By Kevin du Plessis
“Hmnf,” said the elegant asshole. He scratched his balls, cleared his throat and continued, “I just really don’t see how she can just go around being such a fucking dried up prune with that look in her eye every time you say fuck that just shows you how much she thinks we’re actually doing something wrong. Like her knitting is so much holier than our baked beans and prime vinegar blend red.”
Elegantly, the asshole sat back. “Hmnf,” he said again.
“Man, seriously, these people believe in Jesus but they don’t believe in dinosaurs. I mean where on earth did they grow up? In a corn field somewhere off the map right next to the ZCC holy mountain, or whatever, where they have 2 litre coke bottles filled with who knows what kind of water – tap? River? Puddle? Who could say? – and then they sell it off next to the road as some kind of holy water that will heal your warts or piles, or whatever it is that holy water in a plastic container would heal.” The asshole’s friend, who was a real dick, said all of this with his eyes screwed up to slits as if he were a very self-amused old man whose jam jar thick glasses had fallen off his face in the middle of his favourite racist joke. “Ah, but shame, she’s not that bad.”
They laughed. And then they lamented. For, really, the dick had a point. She wasn’t a bitch, not always, anyway. And she wasn’t stupid, not always. She wasn’t bad looking, nor too irritating, or whatever it is that makes you like somebody to a degree that isn’t of the erupting volcano kind of fierce liking, but more of a gentle teapot pouring into a cup with a plain kind of tea.
Anyway, the point was, she wasn’t bad, and that’s what made it all the sadder, to them at least. When they had met her she was different. Different in a way that differentiates a non-interested pretty girl from a highly interested mildly horny girl with crazy teeth. Not to say that she was a very horny girl, or perhaps she was and that’s why she was always such a bitch when she saw others having fun, who knew?
They lamented that she’d once been interested, had enough of all of the drinking, smoking, getting high and whoring and then decided that it just wouldn’t work for her and that instead she was going to become a high nosed snot dripper at everything her vice principal in high school similarly disagreed with.
“I suppose she thinks she’s growing up and that she’s past all this?” Asshole asked.
“What? Tired of all this? How could she be, c’mon!” the reply came dickishly as a lighter clicked, water bubbled and an intense coughing fit spread its horrid leprous goose sounds around the dimly lit room.
They made a rehearsed laughing sound they’d heard on a brainless cartoon one night which they’d been pestering everyone they knew with ever since. It faded, and they sat in silence for a while as a scratched Janis Joplin CD shook its way to the end of another Woodstock favourite.
He squirted a giggle from somewhere high pitched. “You used to be like that, man!”
“Fuck you! I haven’t knitted a thing in my life!”
“Yeah, but you were a douche bag.”
The dick sat back in his chair, letting its slightly dirty but immensely fluffy cushioning suck his body in whole until just the moment before he slipped into couch oblivion. Couch oblivion, he thought. What a ridiculous idea.
“Wish we could have saved her, though,” he finally said.
“She who doth not believeth, doth not retrieveth,” he hesitated at a loss for an ending to what was supposed to be funny. “Doth not retrieveth –”
“Doth not retrieveth that small glimmer of a hope that one day you could actually avoid joining the masses of unhappy sandwich munching, spreadsheet compiling, lunch break taking, queue standing cone heads sitting trapped by a bureaucratic wall of desks cemented by paperwork absent mindedly stamped with a dull purple ink that makes you even more depressed and violated to the core at being so fooled into thinking that a cheque at the end of the month makes all that shit worthwhile.”
“It’s okay, we’ll never be like that,” came the response after a few moments, and kindly too.
“But every soul lost is a travesty in the sight of Mortality.”
By Kevin du Plessis
Many of us feel that we belong to a different generation. The majesty of kings were perhaps grander. The romanticism of nature was perhaps more present. The Flappers’ wardrobe was perhaps sexier. But I, I wish I were there for the Beat Generation.
The Beats finally said fuck you, you controlling, judgmental bunch of cunts, going around telling everyone how to act, to feel, to love. Anarchy may be a horrible model to run a society on, but, oh hell, what fun it is.
I wish there were laws for the protection of individuals who declared themselves to be of a Beat ideology. So that when they were caught borrowing a bread and some cheese in a grocery shop on the way to the coast with a free car they had found just standing in a parking lot with locked doors, a bag of weed and a whole lot of premium dirt cheap wines, they would not be told off or arrested.
“My Beat identification, officer,” the driver would say when pulled over for a simple 80 kilometers over the speed limit.
The policeman would look at the card, and though he would want to shit himself for frustration at not being able to do or say a thing, he would reluctantly hand back the document and say, “No problem here, sorry for the inconvenience”.
They would spin away and continue on their merry way, with perhaps one passenger flashing her beauteous breasts through the rear window of the car and another hanging out of the window indicating that the middle finger is indeed the most significant member of the hand.
If I were a Beat, I would have my Africa’s heart beat just slightly too fast.
By Kevin du Plessis
A boy there was who lay flat on his back on a small patch of unkempt grass in full view of the canopy of a tree stretching across a view of what would have been a clear blue sky at midday. He had come out of the heat to lie in the cool shade when at once he noticed that there were a thousand suns dancing in the sky, constantly peeking from behind the leaves fluttering in the wind.
They moved to the rhythm of the air’s slight whistle casting specs of their light over his face and the earth surrounding him. This image was not something wholly peculiar or strange to him but he had never quite seen it like this, in the perfect moment, it seemed.
The boy did not feel any immediate urge to get up from his resting place, so there he lay soaking in through his skin what his eyes saw around him. He was at once content and at peace with all of his worries out there far away from his tree in the field.
It felt like he was experiencing the beauty of nature for the very first time, like he had been looking with blind eyes at the world and for the first time he could experience something that was beyond his understanding except for one aspect which was his comprehension of it being true and good.
Firstly, he tried to take it all in so as to never forget his experience there, gradually, he thought of ways that he could capture the moment’s essence so as to share it with others, and finally, unable to think of a single way to accomplish any of these aspirations, he resolved never to get up and leave behind what he had found.
The day wore on as he dipped in and out of sleep and every time he opened his eyes there they were, the fairies or spirits or saints in an everlasting dance with the green leaves of the tree. The shadows of the host of dancers grew longer and longer as the day threatened to come to an end.
Of course, as he knew, night would eventually come and the ball would be over only to retake the celebration the next day. But even with this knowledge he was resolved not to get up in fear of losing forever the bliss of what he had taken so long to see clearly. A vanilla twilight stretched over the world, followed by an opal light veiled with a tinge of the colour of the night. Slowly stars started popping up in places and they also peeked through the holes of sky left by the now resting leaves. These lights were cooler than the sprites he had been watching all day, it was as if the entities he had been admiring retreated behind the horizon and then spread themselves all over the universe where they slept far away in their own beds, resting, as the moon watched over the world in their absence.
He fell asleep, dreaming of what he had seen. In this dream he could see beyond the light of the sun’s faces and he could make out their features. “Angelic,” he thought, but no, that word was not enough. He went through every word he had ever heard but not one could describe what he saw. He tried combinations of words made up in sentences, then paragraphs, then whole books full, but he could not succeed in his task. “Very well,” he said aloud to himself, “if not words then I shall have to recreate your image.” He imagined in his mind, if he were ever to capture a single one of these faces, how he would do it. Would he do it with pencils, or pastels, or paint? What technique would he use? Would it be fine and detailed or smeared over the surface so as to capture the spirit of their beauty? Again, not one of his considerations would do and he resolved that it was impossible. If he were a musician, what instrument? Strings or horns or percussion? But, not a sound that he had ever heard could describe their faces.
Slowly his dream flipped over onto its side and what it revealed from beneath its blanket of bliss was the backside of a nightmare. All of the feelings that his emotions were able to capture but he was not, now turned into anguish and fear and loneliness until the light around him turned to a hot red glow that pierced his eyes.
With a start he came back to consciousness and when he opened his eyes he saw that it was the sun, come back to wake him so as to not miss a new day of what it did within the space of where he lay on his patch of grass. It was once more dancing and to his relief he saw that he had not lost what he had discovered the previous day. He would still not get up. He would still not move. He would lay there another day and try with all of his might to find a way to interpret the sun and the leaves and the wind.
He had not been awake for long when came his brother from afar to find him, having noticed that he did not return from the fields. He had water with him so the boy drank a little. His brother lay with him on the grass for a while but could not stay all day so he left. By midday, when he had not moved from his spot for a whole twenty four hours, a girl that he knew passed by with a basket of apples. She saw him lying there and offered him one of her apples. He took one bite and set it aside, thanking her. She lay with him for a while but also had to leave after a time. Late afternoon, having heard from the boy’s brother where to find him, his friend came to him. He had with him neither drink nor food to offer, but he lay with the boy for the longest by far. They spoke a little from time to time and it seemed that something of the boy’s plight was shared and understood in this. However, as with his previous visitors, his friend could also not stay forever. So, they too had to greet each other and again he was alone.
He faced another night of dreams, another bad ending, and then another day under the tree. In time he stopped thinking of ways to make something of his encounter and simply lay there always looking up. The dreams faded leaving him with only his clear view and not much else.
It was days later that he was found. True to his resolve never to get up, he lay with his eyes open, no longer able to see a thing.
By Kevin du Plessis
He did not quite know who the girl was, what she looked like or whether she could write, for that matter. She had merely made it apparent to one of the currently employed journalists that she wanted to write for the paper.
The editor-in-chief of a small community newspaper, that was either hated or loved in the small town of Port, was in dire need of writers, or rather of writers of a certain breed; those who had the absolute audacity to claim that they are better writers than most while also being able to admit that they cannot write at all.
Whatever the case was with Luanne Keith, she must have somehow got a foot in the door.
“Yes, I hear that you have been wanting to apply for a job with us but missed out on our previous vacancy?” the editor-in-chief asked trying to establish a sense of this being a formal interview, though it was happening over the phone.
“True,” said Luanne. “I would like to write, there are quite a few things that have caught my attention in this town and I want to break the stories.”
Reginald was taken aback by the girl’s serious tone. A good first impression, yet something about it was annoying. “Is that so?” he asked.
He could hear her voice falter as she attempted to make him understand what she had meant. “Well, all I’m saying is that I would like to write for you. I will prove my worth through my work. Really, you should see me as the female Henry.”
Reginald looked over to the desk where Henry was feigning work as he tried to read the telephone conversation on his boss’s face. Luanne’s remark had cost Henry one of Reginald’s disapproving frowns, which he was not used to since they were reserved, with a few nasty cutting swear words, for those who sent in really shitty work. Luckily, there was no denying that Henry was the best reporter on the team, and even the possibility of getting another one of the less idiotic reporters who never made it with the bigger city papers was something that an editor of a humble paper with a low 10 000 reach couldn’t refuse.
“A female Henry. I will be sure to remember that description when you send in your first piece the day after tomorrow.” With that they said all of the appropriate things before hanging up and when the receiver was back in its place, Reginald got up from the second hand armchair which was awkwardly placed at his desk for maximum comfort during the long hours at office.
“And?” asked Henry in his usual inquisitive tone.
“A female Henry. What utter shit,” Reginald said and left Henry without asking whether he would also like a cup of instant coffee.
The office of The Post Wagon had a few interesting characters, though the faces changed so often that Reginald did not always bother to get to know too much about any of them. The exception, of course, being Henry, a thinker and on the whole a good investigative journalist who would not stay on the team forever when eventually he’d gotten enough experience.
There was also one other: Daniel, though he was always called Dan at his own request. Daniel was just too formal.
“I got us another draught from Violet,” Dan said as he placed three Black Labels on the table and took his seat in their regular booth at their regular bar across the street from The Post Wagon office.
Henry and Reginald accepted the beers, as they always did when it was either one of the three’s turn to buy drinks after work. This does not imply that they each took turns buying a single round after work, just that they were all too lazy to get up every time they had finished with another golden foaming refreshment during their extensive daily visits to Violet’s bar moving either to the bar, the toilet or eventually moving on to more exciting places when it was time for the pub to close its doors for the day.
“Give us another Princeton there,” Reginald said knowing that he did not need to thank Dan every time he got up from his chair. They had been friends for so long that these things were a mere bother no longer to be paid any attention to.
“Sure thing,” Dan replied and flicked a cigarette over to his friend and boss (though, the latter term was one that came to its full effect only at random intervals; depending on the mood and how the paper was coming along).
“When is she coming?” Reginald asked again.
“She will come,” Henry said reassuringly and looked over to the door.
“Well, I am not going to be impressed if what she brings to the table is going to cost me doing most of the work for her. I don’t need another writer with Ruda Landman-aspirations who can’t even report a damn charity event without using the words ‘It’s that time of year again’.”
Dan sniggered at the comment. While being a good writer himself, he was never very eager to do much more than was expected of him. He’d rather spend his days in the garage fighting the endless battle of mastering the guitar. Nevertheless, he enjoyed the challenge of writing from time to time and he needed the money.
“You will see for yourself, she is good at what she puts her mind to,” Henry said. “Luanne is one of those people who immerse themselves in their work and never goes out for a drink in fear of missing out on some grand opportunity.”
“Oh joy,” Dan said, “is she going to bring her cat along?”
Dan had barely uttered the remark when the door of the pub squeaked open and slammed again behind a young woman with good posture, a pretentious scarf and long rich dark hair protruding from beneath a somewhat childlike pink woollen hat. She had papers clenched beneath the pit of her one arm and an overly large handbag stuffed with lord-knows-what hanging over the other.
She came to a standstill as the paper with the words ‘DOOR CLOSED DUE TO COLD’ printed over it in Wordart gently settled itself back against the window. She gathered herself, looking around the room for the now slightly tipsy party waiting for her in their drinking booth.
Henry waved and she waved back as she started moving in their direction.
Reginald and Dan exchanged a look that only they understood. Their first impression of Luanne Keith had been communicated and though it wasn’t an eye roll (or instant death according to Reginald), it wasn’t far off.
Before taking the time to rid her of the baggage awkwardly hanging around her body, she stuck out her hand first to Dan and then to Reginald, repeating the phrase, “Luanne Keith, pleased to meet you”.
She sat down after that and wasted no time before diving into the work. She had a flustered expression and you could see in how desperate she sounded that she was going to explain exactly why her work wasn’t done. From whom she’d seen, step by step to how she was waiting for replies and confirmations. How she had stalked out her prey for a moment where she could speak to them face to face.
“The audacity,” Reginald said stopping her in mid-sentence before any of this could be uttered.
“I- Excuse me?” she said glancing at Henry.
“How dare you interrupt our afterhours winding down time with your bullshit?” Reginald continued in a condescending yet calm voice.
The expression on her face was priceless. She did not know what had hit her, she couldn’t believe her ears.
“Well, I didn’t mean to do that,” but before she could continue her sentence Dan, no longer able to hold it back, grabbed her shoulder reassuringly and smiled.
“Let him finish,” Dan said fixing his eyes back on Reginald.
“Thank you, Dan,” he said and placed his hands on the table. “As I was saying –bothering us with your bullshit, without getting a drink first?”
She relaxed and smiled, slightly tilting her head. At this moment Luanne took off the woollen hat revealing her bangs. Instantly more a woman than a girl. More an intellectual than a career junkie. And certainly more interesting than before.
“Is your hair coloured?” Dan asked immediately.
“No,” she said wrinkling her nose as she smiled. “Never have, never will.”
“Dark, isn’t it?” Reginald remarked peering over the rim of his beer glass.
She opened her mouth but she didn’t get the opportunity to release what she had on the tip of her tongue.
“No one cares. Beer. Now.” He smiled.
She responded with another smile and wrinkling of the nose as she left them behind to see what Violet had to offer at the bar.
“You shouldn’t be too hard on her, you know,” Henry said smiling knowingly as he always did. “She’s not like you two. She comes from a respectable family with some slightly far back notions of the proper way to talk and walk and sit-”
“And fart,” Dan said and he and Reginald sniggered.
Henry rolled his eyes but did not deny them his warm teddy bear-like smile. “Always with the fart jokes. If I didn’t know you two, I’d say you were right idiots. Anyway, just don’t scare her away just yet.”
“Oh calm down Henry, this isn’t a funeral,” Reginald said. “Here she comes, so no more of your farting business Henry.” Henry snorted and ignored them putting on a happy face for Luanne returning with a milky white drink in a bottle.
“Oh no! I also want one of those,” Henry said excitedly leaving the booth before Luanne could sit down. She naturally shifted into Henry’s spot in the corner so that no one would have to get up when he returned.
“Good, now you look more human,” Reginald said satisfied.
“I’m glad you think so,” she said. Amazingly, Luanne wasn’t uncomfortable or intimidated by the two strange men at the table with her. In fact she seemed to be enjoying the company, keeping a constant smile on her face. “So about the story, as I was saying before, we definitely have something good here. I just have to push on a few more buttons to get there.”
Reginald nodded. “Yes, tell me something, what have you been doing with your life?”
“I don’t follow?”
“Well, all I mean is I can see you’re a hard worker, and you live for success and all that. But what is it that you do for life?”
“Good question, Reg,” Dan said. “What do you do for life, mind not a life, but life?”
“I don’t quite follow?”
“Well, for instance, we are sitting here drinking. We like doing that. We bitch about stupid things people say and do, we laugh, we carry on,” Reginald said.
Dan laughed. “And we do bitch. But we live. I like music, that’s my life story really. You know, that kind of thing.”
Henry, returned satisfied with his purchase.
“Oh don’t tell me they’re putting you through one of their ‘think about the world’ torture sessions,” Henry said as soon as he realised what was going on.
“It’s alright. I’ve got this,” she said silencing Henry, who like Reginald was fond of rolling his eyes at people. “I do art.”
“I do ink drawings. And I have travelled quite extensively. My favourite place so far has been India,” she said and started going on about why, despite the smell and dirt, India was her number one destination.
“You write about India?” Reginald asked surprised that she so loved the one country that he too found most fascinating, though he had never been.
“Extensively. I always try and get a piece done when I visit a place.”
“So it’s work?” Reginald asked.
“Well, I suppose everything in life is work, isn’t it?”
Reginald got quite worked up at this. “Absolutely not. Work is a necessary evil we must endure. We should not be aspiring to great careers, but to great lives. We should at all times strive towards being able to manipulate the world into allowing us to spend our time exactly as we wish to. If you sigh more than once a day, you are being stupid, letting the superficial circumstances of a manmade community tell you what you should think and feel and aspire to. I find the notion of a world where your work is the sum of your worth horrifying, don’t you?”
Henry intervened. “Well yes, of course what you’re saying makes a nice little hippie sketch of what you dream about for yourself. But, are you not also driven by work? Are your days not filled with sighs and contempt for the clueless drones who criticise The Post Wagon every day?”
“A necessary evil, like I said before. But that’s not the point here. We both know that we won’t be in this place forever, right? Some things are worth doing, even if its worth is lost on most. Even if it makes me sigh for now, in the long run I will have made a change to some one person’s life through the work at the paper. For that I would do it over again.”
“You would?” Dan asked.
“No, not really, but I tried.”
Everyone laughed after that. Luanne loosened up considerably and the rest of their evening went from one discussion and made-up philosophy to the next. She kept saying how she enjoyed the conversation and even she did not mention work again, at one point sliding the stack of papers into her already full bag and hiding it all under the table.
Eventually the background music died down and it was only then that they realised everyone had left and that Violet was silently waiting for them to finish their drinks and be off.
“I think it’s time for us to move our party elsewhere,” Dan said downing the last of his beer and slamming the glass against the table. “And you?” he asked Luanne who was already gathering her things.
“Oh, I think it is high time for me to be heading home. Lots of work.”
“Nonsense! None of that. You will accompany us gentlemen to our next destination and that’s final. Don’t forget that you are still on trial, missy,” Reginald said lighting up a final cigarette as he struggled to put on his coat.
“I don’t know,” she said looking at Henry for support, knowing that he would understand her plight for the sake of work.
“Don’t be such a prude, unbutton the blouse a bit and let’s go,” Henry replied looking at her high collared shirt through the slits that were his eyes. He laughed, satisfied with his attempt at humour. Reginald and Dan also laughed at this, but much more at Henry than the remark.
“Oh alright. But, one more drink and that’s that,” she said and when they all agreed very solemnly that one more drink would be the end of it, she only shook her head at their blatant lie.
They greeted Violet and filed out of the pub. Before going through the door, however, Reginald pulled the “DOOR CLOSED DUE TO COLD” printout off the window and stuck it to Luanne’s back, sniggering and wondering how long it would take for her to notice and pull it off once and for all.
By Kevin du Plessis
By ways of a first memory, how does one describe it when the Devil was present? What manifestation of the many different depictions of this not at all fictive figure do you blame for a memory, perhaps as false as the tits on a blonde bubble gum chewing bimbo who surely has this elusive child frightener on her own shoulder? A fart of the brain that seems to have been conceived in the distant memory of a dream when you were but a yet uncorrupted bundle of raw bone, fat and brain in a crib somewhere off in the not-so-distant medieval past of a 1990-South Africa.
Whatever the truth of the origin of my first memory, it has been with me for as long as I can remember (obviously). As I recall it, or how I have been telling it all my life at any length, is that I was lying in a crib that was positioned at the foot of my parents’ bed. A crooning baby most probably with all of the movie clichés that has the camera zooming up to me staring up at the ceiling with sparkly baby blue eyes clutching a fleece blanket as the silver moon light spreads itself through the window over my mother and father sleeping soundly (no pun intended) whilst emitting in the case of the female, light peaceful breathing, and for the male a fitting snore, varying in intensity throughout the night.
In this dream, from amid the shadows in the long dark hallway a figure emerges. As far as his appearance went, I cannot remember much, just that he had a mischievous grin on his face as he looked me in the eyes and lifted me from my bed right before carrying me across the length of the house and through the kitchen door at the back. I did not struggle or make any sound that could alarm anything more that the cat which always snoozed in the pot plant right outside. There were about three or four rather amateurely built steps that attached itself to the house, connecting its high floor to the ground outside.
We left the completely silent kitchen (for there was no fridge to make even a hum – but more on that later) behind as we descended the steps. It is necessary to say something more about the steps since in my dream, they did not connect the house to the earth outside, but rather continued spewing forth steps that went down into a hole in the world. It was somewhat like a tunnel that was lit by a glowing fire-like light.
I do not know what happened down there. Nor shall I ever know or get the chance to understand the incident. Though, I strongly suspect that my grandmother would come closest to such a thing. She always said, “Funny things happen there, there is something strange about that place”.
The dream had not yet reached its end. After the blank of wherever The Foe took me that night and whatever happened, I remember that he took me back up the steps, through the silent kitchen and the dark corridor and placed me as he had found me back into the crib at the foot of my parents’ bed. There I lay as the dream ended and made its imprint upon the farthest recesses of my memory.