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.

*

Random fiction extract

Random fiction – extract from a work I called 'The Lost'.


The stink of fish. It lingered over the dockside. The rusting hulks of ancient liners bobbed slowly on the swell. The young man crooked his head up to the now-covered sun, bright behind the veil of cloud. He appeared lost in thought.

A tattoo sat on the young man’s arm. He looked down at it. He remembered.

From across the bay thin filters of smoke lifted from burning dumps, the acrid tang of rubber and waste coating the back of his nostrils. He coughed and spat in disgust, cursing his luck.

The note on the portakabin said the Wansella had already sailed. That meant another day, two, maybe a week before the next boat out of here.

He stretched. The wake was always slow. The sun warmed his back, lent strength to his shoulders. He was tired. The night had been long, unforgiving.

He got up, walked down to the quayide and bought some raw cockles. The fisherman gestured, offering something that he took to be vinegar. The sour taste burned for a moment on his dry tongue. The fisherman smiled, went behind the counter, then surfaced again holding a bottle of dark liquor.

‘Raki?’

The taste melted the last of the vinegar. He shook, then composed himself in the lea of a shed. He looked over at the hanging nets, wondering how the fishermen suffered it – each day, in and out, at the mercy of the ocean.

Early morning sun flashed and caught the bronze of his forearm again. That squirming shape.

“Michael, Michael!”

He turned back to the hangar.

“Don’t worry,” said the voice. She had slipped close, surprising him. He turned as her arms drifted over his shoulders. Her smiling face was planted close to his. She tickled his nose with one insolent finger.

He grinned, inspite of himself.

They had met just a few week’s before. Picking fruit up in the north, near Macedonia. Iskander's country.