Authors: Trevor Noah
hen my mother was shot, so much happened so quickly. We were only able to piece the whole story together after the fact, as we collected all the different accounts from everyone who was there. Waiting around at the hospital that day, we had so many unanswered questions, like, What happened to Isaac? Where was Isaac? We only found out after we found him and he told us.
When Andrew sped off with my mom, leaving the four-year-old alone on the front lawn, Abel walked over to his youngest, picked him up, put the boy in his car, and drove away. As they drove, Isaac turned to his dad.
“Dad, why did you kill Mom?” he asked, at that point assuming, as we all did, that my mom was dead.
“Because I’m very unhappy,” Abel replied. “Because I’m very sad.”
“Yeah, but you shouldn’t kill Mom. Where are we going now?”
“I’m going to drop you off at your uncle’s house.”
“And where are you going?”
“I’m going to kill myself.”
“But don’t kill yourself, Dad.”
“No, I’m going to kill myself.”
The uncle Abel was talking about was not a real uncle but a friend. He dropped Isaac off with this friend and then he drove off. He spent that day and went to everyone, relatives and friends, and said his goodbyes. He even told people what he had done. “This is what I’ve done. I’ve killed her, and I’m now on the way to kill myself. Goodbye.” He spent the whole day on this strange farewell tour, until finally one of his cousins called him out.
“You need to man up,” the cousin said. “This is the coward’s way. You need to turn yourself in. If you were man enough to do this, you have to be man enough to face the consequences.”
Abel broke down and handed his gun over to the cousin, the cousin drove him to the police station, and Abel turned himself in.
He spent a couple of weeks in jail, waiting for a bail hearing. We filed a motion opposing bail because he’d shown that he was a threat. Since Andrew and Isaac were still minors, social workers started getting involved. We felt like the case was open-and-shut, but then one day, after a month or so, we got a call that he’d made bail. The great irony was that he got bail because he told the judge that if he was in jail, he couldn’t earn money to support his kids. But he wasn’t supporting his kids—my mom was supporting the kids.
So Abel was out. The case slowly ground its way through the legal system, and everything went against us. Because of my mother’s miraculous recovery, the charge was only attempted murder. And because no domestic violence charges had ever been filed in all the times my mother had called the police to report him, Abel had no criminal record. He got a good lawyer, who continued to lean on the court about the fact that he had children at home who needed him. The case never went to trial. Abel pled guilty to attempted murder. He was given three years’ probation. He didn’t serve a single day in prison. He kept joint custody of his sons. He’s walking around Johannesburg today, completely free. The last I heard he still lives somewhere around Highlands North, not too far from my mom.
The final piece of the story came from my mom, who could only tell us her side after she woke up. She remembered Abel pulling up and pointing the gun at Andrew. She remembered falling to the ground after getting shot in the ass. Then Abel came and stood over her and pointed his gun at her head. She looked up and looked at him straight down the barrel of the gun. Then she started to pray, and that’s when the gun misfired. Then it misfired again. Then it misfired again, and again. She jumped up, shoved him away, and ran for the car. Andrew leapt in beside her and she turned the ignition and then her memory went blank.
To this day, nobody can explain what happened. Even the police didn’t understand. Because it wasn’t like the gun didn’t work. It fired, and then it didn’t fire, and then it fired again for the final shot. Anyone who knows anything about firearms will tell you that a 9mm handgun cannot misfire in the way that gun did. But at the crime scene the police had drawn little chalk circles all over the driveway, all with spent shell casings from the shots Abel fired, and then these four bullets, intact, from when he was standing over my mom—nobody knows why.
My mom’s total hospital bill came to 50,000 rand. I paid it the day we left. For four days we’d been in the hospital, family members visiting, talking and hanging out, laughing and crying. As we packed up her things to leave, I was going on about how insane the whole week had been.
“You’re lucky to be alive,” I told her. “I still can’t believe you didn’t have any health insurance.”
“Oh but I do have insurance,” she said.
“Jesus is your health insurance?”
“If God is with me, who can be against me?”
“Trevor, I prayed. I told you I prayed. I don’t pray for nothing.”
“You know,” I said, “for once I cannot argue with you. The gun, the bullets—I can’t explain any of it. So I’ll give you that much.” Then I couldn’t resist teasing her with one last little jab. “But where was your Jesus to pay your hospital bill, hmm? I know for a fact that He didn’t pay that.”
She smiled and said, “You’re right. He didn’t. But He blessed me with the son who did.”
For my mother. My first fan. Thank you for making me a man.
For nurturing my career these past years and steering me down the road that led to this book, I owe many thanks to Norm Aladjem, Derek Van Pelt, Sanaz Yamin, Rachel Rusch, Matt Blake, Jeff Endlich, and Jill Fritzo.
For making this book deal happen and keeping it on track during a very tight and hectic time, I would like to thank Peter McGuigan and his team at Foundry Literary + Media, including Kirsten Neuhaus, Sara DeNobrega, and Claire Harris. Also, many thanks to Tanner Colby for helping me put my story on the page.
For seeing the potential in this book and making it a reality, I would like to thank everyone at Random House and Spiegel & Grau, including my editor Chris Jackson, publishers Julie Grau and Cindy Spiegel, Tom Perry, Greg Mollica, Susan Turner, Andrea DeWerd, Leigh Marchant, Barbara Fillon, Dhara Parikh, Rebecca Berlant, Kelly Chian, Nicole Counts, and Gina Centrello.
For bringing this book home to South Africa and making sure it is published with the utmost care, I would like to thank everyone at Pan Macmillan South Africa, including Sean Fraser, Sandile Khumalo, Andrea Nattrass, Rhulani Netshivhera, Sandile Nkosi, Nkateko Traore, Katlego Tapala, Wesley Thompson, and Mia van Heerden.
For reading this manuscript in its early stages and sharing thoughts and ideas to make it the finished product you hold in your hands, I owe my deepest gratitude to Khaya Dlanga, David Kibuuka, Anele Mdoda, Ryan Harduth, Sizwe Dhlomo, and Xolisa Dyeshana.
And, finally, for bringing me into this world and making me the man I am today, I owe the greatest debt, a debt I can never repay, to my mother.
is a comedian from South Africa.