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Liesl Jobson

Thorn 

Josh writes 'mortician' beside First Choice.

His Life Orientation teacher retrieves the career interest forms he will use to assist the Grade 9s in choosing their final subjects. Josh has no second or third choice of career.

His father expects him to write 'soil science' or 'viticulture' or 'land management'. He wants his son to do BSc Agriculture at the University of Stellenbosch, to follow him in managing the family's wine farm.

Jesus had given Josh a thorn from his crown so that he could carve on his forearm, 'Oh Death, where is thy sting?' The thorn didn't create clean words though. It tore at his flesh, leaving ragged lines. Josh borrowed his father's grafting scalpel - the one he uses to graft vine clones onto well-established rootstock. It worked better, more precisely.

The teacher bends close to Josh, check his eyes for redness, glassiness, dilated pupils. He inhales deeply, trying to catch the sweet smoky scent of dagga on his clothes and hair. Nothing is visible, yet the boy is agitated. The teacher cannot see the blood spots on Josh's shirt, under his blazer.

Josh prayed as he took the scalpel. He asked for forgiveness for spurning the Saviour's thorn. He also borrowed his father's hunting rifle.