In 1967, prices for everything – rent, bus fare, food – went up.
The family began to gather locusts for food. Mama would fry them and serve them with pap (a thick porridge made with maize.)
They also bought black worms, sold cheap by a woman in one of the local stalls, and collected local weeds that grew near the lavatories.
When Mark protested that they were eating food that grew on urine and feces, Mama said that potatoes also flourished in soil laced with manure. But Mark refused to believe it.
They also bought blood from Mr. Green, who ran the local slaughterhouse. Mama would cook it into a thick brown sludge, which they ate as soup.
One day while watching his siblings so Mama can find a job, Mark starts throwing rocks at dogs that were trying to eat a dead cat. He hurls insults at the garbage collectors as they came past. One of them throws something at Mark, which misses him and hits Maria instead.
He takes a nap and wakes up to find Maria painting herself with her own poop. He takes her to the communal water tap to wash her. As they leave, an old man comes by to take a drink directly from the tap. He mentions how funny it smells, but the water tastes good.
One day, Florah asks Mama why she's looking for a job, and Mama replies that they need to eat and Papa doesn't make enough money.
Mark persists, insisting that Papa should buy them more food, that he should borrow more money if he has to so that they can eat every day. He keeps repeating, "We are his children, aren't we?"
Mama gets angry and asks who told Mark that they weren't his children.
Mark repeats that he's heard Papa say that when he's angry with her. Mama smacks him across the head.
Then Mama starts crying and admits that, in addition to food, they will soon need baby diapers. Mark cries with her and asks why she doesn't stop having babies.
Then Mark tells her they shouldn't have had him because he's not happy.
Mama tells him things will get better.
But life didn't get better.
Hunger continually stalked him, and make him angry and selfish.
In Mark's neighborhood, there was a single-sex hostel for migrant workers.
One day, when he's especially hungry, one of the boys in the neighborhood, Mpandhlani, invites Mark to make some money and get some food. They go to the barracks but one of the boys comes out and says, "Not today."
Mark doesn't know what's up but he's determined to find out, especially if there's food involved.
As soon as he gets a chance, he escapes his babysitting duties and joins those boys. They go to the barracks and a man leads them inside. Mark gets scared and wants to leave but the men look scary, especially with their weapons, so he doesn't leave.
Inside, the men leads him to a room, where men are lounging on their bunk beds. The men tell them to get comfortable while they fix food. The boys get onto the beds and talk and giggle with the men. But Mark is uncomfortable. He stays apart from the beds.
When the food comes, he refuses to eat it. The rest of the boys stuff their faces. Then the men give the boys food, and tell Mark he'll get his money next time.
The men start to undress.
Mpandhlani yells at Mark to take his clothes off but Mark refuses. He then watches, astonished, as the boys get naked, line up, and bend over. The men have sex with the boys.
One of the men approaches Mark but he runs away. Though the man orders Mpandhlani to bring Mark back, Mark escapes.
He never tells anybody what happened. He knows that if he tells, the men will be deported back to the homelands, and the area will become a civil war.
But he doesn't realize that everybody in Alexandra knows exactly what is happening in the single-sex barracks, even the police.
Afterwards, he would run into Mpandhlani and the other boys and they would tell him he was a fool. Maybe, he thought, but at least I'm a fool with free will. He didn't realize then what he realized later: that only by playing the fool would he survive and escape that world.