I wrote a short story: The Weight of Happiness

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Disclaimer (or whatever you want to call it)

Every year I take part in  SA Writer’s College short story compo.
I like writing.
It makes me come alive.
I didn’t make this year’s shortlist. Well done to those who made that list!
Although I didn’t make it this year, I will still keep writing. Writing is a part of me.
So I thought I’d share my ENTRY with you anyway.
Feel free during a coffee break or something to read this:


 

A lot happened that week.  It was as if each day had more than twenty four hours in it.  It was a Tuesday in the autumn of 2014, when that very peculiar thing happened:

My brother and I were in the town square.  That’s where a lot of the students met after their college classes.  There was always a hive of activity.  The focal point was the stunning water feature.  Around it was a well-kept piece of lush looking grass.  (Much respect to the town council who did the gardening there.)

After stressful classes, a bunch of us would often meet there, either to catch up or just to chill.  There was a coffee shop owned and run by a quirky barista who always wore floral shirts.  He’d tell his customers that he was just trying to keep the memory of Madiba alive.  His cappuccinos were the best.

There were benches for shoppers to sit.  For the skaters, there were rails scattered around the courtyard of the town square.  Red Tulips and yellow Roses decorated the flowerbeds bordering the live stage area.  (Over the weekends there would be live performers; both musicians and poets.)  Groups of girls would regularly sit on the grass: chatting away, taking selfies and listening to their iPods.  Autumn leaves danced over the cobblestones in the light breeze.  Another picturesque afternoon.

It was indeed a hip place to be.

My brother and I had planned to meet 3:00pm at “Joe’s Milkshake Bar” next to the coffee shop.  We were fans of Instagram.  So we were capturing some shots of the afternoon sunlight spilling down among the students.  We got some good shots of the skaters and even some sparrows nibbling on the left behind crumbs.

On a nearby lamppost, I noticed the poster advertising the new Taking Back Sunday album: Happiness is.

It was on one of those thin Masonite boards.  The one string that had it fastened up had come undone.  My brother was kneeling below it.  He was trying to capture a ladybug on a blade of grass lounging in the sunshine.

It all happened so quickly!

I momentarily glanced at the Special’s poster on the shop window, then. THUD!

I saw that my brother was lying on the ground, the Masonite board lying next to him.  Not trying to conceal its guilt.

I dialled Emergencies.  Ten minutes later they were lifting my brother onto a stretcher.  He was lights out!  I saw the bump on his head.  It was abnormally huge.

Happiness is.  Yeah right!  I thought to myself as I tossed the poster in the nearby bin.

He came around about an hour later in the local hospital.  Stanford Heights.
He was discharged and that’s when it all began…

4:35pm.

As we walked through the waiting area of the hospital, I noticed a very strange thing.
The little restless toddler from earlier sat still.  A smile arrived on his face.
The baby that sat in the blue pram stopped crying.
The young couple, I had saw fighting in whispered tones, held each other close.  Love accompanied their connection.
The eleven people, all waiting there seemed at peace as my brother and I walked by.

It wasn’t like that earlier, I swear.  I had cycled home from the town square.  Fetched the car and headed straight for the hospital.  I had remembered thinking how restless that waiting area had felt as I walked through to the room where my brother was recovering.

As we walked outside through the push doors, I heard the earlier commotion start up again.  It was as if peace accompanied us to the outside world.

The afternoon sun welcomed us in the carpark.  But I noticed that my brother looked quite downcast.

“Are you okay?  Are you in pain?”

“Nah, I’m not in pain.  I just feel kind of emo.” he replied.

“Well, you probably just need a good sleep.”  I winked at him and shook my head.  “Odd boy, you are.”

Wednesday.  7am.

She was at it again.  My mother moaning about so many of the usual things.
(She’s such a worry wart.)

“The petrol price is going up again.  I’m not sure if I can afford another price increase.  The supervisor has been asking me lots of questions at work.  Is she going to fire me?”

Blah, blah, blah.  I stirred my Cornflakes as if I were mixing some magical potion.

“Mom, you need to stress less.”

Then he walked in.  And she was a different person:

“What a glorious day!”  “Isn’t the sunshine just so wonderful?”

What, who is this person?  Who abducted my mother? I looked to my brother.  Did he just wince?  I’m sure I saw his face flinch as if he was in pain?

My mom kissed us both and headed off to work.

“How are you feeling, Oliver?”

“Pain wise, I’m all good.  I don’t feel any discomfort.  But man, I had some seriously messed up dreams.”

He went on to share them with me.  They were dark.  And he had dreamt a lot.  Dreams (or should I say, nightmares) for a lot of people.  His poor mind.

Prior to the accident, we had set that morning to go pay the TV licence at the Post Office for our mother.  We only had lectures on Wednesday afternoons.

Oliver said he was still keen on coming with me.  He needed to get out.  He hated having ‘cabin fever’.

10:13am

I knew going to the post office was going to be a mission.  The government institutions in our country are so darn slow!

As we got to the entrance, I could see the queue was already thirty people strong.

Shucks, I thought with it being the middle of the month, this place would be quiet.

Oliver had left the actual licence paper in the car.  So I offered to wait in the queue in the meantime.

You could feel the despair in that place.  I looked around.  People wore frustration on faces unapologetically.  A middle aged lady was speaking rather loudly on her mobile phone rebuking the poor victim on the other side.  She was going on about the other person being selfish and not appreciating her.

Does this lady think we care about her woes?  So inconsiderate!

Funny, how contagious negativity is…

The queue consisted of the first lucky fifteen able to sit and wait.  While the rest of us stood wishing the line to shorten quicker.  I saw a man with a grey beard wearing a blue shirt and some flacks.  He was sitting in the fourth chair rocking his legs up and down.  Clearly, he had elsewhere to be.

I was worried he was going to wear his soles in with that amount of tapping.

Then Oliver came in.  And it happened again.  The mood of the room changed.  The lady on the phone expressed her love to the person on the other side.  She was smiling.  The tapping man stopped.  He seemed so content.  The fidgeting in the room was replaced with happiness.

Then I saw the anguish in his face.  And he was holding his stomach as if he were suffering from severe cramps.

What is happening to Ollie?

8:35pm

My brother retires to his room.  His shoulders slumped.

Wow, he really has been looking emo…

Friday.  9:00am.

We had another errand we had to do.  We needed to get some banking; student loan issues sorted.

And that morning turned out to be the worst morning ever.  And weirdly extraordinary at the same time!

Ollie and I sat comfortably in the maroon sofas.  We were chatting about the latest football scores and headlines.  The bank was moderately busy when they came in.  Six of them wearing balaclavas.  They each held an AK47.  (A gun you don’t want to cross paths with.)  Fear entered with them.  A moment of panic shot through the staff and clients.  The obvious ring leader shouted for us all to lie flat with our hands stretched above us.

I heard the teller behind the nearby counter weeping.

Those guys were efficient.  And all had a particular role to play.  And all seemed to be running smoothly for them.  The tellers were filling the bags with cash.  No customers were attempting to resist them.

They had plan everything well.  Except one thing.  My brother.

What is he doing?

Oliver stood up.  Then it seemed like everything was in slow motion.  He just looked at each one of them.  There was something about his gaze.  One by one they each lowered their weapon.  And ignored the bags of cash.  They then kneeled in surrender.  The security guards on duty jumped into action and cuffed the six men.

Relief and happiness and cheers filled the room as everyone stared at my brother in amazement. Then as if he couldn’t stand the weight of it all Oliver collapsed.

I got to ride with him in the back of the ambulance.  He didn’t look well.  There seemed to be a darkness that filled his face.

As he lay there in agony I thought of those past few days.  Oliver had seemed to change the mood of each place.  As if it were an ability or some superhero power.  First, the hospital.  Then at home.  Thirdly, the post office and then (just then) the attempted bank robbery.  However, all those negative feelings of the people from each situation had accumulated into one massive emotion that my brother had to bear?

Was it Spiderman that said with great power comes great responsibility?

It was hardly a time to be quoting fictional characters.  But like I had said before, “it was a strange week!”

My brother ended up in the room next door to the one he was in three days before.  My mother and I sat in silence as Oliver slept.  There is always an eerie feeling about the quietness in a hospital.

Saturday 5:07am.

I had woken up with a fright.  My mother had left.  The comfort of the couch had called me to stay the night.  The drip was still attached to him.

I wonder if he has woken up yet. 

The nurse came in and did the usual tests.  She said he hadn’t woken yet.  I was worried.  The nurse professionally hid her concern.

Sunday 5:13pm.

It had been such a long weekend.  Waiting with the words on my lap.  I had been reading a Lee Child book.  But not even Jack Reacher could distract me from the anxiety that accompanied me.

Then she walked in.  She was breathtakingly beautiful.  She wore her gorgeous smile with ease.  I also noticed how the darkness of the room seemed to lift as she strode towards my brother’s bed.

I said “Hello, and who may you be?”

All she did was raise her finger ordering me to be silent.  I complied.  Then she pulled out an iPod and docking station from her backpack.

She seemed to be looking for a particular song.

Then the scariest thing happened.
She pulled out the plug of the machine that was monitoring my brother’s heartbeat.  I freaked out and jumped up towards her.
She turned instantly and punched me in the gut.
I had dropped to the floor, winded.

Then she plugged in the power cable from the docking station into the then vacant plug socket.  She pressed PLAY:

“You live your life like you’re not in control,
Like you’re playing a role
Flicker flicker fade,
Destroy what you create and wonder why it always ends the same”

The words filled the room.  The mystery woman was nowhere to be seen.  I looked to the screen on the iPod.  The artist was Taking Back Sunday.  Then I remembered the sign that fell on Oliver.

“I had the most amazing dream!” Oliver said beside me.  He was sitting up.  His faced seemed aglow with happiness.

The following Tuesday 3:05pm

We were sipping on our Milo milkshakes.

I looked out the shop.  There she was.  That stunning mystery woman.  She winked at me.  She had just hung up a sign on the lamppost.  It was the same poster as the previous week:

Happiness is.

How does it end? It’s up to you…

I’ve heard some great faith teachings along the way. But being human, I forget some of them along the way. BUT, I once heard this preach on Luke 15. The prodigal son… It has always stayed with me, since I heard it. Most of you would be familiar with the message. I’ll quote the last part of the scripture here:

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15

How does it? Well, the writer of the gospel… leaves that choice to us, the reader.

Does the older son go in to the party?  It doesn’t actually say.
We as the reader… get to decide.
Because, perhaps in some stages of our life, we are the “older brother”
There is an invitation to come inside. To join the party.

What will you do?

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One Day without Shoes – 2016

Today TOMS – one day without shoes took place.  With the hashtag #withoutshoes we were challenged to go one day without shoes… here are my observations:

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ONE DAY WITHOUT SHOES – 2016

(I write this as an almost “dear diary” entry… I don’t care who reads this. I don’t care how many “views” I may get. This day, was about me, stepping out of my bubble…)

We have tiles in our home.
So as I started the day barefoot
My feet were cold – with the chill running through my whole body.
I thought it’s going to be a long day. But I had set the challenge to myself.
To be aware of poverty around the world.

From the cold tiles of our home I cycled to work.
There is mist engulfing the neighbourhood town.

I felt the cool air on my feet as I pressed down on my metal pedals…
that has perforated edges…

I had to buy prepaid electricity at the local Spar. I could feel the cold of the shop floor too.
(It’s amazing how many surfaces we tread on daily)

Sitting in the office was better. My feet warmed up.

I went to listen to my wife deliver a talk at a nearby old age home.
I had to brave my feet and face the cold again.

The sun had come out a bit, so being outside wasn’t too bad this time.
But the sharp metal edges of my pedal are not fun to press down on…

I cycled past a primary school. I saw that all the kids had shoes on. I then thought that in some parts of our country, poverty is rife and some kids don’t wear any shoes…

At the old age home, I got some stares. Because of the no shoes.
I wondered…if they thought “how disrespectful of this young man” to arrive at a “bible study session” – with no shoes.
If only they knew why I was doing this.

After the talk, one of the men inquired about my “no shoes.” So I am glad I had a chance to share the #withoutshoes story.

I had to go across the church yard to take down a notice board in the adjacent building. I walked over some paper thorns. (Ouch!)
Then with that notice board we had to grind through the screws. I had to make sure that sparks didn’t burn me.

It’s funny how in a usual day, we are so unaware of our feet and footing.
But being barefoot changes that a lot…

After my ride home, I got to shower. My feet weren’t even that dirty…imagine those who walk barefoot on a daily basis… after three days… there feet must be filthy!

Also the surfaces I walked on today… were rather tame…
The shoe-less ones – they walk on tougher and harder and dirtier and unhealthier surfaces.

I wanted to quit earlier tonight. I thought. I’m home now. surely I can wear socks or slippers.

But that would be cheating… the day isn’t finish yet. so I need to stick it out on this cold floor in our home.

During this day, I thought of my friend who fasted her “sight” for a few days. Imagine surrendering that?

I just sacrificed shoes…

I then thought further, I wonder how many people in my town of Secunda; took part in this? Perhaps no others…

The remaining 44999 carried on their usual lives.
But hey, I’m not pointing fingers… There are so many causes that I am unaware of.
There are struggles among many people that I am so ignorant about.

Truth is, a lot of us, live in bubble. It’s time we pop that bubble…

A wine glass and dance moves (awesome wedding)

image

Weddings are always a fun occasion.
Had an awesome time last night celebrating with Joe and Mel Taylor.

The three speeches were so heartfelt.
The sermon spot on.
It’s not “love is” but rather “love becomes” I like that.

It was so cool to catch up with people from my East London past. ↑

Some folk I hadn’t seen in 8 years.
Again always so thankful for all the inspiring and encouraging people I have met along the way.

Then the DJ put on the music…
How can one not enjoying dancing?

Dance to your own beat😉

Life and it’s memorable moments.
Raise your glass!:)

Lifting up Leicester

Lifting up Leicester
I just have this get this off my chest or out of my mind.

I have never lived in Leicester.
I haven’t visited it either.
Maybe in my life, I will get to visit it one day.

Regardless if I do or not – I seriously want to celebrate with them.
They’re not even my team.
I am an avid Chelsea supporter.
But I’ve only taken a keen interest in football over the last 7 or 8 years.

I loved it when Chelsea won the champions league in 2012 and when they won the premiere league last year (2015).

I was in South Africa when we hosted the world cup in 2010.
I remember when the Springboks won the world cup back in 1995.
I have experienced some cool things.

Now, this Leicester win, there is just something about it.
The world,
The sporting world are witnessing history in the making.

Their squad is like a 10th of the value of the bigger clubs.


In all my years of knowing about football, I’ve always heard:

“Chelsea this… Manchester United this… Manchester City this… Liverpool this… Arsenal this…”

But now: LEICESTER! Wow!

The scriptures tell a story called “David and Goliath.”
Against all odds (and the help of God) – David, a small weedy guy takes on the giant and kills him.

Leicester City winning the premiere league is a modern day “David and Goliath” story.

The manager used a small squad of 23 players.
(Some of the bigger teams have a larger pool of players to draw from.)

It just feels so exciting being alive at this time to witness such a big event in history.

(Yes, some may say it’s just “sports” – however how often have we seen, how sports brings together a people, a nation.

Imagine being a resident in Leicester. You would be so ecstatic!

I’ve been following the football news over the last few hours.

Claudio Ranieri looks so grateful and so thrilled about his great achievement. Imagine how he must be feeling.

In a time where, there seems to be no loyalty among football players. A lot of them seem more concerned about their egos and their pay-cheques… LCFC showed us something different, something fresh. And what is great too is that a lot of their squad are English players. Not foreigners. That’s a very cool fact too.

And have any of you seen the lookalike of Jamie Vardy? How uncanny, someone in the same town as the football star – they’re look very similar. Wow, Lee Chapman must have been surprised when he was pulled onto the team bus.

See the article: Jamie Vardy lookalike

Anyway, this has been a fascinating Premiere League season.
Obviously have been disappointed by my team, Chelsea’s performance.
But it will be exciting to see their comeback.

Haha, now I feel better having expressed this. Take it or leave it.

For the love of the game.

21 Quotes I currently like:

These quotes where collected over the month of April.

  1. “Prayer is not a stratagem for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then.  It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self.  All things have a home: the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive.  A soul without prayer is a soul without a home.” Abraham Joshua Heschel
  2. “In all the land there is only one you, possibly two, but seldom more than sixteen.”  Amy Sedaris
  3. “If I started with the mind and will of God, viewing the rest of my life from that point of view, other details would fall into place–or at least fall into a different place.” Philip Yancey

  4. “Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein
  5. Isaiah 43:18 “Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events from long ago.”
  6. “I know some who are constantly drunk on books as other men are drunk on whiskey.” HL Mencken
  7. “This is not about strength. This is about heart. Ray, when the mayor was killed, you put yourself in harm’s way to save Felicity. Normal people, they don’t do that. Heroes do that.” (Oliver Queen aka The Arrow)
  8. “While we were all looking at the same things, we were not all looking for the same things.” Eric Elder
  9. “We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck. But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.” Ellen Goodman 
  10. “Earth is crammed with heaven
    And every bush aflame with God
    But only those who see take off their shoes.”Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  11. “I am to be a new kind of fool in this world.”  Francis of Assisi
  12. “Cleave to the teachings of Christ completely, and let go of other teachings, just as a sailor reads his compass, though other signs around him might contradict it.” Leo Tolstoy

  13. “Certain thoughts are prayers.  There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.” Victor Hugo
  14. “The purpose of a good education is to show you that there are three sides to a two-sided story.” Stanley Fish
  15. “I believed that books might save him because I knew they had so far, and because I knew the people books had saved.”  Rebecca Makkai
  16. “There are some works so luminous…so powerful that they give us strength, and force us to new undertakings. A book can play this role. ” Herve Le Tellier
  17. “She thought of the library, so shining white and new; the rows and rows of unread books; the bliss of unhurried sojourns there and of going out to a restaurant, alone, to eat.” Maud Hart Lovelace
  18. “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.  Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” Leonardo da Vinci
  19. “How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.”  Gore Vidal
  20. There always has to be a quote from Nelson Mandela: “”The purpose of freedom is to create it for others” (Fitting for Freedom day here in South Africa on the 27th April)
  21. Last one is in a form of a graphic from a brilliant movie:

walter-mitty_quote

 

Which quote is grabs your attention?

Driving for Dummies (Pedestrian Crossings)

Sigh!  A vent post.  What’s with drivers not stopping at Pedestrian crossings?  So annoying and selfish!😦

And one of the rules of the road….

  • I get it.  If pedestrians are “jay walking” – then fine, you don’t need to stop.
  • They should cross at the designated areas.
  • But when, they are there?  Regardless if there is a traffic light at the crossing or not… can you PLEASE just STOP for pedestrians?
  • Stop being so selfish and so unaware of us trying to cross the road.
  • A signs of first world thinking  is to be considerate of others on the road.  Even pedestrians.
  • Come to think of it… if drivers stopped at pedestrian crossings – then there may just be less “jay walking”
  • Because people cross anywhere these days, because they know that drivers don’t care enough to stop…
  • PLEASE be considerate!