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A Very Short Story

20 Jul

After an almost 10 year hiatus finally worked up the courage to write a short story.  It has been inspired by the places I have been to, the people I have met, the experiences I have shared, the books I have read and the music I have loved. In this story I use the outer facts of a real journey as a vehicle for fictional characters. The characters in this story bear no resemblence whatsoever to any living people or individuals. They are imaginery creations. The journey is real but the people are invented. Enjoy.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

If I could build her again using words I would – Ranganai thought to himself. That would make a great opening line to one of his pieces. He sighs. He knows that’s not his idea.”That’s my favourite opening line to a novel Hayley had said to him on their first date. ‘What’s yours?’.’ I was not sorry when my brother died” he had answered,”Its from Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, she is a Zimbabwean writer” his body language delivering the pun

He puts on his Kanye West playlist on his iPod which is synched to the car stereo and continues cruising along the highway the speedometer nosing on 110km/hr. He liked driving alone, especially at night. Just him, the music and the headlights slicing through the dark. The car was his friend. She knew his journey’s, his haunts, his deepest darkest secrets. She understood his moods. It was his sanctuary. Here he was free from distractions. Here he could also reflect on himself. Locate his centre of clarity. Take stock of his life. Even his inner creative benefited, he got most of his a-ha moments on trips like this.
The solo nocturnal drives had become a ritual that had started a few years back. Ranganai had been juggling his university studies with working the graveyard shift at the meat factory. The factory was a 45 minute trip from the university. This brief reprieve was his downtime – in between lectures and working the assembly line. He feels a slight chill, remembering those late nights in the sub zero temperatures of the cold room. The early morning lectures – but he had had no choice.
He had been lucky his Supervisor Phil liked him.“Where are you from?” “Zimbabwe”, answered Ranganai “You are long way from home a long way”, Phil remarked with a chuckle, “How do you find Australia?” asked Ian. ‘Its OK, but I miss home.” Ranaganai smiles tightly. The Eastern Highlands are breathtakingly beautiful,they remind me of the Scottish Highlands. It is a beautiful country. I love Umtali and Inyangani.” Phil continued.’Its Mutare and Nyanga’ Ranganai had responded tentatively. The colonial nostalgia put to bed they managed to get along swimmingly. Phil taking him under his wing. Here and there letting him off the hook when he slacked off.

On the stereo Kanye West intones in his head:

And I know I did damage,
’cause the look in your eyes is killing me,
I guess you’ve got another advantage
’cause you could blame me for everything.

It unnerved him, how she still lingered teasing him on the outskirts of his mind. All the other women in his life. They had all been short stories. A few pages – a light, morning read. Hayley was a novel. Something you can’t put down. Something you hold close to your face, lick your fingers and turn the pages and read for a long, long time. Something with intricate sub- plots, with editing and work. Long and complex.

They had met during Bruce week in his first year of university. At a mutual friends, Netsai’s art exhibition. Ranganai the struggling culture vulture, imagining himself Stephen Dedalus’s twin in Jame Joyce’s A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Hayley, the cultured vulture gracefully swooping over life’s carcass, capturing it all with a click and a shutter of her digital iris. Ranganai was supporting Netsai, his home girl. Young, Gifted and Black- that was Nestai, envisioning herself Nina Simone’s doppelganger. Assured. Sassy. Fiercely Afrocentric. Traits that translated so authentically and with devastating beauty onto the canvas. Ranganai had been more than happy to help her set up the show. That’s how he had become familiar with the pieces on display. How later that night he would impress Hayley with his ‘artistic’ knowledge.

His heart smiles, the image of his first meeting with Hayley swirling in high definition in his memory. Hayley had looked, somehow as if she smelled good. She had briefly held his gaze, half smiled back at him, and just as quickly glanced away. If he had been a dog he would have been left there wagging his tail. As if drawn by her pheromones he had made his way closer to her as the night worn on. His instincts had been right. She smelt good. He had managed to get in some small talk. For the rest of that weekend he had bugged Netsai for her number. Eventually she had relented – reluctantly. Giving in to his innocent aggressiveness.

Their first summer Down Under, they had been inseparable. When they had first road tripped The Great Ocean road he had felt oddly nostalgic. On one side the thick rain forest, its shadows looming over the meandering road stirred memories of family holiday’s to Troutbeck. On the other side the road hugged the magnificent coastline stretching out over the shipwreck coast and the Southern seas. The endless mass of water, making him homesick. “I want to go to Africa one day” Hayley had said to him.

That same Christmas Hayley had invited him to spend it with her family. “You shouldn’t spend Christmas alone’. she had said to him. Her family home was in Ablury-Wodonga, a small country town on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. Her parents welcoming him in like a long lost son. He had played backyard cricket with her brothers. He had asked Hayley’s mum for a second helping of her sumptuous Christmas pudding.

Even though they had their feet planted in completely different worlds, they shared a lot in common. She understood him better than anyone, indulged his duplicity. That constant conflict he always had between his ego and vulnerability. His struggle with different cultures and identities that made him feel strangely anchor-less. He was like a like a transient existing in a peculiar state of hybridity. A hybridity she often understood more than he understood himself.

Bon Iver chimes in

I’m lost in the World, I’m down on my mind
I’m new in the city, and I’m down for the night
Down for the night
Said she’s down for the night

He glances at the dashboard. Its now six O’clock in the morning. He has been on the road most of the night. His windscreen is turning pink-amber with the first fervid licks of dawn. He rolls down the window. Takes in the fresh crispy clean country air. He loves coming to the sticks. A pick up truck overloaded with tomatoes, potatoes and cabbages overtakes him as he approaches Magunje Growth Point. The Growth Point was the ‘capital’  and the service center of the surrounding communal lands (formerly Tribal Trust Lands under the colonial government). Growth points had been mooted by the government after independence as a means of decongesting cities and towns. Whilst a noble idea, it had failed and as a result Magunje was like a ghost town and still underdeveloped and marginalised. As a Growth point, Magunje was a place drippin in irony. A National Breweries is parked at Magunje making a delivery. The local beer hall, seems to be the only thriving business. As he surveys the area strangers greet him by raising their hands. Its not because they know who Ranganai is or remembered him. It is just the decent thing to do: you see a human being, you greet him. Just that simple. On the stereo the play-list continues:

Can we get much higher? So high
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Can we get much higher? So high
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

His heart flutters as he slowly approaches the turn off to his Grandmother’s rural homestead. As he approaches the gate children run to meet the car. Swarming the Range Rover they cheer loudly “Mukoma Wauya . Mukoma wauya‘ The women join in ululating their welcome. As he switches off the engine he quietly thinks to himself “If my life was a Kanye West discography. This part would definitely be My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

As he makes his way to grandmother’s hut, he feels a sense of calm. There was something the matriarchal ease of that his grandmother exuded that made him feel anchored. He had tried to explain this to Hayley.”How long can a ship survive, drifting anchor-less?. Can one exist as a transient forever?. There surely comes a time when storm or not, where we must anchor where or we are or steer the ship and sail homeward.’ Hayely had said she wanted to come with him. He had told her he needed to go alone. She had asked him,”Will you come back?” Ranganai had said nothing, hugged her for a long, long time then let go.


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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Short stories

 

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