Can a poor street sweeper ever fit in with the Mr. Jeffs of Ethiopia? By a chance meeting, Getu comes in contact with Mr. Jeff, a man who works with an NGO.

Like every normal-thinking street boy, he clings to the faint hope attached to Mr. Jeff’s voice when he says, “you could work with us”.

Getu reassures his mother of this hope despite her pessimism. Against his better judgment, he attends Mr. Jeff’s going-away party, with the mindset of getting a job that would save him and his poor mother, and save their house from the draconian law of “if a house in Addis Ababa is less than four stories tall, then the government can and will seize your land. To keep your home, build!”

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Unfortunately, Mr. Jeff crushes his hope with the excuse of “I was only joking”, and this is where Getu realizes that a man’s life is only as difficult as he wants it to be.

This story won the 2021 AKO Caine Prize for Short Story writing, and I had to read it to find out why. Its ending is everything – it’s a cliffhanger that makes you exclaim, “What? That’s the end?” and then, in the next minute, it hits you, that is, the full meaning of what you just read sinks in, and you begin to absorb lessons the story has to offer.

For me, it’s the transformation of Getu; shy, self-conscious street sweeper, to a confident young man who knows just what he wants and goes all out to get it.

It’s a gripping story of hope that never leaves the mind of the determined. In the words of Lenrie Peters, “hope is not a grain of sand.”

You can get this story for free by downloading it here.



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