Tag: SHORT STORIES

July 29, 2016 / / STORIES

“Hello,” said the blue poison-arrow frog.

“Hello,” said the wolf.

The wolf sniffed at the humid, warm air.

“You look lost. Your undercoat is too thick for this forest,” said the blue poison-arrow frog.

“I am lost,” said the wolf. “It was winter, and snowing, and the blizzards were worse than Mother could ever remember, and there were no deer, no elk, no rabbit.  And we found meat, but it smelled wrong, but Mother said to eat, and my pack did, but I couldn’t. They started whining soon, and their stomachs became bloated, and then they all died. Mother too. And I ran. When I reached the desert, I still ran. When I reached the ocean, I swam. And when I reached solid ground again, I ran.”

“But you’re not running now,” said the blue poison-arrow frog.

“No.”

The wolf stared at the tiny creature, enchanted by the smell of power and death he extruded.

“Yeah… I have to go,” said the frog, and he hopped off into the direction of the croaking that had just started up.

The wolf threw his head back and howled.

But the damp, thick forest blanketed the sound and only a whimper was heard.

 

The Wolf and the Blue Poison-Arrow Frog

April 26, 2016 / / STORIES

She survived the dwindling pool of tadpoles competing for food.
She emerged from the muddy water, a fully formed frog with a tiny tail.
She survived the intense heat that dried up the earth and scorched all the plants.

She succumbed to a sudden cold snap.
Her growing limbs
frozen on the parched dust.

 

(this is a follow up story of THE TINY FROG)

February 14, 2016 / / STORIES

Athena looks at her watch. She taps her manicured fingers against the table. Her legs are crossed over each other tightly. Demeter scutters in. 

“Sorry to have kept you waiting, dear, have you helped yourself to the cookies?” She opens the tin of crooked home bakes.

“No thank you.” Athena takes a deep breath. “It astonishes me that you can manage to be late for a meeting at your own home.”

Demeter shrugs. “What about some tea? Cofee?”

“No. Please sit. We really need to talk.”

Demeter takes a cookie. Her hair is in such disarray. She’s wearing slippers and pajama pants.

Athena takes out a notebook and opens it to a bulleted list.

“Your preoccupation with the children is distracting me from my work. On Monday-”

“Your preoccupation with your work is distracting me from taking care of the babies!” A faint half-cry is heard from down the hallway. Demeter stands up. “How can work possibly be more important than making sure they are fed, happy and healthy? If the baby needs to sleep in, he needs to sleep in. Work can wait.”

She storms off. Athena adds another item to her list. Soft singing can be heard as Demeter soothes the baby.

“I need a different strategy,” Athena tells herself. She looks at her watch and gets up to leave for her next meeting.

November 21, 2015 / / STORIES

“Girls, I need to tell you something.” Heather interrupted her daughters’ play. Upon hearing the serious tone of their mother’s voice, they dropped their blocks and sat on either side of her on the sofa.

“Where does water come from?” Heather asked.

“From the tap!”

“That’s what I need to talk to you about. The water from the tap comes from a big dam. The dam gets filled in from water from different rivers. The rivers get their water from underneath the earth. The water underneath the earth is from rain that seeps down.”

They stared at her with their big child-doe eyes.

“Can you remember the last time it rained?”

The girls looked at each other. Then they shook their heads.

“It’s not raining right now. There is still water in the dam, but not a lot. And the farmers, who grow all our food, their dams have dried up already.”

“Are we going to run out of water, Mommy?”

“Maybe. But we’re going to try our best to not waste water so that we can prevent that from happening. You’re going to help me, aren’t you?”

And so the girls stopped leaving the tap open while they brushed their teeth, and they collected their old bathwater for the plants outside.

A few weeks later, it rained.

It not only rained, it stormed.

It not only stormed, it hailed. Big chunks of ice, thrown down unto the parched ground.

After the storm, the girls grabbed two buckets and started collecting the ice.

“What are you doing?” Heather asked them.

“We’re collecting the ice. The ice will melt into water. And then we can send the water to the farmers!”

September 21, 2014 / / STORIES

With slow, deliberate strokes he follows the lines in my face with his fingers.

“You are so beautiful,” he says. I look down.

“Listen to me.” He pulls my face up to look at him. “You are beautiful.”

“Even with the wrinkles?”

“I love your wrinkles.” He leans forwards and kisses my forehead, the corners of my eyes and mouth. “Wisdom lines.”

I push him away. “I’m too young to be wise and too ugly to be pretty.”

His shoulders slump. “I wish, just once, you would just say ‘thanks’ when I tell you how I feel about you. I can’t get enough of looking at you.”

“But with girls like Olivia Wilde and Scarlet Johansson in the world, how can I believe you when you say I’m pretty? I have pimply, wrinkled skin. Cellulite. Drooping boobs-“

“Yes. But you are real.”

“Real?” I push my hair behind my ears.

“Real.” He steps closer and frames my face with his hands. “Like the Velveteen Rabbit whose fur has been loved off, and who is loose in the joints, but the Rabbit doesn’t care because it has been worth it. You are no plastic facsimile of a stereotype person. You live and breathe and bleed and feel. You laugh with your whole body. You smile with your whole face. And if time and tide has taken its toll and the smiles freeze into your skin, I love each little wrinkle all the more for it.”

He traces his thumb from my nose down to the corner of my mouth. “I should write a sonnet about this line. And publish it anonymously or as a lost John Keats poem. Maybe then you will believe me.”

February 28, 2013 / / STORIES

or

The Mismatched Eyes

For M&M

West of the goldmines, north of the yellow mine dumps, east of the rail networks and south of the mine lords’ houses, in a vast, lush, teeming veld, lived a wizard.

As wizards go, he wasn’t particularly adept. In his younger years he had shown much talent but he was currently more enthusiastic than skilled.

His enthusiasm lay mostly in the creation of new spells. But, once figured out, he got bored with perfecting them.

Creating new spells is one of many ways to be unpopular with your neighbours, so our wizard had, many years ago, set up his home in this relatively unpopulated area. Due to his often explosive attempts at spell making, game was scarce. Luckily, herbs and wild vegetables tend to stay rooted (close enough to walk to, in any case) and chickens were content to stay cooped – although he had learnt not to keep the coop too close to home.

Successful spells were meticulously written down (often he would succeed at one thing whilst pursuing another, a typical side-effect of those not afraid to fail) and sent to those in the wizarding community who might be interested. Occasionally, recipients of a new spell would visit to gain clarity on an aspect or technique required, but they would never stay long.

And so our wizard lived, observing the seasons change, creating many more ways of not doing things than doing things, alone.

One morning, his spell went wrong.

It’s not that the spell went entirely wrong – rather the spell worked a little bit too well. He had been investigating a potion that would allow roots to grow immediately on a plant cutting, even on plants that weren’t traditionally able to do so. He had obtained hydra skin samples (that famous creature that would spout two heads when one was cut down) and had distilled this into vials of grey liquid. This alone would not grow roots (it was good for growing hydra heads on the plant, but lacking a stomach to sustain them, the heads would soon die which was fine because they had a real nasty bite). The experiment the wizard was engaged in was to find which combination of substance, if any, needed to be added to grow roots. Vanilla and tiger’s claw; toe nail clippings and turmeric; vinegar and cobra spit – all of these had been crossed off the list of possibilities. Ginger and mandrake root, however, seemed to do the trick.

White, sprangly roots sprouted from the stem of the first cutting the wizard tried – a stick from a thorn tree. The second cutting, a mint, also sprouted. On the third cutting, from a peach-flavoured rose bush, nothing happened. At first.

The wizard added a thin slice of purple carrot to his mixture and tried again.

Nothing.

He added beetroot, and spring onion (at this point he figured out that you need roots to grow roots).

Nothing.

But by this point there were hardly any more distilled hydra in his potion so he added another vial.

Little sprangly white roots sprouted.

One other side effect of the brave enthusiast is the ability to focus fully on the task at hand (to the detriment of hungry pets and needy children who might be in the brave enthusiast’s care at the time). When caught fully in the flow of the work, the inventor will often go without sleep and food for days. Our wizard, during the root-growing process, had failed to notice that the roots on the thorn tree had continued to grow, out of the petri dish, spilling over the table and through the carpet into the earth. The tree had grown up and out, branches reaching for the window, the trunk thickening, thorns like spears growing, growing, growing. The mint, too, had become gargantuan, and the two plants were entwined, growing larger and larger as the wizard started to apply his solution to the fourth plant cutting. One of the tree branches became too heavy to support both itself and the mint and it fell, tearing from the main branch, knocking the wizard to the ground.

Now he was aware! But, too late, and a thorn on an overzealous side branch pierced his left arm just above the elbow.

At the sight of his own blood the wizard passed out.

He came to on the overlong grass beside his chicken coop, covered with a pink hounds tooth woollen coat. The vegetation around him had been trampled and he could hear the chickens clucking. He tried to sit up but dizziness and pain struck him down again.

“Oi. Lie still. You can’t move yet.” A brash feminine voice called at him from afar.

Her face soon appeared above him. She knelt down next to him with a pitcher of water. His eyes were blurry and he could only see her as basic shapes.

“You need to drink something.”

Squinting, he could see her bright red hair falling across her smooth cheek. She turned to face him.

“Michelle?” His childhood sweetheart, now a grown woman, but with the same mismatched brown-and-blue eyes.

“Hi.” She smiled. “Here.” She thrust the water under his nose and tilted. He got water on his chin and down his neck and he even managed to drink some.

“What are you doing here?” he asked when she finally took the pitcher away.

“You wrote me a letter inviting me here.”

“But that was years ago, Michelle.”

“Yeah, well, I was abroad. Only got back two weeks ago.”

She pointed to his house. Where windows used to be, branches grew. Shattered glass and wood were strewn everywhere. Peach flavoured roses blossomed in the now closed entrance.

“I don’t think you can live here any more. As soon as you feel less dizzy, you’re coming home with me.”

The wizard closed his eyes.

When he opened them again, Michelle was curled up, asleep, next to him on his right side. She had pulled her coat closer so they were both partially covered by it. Pain like constipated tigers engulfed his left arm. He tried to look but he could not move it. It looked as if the entire arm was swaddled in what used to be a yellow dress. Michelle stirred.

“Are you awake?” she asked.

“For now.”

“How do you feel?”

“Sore.”

“Good. Listen, I don’t know what you were doing, but you were losing a lot of blood when I got here and there was a thorn the size of a horse’s leg through your arm. I’ve stopped the bleeding but I don’t think you’re going to get to keep your arm. I only know first aid and I was sure as hell not going to carry you to a doctor, nor leave you alone here to go fetch one. The thorn is still in there. Do you think you could walk? It’s probably best to get you to a professional sooner rather than later.”

“Can you help me up?”

She got to her feet and stretched, cat-like, before grabbing his unhurt arm and hauling him to his feet. The wizard wonkled but stayed up. She held his arm.

“Did you mean what you said before? That I can come live with you?” he asked her.

She stared into his eyes.

“You are a stupid-ass. You obviously have no idea how to take care of yourself.”

He pulled her closer to him. He was much taller than she was. She had to look up.

“I never stopped loving you, you know,” he said.

“I know.” She stood on her toes and kissed him. “Me too.”

November 10, 2011 / / STORIES

They met at dusk. She with her rooibos skin. Him with his pitch black hair. Their eyes met and her heart melted.

They married at dawn. They were far from his home and wanted to be on their way as early as possible. The entire village showed up to see them off. The priest performed a simple ceremony to seal the agreement of love between the young pair.

They reached a quiet pond.
“Let’s rest and eat the food my mother had prepared for us,” she suggested.
“No.”

Taken aback by his abrupt response, vastly different from the tone he had courted her with, she followed behind him, tired and hungry.

They reached a cool glade.
“Let’s rest and eat the food my mother had prepared for us,” she suggested.
“No.”
“No.”
He turned around in surprise. “Are you defying me?” he asked.
“Yes. I’m tired. My mother had prepared this food for our journey. I’m hungry.”
She sat down and opened the bundle. She looked up to offer her husband a slice of cheese. But in stead of her handsome husband there stood a wild dog, ears as black as her husband’s hair. The wild dog grabbed the food parcel and ran off.
“Hey,” she shouted after him, quick on her feet, her hunger fuelling her pursuit.

They ran.
They ran until dusk. The wild dog curled up underneath a rock. The young wife sat down in the road and tried to sleep. At sunrise the wild dog took the bundle and ran off. She followed him, slowed by fatigue and her screaming belly.

Before long they reached a cottage. The wild dog entered. The girl followed. Her husband greeted her.
“Now we can eat,” he said. She collapsed into his arms.

The pair lived happily in the cottage in the woods and soon she was with child. When the time for birth was near she set out to her mother’s village.

“You shouldn’t go,” her husband said.
“You cannot help me in this time, and there are no midwifes in this forest. My mother will take good care of me and our child and we will return as soon as we are able.”

In her heavy condition the going was slow. She reached the glade where she had wanted to rest when she was just married.
“I’ll spend a few hours gathering my strength here,” she decided. She spread out her blanket and took out some food she had prepared for herself. A frog hopped closer.
“You look hungry, little friend,” she said. She broke off a piece of cheese and fed it to the frog.
“Croak,” the frog said as it hopped away.

When she was rested she set off again. She reached the pond where she had wanted to rest when she was just married.
“I’ll spend a few hours gathering my strength here.” She spread out her blanket and took out the rest of her food. A bullfrog as big as her belly reared its head from below the pond’s surface.
“Oh my,” she said, taken aback.
“You have been kind to my kin,” the bullfrog said, “so I will offer you this advice in return: Drown yourself and the child you carry, for no good can come from an alliance with the Wild Dog.”
She took to her feet as quick as she was able.
“I beg your pardon,” she said, “how dare you…” A roar from the woods behind her, and the next thing she saw was a wild dog pouncing on the bullfrog. They wrestled in the water, the frog defending itself from the dog’s claws and teeth with brute strength. They were evenly matched and after the longest time, both ceased to breathe and sank down under the water. As she watched their bodies disappear, she noticed a glint of gold drifting to the surface. She waded in and with a stick drew it closer.

It was her husband’s wedding ring.
She stood there in the water, holding the ring. The sun set. The moon rose.

Rather than risk the consequences, she decided to heed the bullfrog’s advice.

September 9, 2011 / / STORIES

Hulle roep vir mekaar: Russiese valkies wat die koue ontsnap. Vir hulle is Colesberg nie net ‘n oornagstop nie.

More oggend neem ek ‘n handvol rooibruin vere huis toe.

July 15, 2010 / / STORIES

The myths did not name us. It does not matter. It is better this way. No heroes come to slay us. We hide our hair in big rasta hats, like the Jamaicans hide their long dreadlocks.

“Our hair isn’t much different from theirs. Dreaded locks.” My sister looks over my shoulder as I write, laughing at my attempt to reach out. I am lonely here, although it is better than in the past. We go out to watch late-night movies, the sleepy attendants not looking up, not caring about the people they are serving. Their apathy saves them.

In the darkened room we stare at the screen telling a new yarn about our sister – although, she plays but a minor role. Flashes of jealousy run through me. Everyone knows her name, what she is capable of. Without her, the hero cannot win.

A sound to my left: a man approaching us in the cinema. I am startled, I look at him, he looks into my eyes. Damn. A quick glance reveals that he had been the only other person in the room. I consider just leaving him. But that would make me no better than my infamous sister.

The emergency exit to the left of the flashing images on the movie screen is very far away, our burden heavy. We put on veils to prevent another tragedy this night. The back street is empty save for rats. Their noises wake the snakes underneath my rasta hat. “Later,” I whisper to them, alluding to the white mice kept in our apartment. They go back to sleep. They know how to be patient. We have been together a very long time.

We leave the stone man next to a doorway. It may look like a Stuckist artwork. I hope so.

“What do you think he was trying to do?” I ask my sister.

“Who knows? Probably thought he could try and pick us up.” She is cynical. I wish there were still sorceresses in the world. Long ago there were, but they were jealous of their recipes, never told us how much snake venom to put into the virgin’s milk (nor where to find virgin’s milk, or exactly what that was.) The salve, applied daily for one moon cycle, restored life back into the victim, now immune to the Gorgon’s gaze. I always wished they would stay.

They never did.

(The End).