Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: writing (Page 1 of 15)

Reginald Dwyer

Here’s another product of my writing group. Many of the elements used to thread the story together were prompts. See if you can identify them.

Reginald threw the watch into the disappointingly calm sea. He imagined feeling something huge. Instead he watched as the thing sunk like a stone, and because the water was so unexcited, he saw it plonk on the sandy bottom and stay there, suddenly motionless. He turned and huffed his way along the beach, squinting at the sunset and glowering at the couples looped in each other’s arms and kissing, eyes closed. His twingy hip alerted him to the fact that the beach was sloped, and the fine sand was filling and emptying in his brogues as he walked. Suddenly, and without any warning to himself, he grabbed at his shoes, ripping them from his feet to reveal his beige and brown diamond socks. He hated them the minute he saw them and tore them from his feet too. Everything was thrown into the sea. The socks floating, the shoes sinking slowly.

His slight stutter and small frame had resulted in Reginald Dwyer having a completely sheltered upbringing. Fussed over by a social worker mother and completely ignored by his slightly abusive and competitive, muscular father, Reginald slid through school avoiding blows and spending afternoons in the school library. Mr Collins, the insane school PE teacher knew he was there, and preferred it that way. Reginald was left hand left eye dominant and useless at ball sports. That library clock; its gentle ticking and slow, mechanical second hand had been his first love.

And then he read the Sherlock Holmes novels. The stories kept him awake and intrigued. Moriarty was alluring and terrifying. Reginald fell into a fantasy world that had him fixing clocks, solving crimes and being the world’s greatest cat burglar. He stole and collected his mother’s hair pins and taught himself to pick locks. He listened to the ticks and clicks of safe mechanisms. He practiced saying “the dead never speak” in French and German accents. In case he was ever caught. The fantasy ended in him swallowing a fast-acting poison that he had concocted in his very own underground laboratory. He thought of the pill box that housed his first tooth as the perfect poison holder. He was a loner. Independent. Secretive.

Reginald waded up to his knees. His heart was stuck in his chest. How had this happened to him? He was always the picture of restraint, manners, old fashioned distance.

How had his emotions unravelled so tremendously? The icy water lapped plastic packets against his legs. He felt trapped. His chest constricted.

Mrs Cartwright had started coming to the watch repair shop with silly little requests. She had asked to sit next to him while he worked. Her heady sandalwood incense perfume made him queasy. Fix this link. Change that face. This little watch runs slow. That one runs too fast. And then she had started sending the SMSes. Always the same. Always in caps. “I love you”. It was horrific. She had leaned over. Touched him. He had taken the watch on a chain and strangled her. And run.

The sun had disappeared. Couples had gathered their blankets and bottles and were heading to the parking lot. And Reginald Dwyer walked into the gloomy water.

Where the White Things Are

(with apologies to Maurice Sendak)

It’s well after nine in the safe neighbourhood

The Pilates girls gather – they look tight and good

They finish their flat whites and rinse out their glasses

And stretch the muscles of their super white arses

 

Then after, they convoy in their gold 4x4s

At the waiting red lights they remote lock their doors

And listen to Eusebius until he offends

Then switch back to 5 with its cross over blends

 

They wave at the beggars with go away hands

Or pretend not to see through their shaded Ray bans

And some of them gather to highlight their hair

But first a good massage in the lean-back chair

 

Where invisible hands make the water just right

And conditioner is spread to sighs of delight

And more coffee is brought and more coffee is sipped

As invisible hands in ammonia are dipped

 

Then magically golden to match their gold cars

These creatures regather at chic sushi bars

Where they order the hand rolls without any rice

It’s bad for their colons although it tastes nice

 

Then it’s home time for children from the private school

In pre-ordered Ubers; they all play the fool

While their mothers meet up at another safe space

To talk about charity, feminism and race

 

And craft gins are drunk and a good tip is left

But the old man outside will be most bereft

Because cocktails were paid for with a gold credit card

It’s, “I’m sorry, no change” for the usual car guard.

 

With giggles and waves and kisses and shouts

“See you tomorrows” slip from collagen pouts

And the 4x4s purr out the parking lot places

As the winter sun sets on their plastic white faces.

Out of the Blue

Seriously. This little writing group is messing with my mind. This is what came out of me last night and I don’t even know what to do with it, so I am leaving it here. The first piece was a warm-up with two prompts; desert and sea (or see or C)

Out of the Blue

Waves but not water. Heat moving outwards under dunes. A false shimmer. Attention grabber. Ultimate distraction. My tongue runs along the ridges of my palette. Other less mutable waves. I close my eyes. Two hard red C’s are burned onto my retinas. My eyes throb. I see their blood vessels. I am seeing my own blood.

I scan the horizon. Useless. I can’t tell the difference between wave, motion and man. My hands do the check. Gun, helmet, gas mask, ear piece still attached.

Something emerges. Form becomes more. Three bodies. They move like a dance. They are dancing. The earpiece crackles. A voice. “Shoot. Aim for legs.” These are dancers. The exploding bullets of the IDF will blow their legs off. The dancers are graceful. Small. Women. I aim. Through the eyepiece they are bigger. Real. Knee. Chest. Head.

They drop. Puffs of dust. Then waves. They disappear in the waves. Sweat stings my eyes. I close them again. Hard red blood C’s.

And then, following the instruction to ‘write the passenger safety card for a time travel machine’ my brain spewed this.

Dearest and most beloved on high Patronager and Provider of all things governmental and Spiritual

It is time for you to travel away from us and towards our future.

The Worker’s Union of Nambia most respectfully and with tiniest detail attending thoughtfulness have built the definitive and most secret not to mention special and outcompeting time travel machine outstriving not only the scabby and inconsistent Ruskians, the grabby and fat Amilkians and the troublesome and unhealthy Seffafikans.

Please consider this seat your golden on high throne to the future of Nambia.

Strapping your holy and divine body securely with the maroon stretchy safety garter belt will ensure your un whiplashed haloed head and prevent you from stainage on your most royally blue corduroy pant.

Two fluffy sheepswool head rest ear covers will respectfully surround your ears and prevent them from hearing false rumours and engine failure.

Special and Beyonce feet boot holders will overwhelmingly nurture your footness in the holding position beyond all movement and escapism.

This divine and shiny gear leverage will assist you painlessly to our Nambian future where you, most highly high personage and the only one capable of withstanding troublesome forces, will go to see who we become.

Thanking you subjugatedly and apologetically in advance for tiny errors. Please warm your royal bummage on the preheated bum cushion of this time traveling machine. Close your eyeness. Sit backwards and relapse.

The Workers’ Union of Nambia.

where did that come from?

I joined a fun and informal writing group and then promptly missed two Mondays (I was away for one and working for the other).

Last night I went back for what I was hoping would be a jolly bit of relief after a relatively crap day – I reversed my car into an extended piece of pole that I couldn’t see and smashed in my rear windscreen, only to discover Outsurance wanted me to pay an excess of R1250 and take it to PG Glass who would charge them an additional R3000 for the job. This seemed like a terrible idea since I could get the glass from an SABS approved place, Commercial Auto Glass, for R1600 in total. I had to speak to Outsurance at least four times, first to find out about and then to cancel my claim. So, I worked out that I am paying Outsurance monthly, to not have insurance. I decided it was time to cancel my non insurance with them and got put through to the whatever department to speak to someone who would convince me not to cancel. Suddenly my excess for glass was reduced to R250 (not for this claim, but for a future one!). What a bunch of crooked chops. When I pointed out that THEY were in cahoots with a company that were ripping them off and that I could get them a better deal with another SABS approved company, they dismissed me. Their arrangement with PG Glass is a stinky quagmire of insurance corruption. Anyway. I needed distraction.

Our first exercise was a two word prompt to write for ten minutes. The words were acrimony and winter storm (I know, three words, but). This was my first story.

George threw the last piece of dry wood onto the fire. He had left it too late and stood, with his hands on his hips anticipating disappointment, expecting that the log wouldn’t take and then he would have another thing to feel bitter about.

 “Margaret. Is there more wood?” he half mumbled, but with energy. He absolutely knew that Margaret would hear his voice but not the words and he counted down. Five four three two one.

 “Sorry George, I heard your voice but not your goddamn fucking words.”

 She stood in the doorway with an unlit cigarette in her one hand and the special fire matches in the other. “I am going to stand on the stoep and smoke. There’s a storm coming, and I want to smoke before it rains.”

 “I don’t need an explanation for your idiotic behaviour.” he said to her retreating back, but he timed the words to coincide with the down beat of her expensive stilettoes. She wouldn’t hear, and he wouldn’t be brave enough to say that to her face.

 George turned his own face of disappointment to the fire grate and was irritated to see that the log had caught after all. A golden flame curled around the flaky bark and was making inroads into the hard, fragrant fig wood underneath.

 He heard the wind pick up and thought about Margaret outside, trying to light her cigarette with a match. He couldn’t help himself. He smiled. He reached for his wine glass and swirled the purple liquid around before sipping it. He felt like he was in a life insurance ad.

 The rain came, slashing hard against the lounge window. The loose, wooden frames rattled, and the curtains sighed even though the windows were shut. George went to look. He watched as a giant branch ripped free from the Elm and tore straight into Margaret’s head.

Not exactly cheerful stuff, but hey. I could blame the prompts.

Then, for our main exercise we were asked to write three questions on pieces of paper and to hand them out. We had to ‘answer’ the questions in our next piece of writing.

These were the three questions I received.

  1. Can you trust a liar?
  2. What did he/she take from the store?
  3. What is at the centre of Jupiter?

And here is what happened from my brain. Trigger warning. Violence against women and children.

Del walked along the road, dragging her feet and making tiny dust puffs behind her. The back of her white cotton dress had already picked up the red of the dust, looking like old blood, washed out but never totally removed. From the back she looked like a ten-year-old child, bored and lethargic in the summer holidays, with no plan, no urgency, no direction.

From the front she looked broken. Tear tracks ran into her neckline and smudged the dirt and her mother’s rouge on her cheeks. Her top lip was swollen, and the fine, black curls of her fringe were stuck down with sweat.

She repeated a line.  A marriage vow. “I will. I will. I will.” Over and over. Through thick swollen lip.

Suddenly she stood still. She heard the sound of a car. No, truck. She bent her head. Saw her bulging pocket. She remembered.

Del had gone to buy cigarettes for her mother. She was always buying cigarettes for her mother. When her mother needed her out of the flat, when she had to talk to some man. Sometimes a strange man. Sometimes a familiar man. Del went to buy cigarettes from the store exactly fifteen minutes away. Fifteen minutes there and fifteen minutes back.

Today Del had pushed open the shop door without thinking. Mr Kamaldien was bent over the counter and Del thought he was sleeping even though she had never seen him sleep before. His black hair was lying in blood. Without thinking Del had approached him and put a brown hand on his stripe shirted shoulder. “Mr Kamaldien.”

A skinny man boy had jumped over the counter and pressed a knife to her throat. He had pushed her against the cold drink fridge and smashed her head into the glass door before pulling down his pants and trying to do something to her, squeezing her and shoving his body between her legs in a sharp and breathless way. She had thought about Jupiter. A planet. A familiar man had said that if you went to the centre of Jupiter there would be space candy there. The kind that pops in your mouth.

The skinny man boy had shouted. It sounded like he had scored a goal. There was something wet and warm on her legs. The skinny man boy had said “I’ll kill you if you tell!” and ran. Del got up. She went behind the counter and filled her pocket with two packets of Styvesant Blue. Then she took two fizz pops. “I will pay you later Mr Kamaldien.”

“I will. I will. I will.”

This is the bleakest and most violent piece I have written and it has shaken me.

Finally I got to the lightness in our last warm-down exercise. It was another prompt one. This time our story had to move from one emotion to another. I got from jealousy to apathy.

Mrs Hartley watched as the silver Polo Vivo negotiated the tight parking space. Three manoeuvres and it was in. The car door popped open with no effort and Mrs Hartley was reminded of her own stiff Honda Civic 2007’s door. She breathed out a puff and the net curtains separating her from the outside gaze shivered.

Dale jumped out of the driver’s seat and then folded his body back in to fetch something. Mrs Hartley had a perfect view of his designer jeans wrapped snuggly around his taut thighs and bum and the blush of shame coloured her neck.

“Cara, he is here!” Her call rang out and floated upstairs. She hoped it sounded light, chatty, warm, friendly.

Dale made his way to the door, his face obscured by a bunch of almost opening St Joseph’s lilies. Mrs Hartley flushed again. They were her favourite. “Cara!”

Cara’s footsteps were muffled. She was still in her slippers. They shloop shlooped along the landing. Sponges sucking all energy out of the room. “Mom, please. Tell him to go away. Mom.”

Mrs Hartley’s smile fixed itself to her face as she opened the door. Dale, about to present the flowers, noticed it was her and pulled his arm back. Their eyebrows expressed individual shock, shame and confusion before settling into polite and friendly.

“Come in Dale. Come in, Cara is nearly ready.”

As the door shut behind him Dale felt the heaviness of the home come down and on him as Cara’s slow, disembodied voice dragged itself down the stairs.

“I do not want to go on another of your arranged dates Mom! I am a lesbian, mom. A lesbian. A LES. BE. YAN.”

I’d love to know what you think.

Deeply Personal reflections on The Jewish Literature Festival

I came home early; undone, dismantled and teary. I would have been stronger, held it together better if I had seen it coming but I never do. And I should have trusted my instincts.

When I was invited to participate in the first festival last year (by the amazing, driven, talented and deeply caring Caryn Gootkin – of Souper Troopers) I said an outright no. I still bear the keloid scars of my personal horror story at one Limmud once, and I know that these spaces are a deeply challenging one for me. So, what changed my mind this year? Did I bring this onto myself?

There are probably a few reasons why I agreed. The first and main one was a general softening in me towards the Jewish community of Cape Town after the way From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach was received here. It was a great success. Our play was understood, appreciated and enjoyed. The second was that I had agreed to be in conversation with someone, who then wanted to do their own thing, and I think the inclusion of me in the programme as a speaker in my own right was an afterthought. I knew. My body told me that this was true and I didn’t listen. And the third was, ever since Tali’s Wedding Diary I have been getting genuinely kind recognition from many Jewish Capetonians (and South Africans) for my tiny cameo in it. I thought I may have developed a little traction. And also, I always want to share my knowledge. I love talking about the stuff I do.

I Ubered to the festival. Shafiek was nervous as he stopped to let me out. Suspicious glances from the guards outside the Jewish museum gate turned to recognition once I climbed out and waved him on. I got my presenter’s pack, dashed inside and joined a packed and rapt audience in a warm seminar room for Stephen Sidley’s talk on Science, Jazz and Stories. Then, in the same space I listened to Lisa Chait in conversation with my old friend and hero Mark Gevisser. Then I went downstairs to find out where the Book Lounge venue was for me to present my interactive ‘workshop’ on scriptwriting.

Baffled by the poor woman on a microphone who was struggling to read to an audience in the main outside thoroughfare, I made my way to the info table to find out where the venue was. That was it. I was going to be running my session there, in that main thoroughfare. At lunch time. It is fair to say I lost my shit. A main organiser tried to tell me that the space was perfect. A volunteer was dismantled. A woman was trying to run a mindfulness session while people ate their lunch wraps and ordered coffee.

Phillip Todres (and a few others) saw me at my hysterical worst and jumped in to help me. At last my venue was changed to a boardroom that had been reserved for the slightly bigger kids. I cleaned up the room, removed tomato saucy plates and sweet wrappers, piled paper and pencils into heaps on the table and then ran my interactive workshop. For 6 people. Husband and son of an organiser, my cousin, two teenage girls and a man who wasn’t sure he was in the right place.

It was clear that Henry, the man, had been sent by the gods. He needed my workshop and I needed him. The other five were sweet and kind and cooperative, and I do hope they got something out of it, but I don’t know.

I wanted to stay and listen to Gus Silber. I wanted to hear Sugar Segerman (whose wife kicked in to high gear to help me while I sobbed). But my roast vegetable wrap got lodged in my throat and I couldn’t swallow. Alan Glass tried to lighten my burden with jokes but I couldn’t. I came home with my tail firmly between my legs.

Did I bring this onto myself? Am I delusional and hysterical when I believe I need better consideration? Why is this struggle with this particular community always so fraught for me?

And then there is the self loathing. I was the only one who made a fuss. Who refused to do it there. I watched others suffer, but they pushed through with greater fortitude than I, a performer who should have been able to, was even prepared to try.

 

 

Koala Dave and Baby

So, I have joined a weekly writing group, and I have been twice. It is the most fun I have had in ages. We do writing exercises with prompts and play writing games. Tonight’s exercise was about structure in 5 bouts of 5 minute writing spurts, but we had to include suggestions, drawn from piles, for two characters, a setting, an event and an object, as well as 5 random prompts for each five minute session. Intense. And really hard. But I was thrilled with my effort, which took about 25 minutes of writing. Here it is, in its raw, unedited form. Let me know what you think.

Koala Dave and Baby

The Koala ran. Down the path with the pink baby bag slung over his shoulder and his big bobble head bouncing up and down on his chest and chin with every clumsy step. In his arms was the baby, swaddled so tightly and silent.

Koala opened the car door and flung the bag onto the passenger seat. He heard a voice. “I am a cactus. Cactus.”

A goddamn soft toy with a voice, activated by the force of the flinging. Koala jumped into the car and his giant koala head squeezed up against the roof and sun visor, the baby held up and towards the steering wheel. It was a disaster.

What first? Koala put the baby on top of the passenger seat and took off his head.

Koala breathed in and took stock. He had been a committed couch potato, getting by on the barest minimum until his neighbours Ed and Eileen had immigrated and Z had moved into their flat which shared walls with his. Before he had been Koala, Dave had just been IT guy Dave. And then he had seen that Facebook post, and the accompanying video. The turnaround had been massive. Dave became a vegan overnight and had joined Voice of the Animals, a guerrilla vegan movement dedicated to upsetting and destabilising the status quo, and publicising the abuse and slaughter of animals. Each one of this small group of extreme activists had a costume, and Dave had inherited the Koala suit because of his size.

Koala Dave checked himself the rear-view mirror. His pupils were dilated. He had no way of knowing when Z would be coming home and was panicked about sitting there for too long. Tiny, gentle snores were coming from the cuddly blanket. Where were the car keys? He had a moment of doubt and fear. What the actual fuck was he doing, especially since it was Survivor night on TV, and he had saved all of The Handmaid’s Tale on his hard drive for binge watching. He felt the sharp prick of the keys under his bum.

The damn car wouldn’t start. He tried again, pumping the accelerator and puffing out in little ‘come on, come on’ breaths. It jumped into life and jerked forward, almost stalling. He heard an intake of breath from the blanket and held his own before putting the car into gear and driving away. Twenty minutes later he arrived at the disused wine cellar at the back of the Green Hotel, HQ of the VoA. He parked the car, turned off the headlights and blinked. Bodies came out of the shadows. Someone opened his door. Someone opened the passenger door. “Be careful” said Koala Dave weakly.

Inside the small crowd of ten people gathered around the table.

The tightly wrapped blanket bundle took centre stage. “Which way is up?” whispered the gentle voice of Ferret Sandy. Koala Dave shrugged. Ferret Sandy moved towards the bundle and gently peeled away the corner. Tiny black eyes in a soft, pink face stared back. “She had left him alone all day again. I couldn’t stand the whimpering. I stole him. Oh god, thank you for helping me, him. Meet Ollie the baby pig.” Ollie’s snout emerged and snuffled Ferret Sandy’s outstretched hand.

 

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