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VARIOUS TEXTS: THE MEETING by Toeckey Jones

Toeckey Jones was born and grew up in South Africa, but in 1971 moved to London where he now lives and works as a full-time writer. His first novel, Go Well, Stay Well, was published in 1979, and was welcomed as one of the few novels for young readers to describe what it is like to grow up in a racially segregated society.



The Meeting
by Toeckey Jones

Candice is a 17-year-old white South African girl from Johannesburg. One day, while walking in the city, she trips* and twists her ankle*.

Almost immediately she felt a gentle touch on her arm. She opened her eyes to see a young African girl standing in front of her. Instinctively, Candy's grip on her bag tightened. The girl could be after her money. Candy knew how clever the young black pickpockets* in the city were said to be. She was always being warned to keep a close hold on her purse. "You OK?" Without waiting for an answer, the girl bent down to inspect Candy's ankle. "Tch ... tch ... shame." Shaking her head she straightened up.

"That's no good to walk on," she said. "You can sit down in the park. It's not far. Come, I must help you." The girl took hold of Candy's free arm and after a moment's hesitation*, Candy allowed herself to be supported as they began to move slowly along the pavement.

"Too many drinks, hey?" the girl teased.
Candy laughed, then felt herself blushing as she became aware of the curious stares they were attracting. She tried to move faster, leaning as little as possible on the supporting arm beside her. She still wasn't sure she could trust the girl. It would have been so much simpler if it had been a white person who had offered help. She didn't know why the girl was doing it. Should she offer to pay her? It was all rather embarrassing*.

The park was only two blocks away, but it seemed an age before they got there. As the girl helped her down into a sitting position on the grass, Candy was aware of her bag slipping off her shoulder and the girl stretching out to catch it as it fell. Candy held her breath, her heart beating fast. But the girl didn't run off. Instead, she waited until Candy was sitting comfortably, and then handed the bag to her. "Better now?" she asked.

While the girl bent down to take a closer look at the injured ankle, Candy studied her thoughtfully. She was really rather pretty, Candy discovered to her surprise, for she had never thought of African features as being attractive before. But this girl's features were all in perfect proportion to each other, giving her face as a whole an open, sunny expression.

Candy didn't want her to go. She had never met an African girl of her own age before — at least not to speak to. And she was already beginning to like this girl who seemed undecided about her next move and was playing nervously with the worn collar of her blouse, trying to do up a button that wasn't there. "Are you in hurry?" Candy asked.

"No, Why? Can I give you a lift home? My Mercedes is just round the to corner."
Candy laughed and the girl sat down on the grass beside her. "What's your name?" she asked.
"Candice. But everyone calls me Candy. And yours?"
"Rebecca. But everyone calls me Becky." And then they both laughed. "Tell you what." Candy said. "I'm thirsty. How about you?"
"Sure. What would you like? I'll go and get it. Beer?"

"I think I'd better have a Coke. But let's go and sit down somewhere, and perhaps have something to eat as well. So long as I don't have to walk too far, my ankle should be all right."

"You know a place we can go?" Becky asked.
Candy's face slowly reddened with embarrassment. For a moment she had completely forgotten. There wasn't anywhere they could go together. Within ten minutes' walk of where they were sitting, there were at least three restaurants or coffee bars. But Becky couldn't go into them — they were all exclusively for whites. Further away there were a few cafes for African workers travelling daily into Johannesburg from the black township of Soweto. But even if Candy could have walked that far with her bad ankle, she would be stopped from going into any of them with Becky.

"Do you want us to get arrested?" Becky teased.

The two girls continue to talk for some time and agree to meet again. Candy then telephones her father and asks him to come and fetch her.

Candy caught sight of a blue Cortina and identified her father at the wheel. "My dad's here," she said unnecessarily, for Becky had already got to her feet and was quickly brushing the grass off her skirt. "I must go," she told Candy.

"Wait ... Hold on, we haven't settled anything. We don't even know how to get in touch with each other." Candy wasn't really surprised that Becky wanted to get away before her father arrived, but she wanted the two of them to meet. It would make it easier to talk about Becky to her father later. Suddenly Candy's father came up behind them.

"What have you done to yourself?" he called out to Candy.
Becky turned round and immediately stepped aside, separating herself from the other two.
"Hello, Dad," Candy said. "Dad, this is Becky," she went on quickly. "She's been helping me and looking after me."

"Oh." He turned and glanced at Becky, who bowed her head shyly. "Good afternoon, sir," she said politely.
"Uh ... hello." He was already bending down to look at Candy's ankle.
"Is it very painful?" he asked.
Candy shook her head impatiently. She was aware that Becky had moved a little further away and was fidgeting* nervously.
"Dad!" Candy said firmly. "Becky has been absolutely marvellous. I don't know what I would have done without her."
"Oh." He smiled briefly in Becky's direction. "That was very kind of her. Now, do you think you'll be able to walk as far as the car?"
Candy was disappointed. He could at least show some interest in Becky, and talk to her directly. She pulled a face at him, and glanced at Becky.
"What? ... Oh, yes, of course."
Too late. Candy realised that he had misunderstood her. Putting his hand into his pocket, he said: "Here, this is for being so kind and looking after my daughter until I got here," and he held a one rand* note out to her.

Helplessly, Candy stared at them both, red with shame. Anything she said now could only make the situation worse. She felt furious with her father, but she knew she couldn't really blame him for misunderstanding her. One glance at Becky was enough to see how poor she was. And normally white people automatically tipped Africans for any help they gave. But after everything that had passed between her and Becky, offering Becky money could only seem an insult.
Candy couldn't bear to watch but she had to. She saw Becky look up and slowly begin to shake her head.

c. 1150 words

Source: Toeckey Jones: "Go Well, Stay Well", Heinemann New Windmills, Oxford 1987, pp. 8-11 and 26-28


Annotations:
*to trip - stolpern
*ankle - Fußgelenk
*pickpocket - Taschendieb
*hesitation - Zögern
*embarrassing - peinlich
*to fidget with sth.- herumspielen mit
*rand - südafrik. Währung


Comprehension:
1. Why did Candy hesitate before accepting Becky's help?
2. In what way did Becky demonstrate that she felt no racial dislike for Candy?
3. Describe the conflicting emotions felt by Candy.
4. What is the significance of the description of Becky's features?
5."Candy didn't want her to go". Explain Candy's feelings, and describe what happened.
6. Find indications of Becky's discomfort with the situation.
7. Why was a simple act like having something to eat and drink a problem for the two girls?
8. Characterize Becky's reaction after Candy's father had arrived.
9. What do we learn about Candy from the use of adverbs like impatiently and firmly? 10. Point out those aspects of Candy's father's behaviour that reveal his insensitivity to the situation.

Analysis / Comment:
1. From what you know about South Africa's apartheid era, what difficulties would a white and black girl have encountered at that time?
2. Comment on the misunderstanding between Cindy and her father. Do you think Cindy could have prevented the misunderstanding?
3. Have you ever been in a similar situation to the one Cindy is in?



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