Category Archives: Long Time Walk On Water

From the corner of her eye

Ruby checked her from the corner of her eye. Checked her daughter bending over her book, but not seeing a goddamn thing that was marked on the page. Ruby could smell trouble from afar, it having acquainted itself with her so intimately for so long. She looked at her daughter. And knew. Watched her. And waited. She herself would do nothing. Was Gertrude waiting for her to charge in and accuse her? She would not. Gertrude would have to come to her. Her thoughts turned to her eldest son. My son, she thought, I did you wrong. I did you wrong…

A gospel broke from her lips, pushing its way up from the back of her throat. Curling and twirling like smoke around a spotlight. Gertrude turned an ear. And knew. The melody swirled over to her and told her what it knew. Told her of pain and shame. Of faith and broken pride. Told her of visions and promises. Of endurance. Ruby closed her eyes, bulbous tears flowing on the inside to the bitter-sweet tune outside. She hummed the melody which spoke to her daughter as a secret mother tongue. The last time she had sung like that was when her man had taken it into his head that life would be better without them. He went. Ruby had sung the whole evening. She never sang when there were men in the house. She sang now, and Gertrude drank her pain and shame. Stroked her faith. Her broken pride. Saw her visions. Heard the promises. Witnessed the endurance. And she felt dirty. Too dirty to be in the company of this woman with gospel curling from her mouth. Ruby closed her eyes and sang. And when she sang, the music unbuttoned her pain with its gentle fingers and stood aside to watch it chiffon to the floor. And when she stopped, the air was full of her presence, and she knew that she was now sitting there alone.

 

from Long Time Walk on Water, available at:
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Gertrude: the long way home

Gertrude hauled her purchases home along the long, well-known dirt road. She kept as close as she could to the edge, sometimes having to pick her way through the discarded rubbish strewn along the way; to step past the rusting Coca-cola cans or the squashed Red Stripe. Boxes and wrappers bleached by the sun skirted the road with their dry leaves or else formed a grey mash after the rains had fallen. Every now and then, a tree cast its shade thoughtfully over the villagers on foot with their heavy bags, their chickens hanging upside down clucking away at a nervous premonition, or the children who grew tired along the way and tried to play up. The villagers on foot. Weren’t they all. The sun lashed down on Gertrude as she stopped, put her bags down for a fraction, changed them over and picked them up again. She wished that for once, just for once, someone else would put this hour-and-a-quarter stretch behind them. Two strapping brothers, but it was always her. They’d lie around doing nothing, sit back with a beer in the hand or else be off gallivanting somewhere whilst she, she had to work like a horse for them. Buy and fetch and carry and cook. Wash and iron. Sweep and wipe. Polish and pluck and peel. And there was no use protesting. She was her mother’s only girl. Their father had upped and left as they all did sooner or later, having been brought up with very little respect for their female counterpart, and immune to the notion of responsibility. And if by some chance you found yourself with one of the good ones, you’d have to beat the other women away with a stick and plague yourself daily with the thought that today someone else might have won him to her. So you question and you dig for secrets and sooner or later he can´t stand it anymore so he ups and goes anyway. Menfolk. Sought and coveted and pampered and loved. Attacked and hated and forgiven. Menfolk. Soft as a raw egg and no woman will respect you. Hard as a stone, you’ll find those who like it, but every woman – every head in a scarf, every heart in a chest, every bottom in a tight skirt – was on the lookout for a piece of toast – hot and rough but melting in your mouth. Toast, golden brown, coated with a spoonful of honey to run down the side and stick to your fingers… Menfolk. Laugh, flirt, drink beer. Spit. Strut. Slap. Sing. Fall into a chair and wait for dinner. Pull you close. Touch your breasts. Ride you. Love you. Leave you. Need you. Menfolk. What else was there to do but to resign to them, yield up one’s flesh and string together the precious happy moments, like pearls; resign and yield whilst you still could, and afterwards to collect your due in the perfumed balm of sisterhood.

 

from Long Time Walk on Water, available at:
Amazon US   Amazon UK   Amazon France   Amazon Germany   Barnes & Noble   Smashwords and Waterstones