No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra
Photo by Laura James at Pexels.
financially wealthy doctors opened a clinic in the poverty-stricken
ghetto where I lived when I was a child. They had to be wealthy
because their medical services, including the medicines they
dispensed, were free. The services had to be free because not enough
people in that ghetto could afford to pay.
doctors' names were Yvonne McBride and Vivian McBride. They were not
related. They hired several women to help out in the clinic. My Mom
was one of those women. For about three years the clinic had
thirty-or-so patients a day.
Grandfather, my Mom's Dad, lived with us. He worked as a language
interpreter in the Law Court in downtown Durban. My Grandfather made
more money providing advice at our home at nights to persons involved
in litigation, than he did from his official job at the Law Court.
Mom said all those persons who came to my Grandfather for advice,
came from outside the ghetto. They could afford, and were willing to
pay for counsel on loopholes in Law Court procedures that lawyers
exploited to circumvent the law. My Grandfather's nocturnal shady
customers usually were acquitted on technicalities incurred by
egotistically negligent lawyers and, or, judges undermined by their
own careless overweening sense of self-importance.
Grandfather was paid a visit by a man who claimed to be a licensed
Private Investigator. He said he had been hired to collect
information about the two doctors of the free clinic. He said the
National Association of Medical Doctors wanted to close down the
clinic because it was free. The Association claimed a free clinic was
depriving other doctors from earning a living by charging patients.
The Association intended, at a later date, to report those two
doctors to the Government's Revenue Department, on a charge of
possible tax evasion.
those two doctors began serving the ghetto community, just about
everybody, from cradle-to-grave, lived without help from medical
Private Investigator said he had two reasons for approaching my
Grandfather for assistance. First, he knew of my Grandfather's
undeclared illegal income from unofficially dispensing advice to
litigants. Second, he knew my Mom worked at the clinic.
said he wanted my Mom to collect the names of the clinic's patients
for a few months.
said he would not let the Association know of my Grandfather's and
said he was willing to negotiate with my Grandfather, payment for
Grandfather's and my Mom's services.
the first meeting with that Private Investigator, my Grandfather
agreed, without conditions, to provide all the assistance the
Investigator was asking. My Grandfather declined the Private
Investigator's offer of payment.
my Grandfather discussed the matter the next day with my Granny, she
insisted my Grandfather get someone in the ghetto to kill the Private
would be easy. Killing people in the ghetto was a frequent happening,
frequently for favours rather than for money payment. Because my
Granny and Grandfather gave free food to lots of persons in the
ghetto, there would not be a shortage of volunteers to kill the
of the food my Granny gave to strangers was fruit she bought from the
market in the ghetto was opened on only Saturdays. Only one day a
week because there were not enough customers to support more days a
week of business. At closing time on Saturdays there were always some
vendors willing to sell their produce at as little as twenty-five
Granny waited, and made a killing every Saturday at closing time. The
market was run by the City Government, which was ruthlessly punctual
about closing time with their almighty machines that sprayed the
floors and stone counters with waters, with lethal force.
was allowed to sit on the wood benches at wood tables in our
backyard, to be fed. The only two conditions were that all food was
to be eaten at the tables; none was to be taken out of the yard. And
that all peels and other garbage was to be taken out of the yard.
Grandparents did the calculations to determine how long they could
delay murdering the Private Investigator, while the ghetto women
working at the clinic could continue being paid before the clinic
would be closed down by the National Medical Association.
and Granny knew that even after the murder of the Private
Investigator, the Association was unlikely to discontinue their
intentions against the clinic doctors.
my Grandparents had decided on a date in the future, my Grandfather
asked my Mom if she would do what the Private Investigator required.
My Mom, like all of us, knew that when my Granny and Grampa agreed on
a course of action, it was useless to demur. My Mom agreed to collect
names and times of patients at the clinic. At the same time, my Mom
had other painful considerations.
paid employment in the ghetto was like working for gold mining
businesses; moreso, working at that clinic for the high pay those
two clinic doctors were paying.
Mom went along with the Private Investigator's clandestine plan, she
would still have months of pay to collect. On the other hand, Mom had
to consider the stress she would be working in while knowing she was
betraying the two doctors who were being so unselfishly kind to
everyone in the ghetto.
felt the moral burden all the more for having been informed by Grampa
that of all the poor ghetto women employed at the clinic, Mom would
be the only one helping the Private Investigator against the two
decision was to secretly inform the doctors; and to not let Grampa
and Granny know. Mom let us know of this utterly disloyal, foolishly
dangerous decision, years and years after Grampa and Granny had died
of natural causes. Dying peacefully in bed was no mean accomplishment
in our ghetto.
the Clairwood graveyard there was a section with unmarked graves in
order to discourage vengeful desecrations. In that section, because
there were no grave mounds, we street urchins were unofficially
allowed to play ball games, in order to further discourage
Mom informed the doctors, in order to avert suspicions, the doctors
deliberately took long weeks to gradually close down the clinic.
was the only worker who did not believe it was an accident when the
workers showed up one day, to find the clinic had burned down during
the previous night.
the following days, the doctors visited all the workers at their
homes to give each a generous severance wage.
the clinic no longer there, it was unnecessary for Grampa and Granny
to have the Private Investigator murdered. I have tried
unsuccessfully more than once to find out if they called off the
you, had they gone ahead, nobody in our family would have held it
against them for adhering to our sacred ghetto destiny which, to many
of us, had the inevitableness of DNA prescription.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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