going for another three months but I want you to do something for me.”
“I want you to pray for patience. God will help you understand.”
I was thinking about my legs the next day when I noticed a worm, pale yellow with squiggles of gold and brown. It had dozens of legs but no wings. Does it know, I wondered. That if it’s patient, it’ll fly one day?
Then I thought of seeds as I watched Ma plant our corn field. The seeds were wizened little things, hard, yellow and lifeless, but with patience sun and rain they would eventually poke green heads through the dark soil.
I thought also of our chickens as they sat on their brown speckled eggs. They had to keep them warm while the chicks were growing inside. That must be so boring but they sat there patiently, day after day.
Maybe it wasn’t so bad waiting for my legs. I imagined the city far away where the clever doctors were working with metal and tape measures to build them especially for me. If they rushed, the legs might be the wrong size or shape or may even break when I tried to walk. I prayed then and thanked God for helping me to be patient.
“I know what patience is.” I told Preachy that Sunday. “It’s understanding that good things take time to happen.”
Three months later, I woke to blue skies, bright sunshine and the reward for my patience. Ma and Preachy took me to the clinic and the doctors were waiting with my new legs. They were constructed of light-weight metal with leather straps that buckled round my stumps. “I love them!” I shouted.
The doctors showed me how to fasten them on and then held my arms as I took my first shaky steps. I was so high up it was amazing. Walking was the most exciting thing I’d ever done. Then the doctors said something and Preachy laughed out loud.
“What?” I demanded. “What is it?”
“Oh Mandla,” He laughed again. “They said it will take weeks for you to learn to walk properly. You’ll have to be patient.”
I punched my fist into the air. “No problem, Preachy. You tell them I know all about patience.”
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