Home sweet homeBy Connie Fick
‘I’ll be down in a moment, Ja-sy.” Speaking around the pins, lips clamped to leave a slight opening.
Footsteps came up the stairs. They were different, heavier, more measured. She recalled the energetic running of his youth, smiled at the mirror. Hair done, she smoothed her dress, laughed spontaneously. Of course he wouldn’t wait. He was full of life and ready to see her at once. She couldn’t wait to see him too.
He appeared beside her reflection, taller, wider than she remembered; dressed in a dark coat and hat. When did he start wearing a hat, it was so…
“Hello Mother.” His voice had changed too. It was deeper. The war had made a man of him but he was still her sweet child, wouldn’t harm a fly.
“Jason, my son.” She hugged him, waiting for the kiss on her cheek, leaned in, met his teeth on her cheek, an accident.
His eyes looked serious. Frown lines, deeper than it should be. She smoothed the lines with her forefinger, laughed again.
“I made meatloaf. With boiled egg inside just the way you like it. And gravy. And mash.” A feast for his homecoming. She had used her bus fare for the week, but she would walk from Johannesburg to Cape Town for the joy of having her son home again.
“I’m not hungry.”
She looked up at him. His left sleeve was empty, such a practical joker, she won’t respond.
“Don’t worry. We can eat whenever you’re ready. I’ll just put it back on the stove and…”
“I said I’m not hungry.”
Her hand on the pot, she breathed deeply. “Ja-sy, there’s no need to shout. Think about the neighbours. Everything is okay. You are home.”
“Do you call this a home? This mokhukhu?” He kicked a chair, the table leg. “Still satisfied with everything are you. No wonder they could rule for so long, because of stupid yes-men like you and my father.”
Pleading. “Ja-sy… no.”
“Thank God you had us, the young ones, to fight, to save this country.”
“Yes… you are a hero.” She tried to touch his shoulder, he moved away. “Daddy told everyone how proud he…”
“Don’t patronise me. What do I care what that old timer has to say?”
“Please don’t talk like that.”
“Things are going to change around here. I need a beer, go get me a beer.”
What had happened to her son? “I don’t have any money. I used it to buy this. Mince for the meatloaf and…”
He swiped the pots from the stove. It clattered on the floor, disgorging mangled meat. A boiled egg resembling an eye rolled away.
Hiding her tears, she bent down. “I can pick the food up from the floor, don’t worry.”
“Get up.” He yanked her to her feet.
She tried to smile. “I’m so glad you’re home. Daddy will be pleased.”
His fist to her temple, it hurt. “Don’t lift your hand to your mother, it will fall off. Remember what I taught you. Oh no!”
“There’s more where that came from.”
Tears broke from her lids. “What’s wrong with you?”
“You left the revolution to us while you were bowing and scraping. And we paid dearly. We should’ve been in school…”
“I’m sorry.” She started sobbing.
“Sorry won’t give me back my arm. Or my life.”
“Where’s your other arm? I thought you were just hiding it from me, as a prank. No, no, don’t hit me again. Please. I’m bleeding from my mouth, silly me, but don’t worry, I know you’re just tired. Aunty Dora’s son Jim also came back like this.”
Cornelia Smith Fick was longlisted for the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award (2016). Her debut collection, Eye of a Needle, originated as a thesis for the Masters in Creative Writing at Rhodes University. A nurse by profession, she was a freelance writer for Takalani Sesame. Her poems and short stories have been published in local and international literary magazines and anthologies eg. Itch, Botsotso, Soho Square V (Bloomsbury), Experimental Writing: Volume 1, Africa vs Latin America, Ladyboxbooks.com and Atlanta Review. She lives in Johannesburg with her family and two dogs.