Tuesday, 15 September 2020

JouJou by Frances Roberts

My beloved cat JouJou left this world some fifteen years ago. I can still clearly remember the day we met. I answered an advertisement of a farmer from Creighton who brought day old chicks to Durban. I met her at the Hypermarket and climbed into the back seat of her yellow Volkswagen Beetle. A little bundle of fur crept out from under the front seat. I knew instantly that we were destined to be together. A pretty bluepoint Siamese, I named him JouJou. From the very beginning he was a special companion. He kept me grounded. Seriously. At the drop of a hat I would be off for the weekend or even longer. Now I had to think of JouJou. But on the bright side of course, I now had someone to come home to.

He was a delicate creature. In his early years he had health problems and we both developed a long and expensive relationship with the vet. Until, hooray! A certain pet food company came to the rescue. I know the special food for kidneys, teeth and general health not only saved my bank balance from slowly disappearing; it also extended JouJou’s life to a considerable degree. I loved him probably more than any human being and his loss was a pain beyond words.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Goldie by Nichola Rhys

Goldie realised that there was something different about her even while she was still suckling from her Golden Retriever mummy’s teats. She knew that she was meant for something different from the brothers and sisters suckling alongside her. She knew that she was meant for something special, even while she was still too little to be given a name by a human. She had barely started drinking and eating from grown-up bowls when a beautiful girl human with bouncy curly head fur the same lovely colour as her mum’s, bent over the basket in which she lay snuggled up with her siblings. That head fur, the same colour as her own too, set up an immediate connection. She sniffed the human’s hands, then felt herself lifted up close as the human touched her human nose against her own damp puppy nose. She sniffed the face human’s face and neck too. Mmm, she smelled good, in a human sort of way. The little pink puppy tongue came out and licked the human’s face. Mmm, that tasted good, too.

She knew enough human language by now to understand that this human’s name was Megan and that she was looking for a dog for her brother Geoff. Then there were some other words that she didn’t understand. Disabled. Lonely. Depressed. She hadn’t heard those words before but something about the sound of them made her little puppy heart ache. Nuzzling against the girl human’s neck, she hoped the human’s brother looked and smelled and tasted and felt as nice as this one did. If he did, then she knew that she could make his achy feelings go away; she knew that she could make him happy.

 

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Missy by Presh Cele

I looked forward to walking you to the gate every morning although I hated to see you go. However, I knew that I would see you again after school. Do you know how much my legs pained from jumping up and down after school when you came home? All that excitment I couldn't contain.
But I wouldn't trade that pain for anything in this world.

One day you just left Presh, and you never came back. You didn't say goodbye!

I waited by the gate for weeks! Weeks turned into months, months turned years.

Do you still think about me?

Do you still remember me?
I miss you
Missy (your short legged Jack Russell)

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Healing Touch

 She looked over the fence and watched the cows in the field. The one closest to her was black and had a spotted calf suckling while the mother chewed on the cud. As the mother stood ruminating she looked at Micha with her soft brown eyes framed with long eyelashes

Micha was afraid to break the contact as she was sure that the animal was trying to make contact with Micha’s eyes and seemed to delve deep into Micha’s soul. It felt as if it was trying to help her solve her problems. In a strange way the suckling calf brought a sense of closure.

Micha had been distraught since the miscarriage and wondered why an animal could bring such peace whereas all the people around her had not been able to. She felt that no one could relate. None of her friends had been through the same thing. She had almost felt inadequate in some way and yet here this babe was somehow getting through to her. Somehow it was giving her hope. As this thought started to take hold the calf trotted to the fence and nudged her hand. As she stroked the calf’s muzzle peace such as she had never felt before took hold and hope entered her being.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

John Masefield loved the sea

 

As I sit on the beach I close my eyes until I am surrounded by the sounds of the waves crashing on to the beach. The sound is rhythmical and takes me with it. Crash…Sssshhh as it recedes. Suddenly the sound is disturbed by joyful barks. I open my eyes to see what has dared to come between me and the story that the waves are trying to tell me.

It is a young Alsatian who seems to be equally enthralled by the waves but whereas my thoughts were very personal and self-contained, this young dog wants everyone to hear his joy. He is quite funny. As the wave crashes to the beach he barks and darts backwards and forwards. As he reaches the wave he snaps at it and then darts away and seems surprised by its retreat. He leaps and bounds at it only to be surprised by the next wave as it gathers momentum.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Arrival in Cape Town

Leandra dreamed her way through the long trip and soon the rolling fields started to make way for houses. The houses became more clustered and if she looked out the one window the houses became more dilapidated and closer together. The other side of the bus showed simple houses with quite a bit of ground around them most were fenced off in an attempt to create a bit of privacy for the occupants.

As she glanced out at the squatter camp on the other side her eye was caught by bright colours as every now and then someone had tried to uplift their surroundings, a couple of the shacks had some artistic graffiti giving that shack some individuality. One thing that puzzled her was that almost every shack had a satellite dish. She pondered how the people could afford satellite and then she saw some spanking new cars scattered amongst the ghosts of cars past. Some people had strange priorities.

Soon she was at the bus terminus waiting to grab her meagre luggage as it was unloaded from the luggage compartment of the bus. It was good to stretch her legs. She stood for a few moments wondering “What next?”

She didn’t know anyone in Cape Town so had not made arrangements to be fetched. She had booked herself into a Clifton B&B temporally until she got her feet firmly set on her career path when she could upgrade her situation. Her new firm seemed to be fairly close to the B&B.

As she stood breathing in the clean Cape Town air she murmured “Ah 2020! What have you got in store for me?”

She remembered the New Year celebrations where everyone was cheering it in as it seemed to offer such great potential – 2020 eyesight etc.

The driver nudged her out of her reverie and asked if she was sorted. “Do you have someone coming to fetch you?” she asked.

“Um… No!” replied Leandra. “I suppose I should phone an Uber or something.”

“No need,” said the driver as she waved her hand in the air. “A few drivers wait around the bus station in the hopes of getting a fare. I’ve called over my cousin. He is trustworthy and won’t take advantage of a stranger to the city.”

Just then an old, sparkling clean Volksie pulled up driven by a smiling, open faced guy.

“Hi Marvin!” said the driver. “Look after this passenger of mine please.”

With that the driver turned to Leandra and said “My name is Margaret. Here is my card and here is Marvin’s card. If he gives you any sass phone me! But I know he won’t. I’d suggest that you get him to help you out until you get used to the city. Welcome to the Mother City.”

Giving Leandra a huge smile Margaret slammed the luggage compartment closed and made her way back to the bus.

Leandra turned back to Marvin who was hefting her luggage into the car’s boot before turning back to her and asking “Now where to Mam?”

Leandra gave him the piece of paper which had her new address, climbed into the back seat, breathed a deep breath as she thought “Now the bridges are burnt but there are new ones for me to cross.” She settled back into the seat as Marvin slid into the driver’s seat, started the car and drove out of the parking space.

© Vera Alexander.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

The Unkempt House


We moved into our brand new house in November many years ago. My baby girl, Carol, was just a year old. I would take her for walks every day, Sometimes she would walk and other days I would wheel her in her pram.
When she was in the pram the walks went quicker as I was in control. When she walked … oh well! Let’s just assume that she was in control.
She was fascinated by one of the houses that we regularly walked past. She always wanted to dive in to the gate and explore. I often had to pick her up so that we could carry on with our walk. She didn’t like that one little bit but I didn’t like the house. The grass needed mowing, weeds threatened to entwine the gate and all the border flowers that once existed there were being consumed by undergrowth.
Her fascination with the house increased as she got older. She found the ship’s bell that was mounted on the wall next to the door particularly fascinating. Her questions about the place were mostly unanswerable.
“Mummy, why are the windows always closed?”
“Mummy, why don’t we ever see anyone out walking in the garden?”
“Mummy, why don’t they clean up the garden?”
“Ah mom, can’t I just go in and ring the ship’s bell?”
All I could answer most of the time was “I really have no idea.” But that last question was always a resounding “NO!”
We never seemed to see any movement in or around the house. It could be a ghost house for all we knew.
Carol reached the age of thirteen and still the questions plagued her. One day it all got too much for her and she climbed over the fence and marched up to the front door. I swear that if I had known what she was going to do I would have done everything in my power to stop her.
****
When she got to the door she clanged the ship’s bell as hard as she could.
A wavering voice shouted out “Go away! We don’t need your kind here!”
She called out “What kind am I? You don’t even know me. I want to help you if you need help. I want to get to know you if you need a friend. I want to just be here for you.”
There was silence for a brief while and then she heard squeaking and squealing and bolts being unlocked and then the door creaked open. She found her courage leaving her and she was just about to turn tail and run - but she had left the decision too late. There poised in the doorway was an old man in a wheelchair. He had an unkempt appearance and was very thin.
“So now you have seen me what do you have to say for yourself?”
“I just want to be kind, be your friend.”
“I don’t need friends thank you very much and why would I want a slip of a girl to be my friend?”
“I don’t know.”
“Humph!”
And the two just stared at one another for a few moments.
Finally Carol picked up the courage to ask “Do you need help cleaning the house, doing the garden, shopping?”
“Why? All you want is to grab my treasures. Who sent you?”
“No one,” replied Carol.
“Rubbish! It’s that ne’er do well cousin of mine isn’t it?”
“No! I don’t know your cousin. I just love people and old people are the best. You all have such interesting things to tell.”
“Humph!”
And the two just stood there again sizing one another up.
Again Carol decided to break the ice. “Do you need me to do any shopping for you?”
“NO!” shouted the man. “I get deliveries of anything that I need and I don’t need nosey people.”
“I’m not nosey. I would just like to help.”
“Well don’t just stand there then. Come in, come in and see what you have been missing all these years. Yes, I have watched you since you were a tiny tot. This house has always fascinated you.”
“Yes it has. But I never ever saw you.”
”I was careful to always watch you from behind my curtains. I laughed when you tried to run away from you mother. So yes, I am a little bit curious about you as well.”
As she walked in she was amazed at how spotless it was. It was cluttered but clean and neat.
“How do you manage to keep it clean? Oooh that was insensitive of me. Sorry!”
The man laughed. “Not all. I do have help. Christine has been with me for many years. She lives in the top level of the house and I live on the bottom floor. She helps me when I need it and keeps to herself when I don’t need anything.”
He wheeled his way into the house.
“Come sit, sit! Let me show you my treasures.”
It turned out that the man was a sailor, going to many countries and many ports and at every port he bought mementoes of his trip. His parents had owned the house and he always came back home when his ship had docked in Durban harbour.
One day when he was 32 years old he had fallen down the ladder as he was coming down from the top deck. He had fallen on his back onto some equipment that was stacked at the bottom of the ladder. He lay there in great pain unable to move until he was found a few hours later.
The person who had found him realised that he was badly injured and called the captain. It was a small cargo ship so there was no medical staff. Four crew men were called and he was gently laid onto a pallet and secured there. Fortunately they were close to the port of Calcutta. The captain radioed for medical staff to meet the ship as there was a severely injured man on board. He was taken to hospital and spent 3 months there. Part of the time he was in a cast but the injury was very severe and there was no hope that he would ever walk again. He ended up in a wheelchair and was sent home to his parents.
At first he was too angry to allow people to visit. Soon people got tired of trying to be social and he was left with just his memories and his parents. His parents did the best that they could until their deaths and then he grew old by himself. The only person who was a more or less constant in his life was Christine.
After he had told Carol his story the ice was broken and he was keen to show off his treasures.
He took pride in the way he had stored his treasures. Each downstairs room was devoted to a country that he had visited while he served his time on the ship.
The first room they explored together was his Chinese room. Carol was fascinated. Soon she was trusted to hold some of the artefacts. There were tapestries. There was one that was placed in the centre of the one wall. Carol was captivated by its beauty. It was a geisha girl standing in a garden. Her face was protected by a gold and scarlet parasol. This gold and scarlet theme was picked up in her dress. There was a cherry tree full of blossoms behind her. Her face was pretty and was lovingly sewn to show her small scarlet lips and strange blue eyes. She had a large blossom in her neatly done hair. Her stance was typical of geisha girls, knees slightly flexed and body slightly twisted at the hips. She gazed unseeingly from the stitched fabric.
Next came some carvings, there several Buddhas, and numerous Chinese dragons. There was a small, delicate carving of a boat with a boatman standing at the back holding a long pole. The boatman wore a typical conical hat.
Colourful cloths adorned the carved tables. The tables were intricately carved in a Chinese theme. Carol felt that she was lost in another era, another time, another place. She gazed in wonder at the willow pattern plates that adorned the walls and tables.
With a start she came out of her almost trance and realised that she had been missing from home for quite a long time.
“I really must go. My mom will be wondering what has happened to me and I haven’t got to see everything that this room has and I haven’t seen any of the other treasures. I just love this room but I really need to go. Can I come back and see you again? Please? Please?”
The man laughed and said “I have really enjoyed your company. Yes please come to see me again so I can show you the other treasures in my home.”
“But I want to see the rest of the treasures in this room.”
“Yes we can start here next time.”
“What can I call you? I need to have a name that I can attach to the mind picture that I have of you.”
“My name is Paul.”
“Must I call you Uncle Paul or what?”
“No just Paul will do.”
“Thank you Paul. I look forward to my next visit.”
She left the house with a smile on her face as she skipped back home.
She was greeted by her frantic mom.
“Where have you been? I have been outside calling you. I have been running up and down the street. I have been calling you on your cell. I have been so close to calling the police.”
“Oh mom, don’t be melodramatic! I’ve been visiting Paul. And sorry but I forgot my phone at home. Forgive me? Please? Please?”
“Why do you always think that repeating the word please will get you what you want? And who the heck is Paul?” demanded her mother grabbing onto the fact that confused her.
“Paul lives in that near abandoned house that has fascinated me for years.”
“You didn’t just go there? It could have been dangerous. You are not to go there again.”
“Ah mom don’t be like that. It’s fine. He is an old man in a wheelchair. He was a sailor...”
“Do you hear me? NEVER again!”
Carol’s lips formed a stubborn line as she said “You can’t do that to me. I am old enough to make this decision for myself.”
“No you are not,” spluttered her mother. “He may molest you … he may kill you, poison you, keep you a prisoner…”
“Mom would it make you feel any better if you came with me next time? I promise you will be just as fascinated with him, his house and his treasures as I am.”
Her mom thought for a moment and then decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. The next day the two of them made their way to Paul’s house.
Paul was not pleased to see two people on his doorstep the next day.
“Please don’t be cross!” said Carol. “This was the only way I could come back. Mom thought you may be someone depraved who wanted to harm me.”
“I remember how protective she was of you when you were little. Okay come in come in. Don’t stand there letting the dirt get into my house.”
Carol’s mom held her hand out. “Hi. I am Claire. Nice to finally meet you Paul.”
Carol watched as her mom’s eyes widened with the splendour around her.
“See mom. All is well. Let’s explore!”
© Vera Alexander