My father arrived in a box



Evening. SILUMKO sits at the kitchen table. On the table, the yellow envelope. He frowns at a piece of paper, then slides it back into the envelope.

A tupperware slides across the table towards him. He catches it before it slides off the table.

SILUMKO: Andizokwazi mama uyithatha! [I'm not taking that, mama.] (to the audience) She's trying to give me a tupperware!

MAMA: Yes, you are taking it. What are you going to eat on the way? Do you know how long this trip is?

SILU, Yes, mama, I know.

MAMA: You know? The furthest you've ever been is to East London. KuseRhawtini ke apha. [This is Johannesburg.]

SISTERS: Ja, this is Johannesburg!

MAMA: Mantombazana khanithule! [Girls, quiet!] But they are right. This is Johannesburg. The other side of the country. Thatha la Tupperware. [Take the tupperware.]



Scene 1 happens again, sped up. Lights drop to black. A candle is lit. SILUMKO kneels.

MAMA: Silumko!

Car horn blares and the car peels off. SILUMKO runs and jumps up, lifted by the chorus, onto the back of the bakkie. He sits back, catching his breath.

CHORUS B: Uyazazi apho uya khona? [You know where you are going?]

SILUMKO: eRhawtini. [Johannesburg].

CHORUS B: Yes man, but the address, what address are you going to?


SILUMKO takes a slip of paper out of his pocket and hands it to the CHORUS.

CHORUS A: Lie back, we have a long drive ahead of us.

SILUMKO: At least there’s a mattress. 

The CHORUS slides a mattress under SILUMKO. He lies back on it.

CHORUS: His father must have known this road well. He did this journey twice, sometimes three times a year, coming home from Joburg for a visit / Bringing plastics: clothes, batteries, a cellphone / Then, after a while, back to the city to work.

CHORUS C: Then, for the last time, his father did this journey in reverse.

CHORUS B: Meaning?

CHORUS C: Not his father. His father’s body. Transported all the way from Charlotte Maxeke hospital in Joburg to rest with the ancestors at home.

SILUMKO: (half dreaming): My father arrived in a box at sunrise. At sunrise, my father arrived in a box. A sunrise arrived in my father with a box. A box arrived with my father in a sunrise. (beat) Let me try that again. My father’s body arrived in a box at sunrise. My father’s body arrived in a box in a Toyota Quantum with airconditioning and four body compartments at sunrise.

SILUMKO lies back on the mattress and falls asleep.