(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A strange, apelike creature is terrorizing the affluent white suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa. It strikes at night, killing and maiming pets and frightening the many citizens who have seen it. Only young Stanley Dobrow has tried to photograph it, but the photograph turned out badly, revealing only some movement in the treetops. The bizarre happenings occasion much speculation and many letters to the editors of the white newspapers. It is a novel news story and a welcome one, providing as it does relief from the usual depressing fare: labor strikes, student riots, and international sanctions against the white-controlled South African government. To the white citizens of Johannesburg, the ape story seems to be something more immediately applicable to their own lives than does the racial conflict that is dividing their country.

One such citizen is Mrs. Naas (Hester) Klopper, the wife of a prosperous real estate agent, a fastidious woman proud of her fine house and of her skill at maintaining it. When her husband unexpectedly brings home a prospective client and his wife, Mrs. Klopper is ready with tea and sweetbreads to offer them. Charles and Joy Rosser seem shy, but quite pleasant: Mrs. Rosser is expecting their first child, and the couple are interested in the old Kleynhans place, a secluded farm that has stood empty for three years. Later, Naas Klopper shows them the place, and they take it on the condition that they can rent it with the option to buy. Though it seems unorthodox to him, Klopper is impressed with their offer of six months’ advance rent, and he agrees to their terms.

The Rossers are not, however, the ordinary young newlyweds they appear to be. Unknown to the Kloppers, and to the rest of the white community, the couple (they are not married, nor are they any longer lovers) have rented the Kleynhans place as a base from which to plan a revolutionary operation against the government. With the help of Vusi and Eddie, black revolutionaries posing as farm laborers, they set about transforming an abandoned shed into an ammunition warehouse and making other preparations for their strike. All four of them are careful to maintain appearances, observing by day the traditional social conventions between white masters and their...

(The entire section is 926 words.)