Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘vignettes’


image of small child

I was born in filthy weather. Sheets of rain fell on the dry, cracked earth creating a red mess. It was as if the earth had spewed up its internal core – all over our small town. Dark eyes could be seen at every window, watching the stinging rain with interest, as if the rain never came. But it was the wind that interested them. They’d never seen such howling gales, or trees bent backwards with so much force they might snap and Mrs Omar’s cat lifted in the air and flung across the road. Mr Minks survived.

Mother said the earth was angry that day and I figured it must have been angry because I was born. My birth day was something she feared.

‘Highly superstitious your mother,’ my Father told me as I sat on his knee and looked into his dark eyes hovering high above me. ‘She thinks there is something to fear in you, but I see only light.’ He winked at me and I snuggled my face into his itchy shirt.

She didn’t like the bond between Father and I. She’d frown on these occasions. Her dark hair would frame her frustration and make her look like the witches I saw in my fairytale books. Dark, brooding and self-obsessed.

‘You have the devil in you child,’ she’d say as she pulled me off my Father’s kneed and shoved my yellow-white hair back away from my face to reveal a bright star-shaped birth mark on my forehead.

‘Or an angel. It’s a star Loretta,’ my Father winked at me as he spoke to my mother. I was white in a dark man’s world my father said. Albino, I often heard them say touching my hair as if it was magical and powerful. My Mother didn’t like the attention I drew.

Still, we got a long carefully until I was five. She would look at me with suspicion and I would smile back. She’d shake her head and tut as she wiggled her hips through the housework.

Our uneasy relationship ended when she met The Prophet.

The church stood alone on the dirt track and she’d sway her hips up to it every Sunday. Father and I would tag along behind her while she sang. That Sunday the new Prophet came to the church. He stopped in the middle of his sermon when he saw me.

‘This child,’ he said pointing at my hair. ‘This child is marked. This child is a witch and we must do what we can to cast out the witch from our town.’

My Mother turned and nodded with the others. ‘Praise the Lord,’ she said.

I looked up to my Father who looked graver than I’d ever seen him. He put his arm around me and drew me close. ‘Come, let’s go now child,’ he said quietly and pushed me out the door.

To be continued.

© running with the beagle 2010

http://www.steppingstonesnigeria.org/

Read Full Post »


The Lady was restless. She sat in her white wicker chair and looked out across Inya Lake. The frangipani trees rustled in the wind and she tilted her head up to breathe in their sweet smell. She wished the rain would come. The dust from the long Yangon summer was permanently suspended in the air and stuck in her throat. She wanted the rain to fall on the soft clay earth. She wanted to hear its heavy, soft rhythm – thud, thud, thud. It would cleanse the city as the waters snaked their way through the streets to take away the filth to the rivers. And there it would sit, coffee-coloured, like a disease waiting to spread.

She looked at Inya Lake through the razor wire – a makeshift prison to remind her of her house arrest. She longed to walk the streets of Yangon again – stroll around Shwe Dagon Pagoda and breathe the humid damp air in the old cathedrals. She remembered the flowering trees in Maha Bandoola Park. Their yellow blossoms so full and rich, they dripped with life. How she longed to breathe their perfume.

The blue waters of Inya Lake were calm and serene. They showed no hint of a dying country. Her eyes floated across the lake; the still water said nothing back to her.

A moment passed. A splash. Movement. The Lady squinted and leaned in to watch the commotion in the water. A moving object. Or a person? The unnatural movement told her it was not an animal.

She continued to stare across the smooth expanse of the lake broken by the turbulent water moving closer. It was a man. He looked like some sort of frog man with strange webbed feet and a clunky snorkel strapped to his head. He was heavy-set. Not some young student who’d decided to swim out to her house to show his allegiance. It had happened once before.

The Lady sat quietly and watched the man move forward. A number of locals stopped on the bridge and peered at the man. He was moving toward her.

The guards standing outside her house stood to attention. Alert, but unmoved by the man swimming with less elegance than a water buffalo. The Lady thought he would tire soon enough and perhaps drown; the lake was deep in parts. She wondered if she could persuade one of the guards to help him if that happened. She doubted the guards could swim.

The man kept moving forward, splashing and lapping at the water until he pulled his bedraggled, paunchy frame out of the water. A white man. The Lady sighed. What on earth was he doing here? A ruddy face and pale white skin – he was British.

His board shorts clung to him, sticky and dripping with the stagnant water. He squelched and squeaked his way up to the Lady’s house. The guards stood to attention, ready to pounce as he neared. Then he went out of sight under a hill.

The Lady sunk back into her chair. Perhaps he wasn’t a fanatic supporter of hers. Perhaps he was an expat, high on heroin and dared to do this stunt by fellow expats sitting back at the Inya Lake hotel, drinking gin and tonics as the sun went down. Whatever it was, she was glad it didn’t implicate her and wanted no further part of it.

She turned back to her novel and decided she’d done enough reading for today. She stood up and moved out to her garden to tend to her plants. It was a kind of freedom – something she was still able to do. The frangipani flowers, melting from the heat had fallen on the thick grass and left white dots scattered across the garden, almost like a bread crumb trail. Her eyes followed the trail and stopped when she saw him, standing in her garden.

The water dripped from him like fat monsoonal rain and fell on his feet encased in black and yellow flippers. The Lady drew in a sharp breath.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Don’t be alarmed, I haven’t come here to hurt you – I just wanted to see you.”

“Stop!” The guard cried. “Don’t move.”

Inspired by John Yettaw http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suu_Kyi_trespasser_incidents

© running with the beagle 2010

Read Full Post »


It’s real here.  Inner city.  Urban and gritty.  In-your-face.  Not like where you grew up where the green lawns were mowed every four weeks and glassy-eyed mums and dads with their automatic smiles waved as you rode your bike up the street.  The family home was once so untouchable and innocent.  Now you drive past the street and it looks sinister and lonely.  The trees that used to frame the sky have been knocked down to make way for extensions and subdivisions.  There’s too much sky.  It’s trying to open up the worlds hidden in the houses beneath.  Except the doors stay firmly shut.  There’s one house nearby that you knew well.  The parents that once lived there are divorced.  Never saw it coming you say.  They were such a close family.  The kids, grown-up and in their thirties, are just as fucked up as you.  Except they see psychologists.  You just sucked it up.  That’s the X generation, you say.  Fucked up and over it.

And another house you pass – you knew the daughters.  Went to your high school.  And then their Dad took a shotgun to two of the daughters and himself.  The youngest one hid in the closest.  She heard it all.  The screams, the shots ring out, and then, the silence.  You wonder what she’s doing now.  She has a right to be fucked up.  The neighbours all cried shock, of course.  Not here.  Not in this pristine place. It’s the suburbs.  The suburbs are safe.  But it was there all along.  Hidden by the green lawns and coloured streamers trailing in the wind as kids rode their bikes.

So you live where it’s real.  There’s the chance of a stabbing.  Wheelie bin murder if you live in the right (or wrong) street.  On the edge but you can see and feel the crime. And you feel safe.

© running with the beagle 2010

Read Full Post »


Apparently lightning does strike twice in the same place.  At Alvin’s home, tucked away in the Burmese jungle, hidden by the large leaf tropical plants, marinating in the humidity, there was a tree that sat just outside the window to Alvin’s bedroom.  He’d bought the house because the locals said it was auspicious.  He believed it gave him a special pass that no harm would come to the place, or his family – afterall, it had already been struck twice.

The Texan kicked the clay earth with his cowboy boots.  Sounds barked from around him.  Monkeys, bears and his tiger could be heard pacing, yawning and hooting, at various intervals.  He heard the monkey rattling its cage, wanting his attention.  She’d just have to wait, he had things to think about today.  He wasn’t sure when things became so complicated.

It was that girl. Patrick’s wife.  She’d made him feel almost…what was that? Exposed maybe?  She’d laughed at him when he said John Galt was a hero.

“But John Galt got off the world – he gave up.  He’s sanctimonious and never changes,” she said.

“He stood up for something he believed in,” Alvin replied.

She just shook her head, as if she understood the bigger picture and he was holding on to an idealistic notion that would never be realised. She saw right through him and laughed out loud when he summed up who he was.

“At the end of the day kiddo, I’m just a good old-fashioned Texas cowboy.”

“I guess Burma is one way to get off the world,” was her reply.

© running with the beagle 2010

Read Full Post »