So chuffed! My SHORT STORY got an honourable mention.
Thank you SA Writer’s College!
So chuffed! My SHORT STORY got an honourable mention.
Thank you SA Writer’s College!
Stillness, meets me.
We have no need to exchange words.
But we get each other.
The sunlight peers over the outside wall.
It bargains with the window.
Breaking through, it’s warmth kissing my cheek.
I sit here accompanied with the aroma of coffee.
And the scriptures opened.
A ritual this has become – but in fact – so much more than that – a meeting of two hearts.
Listening to the birds outside.
They’re expectant and excited about this day.
They know not to worry.
Singing songs of providence.
Let this day be filled with wonder.
Work done well.
Words spoken tenderly.
The quietness and the busyness of our lives will collide, but will we keep our composure?
(A sneaky disclaimer. Each stanza starts with the letters that spell out the word: S-T-I-L-L.)
Through the questions
Through the doubt
Through the politics
Through the rituals
Through the hurt
Your mystery remains
Your love never fails
Your mercy invites
Your touch changes me
Your reality opens my world
There is a tugging
There is a depth
There is a well
There is peace
There is just something…
They left me in my covers
Among the dust and wood
We were what seemed
An eternity of words
But we were useless
That’s how I felt
Unread unspoken unquoted
I have a message to share
And the dust and numbers don’t care
Then I was taken…
They had an idea
On display I am pointless
I was made to be held by you
To be absorbed by your mind
Something in you could be…
I am wisdom
I am truth
I am life giving
I am more than syllables and pronunciation
I am set free
Placed from one set of hands to another
The young lady the young man
Nameless to me
I hope I will remind
Fill with understanding
May I offer an answer
Wisdom and answers can be found in the most curious places
Blow the dust off my covers
Pass me on
I’m more than a display…
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…
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.”
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’.
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?
My brother retires to his room. His shoulders slumped.
Wow, he really has been looking emo…
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.
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.
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:
I’ve been writing these little pieces. Thought i’d share them with you:
I threw away the mat
That we could place things on
Because it reminded me of the unraveling.
I’m sure we stood there sure
Well in their eyes it was for certain
But oh my dear
Dispelling our darkness
Is no easy feat
Time has gone on
With these pieces what could we do?
They can remind us of things broken
Or as we know many pieces make a whole.
A puzzling effect of where we are now.
Lost and found
Breathing in breathing out.
My head is spinning.
Just as fast as this planet.
I stand here still
But its an illusion
Racing thoughts every second
When did life become so big?
I’m full of doubt and debt and desires and…
Waiting to be made.
I queue here.
Every day tasks
Dreams – big and small
Someone relies on me.
I rely on me too.
I can’t freeze frame this all.
Love had a meeting
it had this standing agreement
take it or leave it – it suggested
so isn’t it any wonder
he wonders what he feels
as he is naked before her
with all his clothes on
she wonders what it is
under his rugged rough arms
she finds her safe haven
he wonders why
his heart still skips a beat
when she walks in
she wonders how
she feels so brave
with his encouraging support
the best love is the comfortable kind
even when things are uncomfortable
love must be a wonder-ful thing
1) Which one do you like?
2) What is your interpretation of them?
I can remember what it was like in my heyday.
I stood tall. I stood confidently.
I remember their laughter in my walls.
There were nights when the rain fell hard.
My ceiling hovered over them, keeping them safe.
As they lay snug in their beds.
But that was in my heyday…
Now I barely stand in this shame-day
I can still hear their screams scratched into my walls
As I hopelessly stood there
Four days before (Christmas)
Four of them, no more.
Shame and smoldering ashes scar my remaining walls.
Shame on you.
Your curiosity (does not kill cats.)
But it kills me
I’m no tourist attraction.
It’s been three days.
And you still drive by – like my rubble is your highlight.
What for? To add to your “table talk over Christmas”
To those who have placed flowers and prayers at my palisades.
I thank you.
For a brief moment they masquerade the mourning.
Can’t even call…
Because the line is destroyed.
Besides, no one would pick up.
Rest in peace.
I notice them houses around me
The laughter and excitement of Christmas
Echo through their walls.
I recently entered a short story compo. 250 words with the theme “Load Shedding” which was hosted by WriteSmarter
My entry didn’t win. But of course, I don’t mind. I still love writing. So now that the winner has been announced I can now published my take on this theme:
It was like…
The weather was dull. The grey clouds invited me to stay indoors. I grabbed my latest book and made some plunger coffee and then snuggled into the corner of the couch. I was set.
The Daily Sun lay open on the table beside me. It displayed this week’s crossword puzzle. The challenge persuaded me to leave the story.
First clue across. ‘Nickname for South Africa’ starting with R. Easy one! Rainbow Nation. The next clue down. ‘A former president’s affectionate title’ starting with M. I jogged my memory and worked it out. Madiba.
This tug-of-war with the puzzle continued for 30 minutes. I had two words left to completion. I stood and stretched. Switched the kettle on and prepared another coffee. I stood in the middle of my kitchen peering to the world through the window. I could hear the occasional dove cooing. The wind was rustling through the leaves.
I thought of that old adage; “I live in a small house, but my windows look out on a large world.” I smiled at the mere years of my life and what I had been blessed to see thus far.
But I was stalling. The missing words lured me back. I figured out the second to last word. Final one. Starting with L: ‘when one lacks power’. 12 letters. I was out. I couldn’t see what I needed to do…
Then, it was like a light went on in my mind. The answer: Load Shedding.
If you’ve missed my short story over the last few days. Here is where all the chapters can be found and read. Please tell me what you think, if you have a moment; thank you:
CHP 1: Day 1 of Christmas
CHP 2: Day 2 of Christmas
CHP 3: Day 3 of Christmas
CHP 4: Day 4 of Christmas
CHP 5: Day 5 of Christmas
CHP 6: Day 6 of Christmas
CHP 7: Day 7 of Christmas
CHP 8 & 9: Day 8 & 9 of Christmas
CHP 10: Day 10 of Christmas
CHP 11: Day 11 of Christmas
CHP 12: Day 12 of Christmas
Thanks for supporting my blog.
This is my last post for 2014.
See you in the new year!
Day 12 – Come, he told me, pa ruppa pum-pum:
“Good morning and Merry Christmas” they both said with warm smiles as they handed me the pew notice for that service.
I had learned that names of the couple who had greeted me at the door: Chris and Sara.
I’ve worked in the church for over 10 years now. I still hold onto the small unmentioned ministries that do a whole lot God’s kingdom. One of them being the “welcoming team” at the door.
You don’t want those volunteers to be overly keen. That could put visitors off big time.
And on the flip side you don’t want to be a miserable lot either…
So they need greet people with a good balance of a warm nature and sincerity.
I decided to take a drive north for about 20 miles in my Renault Scenic, and see what little village I would end up in.
England has many quaint villages scattered all over its beautiful countryside.
The name of the village is unnecessary to know. All I wanted was to meet with my Saviour in a special and quiet way in a small church away from the masses.
There were probably about 28 of us in that service. I observed that Chris and Sara sat two pews behind me. The minister in front greeted us jovially and said that he would start the service off with a prayer and piece that has been passed through the ages. The author is UNKNOWN although some accredited to an early follower of Jesus named Josiah:
“I discovered that we can use these four terms penned by Isaiah to address God in our daily communion with Him.
Isaiah 9: 6 says ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’
So perhaps for an inward and outward spiritual journey, one could address God using those four terms. As many saints fast or prayer for 40 days; how about we take those titles and use each one for 10 days each as we prayer and commune with our very real Saviour.
I don’t want to prescribe too much what you ‘should’ say but rather share an example of what you ‘could’ say:
In a time of many ideas and religious ways, I pray you lead me in the way everlasting. Counsel me in selfless decisions and acts.
I lay on my back in the desert and look up and attempt counting the stars. I keep losing count. And then as if you were playing with me, you send a shooting star. And I marvel at how with just one word you spoke ALL the stars into existence. Oh Mighty God!
Direct me, comfort me, protect me and teach me. You are sovereign and yet I am allowed to call you, Father. My heart can’t comprehend that. But know that I am forever grateful.
Prince of Peace,
I sense there is unrest brewing in some parts of our nation. I see that where people’s greed and selfishness step in, so does violence. We long for a peace. And there is profound peace in You.
Oh prince of Peace, reign over our frail hearts and lives and make us strong.
Those words penned many years ago, resonated with me on that Christmas morning.
I am still convinced of the reality and relevance of Jesus even today, now in 2014.
My prayer with that these 12 days of Christmas, won’t just stop.
But the message and love and grace of the Christmas story will continue to live in your lives.
The question is, will you let it?