Friday, July 09, 2010

'Just Have Hope'

Been working on a short prologue, a taster of a new non-fiction book set in Northern Ireland and South Africa.

PROLOGUE

A hand trembles on a closed door. It is a simple barrier inside a small corridor sealed from the township.

"Duu-mehla, Laaa-feyla … "
"Duumu Laaaa'feyla"
"Duu-mehla, Laaa-feyla … "
"Duumu Laaaa'feyla"


I can hear no dogs, nor feel the familiar sting of the cooking fires. But for the aging female chorus, the township is silent.

"Everything is fine"
"Just have faith"
"Just have hope"
"Everything is fine."


Here are the women, marching in a line, gold teeth flashing, heavy chests swaying.

Matron, a formidable figure, the matriarch, but with a heart of gold. Tshidi, our deputy, who lost her husband but found a new life with the hospice. Then Mildred, faithful Mildred, who runs it all and whose mummy we buried not long ago. Patricia is here, the lead choirister – and competitive she is too! – before last-in-line our creche manager, holding one of her young charges as she sings.

"Duu-mehla, Laaa-feyla … "
"Duumu Laaaa'feyla"
"Duu-mehla, Laaa-feyla … "
"Duumu Laaaa'feyla"


Ah. It is the funeral lament. You might call it the township song.

"Everything is fine"
"Just have faith"
"Just have hope"
"Everything is fine."


The wind has whipped up. Ochre dust blows through the walls of the compound. Now I can taste the fires on the back of my throat. And something else.

Blood.

"Duu-mehla, Laaa-feyla …"

The undertaker is outside. The gurney is wheeled out. The door is open, the singing thunderous.

"Everything is fine … "

The shroud drops. A white hand slips...

Then I am looking down at my own face.

Oh God. Oh God.

*

No comments: