archive - issue 20
Ross Ian Fleming devotes his days to testing Telecoms software, satisfying his wife’s need for fast food, and educating his three kids. At night, however, he dreams of Poetry. He has written six small volumes of poems, all available on Amazon Kindle
Although occasionally inhabiting an imaginary land beyond description, in reality he lives in Cape Town, South Africa, the next best thing in the chain of being.
He has published work in Itch and New Coin and has won 3 online writing competitions at the SA Writers College over the past 10 years. Also see Slipnet for more.
just riding round in
small circles vocalising
vague unwords at myself
my fairy wheels semi
reliably affixed by my
sometimes present father
and the bullies all off
elsewhere doing important
stuff I have absolutely no
idea of my significance or
value or intelligence
or net worth but
if I just continue
and round and losing
myself in this nothing
ness that underpins reality I
won't feel small or misunderstood
one day I may write
a poem about a bicycle
or a symphony about sunshine
or a novel about that
wheelbarrow or even think up
my own theorem about
the nature of
circles but for now I
am just happy in
a distant removed
way to be alive
today okay bye.
His outburst resulted in a fresh surge of nail-biting on my sister's part, and I promptly wet my nappy in sympathy. The Ugandan au pair, Jane, was possibly the only sane member of the household, and had long ago realized that all of this madness would pass as the day wore on. She merrily picked up our toys and saw to my sister and me while my mother searched the papers for something new to satisfy her appetite for Recreational Anxiety.
Yes, I call this Recreational Anxiety, because it is a common fault of our modern society. We have defined recreational drugs and recreational sex, so why not Recreational Anxiety? We worry about silly, insignificant things. This happens while matters more deserving of our concern go unnoticed. For example, Pravin Gordhan's eyes. Did you notice that while he was reading the budget speech on television recently, he had a nervous tic just above his left eyelid? Maybe you didn't see, but our family gathered round to watch, and all remarked on the repeated clearing of his throat, and his oscillating eyelid. Cancer of the thyroid was Grandad's assessment but my son, Arthur, corrected him by referring to Gray's Book of Infectious Diseases. (We keep a copy on the shelf under the stairs). He read out in his halting schoolboy English, The major symptoms of Thomson's Myofalgium are facial contortions and the inability to swallow properly. Arthur likes exchanging bad news with virtual strangers, and has his own web site - feel free to google have you heard and add your morose predictions to the collection. Leave your details and we'll all sit around discussing your personal problems, and with some luck, things might get worse. If Pravin Gordhan goes, we all go, predicts Grandad.
Possibly the most exciting day of my life was when Nelson Mandela emerged from prison. The feeling in Mafikeng was electrifying. The taxi's all drove up and down hooting while the white people hid indoors, fearing that the revolution had finally come. The Town Clerk was taking 7-5
odds that our little town would be in flames by the end of the week. Sadly nothing of the sort happened and we all went back to worrying about the cost of dog licenses. That was the biggest letdown in the history of our nation. It has gone from bad to worse. I mean, Jake Zuma has nothing but positive predictions for Africa in the next 10 years. Soon there will be nothing left.
Do you know that as I was writing this, a cockroach emerged from a crack in the wall, sniffed the air with his proboscis, and scuttled down to the counter where the remains of dinner are sitting, and is now proceeding to examine the leftovers I had planned for tomorrow's lunch. I am appalled at the paucity of character in a Body Corporate who simply don't give a fig about those of us who have the misfortune to live in Little Paradise. This firms my decision to revoke the debit order on the levy going forward. I shall call my bank manager at the earliest opportunity. This nonsense cannot continue unabated. I shall meet sloth and greed with prompt action!
Anyway, to continue, after having been so rudely interrupted...
I have high hopes of discovering a new source of anxiety to power the people's imagination in the New Year. I am quite keen to start a movement called Think and Worry Today - ThaWT. I feel sure that we can, as a country of nervous thinkers, avert tragedy just by sitting still and thinking about what may happen in the future. If you think about it there is so much to worry about. The papers, the Internet and, closer to home, the people we come into daily contact with, all provide opportunities. Follow me for a moment.
You could be standing next to someone in the checkout line, when an opening gambit sets the tone. 'Looks like rain.' The surprised confidante will possibly scan the ceiling for signs of precipitation and nod cautiously. This is no indicator of failure. Stand erect, brandishing the morning paper, and set your glasses on the edge of your nose. Read out, clearly and in a raised voice, the headlines, City Women Looking Fatter. This headline will raise an eyebrow or two, maybe elicit a hostile cough from the lady behind you. Do not give up. The next question, Excuse me, but do you have funeral cover? opens a whole can of worms. You can tell everyone in the queue about the people you know who have died in suspicious circumstances. If you don't know anyone who died mysteriously, feel free to pick from articles in the newspaper. With luck you could start a Recreational Anxiety support group right there in the supermarket. You could get one another's phone numbers and liaise afterwards. There are a lot of nervous people out there, and ThaWT needs new blood.
Just think about it?
A warm welcome to you all... O Great and Mighty Oscar, Lord of all that is Somehow Bent out of Shape… Jack Nicholson, star of One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest… Russell Crowe, male lead from A Beautiful Mind… Poker Straight, female lead from Frankly Fresh Flesh… Honoured Guests… Ladies and Gentlemen… Thank you for your presence here today. I’m your friendly host Bob and the Valkenberg Inpatients’ Recreation Room has never looked so good. The radiant auras, the shining faces: I am awed, speechless. For the latecomers see if you can find a seat over this way, loads of room nearer the television screen, make yourselves comfortable. (He indicates vaguely at the space immediately in front of him.) No sense squashing into the corner. And can we please all turn our antennae onto vibrate. The toilets are out the back door and second turn to the right, actually wherever you can find a vacant rose-bush, but don’t say that to Nurse Brown …heh heh heh
(Fellow inmate Marvin carries on silently playing Solitaire with his deck of cards, ignoring the other’s ramblings – Sewende Laan is playing on the television with the sound on mute.)
This meeting of great telepathic broadcasters, the Terribly Introverted but Tried and Tested Zombians, or TITTZ for short is indeed a unique body of beings. (Marvin takes out his handkerchief and carefully, methodically, blows his nose.) We voted at the AGM a year ago to gather here on the first day of spring, 2016. It is my privilege to welcome you all back. Apologies have been ectoplasmed in from Osama bin Laden. Oh yes and Justin Bieber was unavoidably detained coming through the local Satellite Dish - something to do with a Pirated Signal - have you got that down, Honey? (He beams down at the empty chair.) My girlfriend's note-taking has been agreeably enhanced by the recent birth of twins. First of all can we have a minutes silence in memory of Umberto Eco? God rest his soul. There there. Tthat’s quite enough, Lassie. Come away from the table-leg will you… there we go...
The moving picture has undergone a huge transformation over the last century. Before the advent of cinema, all we did at night was sit miserably around the communal fireplace and moan about how things had deteriorated. Now that we can get reality beamed into our heads, we can consider all that we are missing in terms of quality of life. In fact we can teleport ourselves into positions of power, and exist inside of the Taj Mahal, the White House, Buckingham Palace, or even the Grand Canyon.
We have here, gathered between these four walls in the gracious lodgings of the Zombian nerve-control centre, men as diverse as the monstrously manic Jack Nicholson, and who can forget Jack in that groundbreaking movie. Dear God - what a performance by a fellow-lunatic of exceptional adaptability. Again, Russell Crowe inhabited the lead role in A Beautiful Mind so accurately that none of us can differentiate between Russell and the genuine lunatic John Nash - and he went on to win the Nobel Prize for Math. How cool is that!
Even Lassie over here (pats the empty air affectionately) has had her time of glory, retired now to this haven of artists. Honey I hope you’re getting all of this down. There seems to be a rapt silence from the floor (Marvin starts suddenly and checks under the table as though someone might be hiding there.) And I want to extend a special welcome to Poker Straight, that vastly successful star of our communal midnight fantasies. Thank you so much, each and every one of you, for making yourselves available. (He wipes his brow with his handkerchief.) Let’s focus now on the important business at hand.
Topic Number One on our agenda for discussion today is Imaginary friends are not the question; Imaginary friends are the answer! We few who are assigned the broadcasting aerials of telepathy must now make hay while the sun shines. Now that the birds are frolicking and the bees are buzzing, it is high time that we celebrities made our way back to that realm that is sizzling with significance and insane with intrigue. Our Beloved Planet Zombia.
Ah Zombia, that wonderful wavelength where pictures tumble cheerfully out of the ether and into our heads. (Marvin gazes thoughtfully out of the window.) The sheer joy of seeing Rihanna walk out of the telly, hitch herself up on the sofa, and offer us all a pack of appetite suppressants, this is the very stuff of the Greater Unreality.
Yes Zombia, so much more than the last undiscovered planet of our Solar System. We are more than a geographical location; we are a way to wisdom, a path to peace, a mode of travel. Allow me to elaborate to the visitors looking in, hoping for a spiritual home.
The human brain operates at a frequency of roughly 50Hz per second, and those of us with hugely powerful electrical circuits have come to dominate the magnetosphere ever since the dawn of psychoactive drugs. The Sixties? Ah yes! The advent of the most amazing decade since the Golden Age of Ancient Greece. This was caused, if I may be frank, by the discovery of 1st generation antipsychotic drugs. As a result, all of us Aware Beings, namely TITTZ, significantly increased our broadcasting activities all at once. The radio-waves flowed in and out, the atmosphere went frantic, a million neurotics achieved Nirvana, and Zombia came to Earth in fine style. Ask The Beatles?
You look at me as I stand before you today, Uncle Bob to the little children, Comrade to the War Veterans, the Father of All True Farce to those who would gaze warmly and nostalgically into their monitors. Savior, Philanthropist, Player extraordinaire, words fail us. (There is the sound of an argument beginning from next door.) Dr. Ruth mentioned last week that I am probably intellectually impoverished, with an identity crisis; compounded by various brainwashing techniques of possibly Communist origin, but we (He gesticulates broadly and sweepingly to his left) all know the answer.
We all here present have come to realize that I, Bob (buffs fingernails on his t-shirt) am the greatest being to land on the planet since the birth of the electronic media. Untroubled, focused, strong and relatively catatonic amidst the hubbub of the busy world: I have a source of contentment far beyond all earthly ambitions. The Founder Member and Honorary Life President of the BOFF movement - Basically Optimistic Friendly Folk - I offer to humans of all orientations, colors and creeds, the possibility of an eternity, or at least a Very Long Time, spent on our woozy wavelength. I offer peace and security, and what you have to do is simple. Turn on your telly, and my lethargic brand of Nirvana will set in. There you will see me, (waves at the mute screen), my co-workers, (nods nervously at where Poker is theoretically perched), and my followers, thank you, thank you, God bless you. (There is an arbitrary roar of rage from the escalating argument in the next room.)
You wonder why we do this thing, this exposition of our art, this laying of our souls bare. I will come to that in a moment, I mean the material rewards, but spiritually we have so much (waves excitedly at the empty room) that we simply must share. The connections, the power, the intoxication, o God it’s all too much for me. I can’t go on another minute.
(The dumb television has been showing a series of adverts on apparatus for bodybuilding, whereby people with perfect bodies appeal for an investment in the healthy option. Marvin gazes blankly at this for a long time in silence, then scratches his leg and focuses on his game of Solitaire. A shouting woman chases a man in a straitjacket past the open doorway. There are sounds of a scuffle. A door slams, and there is a muffled, if ominous, silence.)
Sorry - it’s overpowering, the presence of pure Karma - that was totally over the top, forgive me people. (He takes stock of where he is, fixes his eyes on the ceiling, then continues.) Let me tell you - if we realized the enormous potential of the minds here present, if we grasped the possibilities inherent in our huge ability to affect the world, we would not be sitting here passively (glares angrily at the bottom of the notice board.) No, we would be outside of these doors, taking on the giants of our society.
You’ve heard of The American War of Independence? The Winds of Change? The Liberation Struggle? All of these were manifestations of the magnetosphere whereby a small group of people undertook to transform irrevocably all that we are into all that we can be. Do not be humble, creatures of Zombia, the time has come for us all to stand up and be counted. Wwe must move forward!! To the common man we are fantastical. We may look unreal, but to the initiated, we are Gods of the upper realm, inhabitants of more than the imagination, übermenschen.
(Spit flecks fly as Bob becomes more and more excited. Marvin is re-tieing his shoelace. His tongue extends as he focuses on the task at hand. He then straightens up, yawns and stretches. A swallow lands on the windowsill, tweets a couple of times, looks into the room, and flies off again. Bob is in a world of his own.)
And most important of all, (he settles down) you will see next to me the Great Golden Statuette of our tremendous System, The Mighty Oscar. (He holds up a ripe banana.) Ultimate Accolade for all who adhere to the discipline of C BOB P - Creatively Burnt Out But Productive. This is a lifetime award for natural talent in this remarkably satisfying profession. And do you know, if I had the chance, I’d do it again. I did it my way.
Apologies for my little digression – you will excuse a sentimentalist getting carried away at his moment of public success. Anyway, back to the second topic on the agenda for today, ‘Where to from here?’ Thank you to the lovely Cameron Diaz for bringing us back to Earth. (He winks at the back of the door. Marvin slips anxiously out of the room.) My trusted advisers, a group of elders who have counseled me on day to day decisions about organizing the planet for the past twenty five years, have said, ‘Bob, you have done your bit, you have fought the good fight. Now is the time to take us all back to your great place in the sky?’ Yes, it’s Zombia. (Marvin wanders in again and resumes his game of Solitaire.)
Our moral high ground is powerful enough to carry us into the dimension beyond. It will transcend our earthly woes and break us back into that deep feeling of health and happiness. We must implement the essence of TITTZ, this republic of telepathically gifted men and women. (Nurse Brown glances into the room and, sizing up the situation in an instant, hurries off.)
Okay chaps. What we are going to do is to hum, slowly and in three-part harmony, that ancient classic, Zom-bi-a, to the tune of Three Blind Mice. This should get us all onto alpha wavelength and activate our organs of levitation, hence drawing us onward and upward, closer and closer to the ideal state, and finally lifting us onto a final, one-way trip to Zombia. Join with me everybody. All together now, Zom-bi-a… Zom-bi-a… Zom-bi-a… Zom-bi-a…
(Nurse Brown is accompanied into the room by Two Strong Men. Bob is gently and calmly escorted away. He does not resist. Marvin re-shuffles his deck of cards and starts another game of Solitaire. He rubs his head slowly, staring at the wall. Sewende Laan continues, with the sound switched off as usual. This year’s episode of Karmageddon has now been wrapped.)
I have shattering news for all of you. 1969 will ultimately go down in history as the year that a seven year old boy proved for children everywhere that The Moon Is Not Made Out Of Cheese!
And, incidentally, the year that The Millwood Kindergarten Yearbook printed his astonishing and valuable conclusions.
Allow me to elaborate.
My dear Father was a raconteur of note and he was always partial to a good Camembert. (Aunt Molly said he was actually a compulsive liar and that he was into all sorts of other stuff as well but guess what happened to her!)
I recall a warm July evening in ‘69 when we were gazing up at that wonderfully luminous, lunar beauty, and when he said to me, ‘Look, lad - there’re people up there tonight, and the world needs to know it. Pass the cheese please.’
It was a matter of seconds before we had the family telescope up and out, and were taking a rickety look at that august, astral body. I have a singular memory of Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, lumbering along like a drunken dinosaur, and a sharper focus of him bending down, picking up a soil sample and chewing it. He then spat it out in disgust, and shook his head at his colleague in graphic negation. I have it on reliable authority that our telescope had a tweeter on it, which was a magical instrument for amplifying and accelerating light waves.
Father’s next words will stay with me forever.
‘See any Cheese?’ he asked.
‘No!’ was my firm reply.
And so, while the rest of South Africa hung, poised over their radios, listening to a 2 minute old delayed broadcast of The American President feeling loquacious, Father and I were watching in real time the instant when the most important discovery of the 20th Century was being made! Being of an enterprising ilk, I was quick to describe the situation on my jotter. When I presented my thesis to my grade two teacher the next day, tears of joy welled up in her eyes and she said to me, ‘My child, this has potential!’
The need to enlighten the children of the future has always been my priority. The monstrous lie of endless cheese available for all has gone on for too long. I don’t agree that fairy tales are good for developing minds. Stick to the facts, and the imagination will take care of itself. The moon has never been, and never will be made up of dairy products.
Visualize my anxious quivering in the Monday assembly, when the headmaster asked me to stand up straight so all of my schoolmates could see what strong descriptors I had. Imagine the looks of aching jealousy when my cousins all gathered round my school yearbook at the family Christmas dinner. And of course the offer by my Great Aunt Suzy to pay to ‘send the child to a decent boarding school, where such laudable talent will not go unnoticed’.
The path to my next publication was not arduous. Once my fame had spread, the seeds of success were planted. The entire school community of Woodwind Secondary wept to the tune of Death of a Cheese Wedge, a sensitive allegory about a teenager consuming a midnight snack while dying on the inside.
My Sergeant-Major in the Military could not look me in the eye, saying ‘Take it away - for God’s sake take it away,’ when I presented my postmodernist film script, The Unbearable Temptation of True Stilton, to him during basic training.
The Army Psychiatrist was prompted to stand up from behind his desk, walk around me in fond admiration, and pinch my bottom while murmuring, ‘You’ll go far, Rodney. Let’s see what we can manage.’ He was always calling me Rodney. I put it down to an incredibly high intelligence being preoccupied with urgent matters of National Importance.
If you look at the ’88 graduation class photograph at The University of KwaZulu-Natal, I am the one with a towel over his head in the front row. My friend Winky has a broad smile on his face and is standing just behind me. He had just that morning told me of an invasion of the Science Building by Aliens. Apparently the very same cheese bacteria whose existence I had denied all those years before had come back to exact revenge. Only warm, damp towels applied to the head could protect you. I stand before you today as living proof of this groundbreaking theory. If only the medical profession had the same insight as dear little Winky, may he rest in peace.
My MA dissertation, Of Mice and Cheese – John Steinbeck’s Secret Obsession with Haute Cuisine, achieved the summa cum laude award. The lecturing staff there still talk dreamily of the day I walked off with the prize.
My unpublished memoir, Open Your Mouse Unt Say Cheese, is behind the headboard in my bedroom. Should I disappear in suspicious circumstances, the family solicitor has a soft copy that will go out on the Internet. Already my theme tune is available on YouTube. Watch out for Around the Brie in Eighty Days.
To all of you young writers starting out, I have a message. Follow that youthful vision. Only you can create your own particular flavour of cheese. Don’t be intimidated by editors who ask, How cheesy is that?
My raison d’être was to see the youth of the world liberated from its obsession with nocturnal interplanetary cheese. This mission has largely succeeded. The kids of today are looking to sources closer to home for their cheese. My tombstone will announce to all visiting pilgrims, long after I am gone, the message I lived out: The Cheese isn’t Out There - It’s In Here!
Life on da pavemint get really interestin' after dark I turn to my fren Ballz dis mornin' an' say hey Ballz guess wot Jayzuss an' he angels held a meetin' over here last nite I point to da container behind Wimpy twere a hi level convotation an' da divil were keen to get some action he tore past in he Mersades honkin' like hail an' da dogs barkin' an' da angels fightin' han' to han' combat when all on a sudden da Lurid speak in a autorotarian tone he say shut da hail up or I'll cum over dere an' blow me down but silas brake out an' we's all dumstruck twere an act o' soupream er soupreamness dis were all in da dead o' night neighbourhood watch done an' dusted da moon sailin' hi above Cork bay like sliver on satin Dave my fren in da teleological institution say I got a poetic bent he say smokin' Moses yo a free spirit an' I say da only free spirit I know be methylated spirit an' das not free it's quite beyond my bugget anyways I'm fo'ever done wid dat crap Ballz not payin' attension so I look at Ed he in a paul o' smoke no joy dere den I see Dave materialise over da mountin an' tell him da same story he say dere mor tings in heaven an' erf dan dreamin' bout philosophy Whoreratio he stare out over da bay an' scratch he nuts he allays do dat when he tinkin' deeply I say Dave wen da end cum I want a hummel man to read da bill o' riots over my dead body I bin tinkin' bout it an' Dave yo da man I says Dave on a scale o' one to ten o' humidity yo off da scale dud an' God know I seen sum down an' outs on da pavemint beet...
Miss Raeburn da Mayoress o' Cape Town chews dat moment to revirse her Mersades up da ally an' shout at Dave to move he fat ass out da way she want a parkin' spot her words not mine jus when sumpen profined happen like da university finely make sum sens a cocksucker godda ruin da moment dat da story o' my life no privicey out here let me leave yo wid dat taught duds I'm dun
from the swimming pool at grandma's house playing
marco polo and keep the kettle boiling with my classmates
and it's a gorgeous african deep spring day and the sun is
shining on my cake and there is a gentle breeze blowing in off
the veldt and onto my forehead like a caress and I become wonderfully
stiff which is my secret when I'm really pleased this happens
merely the spontaneous tribute of a child whose
corpus spongiosum dilates when he goes into the other world and
as adults do there's a ripple of prurient stifled embarrassment
but I am Quite oblivious and merrily blow out all seven candles and
taste the fruitcake and savour the sweet sweet aromatic marzipan and
my eyes rest affectionately on the plastic Baloo the Bear and make
a wish that nxolo and the matiwanes will win the rhodesian sweepstakes and
the other kids are out playing on the lawn there is a patch of sunlight
that warms the couch so I find myself walking still gloriously erect
over to the soft suede and it's so cosy there that I assume the
foetal position and move my tanned brown little bare feet
- I went everywhere barefoot in those days -
into the warmth and I think back over my special day
and the adults avert their eyes they cannot look upon such sin and
the oblique comments fly sharply but I am unwounded and quietly
joyful and probably mildly autistic and certainly slightly eccentric and
hey taboo is an idea I will one day learn the true weight of
but for today I'm just glad to have finally reached seven
Thank you orl sew, sew much for mayking yurselves avalable on this wanderfully brite and
shinning day in the park my name is Martynn Fotherington and this is Balinda Haught who has very kyndly
offered to step into the breech as our secretery Mervyn's cat died last nite
(he is bering up under the lode) and wee wont to mayk Evryone, yes Evryone welkum
and rite at home wee are going to desine our very own sossity and wee wont to mayk it
open and democratic and sew eech person will have a littl peace of white cardbord
on which you can nomenate your fave fave purson regardless of colour creed or
sexwhal orientashin for cheerpurson evry nomenashun will be veted by the comitty
hear are some cerise hiliters pleez pleez pleeez rite as neetly as u can there can
wee pass the hiliters arownd the curkle thank you Balinda love before wee start can
wee orl assume the mantiss position and breeeeathe there wee are now let's hum the
pantotonic scayle thank you thank you Ursuline for leeding the way ummmmm owmmmm
oooommmm now let's have a growp hug orl together now blessings one and orl bless you
bless you bless u now let's get done to bizness...
furst of orl wee wont too endors and adopt the Rustle-Einstein Manifesto sew that orl peeple wil be free
and genetically unmodified by the totally totally like invassive radiocean of the bom
does evryone agree thank you thank you I love you orl thank god for Balinda my word
there’s a tear in her eye power to the peepl amandla where to amandla here’s to a newclear free future
The Duke Nukem Society AGM
Right thanks all for turning up the six-pack for first arriver goes to Jack over here
cheers Jack bru drink up we need to vote for the cancellation of the Russel Einstein Manifesto
super quick due to that prize tit Martin Featherstone and his crowd of winkers trying to stop us
all from playing Duke Nukem by the way the name’s Sheila chairman of the Nukem Society
we do it by the bloody book so help me Kevin okay so is anyone needing
a kick up the jack you can calm down Jack no one’s trying to steal your ales
votes against the motion nobody okay got that votes for keeping down the pansies
ah unanimous as I thought grrreat meeting over now I could murder a cow
Jack you got the coals blazing born up a tree everyone let's tuck in
the Russel Einstein Manifesto is toast let's drink to that shite where'd you get that anorak Bert?
They were on a guided tour of a temple of Dionysus. The guide went on in a monotone, about "Dionysus, the Greek God of wine, women and song." They stood before a statue of a young man with long hair and a casual stance. His sidelong glance, fixed through twenty centuries of the artist's impression, seemed to be watching Lucy through veiled eyelids. She sneezed and the tour guide moved on. As she delved in her handbag for another tissue, she heard the voice droning on about this citizen of the Ancient World.
"The worshippers of this God would become drunk on wine, dance around this temple," he indicated backwards with an expansive hand, "in a fertility ritual, finally going on to ..." How boring and irrelevant, she thought, and in her misery coughed like a drain. She thought how she was definitely not enjoying this. The whole trip was an act of rebellion against Cecil. She had been bucking against his disapproving ways since they had first met. Now she was nineteen and he was in no way relenting. He still looked down on her spontaneous nature and disdained her efforts to bring him out of his shell. Oh just for once to see Cecil misbehave, she thought.
"The Ancient God of carefree living, Dionysus's worshippers, when possessed, were held by strong urges," the guide's English working-class accent paused, meaningfully, "largely due to the wine they imbibed."
Her thoughts drifted towards her endeavors to liberate the dear sweet Cecil, and how it seemed that he was too set in his ways to respond. He was now back in Cape Town, spending the holiday amongst his collection of butterflies.
Returning to her hotel room, she kicked off her shoes and blissfully lay down on the soft counterpane. A breeze blew in off the Mediterranean and gently wafted her from wakefulness, and within a minute she was asleep. The next minute there was a knock at the door, and she opened the door to find a waiter with long, greasy hair. He offered a bottle of the local stuff, a red wine of dubious vintage.
"Compliments of the management," he said in a thick Continental tone. "We hope it is to your taste."
"Leave it on the sideboard," snapped Lucy, tired and irritated at this interruption of her sleep. The man obliged giving her a cheeky sideways look that raised her bile. He had heavy eyelids and a sensuous, swarthy look that she found strangely disturbing. When he was gone she called the airport to confirm her flight home the next day. What a relief to get out of this sticky country, she thought. Dear God, where is the Cape South Easter when you need it.
Hmmn ... Next to the wine was a book called The Winemakers' Manifesto: a Guide to Dionysiac Liquoring.
"Absolute New Age rubbish," she thought, but, never one to turn down a free offer, she popped it into her bag.
Back home, Table Mountain stood proud to the skyline and Lucy felt somehow protected as she gazed out of her kitchen window at the sleeping giant. Often she would take a Sunday stroll along the paths of the mountainside, perhaps taking a hamper of food and her companion, Cecil. They would walk until they were exhausted, then find a warm corner and devour their picnic meal. Of course Wilbur, her Alsatian puppy, would accompany them, a caution against muggers and a cheerful presence between the two misanthropes.
It was a warm spring day when they set out as usual to explore the mountainside. They took with them a hamper with sandwiches and a bottle of red wine, one she had brought back from Greece, in fact the bottle she had obtained from the wine-waiter. Cecil looked disapprovingly at the bottle of wine as if it would bite him.
"I daresay the fellow was trying to steal something out of your room!" he said dismissively when told about the incident, but glanced at the Winemakers' Manifesto and tucked it into the basket.
"Come on Wilbur," she whistled at the dog, and slipped the lead around his neck.
It was a still corner where Lucy and Cecil came to rest with their picnic. They spread a rug and set out their meal in anticipation. Below them the Atlantic stretched out blue and idyllic in the spring sunshine. Lucy thought in passing of the aquamarine Mediterranean so many miles away, as she finished a chicken roll and the last of the wine. Afterwards, bathing in the sun with a certain twisting in her stomach, she felt the lightness of the breeze on her cheek and felt herself drift off. Once again she found herself in the room where she had been during the Greek excursion. Once again the knock at the door. Automatically she opened it. But now the Greek waiter was no longer a greasy-haired Neapolitan, but the Greek god Dionysus himself, and behind him were the green fields of Southern Greece. He gave Lucy a sidelong glance under soft eyelashes that she had seen somewhere before. She discovered that she was clad in a loose, flowing dress that outlined her graceful figure, and she willingly danced out onto the hill covered in long grass that swayed in the wind. She found that she was being pursued by this handsome Greek god and playfully she fended him off. He was all around her, and as she ran he turned into ... Cecil?
It was Cecil who was chasing her now and Cecil who had a knowing grin on his face. Cecil the abstemious, Cecil the pompous, Cecil the disapproving nerd who had no right to dictate a damn thing to her. He was in the process of trying to stick his tongue in her ear when Wilbur started to lick. Now Wilbur, or his predecessor, had licked her before, but well, never quite like this. It reminded her of her ride on the Shetland pony at her eleventh birthday party, thrilling, scary, wanting more.
Itchy, tousled and aroused, she sat up to see Cecil looking at her through veiled lids in a way she had seen somewhere before, long ago and far, far away. The Winemakers' Manifesto was propped up against a projecting protuberance that boded well for the future of the afternoon. Hmmn, she thought, and leaned over ...
Picture a sunny Saturday morning in upper Bishopscourt. It's Springtime. Mrs God is down at the bottom of the garden hunting under the washing-line for a missing clothes peg. Not ten paces away across the boundary fence, Mrs Allah is pruning her roses when she senses a pair of eyes drilling into her back. Not one to be fazed by the limelight, she studiously ignores the daunting gaze, until there is an audible clearing of Mrs God's throat. Mrs Allah, being relatively omniscient, realises that there is a loose thread in her Cashmere cardigan, and, being sensitive to these things, she also realises that Mrs God would like to help.
At this stage let us just say that Mr God is shooting his customary Saturday 18 at the Heaven's Half Acre Golf Links, and is thus unable to remind her of her duty to uphold the flag. Similarly Mr Allah is down at the local orphanage, supervising an ad hoc meeting of the Financial Committee in his pro deo capacity. His usual attention to fatwa has been eclipsed recently by the need to raise finance for a new climbing frame, as the old one has been deemed Dangerous To Children since that shark Abel Jones claimed back the dowels that held the thing together.
But let's return to Mrs Allah's loose thread back in Bishopscourt. Ever keen to promote interpersonal communication, Mrs God bursts into conversation with 'I know a dinky little tailor who can, I kid you not, put a matching outfit together in the twinkling of an eye, cheap too, just below Wynberg Main Road?'
A sharp intake of breath at the implied opening.
'I know Edrich! The only guy South of Zhauns who can sew denim without breaking the frigging needle.'
They both share a moment's silence visualising Edrich's legendary belly-button ring and his reputation for going to great lengths for his clients. Hmmn... that six-pack!?
Brought back to reality by The Great Satan revving his Harley Davidson in the adjoining plot, they both remind themselves guiltily of their husbands' insistence on preparedness. Mr Satan goes over the top with a roar next door. Mrs God and Mrs Allah silently lock eyes in understanding commiseration.
'I don't know why she puts up with his nonsense. He's eternally claiming UIF and doesn't do a stitch around the house! In my book she's a saint'.
Again the sensitive pause at the mention of 'my book'. 'My chiropodist reckons it's a co-dependent relationship'. Mrs Allah this time.
'Yes she needs to put some boundaries in place. It's all about assertiveness. Our husbands need training, without exception.' Mrs God's jaw firms at this statement of a communal burden. There is the glint of battle in her eye.
Mrs Allah nods agreement. She ventures onto a new tack, novel in the history of the known universe. 'I wonder whether the Satans would be open to Family Therapy. I could broach the subject with her given the right environment. We could hold an Avroy Schlain party. What Little Satan needs is a good dose of Clearasil and a decent gym membership. Have faith, sister.'
The light bulb goes on. Invitations, catering arrangements and commission are arranged in seconds. The women grab their Blackberries and the appointments are bluetoothed and synched. The eternally amenable Mrs Buddha will, they affirm as one, offer her lounge as a neutral venue. They BBM her. Heaven murmurs a soliloquy of praise as the Blackberry network is suddenly up again. The meeting is meant to be. Mrs Buddha agrees. The scene is set.
Both women are now on a mission. Great Satan has now moved his attentions elsewhere and the homely waft of singed boerewors indicates that the customary Saturday lunchtime braai is hot and happening at chez Satan. Little Satan and his sister Tiny Satan are currently setting out on their weekly project to drive Great Satan to drink by bouncing a golf ball against the other side of his garage wall, repetitively, systematically. It works like the Ancient Chinese Water Torture. i.e. a great success. A string of curses percolates over the Vibrocrete wall. Mrs Satan has taken to her bed with a headache. Can we blame her?
Back amongst the blessed Mrs God sets the gardener onto painting the South-facing wall of the garage something a bit more welcoming. Something between Sea Breeze and Burgundy, with Mushroom undertones. Not to be outdone on the magnanimity scale, Mrs Allah goes straight into her boudoir and emails her maintenance team at PAGAD with a directive that the current missing pipes plumbing problem at Heaven's Half Acre needs our best attention please gentlemen can I remind you this is a code red SLA! The gentlemen at PAGAD respond quickly and nervously in the affirmative. The sky is truly open above Bishopscourt today. Mrs Allah in business mode is not to be trifled with.
Messrs God and Allah come home too exhausted to pick up that something is going on. A week in politics is a long time, even for the best of us. Mr God looks out on his garden, and all is as it should be. The glass of wine and morsel of matzos left at his elbow by his adoring wife is not necessary, as we fortunately now have endorphins. There begins a light snore that floats gently over creation. Eighteen hole's-in-one, the usual. But Mrs God has plans afoot...
Likewise Mr Allah spends twenty minutes playing pool in the entertainment deck with his grandchildren. He normally lets them win but it is becoming increasingly obvious that multitalented little Mohammad has a very bankable skill in this sphere. Hmmn... maybe the UCT Graduate Business School can wait. Mr Allah checks the all share index on his iPhone. All is well. His armchair is again the siren call of Paradise. The men are taken care of - but what of the women?
Mrs God has primed her telephone prayer-chain on the situation at the Satans, and by Sunday lunchtime Little Satan has become the object of intercessory prayers, visions, dreams and prophecies. On Sunday afternoon a mysterious delivery of piping hot samoosas and a free Foot Spa Treatment compliments of Kurt materialise at the Satan household. Mrs Satan comes out of her bedroom for the first time since Easter. She has a turn in the garden in the cool of the evening. The birds are tweeting in the twilight.
Mr God is in a singularly good mood due to the resolution of the long standing pipes problem. In addition, his lawnmower now starts first time every time, and some kind little fairy has cleaned up the tool shed in his absence. He catches himself whistling that gay little tune from The King and I while walking down the passage and Mrs God has made a point of telling him that he looks distinguished in his new corduroy jacket. Yes it's a fine day to be alive.
Mrs Allah seems to have stopped her daily complaints to Mr Allah about the racket over at Great Satan's place. She seems more contented, purposeful, and even happy?
The Buddhas really come to the party a week later with a complimentary feast of Thai Curried Chicken on Basmati rice with guacamole and red pepper sauce (Mrs Satan's favourite). The Avroy Schlain party thus evolves into a Sunday family meal of reconciliation and harmony. Everybody pulls in. Mrs Satan, barefoot in a bikini and beach-sarong, is the life and soul of the party (with thanks to Prozac). Her husband has reined in his language, and when an umbrella-stand drops on his little toe, his call for help to Mr God implies..., well, let's just say it has implications for the future of the universe. The Gods' unmarried son, resplendent in long hair, leather sandals and khaftan, teaches Little Satan and Tiny Satan the joys of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and, Lo, He lets them win. Little Mohammad joins in towards the end. The extended Buddha family, with their many relatives abounding, are gracious and accommodating hosts. The swimming pool is a hive of interaction for both young and old. A Good Time is had by all.
All things being equal, if 'The Powers That Be' were more in touch with their feminine, might we perhaps have a little more equality, communication and compassion as opposed to warfare, hatred and damnation?
'The man who used to feed him and has now stopped feeding him has stretched a wire over the pen three meters above ground level, and hangs a bunch of bananas from it. Into the pen he drags three wooden crates. Then he disappears, closing the gate behind him, though he is still somewhere in the vicinity as one can smell him.
'Sultan knows: Now one is supposed to think. That is what the bananas up there are about. The bananas are up there to make one think, to spur one to the limits of one's thinking. But what must one think? One thinks: Why is he starving me? One thinks: What have I done? Why has he stopped liking me? Why does he not want these crates any more? But none of these is the right thought.
'Sultan drags the crates under the bananas, piles them one on top of the other, climbs the tower he has built, and pulls down the bananas. He thinks: Now will he stop punishing me?
'The answer is: No. The next day the man hangs a fresh bunch of bananas from the wire but also fills the crates with stones so that they are too heavy to be dragged. One is not supposed to think: Why has he filled the crates with stones? One is supposed to think: How does one use the crates to get the bananas despite the fact that they are filled with stones?
'One is beginning to see how the man's mind works.
J M Coetzee - The Lives of Animals - Part One
And it's Fridayyyyy Cock a Friggin' Doodle Doo yes it's your Randy Rooster Rastus tearin' up the airwaves down here at Ferdie's Farm for Chikkins in Worcester - it's a short lifespan for Battery Roosters guys so Cease Cluckin' an' Begin Fuckin' - that's my motto - Ricardo in the next cage always say you godda peace out an' achieve long cool nirvana but hang it's difficult when they taken your claws an' beak away an' you just sit in your 16 by 13 in the heat an' wait fo the chop know what i mean - live it up i say - go down fightin' - do not go gentle into that goodnight Dylan Tomcat the poet once wrote - rage, rage against the dyin' o' the light
Yes folks its Fridayyyyy Denton down the way plannin' to celebrate with a spot of LSD into the communal water tank check it out - we'll get everyone goin' stir crazy d'you ever wonder what a thousand roosters contemplate when the weekend comes round? i mean think of it a thousand birds full of testosterone, chikkin antibiotics an' growth hormone - it's all enough to make a cannibal out of you too - put yourself in our place for a second hold your horses calm the crowds - it's Friday see an' there ain't a female in reach - Rastus Denton an' Ricardo tryin' to paint the town red only there's nowhere to go - Cock a Friggin' Doodle Doo what did the Ho say to the Rooster when he asked the fatal question - hey any cock'll do guy was the fond reply actually how the heck would i know the only tail i ever see is on Denton's porn stash two mielie kernels a look no lurkin' next please hmmn?
there's a shit load of noise in here dunno how Ricardo does it transcendental medication was his last angle now its Holy Joe with the Rooster Rasta Rebels Don't Eat Your Vitamins Smoke 'Em it's a movement it's a friggin' subculture we all goin' up in the bonfire on Monday anyway - eat drink an' be merry for next week we die who the fuck wrote that mebbe that old hedonist philosopher i forget now - but hey Denton's got connections on the outside you want anythin' Go Directly to Denton - Denton for President! - who you foolin' we all end up on somebody's dinner plate who cares anyways mope mope no but seriously Denton hooked up with some Animal Rights dudes an' he's plannin' a revolution pigg a digg digg animals gonna take over the world Cock a Friggin' Doodle Doo - i got the attention span of a goldfish which is why i finish my sentences when the same thought comes round again ten seconds later hence i got the 'quivalent of VD Verbal Diarrhoea you dull prick - who was that philosopher was it... er, hang on it'll come to me in a second - yeah before TM Ricardo was into Hunger Strikes hah big joke in here you godda eat it's the path to the outside
well as i was sayin' its Friday an' this weekend the word is there's gonna be a prison break - get the T-Shirt its hot an' happenin' here at Rastus Rooster's place - i got forethought some cerebral cortex unlike that mad crowd down there i done some deep genetic modification my brain is superfried Cease Cluckin' an' Begin Fuckin' You Retrogrades! yeah come Monday i gonna be footloose and fancy free - Luncheon is for Losers, Death is for Dummies, Gettin' Eaten Is Not Cool Cock a Friggin' Doodle Doo
Now Errol down the row got insights into the world of serious literature his favourite is Fun-Filled Fellatio For Fowls written by Chikkin Likkin' fuck what kinda poetry is that i ask you spot the pun but i got a secret copy of Henny Penny Does A Duck on DVD under my mattress dunno where i'm gonna get a player in this place - but hey it's pie in the sky not steak on the plate with an apology to the beef amongst us heh heh - Errol reckons that How to End up as a Wittenberg 'Omlet by "Eggs" Benedict is the ideal way to depart this world - it scored more points on the Deathwish Scale than that old 80's classic - y'know Final Exit - How to Commit Sewerage Pipe in 366 Different Dynamic Positions
yeah it's Friday and the Brothers are restless there's some angry blood in those bastards travellin' ballast i hear on the grapevine there's some dudes called JC and the Sunshine Band workin' to bring about a new order talkin' bout the lilies o' the field and the birds o' the air he has an arbitrarily poetic mind - he say the Hens deserve their freedom and the Roosters should be takin' their rightful place as the head of the home i dunno bout that - henpecked is what we all are down here - family what family - should i give him the time o' day who knows apparently there's a huge Rooster upstairs - no not Farmer Ferdie dude - when i get outta here i got some deep questions for him like how come i never got to lay eggs in this life where do we go when we get eaten when's the sky gonna fall on our heads - i mean what's the sky i ask you with tears in my navy blue eyes
yeah those Moorhens'll get a revolution goin' in here they'll burn anythin' they set fire to Origin of the Species last week said it contravened the Divine Right o' Kings - Malcom Eggs is their candidate for President - even Kaal Mark's Das Eggshell didn't make it through the night burn burn burn all i wanna do is burn i think i know how they all feel between JC and Malcolm i feel sure we got sumpin good on the way - but be careful don count your chikkins before they hatch i always say and of course that ole cooker of wisdom don put all your eggs in one basket - now what's that supposed to mean who thinks up this shit i ask you
yes the headin' of the piece is Fridayyyyy and its gonna be a statement like Fugard's The Island a sublime exposé of the desperate lonely tragedy of the neglected underclasses a voice for the voiceless givin' credence to the battery chikkin's Right to Celebrate Life and Love and Fuckin' Pursuit of Happiness At Least Once A Week Damn You - we're all animals under the skin dunno who said that but we too have a right to email, blackberries and shit and communication too JC Coetzee said it so it mus be true - so nex time you get a stupid email says Fridayyyyy like tomorrows bin cancelled think of us righteous brothers sittin' tight waitin' for the liberatin' armies o' the press to break the chains of chikkin antibiotics and growth hormone - do you know what it feels like to have growth hormone rammed in your system its sick man sick sick sick suicide country
as i was sayin' Friday is breakout day where the chikkins of the world come to power no more Thighs Tax Free no more Simply The Breast those dodgers down at the abattoir gonna get it once and for all we gonna rise up and take what's ours No More Evolution This Is A Revolution - i fancy odds on Malcolm to lead the pack into the future every now and then when my ten seconds comes round again i think bout this JC Coetzee dude what kinda name is that mebbe you ain't got no balls - wassup you godda first name kid? how come you rootin' for the underdog - or the underchikkin in our case - mebbe you had enuff of that steak on a plate - actually sadly you be our only hope - raise the consciousness level for God's sake include the friggin' chikkins for cryin' in a bucket fuck it's hot in here no peace for the wicked breathe deeply or at least try to shit shit shit
Saturday night! Huh! this is the biggest anticlimax since Ducky Lucky dumped Foxy Loxy on account of his credit ratin's blown by the bastards at Debt Counsellin' Cock a Friggin' Doodle Doo - don look at me i never read books just hear about it percolatin' on the underground network chikkins can't read silly we just cluck with the occasional quick lucky fuck but lissen lissen lissen to the buzz on the street the kidz are lookin' for an avenue outta here a boulevard with their name on pullets are god's creatures too ssshhh just the soft hum of the aircon the breathin' of the whole goddam outhouse the softer light to make you sleep the mood of the moon harkin' back to early days when we roamed free as birds before friggin' Nando's cornered the market on wings before Ina Paarman's chikkin marinade before Worcester settled here before man walked the earth the peace is palpable i sometimes gaze at the gap in the top of the Duiwelhok and wonder - what - who - why - when - it resembles thought a bit more than my scrambled brains usually do durin' daylight hours and a deep sadness comes over me that i can't articulate a sense of a wasted life - wasted time - wasted youth - wasted consciousness - just a big friggin' waste
Midnight and not a sound from the masses all is still and i think back to Ed an' Marvin an' Pete when we wuz chicks all together rubbin' shoulders with the high an' mighty as well as low and skulkin' no artificial airs an' graces there kid - yeah peckin' seed an' drinkin' g-hormone-soaked-water cultivatin' social skills also known as developin' bullyin' techniques Screw Vocational Guidance it was winner takes all you didn't get to the feedpipe you withered an' died right there on the floor - starvation an' thirst dude i tell you starvation an' thirst - there wuz nobody who'd sneeze sideways if you din wake up one mornin' - the mere fact that i am livin' breathin' thinkin' here in front of you is a testimony to that bastard Jones who one late mornin' kicked me off my nightperch - sleepin' in i was due to flu or sumpin similar mebbe worse felt like shit eyeballs itchy - weak at the knees - toes turnin' upwards an' that sonofa come bump me sideways cos he want my position - saved my life - made late breakfast shame Ed din make it through - avian flu virus got him hushed up by The People Above didn't want no panic in the row folk sellin' up movin' out we had a good corridor then - it was Home not like this place feels like exile only two levels up but it might as well be friggin' Australia fuck those were the days May God Help Us All Cock a Friggin' Doodle Doo - thought i saw Pete a while back at a de-wormin' convention but it was too quick to judge ships passin' in the night - in the chikkin's search for meanin' i get a Big Fat Fokol - zero recognition no connections it's just a dream for all i can tell - nightmare more like - we jus a means to an end nourish the master race lay eggs donate organs for the ubermenschen it is all quite simple my good man We are the Masters and You are the Servants yo must lay down yo life that We might live - think of it as a Noble Callin' do not lose heart yo are part of a Solution the Final Solution to be precise it's all for a higher purpose stroke stroke smile smile deeply chillin' little laugh signal to the butler fo another G 'n T clap to dismiss yo from my presence do not linger little one yo is needed for wot yo mus do and i is needed fo what i mus do into each life a little rain mus fall be kiiiiiind to our four footed freeeeends etc etc don make me sick yo can't hold a note kotz kotz Cock a Friggin' Doodle Doo
ain't much to think about on this circuit just the next meal when the hell is breakfast gonna arrive either that or wassup with the consistency of the feed Dry As Sawdust Is Not What We Signed Up For - mind you we didn't sign up a damn thing down here it was just oh let's stick him in there and plunk her in here oh shall we feed them mebbe not now later when i had my garlic 'n snails pass the salt ever so nicely dear - meanwhile these peckers are thirsty beyond comprehension there's no thirst like the spiritual emptiness of a life badly lived and regrets piled on regrets and the Deep Fuckin' ANGER at the UNFAIRNESS of it ALL - WHO YOO TINK YOO ARE DON TELL ME TO KEEP QUIET I'LL SHOUT IF I WANT TO YOO'D DO THE SAME IN MY POSITION TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF ME FUCK OFF YOO IT'S DARK IN HERE
IT'S FUKKIN DARK IN HERE
DO YOO UNNESTAND ME? DO YOU? HUH!? - i din ask fo this god how come you put me in here with these million pricks Jesus said His Eye is on the Sparrow and i don see much eyeballin' happenin' down south here terminal case of blind injustice in the immediate vicinity - what a goddam party this is - helloooo i godda itch at the back o' my neck is dere anyone dere who could possibly reach it the humidity is killin' me i godda stretch my legs will mornin' ever come i could sell my soul to the divil an' no-one who give a cluck - o god i's cryin' o god o god o god o god o god tears pourin' down my comb an' neck an' toes an' floor makin' dark mud in the chikkin shit dust - relief? - anywhere? - anyway? - no answer - Silence - i can't even sleep and the smell of a Duiwelhok full o' manure dat's chikkin shit bro overpowerin' my senses risin' up through the floorboards infiltratin' duh very moral fiber o' dis district dis country dis world dis cosmos - lonely lonely lonely damfuck
an' it's suddenly bloody Monday and i see the weekend went out the window like a pig on acid hoo boy so much for the revolution but Never Give Up as Winston Chickhill advocated - it's always darkest before the Pork says some other literary dude and there's been a sound of trucks revvin' for the last hour and hallelujay the top comes off the hokand its bright and i can't see - is this what the sky is terribly painful mebbe we're bein' rescued who knows and i'm bundled into a cage alongside Earl from the Body Corporate and he's playin' with his whiskers terribly important asshole - says he knows where we're goin' - gonna be a holiday farm for Retired Roosters where we get cuddled and stroked and kids playin' and restaurant scraps its called The Barnyard i kid you not - and a mellow feelin' of completion settles over his visage and i'm layin' back an' enjoyin' the ride breeze at my back scenery passin' so this is what scenery is you coulda blown me over with a feather mebbe JC was right after all you can see the face of God through the vent of the mobile hok Cock a Friggin' Doodle Doo - check out those two big eyes bigger dan you an' me bigger dan infinity gazin' down at us all watchin' an' waitin' here's a pic beautiful ain't it?