Last Updated on March 9, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 878
While living in Eden Park, Patricia and Trevor adopt sisters from a litter of mixed Maltese/bull terrier puppies. They name them “Panther” and “Fufi”—Panther is Patricia’s dog, and Fufi is Trevor’s. He’s instantly enamored and takes on the work of training her himself. Before long, she is sleeping...
(The entire section contains 878 words.)
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- Chapter Summaries
While living in Eden Park, Patricia and Trevor adopt sisters from a litter of mixed Maltese/bull terrier puppies. They name them “Panther” and “Fufi”—Panther is Patricia’s dog, and Fufi is Trevor’s. He’s instantly enamored and takes on the work of training her himself. Before long, she is sleeping in his bed as his loyal companion.
When he comes home during a school break, Trevor sees Fufi hop over their fence. Shocked, he follows her through the streets until she comes to another house and hops into their yard. He rings the doorbell to get her back, but to his surprise, he finds a very confused boy on the other side of the door. The boy insists that the dog is his, because she is here every day. An argument ensues between both families, and Trevor and Patricia only get Fufi back by paying the other boy’s mother a bribe.
Trevor is still visibly upset. Patricia asks him why, and, in tears, he tells her he is heartbroken about the dog’s betrayal. He wonders how Fufi could possibly love another boy as much as she loves him. Dismissing his grief, Patricia tells him to get over it. After all, Fufi’s love for the other boy didn’t cost Trevor anything.
Reflecting on the experience later, Trevor comes to understand the experience with some critical nuance. In a sense, it was his first heartbreak, but Fufi wasn’t, as he’d initially felt, “cheating” on him. She was just living her own life, filling her days with what interested her most in the world around her. Until Trevor discovers these daily excursions, her actions have no impact whatsoever on his life or their relationship.
The author ruminates on what he knows of his father’s background, but there are still many gaps in his knowledge. His father, Robert, is a Swiss-German expatriate whose life prior to Trevor’s is never fully clear to him. What he does know, however, is his father’s character: He is fastidious and precise, rational and reserved. Unlike many of the white expatriates in the region, who either explicitly or covertly embrace the racial caste system under apartheid, Robert is strongly anti-racist.
Prior to Trevor’s birth, Robert opens one of Johannesburg’s first integrated restaurants. He uses a legal loophole to sidestep the laws of apartheid, applying for a special license designed for businesses that serve travelers and diplomats from abroad. These guests in the country aren’t theoretically subject to the same restrictions that apartheid places on Black South Africans, so he is allowed to open his restaurant without legal ramifications. The business is an overwhelming success, but it attracts complaints from neighbors who don’t approve of integrated spaces. Soon, the government is looking for ways to shut him down.
They try surprise health inspections first but fail to find any violations. Eventually, they settle on the enforcement of an arbitrary code violation: To maintain the business, Robert will need separate bathrooms for every racial category. At that time, that means four separate sets of bathrooms to correspond with the four legal designations of white, Black, colored, and Indian. His only other option, they tell him, is to abandon his policy and serve only whites. Forced to choose between a restaurant full of bathrooms and one that upholds and validates racial oppression, Robert closes the restaurant.
When apartheid ends, Trevor begins visiting Robert every Sunday after the first two churches on the ecclesiastical circuit. They grow close, and he begins spending birthdays and holidays at his father’s house, but soon their relationship is interrupted. Patricia and Abel have gotten married, and Abel doesn’t want another man in the picture.
When Trevor is twenty-four, he seeks out his father at Patricia’s urging, and the two begin spending time together again.
Perhaps more than any others so far, chapters 7 and 8 reveal the author’s inner emotional life. His relationship with Fufi, in his words, his “first love,” is tender, affectionate, and formative. The two become incredibly close, and when he discovers she has made another human friend, he sees it as a betrayal of their bond. When Patricia reminds him that he hasn’t lost anything, he comes to realize a broader truth about relationships: It is not a betrayal for someone you love to live their own fullest life, even if they are living it independently of you.
It is possible that this hard-won lesson influences the author’s relationship with his father as well. Though their circumstances are unconventional—Robert effectively agrees to be a sperm donor rather than a father and then changes his mind after the birth—the two eventually become close and truly relish being part of each other’s lives. Before the fall of apartheid, they see each other in secret. After, they have regular weekly visits and spend holidays together, too, until Robert moves away.
Though he doesn’t know until much later that his father’s move was a result of the intentional distance imposed by Abel, young Trevor does not fault the man for living his life elsewhere; he has learned, after all, that such a choice is not a betrayal.