Park Games

As the shedding of the luck-bean tree forms coral carpets on the grass below; as the birds begin their morning song earlier into the fourth watch of the night, calling the sun to come out to play; as new flowering greens shoot out of chronic brown branches; urban nature dances to the joyous drumbeat of spring.

The sun peeking through Anesu’s blinds gently knocks on her eyelids to open for the day. It has been eight days since her family finally moved back to Johannesburg after spending some time in Amsterdam. The past Monday, she had started school at Crawford College Lonehill, a 5-minute walk from home. During this nerve-wracking first week at school, she had heard people talking about the Spring games in Lonehill Park on Saturday. Today was Saturday, and the sun rays filled her with some hope she could make some new friends.

The chronological tick jumped to eleven o’clock signalling the time to ride her bicycle out of the community boom gates, down Calderwood Road and into Lonehill Park. Securing her bicycle on an otherwise empty bicycle rack, from her side eye she sees mischievous jeers from Tracey, a classmate in her Grade 9C class.

“We don’t really ride bicycles around here”, Tracey tells her. “That’s for little babies”, she says, accompanied by chuckles from her friends. “Oh, in Amsterdam we used to ride our bicycles everywhere, and…” explains Anesu before she is cut off by Tracey smirking “well, this is not Amsterdam, princess”.

From a megaphone, the announcer starts the proceedings:

“Welcome to the 2022 Lonehill Park Games ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys. A day of fun and games, laughter and joy, and all the goodness of what makes us here in Fourways great! I hope you have chosen your teams you’ll compete with, but even if you haven’t, I’ll give you 20 minutes to try and join a team of about eight to ten people, and then we’ll start!”

Nervous and anxious now, Anesu tries to figure out how she’ll join a team when she doesn’t know many people here. That worrying feeling slowly starts creeping up her chest and down her bowels as she surveys the seemingly well-formed cliques around her. Tracey and her friends are a non-starter. But then she sees Nomsa, also in her class just down the hill from the dam.

Scurrying towards them, she asks “Hey guys, is your team full?” “Umm, I guess there is space for one more person”, Nomsa replies. Excitedly, Anesu asks, “Well, can I join then?” From the back of the group, Yolanda asks, “Is that a scar on your right arm? In our group, we don’t have any scars.” “Well, I fell off my bicycle a few months ago but it’s all good besides this silly scar”, explains Anesu, “and didn’t I see a scar on your upper thigh while we were changing after PE?” “Stop lying!”, Yolanda shouts. “You’re probably not well suited for this team, rather try Hendrick’s team up the hill”.

Saddened by this, she hears the announcer shout “15 minutes left! Make sure you’re in your teams and have your war cries ready!” She slowly and nervously approaches Hendrick’s group, hearing them practice their war cry:

Scars on our left, and scars on our right
The battles we’ve fought are in plain sight
Nobody can defeat us, nobody can win
If you even want to try, get ready for a fight

Now even more nervous, she sheepishly asks “Hi, errr which one of you is Hendrick?”

“I am, and who are you?” Hendrick crudely replies.

“Someone from that group over there said you might be open to someone with scars. Could I join your team?” Anesu timidly asks.

“I see that tiny thing on your right hand. Is that all you have?” Hendrick asks.

“Just let her join Hendrick man, she’ll be good for the team”, Viwe sympathises from among them.

After a big cunning laugh, Hendrick asks, “do you now have a crush on her? Since when did you get so soft?”

“Nah man, don’t come at me with that. I’ve got more scars than you even”, he says angrily, forcefully pushing him back. Hendrick too gets mad, and angrily shoves Viwe. Just then, the announcer shouts “5 minutes to go! We start in 5 minutes sharp!”

Tired of the silly confusion in this team, Anesu hurriedly runs to the announcer exclaiming “I can’t find a team! I can’t find a team! Those guys want no scars, and those guys are fighting over their scars, and…”. Just then, Nathi interrupts her, explaining to the announcer “I can’t find a team! I can’t find a team! Those guys over there only want people who live in their estate, and those guys over there only want people who go to their school, and…”. He is interrupted by Dirk, who runs to the announcer crying “I can’t find a team, I can’t find a team! Those over there only want people who can speak Zulu, and those over there only want people who are immigrants, and…”. And another comes. And another comes. And another.

“So why don’t you all here form a team?” the announcer suggests. “I’ll give you 5 extra minutes to get your war cry, and then we’ll start”. They brainstorm for a little while, until they settle on something most of them agree with:

We may be too short or too fat or too tall
We may be too different from the rest of you all
But best believe come against us you’ll see
You’ll be coming against fortified brick wall

After rolling his eyes at their cheesy verse, the announcer begins “Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys. Welcome to the 2022 Lonehill Park Games. Let the games begin!”

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