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Read the Winning Story in the Books LIVE Flash Fiction Competition: “Am I in the Right Place?” by Jen Thorpe:

Archive for the ‘Book Excerpts’ Category

Fiction Friday: An Excerpt from the First Issue of New KZN Poetry Magazine uHlanga

Cover of uHlanga, a new KZN poetry magazineuHlanga, a new project of literary magazine Prufrock aiming to publish work in English and isiZulu, was launched at the 18th Poetry Africa festival in Durban recently.

The first issue is titled “Stella Natalis”, and features writing from debutant poets Previn Pillay and Bob Perfect, as well as more established voices like Chris Mann, Genna Gardini, Joe Spirit and Rosa Lyster.

“uHlanga hopes to address a lack of representation for the artists, cultures and languages of KwaZulu-Natal in South African literature,” uHlanga’s editor and publisher Nick Mulgrew said at the launch. “I hope it will also become a new place for writers to find their voice and to get their names in print.

“The response to our call for submissions was incredible. We had people sending in work from just about every small town in KZN, as well as from places as far afield as the Caribbean, Kenya and New Zealand.”

Over 250 writers submitted work for the first issue, and Mulgrew says he hopes to attract even more, especially those who work in isiZulu, for the next. uHlanga aims to be an annual publication.

“The scope, quality and variety of the submissions shows how healthy writing as an art is at the grassroots,” he said. “It also shows us how important it is that there are more platforms for writers to write for.”

Copies retail at R50 each online, as well as at stockists in KZN, including Adams Booksellers and the Factory Café. Stockists in the Western Cape and Gauteng will be named soon.

Orders can be placed at, or through

Read an excerpt from the first issue, including writing by Johannes Mzwandile Spirit, Genna Gardini, Musawenkosi Khanyile and Thabo Jijana, who recently won the 2014 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award.

Read an Excerpt from uHlanga, a new KZN poetry magazine

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Fiction Friday: Diane Awerbuck’s New Short Story Day Africa-winning Story (Plus: Cover Reveal!)

SSDA new logo
Diane Awerbuck

Short Story Day Africa has organised a special treat for us this Fiction Friday: Diane Awerbuck’s winning story from the new SSDA anthology, Terra Incognita, and a cover reveal!

Awerbuck was announced as this year’s Short Story Day Africa winner last Friday, for her short story “Leatherman”, which judges Richard de Nooy, Samuel Kolawole and Jared Shurin called “dark, twisted and visceral”. You can read the full story below.

But before you do, feast your eyes on this year’s anthology cover, which was designed by Nick Mulgrew.

SSDA Terra Incognita cover

Mulgrew says: “I’d like to say that the design is about subverting colonial cartographic tropes, and as well as about undermining ideas of Africa as a dark, impenetrable continent, in order to reclaim and reposition them in a more modern, Afrofuturist context – and, sure, it is about that – but mostly I think it just looks nice.”

We’re delighted to announce that Short Story Day Africa has joined the Books LIVE community. Read more about the design of the cover on their blog at

Read Awerbuck’s story:

Diane Awerbuck's short story Leatherman by Books LIVE


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Fiction Friday: Excerpt from “Uncaged” by Justine Loots, from Adults Only

Adults OnlyToday’s Fiction Friday is an excerpt from a short story by Justine Loots, included in Joanne Hichens’ collection of stories of love, lust, sex and sexuality – Adults Only.

Loots’ story has a magical realist twist and a man who prefers to not be seen naked from behind. Coco, the hooker he frequents, tries to figure him out after she feels two blunt spikes jabbing into her while in bed with him.

Read the excerpt, shared by Burnet Media:

If you think only women don’t like being seen naked from behind, you haven’t met Dirk Van Hengel.

Coco finds it quaint, the way he strips off in the bathroom, emerging in a bathrobe which he shrugs off under the sheets. She’s tried undressing him in the bedroom, but no tequila. And if her hands meander down his spine, he steers them away from his business-class backside. Coco wouldn’t insist on being on top – not if she weighed a hundred and eighty kilograms like he does. But for Dirk, it’s non-negotiable. So here Coco lies, his sweat dripping onto her face in sync with his grunting. She should tell him the sheet’s knotted, that she can see the lumpy planets of his butt in the mirrored ceiling. That’d teach him for never looking up.

The sisters like his Dutch accent but it’s phlegm-in-the-throat to Coco. Still, he asks for her each time. It must be his taste for brown girls, which he shares with his forefathers. When they settled in South Africa, they took Khoisan women as wives on account of their shortage of women. Well, that’s their story and they should know: they wrote the history books, right? There’s no shortage of women now: Dirk has no wife because of his eating plan, or lack thereof

Coco chose her hooker name because being brown is her USP. That’s Unique Selling Point if you aren’t business-minded. Black might be beautiful but brown is beautilicious. Put that one in the history books. It beats Basters, what the Dutch-Khoisan children were called – as if you can’t be a bastard because you’re uni-coloured. Other words came later: Bushman, Hotnot, Coloured. Not that Coco cares. One client calls her Liza Minnelli because she straightens her kroes hair. As long as they pay, they can call her what they like. But no pillow talk. She’s no shrink; she makes men grow. Besides, what must she do with the stories they leave scattered behind them like entrails? There’s no washing out those stains. Coco’s a hit-and-run girl so Dirk Van Hengel isn’t a bad fit. He finishes quickly, and after sex he doesn’t chat, he eats.

Right now, he’s lifting her hips up towards him. It’s not so easy with one hand. He’s propping himself up with the other.

That’s when it happens. Instead of the fleshy mounds of his fingertips, Coco feels two blunt spikes jabbing into her, under her hip. She arches her back, inching away from the… prongs? Does Dirk have a Taser? She’d never have suspected he likes his women comatose. If that’s what this is, she has seconds before he stuns her into whatever story he’s reliving: the dead mother; the date that went wrong – the one he drowned in the Rhine or the Danube or whatever the hell river runs through Holland. She rolls over slightly, checking for the Taser in the mirror – but no surprise, her sightline’s blocked by his nether end.

She sees something else: in the reflection, Dirk’s derrière throws down… a rope? A curly tail? A helix of DNA? Maybe this is what happens when women conceive. The ancestors slide down a spirit baby to earth. Coco freaks out about the rubber. Take back the spirit baby! she wants to yell. But the rubber’s in place. Dirk’s good like that. She needs to limit herself to one panic attack at a time. She strains to look under her hips. She can’t see a Taser… but there’s no hand either. Before she can identify what it is, the image fades. The sound of Dirk’s ecstasy should be part of that Exorcist film. It’s a horrible, strangled squealing. Coco’s still conscious though. She reminds herself this is a good thing.

After Dirk’s gone, Coco examines her hip in the early morning light. What exactly is she looking for? She finds nothing. Dirk’s flattened her, that’s all – not just literally. His day’s had a kick-start since he’s an early riser, as it were, but she can’t even muster her usual irritation with the pigeons for not tearing themselves from the bins to croon about her end-of-shift.


Book details

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Excerpt from Stephen King’s Brand New Novel, Revival (Plus: Audio Reading)

RevivalRolling Stone has shared an excerpt and an audio recording from Stephen King’s new novel, Revival, due to hit the shelves in November this year.

In the article, King says he’s had the idea for a Frankenstein-type story about an electricity obsessed minister since he was very young and that he drew much inspiration from Mary Shelley.

In the excerpt, Jamie, a strung-out drug addict, visits Charlie the minister at his new workshop. Jamie doesn’t understand how Charlie manages to make his Portraits in Lightning, let alone run the air-conditioner and all the lights without spending any money. He half expects to see Star Trek telescreens or a teleportation chamber, but Charlie only laughs at his flights of fancy and offers him a fix.

Read the extract:

Chapter VI – The Electrical Treatment. A Nighttime Excursion. One Pissed-Off Okie. A Ticket on the Mountain Express.

Jacobs’s electrical workshop was in West Tulsa. I don’t know what that part of town is like now, but in 1992 it was a forlorn industrial zone where a lot of the industries seemed to be dead or dying. He pulled into the parking lot of an all-but-destitute strip mall on Olympia Avenue and parked in front of Wilson Auto Body.

“It was standing empty for a long time, that’s what the Realtor told me,” Jacobs said. He was dressed in faded jeans and a blue golf shirt, his hair washed and combed, his eyes sparkling with excitement. Just looking at him made me nervous. “I had to take a year’s lease, but it was still dirt cheap. Come on in.”

“You ought to take down the sign and put up your own,” I said. I framed it with hands that were only shaking a little. “‘Portraits in Lightning, C. D. Jacobs, Proprietor.’ It would look good.”

“I won’t be in Tulsa that long,” he said, “and the portraits are really just a way of supporting myself while I conduct my experiments. I’ve come a long way since my pastoral days, but I’ve still got a long way to go. You have no idea. Come in, Jamie. Come in.”

Book details

Image courtesy of The Guardian

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Fiction Friday: Excerpt from Steve Biko – The Graphic Novel

nullA comic book featuring Steve Biko, who died 37 years ago in September, has been published as part of the Africa Illustrated series.

The book, which is aimed at children, is the result of a combined effort by the Steve Biko Foundation and comic production company Umlando Wezithombe, who have already produced works on Xhosa prophet Nongqawuse, World War II veteran Job Maseko and the Curse of Mapungubwe.

Steve Biko tells the story of the black consciousness activist’s life, from his birth and first incarceration, to his death in 1977.

View excerpts from the graphic novel below.

Nic Buchanan, creative director at Umlando Wezithombe, told Books LIVE a little about the Biko project.

How did the idea for the Steve Biko graphic novel come about?

The response from most children, when asked about studying history, is a long face and an indication of the overwhelming text books. We wanted to take Steve Biko’s story and put it into an engaging format, one that could reach children of a young age, and so the storytelling and picture combination was perfect.

Can you tell us about the process of translating the life and philosophy of Steve Biko into this form?

To make any comic book is a huge labour of love. We start with researching all material available, then it goes to scriptwriting, storyboarding (where we lay out the balance of visuals and script), illustration, inking (fine line tracing over the illustrations), colouring (on computer, adding all the visual effects), lettering, print preparation and finally printing. There are numerous skills required along the way, and so it’s not just about drawing nice pictures.

How do you think this story will be beneficial to preteen and teenage readers?

The feedback has been amazing. The young readers always want to know why all their study material can’t be in this format. What is probably the most interesting feedback is that it sparks an interest for them to learn more about Steve Biko, so the comic has given a platform for them to investigate deeper.

Why is it important for young people to understand Steve Biko’s legacy?

He contributed so much to this country from such a young age, and young people can learn from him, and grow using his learnings.

If readers take only one thing away from this book, what would you like it to be?

That they have a proud history with role models to light the way.

* * * * *

Excerpt from Steve Biko (Africa Illustrated Book 8) by Books LIVE

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Fiction Friday: Excerpt from Nick Mulgrew’s Short.Sharp.Stories Award-Winner, “Turning”

Adults OnlyRead an excerpt from Nick Mulgrew’s “Turning”, which was awarded Best Story in this year’s Short.Sharp.Stories Awards.

“Turning” is published in this year’s Short.Sharp.Stories anthology, Adults Only: Stories of love, lust, sex and sexuality, along with stories by Ken Barris, Efemia Chela, Christine Coates, Alexander Matthews, Wamuwi Mbao and Dudumalingani Mqombothi, among others.

Adults Only, which was edited by Joanne Hichens, was launched at The Book Lounge recently.

The judges called Mulgrew’s piece: “A story of youthful love that was handled with a deft touch; elevated by its clever linguistic insertions and a lovely sense of place … With depth and richness, it captures very well the false bravado and even misogyny of a heartbroken macho male.”

Nick Mulgrew’s Turning, from Adults Only


About the Short.Sharp.Stories Awards:

The Short.Sharp.Stories Awards for South African short-story fiction are presented each year by the National Arts Festival. An anthology of selected stories is published annually, with the theme set for writers differing from year to year. The winning stories, selected from the stories to be published, by a panel of independent judges, are announced at an annual launch event at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. It is the aim of these awards to encourage, support, and showcase established and emerging South African writing talent. The Awards are curated by Joanne Hichens.

The title, and theme, for the 2015 competition is Incredible Journey

From Short.Sharp.Stories: Think road trip, or futuristic ride, or a journey of the mind. Or think more laterally. But whether the story moves purely through the sheer force of the imagination or ambles along on dusty, pot-holed South African roads, whether the protagonists stay in the country or venture forth into new terrain by train or boat or plane (or foot), the story must retain a South African nuance and sensibility. The title INCREDIBLE JOURNEY allows the writer the scope to create a pulsing narrative with forward-moving momentum, though some journeys may be less fast-moving and powered more by reflection. We’ll be looking for stories which move us from A to B – or from A to Z with any number of letters in between. We’re looking for the what-happens-next factor, but also for stories that move us emotionally. Mainly, we want to be enthralled and intrigued by a sense of change that cannot fail to be experienced as we get to the last lines of your story. Your incredible journey can be one of political or personal change; it can be inspirational or can focus on a small challenge. The landscape may alter radically … but please, we’re not looking for descriptive essays. As ever, we want uniquely South African voices – voices, in this case, that capture roller-coaster rides of incredible experience.

The author of the Best Story prize will win R20 000, out of a total of R35 000 in prize money. The deadline is 30 November.

Book details

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Sunday Read: Excerpts from Nobel Prize Winner Patrick Modiano’s Novels Honeymoon, Missing Person and Catherine Certitude

French author Patrick Modiano became the 111th Nobel Laureate in Literature this week.

At the award announcement, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund made everyone feel slightly better about not having heard of Modiano, saying: “He is a well-known name in France, but not anywhere else.”

(Modiano was apparently as surprised as the rest of the world at the award: when he heard the news he was eating lunch at a restaurant with his wife. He reportedly just started laughing.)

The Search WarrantMissing PersonNight RoundsRing Roads: A NovelVilla Triste
A Trace of MaliceHoneymoonOut of the DarkSuspended Sentences

Luckily for us, David R Godine, which has been publishing English translations of Modiano’s work since 1993, has shared excerpts from Honeymoon, Missing Person and Catherine Certitude.

Read the excerpt from Missing Person (tr. Daniel Weissbort):

Synopsis: In this strange, elegant novel, Patrick Modiano portrays a man in pursuit of the identity he lost in the murky days of the Paris Occupation, the black hole of French memory.

For ten years Guy Roland has lived without a past. His current life and name were given to him by his recently returned boss, Hutte, who welcomed him, a one-time client, into his detective agency. Guy makes full use of Hutte’s files—directories, yearbooks, and papers of all kinds going back half a century—but leads to his former life are few. Could he really be that person in a photograph, a young man remembered by some as a South American attaché? Or was he someone else, perhaps the disappeared scion of a prominent local family? He interviews strangers and is tantalized by the half-clues until, at last, he grasps a thread that leads him through the maze of his own repressed experience.

Excerpt: I am nothing. Nothing but a pale shape, silhouetted that evening against the café terrace, waiting for the rain to stop; the shower had started when Hutte left me.

Some hours before, we had met again for the last time on the premises of the Agency. Hutte, as usual, sat at his massive desk, but with his coat on, so that there was really an air of departure about it. I sat opposite him, in the leather armchair we kept for clients. The opaline lamp shed a bright light which dazzled me.

“Well, there we are, Guy … That’s it … ,” said Hutte, with a sigh.

A stray file lay on the desk. Maybe it was the one belonging to the dark little man with the frightened expression and the puffy face, who had hired us to follow his wife. In the afternoon, she met another dark little man with a puffy face, at a residential hotel, in Rue Vital, close to Avenue Paul-Doumer.

Thoughtfully, Hutte stroked his beard, a grizzly, close-cut beard, but one which spread out over his cheeks. His large, limpid eyes stared dreamily ahead. To the left of the desk, the wicker chair where I sat during working hours. Behind Hutte, dark wooden shelves covered half the wall: there were rows of street-and-trade directories and yearbooks of all kinds, going back over the last fifty years. Hutte had often told me that these were the essential tools of the trade and that he would never part with them. And that these directories and yearbooks constituted the most valuable and moving library you could imagine, as their pages listed people, things, vanished worlds, to which they alone bore witness.

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Fiction Friday: “Mr Hare Meets Mr Mandela” – One Last Story by the Late Chris van Wyk

South African literature was left that much poorer when Chris van Wyk passed away last week. As well as being an esteemed writer, poet and editor, Van Wyk was also well known for his children’s stories, and as a final good bye Times LIVE has shared his story, “Mr Hare Meets Mr Mandela”.

Ouma Ruby's SecretThe Year of the TapewormShirley, Goodness & MercyEggs to Lay, Chickens to Hatch
Now Listen HereDaar's 'n hoender wat 'n eier nie kan leLong Walk to Freedom


Sunday Times Storytime“Mr Hare Meets Mr Mandela” is one of the last stories Van Wyk wrote before he died and appears in the anthology, Sunday Times Storytime: 10 South African Stories for Children.

In this story Mr Hare finds a R200 note on his doorstep. When he turns the note over he sees Mr Mandela’s face and decides to brave the big city of Johannesburg to return Mr Mandela’s property.

But Mr Hare cannot read and he encounters many people along the way who want to get their hands on Mr Mandela’s money. What’s more, Mr Hare cannot figure out why the note keeps changing colour!

Read the story:

Mr Hare Meets Mr Mandela

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Sunday Read: Meet Qian Xiaohong, the Heroine in Sheng Keyi’s First Translated Novel, Northern Girls

Northern GirlsSheng Keyi is one of the exciting international authors who attended the 2014 Open Book Festival, coming all the way from China to be part of the festivities. Her novel Northern Girls, the first of her works to be translated to English, represents China in the 1990s – a country very different to South Africa. However, as Keyi pointed out during her time in Cape Town, there are important similarities between the setting of her novel and our country.

CA Davids, who interviewed Keyi during a session at Open Book, said that she felt this book was important and also deeply political, although not in an obvious way. For this reason it was quite difficult for Keyi to find a publisher for Northern Girls. Keyi has never been censored or threatened, however, perhaps because she is (in her words) just “a small potato” in the Chinese publishing industry.

The following excerpt is from the first chapter of Northern Girls, in which the sultry and headstrong heroine, Qian Xiaohong, is introduced:

Her. Right there. That’s Qian Xiaohong, from Hunan province.

A little over a metre and a half tall, sporting short black hair with just a hint of a curl, her round-faced look is pretty much that of a model citizen, good and decent. She’s just the sort of girl a guy wouldn’t mind taking home to meet his parents. However, her breasts – through no fault of her own – are much too large for civilised, polite society. Such breasts could not help but invite the same suspicion and groundless gossip normally saved for young widows.

Xiaohong’s breasts, to put it bluntly, are gorgeous! Even observed through clothing, it’s easy to imagine their consistency. To touch them must be heavenly. To simply gaze upon them is to fall under their seductive power. The problem is that same unavoidable difficulty that always arises in tight-knit communities. When everyone is cast from the same mould, the person who stands out for any reason at all is sure to be seen as something of a maverick. And so, Xiaohong’s full figure has always made her just a little too striking in the eyes of those around her.

Xiaohong’s mother died of cirrhosis of the liver at a young age. Her chest was as flat as could be so it’s clear the child gained nothing by inheritance. From then on, Xiaohong was brought up in the shelter of her paternal grandmother’s bosom.

Her grandmother, a widow for fifty years, passed away at the age of eighty. She was the only one who knew the secret behind Xiaohong’s well-endowed physique, but she went to the grave without ever breathing a word of it.

Ever since Xiaohong was in year five of school, rumours had surrounded her. There was always a stinging word hissed in her direction, ever a pointing finger trailing in her wake. All the other girls in the village duitfully hunched forward, guarding their chests under loose-fitting clothing, doing all they could to prevent their breasts from giving the slighest impression of sluttiness. Only Xiaohong allowed her twin bulging mounds to appear as openly and ominously as storm clouds descending upon an unsuspecting city. It was a rare gift she had, the way she carried that pair, and no one could denythat it required courage for her to do so.

At the ripe old age of thirteen, Xiaohong lost all interest in her studies. As soon as she finished middle school, she dropped out, preferring to take life easy and hang around the village.

Her father’s work regularly took him away from home for weeks at a time. When he was back, Xiaohong would run and sit on his lap like a little girl, cuddling up to him, cheek to cheek. The villagers would look at them askance. Clearly the affection between father and daughter made them uncomfortable. He worked as a contractor and, with his earnings, built a two-storey house with suites on each floor. Both the interior and the exterior of the house had a more cosmopolitan air than anything in the city. Xiaohong chose for herself a room on the upper floor with a private staircase running up the outer wall.

Book details

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Fiction Friday: Excerpt from Tiah Beautement’s New Novel, This Day

Open Book 2014: This Day

This DayRead an excerpt from Tiah Beautement‘s newly released second novel, This Day.

This Day was launched at the Open Book Festival, and you can see the author read from it on the Books LIVE YouTube channel, along with readings by Kader Abdolah, Rabih Alameddine, Philip Hensher and Fiona Leonard.

At that event, Beautement said of her protagonist: “I gave her everything I wanted. Perfect health, financial independence, lots of energy, and made her life stink!”

Read the excerpt:

* * * * *

The water devours the words.
            A solid half hour of writing in the starlight, the sharp stick gouging the glassy sand, until it resembled a pewter tablet bearing prophecy. Moses would have been impressed. Now my work has nearly vanished, the water sucking the letters until they pop out and drift away.
            The tide has changed, precisely when the tide table said it would. My mind cannot comprehend how they predict the ocean’s behaviour so far in advance. I’ve had it explained to me, this gravitational pull between the sea, the moon and the sun. But life has so many variables – solar flares, falling stars, an unexpected gust of wind – how do the tides keep ticking by on schedule, as if these anomalies have not occurred?
            Low tide: 4:59am.
            This is what the pamphlet said.
            That is what happened.
            Dawn whispers in as the ocean surges forward. My stomach rolls and my flesh prickles as the surf collects around my ankles, combing through my toes. I remain planted, waiting for the sun.
            ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ An often-spoken sentiment at funerals. I should know; I’ve been to enough. But in truth, we are mostly water: around sixty-to seventy-percent, if the experts are to be believed. They say an adult should drink two litres of water a day in order to maintain the approximately forty litres that compose the individual. I, Ella, am water. My words are somewhere in these waves, coating my feet. I should not be afraid. This sea contains droplets that were once in me, in my son, that sustained us both.
            The sky grows brighter. There are no surfers out on dawn patrol. Not the right kind of waves. They are small and crumbly. Perhaps later today this will change. I used to be more aware of the surf report. Bart, my husband, had scheduled his days around it. Now my daily excursions to the beach are made alone, in silent homage to our beloved boy. Perhaps words reach us, even in death.
            A barefoot fisherman in tatty trousers and a rusty red t-shirt approaches. A weathered plastic carrier bag dangles from calloused fingertips. His hooked knife glints in the dim light. He pays me no notice. We’ve seen each other often enough. I don’t know his name, nor he mine. But like the rocks along the shore, we have become part of one another’s scenery.
            With slow deliberate steps, he works his way to the rocks where the mussels cling. The water continues to swirl about my ankles, at times brushing up against my calves. The sun’s rays grow stronger. They reach out and lick my face. Soon the fisherman has wandered out of my line of vision. I do not turn my head. I wait and watch until the sun has finished emerging from the sea.
            The interior of the Prius is cool, promising, as cars often feel in the early hours. By noon the cabin air will be stale, tired with disappointment.
            Every day we begin again.
            This day is no more significant than the one before, or the one before that. Little progress, if any, seems to be made. Yet, I keep trying, pushing, as if working towards something, even if that something cannot be named. What is it that I hope to gain? It would be easier to succumb to the endless cycle. I could crawl into bed and lie next to Bart. With a sigh, whisper his full name, ‘Bartholomew,’ as I welcomed the rot. Gradually, we would waste away. It is, after all, not without precedent. Then death would claim us, as it did his mother. Yet, even now, I can’t help but think of it as the cowardly way out.
            Making my way up Church Road, heading home, the sun rises steadily behind me. We do not live far from the sea. The walk would do me good. But Bart insists that I drive. I have yet to inquire what shadows he envisions stalking me on the Mossel Bay streets. He believes me safe in our home, surrounded by palisade fencing. He believes me safe on the beaches, no matter the hour. How, after all of this, can he continue to have such trust around a large body of water?
            ‘You never go deeper than your ankles,’ he says.
            In the past I would have argued his odd logic, pointing out the holes. Or I might have ignored his protests entirely and simply walked. But the fact that he can muster the energy to insist on anything is … something.
            We all need something.


Returning, I make my way down the hall, studiously ignoring the door to the main bathroom. We have yet to arrange for repairs. As far as I am aware, the antique bathtub remains in ruins – cast iron marred by the sledgehammer, shattered porcelain pooling at the base of clawed feet.
            Stepping into the master bedroom I locate Bart, wrapped in a quilt, exactly as I left him. A line of drool channels along a heavily shadowed cheek. His ashy blond curls are overgrown and greasy. His once bronzed skin resembles spoilt yoghurt, the white separating into transparent layers that are tinged with blue. But it is the rhythmic rise and fall of his thin chest that holds my attention. Alive. This is never guaranteed. Each time I venture out of the house provides an opportunity to bring himself to conclusion. Despite everything, I do not wish for his death. I fear it. Anticipate it. Because I no longer understand what motivates him to exist. Gradually he has released us all from his care. Even his art.
            His art was the last to go. In the past sixteen months, only two pieces have been created. The first was a glass box in blues, greens, and purples so dark they almost looked black. The colours drift together, echoing the sea’s calm before the storm. The silver lines where the sections were soldered together give the box a distinctly religious overtone. We are not religious. But there is comfort in the aura of solemnity, given its contents.
            The other piece is a glass blown sculpture, unlike any of the vases, bowls, platters, Christmas ornaments and cut glass jewellery that he, or his three partners, typically craft. The popularity of Bart’s creations has gradually grown. People from as far as Norway, Sweden, Japan and New York are in possession of a Bartholomew Original.
            This sculpture was a disaster. His trembling caused the rod to rotate poorly. The glass folded in on itself, stopping short of total collapse. Yet, it was auctioned for a mind-boggling amount, as if the time lapse between pieces added to its worth. One art critique wrote: ‘Bartholomew’s latest work is the embodiment of grief.’
            I am no longer certain if grief plays any part in Bart’s moods, which sway between vicious anger and total apathy. It appears to be more of a habit. A habit he has no reason to break. We own the house outright. We inherited money from both sets of parents. His languid depression is a luxury most humans cannot afford. I’ve
often wondered if I would better serve him by draining the bank accounts, giving the whole lot to charity. Perhaps then he would see reason to emerge.
            The therapist tells me I misunderstand his disease. That it is a disease. A part of him is broken and should be respected as much as if he’d shattered his tibia, ruptured a spinal disc. Care should be administered, as surely as if he were bound to a hospital bed. Thus, each morning I am to approach my husband’s side with profound gentleness. I am not to say, ‘Just get up. There are things to do and people to see.’ No, I am to say, ‘You appear to be having a spot of trouble rising this morning. Is there anything I can do to assist?’
            This requires a plenitude of patience. And kindness. And fortitude. All of which I lack. Because what I would dearly love to do is to toss a bucket of cold water across this slumbering heap. Such an action, I suppose, would soak the mattress and could lead to mould. A great pity, indeed.
            I suppress a sigh and leave. Stepping over a trail of ants, which are doubtlessly doing untold damage to our hardwood floors, I enter the en suite. The original home had no such frills. It is a renovation orchestrated by my mother-in-law after the death of her husband. Upon its completion, she phoned Bart, ‘That Ms Spinner of yours will not be able to object to moving in now, the house boasts the latest amenities.’
            She never did forgive me for keeping my own name.
            ‘I am the last one,’ I once said to her, ‘and you must admit, there are still a plethora of Simonds about.’
            She’d been aghast. ‘Simonds, perhaps, but not the Simonds of the third cousin of the original Huguenots that …’
            I have never been able to precisely trace her version of the Simond family tree, of which Bart is apparently the last. Nonetheless, I bore her a small olive branch in the form of Kai Simond, only to have her tear it loose.

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