TJ Pownall, the Hansie in question, was a dancer, and also in Dave’s Grade Twelve English class. He was kind and thoughtful, scrupulously polite, and popular with the girls, especially Rebecca Cooper, observant, but reticent in class. He was certainly not lazy, but almost too anxious to please. Dave liked him very much. So this was his grandmother. Dave knew he had to be diplomatic. Teachers met all kinds of people.
“You surprise me. He is a good student. I have not noticed any laziness in him at all.”
She sighed again. Such incomprehension of the obvious was evidently a frustration to her. “That is what all his teachers say. But blood will out. You’ll see. It always does. In the end.”
“I understand he is a very good dancer.”
“Mr. Hartley, what good will thet do him? What sort of job will he get with it?”
“He is surely in this school because his talent was obvious. Perhaps he will surprise us all. Maybe in time he will do something else for a living. My own son told me when he was a teenager that he wanted to be an actor.”
“And what did he become?”
“A lawyer, which in a courtroom is a place where he can be one. As a teacher can in a classroom.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Hartley, but is his mother bleck ?”
“No, but what does that have to do with it?”
“You will see. But we will just leave it at that. For the moment,” she hinted darkly.
“I will be sure to tell you if I see any reason for concern about TJ’s—Hansie’s—progress. As you said, he is a good boy. I don’t think he will let either of us down.”
“So you met the racist grandmother,” said Ace Jeffries, the gym teacher, puffing after their morning run.
“A racist or merely eccentric. But her background is rooted in the apartheid attitudes of her homeland, and she brings those prejudices with her, as we all do with our own. Did she really raise the lad for eighteen years by herself?”
“Yup. Husband died, she said, back in Pretoria, of the shock of his grandson’s race and illegitimacy. Yet she obviously dotes on him. Can’t do enough for him. You know she is a potter? How she manages to make ends meet, I don’t know. Not much call for pots.”
“Not too much self-knowledge, then?”
“How do you mean?”
“Doesn’t see the paradox of her support for an exclusionary ideology at variance with her Christian convictions.”
“Come again? In English this time?”
“She doesn’t see that her blanket dismissal of an entire race is unfair… and unchristian, yet she makes an exception for TJ, in spite of his parenthood. And proves to be a loving grandmother in the process.”
“That’s curious for sure. Isn’t love blind?”
“That’s what they say, yes. Perhaps it’s just as well…”
In the carpeted drama studio a week later during a discussion of Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King after they had read it, Dave drew the class’s attention to the importance of self-knowledge.