Category Archives: short fiction

Tony Williams’ All the Bananas I’ve Never Eaten

 
 
 
Tony Williams grew up in Matlock, Derbyshire, lived for a decade in Sheffield and now lives in Alnwick. He teaches creative writing at Northumbria University, but previously worked as an environmental charity worker, dogsbody in a French restaurant, and custodian of a disused lead mine. He was also a failed child wrestler. He writes poetry and prose fiction. His first collection of poetry, The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street, was published by Salt and shortlisted for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and the Portico Prize for Literature.
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Who are the stars of these brief lives? A boy who steals a trundlewheel. An astronaut. A betrayed wife. A man jealous of his lover’s chickens. Commuters. Glampers. Psychotic twins. What do they have in common? Nothing – except the funny-haha and funny-strange conditions of their lives that bring them joy or misery and make us laugh at them and pity them and love them too.

What happens when you lose both your eyes to squash accidents? When you inherit a shop full of curios? When you fall for the spirit of a famous murderer? When your son’s a tramp? When the one you love is about to kill herself? Or has the Ganges delta in her bloodshot eye? When your butcher doesn’t know anything about meat? Discovering the answers to these questions will knock you sideways – and show that the more we understand about people’s oddity, the more we come to appreciate their essential humanity.

In these tiny stories, written over a period of a few short months, Tony Williams pushes the limits of prose fiction, homing in on the moments that sum up lifetimes and their complicated, bittersweet emotions. Each story crams a whole world into a couple of pages – you can sneak them one at a time whenever you have a spare minute, or gobble the lot – with a cast of hundreds – in a single day.”
 
 
 
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“These tiny fragile stories are stuffed to the brim with wit and energy and love. Their architecture is perfect, as if a thousand complex worlds had been painted onto a grain of rice. If you’re like me you’ll want to read them over and over to unearth their secrets and find out why they leave such a long and lovely aftertaste.”

– David Gaffney
 
 
 
“Tony Williams has a special talent for assembling the magical out of the mundane – whether that be pub carpets, satnavs, mattresses or bananas. These short short stories often deal in pain, in death, in loss and loneliness, in absence, in anger and in shame, but Williams always makes sure that fragments of hope emerge, like the music of an oboe, that short burst of happiness that lights up the dark.”

– Tania Hershman
 
 
 
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When Rachel left
 
 
When Rachel left I started getting these dreams. You’d call them nightmares: I’d wake up sweating in the night, hearing myself speaking the last half of sentences – I daren’t repeat them. Vivid, curly dreams, like pub carpets, as if I’d gorged myself on blue cheese and whisky before I went to bed. Which, sometimes, I had.

In the morning I woke up and stared at the ceiling. The whole room was white, as Rachel had wanted it, and the after-images of my dreams would be projected up, like I was a millionaire with a TV screen for a roof showing the works of Hieronymous Bosch animated by Brian Eno. I lay there and watched it till it faded. The fading made me sad, and one day in the moment before I got up to make a cup of coffee I decided to make the vision permanent.

It took a weekend to put up three good coats of white gloss as an undercoat. I wanted the ceiling to sing. Then I went down to the hobby shop and bought a set of camel-hair brushes and a lot of money’s worth of paint. Crimson, mainly. And gold.

I did the ceiling in a kind of grid, though lizard’s tails and scallops of lace and fronds and beetles leapt over the edges of the squares. In the squares I did stern portraits of the stars – Knight Rider and Princess Di and Brucie and Tim Berners-Lee – and of course a fair few of my mother and other relatives like that. Sometimes I invented a coat of arms if the person didn’t have one and I thought they deserved it. All around the grid I did flowers and horrible creatures, and once I’d done all that I went back and filled in the gaps with writing. I knew what I wanted to say, but the writing took the most time of all because I wanted it to be neat.

Once I’d finished the ceiling I celebrated with a takeaway and a shave. And then I started on the walls – first of the bedroom, then of the landing, and then all over the house. The man at the hobby shop, he’s my friend. I painted each door differently: a map, a giant bar of chocolate, the cover of my favourite book, a door. I painted the inside of the bath with sea monsters and the faces of everyone who’s ever presented Countryfile. I lie in it at night, soaking the paint off my body, naked in the cauldron of the gods.
 
 
 
 
The division room
 
 
Some people go their whole lives without realising they have no soul. Then they get to the division room and a buzzer goes off and they’re herded into a separate queue. They have to watch the others shuffling off to paradise. Sometimes a couple are killed in a car crash and one goes in and the other joins the line of the soulless, and they in particular make a lot of fuss.

‘But I listened to Dvořák,’ they say.

‘I read The Leopard.’

‘I wept over my son’s dyslexia.’

‘I’m a vicar.’

St Peter shakes his head and shows them the x-ray. They won’t believe it. So he borrows a compact from one of the women, blesses it, and holds it up in front of them. And it is one of the small mercies of the Lord that however they stare and search they will never see the terror in their own faces, although they see it in each other’s and know that it is real.
 
 
 
 
from All the Bananas I’ve Never Eaten (Salt Publishing, 2012).

Order All the Bananas I’ve Never Eaten.
 
 
 
 
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Andrea Ashworth’s Somewhere Else, or Even Here

 
 
 
Somewhere Else, or Even Here
A. J. Ashworth

ISBN 9781844718801
Salt Publishing
(November 2011)
 
 
We love stories. We crave them. Whether it’s watching films, reading books, going to the theatre or listening to gossip – we need them. And we need to be surrounded by them. Writers, being curiously obsessive creatures, are hooked on them. So hooked that they want to make their own stories – for as much of the time as possible – and for the stories they make to have meaning, for themselves and others.

I wanted to make stories from quite a young age. My first such memory was of sitting in my bedroom at about the age of six or so and making a book of poems. I still have it. It’s a little dog-eared now but it’s surviving. It has a cut-out of a rose stuck on the front and is rather inventively called ‘My book of poems’. Inside are a scattering of poems, in various colours of felt tip, about the seaside or flowers in a window box. And there’s an interesting type of binding which has somehow lasted more than thirty years – staples (now rusted).
 
I didn’t have to design or bind my short story collection Somewhere Else, or Even Here – thankfully my publishers Salt did that. I just had to worry about what was inside – the stories themselves.
 
Writing them was an intriguing, and, at times, difficult process. When I started out on the collection, about four years ago, I had no overall plan for it, no unifying subject or theme. I just wrote one story at a time and kept going. Each story was unplanned too. For me, there’s nothing better than feeling as if I’m in new, unknown territory when I’m writing – it’s like being an explorer. Only, you’re not discovering new continents or planets, you’re discovering something else – something new that you yourself are writing into existence.
 
The stories are all quite different – from child narrators to the elderly; failing relationships to failing health. And there are certain themes which have emerged in the collection too, such as astronomy, loss and hope. There’s a darkness to many of the stories, but, as with yin and yang, where there’s darkness there’s light. It’s strange how, as the writer, you don’t always see everything that the stories you’ve created contain. It’s like being blind to yourself. Which, I suppose, to a greater or lesser degree, we all are.
  
So what about the inspiration behind the stories? Well, sometimes there didn’t seem to be any obvious trigger at all. Stories such as ‘Sometimes Gulls Kill Other Gulls’ or ‘Overnight Miracles’ began after the first sentences dropped into my head, seemingly from nowhere. ‘Gulls’, about a girl on a beach who is lured away to a cave by a boy, just started with the words “A stick scraping over sand”, and from this I got the idea of a girl writing her name in the sand and a boy coming up to talk to her. It was only when I sat down to write it that the story began to open out in front of me, like a path revealing itself, one piece at a time.
 
‘Overnight Miracles’ was the same. This tells the story of a bereaved woman who starts performing magic rituals in a desperate bid to try to bring her dead husband back to life. With this one I just had the sentence “We are in the blackest part of night now”, and from this I somehow knew that this woman was in bed and aware of something lying next to her in the dark – a presence that she could only feel but not see.
 
‘Bone Fire’ had a more obvious genesis: this story of a troubled boy who drags a bonfire into the basement of his school was inspired by a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. On the day I went there was an exhibition of photographs showing groups of children standing in front of some rickety bonfires they’d made. I jotted down my impressions of the exhibition in a notebook and when I later sat down to write, I wondered about what might happen if one of the boys decided to carry out an act of destruction using such a bonfire. The story was the result of those ponderings.
 
One aspect of writing the collection which really fascinated me was the effects gained from using different points of view. ‘Zero Gravity’ features a gang of girls, so it seemed logical to use first person plural (we) for most of the story, but to shift this to first person when one of the girls breaks free and begins to narrate the story herself. I enjoyed the feeling of writing in second person (you) as this gives a sense of dislocation, of separation, of being outside of things – something which can help to create an almost otherworldly atmosphere, giving stories a different kind of charge.
 
I loved going through the process of putting a collection together, especially when I didn’t even have the bones of a plan to hang the stories onto. It was a great surprise when my manuscript was chosen as one of three winners of Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize last year – something which I didn’t expect to happen but which I’m so glad has. I am going to continue to write more stories in the months and years ahead. New stories, slightly off-kilter stories, the kinds of stories that will hopefully give me that thrill of discovery again. It’s that feeling of being somewhere else that I want – that sense of being in another place. The thought that, while the landscape may seem somewhat familiar, it’s really no place that I’ve ever visited before.
 
 
 
Order Somewhere Else, or Even Here here, here or here.
 
Visit Andrea’s blog.
 
 
 
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A. J. Ashworth was born and brought up in Lancashire and has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam University. Her short story collection Somewhere Else, or Even Here won Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize and was published by them in November 2011. Her stories have been published widely, in the likes of The Warwick Review, Horizon Review, Tears in the Fence and Under the Radar. They have also been listed in competitions such as The Willesden Herald International Short Story Competition, the Fish Short Story Prize and the Short Fiction Competition.
 
 
 

Cassandra Parkin on New World Fairy Tales

 
 
 
New World Fairy Tales
Cassandra Parkin
ISBN 9781844718818
Salt Publishing
(December 2011)

  
  
Like most writers, my childhood was soaked in fairy tales. Even before I could read properly I spent hours poring over the illustrations of my Ladybird editions of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin and reciting the text from memory. Slightly older, I was fixated on my mother’s hardback edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham and very little expurgated.
  
I think it’s impossible to overestimate the debt we owe to these stories, or the number of times and ways we retell them. They’re some of the very first narratives we learn; they tell us the things we human beings need to know to understand each other, in ways that have meaning whether you’re four or ninety. They deal with the very bones of life – birth and death, love and jealousy, sex and violence … They’re dark and bloody and sexy and visceral, and in interviewing their tellers and recording their voices, the Grimm brothers undertook one of the greatest acts of cultural preservation of the last five centuries.
 
But there’s no getting away from it – almost everything about them is weird. They’re heavy on action, but oddly light on explanation. A whole bunch of stuff happens; why it happens is up to you. Why does Chicken Licken believe Foxy Loxy when he tells her the King lives in a hole in the ground? Why does the Princess love her golden ball so much that she’ll kiss a frog to get it back, and what on earth did he do to end up a frog in the first place? Why, exactly, are seven adult men, all with dwarfism, living together in an isolated cottage with no female company? How could a teenage girl mistake a large carnivorous predator for her grandmother? Why are all the princesses beautiful and all the witches ugly? Why does Death want a Godson? How can pigs build houses, and why do they share a common language with wolves? Why does Cinderella hide away from the Prince? What the hell is going on?
 
The easy answer is “Well, they’re all metaphors, aren’t they?”, and of course, in many ways, they all are. But I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to re-tell some of the original narratives as modern, believable, adult stories – tales where real people with real lives really do fall in love with a masked stranger, or climb the beanstalk and rob the giant, or discover a beautiful prisoner trapped in a tower by a witch. I wanted to find the real-life equivalents of Godfather Death and the Wicked Stepsisters and the many, many Big Bad Wolves, and tell their stories for modern audiences. The result was New World Fairy Tales.
 
The most exciting part of writing the collection was exploring how much – or, more accurately, how little – I had to change to make the tales work in a contemporary setting. While some elements (Jack’s beanstalk) found their place as symbols, others (seven workmates with dwarfism) work surprisingly well with no amendments at all. Names, puns and modern colloquialisms felt as though they’d been expressly designed for some of the animal stories. Even elements which seem, at first glance, to belong entirely to the world of Faerie – such as the power of knowing someone’s true name – turn out to be surprisingly true. I found out one afternoon that there really is a fabric so light and delicate that a small garment made from it could feasibly be compressed into a walnut shell. It’s made from the filament tufts used by molluscs to attach themselves to rocks, and it’s fabulously expensive.
 
The decision to place New World Fairy Tales in America came very early on. If you’re British, America is as close to the original landscape of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as you’ll ever get. I don’t mean this in a flowery oh-my-gosh-your-country-is-so-amazing way (although it is). I just mean that if you stand in Britain, look out across the ocean, and then compare the two landscapes – America and Fairyland – they come out very similar. America contains all possible spaces and places; mountains and deserts and plains and oceans, great cities and curtain-twitching suburbs and tiny, isolated rural hamlets. It’s composed of many kingdoms, loosely federated, each with their own distinctive culture and autonomous power. Getting there requires a long and arduous journey, and when you arrive at the border, it’s weirdly difficult to get in. Its population is at once more devout and more violent than we are; when we visit, we tread softly and are cautious with what we say, and to whom we say it. Even if we’ve never been before, it looks strangely familiar – after all, we’ve been there so often in our dreams. Its citizens speak our language, but also … don’t.
 
Oh, the language, my goodness, the language. When I look back on the start of the New World Fairy Tales project, my main emotion is utter bafflement at myself – “Hey, I know! I’ll write an entire short-story collection in a language I don’t actually speak, set in a country I’ve never lived in!” What was I thinking? How much more arrogant could a writer possibly be? But there was never any question for me that these fairy tales belonged in the New World. Learning to reproduce what I hope are convincing American voices was a humbling and wonderful journey. I spent hours emailing and chatting to my unbelievably kind and patient Stateside friends, trying to learn the rhythms and cadences of American speech. I read, and listened, and talked, and questioned, and then read and talked and listened and questioned some more (seriously guys, thank you for everything you did and for all the stupid questions you answered). Even at the final proof stage I was still frantically combing through my manuscript for rogue instances of Brit-speak. I’m sure there are still places where, despite my best efforts, my roots are showing.
 
Choosing which stories to include in my submission to Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize was a bit of a balancing act. I wanted to reflect the wild diversity of the Grimm brothers’ original collection – to include not just the romances, but also the horrors and the comedies and the mysteries, and the tales that are frankly too strange to be categorised. And all in only forty-five thousand words! Since Salt’s list includes some of the most scarily talented short-story writers of our time, I almost didn’t submit at all … Eight months after the announcement of the 2011 prize-winners, I still can’t quite believe I’m one of them.
 
 
 
Order New World Fairy Tales here or here.
 
Visit Cassandra’s blog.
 
 
 
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Cassandra Parkin has a Master’s degree in English Literature from York University, and has been writing fiction all her life – mostly as Christmas and birthday presents for friends and family. She is married with two children, has so far resisted her clear destiny to become a mad old cat lady, and lives in a small but perfectly-formed village in East Yorkshire. New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing, 2011) is her first published book.
 
 

Bobby Parker’s Digging for Toys

 
 
 
Bobby Parker was born in 1982 in Kidderminster, England. He crawled his way through nightmares and freak shows to bring you these poems and stories. Bobby was selected as Purple Patch Small Press Poet of the Year in 2008, and his work has been published in various magazines in print and online.
 
 
 
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Especially If It’s Raining

   
 
I am the man talking to himself at the bus stop,
pockets full of charity shop trinkets, watching
a breeze toy with summer skirts, telling
stories that end abruptly, like relationships.
 
Pigeons love me. Pigeons make sense, you know,
they are always asking questions and stumbling
into the road. Don’t feed them: it’s enough to
acknowledge their plight. Let them peck your boots.
 
My head is full of crazy cartoon characters
chasing vampires and slipping on banana peels.
I don’t make eye-contact with pretty girls.
 
When I speak to myself it confuses people but
people are easily confused, especially if they work
hard at a job they hate. Especially if it’s raining.
 
And when I go home to a haunted house
you better believe I’ve had enough: those terrible
faces staring from the number ten bus
tell me more than my therapist ever could.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Just Blue
 
 
If there were no sick days
clinging to doorways and hallways
from bedroom to bathroom
to trim a ginger beard and stare
at blue towels, I would choose
that peach scented invitation
to follow you home and fall over.
Comb a few cheap words
through your hair.
Fix your record player.
But my mind is broken.
My days are spent folding
sheets and pillows
into the shape of sleeping bodies.
Listening to my neighbours having sex.
I could pick up the phone
if my hands didn’t feel so at home
flicking the lights on and off.
For every car that passes the window
a shadow runs around the room
and hides behind an empty chair.
It reminds me of someone …
This is what it takes to be a sick
writer in a demon part of town
waiting for you waiting for you.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
The Silent Man 
 
 
Our line drifted in the rolling humps
of green sea below the pier. Dad smoked
a stinking cigarette, indifferent, my moody
monosyllabic hero. The line tightened,
I slowly pulled a twitching crab
into our silent world and up
onto the pier, its pincers rattling on the cement.
We looked at it for a while. The sun
skipped off seawater puddles
and grinned inside my empty bucket.
We didn’t know how to pull out the hook.
Dad cursed under his breath and nudged
the stupid crab with one of his holiday shoes.
He lifted it into the air. My mother
watched us from the beach, waving as she took
a photograph of father and son
holding a blurred problem between them.
He tossed the crab into the bucket
along with the line and the orange handle
and when he sighed, I sighed
and when the sky darkened, dad’s face
darkened, and when the rain touched my face
he lit another cigarette and started walking.

 

*
 
 
 
Holy 
 
 
I’d like to explain my friend John.
 
He is borderline autistic and doesn’t seem to know right
from wrong.
 
His hair is long and dyed purple-black. His clothes smell
like rotting fish. Sometimes he turns up with hundreds of
pounds in his pocket and no idea where he got the money.
 
When he laughs it is a small miracle, like fumbling a glass of
wine and catching it midair without missing a beat.
 
He let me see the inside of his house for the first time the
other day. We have always wondered what it might be like
in there.
 
It is mostly empty – John sells almost anything of value so
he can maintain a steady supply of sweets and energy
drinks.
 
The living room has a single bed facing an old television.
His three hundred pound mother sits propped against the
pillows eating nachos all day.
 
There is a picture of Bart Simpson (half coloured in) on the
wall above the bed, pinned there, John said, since he drew it
when he was four years old.
 
The kitchen is full of yellowed comic books and empty pizza
boxes.
 
John has had girlfriends in the past, but when I’ve seen him
with them he just hugs them tightly and stares into the
distance, seldom speaking, and only then to express his
desire to own the products advertised on television.
 
Girls sense a moody sensitivity in John at first, and then
they realise something isn’t right with him.
 
He has the names of three different girls tattooed on his
arms.
 
He nearly killed himself over the last girl who broke up
with him. I don’t think he understands how final death is,
that The Simpsons are not real.
 
John had nowhere to live for a while, so we put him up on
our sofa. At night we barricaded our bedroom door with the
junk we keep under the bed.
 
He used to carry a huge hunting knife tucked into his jeans
until I confiscated it.
 
I don’t think he would hurt anybody, but I wouldn’t like to
put a bet on that; not that he’s evil or anything, he is kind of
holy, not knowing right from wrong makes him rather pure.
 
The other day I asked him to bring me a bottle of beer and
he came back with washing up liquid.
 
I keep thinking of a photograph I saw beside his mother’s
bed, John as a baby; it makes me so sad that my jaw aches.
 
I have a weakness for outsiders, strays and weirdos. They
deserve happiness just like the rest of us, except too many
people feel they can make life difficult for people like John
because they don’t understand him.
 
Well, John is good company if you don’t mind long silences,
if you want someone to agree with everything you say and
if you need to compare yourself with someone who is truly
lost.
 
Not lost in the way that we’re all trying to be found by
something we can’t quite describe, but lost in the sense that
sometimes angels lose their way, and wander the earth with
confused eyes, like a dog spooked by something banging in
the distance.
 
 
 
from Digging For Toys (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2011).
 
Order Digging for Toys.
 
 
 
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Five short excerpts from The Edge of Things

  
 
 
The Edge of Things (Dye Hard Press, 2011) consists of 24 South African short stories selected by Arja Salafranca. The contributors are Jayne Bauling, Arja Salafranca, Liesl Jobson, Gillian Schutte, Karina Magdalena Szczurek, Jenna Mervis, Jennifer Lean, Fred de Vries, Margie Orford, Aryan Kaganof, Bernard Levinson, Hamilton Wende, Pravasan Pillay, Beatrice Lamwaka, Hans Pienaar, Rosemund Handler, Tiah Beautement, Angelina N Sithebe, Jeanne Hromnik, David wa Maahlamela, Perd Booysen, Gail Dendy, Silke Heiss and Dan Wylie.
 
 
Arja Salafranca’s debut collection of short stories, The Thin Line, was published by Modjaji Books in 2010. She has published two collections of poetry, A life Stripped of Illusions, and The Fire in Which we Burn. Her poetry is also collected in Isis X (Botsotso). She received the 2010 Dalro Award for poetry and has twice received the Sanlam Award, for fiction and poetry. She edits the Life supplement in The Sunday Independent and is studying toward an MA in Creative Writing at Wits University.  
 
 
 
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“The Edge of Things is an eclectic collection of short stories traversing a vast distance emotionally and intellectually. For example, Arja Salafranca’s moving story about a woman forced to live in a restrictive apparatus in ‘Iron Lung’ is a million miles away stylistically from Aryan Kaganof’s tale of decadence and debauchery on a night out in Durban in ‘Same Difference’. … Liesl Jobson’s ‘You Pay for The View: Twenty Tips for Super Pics’ is a series of verbal snapshots of pivotal moments of a mother trying to find a connection with her children. It is written with poignancy and deep longing. ‘Doubt’ by Gillian Schutte is an examination of how passion can seep out of a marriage once the chase is over and when feelings of irrelevance grow due to being part of a couple.”

– Janet Van Eeden, LitNet
 
 
 
“There are 24 pieces here, some of which qualify as short stories, others more like prose poems and descriptions of emotional experiences. Relationships are central, aloneness integral and fictional reality flexible. The collection displays a variety of writing styles. It includes pieces by some of South Africa’s well-known writers, but also some gems from lesser knowns, including Beatrice Lamwaka’s prize-worthy ‘Trophy’ and Dan Wylie’s tour-de-force, ‘Solitude’.”

Cape Times
 
 
 
 
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You Pay For The View: Twenty Tips For Super Pics
Liesl Jobson
 
 
3.  Kill the flash
1998 – Bryanston, Sandton, Alexandra
 
Behind the lens I was possessed. I stood between the cars on Jan Smuts Avenue at sunset for a feature on traffic for the weekly community paper where I’d landed my first job. I composed drivers’ faces that squinted in the low light, homeward bound.
 
To catch the taillights, red as the sky, I turned my back to the drivers for their silhouette, impervious to danger. When the circus came to town, the elephant enclosure caught my eye. I unclipped the flash and edged in slowly to avoid startling the beast. The deep creases in its skin, the bright circle of its eye drew me in. A group of children gathered at the gate, keen for adventure. The elephant looked primal, flapped its ears, but I had super powers. The right shot would make front page. I worked the angle, pulling in closer. Disengaging eventually from the viewfinder to put in a new roll of film I snapped from my trance. The children had followed me in. We were all too close.
 
 
 
 
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Doubt
Gillian Schutte
 
 
She is walking on the side path of her married life – as she has been doing for a few years now. She has created this well-worn path out of necessity because the central path is cluttered up with ‘ifs’ and ‘whys’ and ‘maybes’. After years of clearing up others’ paths she is just too tired to bend down and pick up her own doubts. Besides there are very few empty spaces left to pack them. This circumvented pathway has led her to many possible encounters – mainly with men in white shoes. So far she has sidestepped them all – only slightly grateful for the amorous glint in the eyes of the wearers.
 
One day she collides with a tall man in tasteful black leathers. She, prudent by habit, looks into the horizon, for she has in her memory bank the knowledge that the heave she feels in her bosom could only mean trouble. In such circumstances any response could cause a hasty and astonished retreat, and this hardly seems right to her because if someone appears on her pathway, it is unfair that a natural chemistry should compel her to feel like the intruder. She sidesteps the man in the knowledge that it is already too late to steel herself against the onslaught of previously repressed passions and that this is sure to establish a penitentiary of emotional incoherence rather than her usual free will and forthrightness.
 
 
 
 
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Telephoning The Enemy
Hans Pienaar
 
 
Pretoria, January, 1983
 
Victim number two: Johnny had to go all the way to Pretoria North to fetch his big box of slides because none of us had a photograph of Suzy. Now people hang around the dining room table and look at the slides of her, which Johnny took when she was on holiday with us. Most slides did not come out good, something about melting in the sun, but you can still see that she was a sexy woman, long tanned legs without any varicose veins, not a single one, although she was 36 already.
 
That’s why Johnny took so many slides of her. That’s why she didn’t last: she was too sexy. Her lover did not pitch up here. He never will, the pig. When the bomb exploded, he went off like he saw the green flag on Kyalami, instead of trying to help people.
 
I mean, can you believe this guy! It was him who got her to play hide and seek and always meet him on the other side of the block so that the people at work would not see them together. She would never have walked past the bomb otherwise.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Sepia
Angelina N Sithebe
 
 
Two months later Jean received an unsigned email: I was terrified. I felt I was on an express train to an unknown destination. Before you were a shadow, now you have a face. I still dream about you.
 
Jean’s answer was brief: I long for you more. Where and when? What changed?
 
Sanele replied: I thought we might not have even three hundred and fifty hours to live; we don’t have the luxury of waiting three hundred and fifty years while we equalise the past to at least try to discover each other. Tell me where the contaminated beach is.
 
It took another two weeks before they made it to the bungalow in Vilankulo in Mozambique. ‘Is this the place of your dreams?’
 
Jean asked as he led her on the beach.
 
Sanele nodded. ‘I’m Judas.’
 
‘You’ll deceive nobody except us.’
 
‘I’ll disgrace all black people and future generations for four centuries of conquest and oppression.’
 
‘You can’t reverse history.’
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
Bus From Cape Town
David wa Maahlamela
 
 
When I told my friend I had made love to a stranger, with tons of arrogance he was like: ‘Yeah dude, I also did that before.’ ‘Inside the bus,’ I added. ‘Was it standing?’ ‘No, it was on the road’. I started seeing a storm of questions blustering from his face, his eyes gleaming enthusiasm. ‘Were there passengers inside?’ ‘Of course, yes!’ I replied. ‘Tell me you’re joking. How did you do it? How did it happen? Where? I mean …’ He curiously confused me with questions. I didn’t even know which one to answer first. ‘Hooooh, relax broer. I will explain everything.’
 
He moved his chair closer to mine and sat directly opposite to me, with eyes that said: ‘Go on. I’m all ears.’ Even though Aryan Kaganof says that writing about a nasty event is a lot less nasty than the event itself, with my friend I knew I had to try and tell it as it was.
 
To be honest, writers do not write everything about themselves. There’s a certain locked shelf which is always untouched, hence they know exactly the impression they are intending to give their readers. My birthday holiday to Cape Town ended up being filed in this do-not-touch shelf, but after seeing how thrilled and fascinated my friend was when I was sharing with him about this adventurous trip, I thought … why don’t I hide this little secret of mine in a book despite how earthly saints will judge me? After all, blessed are those who admit their sins, right?
 
 
 
 
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The Edge of Things is available from Exclusive Books countrywide,
retail price R185.
 
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