#36 – meet Travis

Jamie looked into the eyes of the man who had almost murdered him. He had to think.
He did not trust this man—and yet he had saved his life. Banda wanted to get at Van der
Merwe through him. That can work both ways, Jamie decided. More than anything in the
world, Jamie wanted to make Van der Merwe pay for what he had done to him.
“All right,” Jamie told Banda. “I’ll find a way to pay Van der lierwe back for both of us.”
For the first time, a thin smile appeared on Banda’s face. “Is he going to die?” > “No,”
Jamie told him. “He’s going to live.”
Jamie got out of bed that afternoon for the first time, dizzy and weak. His leg still had not
completely healed, and he walked with a slight limp. Banda tried to assist him.
“Let go of me. I can make it on my own.”
Banda watched as Jamie carefully moved across the room.
‘I’d like a mirror,” Jamie said. / must look terrible, he thought. How long has it been since
I’ve had a shave? Banda returned with a hand mirror, and Jamie held it up to
his face. He was looking at a total stranger. His hair had turned snow-white. He had a
full, unkempt white beard. His nose had been broken and a ridge of bone pushed it to one
side. His face had aged twenty years. There were deep ridges along his sunken cheeks
and a livid scar across his chin. But the biggest change was in his eyes. They were eyes
that had seen too much pain, felt too much, hated too much. He slowly put down the
“I’m going out for a walk,” Jamie said.
“Sorry, Mr. McGregor. That’s not possible.”
“Why not?”
“White men do not come to this part of town, just as blacks never go into the white
places. My neighbors do not know you are here. We brought you in at night.”
“How do I leave?”
“I will move you out tonight.”
For the first time, Jamie began to realize how much Banda had risked for him.
Embarrassed, Jamie said, “I have no money. I need a job.”
“I took a job at the shipyard. They are always looking for men.” He took some money
from his pocket. “Here.”
Jamie took the money. “I’ll pay it back.”
“You will pay my sister back,” Banda told him.
It was midnight when Banda led Jamie out of the shack. Jamie looked around. He was in
the middle of a shantytown, a jungle of rusty, corrugated iron shacks and lean-tos, made
from rotting planks and torn sacking. The ground, muddy from a recent rain, gave off a
rank odor. Jamie wondered how people as proud as Banda could bear spending their lives
in a place such as this. “Isn’t there some—?”
“Don’t talk, please,” Banda whispered. “My neighbors are inquisitive.” He led Jamie
outside the compound and pointed “The center of town is in that direction. I will see you at
the shipyard.”
Jamie checked into the same boardinghouse where he had stayed on his arrival from
England. Mrs. Venster was behind the desk.
“I’d like a room,” Jamie said.
“Certainly, sir.” She smiled, revealing her gold tooth. “I’m Mrs. Venster.”
“I know.”
“Now how would you know a thing like that?” she asked coyly. “Have your men friends
been tellin’ tales out of school?”
“Mrs. Venster, don’t you remember me? I stayed here last year.”
She took a close look at his scarred face, his broken nose and his white beard, and there
was not the slightest sign of recognition. “I never forget a face, dearie. And I’ve never seen
yours before. But that don’t mean we’re not going to be good friends, does it? My friends
call me ‘Dee-Dee.’ What’s your name, love?”
And Jamie heard himself saying, “Travis. Ian Travis.”


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

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