The children of a primary school wait every week for an old man to arrive and play his violin. He serenades in honour of his beloved wife, buried in a graveyard next to the school. Then something unexpected happens …
“Honey, I’ve met stupid. I’ve worked with stupid. Lord knows I’ve even dated stupid. But your kids ain’t stupid. So, let’s just give it to ’em straight, okay?”
Jacqueline turned to the three faces looking balefully at her and their mother. This was the first time they’d seen their Auntie Jax, from the American state of Tennessee, in three years. The woman defied their memories.
“Now children, you listen to your Auntie Jax. Your daddy loves you, but he did something stupid, okay? Being stupid isn’t a crime, but unfortunately, your daddy was so stupid he let himself be talked into doing something incredibly stupid, and the government is a little mad at him right now. So, me and your mama are gonna sort things out. Okay? And everything’s gonna be alright. Auntie Jax promises.”
Three pairs of eyes blinked. They took in the wild, reddish-black curls. “Big hair,” their mother had said. They took in the slim fingers, decorated with numerous rings and ending in long, red nails. “Impractical,” their mother had said. They took in her earrings, so large that little Ida could have used them as her doll’s hula hoops. “Can tell she doesn’t have children,” their mother had said. They took in the shoes, with heels so high and pointy they could have doubled as knitting needles. “Asking for bunions,” their mother had said.
Not that Auntie Jax gave “a flying fig” what their mother said. “Maddy’s confused. I ask you, what kind of black American gal goes all the way to Africa and ends up married to a white man?” she asked.
You can read the second chapter by Clicking HERE
The good folks at FunDza have published my story, “Sting Like A Bee.” This is Justine’s story, the missing sister from “Surfing & Shakespeare.” The tale begins in a dark place and fights its way to better times. I hope you enjoy.
I don’t like walking alone in the dark. Murky shapes shift and move: human, animal, ghost – I don’t know. Noises from shadowy corners: shattering glass, a scream, a groan, a whisper – “Psst, over here” – mix with the sound of passing cars, their tyres rolling over the streets with a hiss. The law says the bar must provide transport for employees at this time of night. But I’m working ‘under the table’ for cash stuffed in a pocket, a pat on the butt.
You’re such a screw up, Justine.
Footsteps approach. My shoulders tighten, weight shifts to my toes. Look ’em in the eye, make then know – I see you. I thrust my chin up. Two heads nod in reply. Step, step, step – the two men pass. Blue jeans. Sketchers. Fitted button downs.
Get it together, Justine.
I turn the corner, into the alley, suppressing a shiver. Creepy. I’m caught between high brick walls and locked metal doors guarded by bars. But if I don’t go through here, cutting via the parking lot, then it is an extra ten minutes in the dark to home, and the lighting isn’t much better that way.
Not that I have a home, exactly. Romario’s got himself a new girl now, and his sister wants me off her crappy futon mattress. Like, yesterday, if not sooner.
Almost there, keep going.
Footsteps arrive in staccato – tat-tat-tat.
“Wha–!” Air leaves my lungs as a heavy weight slams against my back, arm tightens around my neck, yanking me backwards. Another guy comes forward at me, and I’m kicking, pushing hard. He goes flying that way; we’re falling this way.
“Shi–” whoofs the body underneath me, while the other slams into the wall. My body is still moving, legs curling over my head, elbow jamming into the gravel, flipping those feet over, and then I’m rising, standing, fists raised.
This isn’t going to be any girly hair-pulling fight.
And in the dim light are two sets of eyes, aglow, looking at me in rage. Like I’m misbehaving, like I am the one doing wrong. Both creep closer, crowding in, as my eyes dart between them. The right one lunges – my leg lashes out. He dodges, as his buddy on the left moves in, catching my shirt and I twist and scream and yell, “Oh Lord, help me now!”
But deep down I know not a damn soul is listening, even in heaven. It’s all you, or they win. I throw that punch and hit target.
He smashes against the wall. As if somebody threw him. But I didn’t touch him.
I glance to my right, and my other attacker is gone too, running fast, as if a rabid dog is after him. Somebody is after him, running hard, and fast, and yelling, “Hey, get back here. I’ll fight you. Come on, I’ll give you a fight!”
A voice to my left: “She alright?”
I snap my head around, and there is a huge man in the shadows, looking alert and ferocious.
“I think so,” says a voice. Softer.
My eyes whip over to a woman, same height as me, approaching me slowly. She looks strong and fierce in her weird white pyjama-suit, yet kind. Softly-softly, she keeps saying, “It’s OK. You’re OK. Safe now. You’re OK.”
And that’s when I notice the object at my feet. A knife. A sharp, jagged, evil looking thing. And before I can stop myself, I’m quoting Shakespeare like an idiot, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle of my hand?”
Proving you can leave home, but its claws are embedded into your soul.
Read the rest of the story HERE
I hope you enjoy.
Once upon the not-so-distant future …
“We have to go dancing,” Vuyisa said. She tugged on Ntando’s arm. “Come on, girl, the night is fiiiiine. Put on those red shoes and we’re going out.”
Ntando shrugged off Vuyisa’s grasp and looked away. She loved Vuyisa, more than any person she’d ever known. But tonight was not happening. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m beat; tired. You know how it is. That time of the month, and–”
“I’m gonna stop you right there, girl, because I know when you’re lying to me. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again – I can see those lies written right across your face. So spit it out. What’s the real problem?”
Ntando swallowed hard. She knew Vuyisa would understand. She, too, depended on bursaries and loans to attend University of Cape Town. But it didn’t make saying the words any easier. “I’m temporarily embarrassed of funds.”
Vuyisa smacked her lips. “So what? You know I wouldn’t leave you behind over money. Come on, it will be my treat. We’ve survived our first term, this is something to celebrate!”
The music thrummed into the marrow of both young women’s bones, but it was Vuyisa who moved as if she was the music. Joy radiated out of her, as her body glided and swayed with the beat. It was contagious. People around them fed off her energy. In her presence, everyone’s spirits lifted as their cares and woes slipped out through the soles of their dancing feet.
But only Ntando received the full voltage of Vuyisa’s attention.
The girls had become close since day one at varsity when Ntando, struggling with a bag of clothes and a box of books, had tripped, scattering her stuff. Vuyisa was the first to rush over and help. She had smiled at Ntando and said, “It’s all going to be OK.” And so far, it mostly had been.
“How you feeling?” Vuyisa shouted into Ntando’s ear.
“Good, but hot,” Ntando replied. “Let’s take a break.”
The crisp air caressed Ntando’s cheek as the pair walked into the night. Vuyisa took Ntando by the hand and led her away from the mingling crowds.
“Is this good?” Vuyisa asked.
“Better,” Ntando said, looking up into the starless sky. “But it’s freezing out here. Or was it just that hot inside?”
Vuyisa shook her head. “It was hot, but this is cold.” A slow smile slid across her face. “But I can warm you up a little, if you like?”
Ntando held her breath as Vuyisa’s lips touched her own. Warmth spread through Ntando’s veins, as she savoured Vuyisa’s kiss.
“How are you doing, now?” Vuyisa breathed.
“Good,” Vuyisa beamed. “Because I’ve wanted to do that since the day I met you.”
Ntando opened her mouth to reply, but nothing came out. A snowflake had landed on her nose.
“It’s snowing!” Vuyisa squealed. She flung her arms out wide and began to spin and laugh. “It’s only April and it is snowing!”
Ntando tilted up her head and opened her mouth. Snowflakes landed like icy wishes on her tongue.
“This is unbelievable,” Vuyisa laughed.
Then her laughter cut off abruptly. “Ow! Damn it. Something is in my eye.”
Ntando rushed over. “Let me have a look.”
Vuyisa blinked a few times. “No, I’m fine now. But damn, that hurt.”
“Want to go back inside and dance, or walk back?”
Vuyisa smiled. “Let’s walk. We need to savour this weather fluke. It will probably be gone by morning.”
Read the rest of I Will Find You by clicking HERE
I am delighted to have another story published FunDza, a wonderful literary trust that gets teens reading. The story, “Surfing & Shakespeare,” is a tale about a Grade 10 teen, Tazmin, who has been going through some rough times. Her only escape is surfing.
The water catches me. The roar sounding in my ears as the board lifts. That moment of weightlessness – before my feet touch down, before the water thrusts me towards the rocks – that is what I love most. In that instant, I am flying. This is when I believe I could go anywhere, be anybody, live a life without crying babies and daddies that never come home. What follows is the rush. Knees bent, crouched low, toes gripping the board, I glide, zip-zip, owning that wave. I am fierce. Powerful.
Then I plunge into the swirl, water rushing over my head, pressing against my nostrils, trying to work its way in. Leash on my ankle is tugging, as if my borrowed board is trying to join the schools of fishes and swim alongside the seals. As my head breaks into the open air there is Sir, on the shore, waving at me to come in.
I emerge from the sea and plod across the rocks, holding the board against my thigh. With each step I shrink, turning back into plain old me. Nobody special. Just another teenage girl, and not even a popular one at that, with frizzy plaits made coarse and dry by the sea. “No boy going to look at you like that,” my ma keeps saying. But since Gabriel arrived, that comment has turned from a bad thing to a good thing.
“Not too bad,” Sir says when I get closer. “But you’re bending your a back a bit. Need to stay straight.”
I nod, showing him I’m listening. Sir needs to know you are listening. Everybody thinks surfers are a bunch of laid-back dudes with hardly any cares in the world. Maybe that’s true for most, I’m not saying it isn’t. Might even be true for Sir when he’s not in his coaching mode. But give the man a whistle and he loses any cool he has ever possessed. He’s just blah, blah, blah about my form, from how I hold my chin, to the extension of my fingers. And I nod and nod because any wrong word out of me and I’ll get the angry-Sir. The one that reminds me I’m here fee-free, borrowing his boards and wearing his ripped up and baggy wetsuit that stinks like old men’s socks. At least I hope that’s what that smell is, because otherwise I do not want to know.
I never remind Sir that I’m here to make him look good. Make his team appear open-minded and inclusive. But we know the score, Sir and I. So I keep nodding until he says, “Am I going to get a better commitment out of you this term than I did last? Because the waves don’t run to our schedule, can’t be two-thirty to four o’clock every day. They come mornings, late afternoon, weekends and I need to know you can be there.”
To read the full short story, please click HERE
To read the sequel, “Sting Like A Bee”, please click HERE
Fiona Snyckers, author of many titles including Now Following You (read quotes here), has a new novel out, Spire. In the tradition of Charles Dickens, Spire has been serialised. Each day a new chapter is being released. The suspenseful tale, of a doctor stationed in the South Pole trapped with patients coming down with mysterious illnesses, already has her fans on the edge of their seats…
“He’s not breathing.”
Click HERE for Chapter 1.
I am honoured to have a story published by FunDza. They are a literary trust for tween and teen readers. Content can be read for free, with apps to suit various devices, and readers are encouraged to comment on the stories. You can learn more about them by clicking HERE. You can read my story, Dislocated, by clicking HERE.
Malcolm is seventeen and his mother has left his father, dragging him to a small American town. He doesn’t know what’s going on between his parents, life is boring and he misses Cape Town. That is, until he meets Becca. Her family is as messed up as his – maybe more. But things with Becca are complicated. Why can’t they be simple? Why is it so hard to do the right thing?
The story is set in a fictional rural Oregon town, which was loosely based on Langlois, Oregon, not far from where I grew up. While the story is, of course, completely made up, I could not resist adding in one element from my teens – we really would sneak into the forest to listen to a band. We liked to believe none of the adults knew, but I’m sure they did. I hope you enjoy the story. Malcolm and Becca are two characters dear to my heart.
Inside there is us, She and I, and we exist in pages and selective imaginations. We are as real as the memories of your lost loved ones and have as much of a future as your dreams. From Her’s command our lives are shaped. I once had green eyes. Later they were brown, “to be more realistic.” Now my eyes lack a description amongst the words. Her says this is supposed to make it easier for You to identify with I.
She and I had names. They began and ended with the same letters in the Roman alphabet. But as soon as we were read aloud it was apparent that our names sounded too similar. Her thought this would be confusing to You. So our names were changed to ones that sounded “more pleasing to the ear.” Weeks later, Her looked up the meanings of our then-names and said, “Oh, no, no, no.” Many new names followed, all of which possessed meanings that “mattered”. Not a single one, however, were able to expand the breadth of ourselves. Now we are only known as She and I.
She was happy being She. I was uncertain with I. The name is so slim – I feared I would be easily overlooked. But Her was insistent that I, as I, would evoke greater empathy in You. “Because that is who you are,” Her said.
I remain unconvinced. For if I am I, then I cannot be You.
Read the whole story at Kalahari Review