Play the game for more than you can afford to lose – only then will you learn the game.

Winston Churchill


Tuesday 20 October, 2009:

At interval Tau tells me, “I’ve never bought anything from the cafeteria before, myself. ”

“Aye?” I say in surprise.

“True, Miss – I just get other people to get things for me.”

“Like Simeon?”

“Yeah – or anyone who’s in line.”

At first I think it’s that he’s too lazy to wait in line, but then: “I don’t know what to say,” he confesses.

“Really?” I ask, surprised.

“Yeah, I don’t know how to ask for the stuff.”

I say, “You should give it a go – it’s just like going to any shop.”

He looks at me and says, “But that’s the same… cos once I went to this shop, and asked for a hot dog, and they didn’t sell hot dogs.”

“Oh, but that’s ok, that kind of thing just happens sometimes,” I tell him.

And he decides, “Ok – I’ll go over and get something to eat.”


When he comes back with his hot dog, he tells me, “I didn’t get it, I asked someone else to get it for me.”

“Oh well – just try another time,” I say, and he looks relieved.

I’m amazed by this boy, who cuts classes, tags the school, breaks into houses; who robs the store – but who balks at the idea of asking for a hot dog at the cafeteria.


I ask him, “What did you do in English this morning?”

“I… had a seat,” he shrugs.

“I know you had a seat, Tau!” I snort. “I mean, what did you do? What did you learn about with Miss?”

“I dunno,” he says. “I didn’t do anything, I didn’t have a book. I don’t have anyone to hang with in that class.”

“Never mind,” I say. “I’ll give you a book for Social tomorrow – remember I asked who wanted one?”

He nods, and I say, “Anyway, you can use it for English as well – or whatever you like.

He rolls his eyes and grins, but I see he’s happy about the new book.


At lunch Tau and Inia come back in together. I like it when Inia’s at school, he seems to be a settling influence on Tau, and vice versa. It’s good to see Tau just hanging out and contented, not all hyped up.

But after lunch, Tau roams past the window, looking in to try find me, and I sigh and go out. He’s with another boy I’ve seen around the place – Saale.

“Thought you were going to Math,” I say to Tau.

“I got told to wait outside – I’ve got no equipment,“ he whines, making me crack up laughing.

“What about you?” I say to Saale.

“I’m supposed to be at the library – honest to who!” he tells me, pointing at Thelma as she walks over that way. “That’s my teacher, that Indian lady.”

“Well – off you go.”

“No, it’s boring.”

“Oh God – you two, “ I mutter.

“Can I have that book – and a pen?” asks Tau. “Cos I told Mr I was going to come and see you to get my equipment.”

“Oh, alright, come on, let’s go to my room and get you some stuff and then you can go back to Math.”

“And me?” says Saale hopefully.


Tau smiles at me as we set off, and I know he likes the familiar, safe feeling of being at my side, just trotting along. Down to my room; I go in and get him a book, an eraser, pencil, pen, ruler. And then off we go again, to Math.

We get there, and “Do I have to?” he moans.

“Yes! Yes, go on Tau – in you go.”

I see Aperamo through the window and he grins.


Tau goes in – eventually – and then I take Saale over to class. “How do I know you?” I say, wondering aloud, and then “Oh, that’s right, you used to come into to my tutor – and I still have no idea why.”

He grins, saying, “Miss can I come to your class again, one day?”

“Alright, one day. I’ll let you know when.”

“Ok!” he agrees enthusiastically. But when I take him in he grumbles and gets mouthy to Thelma right from the start, and I say, “Saale – your manners, man.”

“Alright,“ he says, and then as I leave: “Remember, I’m coming to your class again – don’t forget, Miss.”

“Yes, I’ll remember; I promise,“ I assure him.


I go back across the bridge and notice that Tau’s class are down outside playing a game, a math game I guess. I hear the teacher say, “Stand two metres away -” and a girl moves; it’s her turn. But no Tau that I can see. And then, there he is upstairs, just sitting and drawing in his new book, right outside the window into the office – because he wants me to find him.


He laughs and springs up, happy. “Miss, they’re playing games – I hate it when we play games!”

“Oh, off you go… go, go!” and I shoo him towards the stairs.

“No-oo, Miss.”

“Oh for God’s sake,” I say, making him grin. “Come on then, come with me – down we go.”

And he says, contentedly, “Are you taking me down there?”

“Yes, I’m taking you down there,“ I sigh, then, “Tau, isn’t it embarrassing – having to walk around school with me like this?”

“No,” Tau tells me. “It’s not.”

“Alright. alright then,” I say. “Let’s go.”

We head back down and Tau trots again at my shoulder, all the way to the group of kids.

I say, “There you are – now stick to Mister like glue!”


But when I go get something from my room: there he is again, just drawing in his book. He looks delighted to see me.

“Back to class!”

“Miss…” he protests.

“No! Go back to Mister – God, it’s just one class; go and be good.”

He goes, but by the time I get my stuff and come back upstairs, he’s dashing past the window… well actually he’s drifting, looking in. When he sees me, his slippered feet pick up and run, then pause – behind a tree – as he waits for me to come out and look for him. But I’m not going to. I kind of have to give up on this game, cos I actually do have work to do. And so I don’t go out, much as it pains me to leave Tau to his own devices – I can’t spend all afternoon playing games (and Tau says he doesn’t like playing games!)


After school he comes to find me.

“Did you go to Math, in the end?”

“Yes,” he tells me.

“So if I look on the database – you’ll be marked present.”

“I hope so,” he says.

“Well – I hope so too!” And we grin at one another. I say, “Oh, Tau – I gave up. I saw you hiding behind the tree, I saw your feet!”

He laughs, saying, “I just wanted to have some fun.”

“I know you did. But I had to go and do work. And anyway, you could have had fun with your math class – they were playing a game.”

“I hate games like that.”


“Cos they’re childish.”

“We-ell, technically you’re a child,” I tell him.

He laughs. “I only like games that are fighting and stuff.”

“Then you should join the army!” I say, and he grins, and just hangs out in my room until Kuli mails me to go home.


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