He tormented the natives almost every day, to the point that they refused to bring his tea and biscuits. Sometimes he would hide it under his hand, sometimes up his sleeve, how it tickled, how it crawled.

And sometimes, he would hide it in the empty teapot, the kitchen staff already jumpy at the thought of lifting the lid, an unexpected sabotage, the screams, the panic, the fainting. The house-boy, originally from Mozambique, would pacify the natives, promising to speak to him, but he never did, in fear of another telling off from that cruel little boy.

He kept it in a jar on his table, little holes punched into the yellow lid from last year’s honey. He would tap the glass on occasion, to see if his little friend was still alive. He fed it weekly, a great big African locust, with razor sharp legs and green and grey wings. And he would taunt it, sometimes starving it to the point that it would get vicious and ferocious.

At night, he would flick the light on and off, to see if it would move, to antagonise it even more, make it snappy, angry, needing. It lived in a small matchbox, covered in sticks and hay, and it had a full 360 degree view of the world from the round sunny window. He relished the fact that the natives on the farm would put a few bricks beneath each leg of a bed to keep it away in the evening, should it escape. This amused him.

The torment continued for a few more months, the house-boy finally moving to another farm. Years later, he returned to find him in his teenage years, no longer a little boy, but now a broken young man, his right arm missing, his face drooping to the side, his skin a yellow beige colour, silent, no tongue and cheek, paralysis.

The natives had found him breathless, cramped up with dizziness and nausea, arched over, writhing in pain, his father working the fields, his mother in the laundry room. During an argument with the kitchen boy, the jar had smashed, and his little friend had escaped, only to return later that night.

a sting in its tail,
a slip under the covers,
and an axe to grind.