This issue features the winners of best of 2015’s Creative Writing programme at the University of the Witwatersrand.

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Friday, 22 July 2016 17:48

The Man Who Might’ve Cleaned the Baby’s Bottom

By  Fiona Taylor
There will be a waffle weave on the back of her thighs when she stands. Does she care? Does she give a shit about anything in this place? So hot, even as the sun begins to rest to her left. Casting out a light that makes elephants ephemeral as they move to the waterhole below.

The baby cries. God, why does that sound squeeze at some biological sinew just behind her belly button? Why doesn’t it do the same to him? Make him jump up. Check the baby. Is she wet? Hungry? Just tired? Has she pooped – again? Elephants live in a matriarchy. They say that they care for each other. And each other’s babies. That they mourn. The boys get kicked out at some point.

She won’t look at him even though he’s doing that sucking thing on his beer bottle. She stands and runs fingertips across the waffle weave as she moves to the pram. Of course it’s a poop. She wants to announce it. Wants to hope that he’d say, Give me that precious child so I can clean her bottom.

Instead she unloops the nappy bag from the pram, child on hip. Takes out the little change mat and starts to resolve the issue while some baboons watch on from the railing. One moves closer. She looks at the man who might’ve cleaned the baby’s bottom, and he’s watching the baboon too. He flaps an arm at the creature, who is bigger than she first thought.

The animal doesn’t care for his opinion, and bares his teeth. It moves closer. She straps the tabs that hold the nappy in place, then pulls the child to her chest. She wants to shout. But as usual the exact words seem to be stuck somewhere near that belly button sinew. They never get up and out, not even to her throat. The baby is hot against her chest, and the baboon has fangs, she can see them.

And as quickly as it all started, the baboon jumps back. Leaps back in fact. Because the man who might’ve cleaned the baby’s bottom has his thumb over her Coke bottle. He must’ve given the bottle a shake first because he’s spraying Coke all over the ape, who is now retreating. Retreating and shrieking. And now all the baboons are yelling and jumping off the other side of the railing. And he keeps on with her bottle of Coke until it’s empty.

Then he turns and looks at her. His hands and arms are slick, and he’s smiling. And despite the words that are tied up behind her belly button, she laughs.




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