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Tonsils and Love: Excerpt from Nthikeng Mohlele’s Latest Novel, Small Things

Small ThingsIn the opening chapter of Nthikeng Mohlele’s Small Things the protagonist reflects on his love for Desiree, the postmaster’s daughter, who gave him a brief glimpse of her reciprocal feelings by offering him an orange and then a card with a hand drawn heart inside it.

In this excerpt, shared by GroundUp, the protagonist explains why he associates tonsils with love and recalls Desiree’s less enthusiastic responses to his romantic advances.

I, to this day, fall hopelessly in love whenever I see postmen carrying mailbags. My heart leaps at bright-red postboxes in pictures. They remind me of Desiree – the postmaster’s daughter. We never exchanged much, Desiree and I. I caught her roving eye on me one morning during Mass. Hearing nothing of the sermon, I saw only this eye, a beaming light bulb that warmed me from the third row, a good twenty metres from where I knelt praying, my knees molten with love.

Seeing her absent-minded, in the company of tedious friends, aroused suspicions that I was in her thoughts. End of term, after the mid-year exams, was marked by forced labour. We cleaned the school grounds and windows in preparation for a new school term. I never joined the gardening or chalkboard-cleaning crews, but always chose to be on the window-cleaning teams, where I could, with good perspective from standing on upside-down dustbins, admire my Desiree shining classroom floors. I got generous compliments from inspecting teachers (windows shone like mirrors against the sun) – who little knew that such workmanship was done in a trance. I was like a spider on a damaged web, doing my utmost to contain my blossoming heart.

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