The Voice Newsmagazine
A short story from Skipper
I was close to forgetting about him. I wondered if he was still alive, and if he was happy. I wondered what he would make of me, seeming that I had changed considerably. Would he squint at the vulgarity of my story? I received a message from that silence between the stars. It took me along a path, reminding me of how I’d always been blind to the patterns. The artist in me must have sculpted him as my perfect beau, because despite his impish mistakes and empty promises, I fell shattered when he skipped. Then I saw him everywhere. I sought for depth and clarity, a flame that flickers in the darkness.
On the 21st of June, in 2001, radio stations speculated about an eclipse that would befall Africa. Citizens were worried that the President would support the War in the East. But, my war had already begun with the corporal punishment I’d received for drawing a portrait of my teacher’s face.
At the bottom of my childhood diary entry I recognize a woman’s handwriting:
Resolution – Meeting with Child Welfare, Adjourn the Disaster Committee with Child Protection Unit, March 1993.
Breaking news, about a bomb that went off in a car, were reverberating in my house at the time. Citizens were reported having heard a big bang, followed by a tremor; then lightening.
Then after the news, I receive call from the Trade, asking me to enrol for a pageant. I could not afford a full length and a half head-and-shoulders photo of myself. A single picture would have cost me seven Rands; that’s enough money for half a loaf of bread. I’d sometimes stand on my desk by the window in my apartment and look at the world beneath me, thinking of all the discourses that could best describe my hunger. I’m not strong enough for it, but I have to bear it because it won’t go anywhere without me pushing it out of my face.
For instance: those three whites on the roof there, talking risky business; as one black loosens the knots off a billboard, his feet dangling in the air. If he falls, only his fellow blacks would bear the trauma of seeing him go. Wonder how-many of those whites were ever pupils. Mxim. Not having food for months does this to a human being. I was supposed to get my money on the 1st of September. It is November now.
I met a teacher once, about a year ago, who said he had been a ‘skipper’ in his day. ‘Skipper’ was a term used in the Apartheid days for rebel blacks who skipped the Townships. Some of them were caught and tortured while others sat on a train to Almost There. The teacher sat with me in his library, his curtains drawn down. By his stack of bibles was a newspaper cutting about the day he got away. His shaggy hair almost giving his features an Albert Einstein demeanour, especially when he’d smoke his pipe.
“What is your name,” he asked.
“Morgan,” I replied. As silence transpired, he traced the contours on my face with his gaze, and with mine I noticed the tattoo on his arm. It was shaped like the Hebraic sacred name of the Creator.
“And your IQ level is,” he inquired some more.
I told him, “I’ve went to a Township school. We didn’t have IQ tests over there.” So how should I know, reader? As a devout believer in eugenics, he found this rather unfortunate.
“How could I trust you, then, young blood,” he asked me.
“I suppose you can’t, but I don’t imagine it in my power to bring down your demise,” was my honest opinion.
To which he responded, “I shall tell you then, though these things are for men. And, you being a woman-”
“I should think it wise to leave such finicky tendencies to the Creator, sir,” I interjected.
And, with a stern look in his eye, he continued, “With you being a woman, I must take care to speak over my shoulder about these things; for, words are lost to you birds.”
“Tell me about the Fingo War, sir,” I cut in, his eyes expanding as if stunned by my audacity.
“The Fingo War, lady,” he took another drag from his pipe, thinking.
“Two migrants were working in the mines. One, a Mvengu herd-boy and the other, a Xhosa man. No one recalls how the fight started, except for the moment it escalated. The Xhosa man was demanding respect from the Mvengu herd-boy who was younger than himself, according to the code of Silimela. As the Xhosa man drew his stick and prepared for a fight to death, they struggled, blood gushing out and so on, until the Xhosa man was defeated. But the Mvengu herd-boy held his position and did not strike the fatal blow.”
“He did not strike,” I was enraptured. Tasting his beer, he looked at me with the fever of a narrator who wants to entice the listening.
“Nope, not at all because, the sketcher-! The sketcher, who was there Morgan, captured the whole scene with the Mvengu herd-boy throwing his stick on the ground and the exhausted Xhosa man afflicted by remorse. Adding a caption at the bottom that states, The Nobility of a Fingo Gentleman,” he laughed and I was impressed. “Care to know who the artist was, me lady?”
“A Briton, sir?” I was sounding unsure.
“Yes. And why would a Briton sketch such fables,” he urged me on.
“To propagate a War, sir” I tried to give the correct answer. “But where is the proof of this,” I ventured on to ask.
“Why, you disappoint me, young blood! Did they brain wash you at the Trade?”
“But how should we know for certain that this is the truth, sir,” I was disparaged.
“Hm, in deed it’s a matter of time, then. The past that you seek should afford you the truth, me lady.” I was confused. “Propaganda is nothing but a science that you are smart enough to figure out.”
The alarm goes off again in my apartment. Why must the Trade harass me for my incense? If I should die of hunger around here, then, why not allow me the courtesy to take my own life seriously for a second-! Just shut the door behind you, and put out the damned alarm-! I’ve packed away my items to make room for you in my aloneness, and you won’t hear the end of it-!
Thobeka Sinxo was born in Motherwell, Eastern Cape Province, where she did most of her journaling and pursued a career in Creative Writing. After finishing her studies at the University of Witwatersrand, she rediscovered writing as her way of engaging her post-modernist voice. Ezintakeni, became her first self-published e-book.
This is an abstract from her e-book, Ezintakeni.
By Thobeka Sinxo